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Check out our latest entrepreneurial-driven content geared toward helping startups and small businesses grow their brands.

The Motivational Books You Need for the New Year

motivationalbooks What is true motivation? Some believe that the best motivator is yourself, and for many people this is true – but not all of us were born with built in confidence or have had the experiences required to be so self-assured. Those who can self-activate are often those who are filled to the brim with courage and mettle, but it’s okay if you aren’t quite there yet.

One of the most powerful motivation tools is finding an example of someone who you’d like to be more like. That’s not to say you have to copy someone’s life experience exactly. In fact, that’s impossible! But if you don’t already have it within you to motivate yourself, learning about how someone else views motivation and their own successes with motivation can help you do the same.

The best way to do just that is to read a motivational book. Unlike blog posts or news story sound bites, books are much more collegiate and substantial. The opinions are formed well and researched – if you get a good book, anyway. To help you weed out any rotten apples and to give you some books to read for the upcoming New Year, here is a selection of motivation books that we can all learn a thing or two from.

“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown

We all understand vulnerability – and if you say you haven’t then you might be in denial. To be vulnerable means to be unguarded, to notice that you’ve got a chink in your armor and know that it can’t be repaired right away. Emotions like uncertainty and precaution are human, though they’re often perceived as weak.

Dr. Brené Brown steers readers in a different direction. Dr. Brown argues that vulnerability isn’t actually weakness, but is instead what makes us stronger and is the core of our most profound emotions. Without vulnerability, things like joy and grief would be nonexistent – vulnerability brings us both the good AND the bad.

“Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change” by Derek Rydall

Many self-help or motivational books focus heavily on how to change who you are. Derek Rydall says that who you were born is the exact person you are right now – changing that is going against nature. We hear arguments like this in regards to things like sexuality, but never to character flaws or imperfections.

Rydall thinks that radical change within your life starts when you activate something that’s already inside of you, not something that you need to create inorganically.

“Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

One thing most of us need help with when it comes to motivation is cleaning and tidying. If you’re looking around you right now and see a stack of disheveled papers and a few too many Starbucks cups, you’re someone who could use this book to help motivate you come 2017.

Marie Kondo is an organizational guru who is here to not only help you with words, but with pictures. With both a written and visual representation of what your mess looks like and why you’re holding onto it, she sets all readers up for organization success.

Fitness Tech to Add to Your Holiday Wishlist

fitnessgifts

The holidays are approaching and you’ve likely got a lot of wishlists you’re focusing on right now. For your own wishlist, you’re looking for new items you want – maybe they’re to expand your life, like a new set of motivational tapes. Maybe you want something more fun than functional, like an art kit or inline skates to get back in touch with your 80’s teen spirit. Others will want similar things, from boxes of chocolate to boxes of ties.

Here’s something to consider: we’ve all likely put on some weight during the winter months, and come New Years we’ll all be resolving to take that weight off. Most of us will fall through on this promise unless we’re properly motivated…and what’s more motivating than having neat tools to help make that reality actually happen instead of it becoming yet another resolution that goes unattended to.

Fitness tech is cheaper than ever, and it’s also widely available. No longer are you looking at buying bulky and expensive treadmills in order to help get fit for the New Year, so let’s take a look at some desirable and chic fitness tech products you may want to get this holiday season – for someone else or to treat yourself!

Garmin Vivosmart HR+

This piece of fitness tech may not fit the criteria of “cheap,” but boy is it neat. Wareable recently gave this product their award of Fitness Tracker of the Year, and for good reason – this Garmin offering expertly combines fitness monitoring with ample tech that makes up for the price tag of over $200.

One of the biggest draws to this particular product is that a phone is unnecessary to use it. Many don’t realize Fitbits only truly work when you’re looking at their app simultaneously, which means running and jogging while paying attention to your Fitbit app if you want to take a good look at your specs in real time. All of the tech that is involved with the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is installed into the device itself. It also includes GPS, heart rate monitoring and sleep monitoring.

Misfit Ray

This fitness tracker falls more in line with most price ranging, coming in at a little under $100 at most retailers. Unlike the Fitbit or Garmin fitness trackers, Misfit looks to svelte elegant designs when creating their product lines. The Misfit Ray is very clean and minimalist, and so is the app that you pair with the device.

Misfit products are best for those who want to start managing their health but who don’t want to go full gym nut just yet. The Ray tracks steps and sleep patterns and offers smartphone notifications, and that’s about the extent of its capabilities. Minimal indeed.

