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Many startups wanting to have their online presence take off, can find implementing a successful search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy a challenge. Whilst it is indeed challenging, the core concepts and trends underpinning SEO are relatively easy to understand with some basic training.

SEO is complex as it is, and it doesn’t help that Google is continually updating and revising its search algorithm. The one constant thing that continuously perplexes business owners is Google’s indexing algorithm.

This can be difficult for even the experienced to adapt to changes as they occur.

Even the most experienced digital marketers can only make educated guesses about how the algorithm functions because only Google’s internal staff can claim to know all the ins and outs.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding how Google’s algorithm evaluates your website.

How does Google index your information?

Google analyses the entire web with a special code that copies pages and sends them to its servers. Google will disregard pages that have low-value content – these are usually pages that have been duplicated or offer little value to the online audience.

Due to the vast amount of content on the internet, Google devised a series of shortcuts to improve search query functionalities, otherwise known as indexing. Stop words like “and”, “if” or “the” are generally not stored in Google’s algorithm. Creating unique content with high value will be favourably indexed by Google.

How does Google rank your webpage?

Once your page has been indexed, Google can rank it on its search pages. From a strategic business perspective, having your page ranked highly is one of the most important parts of the entire process.

Having your website positioned in the first page of Google has a profound effect on your visibility, and consequently, your profitability online.

Your site can be found when matched with a relevant search query. For example, if you run an online fashion store, searches such as “shoes online” or “online shirts sale” would be search terms relevant to your business.

Depending on the industry, there could be thousands of other websites similar to yours and this is when to pay attention to your competition.

Google has its own set of weighted metrics to evaluate webpages and rank them. Webpages that perform will be ranked higher in Google’s listings, which can lead to greater online visibility, user interaction, and sales.

Improving your website’s search engine results page (SERP) is essentially the end goal of any SEO strategy.

What type of metrics does Google record?

There are a variety of metrics that Google takes into consideration and it uses these metrics to evaluate the authority, quality and overall value of a website to avoid serving low-quality results to its browsers.

A few factors should be implemented for your site to be indexed favourably. An important one is to ensure your website’s content is well-written and engaging for users, because Google rewards websites that provide its users with high-quality content.

Including relevant links to ‘high authority’ websites will also work in your favour, as Google will see that your website is associated to reliable sources.

Additionally, Google will take into consideration your page’s usability and overall technical competency. Intrusive advertisements or slow loading time due to too many high-resolution images and other clunky digital media will bring your rank down.

Meanwhile, aesthetically pleasing webpages will satisfy both the user and Google.

Apart from these visual metrics, Google uses the presence of keywords in your webpage as signals to suggest users that your webpage is relevant to their search query. Littering your website with keywords to inflate its search relevancy used to work, but Google’s algorithm can now tell whether it’s used ethically or not.

Google can invoke harsh penalties or ban your website when its algorithm is exploited.

How can you use SEO tactics to improve your ranking?

With so many methods to employ in order to boost your website’s ranking, it’s important to take the time to understand them and use them correctly.

These tactics seek to optimise the content and performance of your website so that it has a high presence of favourable ranking signals for Google to analyse.

All SEO tactics are designed to make your website as attractive as possible to Google’s algorithm, as it wants to serve quality content to its user base.

The search engine giant will list your website highly in its search page in return for high-value, authoritative, user-friendly and technically proficient web content for its users.

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It’s a fact of life that many founders simply reach out for someone in their limited network or “down the road” when it comes to their finances.

The “suburban accountant” may be fine as far a plain personal tax return goes but when addressing the complexities of scaling an innovative business – a specialist startup accounting firm already in the space is likely to be the better route.

There are numerous areas in which a startup-savvy accountant can be a game changer in taking your venture to a new level.

Better access to government grants.

Ever been told ‘no’ to a government grant because you missed something along the way?

Too many times, startups set themselves up without the right corporate setup or having spent their funds incorrectly. Unfortunately, retrospective work is not often possible.

Government grants, whilst being a lifesaver for many tech ventures, have strict guidelines in place to ensure that funds are issued in a very direct manner.

Most accountants, lawyers and low-cost company setup websites, are not aware of the detail behind how these grants work. They can therefore often overlook critical pieces of the puzzle along the way, which can subsequently affect your eligibility for grants or limit the maximum amount you may be entitled to claim under a grant scheme.

Examples of key requirements that are often overlooked include the corporate structure, maintaining the right documentation, the timing and recipients of expenditure, IP and share ownership, as well as compliance aspects for future claims.

A firm that can help prepare R&D Tax Incentive claims, as well as other great State and Federal grants is a good bet to help optimize your access to government grants across the board.

Better management around cashflow

After setting up the company & accounting file for a client and recouping a fee along the way, many accountants leave the business owner to their own devices.

The next few touchpoints are generally about requesting information for the tax return or BAS, when the damage has been already been done and unexpected bills like income tax, GST, CGT, super (and even missed government grants) are locked in. What happened in between?

Understanding cash flow forecasts and financial modelling to provide foresight for the tax outgoings are critical to growing a business effectively. Yet these skills are rarely taught at university or as part of the post graduate courses that most good accountants sign up for.

In startup world, having financial models and projected financial performance can also be the difference between a funded startup and one that goes without.

Future stakeholders (investors or business partners) want to know the projected cashflow incomings or outgoings of the business so they can see whether their investment will get diluted further down the track, whether the current model is profitable and much more.

