5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Scrappiness has come to define startup culture. Startups adopt a relentless and dogged approach to growth that takes setbacks and churns them into successes. As I’ve seen from my own humble small business beginnings, this kind of culture has come to mean more than that for companies looking to scale.

With 56 percent of employees valuing workplace culture over salary, a scrappy atmosphere could mean the difference between a beginning business that fades into obscurity and one that evolves to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

There’s possibility in adversity

A tough culture is critically important to constructing a team that can go the distance. Employees that experience the benefits of a scrappy culture will be more motivated to contribute to a startup’s early growth period and that environment will cultivate a go-getter attitude that multiplies over time.

On the flip side, a toxic culture can gradually eat away at a startup’s trajectory. According to one study, 72 percent of employees said corporate culture influences where they choose to work.

That’s why startups can — and should — maintain that vibe, even as they continue to scale. Scrappiness is about keeping an underdog mentality (and we all know how much humans love Cinderella stories). People routinely vote for underdog candidates and support them in sports because they relate to the challenger. This mentality makes the excitement of the chase more significant and ends up making the eventual victory feel that much better.

Related: Winners Know It’s Always Better to Be the Underdog

I’ve seen firsthand how entrepreneurs can benefit from staying scrappier for longer. The companies I’ve worked with that have maintained this culture manage to appear more authentic to their audiences by stoking this mentality and their employees’ loyalty. A “never satisfied” mentality can help drive your small company over the top.

Keep the chip on your shoulder

A scrappy culture is easier to create at the outset of startup life, when the team is manageable and everyone’s back is against the wall. But the key to scaling successfully is finding ways to maintain this attitude at every stage of your company’s life.

Here are three strategies to deploy, even when you’re moving up in the world.

1. Offer employees their own stake

Encouraging employees to take on new challenges, create new efficiencies and take ownership of their processes is a great way to keep your team motivated.

Certain kinds of leadership can be detrimental to this sense of ownership and the motivation that comes from it. Micromanaging, for example, can make employees feel helpless and uncreative. During his first stint with Apple, Steve Jobs was a notorious micromanager. But when he returned to the helm in 1997, Jobs flipped that mentality by adopting a startup mindset that encouraged employees to act without input from higher-ups.

Create a workplace atmosphere in which creativity and autonomy are celebrated. Tear down silos and snip red tape so your team feels empowered to act and push the company forward.
Related: How to Strike a Balance Between Micromanaging and Under-Managing

2. Don’t shy away from details

Young companies need to manage their expenses carefully because they’re not yet making a profit. Before ShipMonk grew enough to open our Florida headquarters, critical team members — including myself and our chief revenue officer — personally laid down epoxy flooring throughout our office.

We didn’t need to rely on outside contractors. Staying consistent with our bootstrapped origins, we took matters into our own hands and laid the floor ourselves. Who’s to say you can’t keep this mentality as you scale? Just because you’re growing the team and achieving more significant projects doesn’t mean you have to invest in a vast office space or outsource all the handiwork to others.

Think about how you can reuse or re-purpose existing resources to keep your costs low and ambitions high. Encourage current staff to keep an eye out for promising talent, giving them the freedom to find ways to modify and improve existing resources and practices.

For example, perhaps you could reshuffle your existing space to make it more relaxing rather than moving to an office with a nap room? Do recruiting practices and internal policies need to be revisited? Empower your team to tackle internal tasks themselves.

Related: 8 Bulletproof Ways to Bootstrap Your Business

3. Give people their flowers

In the early days of any up-and-coming enterprise, the lows are low — but the highs are exceptionally high. There’s reason to celebrate whenever you make a sale, sign a contract or notice a spike in website traffic. At this time, employees are more likely to feel motivated and rewarded, which keeps them striving toward more.

When the initial buzz wears off, this inspiration can be hard to find. Keep the party going by celebrating large and small wins regularly. According to a SurveyMonkey study, 82 percent of employees are happier when their companies recognize their efforts.

We regularly treat our employees to company outings and activities. We recently rewarded our sales and marketing teams for their work with a team dinner and an ax-throwing outing. This isn’t just a vague morale boost; research shows that celebrating achievement is strongly linked to employee retention.

This is the attitude you need to succeed at any business stage, but it can be particularly valuable as you reach the tricky scaling phase. If you want employees to keep hustling, help them feel ownership over their work and see that they’re making an impact — do so by encouraging their inner scrappers.

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You’ve likely walked past your kitchen counter and seen near-rotten bananas and thought to yourself, Oh, I’ll make a smoothie tomorrow with those. Then the next day you see the same bananas and think, Guess it’s time to make banana bread! On the third day, the bananas are collecting flies, and there’s not a smoothie or banana bread in sight.

We do this exact same thing in our businesses, often without even noticing.

We set mile-high goals, to-do lists for days and have ideas that constantly sit at the back of our minds. I think of it like this: When you first think of an idea, it’s green like an un-ripe banana. It’s natural for an idea to mature for a few days — and ripen like a banana. But after awhile, if you don’t act upon those ideas, they begin to rot and take up mental and physical space. 

If we don’t throw out the ideas that never came to be — or the rotten bananas — our business will start to attract flies, rot and slow down. 

Your business might have old bananas like unfinished courses, unpaid invoices and unwritten articles. I call these unclosed loops, but for the purpose of this article, we will continue to call them rotten bananas. Let’s clean them up before we enter into the new year.

Related: 4 Lessons Matthew McConaughey Taught Me About Success

Identifying your old bananas

Ask yourself these four questions:

  1. How many unfinished projects do you currently have floating around? Of these projects, would you rate them a somewhat-rotten smoothie banana or a nearly unusable banana bread banana?
  2. Of these projects, which ones give you energy, and which ones are weighing you down? If you’re not sure, imagine you didn’t have to do one, and see how you feel. If you feel free, it might be OK to sell this idea to someone else or to send it to the graveyard. If you feel passionate, it’s time to add time to the calendar to act on it.
  3. How many unpaid invoices do you have out for your business? Of these invoices, how past due are they? Smoothie or banana bread? Block time to address these today.
  4. How many other unclosed loops are floating around? Contractors to hire, websites to upgrade, office space to purchase, YouTube channel to start? Take about 10 minutes to rate each in order of importance and how long you’ve been sitting on the idea. Then get some time on your schedule with your team to finish these actions so they don’t drag you down.