Moov Now

If you or someone you know is already really into fitness and you’re at a loss for the perfect gift, look no further. Made for those who already love intense training, the Moov Now is a leg-worn smartphone holder that coaches you while it monitors your steps and activity. The programmed capabilities include different difficulty levels designed to make training progressively harder, just like a normal coach or personal trainer would.

The price point on this device is also very excellent – you can find it at most major retailers for only $60.

4 Big Questions to Ask About Your Business’ Brand Success

You have a business and you have a brand – how do you measure the success of either? When speaking about analytics, the numbers that prove we’re doing excellent or failing miserably in business matter a lot. They’re how we fix problems, adjust successes and plan our future.

But sometimes numbers aren’t enough. When it comes to branding, both absolute values and figurative ideas matter. This means asking questions that you can’t answer without hard thought. Much like your SATs, brand success strategies will have an essay portion.

The best way to figuratively assess your brand’s success is with this set of questions first brought up by Ignition Consulting Group founder Tim Williams:

1. What do we do?

Perhaps the most basic measure of branding success is asking the simple question of what you and/or your business do. This should be answered in a simple sentence; for instance “I’m Tamara Collins, event coordinator and speaker.” “Amteck Industries creates steel solutions.”

This simple answer should always be incorporated in your branding. Should your entire branding strategy be so simple? Not necessarily. But consider that the basis of any good brand strategy is to start with the basics and explain in some way your true business purpose.

2. Who do we do it for?

Next, consider your audience – who are they? Are they a general audience or more specific? Do you cater to men over women? Entrepreneurs over working class people? Who you’re marketing to will dictate the focus of your branding, and this also brings into question your success.

How accurately do you represent this audience within your brand? Based on your analytics, who most identifies with your brand? Does this answer match up with who you want to identify with your brand?

3. How do we do it?

Now assess your values, what makes you and/or your business unique and your methodologies. Sometimes how you perform a service is what identifies you as a brand.

Consider Subway – this is a sandwich chain where your food is made in front of you and served immediately when you pay, unlike artisan sandwich restaurants that don’t operate on such a fast-food style of serving. How the food is prepared separates Subway from other restaurants, and you have to find what it factor you have as a brand and utilize it.

When determining success, look at your current branding methods. How much do you focus on what sets you apart?

4. Why do we do it?

Finally, branding should always convey a mission statement – put simply, a sense of purpose. Do you aim to bring a better value to the table, or higher quality products? Did you simply bring your business to life to fill a hole in the market, or is it something you’re passionate about for personal reasons.

Why you do something is extremely important to a savvy consumer. A successful brand building strategy will always tackle this personal, edgy angle because it’s how you can easily connect with customers around the globe.

The Fitness Don’ts That You Probably Fall Victim to Every Day

We all have dreams of getting fit, or we may even already be on an amazing fitness journey. No matter what step of the path you’re on, we all have ideas about what it takes to be fit. Some fitness myths are more well-known than others, like dieting alone isn’t how you become healthy. Others, however, are much more specific and not as discussed.

Whether you’re currently on your fitness journey or considering your options, keep these fitness don’ts in mind – in fact, you may have already feel victim to a few of them!

Never Skip Breakfast

Ironically, the most important meal of the day is the one we most often take for granted. We get up late, grab a granola bar and then don’t think about food again until a late lunch break. Those trying to lose weight may skip breakfast to fend off a few extra pounds, and it’s easy because it’s a meal you can almost sleep through.

This is a big no-no. Breakfast is a meal where we get most of our daily energy, and it’s actually the perfect opportunity to load up on carbs and nutrients you need for energy.

Don’t Aim too High

If you’re new to fitness, setting a realistic goal like walking 30 minutes every Saturday and doing 10 crunches before bed during the work week is actually a good thing. We sometimes feel like in order to get fit or lose weight we have to go to extremes and exercise until we pass out. Instead, building strength and falling into a routine are two of the biggest components of fitness.

Also, setting your expectations too high is a good way to fast track yourself to failure. You’re more likely to become disappointed and give up when you don’t meet your goals, but the truth is you never could have met them in the first place.

Don’t Focus On Pounds

Most reality shows about weight loss put a big emphasis on losing a certain amount of weight in a set span of time. This is actually very unhealthy – don’t do it. If your doctor tells you to lose 30 pounds, that’s fine; but your workout routine shouldn’t be a question of a math equation. Work on promoting better habits and changing your lifestyle instead of picking out a target weight number. Otherwise you might make it to that number and quit because your only motivation is out the window.

Don’t Compare Yourself

Everyone’s fitness journey is different, just like everyone has a different body type and weight threshold. You may not ever fit into a size 4 because your hips or big, or maybe your weight gain is a bad medication side effect – simply put, we all have different setbacks and experiences.

