If Politicians Were More Like Entrepreneurs…

I've an avid student of american history and politics.  I was the student body president of two universities, worked on Capital Hill, and currently serving as the Entrepreneur in Residence for the City of Los Angeles.  My love politics is matched by my passion for building businesses.  And I often think our government would be much better if politicians acted more like entrepreneurs: The Reward Is The Outcome, Not the Position – The title of “Entrepreneur” has no value unless there are deeds and accomplishments to back it up.  Being a Congressman, Senator, Governor or President is not an accomplishment… accomplishing things is an accomplishment. When You’re Done Fundraising Build Something –Fundraising is a means to an end, not the end itself.  Once we’ve raised money from loyal supporters, it is our responsibility to build something of greater value.  Only then do we have the right to ask for more money. Fail Fast  Everyone is expected to fail. What matters is how we eventually accomplish great feats. Don’t dig your heels into a strategy that has no chance of success, that’s not principled… it’s petty.
Work Harder  How many elected officials work startup hours to make sure to pass legislation?  We’d be a greater country if politicians worked as diligently as engineers to solve difficult problems.
Risk = Reward – Nobody remembers the obstructionist. “It’s not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man in the arena…who does actually strive to do the deeds…who spends himself in a worthy cause.” – President Theodore Roosevelt
Money Runs Out – There is no blank check in business.  Capital is your lifeline and needs to be allocated thoughtfully and judiciously.  Cash resources are limited and when they’re gone, so is your endeavor.
Debt Works in Your Favor When You’re Growing – Debt can be an amazing instrument to tap when you’re scaling, and is the cheapest way to finance growth.  But when you’re flat or deflating, increasing debt often becomes the noose around a fragile neck. You Can’t Have Consumption Without Production – Builders, makers, manufactures and engineers should be overly rewarded for producing outsized value.  Don’t levy or hinder production, or there will just be less for everyone to consume. Have a Win-Win Mentality – The pie is growing.  More often than not, no one has to lose for you to win.  We can get everything we need by seeking a win for others. Your Vision Must Be Clear – Nobody wants to follow leaders who don’t know where they’re going.  If a 5th grader can’t clearly articulate your vision it’s too complicated or confused. Be Decisive – I can’t remember the last time an entrepreneur got to “abstain” or be counted as “not present” from making a decision.  Once you’ve decided on a course of action be clear in what you intend to accomplish and don’t waiver. People Feed Off Positive Energy and Optimism –How often do we hear members of political parties demean their opponents vs. praise them?  Entrepreneurs tend to befriend and learn from people of opposing views.  Our representatives should do the same.  No one will ever be inspired by pessimism. Under-Promise and Over-Deliver – Political campaigns are farces and fairytales.  Undelivered promises never improved anyone’s life.  Promise us less, and over-deliver on your commitments. Embrace Your Critics – There is something to learn from every critique.  Take the opportunity to engage with your critics.  You’ll be better for it, and have fewer detractors along the way. Love What You Do – Representing thousands or millions of people is an honor and opportunity that should be cherished.  Have a passion for the democratic process not disdain for its faults.  It’s the best imperfect government system invented yet. Know Your Customers – What do they need, what do they want and what do they most care about? The more in touch you are with your customer/constituent, the more you’ll be rewarded for serving them aptly. Execution Matters More Than Ideas – We get caught up in the dogma of our positions and ideas.  But any seemingly good idea, poorly executed, is worse than a half-baked idea with flawless execution. Competition Should be Encouraged – I’ve yet to visit a gerrymandered website.  We all eventually benefit from fair and fierce competition. Winning = Solving Problems – The more problems you solve the more customers or constituents you will have.  Focus on delivering achievable, practical improvements and you’ll be rewarded. Leaders Serve Their Customers, but Shouldn’t Always Think Like Them – No one ever became a leader by acting like everybody else.  We elect our officials and entrust them to make decisions on our behalf.  They should be the best of us and make the hard decisions for our benefit, even when we disagree. (and for the record Lex Luthor is a horrible role model for all Entrepreneurs & Elected Officials...) This article originally appeared on Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/10/15/what-politicians-should-learn-from-entrepreneurs/#61a394cbaec7

My 9 eBooks on Business & Leadership

Over the years at Docstoc, I took a variety of talks that I've given on various topics around Business & Leadership and we turned these into eBooks on Itunes.  They were edited by our head of content & my friend Rochelle Bailis.  You can get access to all these books here, & visit my Videos Page and you'll see my talks for many of these topics. How to Make the Right Business Decisions How to Start a Business 21 Simple Ways to Persuade People 7 Free Ways to Get Online Traffic 10 Strategies for Startup Success 21 Golden Rules of Entrepreneurship Bootstrapping Your Business How to Break Out of the Pack Grow & Track Your Startup Revenue  