When that’s done, give yourself some credit. Taking some of these items out to the trash is creating serious mental space and room for new (non-fly-like) clients to head your way.

Related: My Year of Discipline and Determination: How I Read 52 Books, Ran 520 KM, Completed 4 Courses and Started a New Business in 2020

Make a vow to the countertops

Before we move forward, let’s make a vow to eat the bananas when they’re ripe or give them away moving forward. Entrepreneurs are flooded with ideas daily, and some of them are right for us and should be acted on right away, while others are great ideas but not right for the moment. A mentor of mine had a mantra: “Good idea; stay on plan.” It might be wise to hire a coach or an office manager who can keep you on track when these ideas pop up to see if they’re worth adjusting the plan or if you need to stay on course. 

Moving forward for 2021

Now, take a look at your list and decide which items you’ll actually move forward with and which items you’ll toss. Make the smoothie and the banana bread. You’ll want to come up with a detailed plan — including some outsourcing ― to complete these items now. I would suggest one project per quarter and tossing all the other ideas into 2022 land for now. 

You’ll be amazed at how free you feel having chosen two to four big projects to actually focus on and complete next year. For example, next year I plan to launch an author mastermind, run a publishing firm and create journals and content. That’s it! Ahhhh.

Related: Discipline Is What Leads to Success

Chopping up your bananas

Now for our final step, let’s chop up our banana for the rest of 2020. Yes, I’m serious about this metaphor.

You get three slices to dump into your business cereal bowl. Pick the three most important things that will move your business forward by January 1, 2021. No. 1 should be something relatively vital, no. 2 should trail close behind and no. 3 should be something that can be completed in 2021 if necessary.

My three slices include:

1. Processes for operations

2. Finishing my manifestation journal and mini course

3. Launching my my author mastermind in February 2021

When you’re determining your three goals, think about who you’ll need to become to move them forward. You will likely automatically become more responsible, more leadership-driven and be more patient as you eliminate the need for hundreds of micro goals. Resistance is natural here, but this process is essential to help your progress speed up — even if it requires slowing down for the moment. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a smoothie.

Related: Entrepreneurs Need to Train Like Elite Athletes, According to a Former Pro Badminton Player

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In his book Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Business, online marketing expert Ted Prodromou offers an easy-to-understand guide to using Twitter that will help small-business owners generate leads and connect with customers. In this edited excerpt, the author outlines his 14-step process for developing a lead generation system that brings in new customers. Buy it directly from us, click here, and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code SOCIAL2021 through 5/27/21.

Twitter is a great tool for finding potential customers, whether your company sells business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). The easiest way to generate leads on the internet is to create an interesting free report or informational video that talks about one of your customers’ biggest problems. In the report or video, you focus on “why” they need to change something in their business to become more successful or profitable. The report or video doesn’t have to solve their problem. You just want to focus on telling them why they need to change the way they’re doing business if they want to see better results.

The lead-generation process is very simple and can be broken down into 14 steps:

1. Survey your followers.
If you don’t know what your customer’s biggest problem is, survey your customers and ask them. You can also Tweet the question to your followers and see how they respond.

2. Offer a solution.
If you don’t have one already, create a product or service that solves their biggest problem.

3. Educate your customers.
Create a free report or informational video that focuses on why they have that problem and why they need to change something in their business to overcome the problem. You’ll tell them how to solve the problem after they hire you.

4. Create a landing page for the video or report.
Create a landing page on your website or blog. A landing page is a page on your website that doesn’t have a navigational menu or anything that would distract the web visitor from reading the content on the page.

Related: Using Twitter for Sales and Marketing

5. Collect contact information. 
The only content on the landing page is a headline describing [your customers’] biggest problem and a few paragraphs describing what they’ll learn about their problem by reading the report or by viewing the video. The purpose of the landing page content is to get them to fill out the web form. You don’t want to talk about your product or service that will solve their problem until later. Right now, you just want to collect their contact information.

6. Use an email marketing tool.
You need an email autoresponder program such as or so you can set up web forms to collect names and email addresses. You don’t need to collect more than that.

7. Set up your email campaign.
Install the web form on your landing page so you can collect their first name and email address. Your email autoresponder program will have detailed instructions to help you set up your email campaign and web form.

8. Create a ‘thank you’ page on your website or blog.
This page should use the same template as your landing page. This is the page they’ll be redirected to after they fill out their web form. They can download their free report or watch the video on this page.

9. Direct followers to your landing page.
Now you want to send a Tweet with a link to the landing page. The Tweet should mention the problem they’re having and hint that there’s a solution to their problem. You want to use a URL shortener that tracks the clicks on the link. HootSuite,, and all shorten and track your links.

Related: What to Say on Twitter

10. Set up auto-response messages.
After they fill out the web form, you’ll have their contact information. In your email autoresponder program, you can set up a series of automatic email messages. You’ll create one message that will be sent immediately after they fill out the web form thanking them for joining your email list. You should also tell them how to download their report or where to watch the video.

11. Send reminders.
Set up a series of five or six emails that will be sent every other day. The first couple of emails will talk about why they have the problem and that many businesses have the same problem. You can share some stories about other businesses that struggled with the same problem and overcame it with your help.

12. Don’t sell your product just yet.
The emails should transition into “what” they can do to solve the problem. Don’t tell them “how” to solve the problem yet. You can create more free reports or videos that teach them how they can solve the problem by making changes to their business. Don’t try to sell them your product or service yet. Just get them focused on what they can change in their business.

13. Explain how to solve their problem.
The last few emails should start talking about “how” they can solve their problem. Once they start understanding how the problem can be solved, you can start offering products and services that will solve their problem quickly.

14. Repeat the process.
Do this for each problem your customers have so you can build an email database of customers and prospects for your business. This way you can build a relationship with them and retain them as customers for a long time.

Related: What Not to Say on Twitter

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Ted Prodromou’s book Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code SOCIAL2021 through 5/27/21.

Sales Navigator is LinkedIn on steroids: A completely separate appli­cation designed to meet salespeople’s needs. Subscriptions range from $64.99 per month for an annual personal subscription to $99.99 per month for an annual team subscription. Some people balk at the price, but even at $1,200 a year, unrestricted access to the entire LinkedIn membership and specialized tools for prospecting and follow-up make it worth the money. Bluntly, if you can’t earn at least $1,200 a year from your LinkedIn network, you are in the wrong job.

