From $0 to Millionaire: How 6 Entrepreneurs Went Broke, Then Became Successful

  • By team
  • 28 Apr, 2017

When they hit rock bottom, they turned disaster and persistence into millions.

Going broke. Hitting rock bottom. Crashing and burning. Whatever you call it, these mega-successful entrepreneurs—and members of The Oracles—have lived it. They share their stories of how losing it all helped them reach even greater success.

1. Discover your obsession.

Once as a kid, while walking into a shop I dropped the quarter that was in my hand. It fell into a manhole, and there was no way to retrieve it. I was pissed. My dad told me to be careful with money, but my grandpa said, “It’s not a problem that you lost a quarter. The problem is that was your only quarter."

The same principle holds true for many people today. The funny thing for me is that I had more money when I was 12 than when I was 25. I was completely broke—a drug addict—and checked into rehab. Today, I'm a hecta-millionaire and earn more in a day than I used to earn in a year. It's all because I gave myself permission to become obsessed with success.

When I started to own the fact that I was obsessed with personal fantasies of indestructible wealth and fame, and the desire to create a legacy that would outlast my time on this planet, the world looked different, and I acted differently. Your obsession is the most valuable tool you have to build the life you dream of. Unfortunately, most people never figure out what they are really obsessed with because they’ve been taught to deny their obsessions.

Don’t let that be you. Find something, anything, that you are obsessed with and embrace that obsession. 

2. Adapt to new realities.

When the market crashed from 2007 to 2009, I focused on how to serve clients in this new reality. I adapted to market conditions. I doubled down on the business of helping clients manage this transition in their own business. I helped them go from a traditional retail business (listing and sales) to a diversified approach where they worked with banks to sell bank-owned homes, distressed assets and short sales. Because this encompassed a significant number of homes sold during the crisis, the business survived. We were able to support our customers by connecting them with people we knew who could facilitate their work with banks. We also directed them to the right conventions and required certifications to succeed on this new playing field.

3. Hustle isn’t the answer.

At one time, I had $47 in my bank account, no college degree, no car, no job and no real prospects. Books and mentors pulled me out of that, including my first mentor, Mike Stainback, who gave me a job and taught me about finances.

Even then, I still felt stuck. I worked harder and harder but didn’t see increased success beyond having a regular paycheck. That’s because, in hindsight, there’s one very simple way to get unstuck: work smarter, not harder, which entails putting in the appropriate amount of work at the appropriate time. Working hard is never the goal.

One of the reasons people get stuck, and I got stuck, for so long is that you buy into the lie that you’re going to hustle your way out of it. No way. The top 10 wealthiest people on the planet aren’t the absolute hardest working people. They leverage one hour of work into the equivalent of 100 hours of work.

These success stories—people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—had mentors that saved them a huge amount of work by showing them shortcuts. Like a fuel-efficient car, which goes more miles per gallon on less gas, the real goal is to work half as much and get twice as much done. 

4. Rise from the ashes.

In 2007, I lost my parents tragically. I had no idea how to handle it, so I focused on the company I founded, MavenWire. We placed a huge financial bet on our hosting infrastructure based on the commitments of one company. In 2008, that company declared bankruptcy, and I faced hundreds of thousands in personal debt that I couldn’t repay.

I worked 100-plus-hour weeks, watched my relationships wither, and saw the financial collapse begin to take hold: customers stretched their payments out and no new contracts came in. My ego and identity were tied up in my company. As it failed, I saw myself as a failure. I couldn’t see a way out and further isolated myself. I began riding my motorcycle recklessly—literally risking my life. I felt empty and unfulfilled.

Seeing this behavior, a friend told me to join these crazy folks called The Adventurists who drive vehicles to Mongolia. I couldn’t get rid of the idea. A few months later, I found myself with two friends driving an ambulance 10,000 miles from the United Kingdom to Mongolia. The journey took nearly two months. Along the way, I found myself. I began to learn who I was, what I wanted, who had my back, and how I could make a difference.

By empowering my company to survive without me, it began to grow and scale beyond my expectations. That led to the greatest period of success and fulfillment at that point in my life, which I've since surpassed. I share this because no matter your current situation, you are not alone. A future of fulfillment is possible. 

5. Always persist.

Going broke is relative. My dad worked construction and was always getting temporarily laid off due to lack of work. Times were tough, but we never went hungry. It could have been a lot worse.

When 2008 hit, I couldn’t sell a bag of mulch to a client. People weren’t paying for landscaping. My house was in foreclosure and repo men grabbed my car in the middle of the night. I owed $80,000 on my credit card and owed everyone else money, too. The phone and power were cut off on several occasions. But I kept moving forward. No matter what, I didn't want to lose my house where my family was living. I never gave up and worked with smaller margins.

I was cashing bags of change at the grocery store to buy food.

I had to work for someone else for a year to make ends meet. Living someone else’s dream was bad, but it was humbling. I was still working for myself while working for his company, doing whatever it took to make my comeback. It took almost seven years to recover, but now everything is better than ever and paid in full. Always persist and never, ever, ever quit.

6. Don’t go it alone.

In 2014, I made the mistake of expanding to a new location too fast. I hadn’t properly established the systems and processes necessary to run and scale a successful business. I was pulling thousands from my personal savings to cover overhead for a few weeks. I couldn’t buy my fiancée a Christmas gift, give staff bonuses, nor pay myself. I told my team we needed to either shut down and lay people off—or come up with a plan to get out of the mess.