Reprise: The Unintended Consequences of Startups (4 Years Later…)

Seven months ago I sold the company I founded in 2007; seemingly all’s well that ends well.  But, over the years I’ve been very vocal about the emotional highs and lows of running a startup, and the dark side people don’t talk about.  In 2009, still at the beginning of the journey, I wrote a post on my blog about my challenges at the time.  It struck a deep cord and hundreds of entrepreneurs shared their parallel emotional tolls and scarifies with me.  I’m including an abbreviated post below, this time with more than five years perspective and the coveted successful exit in hand. April 2009: The Unintended Consequences of Startups  There is only one way I can imagine running a startup, obsessively giving it everything you’ve got. In my opinion it’s what separates the winners from everyone else, and it’s the only way I’d ever be able to look back on this experience without regret. But that kind of dedication comes with a price. And anyone who has chosen a path of starting a business can tell you the unintended consequences of startups. For the past two years I’ve neglected my health, family and friends. For most of my adult life, I was about 165 pounds. I’m almost 210 pounds these days.  After we raised our first round of capital I regularly started staying in the office until 2 a.m. I found myself so physically and mentally spent by the weekend that I typically slept most the day on Saturday, before I went back to work on Sundays.  I was so inactive; I’m convinced now my muscles started to atrophy. It took me a while to admit that I was stressed out and even longer to realize I would turn to food to compensate for that stress. Over the past year, I’ve become a more solitary person with my thoughts and emotions than I’ve ever been, while increasingly becoming a public figure that’s known as an outgoing social networker and showman.  It’s a strange dichotomy. My family has been both incredibly supportive but also upset that I’ve seemingly disappeared. I have three older siblings, and we’re undeniably close.  But while they’re all proud of me, they disapprove of my unbalanced lifestyle.  My brother and I share opposing sides of a duplex; he’s literally a wall away from me.  But I can often go two weeks without seeing or talking to him.  My sisters are busy raising their kids, so they can relate a bit more.  But like so many others, our conversation often come back to them asking me, “Why don’t you ever want to talk about what’s going on in your life?” My father who I love dearly, isn’t only from another generation/country, he might as well be from another planet. He struggles the most to be supportive; I know he’s at least a little disappointed I didn’t practice law and take over the family real estate business.  A lot of what I do is to make him proud and prove to him that all his hard work for his children was not in vain.  He’s almost 80 and every time I see him I try and cherish the interactions, because I don’t know how many will be left. My lack of time affects me most in relation to my mom. My mother has been severely ill for the last six years. Due to mental illness that set in later in life, and a very early onset of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, she can’t hold a conversation, stand, eat or function at all without full time caregivers. She is the person that has done more for me than anyone else, and was always my biggest cheerleader.  I could leave the office every night at 8 p.m. and give her a hug and kiss, spend a half hour with her, but I don’t.  Our first office was across the street from her (not accidentally), and I’d walk over during the day to check on her. Since we moved further away, I typically go by to see her once or twice a week.  It’s a choice I’m not very proud of. Friends are a little bit easier, I’ve have the same ones since I was five. But for a long time they did stop calling me, knowing I always turned down plans for work.  I felt that if someone wasn’t at our startup with me on a daily basis, that it took too much effort to try and explain the intricacies and emotions of the experience. I think I’ve reached my breaking point, at least for now, and mostly in regards to my health.  Somehow I know my relationships will work out, but I often find myself feeling like I’m working at 40% of my capacity and energy, and I think it’s due in large part to poor physical habits. Starting and running a company is the joy of my life right now, and gives me a greater sense of purpose than anything I’ve done before. It’s come with a price though, and I know a lot of other folks like me are thinking through and struggling with issues of balance and the unintended consequences of pouring yourself into that which you love and defines you. Epilogue I had no idea I was embarking on an eight-year marathon and emotional roller coaster when we started Docstoc.  Startups are a dichotomy of taking control of your destiny while letting go of all other illusions of control.  I can unequivocally say it was worth the sacrifice, but I came out a different person on the other side. I eventually found peace in the wisdom, “Don’t struggle with the struggle”.  Struggle with the daily challenges you’ll inevitably have to face, but embrace the fact that struggle will be the consistent state you live in for the next many years.  Today, I may get to enjoy the outcome of our success, but the pain of the process is what’s forever shaped me as a person. There are few things in life that will push us, demand of us, beat us down or raise us up as much as starting a company.   This post originally appeared in the WSj: http://blogs.wsj.com/accelerators/2014/06/19/jason-nazar-the-unintended-consequences-of-startups/

