Thursday, May 22, 2008

20 Tips for the New Entrepreneur

Dear Readers,

Last summer, as I was all 'gang busters' starting my own company, many friends and acquaintances were asking me how I kept focused at my desk and not focused on the beautiful weather outside. The thing about entrepreneurs is that they are determined people - people who have an idea and do whatever they can to develop it. Nevertheless, it's easy to come undone and unfocused. So I began sharing my ideas in the form of a list to help keep my network on target with their goals: Auntie Melanie Notkin’s 20 Secret Weapons for Entrepreneurs to Stay Motivated, Inspired and On Course.

I have used these tools throughout my career.
Some are timeless tips, and some came about with new technology. Some are original thoughts and some are borrowed from others. For the latter, I’ll let you decide which ones are which because frankly, they have become such a part of my life, I really don’t remember where they came from anymore!

1. Every night before you go to sleep, write down your To-Do list for the next day. I recommend adding as your personalized internet homepage. Not only can you manage your to-do lists, but you can get all your daily news and blog reading done in one place. (see item #7)

2. Do the most challenging items on your To-Do list before 11AM, if possible. Accomplishing the most difficult items on the list empowers you for the rest of the day. Holding on to that difficult action item might exhaust you and you’ll get nothing done! Reward yourself for getting through the hardest action item each day. (see item #3)

3. Getting stuck at your desk is not healthy! You need air! Go out and treat yourself to a $10 reward every day. It can be a manicure, grandé latte with whip, a paperback novel, etc., but get out of the office!

4. Take a long walk. Taking a walk has proven to be a time to gather thoughts and think most creatively. But bring your business notebook with you – you don’t want to forget your next big idea! (see item # 15)

5. Have lunch! And not alone! Circle yourself with a strong network and meet with different members of your network at least 2-3 times a week. And try to add at least 3 people to your network monthly. A good way to add to and keep track of your network is through LinkedIn. You’ll connect with people who know people who know people... Facebook is more than a great social network. You may find an old college classmate who is working in the same industry you want to go into, or become better acquainted with new people in your network. On Facebook, I found an old friend who is all-knowing when it comes to Internet Privacy and he became a member of my Advisory Board. And finally, there is Twitter, where you’ll find a community of like-minded people who can give you the support and resources you need.

6. Say “Thank You.” Keep an appreciation book at your desk and after you complete your To-Do list at night, write down everything you are thankful for that day. Once a week, go back over your entries. You’ll have A LOT to be grateful for. What a nice way to go to sleep!

7. Read. Some of my favorite and inspiring business writers include: Seth Godin, Al Ries, Paco Underhill, Guy Kawasaki, David Meerman Scott, Andy Sernovitz, Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff, David Vinjamuri, Ken Blanchard, Philip Kotler, Harry Beckwith, Malcom Gladwell and Stephen Covey, among others. Even if you don’t read all their books, some of these experts have blogs you can subscribe to for daily inspiration. Also, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business Week, New York Times/SmallBusiness and WSJ are all good for inspiration. Some online publications have daily inspiration emails you can receive in the AM to help get your day started. There are also plenty of blogs about entrepreneurship (aside from this one). You can find some of the best ones at

8. Look around and think about how every great marketing idea might apply to you. For example, look at Point-Of-Purchase promotions as a marketer, not a consumer. Think about what attracts you to a book cover or a product at a retailer. Read your direct mail! Stop that DVR and watch commercials! Click on banner ads! It’s a free marketing education.

9. Keep an Inspiration binder or bulletin board. Read a great article? See an image you like? Find a color palette that you are attracted to? Print or swipe it and add it to your collection.

10. Ask God or the Universe (or whatever you believe in) for what you want. Ok Ok, it sounds hokey, but believe me, you get what you want. Always.

11. If someone does something nice for you, ask them how you can help them – even if it sounds silly to you. If you meet a CEO who says she can help you, it may feel weird to ask how you can help her, but CEOs and other powerful people are people too, and more than anything, people want to feel appreciated. Offering to help is a better way to say thank you than sending a Thank You note. But do that too ;-) And thank them with something that communicates your brand. I sent a children’s book to a CEO for his twin daughters, and signed the note, Auntie Melanie Approved! Trust me, it’ll be a lot easier to ask for help the next time you need it!

12. Get business cards! Ok, you may not have a business yet, but you are still the President of your career. So get temporary business cards that say who you are, even if you’re not there yet. Before I had my branding, I got business cards that read: Auntie Melanie Notkin. Trust me, it will get people asking about your business, and eventually, it will be a reality. You can even get 250 free business cards at Vistaprint to start.

