The 4 Best Books about Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well these days, but what exactly does that mean? And what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? In general terms, entrepreneurship refers to the beginning of a business, but there is a lot that goes into making that happen. To delve into the process of becoming an entrepreneur, and a successful one at that, check out some of the below writings. These authors quite literally “wrote the book” on entrepreneurship or they have inspired well-known business gurus.


The $100 Start Up – Chris Gillebeau

How many times have we heard “find a job doing what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? This book outlines how you can actually do that, be your own boss, and do it for minimal start-up money. If you have a hobby you are passionate about check this book.

The Effective Executive – Peter F. Drucker

Maybe you already have your business off the ground and running; this could be a great resource for you. This book is actually recommended by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It discusses time management and decision-making habits that will help you be a successful leader and continue to grow your business.

The Third Wave – Steve Chase

Many recent start-ups are tech based. This publication examines where tech is going in its “third wave” of evolution. Written by AOL co-founder Steve Chase, it looks to the future of tech and how it can be further integrated with established enterprises like healthcare and finance. If tech is your thing, this a great read to see what may be ahead.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey

This is an oldie but a goodie I think. I remember this being taught in my 9th-grade Civics class, and though I didn’t understand its usefulness at the time, I understand it now. Developing the habits outlined by Covey like “Be Proactive” will assist in making your new venture effective and successful. It’s also probably the reason we are all sick of hearing the word synergy.

Throughout life, there are many things that shape our outlook on how we view the world and many times those things are books. These four texts can help shape how we look at business and entrepreneurship.

What are some of the books that helped shape you? Do you have a favorite book about being an entrepreneur not on this list? Let us know!

Entrepreneurs in the Making: Ideation with Canon-McMillan Students

The holidays are over! This is leaving some of us relieved and a few of us a little disappointed that it’s time to get back to the grind. Regardless, this past month has been a busy time for everyone. Before we cocooned ourselves for the remainder of whatever PTO days we had remaining, ABG Capital took some time to do what they do best; invest in the future.


How so? One month ago today, we welcomed the students of the Canon-McMillan School District’s Entrepreneurship Program! Twice a year, as part of our community outreach initiatives, we welcome the class and their teachers to our office for an educational field trip.

ABG Capital finds it important to invest in educating students for “real-world” office life expectations. On this particular visit, the students gathered together to listen to ABG Capital’s CEO Jeff Tapolci, VoIP Innovations’ President Dan Ravenstahl, Director of IT Adam Scott, Director of Human Resources Sharon Kolesar, and Director of Development Jerry Eddy.

After a brief introduction of our company’s history, structure, and people-focused culture, Jeff spoke about some of the useful business tools he uses to ensure the alignment and health of our companies. The students learned about the importance of Strategic Thinking and the 7 Strata, along with Execution Planning and the use of a One Page Plan. The main topic of discussion, however, was the topic of ideation.


What is ideation? The thought process of ideation comes from Stanford University. The goal of performing ideation is to produce “innovation at work” whether it be the overall mindset of your employees or an actual team-building session completed throughout each department. Ideation occurs at every point of the project planning process, but these ideas are often brought together with others generated during specific exercises aimed at uncovering new methods, approaches, practices, and, perhaps most importantly, new ways of improving something such as a new user interface experience. So much information is uncovered over the course of most projects that there must be a point where it is combined, analyzed, and converted into practical solutions and means of making innovation at work more tangible.

After hearing the detailed overview of ideation, students formed small groups to perform their own ideation sessions. Following the layout and steps of this ideation/brainstorming template, the Canon-Mac students chose struggles that involve other people, can be solved with a physical thing or experience, and that could be tackled within a week.

The students dove deep into these brainstorming sessions and came up with some really insightful and thought-provoking ways to develop analogous situations, break through any constraints, and framework for the problems they decided to tackle.

Shortly after their ideation run-through, the students were able to wrap up their day with the chance to meet with members of our staff that work in departments like Development, Marketing, IT, and Accounting. Our team members shared with them how our roles in the company, along with other companies they have worked for, have helped shape their careers and led to new opportunities.