It was the scariest and most humbling time in my life. I realized I needed to trust and lean on others if I ever wanted to accomplish anything of significance.

I learned to delegate systems, upsell, raise prices and over-deliver.

I went from having a negative bank balance to growing by nearly $500,000 in 2015. In 2016, I launched a consulting company to help others get out of the hole like I had and grow their own fitness businesses. We grew that to more than $1.6 million in its first 12 months, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the team. No one accomplishes anything of significance alone.

By The Oracles.

By team 12 May, 2017

There are those people who seem to have no problem achieving goals but it’s not because they have a higher IQ or more time than you. It’s because they think and act differently. Here are 11 mental habits of successful people that you can apply in your life.

1. They’re specific.

Successful people master the art of goal-setting by being as specific as possible. Instead of making broad statements like "I want to get more sleep” or “I need to lose weight,” they will set goals like “I’m going to be in bed by 9:30 on weeknights starting tonight” or “I'm going to lose 10 pounds by eating salads for lunch and walking after dinner.”

They apply that specificity to business with statements like “I’m going to get five new clients this week by calling five prospects every day.”

Specifying the goal makes it easier to determine the actionable steps required to make your goal a reality. When you have pinpointed exactly what you want to achieve you’re more motivated to follow through.

2. They think in minutes when scheduling.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Successful people know this and waste as few minutes every day as humanly possible. They realize that they can never reclaim even one minute wasted on meaningless tasks and activities.

Mark Zuckerberg got around this by wearing the same outfit pretty much everyday for years. He was teased but Zuck’s signature grey t-shirt has saved him a ton of time every morning. Instead of wasting time going through his wardrobe, his decision was automatic so he could focus on more important things.

Elon Musk creates a regimented schedule by breaking his calendar into five-minute slots. Here are a few ways to track your time better.

3. They know it's the team that wins.

Michael Jordan is hands-down among the greatest basketball players of all-time, but playing with the likes of Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman throughout his career made Jordan the legend he is today. As his former coach Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

Successful people seek people they can collaborate with, as well as those who complement their strengths and weaknesses. I've worked hard on having the best team surround me. This encourages and motivates me to become 10x better. If you want to become the best programmer, join that community. If you want to become the best freelancer, surround yourself with other freelancers.

4. They learn continuously.

Successful people make the time to read, attend classes, take workshops and watch worthwhile webinars. They know enhancing their current skills and developing new ones is essential.

If Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Oprah Winfrey can find the time to read, then so can you. Read in a book before you go to bed or listen to a podcast during your daily commute. You can pick a book or podcast to listen to when you exercise, or choose to attend an online lecture during your lunch-break.

As Gates explains about reading, “It is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid. These days, I also get to visit interesting places, meet with scientists and watch a lot of lectures online. But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

5. They grow their EI.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify your emotions, as well as those of people around you. It assists in problem solving and inspiring others. Even if you weren’t born with a high emotional intelligence, successful people look for ways to strengthen it by:

  • Not being a perfectionist.
  • Knowing how to balance work and play.
  • Embracing change.
  • Eliminating distractions.
  • Being empathetic.
  • Knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Being self-motivated.
  • Focusing on the positive.
  • Setting boundaries.

6. They’re realistic optimists.

Positive thinking is crucial to your willingness to set challenging goals but successful people never underestimate how difficult it will be to reach those goals. Research has found realistic optimists tend to be happier and have better control of themselves and their emotions than those who are unrealistic optimists.

“Every time they face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they won’t say, ‘I have no choice and this is the only thing I can do.’ They will be creative, they will have a plan A, plan B and plan C,” said Sophia Chou, an organizational psychology researcher at National Taiwan University.

7. They don’t self-sabotage.

Humans by nature are inconsistent. That’s why you can’t trust your future self to follow through on the plans you make today.

Let's say you plan to begin eating a salad every day for lunch. You buy all the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers you need but you forgot you have a lunch meeting scheduled, and the next day you skip lunch because you’re swamped. There is a good chance you won’t actually eat that salad everyday and most of those ingredients will rot before you eat them.

Before making any decisions about goals, successful individuals think of what might sabotage their effort and how to work around it. A consistent schedule and sticking to it helps you follow through.

8. They meditate.

“The results have been awesome. Better sleep. Improved relationships with spouses, children, coworkers. Some people who once suffered migraines don't anymore. Greater productivity and creativity all around,” said Oprah Winfrey on meditation.

No wonder Oprah, and other successful people like Russell Simmons, have made meditation a priority. There is no shortage of meditation apps to help you get started on meditating daily. You can have big benefits for just five or 10 minutes of your day.

9. They take care of their health.

A healthy body and mind are cornerstones of success. Regular exercise and a healthy diet decrease stress, relieve anxiety, help you sleep, boost your immune system, increase your productivity and improve your mental state.

Finding time to take care of yourself is challenging when you have a hectic lifestyle or do a lot of traveling. Small things like investing in a standing desk, taking a walk during your lunch break or doing simple exercises in your office are all good ways to start an exercise habit.

Eating in moderation and skipping cheap, fatty fast foods will take you a long way toward eating a better-balanced diet.