The BIG Mistakes People Make at Work

Is what you’re doing at work today really the best thing for both your company and for you?  Spare a few moments to gain some work perspective.  You might discover you’re making some fatal mistakes, or even fourteen of them. Not Understanding the Company’s Goals: It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand the most critical goals for their company.  Even if you weren’t told what’s most important, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t figure it out. The more disconnected you are from these goals, the more you’ll be task managed. Doing what you’re told isn’t enough; we have to do what most needs to get done. Not Making Yourself Instrumental:  Ask yourself: “If I was fired tomorrow, would my company suffer any major disruption or difficulty?” Be honest.  If the answer is “No!” then you’re setting yourself up to be replaced.  You’re likely either not excelling at your role, or you’re working on the wrong objectives.   Job security means having responsibility for something important, and doing it exceptionally well.Not Having a Work Best Friend: Plenty ofresearch shows that having a “best friend at work” makes you happier, more positive and more likely to stay in your job. In fact, a landmark study revealed people who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job!  Yet, only about 30% of employees say they have a work best friend.  Get happy, find your WBFF. Being Yourself:  No one is the best professional they can be.  One trick to perform better is to emulate the habits of your professional heroes: how would Steve Jobs stay productive, how does Mark Cuban make decisions, how does Marissa Mayer handle phone calls, how does Magic Johnson conduct meetings, and how do they dress.  By playing the part of your mentors, you’ll settle into your own optimal work style, and become the best version of yourself.
Not Taking Enough Breaks:   The single biggest cost to businesses may be the “sitting-dead”: burnt-out employees achieving a fraction of their potential.   I always hated seeing my team goofing around, but I realized how important breaks are later on in my career.  Now I’d much rather have team members go on as-many-as-needed energizing breaks (outside the office) throughout the day, but then be 110% engaged and working until the job gets done.  Over-worked zombies infect everyone else, and leave you with an office of aimless employees. Putting Limits on Yourself:  We almost never accomplish more than we can imagine for ourselves.  Many people are fond of telling us what we can’t do, and sometimes these voices become our own limiting self-talk.  This doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Go into work every day with the attitude you can get anything done.  Be something more tomorrow than the something less you were yesterday. The only limit of your potential is your imagination and effort. Forgetting the Customer:  People as important as your children, spouse, siblings and parents are spending their hard-earned money on your products or services. How much of your workday do you spend thinking about, talking to, or interacting with your customers?  Probably not enough.  Businesses that are disengaged from their customers tend to die untimely deaths.  Lead your day with a customer-centric focus and you’ll never go wrong.  (Tip: Read Tony Hsieh’s book on “Delivering Happiness” at Zappos.) Not Acting Like the Boss – I often encouraged my team members to come into work, and imagine you’re the CEO.  What’s the mindset you’d need if you were the leader and how would you act?  That’s the same sense of urgency and ownership you need to have a daily basis to excel in whatever your job function entails. Assuming No One is Judging Your Performance:  People are always talking about how you stack up as a team member.  You’re not fooling anyone; your managers and co-workers know what kind of job you’re doing.  Just because you haven’t gotten any critical feedback lately, doesn’t mean people think you’re doing a good job. Your own standards should be much higher than everyone else; judge your own performance daily and assume everyone else is as well.   (Tip: ask for written quarterly performance reviews, even if it isn’t company policy.) Not Being Likable: Ideally, all work environments would be pure meritocracies.  But we’re social organisms.  People like working with people they like to be around.  You get ahead, in part, by getting along.  Consider this scenario: Company management needs to do cutbacks. Given a choice between two relatively equal performers, guess which one gets the ax: the temperamental teammate or the affable employee? Taking It Too Personally: So much time and energy is wasted being upset. When faced with a conflict or critical feedback, our first instinct should be to ask: “How I can improve?”  Trust the intentions of the person giving the feedback.  Quite often it’s not a personal condemnation; they’re hopefully thinking about how to achieve the best outcome.  You may disagree with their conclusion or approach, but there’s always valuable feedback on how we can improve in any conflict or critique. Not Staying on Top of Your Industry: Dedicate half an hour each day to reading about the latest news and trends about your industry, whether you’re in tech or fashion or furniture. This will keep you current on the changes coming so you can bring new ideas and perspectives. As Stephen Covey teaches: Sharpen the Saw.
Forgetting the One Most Important Thing: What’s the one most important thing you can to accomplish today, this week, or this month to move the business forward most.  Write it down each day and hold yourself accountable to accomplishing that endeavor above all else.  Too often we devote our energy to mundane tasks like checking email or meetings that falsely let us feel productive.  We can get many things wrong, and still be doing a great job, if we get the most important things done right. (Tip: Watch more on The One Most Important Thing)
Relying on Career Employment: Career employment no longer exists for many of us.  You always have the skill set to get the next job.  Ask yourself: “If I got fired today, would I be able to find a comparable or better job within three months?” If the answer is no, you’re sorely unprepared for this modern economy.  In Reid Hoffman’s new book, “The Alliance,” he makes the case for a new loyalty pact between employer and employee.  The employer can count on a commitment from the employee of up to four years, and the employee can count on the employer to provide the opportunity and training to help them find their next better career opportunity.  Don’t let yourself get caught unprepared for your next voluntary or involuntary career move.   This article originally appeared on Forbes - http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2014/10/21/14-fatal-mistakes-youre-making-at-work-today/2/#33bc35015a22