After the meet and greet, the day ended with pizza for lunch and a Q&A session from the students.

The day was busy, fun was had, but most importantly the students were able to take away a better knowledge and understanding of what may lie behind the door of graduation. The students were able to witness first-hand the power of what a small family run business has the potential to turn into with hard work, cultivation of those around you, and respect. Success is the aim of the game. ABG only hopes that we could instill that goal in the minds of these young adults and inspire the next generation.

For more information on ideation and how you can implement this philosophy and strategy into your workplace, click here.

To get a copy of the Innovation at work Ideation worksheet, click here.

Looking Back on INBOUND16

Cold calling is dead.

It’s just that simple. We now live in a time where marketing no longer reaches out by annoyance but by content filled with rich stories, SEO, automation, analytics, and so many other intuitive methods. Generally anything besides making those awkward phone calls in hopes of securing a customer.


That’s the beauty of Inbound Marketing. The barriers have been taken down. The opportunity for creativity and passion to be instilled in the way we choose to represent our brand is endless. Inbound brings forth a new frontier where captivating attention–and day trading it–becomes the holy grail of our marketing efforts.20161108_175314

INBOUND16 brought together over 18,000 attendees who live and breathe in the world of marketing, sales, and CEO-land, as well as HubSpot customers and agencies who understand the mentality and passion behind inbound and organic reach. All of us scurrying from session to session, taking notes and absorbing as many thoughts and tactical tips as possible to bring back to our organizations.

A few INBOUNDers from our marketing department flew to Boston to be a part of the gathering and came back full of insight. Upon landing, these three scattered throughout the convention center to gain the best marketing knowledge in the industry.

In the three and a half days of attendance Cherie, Cody, and Mark witnessed powerful keynote presentations from marketing gurus such as Gary Vaynerchuck, the “eloquently” spoken founder of VaynerMedia and host of #AskGaryVee, as well as Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Founders of HubSpot. Celebrities filled the halls of INBOUND as well. Stories of the rise and grind were told by Anna Kendrick, Michael Strahan, and Serena Williams. Even Alec Baldwin graced INBOUND16 with his presence one morning! The passionate life-tales and insight didn’t end there. Hundreds of breakout sessions filled all 80 rooms of the Boston Convention center as well as both of their grand ballrooms.20161110_141831_001

To summarize INBOUND completely is almost impossible. To experience this wealth of powerful knowledge and standout mentors, as well as those sharing the field of inbound from around the globe together in one location is something you truly have to be there for.

To squeeze just a little bit of this experience out of the conference we asked our three in-house-INBOUND-incumbents what moments of enlightenment, insight, actionable tips, and fun they experienced individually.

Cherie – PR & Social Media Specialist, ABG Capital: “INBOUND16 was such an incredible experience that it’s difficult for me to pick just one takeaway as my favorite. The initial thought I have anytime I reflect on INBOUND(16) is how amazing it was to be among other people in my field who just “get it.” The fellow attendees understand how crucial it is for us marketers to do what we do for a business. They also understand that while we have the “fun” jobs of the company, what we do takes hard work, strategic planning, analyzation, concentration, and creativity.

I’m downright giddy at INBOUND listening to others in my field “talk shop.”  And while my focus at work is on PR and Social Media, I have the opportunity to attend sessions on design, video, content creation, and storytelling, which aids in rounding out my expertise. If you want to be at the top of the sales and marketing field, a trip to INBOUND is a must for getting there!”


Mark – Product Manager, InspiraFS:  The Session titled: ‘The Science of Selling: How to Sell the Way our Brains are Wired to be Influenced and Form Buying Decisions’ really stood out for me.

David Hoffeld, The Hoffeld Group stated “63% of the behaviors salespeople deploy decrease the likelihood of a sale.” SAD! As marketers, we should care deeply about how prospects’ brains react to sales strategies. At the end of the day we are trying to drive sales, just in a different environment. There’s no reason we shouldn’t incorporate the science of selling into our content.



