“At this point, we cannot rule out malignancy,” he said.

It wasn’t the typical opening to an Info-Marketing Bootcamp presentation.

But MaryEllen Tribby, Publisher and CEO of Early to Rise, is not your typical presenter.

Those words were spoken by her doctor just last June. And, as MaryEllen revealed, the rest of that day passed as a blur, as if she were a spectator. All she could think about was her three kids, and how devastated they would be if something happened to her.

MaryEllen is fine. A biopsy confirmed that she did not have cancer.

But the experience changed her.

A few weeks later, MaryEllen was in Denver for ETR’s Five Days in July conference, teaching budding entrepreneurs how to start their own Internet businesses. She saw the passion of the attendees. Their drive.

And that convinced her she had to do something more herself.

Yes, she had a great job. She was working with the best in the industry. And she was well compensated.

But after years as a leader of other companies and businesses, she wanted to go it alone.

For some time, she’d been dreaming of starting a business combining her two biggest passions: Helping the millions of homeless children around the world. And reaching out to working mothers to make sure they led the balanced lifestyle they deserve.

In fact, she had purchased a domain name for her dream business in 2007. But, like many aspiring entrepreneurs, she kept saying to herself, “I’ll do it someday.”

As soon as she came back from Denver, she started working on her business in earnest.

And what she did can work as a step-by-step guide for you if you’re ready to start your own business. I can’t provide the specific examples and all the details she provided in her two-hour speech, but these are the core ideas.

Spend Most of Your Time on What You Know Best

You may be used to working as part of a team. Somebody does the graphics. Somebody writes promotional copy. Somebody else develops the marketing plan. But when you’re solo, you’re in charge of everything.

Some tasks you can just ditch. And some you can delegate. Establish your priorities. Should you spend time on the phone with your website hosting provider? No, you should delegate that. Should you spend time on content and offers geared toward your market, which you know better than anyone else? Yes.)

Make Technology Your Friend

You may be used to letting others handle the “tech” stuff in your workplace. But when you’re running your own business, you’re the tech guy. And, as MaryEllen discovered, it turns out much of it is pretty easy. For things you can’t figure out, take a class. If it’s really complicated, hire a freelancer.

You don’t have to know everything. But you need to know enough so you’re not at the mercy of your outsourced help. You don’t want to be overcharged or told something is impossible when they just don’t want to do it.

Don’t Ask for Favors, Ask for Advice

At meeting with the mega-successful entrepreneur Richard Branson, MaryEllen was invited to talk about her business. Instead of asking for help, she simply explained what her venture was about and asked for suggestions. Richard offered his support. And, already, his charitable organization, Virgin United, has been in touch with her.

You don’t have to know Richard Branson to take advantage of this approach. Just think about it. If you’re constantly asking people for favors… how long will they feel like granting them?

Create a Network You Can Brag About

Get the best people in your industry in your network. Not people you’ve only met once or see once a year. I’m talking about people you can call at any time. People who will do anything for you. (Of course, you have to be willing to do anything for them, too.)

When you’re starting out, you probably won’t be in touch with industry giants. But you can still make great contacts. Start with likeminded people who are as focused as you are on growing their businesses. As your businesses grow, you will be able to help each other.

Create Accountability Partners

You are 65 percent more likely to accomplish your goals if you have someone watching over your shoulder. As MaryEllen pointed out, it probably has a lot to do with not wanting to admit to not doing what you said you would do. That fear keeps you motivated.

So set up a time to speak with a colleague or business partner once a week. Talk to each other about what you’ve been doing with your businesses. Call them out if they’ve been slacking. Ask them to do the same for you.

Understand Your Market Intimately

One of the first things MaryEllen did was research her market and her competitors. Using keyword research tools from Google, she found that 43 million people a month search terms related to “working moms.” She visited every site in the organic results and pay-per-click ads.

She looked in depth at their site layouts, sales letters, offers, products, and marketing strategies. She figured out what other companies were doing right. And what they were doing wrong. (For example, many didn’t have sign-up boxes on their home pages to build their e-mail lists.)

Work on Your Business Every Day

You can’t just work on the weekends. You have to do something every single day to advance your business. If it’s important to you, you’ll do it. Get up extra early if you have to.

If you want to sell supplements online, for example, you could start researching which products are hot right now. You could contact some suppliers. Buy a domain name. Build your website.

Learn, Understand, and Strive to Master Direct-Response Marketing

Direct marketing is the key to online success. An e-commerce site like Amazon may work. But you’re not Amazon. You can’t wait for customers to find your site. You must reach out to them, get their contact information, and start building relationships that lead to sales.

Don’t Fall Victim to the Biggest Entrepreneurial Curse

Four projects halfway done yields ZERO revenue. One project 100 percent finished brings cash in the door.

Focus on one thing at a time — the one most important thing — and complete it before you start another project.

Ready, Fire, Aim

You have an idea for a business — and six to nine months later, you’re still working on getting your site together. And you’re still working on your marketing copy. Know this: Everything doesn’t have to be perfect before you launch.

As MaryEllen pointed out, most of what you learn about business comes from doing it. You’ll find out what people will buy and for how much. You’ll discover the best way to reach your customers and build your list.

Turning Someday Into Payday

These days, MaryEllen is working toward her dream: to start her own online business aimed at working mothers. And she’ll help kids in need at the same time. Her venture will allow her to work from home, spend time with her family, and make enough money to live the lifestyle she wants to live.

After years of putting off her dream until “someday”… it’s finally happening.

What are you doing to make your “dream” business a reality?

Maybe you’re waiting ’til after the holidays… or for the kids to get a little older… or for that big project at work to be finished… or for the economy to pick up again.

If that’s the case, now’s the time for a little MaryEllen-style tough love: Those are just excuses. Sure, they are real obstacles — but they’re still excuses. And you can always find more of them if you want to.

Stop trying to come up with rationalizations for not taking action. The truth is, now is always the best time to start a business.

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