10. They carry notebooks.

Richard Branson, Drew Hansen, J.K. Rowling, Eminem and Jack Dorsey keep journals to write down their thoughts, track their progress, set goals and reflect on the lessons of past mistakes.

As Dorsey said, “Find a simple way way to track your progress. You really get to see how you have grown, how your business has grown and how your own leadership has grown.”

11. They know what they value in life.

While successful people are known for their hard work, they also realize that they need time to unwind and recharge. After all, they’re only human. They know there’s more to life than just work. Successful people make it a point to enjoy their lives.

Whether that’s unplugging for the weekend so that you can go away with their spouse, getting home for dinner every night, volunteering, reading, exercising or working on a hobby, they always allocate some of that 1,440 minutes in a day to something that they value.


By team 28 Apr, 2017
Going broke. Hitting rock bottom. Crashing and burning. Whatever you call it, these mega-successful entrepreneurs—and members of The Oracles—have lived it. They share their stories of how losing it all helped them reach even greater success.

1. Discover your obsession.

Once as a kid, while walking into a shop I dropped the quarter that was in my hand. It fell into a manhole, and there was no way to retrieve it. I was pissed. My dad told me to be careful with money, but my grandpa said, “It’s not a problem that you lost a quarter. The problem is that was your only quarter."

The same principle holds true for many people today. The funny thing for me is that I had more money when I was 12 than when I was 25. I was completely broke—a drug addict—and checked into rehab. Today, I'm a hecta-millionaire and earn more in a day than I used to earn in a year. It's all because I gave myself permission to become obsessed with success.

By team 17 Apr, 2017

Choosing a brand name is one of the first steps in creating your business and certainly among the most crucial -- strong, memorable names are a key ingredient to the success of your product, service or company.

While the name should capture the essence of the company, committing to a title that will define your brand for years to come is a daunting challenge. There are no hard-and-fast rules. However, according to San Diego-based Brandroot, it is prudent to think about types of business names when considering your brand name. A poor choice could end up negatively shaping and limiting your enterprise in years to come. Here are some ways picking a restrictive brand name now can fail your company in the future.

Location-based branding

This can be tempting. Say you sell windows, and you sell them in Wisconsin. The choice may be obvious: You could call your business "Wisconsin Windows!"   You have your geotarget covered, your product in the name and even some catchy alliteration to grab the customer’s attention. But, what if your windows are so good that people in neighbouring Minnesota want them too?

If you plan on keeping your business small, then choosing a name based on where you are located may not have any huge effect in the long term. However, if your market expands to beyond the limits of your locale, then having a name that pertains only to that town or region may hold your business back, with potential customers associating it with that particular area alone.

Family business branding

There is something quaint about having an eponymous brand name. Something familiar, proud and tender.  Douglas & Sons,  for example, evokes a paternal bond, tradition and nostalgia. However, family branding can have its drawbacks. Maybe your children won’t want to continue the family business when it comes to handing over the reins. In that event, will the empire crumble, taking your name and legacy with it? Or, what if the company runs into legal trouble? Having negative connotations linked to your brand name is not just bad for business, but could also have generational repercussions on your family too.

"Your business name should be future-proof, with the ability to serve you even in the most unforeseen business circumstances. Your business is likely to change or shift direction multiple times during its existence, so the name should consider every possible change or expansion. But, it should also consider changes in technology, economy and demand/need for your product. Yes, a great business name can cover all of these bases and more.,” explains Michael Rader, CEO of Brandroot.

Demographic-specific branding

Most companies have a certain demographic they are trying to target but it is important not to limit your client base by being overly prescriptive with your brand name. For instance, long-term bike rental company My Bike Argentina was going to be called "The Student Bike Company ," as it was first geared towards study-abroad students who would be residing in Buenos Aires, Argentina for six months or more. But, the founder recognized that the city also attracted longer-term tourists who came to learn tango and study Spanish and so changed the name to increase the amount of potential bike renters.

According to InfluenceTree managing partner Leonard Kim, "When you are naming a company, you should never limit your name to what your target market is. Instead, you should think of what your target market is attracted to.”

Something that would make them interested in what you have to offer? “Let's use The Viceroy Hotel, my favorite hotel in New York, as an example,” adds Kim.

“The Viceroy attracts people like me, who are new leaders in our field, high income earners, young and have that entrepreneurial and creative drive," says Kim. “If they named themselves the creative center or the creative hotel, we'd probably have no interest in going there, even if the architecture, atmosphere and rooms were set up the same way. But, by taking a word that means what we feel about ourselves and placing it onto the name of their hotel, they are able to not only attract their target audience but others who are curious as to what the Viceroy is and what it has to offer as well."

Product-specific branding

Many entrepreneurs start off by offering one particular product, but what about when the success of the business means expansion to incorporate a whole range of products or services? Maybe Wisconsin Windows   from the first example branches out into selling doors. Do they change their name down the line, or plan for potential growth from the outset?

Digital nomad work-away program Remote Year   encountered this problem and is locked into, by its name at least, offering year-long work and travel programs. Their competitor, We Roam ,  learned from Remote Year’s mistake, and, by choosing a name more open to interpretation, eschewed the pitfalls of overly specifying the time scale to allow them to offer custom packages with flexible start dates and durations. This has enabled them to diversify their service and appeal to a broader array of applicants.