It’s important that we don’t look at others and measure ourselves based on their successes and appearance because we aren’t them – and we never will be. Fitness is something that’s very personal, and your failures and successes should be measured by your own merits, no one else’s.

4 Common Fitness Myths That Have Been Debunked

If you’re looking to get fit and/or lose weight, it’s likely that you’ve researched quite a few online articles on the subject. The reason why is obvious – we all want to know the quick secrets to getting slim and staying fit. The problem is that unless you’re getting this information from a credible source then it’s likely false.

When it comes to online info about weight, use this rule of thumb: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are four common fitness myths floating around out there – as well as the truth behind them.

“You must work out to lose weight.”

Many men and women often think the secret to slimming down their waistline and getting rid of those love handles is to keep exercising and exercising. Don’t think that exercise isn’t part of getting fit; that isn’t the case at all.

The reality is that losing weight deals primarily with what you eat, not how you work out. Getting lots of exercise can help expedite the weight loss process, but eating the right foods and eating correctly sized portions are the real secret to losing pounds.

“You can choose where you lose problem fat.”

Articles are out there that tout certain exercises that help you get rid of fat in certain areas. Exercise is how you help tone a muscle, but exercise alone doesn’t get rid of fat.

For instance, doing squats and sit-ups can help you tone your glutes and your core, respectively – but these exercises alone won’t actually help to eliminate those extra pounds. Some scientists believe there’s no true way to target fat in a specific area, as much as we wish there was a miracle solution.

“It’s okay to eat whatever you want if you work it off.”

If you eat 2000 calories and burn off 3000 calories, it’s all good right? Even if those 2000 calories consisted of cheeseburgers, French fries and a chocolate shake? Wrong.

It’s common that people rationalize their workout routine as a means to eating the wrong things – as long as they work off the calories that they consume it’s okay to eat whatever. The reason this is false is because calories aren’t the only reason we gain weight. You can work out all you want but that doesn’t always help to expel the toxins and bad fats found in junk foods.

“Breaking a sweat” is a good thing.

Sweating can help your body release toxins and it’s often therapeutic, which is why saunas are so popular in health centers. Sweating isn’t unhealthy by any means, and this may be why you think the more you sweat during your workout the better off you are.

Again, this is fault. Instead of having anything to do with weight loss, sweating is all about regulating body temperature. There is no correlation between the amount of sweat you produce and how much weight you’ll lose, especially since sweating varies from person to person.

How to Pump Up Your Startup’s Online Brand Image

Crafting a brand image is no easy feat. A lot of work must go into establishing a brand, let alone creating an image that stands out and is successful. Many new startups often falter because their image isn’t one that actually serves them well, and a brand image that fails a company often belongs to a company that fails.

All in all, a company’s brand image speaks to the audience as a first impression. Consumers make a lot of decisions based on a company’s branding, so it’s essentially that your own startup have a pumped up brand image that snags you success the first time around.

Narrow Down Your Target Market

A common mistake startups make is trying too hard to have “mass appeal.” Unless you have a tried and true company that has services and products that can truly appeal to all consumers, there’s no need to market to a broad audience.

Target markets aren’t just necessary to consider when it comes to marketing. Your brand image and representation speak to a demographic, but what demographic are they actually speaking to? A pumped up brand image is one that knows who it’s trying to access and succeeds at doing so.

Focus On Your Competition

How often do you check in on what your competition is doing? Don’t worry – you aren’t snooping around in an attempt to copy your rivals, but instead you need to focus on what your competition isn’t doing.

Simultaneously, it is good to see what your rivals are succeeding at. Do they have a bigger audience than you do? Why? It’s okay to mimic their branding successes as long as you put your own spin on them – copy the concepts, not the content. Also look at where they’re faltering and take advantage of these flaws by fixing the problems within your own branding schemas.

Determine Your Selling Point

What makes your brand unique? How do you differ from other startups and businesses out there? Establishing your uniqueness should be the cornerstone of any brand messaging. There are thousands of businesses out there that do the same things, but each one has something special that applies only to them – and if they don’t, they fail.

Your brand image should center on what differentiates you from everyone else. This is your selling point – so why not use it to do what it’s there for?

Get Help with Problem Areas

Most startups are incredibly understaffed. If your company is run out of your living room with help from you and three others, it’s very likely that you won’t have all of your marketing and branding bases covered. For instance, is someone in your startup a graphic designer? Is someone an expert on demographic studies?