Because of the importance behind a cashflow forecast – particularly for innovative businesses with a few months runway in the bank, getting regular reports and being able to plot out the cashflow effects of different business avenues is crucial.

Better access to the startup tax concessions

Startups are potentially able to access a select range of unique tax concessions, such as those below, which are often not well understood (or known of) by more traditional firms.

ESIC – this makes the investment case in startups much more attractive to a discerning investor, including 20% tax offsets and potentially nil CGT for the first ten years. However, there are complex red tape requirements for both the startup and investor to access these, including a very unforgiving annual deadline and it’s important that you have an experienced tax navigator assisting you with this process, particularly with the private rulings.

ESS for Startups – Startups are always changing up their shareholdings and cap table, particularly with early employees who often get shares or options as part of their packages. No founder wants to give out tax liabilities to their employees so it’s important that founders seek the correct expertise here.

SBCGT rules & Restructure Rollovers – when exiting or shuffling around a corporate structure; you want to ensure that your structure takes into account your long term objectives, protects your IP and mitigates business risk. Rather than triggering and paying for CGT, an experienced startup tax advisor may be able to help you structure your entity’s movements in the best tax effective manner in line with legislation.

Financial modelling expertise

This is not usually the domain of accountants, usually requiring some background in actuarial studies, M&A or investment banking.

However to confidently pass most due diligence checks with savvy investors, you will have to present a fairly sensible financial model. This will help illustrate your financial nous as well as the profitability and growth aspects of your venture.

Look to partner with financial modelling experts whom have produced robust financial models for ventures that have raised millions. Their perspective in terms of producing what your stakeholders want to see can be invaluable.

Better network of talent & expertise

The startup community is one of the best communities around, where talent is found at its prime and most agile. But the wide diversity of people available can be daunting for those new rookies to the scene.

What about hiring the best UX/UI talents or freelancers for your project. Or where is the right investor for your venture? Or best people to assist with your pitch deck?

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters. Advisors connected with the startup scene can be well placed to suggest which connections you should pursue.

Better management of the capital raising process

Most accountants go cross-eyed when you mention that your potential investors want a ‘data room’ ready for review.

The capital raising process is often a detailed, drawn-out process and can leave the uninitiated with a whole raft of new terms & concepts to master.

Complex investment instruments like SAFE notes or redeemable preference shares require expertise to analyse & employ effectively. Sometimes your investors or VC will propose a structure that you may not have encountered before but require expertise to negotiate through effectively & quickly.

Seasoned players in the field, are often called to view term papers from a financial perspective and usually construct detailed cap tables to help founders & investors alike to analyse the effects of future investment.

Corporate secretarial experts can liaise with ASIC and prepare associated documentation such as share certificates or director’s resolutions to have the administrative side of the deal organised in confidence.

If you’re the founder of an innovative startup then its key to align yourself with advisors who understand the unique flow & landscape of the industry to optimize your financial outcomes.

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We all have great business or product ideas from time to time. Ideas that we’re sure will take off like a Mentos in a Coke bottle.

But the problem is, some of our ideas are, well… not as great as we imagine.

So how do you distinguish which ideas are the sure winners, and which to send to the dust-bin?

Taking an idea from ‘light bulb-moment’ to a viable business is a journey not for the faint hearted. There’s a lot of late nights, financial strain, stress and hard work associated with bringing any new business venture to light.

Although the journey is different for everyone, those who have trodden the path before can illuminate the ‘right’ ways to do it. Pitch decks templates are easily found online, however, there are some simple yet critical considerations that are often overlooked or seen as unimportant at the start.

This article is certainly not an exhaustive dissertation on developing an idea into a business. However, there are many critical points that you need to consider in the early days of your entrepreneurial journey.

Let’s examine a few of those considerations now…

Am I the only one?

No matter how excited you are about your idea, you need to realise that you may be the only one who thinks it’s actually great.

Many business ideas are useful but to a very small amount of people. So, your first mission is to find out:

– Would others use your ‘product’ and if some would;

– How many of these people are there?

– Would they pay for it and if so…

– How much would they pay for it?

Is my idea new?

There are no new ideas.

There I said it.

But that doesn’t mean you should pack up your desk and give up. The great advantage you have is that most people don’t have the confidence, ability, or grit to bring an idea to a useful conclusion.

Often a ‘new’ idea is a confluence of two or more other ideas. This is where the power can be. Two individual ideas, on their own, may have a short life… but combined they are powerful.

So what other similar ideas are about? There will be some. Find them. This research will be very valuable in possibly showing how not to proceed. It may even allow you to find a soulmate in bringing your great idea to fruition.

Disappointingly, it may uncover that the idea is already being successfully developed and you just hadn’t noticed yet. If that happens, don’t despair. You have plenty of other great ideas to explore buried in that head of yours.

How is it different?

After some research, you have hopefully found similar ideas, but none that are exactly like yours.

Excellent.

So, how is what you have different?

The difference may be in the product itself, the way it is brought to market or even in the actual target market.

Be aware simply a price difference is a very short-term advantage.

Clarity in why your idea is different and the benefits of that difference to you and the end consumer will give you your main selling points and confidence to move forward.

Do I have the resources to bring it to life?

Currently, money is often considered to be the only resource.

This is untrue.

Throwing money at an idea won’t simply make it happen (although it will help grease the wheels).

Resources you will need to bring to bear are;

1. Time: You may have a great idea. That’s all it is – an idea with potential at that moment – unless you are willing to put time into it.