The heart of Sales Navigator is its advanced search engine, with detailed filters that let you pinpoint your ideal prospects. You can search for leads or for accounts, and there are multiple lead-search filters available when you do an advanced search, which can help you find an unlimited stream of prospects for your products and services.

To save time, you can set up your sales preferences, or default search settings, under your Sales Navigator Settings. You can set geography, industry, company size, function and seniority level.

Think of sales preferences as your starting point when you’re prospecting. They should include the characteristics of your top customers. Once you’ve created advanced searches that are reliably finding great prospects, you can save them so they’re running 24/7. You can be notified of new leads daily, weekly or monthly, or you can manually check for new leads from those searches.

Related: Finding Your Ideal Job Candidates in Minutes

As you scroll through your list of search results, you have a few options. You can:

  • Save. This lets you monitor a person to see how active they are on LinkedIn and get notified when they post or share content. You can send them a message without being a first-degree connection or using InMail. You can also save their company as an account lead.
  • Connect. Use this to send the person a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn.
  • View Profile. You can view their profile to see if they are a good fit for your network.
  • View Similar. LinkedIn’s algorithm will show you 99 other professionals who are similar to the person you’re looking at.
  • Add Tag. You can flag a prospect using preselected categories like Follow-up, Customer or Decision Maker, or you can create your own lead tags like Cold Warm or Hot.
  • Message. You can send a message without using InMail, even if you aren’t con­nected. This is a huge benefit of subscribing to Sales Navigator.

Engaging your leads and connections

Now that you’re following some leads, Sales Navigator will give you a lot of great information about their LinkedIn activity. For instance, you can see how many people in your first-degree network changed jobs in the past 90 days. This gives you an opportunity to congratulate them and start a conversation. You could ask them about their new roles, which might lead to an opportunity to work with them in their new positions.

You’ll also see who’s been mentioned in the news in the past 30 days. This is another opportunity for you to congratulate them. And you’ll see who’s posted on LinkedIn in the past 30 days, so you can view their posts and be one of the first to like, comment on, or share their content. If you’re looking for ways to start conversations on LinkedIn, Sales Navigator offers ways for you to reengage your connections or prospects.

News and updates from your network, as well as people and accounts you’re following, will appear in your Sales Navigator newsfeed. This is similar to your LinkedIn newsfeed, but you’ll only see information about specific people and accounts you saved as leads. You can filter the newsfeed data by most important or most recent. You can also sort by sales alerts, job changes, suggested leads, lead news, lead shares, account news, and account shares. You can also display only news and updates by one specific company or person you’re following.

Engaging quickly with people who appear in these updates is a great way to start a new conversation and get back on their radar.

Discover new leads and accounts automatically

The Discover tab on the menu uses LinkedIn’s algorithm to view recommended leads and accounts. There’s no need for you to waste your time digging for new leads because LinkedIn will do it for you. The site finds people and accounts with similar characteristics to the leads and accounts you are currently following.

Related: The 6 Hidden LinkedIn Apps That Can Take Your Business to the Next Level

Team tools

The Team version of Sales Navigator lets you connect popular CRM applications like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, so all your Sales Navigator activity is captured in your CRM records. The most powerful tool is called Teamlink, which lets you coordinate your sales activity when selling to large organizations. Let’s say you have 20 sales reps who are responsible for managing a large account, like IBM. It would be embarrassing if two of your sales reps from different divisions called the same contact at IBM to sell them services. With Teamlink, your sales reps would know who’s been calling that person and what they’ve been discussing.

Social Selling Index

LinkedIn also has a tool called the Social Selling Index that assigns you a “score” for your LinkedIn activity. Your score is based on how well you:

  • Establish your professional brand
  • Find the right people
  • Engage with insights
  • Build relationships

The Social Selling Index gives you an idea of how well LinkedIn thinks you’re using the site. The score isn’t perfect, but it gives you an idea of what LinkedIn thinks of your daily activity. To learn more about the Social Selling Index and how you can improve your score, read this LInkedIn blog post.

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The $499 package includes your hotel stay, along with complimentary breakfast and a 2-hour daily open bar.

3 min read

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With the Covid-19 pandemic coming to an end, overworked professionals have one thing on our minds: that next getaway. And when it comes to destination vacations, there are few places more luxurious than Maldives — a small archipelagic nation comprising almost 1,200 islands sprinkled throughout the Indian Ocean. Because it’s one of the most picturesque locations in the world, it’s also typically one of the most expensive to visit. 

For a limited time, however, you and a loved one can travel to the country’s South Palm Resort in Addu City for just $499 total over at TravelZoo. In addition to five nights in a 700-square foot beach villa, that low price will get free breakfast and access to a 2-hour open bar each day. And you’re willing to spend $1,000 more, you can chow down on all three meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and enjoy a domestic flight to Gan from Velana International Airport as well as a 10-minute speedboat transfer to the resort from there. Each villa has an outdoor shower on a private deck with a stunning view of the water. 

Step it up to a 750-square foot water villa for $300 more, and you’ll be treated to lavish lodging that overlooks the lagoon, for the ultimate summer escape. Like the base package, you’ll get all the bells and whistles including breakfast and an open bar for $799 and three meals plus the open bar and round trip domestic flights and speedboat transfers for $1,899. To sweeten the deal, the water villa comes with a 24-hour butler service, too, so you can live out your most extravagant dreams to their absolute fullest. 

As long as you book prior to December 19, 2023, TravelZoo is flexible on the times you can take off on your trip to Maldives. The vacation is completely refundable, too, in case you don’t end up wanting to go. If you’re at all interested in a once-in-a-lifetime experience at an affordable cost, you should jump on this bargain, risk-free, before it sells out. As of this writing, it’s “almost gone,” according to the site. Seeing as the previously least expensive sunrise villa option is sold out, we suspect the beach villa will be the next to go. Take your next step toward exploring the rest of the world, at a discount, while the offer still applies. 

Interested in more deals on highly rated travel destinations? TravelZoo is more than Maldives. From San Francisco to Paris to Waikiki, browse the full selection of vacation packages on sale at

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The 1993 book Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants explored the oft-stated theory that the real catalyst behind the industrial revolution was caffeine — specifically the kind you get from guzzling coffee. Author Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s premise is that when 18th-century families ditched cold brews (yes back then it was a beverage for the whole clan, regardless of age or heavy machinery usage) for hot cups of Joe, western civilization went into hyper-productive mode.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

A billion tall, non-fat, half-caff, caramel drizzle lattes later, we took a jittery-eyed look at several highly-effective entrepreneurs’ java ingestion. How does yours match up?