13. Write down your talents. Don’t be modest. Think about the most challenging accomplishments in your career. How did you succeed? Write down all those steps and you’ll realize you know more than you realized! And every day, write one of your talents on a virtual sticky Webnote on your Netvibes homepage!

14. Talk to people who inspire you. Don’t talk to people who don’t.

15. Keep a notebook just for your business notes. Read it once a week. It will be inspiring to see how far you go week by week.

16. Listen to music. Find artists who inspire you to believe in yourself. What music inspires you?

17. Read stories about entrepreneurs. For women, Beth Schoenfeldt and Victoria Colligan’s: Ladies Who Launch is great. Accidental Branding - How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands by David Vinjamuri is also inspiring. And don’t forget, people like Howard Schultz (Starbucks) was an entrepreneur at one point too. Everybody starts somewhere.

18. Talk to other entrepreneurs and help them in any way you can. Offer to write an article for their Website, promote their products to your friends, send them encouraging emails, etc. Karma is a Boomerang.

19. Ask for help. Even from a perfect stranger. Believe it or not, people love to help. And you need all the help you can get.

20. Inspire others! That Karma/Boomerang thing again... You can start by forwarding this blog post to a friend who might benefit from it.

I hope at least some of these tips have helped. Please feel free to add your tips below in the Comments section. I would love to hear about the things that keep YOU motivated, inspired and on course - as would the rest of my Dear Readers. Thank you!

Auntie Melanie


  1. Great post!
    I'm trying to keep myself in that mindset. I waver from time to time but I'm determined to make it work!

    I'll definitely be printing this out to keep as a reminder!

  2. I love this. #14 is my fav. It took me a while to learn this one, but when I did it changed my whole life.

    I would add: When making a decision, think about whether you've made your choice out of fear. Then decide whether it's worth it. This applies to everything from choosing business partners or working late on a Friday night.

  3. Now THIS is a fantastic post!

  4. That is a great post! I feel inspired already. Thanks for sharing your tips and success stories. I also like to do one thing for myself each day, that way I don't feel overwhelmed. It could be something as simple as enjoying the sun or doing a few yoga stretches.

  5. Such a great post about not only being an awesome entrepreneur, but also for living an awesome life! Really well done!!! You are such an inspiration.

  6. Melanie - I was so excited to see that you wrote this post and then even more excited to see that I actually already do some of the things that you suggest! As we've been getting to know one another, you already know that #18 is one of my most sacred rules to live by, and not just from a business perspective. Doing good things for other people is just the best way to live your life - the good things that come back are just a bonus.

    Thanks again for such an inspiring post, I'm going to start working on those tasks that I haven't done yet.........

  7. Hey Auntie-

    Nice post. My fave is #20. The absolute best thing you can do for others in your life (complete stangers) is show them what's possible in life. Keep up the good work.

    I liked your list so much I linked to it on my blog to help spread the word.

  8. I am so happy that this post is appreciated and being shared! Thank you all!

  9. Auntrepreneur... love it!

    Great list, I will share it on my blog, as well.

    Best of fortune on your business travels!

  10. I love to say to myself "The best reward is success" and try to give myself the feeling of success each and every day.

  11. This is a great list! I sent it on to my employees because I think it can apply to everyone! Thank you for this!

  12. Great post! I'm going to forward this to my office mate who is a new entrepreneur as well.

  13. I dig it. Nice post, I love the demographic you are going for w/ Savvy Auntie!

    Find other biz tips for entrepreneurs at my blog


  14. I LOVE your list -- thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Melanie - I loved this list when we were in LWL incubator together - and this has been my favorite tip. I *try* to do it whenever I'm dreading a particular task.

    "Do the most challenging items on your To-Do list before 11AM"

  16. Great article! Thanks for sharing it. I think I will pass it on to my readers at living a LuSHHus life. Cheers!

  17. Great post!

    21. Hire a virtual assistant from, who can help you offload complicated, labor oriented or non-core components of your business processes, so you can focus on your core business and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

  18. Good post dear,

    If you need virtual assistant hire true professionals. Visit for complete assistance.

  19. I'm definitely bookmarking this post and recommend it to people I know. These are extremely helpful and could help people achieve a balanced and healthy life. Great job!

  20. Definitely a good list for would-be entrepreneurs and business people. Do you have a list for businesses that are exclusively online?


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