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7 Honest Reasons Why Your Personal Brand Strategy Isn't Working

Personal branding. 

We have explored why it serves as a winning edge for professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners. 

Yet there are still some deep rooted misconceptions about personal branding. 

Some people view its as form of narcissistic expression, therefore a waste of time. They end up missing out on attracting opportunities and

relationships that could actually move their careers forward. 

Conversely there are others who obsess over their personal brands. They dedicate hours curating content their Twitter feed and tweaking their LinkedIn profile for the nth time. The opportunity cost lies in look



Let's imagine that you are a business entity. 

According to the book Traction, you need two ingredients to kickstart a successful business. 

1. Providing a product offering that solves a market need

2. Finding distribution channels towards your target market 


1. Product Offering: This comprises of your unique skills, relevant qualifications and personality. How are you adding value to the organisation you aim to join? 

2. Distribution Channels: This refers to the entire journey from discovering your existence to selecting you ahead of other job applicants. What channels are you getting discovered and how are you positioned uniquely? 

As you can see, the product offering boils down to the hard work in developing your professional craft while being strategic with your career direction. 

On the other hand, getting discovered and differentiating yourself uniquely is where Personal Branding comes in. 

Does it make sense so far? 

This week, we'll not going to cover short term tactics such as which social media platforms to use. 

Rather, I will share certain mindsets to help guide your thinking around this concept.  


1. You Ignore The Zero Moment Of Truth

It is common advice that building a LinkedIn profile or a personal website is essential for personal branding. 

And I would like to take this concept further. 

It is not actually about which specific platform you should build up a brand on. The reason is because platforms are constantly rising and falling. 

2020's Facebook might be Snapchat. Who knows? 

Here's what really matters - When someone searches your name on Google (aka The Zero Moment Of Truth), is there sufficient information to form a positive impression about you? 

While we do recommend a personal website as it serves as a hub for your brand, lacking one isn't the end of the world. 

Let me give you an example - Let's say you lack a personal website. But in the meantime you have been guest posting frequently on authority sites, searchers are likely to stumble upon your articles and be impressed at the depth of domain expertise. 

This beats having a personal website where you post sub-standard content and no one is reading it. 

So yes, do continue to build digital assets. But ask yourself "Do it help me with Google's Zero Moment Of Truth?" 


2. Hard Selling Without Giving Value

This goes without saying. 

We all know how annoying it is to knock on doors uninvited and shove paper into the hands of your 'prospects'. 

It is simply a social taboo. 

Yet this social etiquette gets forgotten in the online work. People who are desperate to get heard, so they visit forums and dump their promotional links. 

Or they do a mass follow-unfollow campaign on Twitter. When someone follows them back, there is an automated inbox message asking the new follower to buy their products. 


Gary Vaynerchuck talks about his philosophy of "Jab Jab Jab Right Hook". Simply put, you need to give out free value before asking for the sale. 

Hence rather than PUSHING for the sale, you are GUILTING people into buying your products. 

Here's what you should do instead...

Stop trying to 'look good' and schedule some time to make your connections 'look good'.  

A great example includes 'liking' and 'commenting' on their posts. It is our human nature to enjoy receiving attention and it becomes a sure-fire way to build like-ability. 

3. Giving Value Without Any Selling

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are people who make the mistake of building a personal brand without having anything to sell. 

Have you met someone who asks people out for coffee just to 'touch base'? 

While it is always good to grow your networks, meeting for coffee without an follow up offer can be a waste of time.

What do I mean by follow up offer? 

This does not just apply to selling your products. It could also mean pitching your services as a consultant or an employee. Or strengthening the bond by sharing new knowledge or introducing relevant referrals. 

Why is it important to have 'something to offer'? 

This gives you a sense of purpose and focus when you carry out your personal branding activities. 

If you are merely posting content and forming new connections on social media without an end goal, you risk losing focus and annoying busy people. 

Failing to do so also might hamper your long term commitment. For instance you might start viewing personal branding activities as a chore because it does not contribute to your overall goals. 

You are also likely to be scattered in your approach as you lack clarity about who you're appealing to and where to steer the conversation towards. 

So before you start, it is critical to understand what is your follow-up offer.  


4. Confusing Privacy With Authenticity

Do I have to reveal my private life on social media? 

You might be facing ambiguity between what to share and what NOT to share online. 

Yet there is a stark difference between broadcasting what you ate for breakfast Vs sharing why you are participating in a marathon to support a not-for-profit. 

See the difference? 

People don't need to know the nitty and gritty parts of your life, plus all the skeletons in your closet. 

But what they need to know is that you are human - just like them. 

Share with them selected parts of your story including successes (to inspire them) and failures (with an emphasis towards lessons learnt). 

Not comfortable talking about yourself? 

Start commenting on the podcasts you listen to, books you read and podcasts you attend. That way you can express your unique perspective, build on the knowledge put forth by experts. 


5. Personal Brand Replaces Hard Work

Sorry to burst your bubble, but personal branding isn't the magic potion to success. 

Remember the two components of a successful business we covered earlier I.e. Product offering and distribution channels? 

Personal branding only accounts for one element of success. 

You have to put in the hard work. 

Gary Vaynerchuck ranted about this topic in his article "Stop Asking Me About Your Personal Brand, and Start Doing Some Work". 

He revealed how during the early days of his career, he wasn't obsessed about building his personal brand. Instead he toiled for many hours to build up his domain expertise and create valuable networks.

More great advice by Gary V: 

"To position yourself as an expert is difficult, but most people aren’t asking the first important question, which is: expert in what? What do you want to provide people with? What are you great at? What do you love? What is your legacy going to be (because legacy is always above currency)?" 

My stance - Why not both? 

Build your personal brand along side your hard work. 

The insights that you gather through projects, turn them into blog posts (or videos) and it automatically becomes the staple of your personal brand. 


6. It Is Too Time Consuming

It is true that personal branding activities take time, but it doesn't need to be time consuming. 

Seriously, it boils down to time management. 

If you are commuting to and from work, it is a prime opportunity to jot down some notes about your work. 

What new experiments are you going to test today? 

What new insights did you learn from existing projects? 