Like the saying goes: “Potential and $2 will buy you a coffee”. Are you willing to forego something you spend time on now, in order to develop your idea? If the answer is no, then shelve the idea for now.

2. Energy: If your current lifestyle leaves you tired and uninspired, will the injection of this project energise you? Will it inspire you? Don’t be discouraged as energy is a funny thing in us humans – the more we expend the more energised we become.

For example, if you have been sitting behind a computer all day and feel rather listless, if you get out for a quick brisk walk you will feel more energised. Spending more energy creates more energy.

Are you willing to spend the energy the project deserves or not? Now is the time to decide.

3. Unfortunately, money: Depending on your own skills and how they relate to the idea, the amount will vary. You may have a software idea and be a software engineer. Great, so most of the grunt work you can do (refer to Time and Energy).

However, there is more to a business than just producing a product; professional branding, web development and SEO, marketing and more marketing.

Yes, these disciplines will be needed if you are serious about your idea becoming a business.

Depending on your mix of skills and the requirements to bring your idea to life, the amount of financial investment will vary greatly. At least a rough financial plan is needed at the start. Do you have the financial resources you are willing to risk, or will you need investors? This will enormously affect your plans – and it is best to plan to avoid stalling later and losing momentum.

What business structure?

“Start with the end in mind.”

I am sure you have heard that before.

This is so important in this case. Consider talking to a business advisor to look at how to set up your business. Really beneficial structures often include trusts and companies. (here’s a great starting point – https://asic.gov.au/for-business/ ).

Deciding on your business structure now has multiple advantages:

– To protect your current assets.

– Tax savings in the future. You can’t go back and retrospectively set up a tax-efficient structure.

– You have a separate entity that will easily allow a sale of the business or an issuing of shares to others, that is, the ability to take on investors.

Branding

Branding is an extraordinarily important part of your business. Often that statement gets plenty of nods, with very little understanding of what that really means.

Before you arrive at a name consider the following:

Big names today have become “household names” due to good and consistent branding.

Icons such as: McDonalds, Coke, Apple, Toyota, Woolworths, Samsung, Google, Facebook and many more.

So, how did they go about creating such iconic brands?

– Mission Statements. They know what they want their company to be, and what it is to do for people.

Your mission needs to be other-people-centric. Unfortunately, some lose their way.

Originally, being from Steve Jobs, Apple’s mission statement was:

“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

Simon Sinek in his “Start with Why” works, claimed Apple’s mission to be:

“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers.” 

…and now their most recent mission statement, from 2017, is:

“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

How do you feel about Apple in 2018 compared to 10-15 years ago? To me, they feel just like any other corporate rather than a ‘movement’, as it did before. A company with a deeper purpose rather than just producing certain named products.

– Sets of Values. What are your businesses values? These will generally follow your personal value otherwise there will be a dissonance.

– Understanding of their Brand essence. What is that short phrase that encompasses the essence of what they are and do for their market.

– Recognisable and unique well-designed logo.

– Colour palate. What do you notice about iconic brands? They stick to a ‘look’ that includes a colour palate. For example, Coke = Red, McDonald’s = Red and Yellow and many, many more. Study some of the marketing research on the effect of colours. This includes fonts and logos, too.

– Voice and Tone. Choosing how you wish to express you brand to the world, a couple of examples – Conservative or edgy, serious or humorous.

– Brand personality. Attitude, if you will. This will inform what your voice and tone will be.

-Brand cut through. Your proposed brand names should be run through a few checks. (Notice up to now you don’t have a final brand name!)

x Government sites to see if something is registered that is the same or similar.

x  Do an online search on your proposed names. Who are you brand name
competitors? Will you be able to compete on an SEO level?

x Search what you believe will be your main keywords. (This of course requires
you to understand your market). Again, who are your competitors? How
strong are they online? How will you compete for a page one presence?

x  Are your proposed website names available and are the social media business
pages and handles available?

I.P. protection

Here are some ideas around protecting your idea. Of course, fool-proof protection is not possible, however, the more you cover yourself the more chance you will have to create a successful business.

Some questions to ask yourself;

– What assets do I have that can be protected?

– Is my idea different enough from other similar ideas, for me to patent it?

– Can I trademark my brand?

– Can I register my designs?

– How do I ensure copyright?

– Am I willing to make the investment in legal advice and registration costs?

To find out what protection is available for your intellectual property it is truly advisable to engage a specialist lawyer. A generalist may miss something critical.

I trust that the points above have made you aware of some important consideration for early in your entrepreneurial journey. By all means, get involved and passionate about your idea. Bring it to life!

In the meantime, do some of the preparatory, not as exciting yet important work. It would be a pity if all your hard work came tumbling down due to tax issues, brand name issues, IP issues or a lack of resources.

Prepare well to give yourself the best chance of success, be that with your current idea or the next one. You will thank yourself for it.

(You can thank me too in the comments below!)

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I’m a YouTuber with 2,000 channel subscribers. Some would consider me a ‘small time’ player in the ultra-competitive vlogging space. Yet I was a recent speaker at the world-famous gaming event The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Melbourne.

So how was I able to secure a place in this world-famous event? It wasn’t necessarily because of simply sending emails back and forth (although that was certainly involved). Instead, I credit one major thing for this achievement – my mindset.

You see, there is a difference between people who succeed in life, and those who flounder from one failed project to the other. Developing the mentality of a successful person is 90% of the game.

Let me explain.