Elon Musk, two cups a day

Elon Musk, two cups a day

The insanely busy Tesla and SpaceX founder drinks just two cups per day. But Elon Musk’s mocha moderation wasn’t always so. The CEO has said that his caffeine intake included an unhealthy amount of Diet Coke back in the day, but nowadays he’s canned the Diet Coke cans altogether.

Related: 5 Habits That Made Elon Musk an Innovator

David Lynch, seven cups a day (when brainstorming)

David Lynch, seven cups a day (when brainstorming)

The awesomely odd auteur’s caffeinated characters who populate his fictionalized town of Twin Peaks made a “damn good cup of coffee” cool way before Starbucks became STARBUCKS™.

Said the celluloid scientist of his secret sauce in a past interview, “I [used to eat] at Bob’s Big Boy. I would go at 2:30, after the lunch rush. I ate a chocolate shake and four, five, six, seven cups of coffee — with lots of sugar. And there’s lots of sugar in that chocolate shake. It’s a thick shake. In a silver goblet. I would get a rush from all this sugar, and I would get so many ideas! I would write them on these napkins. It was like I had a desk with paper. All I had to do was remember to bring my pen, but a waitress would give me one if I remembered to return it at the end of my stay. I got a lot of ideas at Bob’s.”

Peaks Freaks can take what they will from the fact that Lynch wrote at a restaurant called “Bob’s.”

Related: Waco’s Twin Peaks Loses Franchise Rights After Biker Gang Gun Fight

Richard Branson, 20 cups (of tea)

Richard Branson, 20 cups (of tea)

When you routinely wake up at 5:30 a.m. to go kiteboarding, you need a little something to get you through the day. And according to, Sir Richard Branson’s “little something” is upwards of 20 cups of tea, white with no sugar.

Related: ‘Screw It, Just Do It’: Exclusive Video Interview With Richard Branson

Heidi Klum, 1 morning latte

Heidi Klum, 1 morning latte

Image credit:
Jeff Kravitz | Getty Images

Modeling icon and TV host Heidi Klum told SHAPE, “We busy ladies need our coffee fix in the morning. My day doesn’t really start until I’ve had my Starbucks latte.” 

Ludwig van Beethoven, exactly 60 beans per cup

Ludwig van Beethoven, exactly 60 beans per cup

Ludwig van Beethoven may have hard of hearing, but he was never hard up when it came to his favorite upper. The greatest composer of all time was as precise with his coffee beans per cup (60) as he was with his numerically titled symphonies (9).

Not to be outdone, Ludwig’s (kinda) contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach, turned a popular poem making fun of the Vienna coffeehouse scene into one of the German genius’s lesser-known jams titled “The Coffee Cantata” in 1732. (That was, like, NWA-level rebellious back then!)

Related: From Beethoven to Marissa Mayer: The Bizarre Habits of High Achievers

David Letterman, lots

David Letterman, lots

Image credit:
CBS Photo Archive | Getty Images

In a 1994 interview with Esquire, Letterman explained how coffee factored into his hosting abilities: “Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever. So that’s what we have here.”


Theodore Roosevelt, one gallon per day

Theodore Roosevelt, one gallon per day

TR’s son once said that the 26th president’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub,” and that he coupled his reported “gallon” of coffee a day with five lumps of sugar. We’re not saying this explains the mustachioed maniac’s ability to finish an hour-plus-long speech after getting shot by would-be assassin John Schrank in 1912, but were not not saying it either.

Related: 10 Inspiring Presidential Quotes

Gertrude Stein, at least 2 cups

Gertrude Stein, at least 2 cups

Image credit:
Hulton Archive | Getty Images

The famous writer and patron of the arts once wrote: “Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

Mark Zuckerberg, zero

Mark Zuckerberg, zero

While the Facebook founder has never confronted our hard-hitting premise directly, in 2010 he did reply to the owner of a highly caffeinated gum’s offer of a sample with the following diss: “Sorry I don’t like caffeine.” Get it? “Like”? Good one, Zuck.

Related: 18 Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Mark Zuckerberg

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Jason Rich’s book Ultimate Guide to YouTube for Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code SOCIAL2021 through 5/27/21.

Everyone who uses YouTube to promote themselves or their company has their own goals. The following is information about six popular ways YouTube can be used as part of your overall online strategy to achieve your company’s goals.

1. Promote yourself as an online personality and entertain your audience

One strategy small businesses use effectively to personalize their brand and build a rapport with the audience is to use YouTube videos to introduce their company’s leaders and position these people as spokespeople who appear in videos. Some company spokespeople have even achieved celebrity status from starring in YouTube videos to promote themselves, their products and/or their companies.

If you’re a small-business owner with a big personality, consider starring in your own YouTube videos to help build your company’s brand, tell its story and promote its message. Featuring the actual leader of your company can help personalize your business and build its credibility. You could also demonstrate products, speak authoritatively and boost your company’s brand recognition and reputation.

Related: 5 Social Media Rules Every Entrepreneur Should Know

2. Share your knowledge, commentary or how-to information

One reason YouTube has become so popular is that in addition to watching countless hours of entertaining videos, people can quickly find informative and easy-to-understand how-to videos about any topic imaginable. As a business owner, chances are you have expertise that other people could easily benefit from.

YouTube offers an informal yet powerful way to communicate directly with your customers, in your own words, in a forum that gives you absolute control over the content. Using a bit of creativity, chances are you’ll come up with a handful of ideas about how your business could benefit from communicating directly with its customers (or potential customers) using YouTube. For example, you could create a product demonstration or product comparison video. Other options might be to showcase customer testimonials in a video or to create how-to videos that explain how to assemble, operate or use your products/services.

One popular trend on YouTube is for companies or individuals to produce “unboxing” videos. Basically, someone takes a new (still packaged) product, then films themselves opening and using the product for the first time, as they share their initial impressions. These videos are watched by people interested in the product, but who haven’t yet purchased it.

In addition, many companies have dramatically cut costs associated with offering telephone technical support by supplementing printed product manuals and product assembly instructions (which people hate to read and find difficult to understand) with informative how-to videos that are highly engaging.

3. Introduce a new product or service and direct people to your online store

Showcasing products on YouTube is a low-cost yet highly effective way to demonstrate products to your customers, showcase features and explain how to best use a product especially if you’re operating an online-based business or there’s an online component to your traditional retail business. In addition to showcasing a product’s features or functions, you can use YouTube videos to answer commonly asked questions.