Or if you are taking a break during work, go to an industry news site and start sharing articles. 

My tools of choice are Feedly (acts as a RSS feed aggregator) and Buffer (social media scheduling tool). With this, I ensure that my LinkedIn and Twitter channels are constantly filled with awesome content. 

Not only does it form a digital footprint, I am able to retrieve all the useful content I encountered at my own convenience. 


7. Broadcasting, Not Conversing

Don't forget the 'social' in social media. 

One bloke once commented "Everyone on Twitter seems to be shouting, no one seems to be listening." 

That is so true. 

Remember the 'Jab Jab Jab Hook' concept covered by Gary Vaynerchuk earlier? 

Cutting through the noise doesn't necessarily mean shouting louder. Rather it could mean listening attentively to what other have to say. 

Rather than simply broadcasting, start tagging people within your community. Try to engage them in a conversation. 

It could even mean privately messaging individuals a content piece relevant to their industry. When done right, it comes across as a thoughtful relationship building gesture. 

Where you post or engage, it is important to bear in mind the end goal. 

The aim is not to engage in a competition for attention and likes. No it isn't. 

Rather it builds done to building relationships that translates into real world benefits. For you and your network.


To Wrap It All Up...

As promised I did not go through specific tactics this time round. While covering tactics surely has value, instilling the right mindsets around personal branding is more critical. 

I hope this serves as a robust framework to grow your brand beneficial to your career or business. 

Plus don't forget to shine the light on those surrounding you.  

Good luck! 


Found this article useful? You should check out our workshops. Learn the latest tips on how use personal branding and networking to grow your business.

Side Hustle: A Practical Guide To Starting A Business

What is the fastest way to attain financial wealth? 

If your comprises of maximising discount coupons and reduced eating out, you are completely wrong. 

The answer is earn more money. 

Introducing the side hustle. 

“The art of creating your own business as a side project to your regular 9-5 employment.” 

Yes you read it right. Starting a business while working a full time job. 

But isn’t it insanely to fit both in? 

I wouldn’t lie, it is going to be difficult. But still possible. 

Today, we will explore why people embark on the side hustle journey. Along with strategies they use to make it possible.


Why Adopt A Side Hustle? 

Apart from increasing your spending budget, here are several advantages to building a side hustle: 




Companies today aren’t loyal like they used to. 

According to a study by Intuit, more than 40% of the US workforce will turn into independent contractors by 2020. 

Before you get worried, do take a step back to understand why this trend is happening. 

In a competitive business environment driven by technology, industries are getting constantly disrupted. 

To remain competitive and agile, companies have take a more flexible approach to hiring. 

They hire contractors over permanent staff and require freelancers from overseas. 

According to a study by Heartland Monitor Poll, 78 percent of adults agreed that "compared to earlier generations … it is currently harder" for young people today "to get started in life." 

Imagine your side hustle as a career insurance. 

By diversifying into several income streams, losing a job *touch wood* will still hurt. 

But not as much as your co-worker who relies solely on his income. 




Dreams to become your own boss one day? 

A side hustle is a risk free method to achieve that.

Just take a step back and imagine the common risks associated with starting a business. 

A. Product Fit: You need to develop a product that solves a legitimate problem in the market. Also testing price points that the market is willing to pay while remaining profitable  

B. Customer Base: A robust sales pipeline is essential as the life blood of any business. You need to gain clarity around which is the most viable customer acquisition channels

C. Systems & Processes: A profitable business does not just boil down to superior technical skills. You need to develop processes to attract clients and delivery the work more efficiently

All these milestones require time to developed. 



Use your side hustle as a sandbox to develop new skills.

During your day job, you might be pigeon-holed as a cog in the machine. There is pre-existing rules you need to follow in exchange for a paycheque. 

With your side hustle, it’s a blank canvas. 

While you might be a technician in your day job, you will be required to wear different hats. 

For example, learning how to pitch your product, design a sale process and develop processes. 

Even if you don’t transit into a full-time business eventually, these skills will transform you into a dream employee. 

By having the ability to view activities on a business level, you can start relating to the goals and concerns of your boss. 

This new perspective will open doors to better career opportunities. 


Side Hustle Business Ideas

So a side hustle might sound like a viable idea…

But where do you start? 

Here are great resources that you can check out for side hustle ideas. 

You can check out: 

50 Side Hustles You Can Start Pretty Quickly For $50 Or Less

95 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today  

The Top 68 Side Hustles: Add Some More Money to Your Life  

Step 1: Find willing customers

Step 2: Delivery a great offer

Yes it is that simple. No complicated machinery or complex marketing campaigns required. 

In general, services are easier to deliver over products. They are less risk, faster to execute and require less money. 

For instance, working as an Uber driver is easier to execute than developing an app. 


Freeing Up Time For The Side Hustle



How do you make time while juggling a full time job? 

The answer is to work early in the morning before work, or stay up till late after work. 

Since this falls outside normal work hours, it has huge advantages too. 

As Ross Simmonds puts it “The biggest drain on your time isn’t the time in which you’re busy getting things done; the biggest drain on your time is being interrupted.” 

That is an accurate observation according to a digital distraction study. It found that when human and digital distractions are encountered, it takes 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task. 

Do check out our article on productivity. Especially impressive is how Jack Dorsey leverages his time to run two companies at once. 




How you spend your time when NOT working is equally as important as when you’re working. 

It determine how well rested you are when returning to the grind. 

Rather than surfing Facebook or binging on Netflix, take the time to actually unplug and fully relax. 

Meditate. Go for a stroll.  Sweat it out at a gym. 

I highly recommend you check out “Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure For Anxiety” where Charlie Hohen (former burnt out workaholic) shares effective strategies for decompressing from the hectic schedule. 

Apart from relaxing, you can turn your daily commutes into a classroom. 

Listen to a podcast or audiobook. This allows to learn insights from top entrepreneurs. 

Here are some podcasts to get you started:

Entrepreneurs On FireSmart Passive IncomeSocial Triggers InsiderMixergy



Are there repetitive tasks that you consider outside your circle of competence? 

Bookkeeping. Keyword Research. Banner Design. Social Media Posts. Website Development. 

Does any ring a bell? 

