Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

What Does Success Look Like???

Let’s face it – the unknown is daunting.  Even extensive planning can’t always prepare you for challenges you may face in your entrepreneurial endeavors – whether you’re a startup CEO, a handbag designer or an aspiring indie author. Sometimes you just need to trust in yourself and be confident in your abilities. Obstacles may seem insurmountable at first glance but if you are dedicated to your efforts and you do the proper research, you WILL work through them.

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor.

My advice is simple. Embrace the unfamiliar and power through. You’ll never know the full extent of your capabilities if you don’t navigate outside your comfort zone. We can’t always be the best at everything but we should always strive to be. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Sure, you may accumulate a mound of debt in the process (something your husband won’t ever let you forget) but you will have taken control of your future.

Clear strategy concept as a straight road going over confused paths for achieving success in the future as a symbol of business vision and planning to solve the maze.

Be passionate! If you aren’t, find a new goal. You’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. It takes too much time and effort to launch a new business and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never get it off the ground. If you’re not willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, preserve your sanity and come up with a new game plan.

Take a risk. You’ll never have all the answers or the insight you need to feel comfortable in EVERY situation.  But that’s okay, because you have faith, drive and ideas to propel you toward your goal.  Sometimes, that’s all you need to achieve success.

Believe in yourself and what you can do. SEE yourself creating, developing, designing, writing, and selling. The powers of the subconscious mind are astounding. Envisioning success is just more positive reinforcement you can apply to your effort. Never let negative thoughts permeate your mind – they will only hamper your efforts. See yourself hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, see a Hollywood A-lister clutching one of your evening bags as she graces the red carpet at the Oscars, see your gadget in the hand of Mark Zuckerberg as he sings its praises to the press. See it, believe it, and make it a reality.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  That only really happens when you give up on your dreams. Outcomes that don’t match your expectations aren’t an indication of defeat. Think of them as lessons learned, pearls of wisdom to draw upon at a later time, things that need to be tweaked as you progress toward meeting your goals.

Try new things. Be creative. Think outside the box. Do something nobody has thought of before. Find the whitespace and clutter it up with your ideas. Don’t try to create demand; figure out what people need and give it to them. Why waste precious resources building something that nobody wants?

Life is all about taking chances. If you play it safe ALL the time, you’ll never uncover your true potential and untapped talents.

LEAP. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. Even if you crash-land, you can still say you tried.

And finally, never give up… on your dreams or on yourself.

Business woman celebrates successful deal at office. Business People

 

Character Interview – Best Friends, Business Partners & Cyber Lords

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Character Interview: Chris Camden and James Callahan, Best Friends, Business Partners and Cyber Lords

I recently caught up with Chris Camden and James Callahan, co-founders of LazerShark, the hottest gaming website in cyberspace. Their pictures have been plastered across the covers of every industry periodical in the country as two of the thirty biggest names in technology under thirty… and it doesn’t hurt that their smiles can melt the panties off any woman in their line of sight. I don’t know any female in her right mind that wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between these heartthrobs. But I digress…

Okay, back to business. I’m focused now.

Me: Guys, thanks so much for taking the time out of your crazy schedules to chat with me. Our readers are extremely anxious to find out more about the dream team that just scored one of the largest buyouts in Silicon Valley history. How does it feel?

James: Incredible, so rewarding. We’ve been working toward this goal for the past three years with the help and guidance of a great team of investors. But we still have a long way to go, and a lot more work to do.

Chris: Yeah, it feels great, kind of like driving my brand-new Bentley. <snickers> Seriously, though, this was a real partnership effort. You can only achieve this kind of success when you set common goals and work together to achieve them. Jay is the geek in this relationship and I’m the salesman. It’s a great mix of skills.

James: That’s right. We work our strengths to the fullest and compensate where each of us may be lacking.

Chris: Dude, speak for yourself. I’m not lacking in any area.

James: My bad. You’re the most modest, humble person I know.

Me: Inquiring minds want to know… now that you’ve taken over as the virtual gaming lords of the universe, what’s next on your agenda?

James: We’re starting a new project. It’s kind of early to discuss details but it’s going to be a winner.

Chris: Think revolution… light sabers, battletoads… and minions.

James: Dude, you’re giving everything away. You’re about as subtle as a hand grenade.

Chris: Oh come on, those hints were brilliant! You’ve got to give the people a little taste, Jay. Don’t be so neurotic.

James: Have we gotten to the question about how I’ve been able to avoid strangling my business partner yet?

Me: <laughs out loud> You guys are too adorable… er, um, I mean, entertaining. And you’ve also been best friends since kindergarten. How do you manage the friendship versus the business partnership?

James: It actually works well for us. We’re pretty much no holds barred. If there’s an issue, we put it out there and talk it out.

Chris: You can’t take things personally. We made a deal when we first started on this path that we’d always separate our work lives from our personal lives.