SEO Metrics: How to Leverage Organic Search to Drive Traffic

I gave the following presentation about In-House SEO.  If you look at the 2nd half of the slides you'll find a set of key metrics that should be used to measure and track SEO, and the basic building blocks of how to leverage organic search to drive traffic to your website. Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 7.00.12 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 7.00.31 PM   [slideshare id=63860559&doc=inhouseseo-160709015343]

How to Start a Business: 60+ Video Series with Jason Nazar

The most comprehensive (& free) videos on How to Start a Business.  Over 5 hours of expert content, graphics and tutorials by Jason Nazar.  Watch the full video series here.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-jp06gIjt0&list=PL7x45KHuu46kNRyey1quSft2GFoz-iJSS

eBook: How to Start a Business

The eBook compliment to the "How to Start a Business" video series; written by Jason Nazar & Rochelle Balis. Get it for free on Amazon or Itunes.

The Master Checklist of EVERYTHING You Need to Start a Business

I've spent almost 20 years starting businesses and helping hundreds of clients, colleges & friends start theirs.  I created this resource to have the single most comprehensive guide anywhere on all the different items involved in starting a business.  I wish I had this years ago...

Mandatory tasks are required under the law in order to operate a valid and compliant business.

Recommended tasks, although not strictly required under the law, are tasks that should be undertaken in order to grow and protect a new business.

Ideation & Protecting Ideas

Mandatory

Recommended

  • Vet your idea with the idea checklist.
  • Protect your ideas when sharing them with others by using an NDA.
  • Search your state’s corporation and LLC name registration database to ensure your business name has not been taken.
  • Check GoogleYellow Pages, and local directories to ensure your business name is not taken.
  • Learn how to select a good business name.

Forming Your Entity

Mandatory

Recommended

  • Going into a Partnership? Create a Partnership Agreement.
  • Check your state government’s website for other state-specific registration, taxation and employment rules.
  • Get your DBA (Doing Business As) which allows a business to operate under a fictitious name (this is required for sole proprietorships that want to operate under any name other than the name of the business owner).
  • Open your company bank account.

Identity and Branding

Recommended

Financing and Business Planning

Recommended

Operations

Mandatory

Recommended

Financial Planning & Accounting

Mandatory

Recommended

Business Mentors

Recommended

  • Speak to entrepreneurs and leaders in your industry and consider asking them to be your mentor.
  • Ask mentors to join your Board of Advisors (for the overall benefit of the company).

Building a Team

Mandatory

Recommended

Human Resources

Mandatory

Recommended

Sales

Recommended

Marketing & PR

Recommended

Insurance

Mandatory

• Common: workers' compensationunemployment and disability insurance.

• Others: propertyliability or business overhead insurance.

Recommended

  • Check any potential insurance providers here

Legal

Recommended

CHECKLIST FOR YOUR SPECIFIC BUSINESS

Service-Based Businesses

Mandatory

  • Determine the price of your services.

Recommended

  • Don’t forget to clarify the deliverable, deadline and cost in your service agreement.

Retail/Brick and Mortar Businesses

Mandatory

  • Check zoning laws.
  • Secure a lease.
  • Decide on days and hours of operation.
  • Determine staffing needs (for prime hours, slower times, closing an inventory).
  • Secure the correct permits and licenses for your city and state.
  • Set up lighting and utilities.
  • Acquire furniture, register, racks, tables and wall displays, a register, etc.
  • Get a state-specific Seller’s Permit or Resale Permit to properly collect sales tax.

Recommended

  • Choose a location with good foot traffic, size and appearance.
  • Speak with a commercial realtor to get an idea of what to look for and what to expect.
  • Establish agreements with your manufacturer, distributor or wholesale supplier.
  • Set up inventory tracking (understand a Stock Keeping Unit).
  • Set up your Yelp page.

Online Businesses

Mandatory

Recommended