It is probably a good idea to outsource these activities so that you can focus on what actually moves the needle forward. 

Do check out sites like Fiverr and Upwork as hotspots to recruit freelancers. 

A word of caution - Do not every outsource your core activities by replying on third parties.

It is akin to a restaurant that outsources its cooking. 

Case in point - Mark McGuire, founder of Nextt used development firms to build his product, like many other startups, which ended up as a waste of time and money.

Lesson learnt, remember to delegate wisely. You are ultimately responsible for the success of failure of the business. 




Create time blocks within your weekly calendar.

“Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.”

According to best selling author Cal Newport, he attributes his productivity success to the “Fixed-Scheduled” technique

Advice by Do-It-Yourself entrepreneur Tyler Tervooren- Even if all you can spare 20 minutes, that is better than nothing. 

The 20 minutes rule has two benefits: 

A. It sets the habit of working on your project a little bit every day.

B. It gets you started each day, and you usually end up motivated to work much longer.

Either way, you need to block of time and make it a priority. Otherwise other life commitments would flood your schedule and push aside your side hustle. 




Having a tribe of like-minded entrepreneurs will keep you accountable. 

If you are working in a full time job, it is easy to rationalise that you are tired and don’t need to grow your side hustle. 

Or you might be surrounded with friends who pressure you to “hang out” on a Thursday night, instead of hustling like you should. 

The format among mastermind group varies. 

Some of the more effective ones I see are daily check-ins. Members report on tasks done and key tasks for the day ahead. 

Apart from keeping accountable, mastermind groups is a great way to network while share resources and knowledge. 

For instance, members can save by sharing access an online course. 

Or even swapping business referrals. 

The benefits are endless when you surround yourself with like-minded. 

And maybe surrounding yourself with business owners might inspire you to turn your side hustle into a full time gig.  



Side hustle requires commitment. 

The evenings where you merely chill out and watch television till late? 

The weekday mornings where you sleep in and wake up just in time for work? 

You might have to wave goodbye to these ‘luxuries’, based on the lifestyle adjustments required to pursuit your side hustle. 

This includes other side projects that you do just for fun, without actually moving your side hustle forward.  

In the book “Essentialism: The Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown, he covers how focus is the main differentiator between peak performers and ordinary folks. 

The same holds true for your side hustle. You need to focus all your energies on developing one business till it hits peak level, instead of getting distracted by various shiny opportunities. 


To Wrap It All Up…

There is no doubt that pursuing a side hustle is difficult. 

But ultimately it depends whether your ‘WHY’ to build a business is strong enough. 

Here’s a quote worth remembering:

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” 

All the best in your side hustle! 


Found this article useful? You should check out our workshops. Learn the latest tips on how use personal branding and networking to grow your business.

7 Cringeworthy Reasons Why Startups Fail (+Real Examples)

As founders or entrepreneurs, it is fair to say we are an optimistic bunch. 

Despite the odds, we like to look at the upside of starting a business. 

That causes us to leap into the unknown, when coasting in the comfort of a day job can seem like the more logical option. 

This is amplified by the media echoing success stories that hail our startup heroes on a daily basis. 

Instagram gets bought for $1 billion dollar in 500 days. 

Uber is valued at $US18 billion in June and operates in 128 cities across 45 countries.

Dropbox has amassed a 50 million user figure and $240 million in revenue, despite barely existing a decade ago. 

But here’s a statistic you should know. 

According to the Startup Genome Project, 92% of startups fail within three years. 

Why am I telling you this? 

No, my intention is not to deter you from entrepreneurship. But rather to help you enter with both eyes open. 

By learning from the failures of others, hopefully you will…

Save years of gut wrenching mistakes…

Shorten your learning curve and…

Reach startup success faster. 

CB Insights did a research on the primary drivers of startup failure based on 101 startup post-mortems. 

Unsurprisingly, the big failure triggers boiled down to “No Market Need” (42%), Ran Out Of Cash” (29%) and “Not The Right Team” (23%). 

#1 Demanding Product Delivery

As a new company, manpower is in limited supply. 

And it needs to fulfil two needs: Building the product and acquiring customers. 

BitShuva is a radio software that serves underserved radio niches. 

It started off serving the the Messianic Jewish religious community. Then it received requests to set up radio platforms for other niches.

Nigerian music. West African soul. Egyptian Coptic chants. Indie artists. Instrumentals. Ethiopian pop. A marketplace for beats. Local bands from central Illinois. 

All these clients came out of the woodwork, asking him to build clones of his radio station for their communities.

It failed due to the adoption of customised product delivery. Clients continuously demanded bespoke specifications such as new features and bug fixes. 

Considering the heavy workload involved and lack of funds to hire additional manpower, it was a broken business model. 

Compare this with how Wordpress designs its product. 

It does not give its customers a customised platform, but engineers a customisable platform instead. 

Users have the flexibility to choose various themes and plugins according to their needs and preferences. 

Take a second to consider the difference - Customised vs Customisable

Customers are happy because they have the flexibility to alter the product according to their specific needs. 

Wordpress does not need to be involved with individual client and focus its resources on creating an automated platform instead. 

It becomes a win-win equation. 




#2 - Pitch Fails The 3 Seconds Test

Can you explain your product within three seconds? 

Unfortunately Amiloom collapsed because they failed in their pitch. 

Brief Background - Amiloom is a connected device that forms a network of people with common friends, shared tastes, and who only need to go as far as the device was handed to meet up with each other.

Below is their ‘how it works chart’: 


This required a 12 step explanation. And even then, it is unlikely that one would understand what the app is about. 

Compare it with the tag lines of these successful companies 


Coca Cola - Happiness In A Bottle

Slack - Be Less Busy

Slack - Be Less Busy

Youtube - Broadcast Yourself

Youtube - Broadcast Yourself

Asana - Teamwork Without Email

Asana - Teamwork Without Email

You get the idea. Their value proposition is succinctly explained within one sentence. 

Simple to understand without the jargon. 

Why is this so important? 

The reason is because attention is scarce in the digital economy. 

You need to clearly articulate how you can benefit your target audience, or risk getting lost in the sea of ambiguity. 