Keep in mind, people who use YouTube don’t want to watch blatant commercials for your products or services. Consumers are already bombarded with advertising in their everyday lives. While your videos can certainly promote a product or service, and build awareness or demand for it, take a soft-sell approach that’s entertaining as well as informative.

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

4. Teach people how to use a product or service

Many businesses have discovered that producing YouTube videos as an instructional tool can help improve customer loyalty, reduce returns and allow a business to enhance its customer service efforts without putting a strain on resources.

How-to videos for a product offer a different approach than a product demo, yet both approaches can benefit businesses looking to promote and sell products. While a how-to video is designed to teach someone how to do something, a product demo simply showcases a product’s features or functions, and gives the viewer a chance to see a product in action. Either type of video can be used as part of a business-to-consumer or business-to-business sales and marketing strategy.

Instructional videos can help to reduce incoming customer service (and tech support) calls. You can produce instructional videos to teach people how to assemble and/or use a product, for example, plus help customers easily discover the true potential of a product, while eliminating their potential frustration. Your videos can also be used to highlight lesser-known features of or uses for a product that your customers might not otherwise consider.

5. Share video footage of business presentations you’ve given

If you’ve presented a lecture, workshop or some type of presentation, consider uploading the edited video footage of it to YouTube for your customers, clients and the public to see. This will help establish you as an expert or authority, allow you to convey valuable information to potential customers and clients, plus help you build awareness of you and your company.

This information can be supplemented with an animated and narrated digital slide (PowerPoint) presentation that you post on your YouTube channel, and/or include a recorded one-on-one interview with you talking about something in which your (potential) customers or clients would be interested.

Related: 12 Social Media Mistakes That Entrepreneurs Make

6. Provide background information about your company and tell its story

Every company has a story to tell, as do the founders or current leaders of that business. By telling your story, chances are, you’ll be able to enhance your customer loyalty and brand awareness, while also educating the public about what your company does and its core philosophies.

Any type of behind-the-scenes videos can also be useful. For example, you can produce and publish a video that focuses on how your product(s) are made, provide a tour of your company and introduce some of the people who work at your company within the video(s). If you’ve invented a product, you can explain where the inspiration for the product came from and why you’re personally passionate about the product.

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14 min read

As an ambitious young man looking to leave his mark on the world, Oded Brenner never planned to make chocolate. He probably didn’t plan to be bald, either, but when we spoke on the phone, the 52-year-old founder of Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man suggested that plans are often a detour from the main event. He quoted John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” 

Growing up in Israel, Brenner wanted to be a writer. But he needed money to finance his writing, and it turned out he had a knack for making pastries. So he went to Paris to study under the chocolatier Michel Chaudun, and in 1996, when he was 25, he returned to Israel to open a chocolate shop in the small town of Ra’anana.

“The things I was doing in my shop were very out of the box, different from classic European chocolate stores,” he says. “I felt there was a big gap between the way people talk and think about chocolate and the way they experience it in the retail world. Traditional chocolate stores treat chocolate almost like jewelry, in these beautiful boxes — don’t touch it! But when I talked to my customers, they were talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sexy gifts, romantic childhood memories, the emotional connotations of chocolate. So this was the beginning of Max Brenner. I said: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Let’s create chocolate pipes that go all around the restaurant. Let’s create a ‘hug mug,’ so you can hug your mug close and feel like you are in a chalet on a ski vacation. You say, ‘I’m addicted to chocolate, I want a chocolate fix.’ So I created a big syringe full of chocolate so you can shoot it into your mouth. And so on. I really turned it into a chocolate amusement park.”

Word of the chocolate amusement spread, and Max Brenner (a hat-tip to Brenner and his original partner, Max Fichtman) quickly became a household name in Israel. In 2001, the company was acquired by Israeli food conglomerate Strauss Group. And while the brand continued to grow, moving its headquarters to New York and opening 50-plus international locations, Brenner began to feel the loss of control more acutely. With Strauss’s blessing, he opened a separate cafe chain, Little Brown Chocolate Bakery & Coffee, in 2011. But when the new concept started to find success, Strauss sued him for violating his non-compete. Brenner fought down to his last penny, but still lost both Little Brown and his place at Max Brenner. And he was banned from creating anything chocolate-related or putting his name or face on any brand for five years (Entrepreneur reached out to Strauss for comment but didn’t receive a response prior to publication).

Brenner says those five years were the darkest of his life; he moved his family, struggled financially, called up friends to ask for help finding work. His whole sense of self changed. But when the exile was over, he returned with a new venture. In 2018, the Blue Stripes: Urban Cacao shop opened just a block and a half from the Max Brenner flagship in Union Square. Brenner had discovered the myriad uses of cacao — a football-shaped fruit with white, somewhat ghostly-looking “pods” inside — on a trip to a Blue Mountain Coffee plantation in Jamaica. He was aghast to learn that chocolatiers only use 30 percent of the whole “superfood,” and trash the rest. “I was shocked that I had dealt with chocolate for 20 years and was so unaware of the potential,” Brenner says. “I was like, wow, this is cacao the way I want to talk about it. The purity and the cultural origins of it.” 

Blue Stripes uses all parts (shell, fruit and pods) of the cacao to make impressively healthy products — from cacao water and dried fruit, to cookies, energy bars and protein balls, keto dessert bites, granola, hazelnut butter, and pastry flour. 

“I think Max Brenner was a phenomenal brand,” Brenner says. “But what I’m doing today with Blue Stripes is much more beautiful in terms of both creativity and meaningful message. When you see what’s going on around the world — climate change, pollution, the gap between the rich and other countries — it feels like finally here is a small way that I, with my 25 years of experience, can do something to make a change. And all of this came about because of those five years of hell.”

In a candid conversation, Brenner opened up about what he learned while going through his own personal hell. He talked about his initial fateful decision to sell Max Brenner, trying to work in a corporate environment as an entrepreneur, the bitterness that came with losing control of his own creation, being banned from doing what he was best at, and how he came to view those five years in the emotional and financial wilderness as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. His perspective is valuable to entrepreneurs considering selling equity in their business, those in the midst of a nasty split with business partners, or anyone simply figuring out how to start again after a staggering loss.

Image credit: Oded Brenner

What were the factors that led up to you deciding to sell Max Brenner?