Cody – Inbound Marketing Specialist, ABG Capital: INBOUND showed me that your story matters. Something that outbound, or “interruption marketing,” doesn’t necessarily embrace. Interruption marketing is simply the interruption of someone’s activity to grasp his attention…it’s an annoyance. We’ve all seen in it with spam, pop-ups, ugly banner ads, cold calling, and even TV.

In Gary Vaynerchuck’s keynote he explained that the television networks we know and love are becoming extinct. What’s replacing them? Intuitive social media platforms that tell stories. Our iPhones have become the basis of our entertainment. They’re our new television sets. They’re filled with the networks we know and love–Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram.

We follow brands and celebrities by choice. Not by interruption. We “tune-in” to their stories, latch onto their content, and implement their output into our daily lives. Not because we were caged into watching a 30 second spot in the middle of the Walking Dead because our On-Demand isn’t working–but because we as a society, we as a human race, place emotional ties into what we view and love–the quality of story-telling.


Tactical Advice You Can Use Today20161109_144812

As I said earlier, summing up the lessons learned from INBOUND in their entirety is nearly impossible. However, we can give you few actionable tips that can improve your website and your conversions today!



Here are some tips you can incorporate right now:

  • Remove your slider/carousel hero banner. These diminish CTR (Click Through Rate) and take away from your value proposition.
  • A value proposition–you should have one! Peep Laja with ConversionXL has one of the best articles on how to create a great value proposition. Read it and test yours starting today. If you find this hard, just pretend someone asked you what you do and how you’re different. Once you’ve compiled that, organize it into a value prop and get it up on your site.
  • Define your conversion funnel assumptions. When someone lands on your homepage, where would he or she logically go next? Make that next step easier. That’s conversion optimization in a nutshell, and you can try that for each page. Use any data you have, or start with assumptions and test, test, and test some more.
  • Optimize your blog. Aside from your homepage, your blog is probably the second highest visited part of your website. You’d be surprised how your blog is leaking opportunities to convert.
  • Testing…Testing…Testing! So how can you do that? Add Hotjar to your site today. This will show you heatmaps, user recordings, and more.

Start using these tips today! We’ll be sure to enlighten you with more after INBOUND17. Grab your tickets for next years INBOUND with your company; you never know, we might just happen to see you there!


Getting Your Core Values Off The Wall and Into The Office


If you were to walk into your company today, where would you find your corporate values? In the employee handbook? Hanging on a plaque in each room? Is your HR department protecting them? Regardless of where your core values may be found; they’re all empty promises if you as the business owner aren’t modeling them through daily office behaviors.

As a business owner, you’ll find yourself flip flopping in and out of other operating roles. Especially when pulling together your team to find out what your company stands for, besides the products/services it sells. In today’s post we’ll be taking a look at your core values, from the position of one question; Why? Why do we stand for these purposes and HOW do we make sure these purposes are off the wall and walking around the halls?

“Are our core values off the wall?” We all know what core values are. I discovered, in my college internship that core values aren’t as “ugly” or monotonous as my business planning classes made them out to be. Core values should be thought of with emotion. They should be a result of the cerebral planning process that is left out of the business plan. They should be looked at from within. It sounds a little silly, but really, look at your business as a whole in the mirror and tear yourself apart. What’s good about you, what isn’t? Core values are how your customers and the people you hire are connected. They’re why they buy from you instead of your competitors.

The process of developing a set of core values isn’t as intimidating as one may think. In fact, the building blocks for great core values can be broken down into three easy steps:

  1. Name the value: “Integrity is the essence of our success.”
  2. Describe the demonstrated behavior: “Our walk matches our talk. We make and keep commitments.”
  3. Measure how the leader demonstrates the value: Needs improvement–Delivery of commitments are inconsistent.

It’s unfortunate that part of the reason why businesses fail is because of their poorly executed core values. Internally and externally, if your partners in business don’t share the same purpose–and if they don’t share the same values–it will be difficult to make any progress.

The same goes towards your employees. These core values you have so proudly displayed on almost every wall need to keep your employees unified. If your employees don’t understand your values and purpose as a company; chaos could be the result.