#3 No Market Demand

Building a product and seeking funding, without marketing validation. 

Sigh, this is the biggest reason why startups fail. 

In fact it makes up the bulk of the failure in the research by CB Insights covered earlier. 

A spectacular fail worth mentioning is Kolos.

Kolos is an iPad racing wheel project . 

Romanticised by the idea, Ivaylo Kalburdzhiev, a Bulgarian entrepreneur launched a Kickstarter campaign after investing three year in development. 

Prior to that, there was no market research or validation. 

This set the stage for an expensive failure. 

The Kolos team experienced a fail crowdsourcing campaign, which signalled that there wasn’t sufficient market demand for their products. 

Compare this with Buffer, the social media management app. 

During its infant stage, it test if people would pay for its concept via a minimum viable product (MVP). 

This comprised of sending paid traffic to a landing page. 

On the occasion when people opted in to enquire about pricing, they counted it as a conversion. 

This allows the Buffer team to optimise their marketing message before building the product. 




#4 Steep Operational Overheads

Company revenue can be deceptive. 

Even if the company is experiencing cashflow, heavy expenditure can tank the startup financially. 

One key example is Zirtual, a virtual assistant matchmaking service. 

At its peak it had 500 employees, served thousands of clients and was on a $11 million run rate.

All this sounds great on paper yet…

It’s burn rate was extremely high. 

The tipping point came when they moved from independent contractors to employees. 

With skyrocketing costs, they struggled to raise more money. 

Unfortunately they were unable to raise funding in time and got bought up by Startups.co

Here is some money saving tips from other entrepreneurs:

"Instead of renting an office, try finding a coworking space or working out of a coffee shop. It'll save you a huge amount of money."  

- Ben Lang, MapMe 


"The less you do, the better you will be at doing it. If you don't have the infrastructure to support a sales team or enough work for another employee, don't hire them. The fewer obligations you have, the faster you can pursue new opportunities."

- Lucas Sommer, Audimated


"Find monthly and short-term services to avoid getting into contracts and agreements that require capital you may not have. The more control you have over all your expenses, the better."

- Lisa Nicole Bell, Inspired Life Media 


"Bring on employees that have a high risk tolerance and are committed to keeping down costs. You need people that are willing to take lower salaries because they see the upside of getting a lot of equity in the company. All employees also need to be resourceful in stretching available resources."

- Ben Rubenstein, Yodle




#5 High Customer Acquisition Costs


Profitable Business: Revenue > Expenditure

This might seem like a simple equation, yet it can be more difficult to apply in actualbusiness circumstances. 

And that was the biggest reason why Homejoy failed. 

Homejoy was known as the Uber of home cleaning. 

Using logistics algorithm, it connects home owners with contract-for-hire cleaners. 

While this sounded like the smart use of the on-demand economy, there was one issue. 

High customer acquisition costs.  

It relied too heavily on daily deal sites like Groupon to draw in new customers. 

This immediately decreased its cashflow as consumers we accessing Homejoy cleanings for as little as $19.99. 

Unfortunately, discounted deals attracted the wrong type of customers. Their internal data showed that most of these people would never use the service again. 

Compare this with AirBnB’s referral program. 

As travel is a popular conversation topic, AirBnB uses referral marketing to acquire new customers at a dirt cheap rate. 

The offer was enticing: referrers would receive a $25 travel credit when new members took their first trip. 

New customers who were referred also received a $25 travel credit. This encouraged referrers to “help a friend out” rather than be perceived as selfishly accumulating travel credit. 

This arrangement was a win for the existing customers, their friends and Airbnb. Ultimately allowing the company to double its growth to $25 billion within a year. 




#6 Overly Focusing On Funding


“Incorporation comes with costs that you shouldn’t have. Focus on your customers and the problem you’re solving. Nothing else matters in the early days.”

Gil Sadis, Liscensaro


Yes raising funds might seem like a sexy idea, yet it might do little to move your business idea forward. 

That was what happened to Gil Sadis’s SaSS startup. 

On hindsight, he quit his day job too soon. This created massive financial pressure and forced him to look for funding. 

This naturally resulted in the dispersal of his time in talking to customers and building a product they actually wanted. 

Compare this with serial entrepreneur Jon Yongfook

He bootstrapped his company, starting off with no employees and zero revenue. 

The result is a heightened sense of resourcefulness and focus to get the business up and running. 

He cautions that raising funding is time consuming. 


“Every minute you spend talking to investors is a minute that you could be improving your product and delighting your customers. Realistically you'll need 50 meetings to get interest from 5 investors, which will result in 1 term sheet. If you're an early stage startup that has barely made its first dollar, I can't think of a more epic waste of time.”


In addition, the lack of investors gives you the flexibility to pivot according to the market needs without reporting to anyone. 

“this will involve keeping investors in the loop about your progress and major business decisions. At the worst, this will involve more business overhead (meetings, futzing around in excel, getting sign off before you buy things), potential micromanagement or having to constantly justify your actions.” 


Lastly, seeking funding to scale after you find a product fit puts you in control of your business.

“They say the best conditions to raise funding are when you don't need it. If investors want to invest in your company when you're bootstrapped, profitable and growing - you have all the leverage. You can name your terms and walk away from the deal if you aren't happy. There will be other interested investors.” 


#7 Wrong Timing

There’s an old saying in startups: “being early is the same as being wrong.”And it’s true.

Dodgeball was a location-based social network. 

It allow people to find and meet up with friends within their proximity.

Unfortunately this was before smartphones and Facebook was invented. 

This meant that every communication happened through text messages, which was less user-friendly than live messenger. 

Without Facebook, people didn’t really understand why they would want continuous updates on what their friends were up to. 

Today, the concept Dodgeball has re-emerged as Foursquare. 

Powered by smartphones and Facebook, it is a runaway success. 

About the importance of timing for a startup’s success, simply watch this video by Bill Gross, serial entrepreneur. 

“Many business models that failed in the early 2000s are now incredibly successful because now, the timing is right, the technology is here, and it’s easier than ever before to achieve scale. 

As an example, my company SitePoint tried selling ebooks back in 2000 and no one bought into it. It was a complete and utter disaster and forced us to print and ship physical books—which sold like hotcakes. 