James: Yeah, I remember that deal. It was nice in theory. Too bad you couldn’t keep your—

Chris: Whoa! I’m talking about us here. Don’t go off-track.

Me: No, please go off-track…this sounds juicy.

James: Let’s just say my business partner made a pretty large error in judgment that could have cost us our future.

Chris: You’re being really dramatic, Jay. It’s all good. LazerShark was never at risk.

James: Your life sure was. Talk about wanting to strangle someone…

Me: How would you each describe one another?

James: Chris is the most loyal guy I know. He’d do anything for the people he cares about… I mean anything. I’ve never met another person so willing to put his own comfort and happiness aside for others.

Chris: I’d go to war for you, man.

James: I know you would. And I love you for it. <playfully punches Chris in the shoulder> He’s also impulsive, outspoken, cocky and can charm the skirt off any girl he meets… admittedly, a pretty impressive skill.

Chris: Aw, I’m blushing. Thanks for stroking my ego.

James: As if you needed it…

Chris: It’s only one of the things that can never be stroked too often…

Me: <fanning myself> Ahem, so Chris, any thoughts on James?

Chris: Smart. Sexy as hell. Socially inept but we’re working on that.

James: I like to think I’m making progress.

Chris: Always striving to improve. Kudos, man.

Me: Ever had your sights set on the same girl?

James: No, I prefer girls that can use more than one-syllable words in conversation. Actually, let me rephrase… I prefer girls that can actually engage in conversation. <snickers>

Chris: <rolls eyes> What can I say, Jay? Sometimes it’s better to have actions drown out the words. Talking’s overrated.

Me: Okay, so speaking of the ladies… here’s the question all the fangirls have been aching to ask two of the most eligible bachelors in the Bay area… what are your relationship statuses?

James: Um yeah, not so eligible anymore.

Chris: Reformed.

James: More like whipped.

Chris: Really? You sure you’re pointing that finger in the right direction? The first gift you ever gave Jess was the family jewels. And it’s been downhill from there. Yes Jess, anything you want Jess, sure I’ll bend over now Jess. <smirks>

James: I’ve always been a fan of monogamy, unlike this guy. His motto has always been ‘the more, the merrier’ at any one time.

Chris: Life is like tearing through a bag of Lays…can never eat just one.

James: A point you’ve proven again and again and again.

Me: But rumor has it you’re off the market…scooped up by none other than your former investment manager, Mia Bradshaw. So monogamy…?

Chris: It’s a new look for me. I’m digging it.

James: So is your fiancé.

Me: She’s a lucky lady. That news is going to be very disappointing to all your fangirls. Okay, last question. Silk or satin?

James: Either.

Chris: Neither. <smirks>

***

Why Authors Should Adopt The Mindset of An Entrepreneur

I’d recently guest posted on The Authorteers and wanted to share with you all here as well. =)

I don’t accept criticism well. Oh sure, I say I can handle less-than-stellar feedback. But then when it comes, I sit with my eyes open wide, nodding my head as the critiques pelt me like icy cold drops during a monsoon-like rainstorm, a tight smile stretching my lips so they won’t quiver… yep, I crumble like a house of sand. Worst poker player ever. You always know what I’m thinking… always.

I think this is attributable to a few different factors. First and foremost, I’m an approval seeker. I crave accolades, and positive reinforcement totally charges me. Second, I have an insane amount of passion for my endeavors, whether it be handbag design, writing, blogging, or my career in general. I work hard and when I really believe wholeheartedly in the quality of my efforts, I want them to be recognized. It’s not enough for me to be satisfied with the end result. And when people I care about are less than starry-eyed over something I’ve done, well, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow.

Such was the case this weekend. My husband and greatest supporter, read a book I’d recently finished. He is not a romance reader, but he loved my other books to the extent he could, as someone who much prefers reading Michael Creighton. I felt certain he’d love this one too and truth be told, I was excited for him to read it because I think it’s my best one yet.

But there were no kudos for this story. Instead, I got a boatload of Post-Its and an overall assessment of “it’s… okay.”

Young crying woman in depression drink drinking alcohol

Heartbreaking is the only word I can use.

So by now you’re probably wondering – why is she telling me all this?

Trust me, there is a point.

I took a chance with my manuscript. Publishing a story with a predictable plot isn’t going to send people flying to Amazon and elicit gasps as the scenes unfold on their e-readers. I chose to push the envelope and navigate outside the norm. Maybe it will be to my detriment but I wanted to give my readers something a little different. I took a risk that may turn people off or make them die-hard fans because I believe in myself and my work.

Criticism is tough to swallow but it’s not always a bad thing if it drives you harder and helps you perfect your end product. Don’t give in to self-doubt. Stay true to yourself. Embrace any feedback that will help you achieve your goals.