Ask yourself why?  Why are you doing what you do in the first place? How are you doing what you are doing? Keeping that WHY at the center keeps the focus on those core values you set in place for your business.

Where are your core values being carried out?

Where are your core values being carried out?

Assembling a team of like-minded partners and employees that understand your WHY keeps those words you have plastered all over your office walls in the discussions where critical decision making takes place. As well as in the break room during lunch.

Make your core values a navigational practice for your business. Bringing in your WHY when hiring will assemble a team of like-minded employees. Hold your core values as a high priority during the interview process and watch reactions.

What about your preexisting employees? Employees can be looked at in two ways: Those who have high values and those who have low values. Those who have high values might need to be trained to have better performance. Those employees who have low values, even if they have high-performance, should be relieved from the company. They become toxic. This is where most companies go wrong–they base everything on performance and not the culture.

Without letting your employees know where you stand through your meetings and team-work events, your employees won’t know where you stand. So be straight with your values first and then measure performance.

So next time you walk into the office take a look around. Each day keep an eye on where your core values have bounced to next. You may be surprised, but you’ll certainly feel satisfied.

Risky Business: When To Take Risks and When To Pass

From a young age, we’re taught that we should avoid risky behavior. The outcome could be less than stellar, or worse than that, adversely affect us for the rest of our lives. One bad risk taken and that’s the end. But are all risks bad? Is there a way to know when the risks we take could lead us to a better situation than our present one in our personal and business lives? After listening to Rebecca Harris, the Director of the Center for Women Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, speak on the topic of risky business, when to take risks and when to pass, we are closer to figuring it out.

ACG Women's New Year's Party Luncheon & Bad Gift Swap

Last Thursday afternoon, our Human Resources Manager, Sharon A. Kolesar, and I, our Communications Specialist, Cherie Steffen, attended the Association for Corporate Growth Women’s New Year’s Party Luncheon & Bad Gift Swap at the Fairmont Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. Braving the weather was the first risk taking of the afternoon, as an ice storm was upon us. We arrived safely though, making our way through the gorgeous hotel to an event room full of dedicated businesswomen from many different professional backgrounds.

Association for Corporate Growth members

The only part of the afternoon that the Association for Corporate Growth planned for us that did not involve any risk taking whatsoever was eating the delicious lunch. From the tortilla soup appetizer to the healthy and colorful buffet, to the almost-too-pretty-to-eat desserts, the Fairmont Hotel prepared an amazing arrangement of food to keep us happily full as we began to listen to our emcee and guest speaker, Ms. Harris.

Tortilla soup
seafood and vegetablesDessert Table
Possessing quite an exciting and humorous way of communicating with her audience, Ms. Harris began by telling us we have to be more comfortable with taking risks. That was something we needed to hear right away. Somehow coming from a woman who has taken many professional risks and still lived to tell the tales, it was genuine and not just an easy command. She went on to give us the “why” behind it.

Rebecca Harris Chatham University

Her speech centered around four themes:

♦ How to recognize good risk-taking opportunities (know your field; know the trends)
♦ Knowing when to get in; when to get out
♦ How to calculate your own risk-taking comfort level
♦ How to balance the right amount of risk to maximize your business potential

Ms. Harris also threw in these to-the-point, messages that hit home as well:

♦ Red flag risk raisers! These risks are outside your core competency area and you worry about the details later. Bad idea!
♦ Admitting what you don’t know is really important.
♦ We identify ourselves with our successes and our failures.
♦ Take the risks. Your results may be very different from what you expected.

By time she was finished speaking I feel like I had nodded so much I could easily be mistaken for a bobble head; she was on point with everything. You know, the types of things you either know in the back of your head but you somehow choose to ignore either due to fear or stubbornness? Those things. Also, there were so many one-liners that left me saying, “She nailed it!” that I had enough witty Facebook statuses and Tweets to last a week.

Bad Gift Swap
20150129_ACGWomensLuncheon_sharon opening her gift

After Ms. Harris finished speaking, we continued with the other risk taking themed portion of the afternoon: selecting our gifts from the Bad Gift Swap. Think of it as one of those White Elephant Gift Exchanges.