The reason is simple, people were still getting used to the idea of shopping online, and paying for digital goods was still a foreign concept to many. 

ast forward a few years, with the iTunes revolution, Kindle and iPad, and all of a sudden, ebook sales are trending sharply upward every year.”

- Matt Mickiewicz, Flippa and 99designs



To Wrap It All Up

So there you have it.

Above are 7 common reasons why startups fail. 

To recap they are:

#1 Demanding Product Delivery

#2 Complicated Pitch

#3 No Market Demand

#4 Steep Operational Overheads

#5 High Customer Acquisition Costs

#6 Overly Focusing On Funding 

#7 Wrong Timing 


Are there any startup pitfalls you have witnessed first-hand? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Found this article useful? You should check out our workshops. Learn the latest tips on how use personal branding and networking to grow your business.

How A Corporate Executive Left Her Job, Launched A Business & Secured Her First Client Within 12 Weeks

Is jumping from corporate into entrepreneurship scary? 

It depends who you ask. 

But for most corporate executives though, that is certainly the case. 

Let's look at the bigger picture. 

Over the years, there has been the growing trend of corporate executives dropping out of their high paying jobs to start their own practice.

And this is due to a combination of reasons: 



Industries are getting disrupted by new business models and technology. This has resulted mass lay offs where highly paid corporate scrabble to fight for the next job. 

Staying within a stagnant job is akin to shooting fishes in a barrel. 

Just not the place you wish to be. 



While life as an executive can be very busy, does it actually fulfil your need for growth?

Most times, corporate roles requires you to be a specialist within a niche area.  

While you will get proficient at limited tasks over time, the corporate structure and bureaucracy limits your scope for growth. 

The result is a stifled growth curve and creative expression due to over-dependence on the corporate system. 



Imagine spending several decades in a corporate. Though you might have a fat pay-check and a prestigious position, you are unable to dictate your time as you wish. 

For instance if you wish to coach your kid's baseball team on a Tuesday afternoon, will work allow you to do so? 

Or play golf on a Thursday afternoon with your mates. 

These are examples where you might fall short in terms of life satisfaction. Despite working hard for decades to climb the corporate ladder. 

So what is stopping you from starting your own business? 


While there are compelling reasons to leave corporate, fear of the unknown holds executives back. 

One of the key reasons is financial. 

With obligations such paying off your home mortgage and school fees for your kids, foregoing a stable income is a serious matter. 



- "What business idea should I pursue?" 

- "How do I ensure a consistent flow of client work?" 

- "How do I position my business apart from competitors?" 

That was exactly that LI12W student Carol Benton asked when she left corporate. 

And within 12 weeks, she landed her first client. Here's her story. 



Introducing Carol Benton... 

She has had an impressive corporate career. 

Her highlight being appointed the General Manager of Toshibha Global Commerce division. 

Despite her high paying job, she was unsatisfied. Her role requires her to travel and separated her from her husband and children throughout the year. 

As a mother, she felt anxious that she could not spend enough time with her children before they grow up and leave home. 

Her husband commented that even when she was physically at home, her mind was occupied about work. 

Lastly, she felt frustrated that despite climbing towards the top of the corporate ladder, someone else had control over her time. 

This led her to seek alternative paths such as starting her own business.

Here is What Her LI12W Journey Looked Like

The goal was to launch her business within 12 weeks - From idea conception to building a client-generating system. 



Initially, Carol wanted to start a business but she was unsure about the products it should sell. 

This proved challenging because she functioned as a generalist during her corporate career. 

Hence we embarked on the ‘Understand’ exercise. 

This comprised of exploring her expertise, strengths and interest. 

After several brainstorming sessions, she recalled an incident where a ex-colleague remarked “Who is going to write the proposals when you leave the company?”

At this point, Carol knew she was on to something. 

With additional coaching sessions from Andrew, she started to sculpt the value proposition and target niche for her business. 

Her observation was that while businesses work hard to generate leads, they typically lose potential clients at the proposal stage. 

The reason was because their proposal does not sufficiently talk about the business benefits of the project. 

Watch her video here: 



Now that we had determine the business idea, it was time to find clients. 


But before that, we needed to build an online profile where her connections could learn more about her services. 


To kickstart the process, we focused on her LinkedIn profile. 

Why LinkedIn? 

Regarded as an authority site by Google, your profile ranks top of the search result when someone ‘googles’ your name. 

We worked on various profiles elements designed to catch the eye of her ideal clients and convince them that she was the right person for the gig.

A key profile element we sculpted was the positioning tagline. 

Most professionals simply state their job positions. And that is basically leaving money on the table. 

We helped her design a benefits-focused tagline: 

“Expert communication consultant and business writer, helping clients win more business with effective proposals”. 

It immediately enables profile visitors to understand exactly how she can help level up their business. 



At this stage, we have clarified her business idea and built a lead generation machine. 

The final step was to craft a compelling pitch for her services and win customers. 

As a new business owner, the bulk of your business comes through referrals. 

You can keep yourself top of mind within your existing connections by publishing new articles and sharing niche-related content. 

Alternatively, your pitch comes in handy when meeting new connections through networking events. 

Through in-person interactions, you are immediately able to transition toward a private coffee catch up. 

And even if that individual is not your ideal client, a compelling pitch allows them to refer you on towards their network. 



She managed to attract client from her existing network - even before the 12 week program ended. 

And that is not the end of it. 

She even landed an overseas client from Hong Kong through LinkedIn. 

Due to her succinct positioning, her connections could clearly visualise how her skills could help their business. 

This has given her the confidence that she has a viable business model that is scalable in the coming months. 


So there you have it...

Here is how Carol left her corporate job and went on to secure her first paying clients within 12 weeks. 

The jump from corporate to startup might seem daunting…

But with the right support and direction, it becomes possible. 

Here is what she has to say about the course:

“I knew that I didn’t want to work for someone else, but didn’t feel quite confident whether companies would require my service. “Launch In 12 Weeks” gave me the structure to assemble various parts of my business and bring it to market. Without it I would still be scrambling to figure it out and would have probably found another corporate job. With the support from Andrew and my course mates, paying for this course is worth every penny and more. More importantly, I currently do work that energises me, been blessed with the ability to control my schedule and spend more time with my family.” 