The importance of choosing a brand name that will allow your brand to grow within it cannot be stressed enough. A future re-brand is not only costly, but can undo years of heard-earned customer support, so it is worth thinking long and hard about what your business is going to be called from the get-go.

Genericide, or making your brand name way too common

Apple. Virgin. Jet. Isn’t there something inherently memorable and credible about brands with simple names? Those names offer a sense of power and credibility without trying too hard. We feel like they’ve always been a part of our vernacular (probably because they have been!)

But according to Ryan Erskine of BrandYourself, companies with simple, popular names face an entirely new problem today: getting found online. It’s hard enough to earn brand recognition these days with a unique name, so imagine the difficulty for companies that choose names that already get searched millions of times per month.

Do a quick Google search for Jet, and you’ll see what I mean. They have to compete with the New York Jets, JetBlue, Jet’s Pizza and dozens of other brands. turned itself into a multibillion dollar brand, but it still has trouble owning its online real estate (Now imagine how all the other “Jets" on page 3 and 4 feel).

“In today's search-happy world,” says Erskine, “your company is getting Googled by customers, investors and potential employees. Business is already an uphill climb -- don’t make it any harder by setting up digital hurdles for yourself along the way.”

Instead, pick a unique name and give yourself the best chance of bursting through the noise.


By team 03 Apr, 2017

Entrepreneurs are a unique breed of people. We like to do things our way and are known for our almost obsessive attraction to habits. But, there’s a good reason for that. Habits help us achieve our goals, keep us motivated, eliminates wasted time, and improve our lives altogether.

Arguably, the most important habit for an entrepreneur is their morning routine. After all, if you start your day off on the wrong foot, how productive, motivated, and focused are you going to be for the rest of the day?

To make sure that you start your day off on the right foot, here are seven things that every entrepreneur should before 7 a.m.


1. They’re wide awake.

Successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson are known for waking up bright and early.

"I have always been an early riser. Like keeping a positive outlook, or keeping fit, waking up early is a habit, which you must work on to maintain. Over my 50 years in business I have learned that if I rise early I can achieve so much more in a day, and therefore in life," explains the Virgin Group founder.

When you’re awake before 7 a.m. you have the time to check the news, gather your thoughts, or exercise. This prevents you from rushing out the door every morning feeling frazzled and unfocused.

Waking up early means that you have to stop hitting the snooze button by getting enough sleep each night - preferably between 7 and 9 hours. Besides ensuring that you’re an early riser, getting the appropriate amount of sleep improves your health, memory, learning, productivity, and mood. It may even help you make fewer risky financial decisions, reduce stress, and decrease fat and increase muscle mass with exercise.

2. Avoid your phone.

This may sound crazy, but there a couple of perfectly valid reasons for not reaching for your phone first thing in the morning. For starters, placing it next to yourself throughout the night can interrupt your sleep because of the light the screen emits or the notifications that go off throughout the night.

Additionally, diving into your inbox or social media channels can be stressful and distract you from setting your personal priorities. Instead of setting your goals for the day, you’re frantically responding to an angry email from a client. That’s not the best way to start your day.

3. Exercise or meditate.

Yes. Whether if it’s going for run, lifting weights, plunging into a 57-degree Fahrenheit pool, yoga or reciting oms, regular exercise or meditation reduces stress, makes you happier, increases your energy, helps you sleep better, gives your immune system a boost, and prevents you from developing future health concerns like heart disease.

However, just as important for an entrepreneur, exercising and meditating each morning can help you focus on what you need to achieve throughout the day and develop new ideas.

4. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Stop kidding yourself. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day since it’s going fuel your brain and body for the day. But, not all breakfasts are equal. Skip the donuts or leftover pizza and consume:

  • Healthy carbohydrates like oatmeal or rye toast.
  • Low-fat protein like eggs, nuts, greens, and beans.
  • Fruits and veggies.
  • Dairy alternatives like soy, almond, or rice milk.

While having a morning a cup of tea or coffee to wash down your breakfast isn’t bad, try sipping on some lemon water before you eat.

"Drinking lemon water as soon as you wake up spikes your energy levels physically and mentally. Lemon water gives you steady, natural energy that lasts the length of the day by improving nutrient absorption in your stomach. You need to drink it first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach) to ensure full absorption," explains Travis Bradberry.

"You should also wait 15-30 minutes after drinking it before eating (perfect time to squeeze in some exercise). Lemons are packed with nutrients; they’re chock full of potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. If you’re under 150 pounds, drink the juice of half a lemon (a full lemon if you’re over 150 pounds). Don’t drink the juice without water because it’s hard on your teeth.

Breakfast is also a great time to spend time with your family.

5. Lift your spirits.

Some mornings you just don’t want to roll out of bed. The weather’s crummy and you had a major setback. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s enough to kill your motivation for the next couple of days.

That’s why successful entrepreneurs practice lifting their spirits each morning. Whether it’s reading an inspiring book, memorizing motivational quotes, working on a passion project, or writing down your thoughts or experiences in a journal or blog, take a couple of minutes every morning to get in the right mindset before tackling the day.

If those tactics aren’t effective, write down the things that you’re grateful for.

"The five-minute journal is a therapeutic intervention, for me at least, because I am that person,” says Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and author of  The 4-Hour Workweek . “That allows me to not only get more done during the day but to also feel better throughout the entire day, to be a happier person, to be a more content person -- which is not something that comes naturally to me."