My advice? Think like an entrepreneur! Establishing an author platform is similar to launching a new business, so why not adopt the mentality that will help you sharpen your focus and build your brand?

Start Up Business Launch Success Office Desk Concept

Passion Is A MUST! – Trying to gain traction with any new endeavor can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell it to the masses, the more effective your end product (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticism and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. Take risks! It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed…. well, you know the rest.

How Deviant Is Too Deviant???

I am most insightful while running. I don’t know why, but my mind goes into overdrive. I’m pounding the pavement, singing along with Metallica and BOOM! Enlightenment.

Maybe it’s because I can be alone with my thoughts. They don’t have to yell and scream to be heard because the competition is still at home, snug in their beds. Of course, said competition is usually the reason why my ideas never make it to paper. But today I refused to get sidetracked.

Do you know what it’s like, saying you want to be a romance author today? It’s kind of like saying you want to create a really awesome website, where people can connect with friends, make new ones, exchange messages, form common interest groups and share information, pictures and videos for feedback.

Um, dude, sounds great except…IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE!!!!

You can’t approach this endeavor with the mindset that, hey, it worked for all those other big authors, why not for me? It’s a different world and if you’re not bringing something new and exciting to the table, nobody will join you for the meal.

As an author, I spend a lot of time on social media, which is how I find out about new releases. I read blurbs and I know within the first two sentences if something is going to piqué my interest. I occasionally buy a book solely because of it’s cover, but it’s rare. The last book I bought by cover alone (and LOVED) was Taint by S.L. Jennings. But it was Mike Thurston, could you blame me??

Before I was an author, I would go to Amazon and just click around until I saw something interesting. It always came down to the blurb. If it grabbed me, I one-clicked. Period. As an aside, somehow I’d always finish a book while running on the treadmill so my goal was always to find something good quickly so I could keep reading. Running at 7 miles an hour and clicking around a Kindle isn’t ideal, just saying. I didn’t care about price, I wanted to be entertained with anything that would keep me focused on something other than the running. Brand-loyalty had no impact for my buying preferences.

Woman doing make-up, beautiful young woman doing make-up and smiling while looking at the mirrorNow, on the other hand, I’m a total lipstick whore. It’s my very favorite makeup item and I sample pretty much every type of product – matte, sheer, lip stain, gloss, lacquer. Two things matter – how the color looks and how long it will last. I buy it all, with no regard for price. I don’t necessarily have brand-loyalty in this case either since my preferred brands can’t always help me accomplish my goal. It’s all about how the product makes me feel. If there is a chance it will take me look like a million bucks, I’ll give it a shot. What do I have to lose? I can always return it if it doesn’t have the desired effect.

I’ve spent way more on products that I’ve used once and stuck in a drawer, but that doesn’t require hours of my time. I can try it and if I love it, great. It lands in my makeup bag. If not, it goes back to the store. But books? They can be free and I’ll still hedge, because they require a greater time commitment. I rarely read beyond the treadmill because I don’t frequently find books that hook me. If I’m going to one-click, it had better be something special.

Murderous woman with very scary eyes licking the blood of her knifeSome authors have embraced the concept of innovation in their writing because they know being different,
gritty and edgy is a good way to set their names apart in the market. Menage and BDSM were all the rage not so long ago but now those books get lost in the shuffle of deviant sex tales. Fifty Shades opened up a whole new genre for readers but now there’s a glut and one has to wonder, what’s next? Let’s venture into the land of sex with prehistoric creatures and toasters and you’ve got a brand-new taboo subgenere for readers to sink their teeth into. Teeth…oh jeez, is cannibalism next??? Hot sex followed by dinner a la Hannibal Lecter, coupled with a nice Chanti and some fava beans? That would give a whole new meaning to characters tasting one another…wink, wink.

 

So what does all this mean if you’re an author trying to hit it big with your books, the ones you’ve poured your heart and soul into for months and months? What if you aren’t passionate about writing appliance erotica??? Are you destined for failure?

Here’s the truth. I don’t know. There are marketing tactics that have worked wonders for my sales and there are ones that have completely tanked. Unfortunately, no one tactic will launch a new author to NYT bestseller status unless you’re a Kardashian. There IS a magic formula but nobody knows exactly what elements are included and what worked even a year ago probably won’t have the same impact now because of the thousands of competing books published every week. So it’s mainly trial and error, and you have to be okay with that.

If you really are passionate about your writing, keep it up. You have to be able to look back and say, “I did it for me.” You may never win an award or hit a bestseller list but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. When you give up on something you love because you’re frustrated with the outcome… that’s when you’ve failed.

So just keep calm and write. =)

Hot Cars, Panty-Dropping Grins & A Giveaway

The trailer for “Nothing Ventured” is LIVE!!! Just so you all know, Liam Hemsworth has jumped straight to the top of my list. Prepare to swoon, ladies! And gentlemen, there’s a bit of eye candy for you as well… =)

ENJOY! I know I have…

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to help me share the news about Nothing Ventured!