Max Brenner was a big success from the beginning, but the success had nothing to do with making money. I had a lot of fame, I was participating in many TV shows, and everybody knew about the brand. But maybe three years in, if I was making money, it was for sure not enough to continue. So I had to bring on a partner. Strauss was the largest food corporation in Israel, and they basically took over the company. They gave me a very nice salary, bonuses here and there, consulting fees and a little bit of royalties, but left me with a very small percentage in the brand — 3.5% equity. I became a very minor shareholder.

What was your mindset at that time?

I was exhausted, I didn’t want to let this dream die completely, and I didn’t have the money to continue. So I had no other choice. I wanted to believe that we would grow this thing together, and I would still benefit from it. I was convincing myself that it would eventually be a billion dollar company, and my 3.5% could be $35 million. But to be honest with you, I was also so in love with my own creation that I wasn’t thinking rationally from any business angle. I couldn’t stand to think of the stores closing down. I couldn’t stop getting the love from my customers. I was addicted — in a good way — to the food, to the love, to the applause. I didn’t want it to stop. And I didn’t really think about what it meant that I had just a 3.5% vote on anything. I thought that three, four, five years later I would look back and say, “I saved the brand.”

Did Strauss give you the impression that you would retain creative control?

Yes, they gave me the impression that, “You’re Max, you’re the bald man! You’re this amazing guy, you’re the creator!” Today I’m less naive than I was then, and I think experienced people do a lot of these things intentionally. I don’t say intentionally in such a bad way, but they are looking at it as pure, cruel business. So yes, they gave me the impression that there was no brand without me, even though they didn’t actually share the same vision as me.

What was it like going from running your company to being part of a corporation?

Many people told me that an entrepreneur cannot work in a corporate environment. It’s almost like an impossible marriage. I don’t want to generalize, but usually, an entrepreneur is a very impulsive, gut-instinct person. He has crazy passion, like a fire. He wants to do things, he wants to see them happen right now. The corporate process is extremely different. It’s, “Let’s think about it, analytics, who told you this is true? Why this packaging? Why these colors? Why are you changing the brand language?” It’s endless. When you say, “Let’s try to sell in Japan,” it’s, “Why Japan? Who told you it’s a market?” But the Japanese love dark chocolate! “How do you know, show us research. Why do you think this is the way?” The entrepreneur usually doesn’t think, he knows. He’s pushing and he makes mistakes. But he just says, “Okay, so this was a mistake. Doesn’t matter.” This is almost his nature to push forward and make things happen.  And the corporate is mostly people who are running an already existing business. It’s not good or bad, but they are thinking and analyzing and slowly, “Let’s bring in a consultant.” An entrepreneur and a consultant, they are like oil and water. I mean, they cannot work together.

How did your relationship with the corporate Max Brenner team start to sour?

For a very long time, bitterness and frustration were building up. At some point, I started to show up less to meetings, and I think they were relieved because they didn’t want to see me there. I was showing up for PR, events, interviews, whatever, here and there, and I was making new recipes sometimes. But in general, I wanted to be involved less and less. And eventually I decided that I wanted to start a new concept, like a Starbucks of chocolate — smaller stores, self-service, quick serve. It was called Little Brown. I pitched it to Max Brenner and they weren’t interested, so I told them, “I think it’s not in competition with Max Brenner, and I want to open a store like this under a different brand name.” They said no problem. So I opened one on the upper East side, and then I had a franchise in Russia and one in Dubai, and I leased another store in Chelsea… they never told me I was doing anything bad. But one day the chairman of Max Brenner came to me and told me, “Listen, I don’t think it’s working between us, we should split.” I told him no problem. But then he said, “You need to stop doing this and this and this in Little Brown.” I said, “I cannot, I already have franchisees, and you know you’re jeopardizing my concept.” Well he didn’t say anything much, and then one day on a Friday afternoon, somebody knocked on the door and said, “You’re being served.”

What was the legal battle like?

I was extremely emotional, like, “I’m going to show you and fight.” You just don’t think that a $3 billion corporate company is going to smash you, but that’s what happened. It was a very short and aggressive fight. Then we went to court, and right when we started the discussion the judge said, “You should settle.” I had not a drop of energy to continue fighting, not a dime left in my pocket. So I gave up on everything. The five year non-compete was always part of the settlement. But I just wanted it to finish, I didn’t care. I’m lucky because at some point they even said 10 years and I was ready to sign.

You had to really change your lifestyle after losing the court battle. What was that like?

I lived a very comfortable life in Manhattan, and I moved my family to a very small house in Jersey. We had one car, we didn’t go out to restaurants. No vacations, no nothing. I had to call friends and ask for help. It’s not pleasant when you were the big shot who gave job interviews, and now you need to do job interviews or ask friends to hire you for consulting work. And consulting is very unstable work. You never know when you’ll get the next job. Sometimes I had a little more money, sometimes I didn’t have any. And I was very surprised how much people don’t want me as a consultant. I thought, “I’m the bald man, Max Brenner, everybody needs my advice!” It was not that easy. Nobody was waiting for the bald man. But eventually I started to fill up a CV, which I’d never had before. For a self-made man who was the boss, becoming an employee is devastating. But I said, this is another stage in the journey I need to go though.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who need to bring on partners for their company to survive?

Don’t give up control. Be extremely tough in the negotiation. If people really want your brand, they will give in eventually. If not, they’re not the right partners. They will negotiate hard because they are more experienced than you. Sometimes they will be mentally stronger because you’re in a very tough spot, and you are tired and exhausted. But don’t give up on equity because equity is the most important thing. And I’m not talking here about a huge, mature brand. Then you can give up on control and it’s a different situation. But when a brand is in the earliest stages of entrepreneurship, you need to have control in the decision-making. Even if you are kind of diluted in your financial equity of the company, because sometimes somebody’s putting a lot of money in and yeah, the company is not in a great situation. I understand this, but if you’re not going to have the control, it’s not going to be your company.

What did you learn from the emotional journey?

At a certain point, you just want to collapse. You’re angry at the world, angry at God, angry at everyone. This is hell. You ask: How could this happen to me? Even though you know that part of it is probably your fault. But hopefully — and this is what I told myself — you’re not going to go through hell many times. So this is a one-time experience. I would say it even stronger: This is a one-time opportunity. Hell has benefits. It has benefits on your ego, and ego is a very destructive element in our personalities. Hell has benefits on the way you talk to other people and how you think about business. Mostly, hell makes you think a lot. It can change your personality. It is not there coincidentally, and this may sound maybe a little bit too spiritual and mystical, but I would say listen to it carefully. Give it all the room and time it needs. Feel sorry for yourself, be angry. But use this period to build you for the next stage in your life, which can be unbelievable. If you are creative, if you are a true entrepreneur, you will be able to come back and do it again, and the next thing will be better.