Found this article useful? You should check out our workshops. Learn the latest tips on how use personal branding and networking to grow your business.

Evaluate Your Business Idea: The Ultimate Guide To Creating What Your Market ACTUALLY Wants

30 years ago, a young man was stuck in Puerto Rico. 

His flight to British Virgin Islands (BVI) was cancelled because the airline “didn’t have enough passengers to warrant the flight”. 

Annoyed at the incident, he borrowed a blackboard, hired a plane and went around selling a $39 one way ticket to BVI. 

After approaching all the passengers who had been bumped from the flight, he filled his first plane. 

The young man’s name was Richard Branson, and this marked the beginning of Virgin Airlines. 

While that sounds inspirational, starting a business can still feel like a leap of faith. 

You have a dream that you feel passionate about. Yet it is normal to feel anxious about whether it is going to work out fine. 

Here are a few questions probably swirling in your head: 

- Are people really going to buy what I’m going to sell?

- Am I doing the right thing by starting this business?

- Will my business still be up and running in six months?

While you don’t want to take unnecessary risks, all these doubts paralyses you from taking action towards your dream business. 

Isn’t that frustrating? 

Good new though - We have put together this comprehensive guide to help you create a business that your market ACTUALLY wants. 

[BONUS DOWNLOAD] Cheatsheet To Selecting A Winning Business Idea

Understand Your Target Market

Sure that might seem like marketing 101 advice. 

But it is frequently forgotten by inexperienced entrepreneurs who get obsessed with building the perfect product, rather than intimately getting to know the market. 


Yes, you read this right. 

While friends and relatives want you to succeed (we hope), they are likely to be biased towards your offering. 

Attempting to appease you and preserve the relationship is a primary motivation. 

Unless they are your target market or have a wealth of experience within that industry. 

Otherwise, do steer clear of them and approach complete strangers. 

Here’s some advice by Danny Maloney, co-founder of Pinterest Analytics tool called Tailwind

“We 'validated' our first (failed) product by having friends and family tell us how wonderful it was. [It] felt great, but they didn’t use it. When we started Tailwind, we took a different approach -- asking complete strangers who didn’t care about us at all to [sign up] and pay before our product was even built.”



The biggest mistakes product creators make is keeping the idea to themselves. 

You must be willing to share it with others, so that you can refine it towards improvement or abandon it if it not a market fit. 

"Ideas are meant to be attacked, torn apart, and put back together again. You may well want to shield your idea from the harsh sunlight at first, but by the time it’s ready to meet the world, it should also be ready for rain or shine." - David H.Hansson of 37 Signals

Hence you must proactively conduct interviews with your target market. 

The lowest hanging fruit is reaching out to the subscribers of your email list. Simply secure 10 minutes of their time in person or over Skype. 

By holding a natural back and forth conversation, you are able to sense their hesitation, excitement or a “wow” impression. 

This gives you an insight into how specific features would be received by your target market. 



Here’s a useful tool by Google that you are probably unaware of. 

Google Trends allows you to see keywords and events that is trending worldwide. 

This is especially useful for extracting insights to growing trends that represent a hidden business opportunity. 

For instance, I might enter in the term “yoga” to discover that the marketplace is currently expanding.

Write here...

Write here...

Based on “Related Searches”, I can suss out growing opportunities within the “Yoga” niche. For instance, “yoga pants” and “Bikram yoga”

But should you be worried of competition in a mature market? 

No you shouldn't. 

As pointed out wisely by our friends at Foundr, being first in the market does not immediately guarantee success 

"Coca-Cola was the first cola producer, and yet Pepsi exists. Friendster and MySpace existed way before Facebook. Google’s founders were discouraged from developing their idea because ‘search’ already existed. Some readers will even remember a time when the iPod was scoffed at because the Zune already existed."



Hootsuite is similar to Google Trends, but it analyses social networks instead of search results. 

One of the huge advantages behind this tool is that you are able to identify relevant conversations and communicate with the people behind it. 

The power of talking to customers in real time is cost-effective way to gather data about the market. 

From there, you will be able to discern the sentiments of prospects towards your competitors while understanding the needs of the market better. 



One of the key aspects of market research is learning about the size of your audience. 

After all, you need a certain volume in order to be profitable right? 

One tool you should use is the Facebook Ad Tool. 

For instance, I might want to investigate how many people in Sydney, aged 23-40 years old are interested in “Yoga” 

By keying in the details into the ad tool, I see that there are 430,000 potential customers. 



Apart from test macro-trends, zoom in and ask yourself instead. 

Would you buy your own product? 

As Matt Ackerson, founder of SaberBlast.com mentions “The easiest way to validate an idea is to survey a market of one - yourself.” 

And that was also how Dropbox started. 

Drew Houston was on a bus ride home and wanted to work on a project. 

One problem though - He forgot his USB stick and couldn’t get to work. 

Frustrated with the lack of online file storage platforms available, he wrote the first lines of code for Dropbox. 


Build A Minimum Viable Product

Before investing lots of money and effort into building something, you need a prototype that your target market can engage and give you feedback. 

As Eric Ries of the Lean Startup movement describes it as: 

“A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” 

This is evident by the prominent social media platforms of today. They launched the raw version and iterated based on market feedback. 
For instance, Twitter didn’t start up with a “retweet” button. But they noticed hat users were manually copying Tweets and prefixing them with “RT,” so they built the feature into their product.
Another example is Facebook. Despite their success as the top social media platform, they continue to push code change live - twice a day, every day! 


This is one of the most effective methods for measuring market traction. 
By selling the product before creating it, you mitigate the risk of building something that prospects aren’t interested in. 
You can also tweak your sales copy to understand what truly resonates with the audience. 
Here is some words of advice by Iex Brola, co-founder and president of CheckMaid.com


“We actually validated [the idea] without having any cleaners to do the cleanings. We threw up a site, a booking form, a phone number, and ran some [pay-per-click] ads through Google and Bing, and saw what the conversion rate would be had we actually had cleaners.” 