With this, we also learned not to judge anything by its pretty wrapping–another great motto for business. There were some doozies in there for sure!

The worst gift of all was decided by vote–a faux fur table runner. The gift we brought to throw into the mix, a hideous 1970s-esque yarn picture of a city scape, ended up coming in second place! Not too shabby. And surely if someone recycles that gift and brings it back next year, not too much risk would be involved; she should win hands down. It was awful.

Ugly gifts

We’ll leave you with our two favorite quotes of the afternoon from Ms. Harris: “Don’t overanalyze. Just cut that out right now.” and “Really, let’s just go for it.” Two amazingly simple and powerful pieces of advice that after her already moving speech, left us ready to get out there and capitalize on our personal and business potential.

ABG Capital to Participate in Strategic Planning Session

ABG Capital

ABG Capital

December brings us many things.  The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is among us, the final quarter draws to a close, many businesses are preparing year-end reports, and thoughts of the upcoming New Year are in our heads.  Many people take the time to reflect, both personally and professionally, on the past year and look forward to 2013.  On a personal level, many look at what they have accomplished over the year and make new resolutions for 2013.  Corporately, businesses may draw up year-end reports and analyze numbers to determine their goals for the upcoming year.  At ABG Capital, we do all of those things.  We utilize our ideals to enhance our work and personal lives.  Our ideals are to cultivate ideas and people through our C.O.R.E. (Cultivate, Overcome, Respect, and Evolve) Values for the purpose of Giving Back.

Employees of ABG Capital utilize these ideals personally in many ways.  We participate in various activities throughout the year, where we are given an opportunity to Give Back to our community.  These activities include working at the food bank, fundraising for Make-A-Wish, and cleaning headstones at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.  In addition to Giving Back, employees also are encouraged to live healthy lifestyles.  We do an annual Biggest Loser contest, where interested employees weigh-in on Fridays, and the biggest loser receives a cash reward.  Also, we bring in an inspirational speaker/author in on a regular basis to educate our team about healthy eating habits.

In terms of business, we take our goals, or New Year’s resolutions, very seriously.  Every year around this time, our companies participate in Strategic Planning Sessions, where goals for the upcoming quarters are brainstormed and strategized.  These 2-day sessions employ strategic planning and executive education adopted from the Gazelles Growth and Leadership Summits.  As discussed in this earlier post,, ABG Capital sends key employees to these Gazelles Summits to gain valuable training on how to lead and grow their companies.  This education, along with a Gazelles coach, enables each of ABG Capital’s portfolio companies to evolve solid annual strategic plans.

As 2012 draws to a close, employees at ABG Capital are busy preparing for holiday festivities, gathering gifts and monies for Giving Back causes, and focusing their energies on having a productive 2013.

ABG Capital is 14th Among the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania

ABG Capital

ABG Capital

What makes a workplace outstanding?  Ranking on Pennsylvania’s Best Places to Work list 5 out of the past 7 years, perhaps ABG Capital has the answer.  The focus at ABG Capital is on people and culture, which creates a work environment in which both businesses and individuals thrive.

ABG Capital is pleased to announce that it is ranked 14th among the top 71 small/medium employers in the state, according to the thirteenth annual Best Places to Work in PA awards program.  In addition to this honor, ABG Capital was also recognized locally by the Pittsburgh Business Times, ranking 41st on their list of Best Places to Work in Western Pennsylvania.  This was their 6th showing in the past 8 years.

The Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania program was created by four companies: Central Penn Business Journal, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Team Pennsylvania Foundation, and Best Companies Group.  These organizations developed this program for several reasons.  The organizations were interested in helping Pennsylvanian companies retain their current workforce, attract new workers, and to distinguish the businesses in the state that attract and retain Pennsylvania’s talented workforce.