When you have a weak point within your company, find a way to fix it. Good branding is visual and focuses on marketing psychology, and if you don’t have team members that perform these functions flawlessly then you’re already lagging behind.

4 Great Online Resources for Brand Management

Brand management isn’t as easy as everyone says it is. It requires tons of effort, a watchful eye, an impressive understanding of marketing and hours’ worth of work every day. This can get tedious, and it’s very easy to get burnt out – at least, if you don’t have any help, that is.

Luckily thanks to the Internet age there are tons of blogs and sites dedicated to helping you stay on top of your brand management game. These are only four incredible resources you can use, so start with these and always be on the hunt for more.

The HubSpot Blog

Want brand management, marketing and sales best practices right at your fingertips? What about helpful hints and pieces of advice to help your business run better? The HubSpot blog contains tons of curated content from industry writers who know what they’re talking about when it comes to business betterment topics.

Every day HubSpot posts numerous pieces of quality content that pertain to any number of subjects – from how to create a better social media brand image, to the top five reasons you need to be on LinkedIn, they’ve covered it. This makes it an incredible resource for brand management best practices.

Google Alerts

Brand management means knowing who’s talking about you, where and why. When you go to Google your name or business, sites like your social media accounts and main site hub should be first, but do you know what else ranks along with your name?

Google Alerts are an excellent way to keep on top of this essential information. Anytime content ranks that mentions you, Google sends you a notification so you can keep tabs on your brand image. This is how brand management professions stay ahead of bad press and also celebrate good reviews and testimonials.

Canva

Brand management isn’t just about staying on top of a brand, but also elevating the brand through content and other forms of marketing. If you want to delve into content marketing for your own brand in order to help boost its image, Canva is a great place to start.

Canva is a free-to-use online platform that allows for innovative image editing, including creating banners, visual resumes and infographics that can be used for marketing purposes. The quality of these images is impeccable, and Canva comes with tons of preloaded templates to help make your life easier.

Wishpond

This easy-to-use marketing platform includes tools that can be added to a website to offer features like intelligent forms, popups, and automation. These also include native integrations that helps sales, marketing, management, and promotion through both email and social channels.

Essentially Wishpond is your one stop shop for brand management through innovation and lead generation. Anyone who wants to market a product, a brand, a business or a service can do incredible things with only a few of Wishpond’s add-ons, let alone their complete arsenal of branding tools. Wishpond has also worked with famed brands, like Vervegirl and Diamond Candles.

The 3 Motivational Resources for Small Businesses

Staying motivated is one of the keys to staying in business. When you don’t give yourself enough of a push to get things done, things start to fall off track. Think about an unmotivated version of yourself to the highest degree – not answering phone calls, deciding to stay in bed all day. How productive is that?

Normally motivation is something that starts to slump off slowly, though. It starts with small shrugs and ignoring your to-do list for one day, but it soon snowballs into something else: full blown apathy.

This is only compounded in a setting where others are also at risk for losing motivation. You can try your best to keep yourself and your employees motivated, but a big problem is that what drives all of us is totally different. Someone in their 40s might find their children and spouse to be what drives them to perform every day, but someone younger may find motivation in the form of trying to pay off those student loans.

What doesn’t change for everyone, though, is general motivation – the kind of motivation that tells them to keep doing what they’re doing for success. This three resource areas can be what kick you and your employees into motivation overdrive.

Trade Shows and Conventions

Sometimes what keeps someone from being motivated is they feel like their job or business is stuck in a rut. It isn’t trying new things, so why should they? As a small business owner, you have the power to show them the possibilities are endless, but it can be hard to do this through talks and conversations alone.

What’s the solution? Invest in taking your team to a convention or a trade show. In this environment, you can both take notes as a SMB owner about future possibilities while simultaneously showing off to your team that change is possible, you’ll just have to figure out how to implement it.

Motivational Speakers

This may sound cheesy, but motivational speakers CAN work for your team. You need to get rid of the stereotypical motivational speaker image from your mind – the energetic man on stage, screaming faux-zen self-help adages at an audience.

In reality, motivational speakers are often very business savvy. Their main audience is one that is in the business industry, thus they put a business spin on their advice. Topics like success, communication, motivation and confidence are common topics that these speakers cover, and their sermons often include tips and tricks for a more fulfilling business life.

Literature

There are a ton of motivational books out there that are geared towards business, but sometimes a problem arises: much like you may not have wanted to read the required reading in high school English class, your employees may feel no incentive to read any books you recommend.