Another example is Buffer, the social media scheduling app. 

He limited his MVP into a two-page product to see if people wanted to automate their tweets. 


Rather than explaining what you do with long paragraphs of text, try condensing it into a simple 90 seconds animation. 

This has helped software companies like Dropbox attract new users, even before their product was ready to launch. 


While its great to automate your services eventually, you might have to do it manually at the start. 

But not just any service! The service should consist of exactly the same steps people would go through with your product.

This would help you document the exact process required for automation, while saving you from burning excessive cash at the start. 

An example is Unsplash

It is a photography website created by Crew for creative projects. It also allows people to support and fund project creators from all over the word. 

Rather than spending weeks or months creating a website that might be a flop, we setup a free Tumblr blog with a $19 theme and uploaded 10 hi-resolution photos we took with a local photographer. Within three hours, the first version of Unsplash was built.



While looking for investor funding works, the alternative is to seek funds from the customers themselves. 

This ensure that you validate and fund the concept at the same time. 

There is a range of platforms such as Kickstart, IndieGoGo and RocketHubavailable to launch a crowdfunding campaign. 

Identify Distribution Channels

When considering your business idea, it is not only important to think about whether your product is a market fit. 

You need to factor in how to deliver the product into the hands of your customers. 

“A product with better distribution will always win over a superior product with poor distribution.” - Stephen Davis, CXO Advisory Group

Here are five key factors you need to consider:

1. Size of the market: This include the volume metrics and whether you are dealing with several customer profiles

2. Cost of distribution channel: Weighting the profitability of acquiring a customer via each channel 

3. Type of product: Is the product standardised or is customisation required? 

4. Degree of control over distribution channel: Is there possibility of competition with distribution? Can you dictate terms in your favour? 

5. Flexibility of channel: Length of market, time required to build a relationship 




That refers to visitors getting directed to your site through search engine. 

According to research, it has been shown to be very cost effective. 

Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads - Hubspot

SEO Leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads have a 1.7% close rate - SEJ

Acquiring customers via organic traffic is also advocated by Alex Turnbullof Groove

His startup sells software for customer support. Rather than aiming for popular keywords like “help desk software”, he started targeting specific keywords such as “help desk for saas startup”. 

While this did not yield as much search results, it resulted in more targeted leads. 

Within each web page or blog posts, relevant keywords were inserted: 

- Primary keywords into headers

- Secondary keywords into subheads

- Long-tail keywords into copy



Start writing useful posts for other websites. 

It’s an effective method to share your expertise with a new audience while giving your brand added exposure. 

This is how Groove grew so quickly, with guest posts published at OnStartups, Shopify, KISSmetrics, Buffer, AngelHack and Copyblogger,  


Want to learn how partnerships can grow your business exponentially? 

Just look at Uber. 

Without necessarily branching out to a whole new business, Uber grew its market through its partnership with Starwood Hotels, which allowed ground-transportation passengers to earn hotel points.

It even partnered up with potential rival - Google

Uber reached out to Google for a strategic partnership around Google’s maps, GPS and other resources. The partnership gave Uber much more than just strategy. In 2013, Google invested $258 million in the company.



“Yes, we know that referrals are the very best way to grow your business. And we know that asking for a referral is both scary but apparently the most effective technique.”

- Seth Godin

AirBnb’s referral program is a great example. 

It offers $25 credit for both the sender and recipient when the invited friend completes their first trip.

Many consumers just aren’t interested in trying to make money off of their friends, it seems greedy and could sour relationships.

But this works because its a win-win for both parties. 

This create a strong network effect that is highly scalable. 


To Wrap It All Up…


While I’m aware that the list of tips is non-exhaustible, I hope this helps you get started if you are still trying to evaluate your business idea. 

Remember that is boils down to the following steps: 

1 - Know Your Target Market 

2 - Create Your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) 

3 - Identify Distribution Channels.  


So don’t try to strain your mind trying to calculate the risk. 

Clarity comes from taking action, not just from sitting still in contemplation ;) 

Were these tips helpful? Are there other business idea evaluation tips that has worked for you? 

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

Found this article useful? You should check out our workshops. Learn the latest tips on how use personal branding and networking to grow your business.

Productivity Lessons: How Jack Dorsey Runs Two Companies At The Same Time

Source: Inc 

Jack Dorsey is known as one of the most productive entrepreneur in tech. 

He runs two companies at the same time - Square and Twitter. 

Mind blown - But how does he do it? 

It turns out that he has mastered the art of productivity. 

A common question we ask ourselves “How can I get MORE done in LESS time?” 

This is especially relevant in your business journey where you have to handle a myriad of commitments. 

- Your day job (if your business isn’t financially viable yet). 

- Your business or side projects (ventures you are aiming to grow into a full business). 

- Wellbeing - Spending resources to get your spirituality, nutrition and exercise sorted

- Relationships - Friends, family, kids and wider community 


As you can see, productivity is important to help us achieve more work so we can lead a more fulfilling life. 

Next, let’s break productivity into three components:

Source: A Life Of Productivity


1. Time: Are you allocating sufficient time for a designated task? 

2. Energy: Do you have sufficient energy to complete those tasks? 

3, Attention: Are you focusing on the right tasks that actually move the needle forward? 


Let’s start with the obvious - Time. 

It’s fair game - Everyone has 24 hours within a day.  

While you can’t negotiate for more time (other than living longer I suppose?), here is how you can make the most out of it). 


Back to Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter and Square. 

One of the key practices behind his productivity success boils down to “day theming” (http://www.fastcompany.com/3037208/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/productivity-hack-of-the-week-give-your-day-a-theme-to-reg).

As what the name suggests, he allocates a specific theme to each day. Here’s how its down in real life:

Source: Haiku Deck

Apart from splitting it by the day, you can apply this concept into big tasks and small task too. 

Let’s start with chunking small tasks: 

Through the day, it is inevitable that you will get bombarded with small tasks. This includes checking email and social media “obligations” such as replying to tweets.

Sounds familiar? ;) 

Adding to this are small petty tasks on your to-do lists, such making a dental appointment.  The result is minute tasks constantly pulling you away from key tasks. 

A solution to this? 