6. Set your goals and priorities.

Every Monday morning set your goals for the week. Each day for the rest of the week write down the goals and priorities that need to happen that day. Think about how you’re going to accomplish those goals while in the shower, jogging or whenever you have quiet time to yourself.

The most effective way to cross items off your to-do list is by starting with the hardest task - or the task that you’re dreading the most. Procrastinating on those tasks just leaves them for tomorrow. Get them done and over with now so that you can keep moving forward.

7. Get down to business.

Finally, it’s time to get down to business. You can now grab your phone and read and send emails, pop-in on social media, check the news involving your industry, and review metrics, such as the previous day’s sales. That data may alter your to-do-list, but because you got a headstart, you’ll be prepared and ready when it’s time to enter the office.

By creating, and sticking, to a morning routine you develop habits that will keep you healthy, productive, and prepared so that you can handle any situation that’s thrown your way. It may take some trial and error to find your ideal morning routine but it will make you more successful both professionally and personally.


By team 26 Mar, 2017

Even though online businesses are becoming more prevalent, they haven't become any easier to launch.

To give your online business a greater chance to succeed, there are certain things you need to incorporate on its website. Of course, there are the simple things such as an easy domain name, a phone number and a logo, but it’s also vital to think about the content, links and navigation that will go onto your site.

When building your website, sometimes it’s helpful to think of its setup like that of a newspaper -- organizing the most important content “above the fold,” and the less exciting material “below the fold.” In addition, having a strong call to action will help hook potential customers.

For help building your business website, check out U.K. Web Host Review’s infographic below.

By team 17 Mar, 2017

A business needs to accept credit and debit cards to thrive, and regardless of how you accept payments -- online, in-person or over the phone -- you need a merchant processing company to process the transactions.

With more than 424 million credit card accounts in the United States alone, there is no way to avoid having a merchant account. However, picking the right merchant processing company isn’t always a simple task. Entrepreneur and philanthropist River Cohen is extremely knowledgeable in this space -- he is the founder and CEO of Datainsure, a merchant processing company.

There are many pros and cons to consider while selecting a payment processor. There are also new payment options like Apple Pay coming to the market, making it extremely important that you pick the right company to work with. After speaking with Cohen, here are five things entrepreneurs need to consider when selecting a merchant company.

1. Demand EMV and latest processing technology.

If you are accepting payments in person, your processing terminal needs to be equipped with the latest technology. Virtually all new credit cards issued these days feature EMV chip technology, but not all point of sale (POS) equipment is updated to accept payments via the chip.

EMV chip technology protects your business from hackers, breaches and fraudulent transactions, and using EMV-compliant POS equipment protects your business. “Your data processer will cover the transaction in the event something bad happens if it was processed via the chip. If not, there is a good chance it won’t be covered,” explains Cohen.

You also want to make sure you are up to date on modern ways of accepting payments, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

2. Ensure PCI compliance.

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is a set of security standards designed to ensure all businesses accepting, processing, storing or transmitting credit card information maintain a secure environment.

Every company must renew their PCI compliance certificate yearly through their merchant company to keep accepting and processing credit and debit card transactions. Cohen advises that not all processing companies handle this the same way, stating, “A good merchant company will charge a nominal compliance fee and will take the steps required to ensure your business is complaint. Not all business owners have time to worry about compliance, so working with a merchant that is pro-active in this area will ensure you avoid penalties.”

3. Use P2P encryption.

“P2P [point-to-point] encryption is a security necessity. You have to make sure you are encrypting data transmissions at every stage of the transaction since there are multiple points,” explains Cohen.

When a business swipes a credit card or a customer enters his or her payment information on a website, a long series of digital communications take place. This leaves the consumer vulnerable to fraud.

Once the transaction is initiated (with a card swipe or when entered online) the issuing bank has to determine whether or not the card has sufficient funds (debit card) or sufficient available credit to successfully complete the transaction. If there are sufficient funds, then the issuing bank sends a message back to the merchant, verifying the purchase. Throughout these steps, point-to-point encryption protects the data, preventing it from being compromised.

4. Utilize API capabilities.

You need a merchant processor that will integrate with your accounting software and any third-party plugins you use on your website. My company owns some consumer brands, and we use our merchant provider’s application program interface (API) to connect to multiple third party applications -- WooCommerce, Shopify, etc. Without that convenience, it would greatly reduce what we are able to accomplish.

Cohen explained how one of their integrations helped put them on the map. “With so many businesses using QuickBooks to handle their day-to-day operations, we knew it was important to integrate with the software, and it’s one of our most popular features. It’s also important that you use a unique API that encrypts the processing. This is a must for retailers or businesses that demand really tight security or has higher than normal security concerns.”

5. Don’t focus on discount rates.

“Discount rates will often mean discount service. Rather than just looking at rates, a business should be looking at the company as a whole and what they have to offer in terms of integration capabilities, hardware, technology and customer service. Focus on the total picture, not just the rate,” suggests Cohen.

Rates have become very competitive among merchant providers, so don’t be blinded by a company that boasts a low rate and nothing else. Look for extra value, and look for a merchant company that emphasizes security and compliance.

Bonus: Look into breach insurance (medical practice industry).

For those in the medical practice industry, breach insurance is a must. This protects your business in the event of a hack or data breach, causing customer data and medical information to become exposed.