We all know “that guy” that says they want to do something.. but gives up after a few short days.  

Maybe they want to lose weight, so they sign up for this gym membership, plan out everything, know what muscle group they wanna target on each specific day…

And then what?

They might show up for the first few days or so. But slowly they fade away, and all that effort was for nothing.

We all know someone like that. People who only see the glory, but aren’t willing to put in the effort.

But to those people, I ask why? Is it because our modern world has conditioned us to live for instant gratification? It could be.

I’m not here to dismiss the theory above, but to simply offer you another perspective. I see the above as an excuse, a scapegoat we can shift the blame to should we fail to achieve what we THINK we want. That’s right – we all THINK we want something until we see how much time and effort needs to be put into it.

I’m here to offer you another theory that works in conjunction with the previous one. What if I told you that the reason people give up on things is because they either try to stand out to fit in, or fit in to stand out?

The people who show up to the gym for a day or so probably are not that interested in developing stronger muscles as much as they are sculpting their body for aesthetic appeal. They try to make their body stand out so that they can fit in.

On the flip side, it could be a brand new YouTuber trying to make it big by playing the newest games because they think it will bring them the most attention – they try to stand out by fitting in.

At the end of the day, these are all selfish external motivations that are short lived and all about oneself. But if we really want to change the way we operate, change the way we look, feel, or think – or even just to make a lasting impact; it takes intense internal motivation and an incredible amount of time.

If you or someone you know falls into any of the two categories above, I want you (or them) to consider this.

Why not stand out or fit in – period.

This happens when society all of a sudden doesn’t control you or limit you. If you want to do something you like just because you like it – regardless of what anybody else thinks or how popular/unpopular it is; you satisfy yourself.

When you do things to satisfy yourself for the sake of satisfying yourself, you have an internal motivation – a reason, a passion. When you act this way, the concept of “standing out” and “fitting in” disappear entirely because it honestly doesn’t matter – when you’re doing what you love, who cares whether you stand out or fit in?

For some, this might be news – a new outlook on life or a new way of thinking; if so, then congratulations, you’re on a path to discovering your passion. But for others, this is already where you are; you have something you are obsessively passionate about – something you are willing to give blood, sweat, and tears to. Sound like you?

What’s the next step? How do you take passion and turn it into purpose- something you can show at your respective BIG events?

The key is in purpose.

While passion is what we are doing, purpose is why we are doing it. For me at least, my purpose is a selfless external motivation: “I want to share my stories with the rest of the world because there are people who seek solace and escapism that these stories offer uniquely”. This is majorly different than the previous “selfish external motivation” as the purpose does not contain “I”.

I’ve found that within my group of friends, purpose is very rarely found – but in the rare case that it is, it usually does not revolve around oneself.

A simple way to find your purpose is to do what I just did, “I want to ____ because ___.” and ensure that everything that comes after “because” does not contain anything about you.

Now let’s say you find it difficult to find your purpose, as do many people. I can’t promise you that if you’re absolutely clueless that reading this article will magically fuel your passion and purpose – but I will try to set you on some sort of path nonetheless.

The worst thing you can do is wait – to think that one day, your purpose will come to you and only then will you act on it. What if it takes 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Will you just sit idly waiting for some “purpose” to magically come to you all of a sudden? And then think that just because you have a purpose that you can magically pull off a big event? No; maybe in a galaxy far far away but not here.

Here on Earth, those who have found their purpose discover it themselves. They dig deep into the darkest regions of their heart. They understand what makes them tick and dig into every experience that they have, regardless of how painful or excruciating the emotional roller coaster may be.

Yet if you still find it difficult to find a purpose, maybe you could go through a few more experiences; open up, try more things, experiment and find out what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you angry, sad, happy, or disgusted. Whatever makes you feel something has the potential to make others feel something… actively search for what that is or you will never find it.

Now let’s say you’re someone small – small reach, small influence; but you want to achieve big, you are ambitious with your goals and you want to blow up.

How do you get into speaking at big events? For gaming it’s PAX and E3, for film it may be something like Sundance, for Minecraft it’s Minecon – you get the idea.

What’s the difference between a small influencer (or creator, or whatever you are) who applies to speak at PAX and one who doesn’t? The one who applies has a higher chance of speaking at PAX.

Let’s say you’re a new YouTuber – you may be tempted to think that subscribers and view counts matter and I’m here to tell you they don’t. If that’s the reason you didn’t apply whatever you wanted to, because you thought you didn’t have enough numbers on a certain website, you need things put into perspective.

Hypothetically, if filmmaker Steven Spielberg decided to make a YouTube channel and happen to not grow it properly, he would not be judged for having a “small channel”. This is because his success is not based around numbers but rather actual, substantial achievements and films.

If you’re a YouTuber trying to make it big, you’ve got passion and purpose – why would a few numbers matter to you?

The answer is that it shouldn’t. What would affect you more? If I walked up to you and told you that I’m speaking at PAX because I have 2,000 subscribers on YouTube? Or if I told you I’m speaking at PAX because this is an opportunity to show off my life’s work and change people’s lives?

Passion and purpose far outweigh a few numbers.

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Airbnb’s Brian Chesky in Handcrafted

Masters of Scale is a podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman that looks at how companies can grow “from zero to a gazillion”. Reid Hoffman is a legend around Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur and now investor. With a resume that sports titles such as COO of PayPal (before it was acquired by eBay in 2002) and the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, Hoffman is an expert on the topic.