This program evaluates and ranks the best places of employment in the State based on employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as workplace practices and policies.  To be considered for this award, companies are required to complete the assessment process, where employers complete Benefits and Policies Questionnaires and employees complete Engagement and Satisfaction Surveys.  Once this information is collected, Best Companies Group then sorts and interprets the data to determine company rankings.

“It is such an honor to once again be ranked with an elite group of outstanding companies in PA,” stated Sharon Kolesar, Human Resources Manager at ABG Capital.  “Here at ABG Capital, we create values to foster a healthy life balance for our employees.  To know that 75% of our ranking is based on our employees’ responses and feedback exhibits that our culture is effective.”

The winners’ rankings were announced Thursday evening, November 29, 2012, at an awards ceremony at the Lancaster County Convention Center.  Additionally, the ranked companies will be profiled in a supplement to the Central Penn Business Journal and other business journals across the state.

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ABG Capital leverages its unique business management model to reduce costs through the consolidation of back office operations for its portfolio companies. By consolidating services like accounting, legal, IT, software development, employee administration and HR, we are able to eliminate redundancy among, increase efficiency and be very nimble to the changes that occur in the market.  To learn more, visit

Happy Thanksgiving from ABG Capital

Turkey Bowl

5th Annual ABG Capital Turkey Bowl

In 2008, ABG Capital started a popular Thanksgiving tradition, their 1st Annual Turkey Bowl.  Employees wanting to participate were put into teams, and spent an afternoon playing flag football games.  This activity quickly became a favorite among the ABG Capital team.

This year, the team carried on the tradition and hosted their 5th Annual Turkey Bowl last Friday.  Four teams played until there was a champion.  Afterwards, the participating employees chose an MVP and Hands of Stone award.  Those winners will be announced at the ABG Capital Holiday Party next month.

ABG Capital would like to take the opportunity to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.  We are truly grateful our valued customers and dedicated employees.

To see more pictures from our Turkey Bowl visit:

ABG Capital Employee Brings Aid to Hurricane Affected Areas

Hurricane Sandy

ABG Capital employee and husband with family affected by Hurricane Sandy

Those of us unaffected by Hurricane Sandy may be unaware of the devastation caused by this media-named super storm.  This huge storm affected 24 states, caused billions of dollars in damage, destroyed thousands of homes, left millions without electricity, and killed over a hundred people.  Even today, three weeks after the storm hit the US, there are still over a hundred thousand people without power in New York and New Jersey.

Denise Breide, the Provisioning Project Specialist for ABG Capital’s portfolio company, VoIP Innovations, was anxious to help out.  She and her husband, Ron, decided to take a trip to the East Coast to volunteer their time to those in need.  Prior to leaving, Denise collected various household items and cleaning supplies from her friends, family, and coworkers.  ABG Capital’s CEO, Jeff Tapolci, sent along a company donation as well.

Last Friday, Denise and Ron took their full trailer to the coast to distribute their collected items to those in need.  What they found was shocking, heartbreaking, and scary.

“I couldn’t believe the devastation in these hard-hit areas, “stated Denise Breide.  “The media could never portray how much loss these people have experienced.  It was truly heartbreaking to see these families have absolutely nothing left.”

Denise and her husband were so moved by their experience last weekend helping out those affected by this severely distressing hurricane that they have decided to repeat the trip.  This weekend, they will again drive over to the East Coast, trailer full or supplies, to help those in need.  They have another trip planned to December as well.

See pictures of Denise’s trip here:

ABG Capital Employees Attend Health and Wellness Presentation

ABG Capital Health and Wellness Event

ABG Capital Health and Wellness Event

Yesterday, ABG Capital employees had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Lindsey Smith, Certified Health Coach from The Real You Nutrition.  Smith talked to the employees about staying nutritionally aware, not just during the holidays, but in their everyday lives.  She also explained how oftentimes people choose their eating habits based on their moods.  Along with her helpful healthy eating tips, she also provided samples of smoothies for all to try.  Smith brought along a few copies of her recent book, Junk Foods & Junk Moods: Stop Craving and Start Living!, which she raffled off to employees.

Check out Lindsey Smith’s websites at and

For pictures of this event, please visit: