ESCAPE 9 TO 5: INTERNET BUSINESS 40 RULES OF SUCCESS

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Rule 1: Know Your Why Before you make the decision to take the entrepreneurial leap and start your own Internet business, the first question you need to ask yourself is, "Why?"
Why are you starting your business ?

You likely have the option to continue working at your current place of employment and receive a steady paycheck, but you are choosing to put many thousands of hours of blood, sweat, and tears to create a business where there was nothing before. The buck is going to stop with you.

You are now going to be responsible for everything: market identification, product development, marketing, sales, operations, customer service, accounting, legal, taxes, and all the other things that come with starting a business.

You are going to be the one responsible for putting out every fire that threatens your business and be responsible for making the whole machine run smoothly.

Every. Single. Day. Building an Internet business from scratch is not easy.
Not everyone can do it. When you make the decision to start, you are signing up for months of hard work, sleepless nights and less time spent with your family.

You better have good reasons for why you want to give this a shot.
You cannot kind-of, sort-of, maybe start a business. If you believe you are ready to make that decision, you need to commit all of your best energy into building and growing.

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This means remaining head-down for months on end and working hard before you have earned any meaningful revenue.

In those moments when you have to choose between staying and working on your business that has not had any traction yet and going out with your friends or family,
you need to have your "Why" firmly in place to remind you of the reasons you started your business in the first place.

Your "Why" Shapes Your Business If you know why you want to start your business, you will be able to answer just about every other important question to shape what your business needs to look like.

If your goal is to escape the 9 to 5 to work at home so you can spend more time with your family, you will not want to structure a business that requires you to have an office and a bunch of employees.

If you are starting your business because you have to be the master of your own domain, you probably do not want to start a business that will require you to raise venture capital, because you are just going to end up with more bosses.

If you want to have more freedom with your time and schedule, you do not want to build a business that requires you to be on-call for your customers during all hours of the day.

If you hope to quit your full-time job and replace it with your Internet business, realistically you will to need to create a business that generates at least as much net profit as your salary paid you last year.

When you have a clear and concise reason for why you want what you set out to achieve, you will have a lens through which you must make every future business decision.
I know my "Why".

I have built my businesses because I want to be the master of my own destiny.
I want my success to be fully dependent upon my ability to deliver and generate value.

I want the ability to generate a six-figure income so I can provide for my family and give generously to the charitable causes that my wife and I care about.

I want freedom over my time so I can play with my son every morning, serve in my local church, and have lunch with friends,
family, and business acquaintances any day of the week.

I want to be able to visit family and go on vacations without having to ask permission from anyone else.

Stay Focused It took eight long years to get to where I am with my Internet business.
I have put in my hours,
I have tried and failed and tried again, and now I am living my goals of total freedom over my time while my business continues to provide more than enough income for my
family's month-to-month expenses and entertainment.

When you have built a successful business that is working for you, you will be able to look back at your journey from where it started. Your decisions and strategies made along the way will seem like no-brainers. Hindsight provides that clarity.

But in the beginning, you are at the base of a large mountain that you need to climb.
It is easy to wander off the path or give up along the way.
If you want to make it to the top and build a successful business,
keep your focus on your "Why".
Action Steps: Complete this sentence: "I am starting my business so I can..."

List any constraints that you need to be mindful of while building your business.
Begin mapping out the other questions that will naturally stem from your
"Why" (How? When ? What?).
Try to answer them.
These other questions may change over time, but your "Why" should remain your foundation.

Rule 2: Excuses are the Fuel of Failure It is always easy to tell which entrepreneurs are going to make it and which ones are never going to get their businesses off the ground.

Having worked with a number of new entrepreneurs who have built their Internet businesses over several years, I found that the successful ones will set specific and measurable goals each time we meet.

They will accomplish their goals regardless of what is going on in their lives personally or professionally.

The entrepreneurs that run into trouble also set goals, but they frequently miss their deadlines. When I ask why they did not accomplish the set of tasks they told me they want to finish between our meetings, they make excuses about how busy they are.

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They say things like, "I didn't get a chance to work on my business because I was out of town," and, "I didn't get my list done because I was busy with my family."
It is certainly excusable if this only happens once, but there are entrepreneurs who miss their goals week after week.

They always have great excuses for why they missed the deadline they set for themselves, but ultimately make little progress developing and implementing their business plans.
As an entrepreneur, you simply do not have the luxury of making excuses.

You have to do the work or your business will never get off the ground.
When you choose not to work on your business for a few days or a week, understand that you are choosing to keep your business at a standstill.

It really does not matter what reason you give to convince yourself that it is okay to take a break from working on your business.
Regardless of what your excuses are, nothing will happen until you put in the hard work to make something happen.

Since you and your family are the only ones that stand to gain financially from your Internet business, you are only hurting yourself when your work does not get done while you make excuses about it.

If you want to succeed in your Internet business, quit making excuses.
Set challenging but achievable weekly goals of what you want to accomplish.
Regardless of what else is going on in your life, find the time to do the work to achieve the goals that you set.
It does not matter if you have company in town or if you are really busy at your day job,
find the time to work on your business.

Turn off the TV. Quit playing video games.
Skip the outing with your friends.
Get your work done.
You will have to make sacrifices with your time while building your business.
If creating an Internet business was really easy, everyone would be doing it.
While you are building your business, be prepared to put in a lot of extra work.

When I was working a full-time job, I often worked through my lunch hours, late in the evenings, on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons to get my business off the ground. When your business is successful and after you have quit your day job, you will have more free time to enjoy what you have earned.

Until then, put your head down.
Do not make excuses.
Do whatever you need to do to get your business of the ground.
Action Steps: Set challenging but achievable weekly goals.
Build time into your work week to accomplish your goals.
Commit to the time and effort it takes to complete your weekly goals regardless
of outside factors.

Rule 3: Relationships Trump Knowledge
The people who are the most successful in the business world are not necessarily those who are the smartest or who have the best skill set in their field.
Consider how many very intelligent software developers and engineers take salaried jobs that have no upside potential with large corporations.

They know a lot more about the technical side of their business than their managers do,
but they are making less than their managers.
While having specialized knowledge can be helpful in business, the people who really do well are those who can make and maintain their business connections, know the right people,
and understand how to leverage the skills and abilities of others.

When you take the time to expand your business connections into a wide network of friends and contacts, you will be able to access the wisdom of other business leaders and approach opportunities for yourself that would otherwise be unavailable.

A Real Life Example Consider the case of Brian Gramm, CEO of Peppermint Energy in Sioux Falls, SD. He freely admits that he has no technical or engineering background, but he was able to start a company that sells solar-powered generators and related products into
remote areas of Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and other countries that do not have a reliable electric grid.

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While Gramm did not have a strong technical foundation, his strength was in his interpersonal communication skills. He had a wide network of connections in the business community from his previous business ventures.

When Gramm saw an opportunity to create portable solar-powered generators for the developing world, he used his business connections to find people that he could hire who had the necessary technical background.

He had a friend who connected him to the Governor's Office of Economic Development,
a state-wide economic development group in South Dakota,
and that group then connected him to graduate-level engineering students at South Dakota State University.

The engineering students were able to create a proof of concept of the technology.
Gramm then leveraged that proof of concept into a successful KickStarter campaign in 2012, and has since gone on to raise venture capital funding.

If Gramm had not taken the time to develop and maintain a network of friends in the business world, it is unlikely that he would have been able to connect with the right people he needed to help get his product off the ground.

How Do You Get Connected ? You might be thinking about your own business connections
or lack thereof, and feeling out of the loop without a way in.
Remember, every friendship and business acquaintanceship started with an initial meeting. Business relationships are not a, "have and have not" situation.
If you do not have the business connections you would like, create them.

A great first step is to strategically attend events where the types of people you want to meet will be. Ideally, you will know who will be attending any given event ahead of time if the event is listed on Facebook, EventBrite or Meetup.com.

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Identify a few people attending an event that you would like to introduce yourself to and learn a little bit about their industry.

Come up with three questions you would love to know about their business, but do not go into the event with prepared notes in-hand.
These are conversations, not interviews.

People generally love to talk about themselves and their businesses, so quit worrying and ask something open-ended to get your new acquaintance to start talking.
After any given event, take the time to conconnect to the people that you met by finding them on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Facebook may also be appropriate in some situations.
If they accept your invitation, you will regularly show up on their social feeds and they will be reminded of who you are on a regular basis.
Reaching Out Directly If events are not your thing, you can also reach out to someone directly.

Do not assume that people are automatically going to want to take the time to meet you for lunch or coffee just because you asked,
especially if you are reaching out to someone who is a lot more successful than you are.

You will need to give them a good reason upfront to agree to meet with you.
To do this, find a way to provide value or insight into their business.
Do not tell them you want to "pick their brain,"
because this is equivalent to telling them upfront that the only reason you are meeting with them is so that you can get something from them.
When you reach out to someone: show that you have something to contribute.

If you have a mutual friend or acquaintance, ask them to make an introduction on your behalf. If there is a gatekeeper involved such as a secretary who is not forwarding your calls,
do whatever you can to befriend the secretary or call at a time when the secretary is not likely to be in the office.

You should be persistent about your attempt to create a connection, but do not be annoying about it. Keep in mind that you can still do everything right and not get a chance to talk after several attempts to reach out to that person. Below is an example of an email I might send out to someone I want to connect with:
Dear John, My name is Matthew Paulson.

I recently read your blog post about pricing strategies for software-as-a-service companies. You had some interesting points.
I was wondering if you had ever considered offering a biennial payment option in addition to offering monthly and annual payments.
I've personally had good luck with offering two-year subscriptions to my customers. I'll be in your city in a couple of weeks.

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If you have time, I'd love to get together and have coffee or lunch to connect and chat about business. Let me know.
Thanks! Matt There are a few basic guidelines that you should always follow concerning business relationships: Act friendly and professionally.

Do not be that person who only calls when they want something.
Touch base with your connections regularly to see if you can help them or take time to connect for purely social reasons.

Listen first.
When you are having a conversation with a business contact, do more listening than talking. Do not be that person who cannot stop talking.
Respond to email and voice mail in a timely manner. Do not be that person that other people have to chase down to get anything done. Do not brag about your business success all the time. If you have to tell people, "Look how great I am!" you are probably not that great.

* Be honest. Do not pretend to be more successful than you actually are.
Real entrepreneurs will see right through this.

Networking in the World of Internet Business
There are some unique dynamics involved when networking in the world of Internet business, because the people who you should be networking with might be
in another state or half way around the world.

There are a number of online communities that have sprung up to address this problem,
such as the 48 Days Member Community (www.48days.net), the Dynamite Circle (www.dynamitecircle.com), the Fastlane Forum (www.fastlaneforum.com), and the Silver Circle (www.silvercircle.com).

You have the opportunity to chat with and learn from other Internet entrepreneurs through these communities.
Many of these communities have in-person events that you can attend as well.

I have reached out to a number of people through these types of online communities and have made some great business connections as well.
For example, I met a gentleman named Tim Bourquin who had a business in the financial reporting space through one of these networks.

After we starting chatting, he told me he had launched an advertising network for financial websites like mine.
I gave his new advertising network,
After Offers, a try and it became a new revenue stream that generates $7,000 per month in revenue for my company.

While you might not be able to get an in-person meeting with someone half-way across the world, you can certainly reach out and see if they would be willing to chat with you for half an hour on a Skype video chat.

The connections you make could turn into partnerships and potential for increased revenue. Finally, as you become knowledgeable as an entrepreneur in your field and are confident discussing the skills you have to offer,
consider pitching yourself as a guest on podcasts for the industry that you are in.

I have been a guest on a number of Internet business podcasts and have had
a number of people reach out to me as a result.

Examples include Entrepreneur on Fire,
The Lifestyle Business Podcast, the Empire Flippers Podcast and the SuperFast
Business Podcast.

Action Steps: Identify local events for entrepreneurs that you can attend.
Reach out to one new potential business contact every week.
Join an online entrepreneur community.

Rule 4: Become a Voracious Consumer of Content Thomas Stanley, author of the best-selling book, The Millionaire Next Door, did a series of interviews with self-made millionaires and found some rather interesting information about their content consumption habits.

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The self-made millionaires he interviewed tended to not watch much prime time television. They did not know who got kicked off the island or who is sleeping with whom on Grey's Anatomy, but they do read one nonfiction book per month, on average.

I am certainly not saying that reading a nonfiction book every month will guarantee that you will have entrepreneurial success and become a millionaire.
It does however demonstrate the reality that people who build and run successful businesses are life-long learners.

The Value of Life-Long Learning Entrepreneurs who have had a significant amount of success recognize that there is more going on in their industry and in the wider business world than what they actually know.

They know that the world is constantly changing, new information is being updated and ideas are developing that could have significant, tangible impacts upon their businesses.

These entrepreneurs accept that there could be critical pieces of information that could change their businesses that they have not learned yet.

Unfortunately, people do not know what things they do not know.
In order to uncover these pieces of game-changing information, really successful entrepreneurs embark on a life-long journey of continuing education and become better entrepreneurs and more well-rounded people as a result.

Understanding Your Learning Style
There are a lot of different ways that life-long learning can happen.
Do you know how you learn best ?
You may not be much of a reader and are not interested in committing to reading a nonfiction book every month, but you can listen to business podcasts, read trade magazines,
listen to audio books, audit university classes, watch relevant documentary and take online courses through organizations like Udemy
(www.udemy.com) and Coursera (www.coursera.com).

It is very important to recognize the ways that you learn best and modify your content consumption habits accordingly.
If you are an aural learner, consider listening to business podcasts and audio books from services like Audible (www.audible.com) or Audiobooks (www.audiobooks.com).

If you are the type who learns by doing, you might benefit from taking hands-on community college courses or professional training workshops in your industry.
Of course, if you are the type who likes to read,

there are millions of nonfiction books you can choose.
The key is to identify how you learn most effectively and consume content using the mediums that suit you the best. Personally, I do not have a terribly long attention span.

I cannot force myself to sit down and read for two hours at a time, but I have learned that
I can read in 20-minute chunks as a part of my morning routine every day.

I discovered that I can listen to several hours-worth of podcasts and audio books and not get tired of listening. I also do quite well in academic settings, and audit a course from the local seminary or a local university at least once per year.

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In my journey as a life-long learner, I will read anywhere from 50 to 75 books each year and listen to a couple of dozen different podcasts on a weekly basis.
If you do not practice the habits of a life-long learner yet, get started today.

But be realistic, the books that you read and the podcasts that you listen to will not result in immediate breakthroughs for you and your business.

But your knowledge base will be solidified and you will gain insight over time.
And every now and then, you will find the needle in the haystack and you will uncover something that will change the way you run your business for the better.

For example, my business had been entirely reliant on advertising revenue prior to 2011. Several of the podcasts I listened to then and now stressed that the most valuable asset a business can have is an email list and that the best way to have an Internet business with long-term sustainability is to build an audience of people who you communicate
with on a regular basis.

Based on this advice, I started offering a daily newsletter on my financial news websites which lead to the creation of Analyst Ratings Network.
The Tension between Learning and Doing There is a tension at play between learning to become a better entrepreneur and actually growing your business.

While it is essential to be a life-long learner if you are going to be a successful entrepreneur, do not convince yourself that reading the latest business book from Seth Godin or Jim Collins counts as working on your business.

If you read several business books and subscribe to a dozen business podcasts, but do not actually get around to working on your business, you have not gotten anywhere.

Carve out time in your day for both learning and doing. Consumption of educational business content will become the fuel for your entrepreneurial activity, but do not mistake the process of consumption for activity itself.
To view a list of business books and podcasts that I recommend, view Appendix A. "Recommended Books and Podcasts" Action Steps: Determine the type of learning that is most natural to you.
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Commit to reading one nonfiction book per month or subscribing to two or three business podcasts. Ask your business connections what they read and recommend.


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