Each episode covers a different aspect of the scaling journey and includes not only Hoffman’s own theories, but also the insights and stories of many top-level founders (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and Netflix’s Reed Hastings to name a few). These interviews are usually pretty candid, which makes them great for advice you may not hear otherwise, but also for debunking some of the myths around starting a business.

Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb, uses the example of how every process was manual in the early days of the site. From finding and onboarding hosts to taking photo’s of each property for the website, everything was done by hand and kept track of in an excel spreadsheet. Airbnb’s approach was, “do something until it hurts, then hire someone.”

This is great advice for early stage Startups and founders, and something that is not regularly talked about. Most often, businesses in this early stage will not have the financial or technical ability to build scalable systems and solutions for the problems they are trying to solve. In a lot of cases, and I am speaking from my own experience here, to get the business off the ground early, everything must be done the long way. This can put some people off, and might explain why starting a business can be so difficult. Hoffman notes in the Podcast that “the natural reaction of the scaled organisation will be to kill” anything that requires a “handcrafted” approach. In this way, while it may be painful and laborious getting an idea off the ground, it usually means you will have the advantage over larger companies and competition going forward.

This is the first episode of the series, and focuses on Airbnb’s journey from a small Bed and Breakfast site (that manually managed individual hosts on the platform) to a multinational accommodation behemoth. The mantra of the episode is that in order to build a business that can scale, you need to do the things that don’t scale first. So often, the focus of a Startups journey is on the scaling process. Everyone wants to know how a business is going to be able to scale and so the early groundwork that leads up to this process is often forgotten.

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Startups founders don’t need to be graphic designers to do basic edits on company photos – one can easily make small image edits that make a big difference – with a little help from Startup Life contributor Julian Choi.

Most startups go through periods with limited (or no) funds, but that shouldn’t have to affect the business’ online presence. While some imagery needs heavy work or editing – in which case you really should hire a designer – most smaller imperfections can be edited out by anyone, no special skills needed.

This tutorial offers three different ways to edit out imperfections from, for example, a social media image using Adobe Photoshop (if you’re really lazy – head down to the bottom to watch the video tutorial!).

Consider the following scenario:

I’ve got this amazing photo that I want to use on the front cover of my website.

The only problem is, that there are two annoying pieces of blue-tac on the wall, that I really don’t want to be there (see photo below). Luckily, I have photoshop and I know of 3 easy ways to remove things that I don’t want from my photo.

The initial image that we want to edit.

What you need for this tutorial:

– Adobe Photoshop (CC 2018) You can purchase a license from Adobe or download it for free for a 30-day trial

– A photo that you’d like to edit

Get Started: How to open and prepare the image in Photoshop

1. Launch the Photoshop app, click the bar on the top and drag Photoshop to the side. It should then automatically snap out of the full-screen mode (see the second image below).

2. Drag the desired photo into Photoshop and it should automatically open.

3. Click and drag the bar on your photoshop window and move it to the top, this will cause Photoshop to take up your full screen again.

4. Before we start messing around with the photo, it’s a good idea to unlock the layer by clicking on this Lock in the layer panel.

5. Click and drag the layer to this New layer button here. This will duplicate the layer and serve as a backup in case anything goes wrong.

6. Click on this Eyeball here to hide the layer. It’s also in good practice to double-click on your layer name to rename the hidden one to “backup” and the visible one to “main”, to keep things more organized.

Now we can diverge into the three ways to remove something from your photos.

1. Press the J key to use the Spot Heal Tool – This tool is good for removing, spots, blemishes, or imperfections.

2. With the main layer selected, simply click on the spots you want to remove, and photoshop should be able to remove it.

If you need to zoom into your document, holding alt and scrolling should do the job. Otherwise, pressing Ctrl + + key OR  Ctrl +  key should do the trick.

You can increase the brush size by pressing ] Key and decrease the brush size by pressing the [ Key.

Should you make a mistake, the shortcut for undo is ctrl + z. Should you find that you’ve made a series of mistakes, the shortcut to undo further is ctrl + alt + z.

This is by far the easiest and fastest technique, here’s what the final looks like:

If, for example, the first method using the Spot heal tool didn’t work as well as you’d hoped, the second method offers you more control.

1. Press the L key on your keyboard to use the Polygonal Lasso Selection tool – this tool allows you to create selection regions in any polygonal shape. If your icon doesn’t quite look like mine, click and hold this icon to open up a drop-down menu, there, you can select the Polygonal Lasso tool.

2. Using the lasso tool, select the areas you want to remove one at a time; in my case, I’d select the blue tac in the light first, then the one in the shadow- not both simultaneously.

Every time you click with the lasso tool, it creates a point. You need to create points all around the area that you wish to select and link it back to the first point. You’ll know you’ve hit the origin when your cursor changes to this lasso with a circle.

If you mess up while creating the selection, you can hit esc key at any time to try again.

The selection doesn’t need to be exact, but shouldn’t be too far off either.

A dashed line will show your selection once you’re done.

If you are unsatisfied with your selection, hit Ctrl +to cancel out the selection and try again.

3. Press Shift + f5 to open up the fill dialogue box. Make sure the fill method is set to Content aware in the content drop down menu in the box.

Content aware fill looks at the area around your selection and tries to fill in your selection as if it were an empty spot.

Hit enter and the filling process should begin. It could take a second or a minute depending on how complex your photo is.

The third and final way to remove something from your photo requires the most effort and user input.