Sexy Stilettos, Steamy Shower Scenes & Silicon Valley…For FREE!

***Unlikely Venture By Kristen Luciani***

Read It For ***FREE*** Until 9/27!!!

Here’s the thing about keeping secrets…

After devastating news threatens her livelihood, Jessica Latham swears off men…until she meets Silicon Valley rising star, James Callahan. But when a vindictive frenemy exposes Jessica’s scandalous secret, James is forced to choose – his company’s future or his heart?

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ iBooks ~ Smashwords

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Whistle While You Work…Or Run…Or Play Foosball

My workspace is pretty standard, very practical, but kind of boring if I’m being honest. Lots of desk space, tons of papers covering said space, cabinets, laptops, ever-present mug of coffee. I try to keep it organized but it’s not easy when ideas are constantly flowing out of my head and onto Post-Its. My name is Kristen and I’m a Post-It addict. Whenever I get a thought, I jot it down and stick it…well, wherever I can find space, which is a commodity.

Post it papers flying out from laptop

I sometimes wonder, how awesome would it be to create a workspace according to my own dream specifications? Like maybe a space where I could take a quick break and run on the treadmill to keep the creative juices flowing? With plush couches where I can plop down when the knots in my neck tighten after being hunched over my laptop for hours on end? One with large, floor to ceiling windows, lots of greenery, light, airy rooms and a fabulous view for inspiration? Maybe one with a nicely stocked refrigerator with lots of champagne so I can reward myself after spending the day agonizing over scenes and plot twists? It would be awesome to have a large-screen wall hanging television for those times I just need a mental break and want to watch re-runs of Impractical Jokers. And of course, a huge whiteboard for all those dang Post-Its would be nice!

modern empty office interior

Well, guess what? There is a company out there that can help me achieve my work zen, called WeWork. You signup to become a member and select from several packages that allow you different levels of access to custom workspaces. You can book a space for a day or longer, depending on your needs. Maybe you just want to have a couple of days a month where you venture off to another location to keep things percolating. You have that option with WeWork. And if you happen to be traveling to another location and need to reserve a spot while you are there, go to WeWork for options! It’s that simple.

The company has space in all the big hubs across the United States, with additional locations in Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

So even if you aren’t traveling for business, maybe you just need a periodic escape to recharge your batteries. Comfort + mental calm = PRODUCTIVITY!!!

“Nothing Ventured” Is Live! It’s Giveaway Time!

It’s LAUNCH day!!!!!! Let’s CELEBRATE!!!! How about a giveaway, in honor of our delicious hero, Chris Camden?????

Glasses of champagne and sparklers on bright background with sparklers

Here’s to Chris, the Adonis and certifiable charmer with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm. With a panty-melting smile, ridiculous body that oozes pheromones, and a hot car, he’ll have your knees weak within minutes. I promise. <3

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of ‘Unlikely Venture,” Book One of the Venture Series.

The contest closes on 9/22/2015 and the winner will be notified by email. GOOD LUCK!

Buy Nothing Ventured:

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  iBooks  Smashwords

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How Do You Know You’re Ready For Launch?

We all want a big-splash launch – no matter what the offering. Who wouldn’t want mountains of accolades and recognition for a job well done?

In the period leading up to your big day, the best advice I can give consists of one very important word – plan.

Planning is critical to a successful launch, so make a list of everything you can possibly do to make your event as grand as possible. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Create a Task Timeline – Identify each component of your launch prep along with an expected timeframe for completion and a point of contact.
  • Prioritize Each Task – For each group of tasks you’ve outlined, ask yourself which ones will have the greatest impact on your launch. Focus on the ones that will deliver the biggest bang for your buck first.
  • Ask For Help – Reach out to all your contacts – family, friends, colleagues – anyone who can help you spread the word. Send them Facebook posts, tweets, images to share via Instagram, fliers to hand out in their towns – anything that will highlight awareness.
  •  Leverage Your Existing Fan Base – Come up with creative ways to engage your existing fans. Word of mouth is the most effective way to generate interest because of the credibility factor so ask your fans to get involved with your launch.
  • Cross-Promote – Identify potential partners who have launches around the same time as yours and augment your target audience by gaining access to theirs.
  • Maintain Your Plan – Update all notes and statuses so at any given point, you can see exactly what your progress has been in preparing for the launch.
  • Follow-Up As Needed – People generally don’t have a sense of urgency about someone else’s endeavors so a gentle nudge is sometimes warranted.
  • Get Out the Corkscrew – When you’ve fully executed your plan and feel confident you’ve done all you can do, the rest is up to the stars. So sit back, relax and have a glass of wine because you deserve it.

Red and white wine pouring on wood background

 

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