Related: This Entrepreneur Sells $355 Bars of Chocolate. Is He Crazy or a …

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8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Between documentaries and fictional films, there is a lot you can learn about the plight of entrepreneurs from the comfort of your couch. Whether you are just starting out on your business venture or have been at it for years, you can glean some powerful insights from these 18 provocative and wildly entertaining films.

Related: 17 Inspirational Quotes from Oscar-Winning Movies



FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

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There are actually two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre music festival that are both worth watching: Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and Netflix’s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. Watch and learn how the festival evolved from an exclusive event with celebrity and social media influencer endorsers to a mismanaged disaster that essentially stole people’s money and left them stranded on an island with meager food and shelter accommodations.

Topics covered: social media, the importance of planning and contingencies

Image credit:
Artisan Entertainment is a 2001 documentary film that examines the rise and fall of the real-life startup GovWorks that raised $60 million from Hearst Interactive Media, KKR, the New York Investment Fund, and Sapient. It’s good viewing to better understand the boom and bust of the dotcom period and serves as a cautionary tale on how friendships can easily be threatened by business partnerships.

Topics covered: financing, capital raising, growth management, entrepreneurship skills, team building and management skills

Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can

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When you hear Catch Me If You Can, you picture the successful con artist Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) deceptively charming just about anyone with his skill mastery. Based on a true story, Catch me if You Can is a classic film that exemplifies the entrepreneurial journey. It touches upon important themes like creative problem solving, turning something good out of a bad situation, and the good ol’ hustle to reach success.

Topics covered: entrepreneurship skills, creativity and innovation, perseverance, business vision, personal sales techniques and entrepreneurial funding sources

Lord of War

Lord of War

Image credit:
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

If you like dark comedy with a good bit of action, Lord of War is a must-watch. This war-crime film chronicles the life of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), an immigrant from Ukraine who decides his route to success is through illegal gun trade. Morality aside, Yuri’s ambition, tenacity, and ability to tolerate risk demonstrate the very qualities entrepreneurs need to succeed. Plus, if you want to learn more about growth hacking, building customer loyalty, and negotiation techniques, this film delves deeply into these topics. You’ll probably find yourself incorporating some of the lessons in your own business venture.

Topics covered: entrepreneurship skills, emerging markets, creative problem solving, crisis management, negotiation techniques, building customer loyalty, competitive strategies and geopolitics

Related: The 10 Traits That Define Entrepreneurial Success

Wall Street

Wall Street

Image credit:
20th Century Fox

Ever find yourself pushed to your limits in the pursuit of power and success? Wall Street unravels this theme through the eyes of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), an ambitious stockbroker who navigates the economic rollercoaster of Wall Street, adopting the “greed is good” mantra. This movie is a window into corporate finance, portfolio management, investment law principles and capital markets. More telling is the story of a young, susceptible mind, showing how easy it is to get carried away with the glamorous lifestyle that accompanies wealth. Plus, if you thought The Wolf of Wall Street was a bit too much, this movie is a tamer, more socially-critical version.

Topics covered: corporate finance, portfolio management, capital markets, investment law principles, mergers and acquisitions, company valuations and business ethics

Rogue Trader

Rogue Trader

Image credit:
Roslan Rahman | Getty Images

This 1999 film is based on a true story of the employee who single-handedly brought down the Barings Bank, the largest bank in England. The movie shows how money drives all sorts of maniacal behavior and serves as a cautionary tale about people who falsely assume that power and money make them indispensable.

Topics covered: derivatives, corporate valuation, financial reporting, capital markets, emerging markets and business ethics



Twelve Angry Men

Twelve Angry Men

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Possibly my all-time favorite film, Twelve Angry Men is a brilliant courtroom drama that has several layers of insight on leadership, the psychology of group behavior, and conflicting value systems. This is a must watch and will leave you thinking about the way you make important decisions.

Topics covered: negotiations techniques, persuasion methods, conflict resolution and consensus building

Office Space

Office Space

Image credit:
20th Century Fox

Umm…yeah…We’re going to go ahead and ask you to watch this American comedy that perfectly satirizes corporate culture of a 1990s software company, touching upon work relationships and office politics. It’s a good laugh and will definitely get you thinking about leadership, team-building techniques, and career development.

Topics covered: corporate culture, mentoring, career development, leadership, work-life balance, personnel retention, team-building techniques and management of information technology

The Godfather Trilogy

The Godfather Trilogy

Image credit:
Paramount Pictures

The Godfather trilogy is possibly the all-time best cinema for entrepreneurs, highlighting why relationships and building networks matter, why helping people lends itself to good business, and why understanding competition is non-negotiable. The movies are intensely entertaining, packed with thrilling and thought-provoking scenes that will leave you better prepared to handle your next business challenge.

Topics covered: competitive strategies, key personnel retention, corporate take-overs (friendly and hostile), alliances, mergers and acquisitions, corporate succession and long-term corporate diversification

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

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The Usual Suspects is a must-watch if you enjoy a good psychological thriller with an ambitious, twist ending. It tells the story of a group of professional criminals who find themselves in the same police line up and decide to team up and pull a lucrative heist. The movie explores themes like leadership consolidation, power and influence, and long-term business strategy, which serve as valuable insight for established and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Topics covered: leadership consolidation, power and influence, long-term business strategy, collaboration, risk-and-reward compensation, entrepreneurial skills, innovation and creativity, consolidation of branding, marketing and operations and logistics planning and execution

The Smartest Guys in the Room

The Smartest Guys in the Room

Image credit:
Jigsaw Productions

This 2005 documentary film is based on the best-selling book of the same name by reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, which touches upon one of the largest business scandals in American history — the collapse of the Enron Corporation. This is a must watch for a history buff or anyone looking for a thought-provoking and shocking example of modern corporate corruption.