The solution is to invest in a class set, of sorts. Buy enough books for your employees and schedule in meetings or time during existing team meetings to talk about a chapter or concept from the book. This puts more emphasis on the necessity to read the book while also making it a discussion about the motivational, helpful aspects of the book.

Ways to Grow Your Small Business with Your Friends

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Growing a business is hard work on your own, and that’s why you hire employees to help. It’s often, though, that businesses in their early stages are generated from a lot of pro bono help and nourishment. Entrepreneurs often get their friends and family to help volunteer for advertising, product making and other tasks that need to be handled when there’s not enough money to pay yourself, let alone an actual workforce.

Your family might be an easier sell, but your friends could use some warming up to. Some friends will jump at the chance to help, but you can’t blame someone for wanting something a little more. There’s an art to convincing your friends to go in with you on a business venture, even if it’s just in the capacity of handing out fliers.

Work the Tit for Tat Angle

Not many people are willing to give something away for free. In this exchange model, your friends are giving away their time for you. What are you going to offer them in return?

Whenever your friends help you out, give them something in exchange. It can be free product, a future cut, or even something more creative, like naming a future product or service after them. When you give someone an incentive to help, they’re more likely to do so.

Make it Fun

Sometimes all you need to do to entice someone to help you with your business is give the activity a competitive edge. Get your friends to all try and refer people to your business. Whoever gets the largest number of referrals wins free product, and everyone gets to have a night of drinks to celebrate the success.

Word of Mouth

One area of marketing that people don’t focus enough on in this digital age is the power of the word of mouth advertisement. Your friends have friends, and that’s something you can use.

Tell your closest friends about your business venture, and all you ask of them is to tell their friends. This kind of pyramid, trickle down advertising is how early grassroots movements got started, and the same can be said for your new small business.

Capitalize On Togetherness

Being with your friends is a fun experience in and of itself. When you want to do something for your business, involve your friends not only to help you work, but also to have something to do together. People are often happy to organize fundraisers, make product and commit to other business activities if that’s what they think of it as – an activity.

Ask for Advice and Opinions

When you have friends, you have the perfect opportunity for case studies and beta testing free of charge. For instance, say you have an ad campaign you want to start running. Shoot it by real people you know first before taking it out of the family to market to others. Ask for their real opinions. They may be more likely to be frank with you than a stranger.

Incorporating Fitness into Your Everyday Schedule

One common excuse you’ll hear people make for not exercising is that it simply doesn’t fit into their schedule. The fact of the matter is that this is exactly what it sounds like – and excuse. The reality is that you can always find time to exercise, but you have to be able to incorporate it into your schedule.

It’s possible to be fit at all times while still having a busy day, and just because you’re always busy doesn’t mean you’re being fit. Not eating and sitting at a desk all day won’t make you lose weight, and it certainly won’t make you healthier. The trick to being healthy and working is moving and eating right.

The following are quick ways to incorporate fitness into your everyday life while you’re at work, at home or anywhere in between.

  1. In general, move more. If you don’t want to concern yourself with actual legitimate exercises, you’ll have to find ways to be more active without them. Walk the long way around the office, job home instead of driving, or do leg exercises while you’re sitting. If you can find a way to be more mobile, go for it.
  1. Start planning a regular mobile activity. This can be 30 minutes of walking or 15 minutes of cardio. No matter what kind of activity it is, you can easily squeeze it into your schedule.
  1. If you don’t want to give up Netflix night so you can commit to your exercise evening, combine the two projects. You can easily do yoga and watch the latest episode of Narcos. Find exercise methods that still allow you to watch TV or enjoy your other hobbies you’d miss out on otherwise.
  1. Don’t commit to exercises you don’t like. If you hate burpees, don’t do them. There are tons of exercises out there that work every part of your body – enough to substitute one for the other. If you don’t enjoy an exercise, you’re likely to fall off the wagon with committing to it.
  1. If you’re looking to exercise more to lose weight, that’s a noble cause – but your main focus should be on being healthy. When it comes to your schedule, you shouldn’t focus your routine around a certain number of days or sessions in order to lose 10 pounds. You have to make working out and being mobile a commitment that’s long term in your appointment book.
  1. You have to focus on more than one area of exercise. For one day, schedule cardio. For another, strength training. Space these days out and schedule them so that you can have rest days for easier movement in between your harder days.
  1. Always try to get involved with fitness groups. Usually fitness classes have a set time that they occur, and this can make scheduling in a workout easier and more of a commitment than just picking a random time to do some sit-ups in the kitchen.
  1. Choose a time of day to work out and stick to it. Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, keep your schedule routine so you’re more likely to work out when you say you will.