“If you are a medical provider, you should make sure you have breach insurance. PCI HIPAA is something your processor should provide if you are in this space. If you are hacked, this is the coverage required under HIPAA laws. HIPAA protects the consumer, and this protects you, the business,” explains Cohen

By  Jonathan Long

By team 13 Mar, 2017

Don't promote illegal products.

Google has said that in 2016, it disabled 68 million ads for healthcare violations and 17 million ads for illegal gambling violations due to insufficient authorization from regulators in their respective countries.

On Adsense, Google restricts the promotion of pharmaceuticals, in particular. Its policy states that ads may not contain content related to the online sale of prescription medications or the sale of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements.

This is a broader view of a more complex issue: If you’re planning on advertising healthcare-related products, you should conduct additional research before moving forward with it. One way to ensure you have the requisite medical proof is to research scientific papers on the subject, such as those from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Google’s terms regrading gambling sites may not be as restrictive, but you still need to adhere to them. If you want to promote your gambling or gaming site, you must comply with industry standards for all locations your campaign will be targeting. You must also meet local licensing requirements, display information on your landing page that encourages visitors to gamble responsibly and avoid targeting minors.

Again, do your due diligence before launching an ad campaign that promotes gambling-related content. A great way to do this: Hire a lawyer, check your local gambling and gaming laws or visit a local law library (look in your local city hall or court building).

Is it illegal to promote your product? If that product is counterfeit, dangerous, alcohol- or healthcare-related, there’s a good chance you can’t market it with AdWords.

Do not create misleading ads.

Google also reported taking down almost 80 million ads that were deceiving or misleading to users. Whether these were ads using scare tactics to promote miracle cures, or weight-loss solutions purporting to help users lose 50 pounds without lifting a finger, those ads driving clicks and views that were using misleading information were disabled.

While Google's 2016 report makes no mention of fake news, these types of ads also fall under the category of "misleading." Recode reported that 200 publishers were banned from the AdSense network in less than two months for promoting false stories that looked legitimate but turned out to be fake.

An example? Google search results were hijacked by fake news about aliens caught on tape allegedly sucking energy from the sun. Such stories are proliferating rapidly, but it’s unlikely that Google will go easy on their creators, moving forward.

Google, in fact, is going to be -- or already is -- dealing with fake news using the following strategies:

  • Manually reviewing website reviews. This is an obviously time-consuming process, but it’s quite likely that at a minimum, Google will be reviewing items that make it to its “Top Stories.”
  • Demoting fake news algorithmically. At this point in time, Google’s algorithm may not be able to determine fact from fiction, but it’s likely that the company is working on this.
  • Eliminating any financial incentive. Fake news publishers gain income and influence from their efforts. Removing this incentive could help curtail their efforts.
  • Fact-checking. Google added a “Fact Check” label for stories featured in Google News. It’s possible that the company will be integrating this feature into normal search results, as well.
  • Funding fact-checking. Google is already funding fact-checking projects. This should help with tapping into more reliable sources.

Ultimately, advertisers with a long-term marketing plan should avoid the use of misleading ads just to drive numbers up.

Don't use self-clicking ads.

Google disabled more than 23,000 self-clicking mobile ads in 2016. These ads either brought readers to a site they never intended to go to, or pushed them over to the app store to download a suspicious app they probably knew nothing about. That statistic on the number of ads disabled is a relatively small number compared to the numbers in other categories, but it's increased significantly since 2015.

Don't attempt to game the system.

Google removed seven million ads for attempting to game the system last year. These are ads that go directly against Google’s policies, but tried to bypass their detection system, nonetheless. Apparently, trying to fly under the radar doesn’t work with Google

Google observed the rise of tabloid cloaking in 2016 -- meaning ads that looked like news stories but ultimately led readers to a site selling a product, like weight-loss pills. Tabloid cloakers are known to leverage timely topics to drive traffic to their sites by any means necessary. So, it’s not hard to see why Google sees these actions as misleading. Indeed, some 1,300 accounts were suspended for engaging in this practice.

In general, many advertisers are using content to promote their business and products. That's why it’s now more important than ever to ensure that your ad copy matches up with the content you’re promoting. Relevance is key.

Don't violate Google’s policies when selling goods.

As you’ve already seen, Google isn’t just taking action against specific ads; it's also banning and suspending accounts that repeatedly violate the company's policies.

In 2016, the company acted on 47,000 sites promoting weight-loss scams, 15,000 sites for propagating malware and unwanted software and 6,000 sites and accounts for advertising counterfeit goods. Fake and misleading products are also unacceptable.

Google is aware that many advertisers use ads to promote products and make money. But violating its policies will lead to the removal of the ads involved, and even termination of these advertisers' accounts.

The categories involved? Google has policies on adult content, recreational drugs, alcohol and tobacco, healthcare, hacking and cracking, violent content, weapon-related content and a host of other categories. You should be aware of this list.

Final thoughts

Certain themes emerge, in Google’s 2016 report, on how the company is fighting bad ads and scammers: Weight-loss, payday loans, tabloid cloaking, fake news, pharmaceuticals and other healthcare products, plus gambling come up time and again. These are the key categories to be aware of, but that doesn’t mean that your ad -- from some other category -- won’t also be taken down.

If you're in doubt, review Google’s content policies, and beware of using fake news to attract clicks and views. There will be more action against fake publishers, especially in the year ahead. So ask yourself if any dubious activity you're involved in is really worth the risk.


Thomas Smale

By team 03 Mar, 2017

Perspective can be a drag.

Perspective is the key to survival, growth and success. This starts with a realistic perspective on what life is and is not.

"Anyone who imagines that life is bliss is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed," said Jenkins Lloyd, a Unitarian minister. "The fact is that most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old-time rail journey -- delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

In the 21st century, this perspective is too often warped by mass social media. It is easy to start believing that everyone else’s life is wonderful. Such “social comparisons” can generate depressed and negative feelings when, in fact, your reality is little different than everyone else’s. Their kids are not doing better than your kids; their spouse is no better than your spouse; their job is no better than your job. Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said “comparison is the thief of joy.”

This applies to business as well, entrepreneurs in particular. Focusing on irrelevant issues and comparisons creates drag, making you move slower, making life as the boss positively dreadful. But it shouldn’t be dreadful and for all the same reasons.

The five steps to overcoming.

A realistic perspective is not based on irrelevant comparisons, but in your focus about what you are doing and why it is good. The steps to reach an enduringly positive perspective are deceptively simple, yet complex in their results.

1. Gratitude.

The grizzled old musician Ray Hubbard once said, “The days my gratitude is higher than my expectations, those are really good days.” Psychology professor Robert Emmons amplifies this insight by noting, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness. ...It allows individuals to celebrate the present and be an active participant in their own lives. ...It focuses the mind on what an individual already has rather than something that’s absent.”

The fact is, you have much to be grateful for. You are your own boss; you have a vision worth chasing; and you are creating products people want, hiring people who need work and achieving things quietly desperate people won’t. Call it “counting your blessings” if you like, but when you do, you cannot help but be more positive in your outlook, and that makes all inconveniences seem petty.

2. Optimism.

Optimism comes from believing in the possible. As an entrepreneur, you have learned that what is possible is directly related to how you break down problems, how creative you are with solutions and how hard you work toward reaching a goal. You have what it takes, so you should be optimistic about your success.

3. Adventure.

My marketing director coined the line, “The unexpected is the essence of adventure.” Adventure is what life and business are about, so the roadblocks you encounter are part of the adventure. Put on your pith helmet and think of problems as vistas to cross, mountains to climb and wild rivers to swim.

4. Education.

Great entrepreneurs are voracious students. They learn through experience. Each problem they face is a puzzle that brings them more knowledge. Face each challenge as an opportunity to learn, and every challenge becomes a gain for you. You rack up more experience points and solve dilemmas faster when you confront issues knowing you will immediately benefit by learning from them.

5. The ride.

Keep in mind, you are not here for long. Life is too short, and the time we spend here too valuable to not enjoy the ride. “Enjoy every sandwich,” said songwriter Warren Zevon, facing terminal cancer. Your business is a wild ride like a rollercoaster, and you should enjoy every dip, lift, turn, flip and spin.

By Ray Zinn

By team 28 Feb, 2017

If you’re like most people in business today, there always seem to be a million things on your to-do list and you don’t know where to start.

You need to conduct research, streamline collaboration, increase communication, sell your wares, reach your fan base, log your time and keep track of your accounts, to mention just a few. How the heck will you do it all? Well, there’s an app for that.

In fact, there are quite a few. Here are the top 17 apps every entrepreneur should be downloading to make the most of each day.

1. Accompany

Touted as a virtual “chief of staff,”   Accompany   does all the research necessary to prep you for big meetings by emailing you a concise briefing beforehand. It provides you with all the pertinent information you will need to succeed in any situation. Accompany works by connecting to your Google or Microsoft email account, your mobile calendar and your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It examines your personal data and goes through biographies and other information online to create summaries of each of your contacts.

2. Pocket

This “save for later” app allows you to file away useful articles, interesting videos and any other content that you want to hang on to for future use. When you find something you want to view later, simply put it in your   Pocket , and you’ll be able to access it from your phone, tablet or computer, even without internet access.

3. Slack

This team communication tool gathers group exchanges into one place, making information instantly available and searchable wherever you go. This cloud-based collaboration application began as an internal tool used by a now-defunct online game.   Slack   is currently the fastest-growing B2B application, used by over 4 million active users every day.

4. Motivation Daily & Positivity

If you are looking for a   daily dose of motivation   to keep you on track to achieve important goals and big dreams, this app is for you. It comes in a streamlined, simple format, which includes perfect quotes to keep you focused when you’re tempted to slack off. Whether you’re pursuing health and fitness goals, prepping for a major project at work or school, or just need some inspiration, this app will help get you there.

5. Buffer

As a powerful social media publishing tool,   Buffer   streamlines the process of reaching your fan base by making it easy to schedule content on social media. It helps increase your reach by ensuring you get the most out of each post. With one click, you can share content across multiple social networks and ensure that it’s posted at the optimal time so more followers will see your updates.

6. Salesforce1

Salesforce1   empowers you to connect directly with your customers and run your business from your phone. It channels all your customer information into a single, integrated platform, enabling you to build a client-centered business that includes marketing, sales, customer service and business analysis. This gives you a more complete understanding of your customers, allowing you to drive your business’s success and make smarter decisions from anywhere in real time.

7. Square

Square   credit-card processing works for any size business, and is easy to do from anywhere. Square allows you to accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, all for one low rate. Once you sign up, they will send you a free magstripe reader (their newest reader even takes chip cards). Or you can use your iPad in a Square Stand for countertop sales. The Square Register app also includes other useful tools to help you manage every area of your business.

8. Toggl

Toggl   is an insanely simple way of tracking and logging your time that eliminates the need for timesheets. This app allows you to track time from a browser, computer or smartphone so you never again lose a minute of billable time. You can organize your time by project or tag, and mark as billable. If you forget to turn it on, just enter the time later.

9. Trello

Trello   is collaboration tool organizes your projects into boards, lists and cards so you can better prioritize work and life. At a single glance you can see what’s being worked on, who’s working on what and where in the process a project is. It makes project management--which can include work assignments, family chores or travel plans--easy and enjoyable.

10. MobileDay

This one-touch dialing app gets you into all your conference calls on time and unflustered. With   MobileDay , there’s no more searching for misplaced conference call PINs or passcodes. The app auto-syncs with your iOS or Android calendar and plugs you into your calls with one click, so you can connect to that business call from anywhere.

11. Workflow

Workflow   allows you to connect the best features of your applications, so you can combine multiple steps across a number of apps into a single tap. With Workflow you can create shortcuts, manage your media and share content. It has been lauded as the “Swiss Army knife” for completing complicated tasks, and basically feels like you’re designing your own app (but much easier).

12. Box

Box   offers a simple, secure way to share files and collaborate with coworkers, customers and partners. It allows you to centralize your files, keep your team on track and simplify workflow, not to mention ditch email attachments. You can create, edit and review documents with others in real time from anywhere and on any device, and can view full documents without needing to download the file first.

13. Wunderlist

Wunderlist   helps you tick off your personal and professional to-do list by getting your life in sync and making it easy to share your lists. A cloud-based task-management application, it makes sharing grocery lists, working collaboratively on projects or planning household activities and vacations easier. It syncs with your phone, tablet and computer so you can access your lists from anywhere.

14. CloudMagic

If your inbox fills up quicker than a sinking ship takes on water, you need   CloudMagic . This email management application is known for its searching capabilities, cross-platform capabilities and user interface. It can scour all of the email you’ve ever received to locate exactly what you’re looking for. It supports multiple accounts, and even includes a feature called Cards, which connects services like Evernote, Pocket, Trello, Salesforce and Microsoft OneNote. This makes it easier for users to get the information they are looking for without leaving their email.

15. Wave

Wave   helps you create and send professional invoices, estimates and receipts in seconds. It keeps your business organized and running smoothly by tracking income and expenses effortlessly, with receipt-scanning tools and bank connections. It includes a suite of online small-business software products, including direct bank-data imports, invoicing and expense tracking, customizable charts of accounts and journal transactions.

16. HelloSign

HelloSign   is the easiest and simplest way to handle contracts or other agreements on the fly, because it lets you view and sign without visiting the office. This app also eliminates the burden of needing to print, sign and scan a document to be sent back. It allows you to just use your fingertip to sign any PDF file and forward it to the necessary party.

17. 1Password

Do away with all th ose sticky notes with your passwords scrawled on them.   1Password   allows you to collect all those codes in one safe place online. This app keeps all your passwords and important information protected behind your Master Password. It has extensions or plug-ins for all the major browsers, and can securely store other things, like credit cards, bank accounts and licenses. You can save all the entries from a webpage form, so you can remember answers to security questions or other information.


By team 17 Feb, 2017

LOS ANGELES—“What do you ask a billionaire?” I ran this question through my mind as I stood on the red carpet. I had the rare opportunity to interview John Paul Dejoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and founder of Patrón tequila, at the City Gala, an  Entrepreneur -sponsored event that’s all about entrepreneurship and creating a brighter future through charity.

As the founder of Osmond Marketing, I had many questions to ask. How do you hire well? How do you create a great culture? How do you scale effectively? But the one burning question I had was, “What advice can you give us business owners?”

Here’s what Dejoria had to say.

Be prepared for rejection.

First and foremost, Dejoria said that anyone who is embarking on a business venture should be ready to hear the word “no” a lot.

“It’s going to happen,” he said. “If you are prepared for it and know it’s going to come, it won’t be able to stop you and get you down.”

Be in the ‘reordering’ business.

If you are doing the right things with your business, cold calls will become a thing of the past. “Don’t be in the business of selling,” Dejoria said. “You should be in the ‘reordering’ business. Make sure whatever it is that you are selling is so good that people will want to reorder it again and again.”

Your product or service should speak for itself if you want to achieve success. And once you have found that success, Dejoria said to make sure you spread that fortune because, in his words, “success unshared is failure.”

Be enthusiastic in the face of all odds.

Dejoria was not handed his wealth or success. Before finding his way, he has openly talked about his humble upbringings growing up poor in Los Angeles. He co-founded Paul Mitchell with just $700 and sold door-to-door while living in a 20-year-old Rolls Royce.

Today, his estimated worth is $4.2 billion.

Through these lean times, he never lost his optimism and credits his fortune in large part to those formative years. “Be enthusiastic and don’t give up, no matter what is put in your face,” Dejoria said. “No matter the struggle or adversity--keep on going if you truly believe in it.”



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