Topics covered: accounting reporting (basic, advanced and innovative), consolidation of reports, off-shore diversification, off-balance sheet accounting, agency problems and business ethics

Related: What Working at Enron Taught Me About Corporate Ethics

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Image credit:
HandMade Films

Even if you’re not looking for advertising advice, How to Get Ahead in Advertising will teach you a thing or two about creative problem-solving. The film was a flop when first released, but redeemed itself many years later and is touted as a brilliantly entertaining satire of the advertising industry. It will definitely make you think differently about business in the commercial world.

Topics covered: marketing strategy, advertising know-how, market segmentation and branding

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada

Image credit:
20th Century Fox

The Devil Wears Prada will motivate you to take the plunge and pursue your dream job. It’s a movie that shows how to handle uncomfortable situations, how to navigate worlds that seem unfamiliar, and how hard work pays off eventually. It’s also an interesting window into the fashion industry and will teach you a thing or two on how to work your way up the corporate ladder.

Topics covered: branding, sales techniques, importance of media and career development

Thank You For Smoking

Thank You For Smoking

Image credit:
20th Century Fox

Thank You For Smoking is the perfect film for a marketing savvy entrepreneur or someone who wants to learn a few tricks on how to sell just about any product. The film tells the story of tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor who creatively spins arguments to defend the cigarette industry in the most challenging of situations. This is a great watch for those wanting to learn a few things about crisis management, corporate communications, PR and negotiation tactics.

Topics covered: public relations, marketing and advertising campaigns, crisis management, corporate communications and effective negotiations skills

Related: 5 Crisis Management Tips Olivia Pope Would Endorse

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross

Image credit:
New Line Cinema

Glengarry Glen Ross is based on the award-winning play about four real estate salesmen whose jobs are on the line when the corporate office announces that in one week all except the top two men will be fired. This movie is an entertaining showcase of competition and manipulation. If you’re starting a new business, be forewarned: sometimes the road to success is far more sketchy than you think.

Topics covered: sales techniques, customer relationship management, negotiations and deal closings



The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

Image credit:
Sony Pictures

The Merchant of Venice is based on Shakespeare’s play and is one of Al Pacino’s greatest films. The story is about Bassino, a young member of the aristocratic class, who turns to a Jewish moneylender Shylock (Al Pacino) for financial help. This is a pleasurable period piece with lessons on business partnerships, risk assessment and mercantile law that still hold value today.

Topics covered: contract negotiations, mercantile law, risk assessment and business law principles

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich

Image credit:
Universal Pictures

This legal drama is based on the true story of Erin Brockovich who, against all odds, helps win the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit. The film embodies female empowerment and underscores the importance of sticking to one’s scruples even in the face of obstacles. It touches upon themes like social responsibility, sustainable business models and gender biases in business.

Topics covered: social responsibility and sustainable business models

The Founder

The Founder

Image credit:
The Weinstein Company

In The Founder, we learn the incredible true story of struggling salesman Ray Kroc, whose fateful encounter with the McDonald brothers changed his life — and the way we eat food in America.

Topics covered: starting a business, perseverance, scaling a business

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SBA loans might seem confusing, but the application process is relatively simple.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you don’t have the personal or investment capital necessary to start a business that requires a good chunk of it, the logical answer is to look into a business loan. And although just about any loan involves receiving a lump sum of cash and paying it back over a period of time, not every loan program is created equal. Out of all the business loan programs out there, many entrepreneurs tend to enjoy the accessibility and simplicity of SBA loans.

But how do you qualify for an SBA loan? The current economy is volatile, and following the financial losses caused by many coronavirus-related closures, more and more businesses are competing for precious capital. Here’s how to get in on what’s available. 

Related: I Went to Prison for SBA Loan Fraud: 7 Things to Know When Taking COVID-19 Relief Money

Ensure your business meets the basic requirements

The SBA doesn’t actually give out loans; instead, it works with individual lenders to distribute loans to small businesses by setting guidelines set by its partnering lenders and community development organizations. As such, it’s crucial that your small business meets these “hard guidelines” in order to even be in the running for an SBA loan. The SBA requires that businesses are for-profit, based in the United States, and “small” (per its size standards) to start. Founders need to have invested time and money into the business, exhausted other lending options, and established the ability to repay the loan over a reasonable period of time. The SBA’s lending partners do not consider businesses that don’t meet these criteria, so if your business is technically an enterprise or you’re legally a nonprofit, you may be out of luck. (Other less common characteristics can disqualify a business as well, such as being faith-based, gambling- or marijuana-focused, or discriminatory, like any business that focuses its resources on clients of a certain gender or race.) 

Iron out your credit

Like with any other loan, the SBA will examine a founder’s credit score and history to determine their likelihood and ability to pay back the loan amount. As such, SBA loans aren’t available to business owners whose credit scores are under 670, or whose credit histories recently show delinquent payments. Try retrieving a copy of your credit report prior to applying for an SBA loan, and if your credit score is on the lower end, take steps to improve the score over time.

Prepare everything on the loan submission checklist

Applying for a loan is a lot more complicated than just asking for it. The SBA requires that any business looking for a loan completes an extensive loan application, a credit memo, a cash projection document and more. Some of these items are dependent on the amount of the desired loan, the age of the business or the number of borrowers on the loan application. Although less common, 504 loans (which are used for major fixed assets that frequently involve construction or long-term machinery) require different application items, so make sure to look out for the appropriate checklist for your desired loan. 

Related: 5 Best and Fast Small-Business Loans (Some of Which You’ve Never Heard of)

Offer collateral

The SBA generally requires that business owners offer up some type of collateral to secure a loan. This is required of anyone who owns 20 percent or more of the business. Collateral can include assets such as real estate or office equipment, and can also cover things like accounts receivable, inventory and an owner’s second mortgage on their home. In the SBA’s own words, this is a founder’s way of proving that they have “skin in the game.”

Similar to any financial decision, taking on an SBA loan also comes with its risks. Offering up collateral can result in personal consequences if you can’t make your payments. SBA loans often have relatively high interest rates as well, which means more money paid back over the long-term (even though those interest rates do have a cap). And just like mortgages, SBA loans often come with origination and appraisal fees that tack onto the down payment before you can receive the actual cash you’ve applied for. All of these factors are important to consider before biting the bullet. 

If you do ever take out an SBA loan, remember that they can be put to use in a variety of different ways, including recovering from the impact of Covid-19, hiring new staff, investing in new technologies and even purchasing another business. As your business continues to grow, it is worth considering how this type of loan might best benefit your business. 

Related: His Criminal Record Disqualified Him From Receiving PPP. So He Pushed Back, and Got the Rules Changed.

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