1. Use the Lasso tool from the previous method to draw a selection around the area you want to remove. The selection is made so that anything you do stays within the selection – as you don’t want to accidentally replace something you didn’t intend to.

2. Press the S key to use the stamp tool. The stamp tool allows you to sample areas of a photo and paste them elsewhere.

3. Hold the alt key for the stamp tool to enter “sampling” mode. While in sampling mode, click somewhere similar to what you want to replace your object with. For example, if I wanted to remove this blue tac in the light, I’d sample this bit of the wall nearby.

Basically, you’re choosing a spot in the image to copy – that you will then paste over the blue-tac that you want to hide.

4. Let go of the alt key to get back into stamp mode – again, the square bracket keys change brush size, use [ key to make it smaller and ] key to make it bigger. Now if you click, you’ll paste the sampled area. This is where you are “pasting” the selection that you copied earlier.

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This podcast section has been in the works for some time, and I’m thrilled to announce that it’s now live! We’re very excited to share these amazing resources with you and hope that you will engage with them and learn something new. Consider this a humble beginning of a curated learning experience.

Being our first featured podcast on Startup Life, I found it hard to determine whether it was relevant or ironic to publish Jess Ruhfus’ episode ‘How to launch a podcast’. A podcast about a podcast can seem a bit META. But after careful consideration, I’ve now settled on the opinion that it is, in fact, perfect. Podcasts are such a hot topic on today’s content marketing agenda – I mean, we’ve dedicated this whole category to highlight the best.

So why wouldn’t we share an excellent resource on how to achieve a spot on this list yourself?

Jess Ruhfus is the founder of business-collaboration platform Collabosaurus, also known as ‘Tinder for business’ (unsure if she approves of that message). In addition to being a brand matchmaking product, Collabosaurus produces great content for both businesses and individuals looking to excel; everything from marketing and PR to scaling, business strategy and everything in between.

I have personally followed the Collabosaurus journey for a while now, and Jess is an excellent ambassador for her brand. She’s often travelling (recently to Silicon Valley – so Startup), promoting her product and getting real about the daily struggles of an entrepreneur (actual, relatable challenges). I’m certain that you will find her highly likable and appreciate her valuable insights.

About the episode 

In this episode, Jess gives her best advice on how to start a podcast of your own. She reveals the steps she took in the making of Stop, Collaborate & Listen, what mistakes she made (whoopsie!) and a step-by-step guide on how to achieve the same success yourself.

Don’t be fooled by the short episode, all of her episodes are usually around 10-minute snippets. Listen in to find out why…(you’ll appreciate the strategy).

Enjoy this episode with lovely Jess Ruhfus and don’t forget to comment below if you have any recommendations for future podcast features.

Most of these episodes are recommended by our Mad House contributor community members. If you are interested in joining our private Slack channel and have your stories featured on our magazine, you can apply here. 

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The secret to making more money is simple, and it has been staring us in the face this whole time. The answer resides in pure science – it’s sleep. 

Sleep deprivation is not only bad for your health, but your bank account can take a pretty big hit too. A third of working Americans report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. Which, when measured in financial terms is a loss of some $1.2 million working days and approximately $226 billion annually robbed from the national economy.

The ironic part is that 65% of the workforce is losing sleep over money.

Poor Sleep, Poor Health, Poor Finances
There are close to 40 million people in the United States whose work lines and finances suffer at the hand of sleeplessness. The common mistake people make is thinking that they need less sleep to make more money. But thinking that less sleep gives you more hours to work can be very harmful to both your health and your bank statements.

According to a registered nurse and author of Sleeping Your Way to the Top: How to Get
the Sleep You Need to Succeed, you need to get enough sleep, consistently. It’s less about
working long hours every day, and more about getting quality work out of the hours that you do have. Doctors have been putting out warning statements about the negative effects that lack of sleep has on our health. It can be linked back to obesity, heart disease, anxiety and many other health concerns.

What does the research say? 
After a sleepless night, your attention, memory and productivity declined significantly. 24% of Americans reported that sleepless nights make them feel less productive, and 17% stated that their memory was noticeably impacted by the lack of sleep.

“Zoning out” at work allegedly decreases the nation’s productivity by $463 billion a year.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 20% of workers reported falling asleep on the job, during meetings or at the very least feeling drowsy during their daily tasks.

Sleep deprivation affects your mood and personality, and therefore, your ability to work well with others. A lack of sleep produces excess cortisol in the blood, which is the hormone related to stress. Too much cortisol impacts they way we act and react to those around us. Additionally, a lack of sleep can make it difficult to read facial cues, which in turn can cause further misunderstandings.

HR teams have a special name for people with sleep-deprivation related productivity issues; presenteeism. That is not a label you want, and neither does your career nor finances.

Get Sleep and Get Success
The most common tips for improving sleep usually includes: avoiding caffeine and computer screens, setting up regular bedtimes and not having late dinners. Most of us have tried all of these tips, and probably countless variations of them as well. The good news is that the science-based tips below offer some variation that might actually improve your sleep routine.

Music: Studies show that soothing sounds or noises can be helpful for inducing sleep.
High-frequency music is particularly effective because it works on the areas of our brain
where guilt and bitterness reside. When we hold on to those feelings, sleep never comes easy. Healing music programs are known to have helped people kick the sleeping-pill habit and fight insomnia.

Watch the Heat: When it is bedtime, usually around 9 at night, your body’s core temperature starts to drop to prepare for sleep. People struggling with sleep usually do not feel this temperature change. Therefore, turn the thermostat down and wear light pyjamas (or lose all the clothes). The cool environment will ease your body into sleep. Studies have shown that people get a deeper sleep by turning the temperature down just one degree before bedtime.

Massages: Not only do massages feel great, but the overall relaxation in your body is a
great sleep aid. Your body naturally increases the production of serotonin and oxytocin in
response to physical massage. These are the feel-good neurotransmitters and they are great for guiding your mind into a dream state.

Shake the Pills: It is fairly easy to get hold of sleeping aids and medications these days, but they can get addictive and have dangerous consequences. Instead, you should try melatonin supplements, which is the sleep hormone your body naturally releases. That said, you should always consult a doctor before you start using or stop taking any medication.

Magnesium: Another supplement that is said to improve sleep is magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that is beneficial for relaxation and stimulates the neurotransmitters that initiate sleep. Magnesium can be bought online or from any health food store. You can take supplemental capsules or get magnesium citrate powder to mix with your tea throughout the day.

Flower Power: Certain plants like gardenia or valerian can greatly improve the air quality of a room. Given that air quality and sleep are closely linked, switching up the atmosphere could benefit your sleep. Additional tip: before heading to your garden-fresh room, try a nightcap of tart cherry juice; as evidence shows these are natural sleep aids.

Set the Alarm: Not the alarm to wake you up, but the alarm to get some shut-eye. We are all busy, and we tend to get distracted by television or work even as we are at home, causing us to lose track of time. To make sure that we don’t procrastinate, and get the hours of sleep we need, it can be helpful to set an alarm reminding you of your bed-time.  Then it’s lights out. Whatever the cause of your sleeplessness is, you can change it.

Last but not least;

Think of the negative cycle: No sleep means less productivity, and less productivity means less money. Less money then causes you to get less sleep and the cycle continues.

Break the cycle before insomnia breaks your bank.

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The Pareto Principle has had an honoured place in management theory since the 1960’s, but what makes it relevant to entrepreneurs today?

In the early 20th Century, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed something peculiar about the world that he lived in; 80% of the land in his country was owned by only 20% of its inhabitants. Similarly, only 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained some 80% of the peas.

In 1941, engineer and quality control expert Joseph Juran read Pareto’s work and expanded on it, realizing that in many situations 80% of the output was contributed by only 20% of the input. He called it the “vital few and the trivial many”, or the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle has an honoured place in management theory since the 1960’s, with many seemingly strange correlations being noted. For example, it has been observed that 80% of decisions are produced from only 20% of meeting time, and 20% of a dedicated sales force will produce 80% of the sales. Similarly, when applied to other areas of life the 80/20 principle is often found to be as relevant. For example, thinking back to your high school days, don’t you think 80% of the trouble in classrooms came from only 20% of the students?

The Pareto Principle works well when applied to one’s personal life too. If we think about the people we know, it is often 20% of them that are giving us 80% grief, while another 20% are giving us 80% joy.

Goal setting and priorities rule the 80/20 principle 

This has been extrapolated into the workday, where it is often said that only 20% of what you do will produce 80% of your results. This led to the conclusion that when faced with multiple things to do, one should focus on the tasks and people that will produce the greatest benefit for the least amount of input.

This means that we need to focus on what our goals are and how we can best move towards achieving those goals. Within many business settings, our goals will be fairly well defined by certain Key Performance Indicators, or by sales and production figures. Unfortunately, a large number of small businesses don’t seem to have any goal beyond “making money” and as such, much time is wasted trying to do too much with too little. For example, in starting up a new restaurant, it is not sufficient to say that you want everyone to be your clients. Rather, you need to identify a niche and tailor your menu and marketing towards attracting that type of client.

Much of what passes as our work day is often taken up by fluff and things that aren’t really that important. Do your pens and paper clips really need to each have their own colour coordinated paper box on your desk? Or would you be better off spending the time getting on top of your accounts?

We often can get caught up in trying to do everything ourselves, but need to remember we have been hired for a designated role, specifically for the unique skills that we bring to the equation. As such, we are often going to be at our most productive when we are engaged in the tasks that utilise our special skills, and we would be better off delegating tasks that require skills other than our own expertise.

For example, the Australian Army once had all of its soldiers do work in different departments than their own; but given that the tank soldier had no training in cookery, the job that they did in the kitchen was unskilled and menial. This was an absolute waste of resources. Given that the Australian Army had spent tens of thousands of dollars training soldiers to crew armoured vehicles, and pays them very well, it effectively had the most expensive bottle washers in the country doing work that they presented. Eventually, common sense prevailed and civilians were bought in on the award wage, thereby freeing hundreds of soldiers around the country to do what they were actually trained to do and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

The best way to implement the 80/20 principle in the workplace

When applying this principle in a professional setting, it is important to identify the outcomes that are the most significant and then retrace the steps you took when last achieving them.

When reviewing the processes internally, you’ll no doubt identify ways to improve them. Once you’ve improved your processes the whole business can flow more efficiently by integrating the changes to daily routines. For example, simply having a “daily routine” will help you harness the benefits of habitual behaviour in a way that will make many tasks routine and more easily accomplished.

To fully implement the 80/20 Principle, we need to understand more than just our jobs and our expected outcomes. Most importantly, we need to understand ourselves. What drives us? What motivates us? What are we good at and what are we bad at? What do we love and what do we hate?

Once we understand ourselves, we will be in a much better position to understand our capacity for high achievement. It is no secret that a huge number of people hate their jobs and if you are one of those, it will be almost impossible for you to excel. The sheer mental effort in forcing yourself to do something that you hate, day after day is simply too much for most people to cope with for very long.

This doesn’t mean that you should drop your job and immediately begin turning your hobbies into work. What it does mean, however, is that you should reassess what you are currently doing and see if there is a way in which you could use your job knowledge and experience in a new role that will provide you with the enjoyment and satisfaction that you need in order to be able to excel to your full potential.

One thing to bear in mind is that the Pareto Principle is just that; a principle. It is not a law of business and does not apply in every situation. For example, out of 25 car manufacturers in Australia, the top 20% only have about 55% of the share, not 80%.

Taking the 80/20 rule to extreme lengths can do more damage than it is worth. For example, some sales organizations have a policy where they fire their lowest-performing sales staff at the end of each KPI period. Not only does this produce poor morale, along with some seriously dysfunctional and uncooperative behaviours in the workplace, but it can often see good staff let go simply because of a bad run of luck, or because of transient personal circumstances that have impacted their ability to function. Management engaging in this behaviour are also forgetting that their own role isn’t simply to arbitrarily sack people, but instead that their own personal 20% of value time is going to come largely from cultivating underperforming talent to an acceptable standard, rather than simply relying on a few stars to carry the whole game.

This article was first published on Mad Scientist Blog

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Whether your business is an enterprise or a start-up, growth should be a key component of your organizational structure. For start-ups, in particular, the idea of growth is often built-in, but the management of growth is not.

First, you need to understand the kind of growth you are hoping to achieve. Growth in this context is not merely about selling more or earning more; it’s about developing your products and services to meet your customers’ needs in a meaningful way. Sales and earnings, from this perspective, follow growth initiatives that expand services in new directions, raise customer satisfaction, and stay ahead of the competition.

For IT providers, growth teams break down the silos between marketing, engineering, and IT departments, and highlight the importance of IT for boosting ROI. Since growth teams are largely data-driven, IT becomes a critical component of the team process.

Key factors that come into play on growth teams include machine learning, data analysis, UX, and A/B testing. By working on a multidisciplinary team, all aspects of a company come to understand how they contribute to the success of the company and how they can make that success happen collaboratively.

Marketing and administration also become much more conscious of the value of IT. Through a deeper understanding of engineering and marketing concerns, IT can contribute research initiatives that drive new ideas and innovation beyond the level of a support team.

The concept of this type of growth incorporates the idea of expansion by tapping into your customer satisfaction to expand your customer base. And to create and launch a successful strategy for expansion, you need a growth team.

What is a Growth Team?

A growth team brings together key staff members to make data-driven decisions about how to improve your company’s products and services by meeting your customer needs and expanding into new potential areas of products and services. Growth teams are inherently customer-focused, and they seek ways to ensure that the company remains customer-focused as it develops.

Not all growth teams are the same. They will depend on current company size and both long- and short-term goals. What works for a small, digital marketing agency start-up still trying to figure out how to scale is different from an established enterprise looking to keep its competitive edge. Figuring out the right way to organize your growth team is dependent on understanding your company’s immediate and future needs within the context of your industry.

What Are Types of Growth Teams?

Depending on the size of your business, different team structures will address different needs. As your business grows and expands, you might even change the focus and structure of the team to meet the new challenges – or simply try something that works better for you.

Here’s some general guidance for team-building to consider:

Start-Up Growth

If you have fewer than 10 people in your startup, everyone wears multiple hats to keep things running. Your growth team can be one or two people with direct access to leadership in order to decide what to work on.

Keep the focus on what you need to release products and services that meet your customer’s needs. This is particularly crucial when you’re seeking those first few customers.

Small-to-Mid-Size Growth

Once you have customers, you want to satisfy them and acquire more. A group of 5-10 people should work with leadership – from product managers and designers – because these are the people most often aware of customers needs.

As you grow, you can add data managers and engineers to make the team a reflection of the customer-driven ideology of your company. Typically, a single point person from each team should work with management to align goals and projects.

Enterprise Growth

Enterprise growth becomes complicated by size and the nature of the business. Often, you have a large number of employees who often work independently of each other. Gather representatives from different areas to focus on business needs as a function of customer needs.

Depending on the nature of the business, three broad growth team structures can address the issues:

Independent Growth Team: A leadership executive oversees designated processes, reports to the CEO, and focuses the team on goals. Teams typically have product managers, designers, and data scientists. The team has a specific task and reviews ideas for improvement only for that task.

Metrics Growth Team: These teams are structured similar to independent teams, but with a higher data focus. They can include additional staff, like engineers and marketing. Together, they focus on a specific metric for analysis: engagement, sales funnels, ease of purchase, etc. Then they look for ways to improve the metric.

Functional Growth Team: Each team oversees its particular company function with a team leader reporting to a VP of product, who then reports to the CEO. The individual teams make their own decisions on how to analyze their areas, but the VP sets the overall goal, and each team within the group focuses on their role in improving that component.

Set the Goal and Build the Team

Picking the right growth team structure for your business takes a bit of work, but has enormous benefits. By involving all aspects of your business in a customer-centric way, both your employees and customers will be more engaged.

Identify your goals, pick the team, and let the creativity flow. Don’t worry about getting it wrong; growth teams are flexible and can be reconfigured whenever you think a new strategy might work better.

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