Rather than getting reactive when a new task comes in, you chunk all small tasks together and allocate a fixed time slot to handle it. 

Next, let’s cover more complex tasks. 

For instance, writing this blog post. 

The full process comprises of multiple steps such as researching stories and statistics; packaging the research and writing original copy; editing, formatting, publishing and promoting the content. 

It takes 6-10 hours and seems daunting to most people. But when you break it down, it becomes much more manageable. 

In my case: 

Source: Buffer 


1. Research on case studies and statistics

2. Write content around the research done

3. Publish it after editing and formatting 

Ah, doesn’t it seem more do-able? 

This allow me to save time from switching from one task to the next. For instance, jumping between researching on the internet and formatting the article. 



“Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.”

According to best selling author Cal Newport, he attributes his productivity success to the “Fixed-Scheduled” technique. 

How can this apply to you? 

Let’s say your main goal for this year is writing a book. To achieve this, you decide to dedicate 2 hours a day to write in the early morning. 

This 2 hour block now holds a sacred place in your calendar. Hence very rarely do you allow the schedule to be change. 

This discipline results in ensuring that trivial but seeming urgent tasks do not interfere with important work. 



Let’s face it, we are all prone to procrastinating. 

One of the biggest rationalisations we give ourselves is that we have plenty of time available. 

The best counter? Install deadlines into your workflow. 

Tim Ferriss, a productivity expert, shares about Parkinson’s Law I.e. Work expands to fill the time available. 

Hence if you allocate 8 hours to complete 2 hours worth of work, chance are that you will complete the task in 8 hours. 

One technique to help put this to practice is called the Pomodoro Technique. 

Source: Scrubly

It comprises of alternative time frames of work and relaxation. 25 minutes 

of focused brain activity followed by a 5 minutes break before resuming another 25 minutes cycle of brain activity, repeated over and over.

Here’s a video to explain it in-depth: https://youtu.be/CT70iCaG0Gs  

If you like a timer to practise Pomodoro, I highly recommend “The Marinara Timer”



Another component of productivity is Energy. 

Unlike Time, we tend to be less aware of our energy levels. Yet if you think about it, it makes sense. 

Upon returning home after work, we might feel tired. Hence even if we have a few hours available in the evening, we might not get any work done during to the lack of energy. 

So how can we manage energy better? 



There is a lot of great resources available about sleeping already available on the internet. 

Hence I will bring your attention to the latest few instead.

Being in the digital age, we tend to be hooked onto our technological device 24/7. The blue light emitted from these devices decreases melatonin production and disrupt sleep. 

The solution? 

I have found a computer app called F.lux. It’s the blue light from your device, turning the display reddish. 

Source:  HongKiat

Seems weird at first but you will get used to it. 

This helps you fall asleep faster and attain a better quality of sleep. 

You can access it here.



Brian Tracy has an expression called “Eat The Frog”. But don’t take it too literally (poor frogs!). 

What he means is that you should tackle the most difficult of tasks first thing in the morning. Having done what might seem intimidating, it gives you the momentum to tackle the rest of the day. 

Why does it work? 

According toKelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, your willpower is a finite resource. Hence as the day progress, your willpower starts to wane and you are more likely to procrastinate on the important but daunting tasks. 


Here is how you can go about it: 

1. Choose your frog: It is usually the task that you have the greatest resistance towards. 

2. Write on a piece of paper so it becomes formalised

3. Do the work. Starting working on that task until you complete it. Only then are you allowed to work on your other tasks. 



“Adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20 percent on average.” ~ WHO

Source: Entrepreneur  

When making food decisions, do be mindful whether you are consuming complex or refined carbohydrates. 

Refined carbs such as energy drinks and cakes might give you the energy spike, but it also results in an energy crash during the later part of the day. 

That’s bad for productivity. 

Instead, do aim for complex carbs. They pack in more nutrients than simple carbs, because they are higher in fiber and digest more slowly. This also makes them more filling, which means they’re a good option for weight control. 

The result is that you are able to avoid sugar crash and maintain a constant energy level throughout the day. 



One of the most subtle components of productivity is attention. 

We strive to get MORE work done, but are we actually getting the RIGHT type of work done? 



Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing your tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.

Source: James Clear

Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).

Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).

Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).

Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

Too often, we use productivity, time management, and optimization as an excuse to avoid the really difficult question: “Do I actually need to be doing this?”

On the flipside, Eisenhower Box provides a balanced perspective toward a fulfilling life. For instance, the incorporating of “important but non urgent” tasks into your day. 

In politics, for example, U.S. President Barack Obama has dinner with his family when he’s in the White House and works out for an hour every morning. “His logic was always, ‘The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time,'” 



There is plenty of benefits to meditation. 

It has been scientifically proven to increase focus, reduce stress and anxiety and boost creativity. 

Source: Collective Education

Isn’t that what we want as entrepreneurs? 

Here are the clinical studies that prove it: 

Meditation calms you down, which helps you focus better. Research has shown that EEG activity actually decreases during meditation.

Studies have shown that people who meditate more are able to focus more, and with less sleep.

Want to get started? Do check out this meditation guide.  


3. Go On Flight Mode


Yes, that’s right. 

If you are feeling unproductive, take a flight to somewhere. 

By cutting off wifi, you are suddenly free from all communications such as email and social media. 

This will allow you mind to settle in a distraction free environment. Coupled with the feeling of urgency due to the time constraint of the flight, and you have a recipe for kick-ass productivity. 

Or if you can’t afford to buy a plane ticket, simple turn your phone to flight mode. 

Here is what Ryan Holiday, bestselling author says about the airplane technique.


“Email received is a function of email sent. Take yourself off the grid for a second—stop the bleeding—and then go through your inbox offline. You’ll be amazing at how quickly you start banging them out, how many emails you’d saved for later you are now fine with deleting, how easy it is to get back to Inbox zero.” 


To Wrap It All Up…

There are plenty of productivity techniques out there. 

Rather than getting overwhelmed, the best method is to test a strategy and see if it works for you as an individual. 

Here is some great advice from Ramit Sethi. 

Found this article useful? You should check out our workshops. Learn the latest tips on how use personal branding and networking to grow your business.