Planning – Make it fun

No surprise that we do a better job at stuff we enjoy. So why not make planning your day,  week or goals a bit of fun? Given our plans are so important we’ve got to give them the attention they deserve. Make them worth revisiting, worth re-looking at, more visual. Here’s a sample of my daily plans from the past couple of weeks.

plans-3

They’re certainly more interesting than looking at a typed up plan page or some corporate power point presentation. I actually enjoy scribbling my ideas. And I don’t get lost, as each day is simply a new page (not the mess you see above!)- which I try and do the night before to let it sink in.

When startup stuff is boring – make it fun.

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Competitors

Competition is eternally existential. We compete for love, money, attention, fame, wealth, recognition, and sometimes, we even compete for food. Turns out humans aren’t the only species who must to compete to survive. All living things must do it. Even trees in a deep forest compete for sunlight by growing as quickly as possible forgoing width for height.

What I find most interesting about competition is how we or any being chooses to do it. When a competitor catches us unaware, they usually achieve this through  using some form of subterfuge. Like growing in a smaller segment of the market. Focusing on a neglected geography. And the really smart competitors disguise what they are doing so you don’t even see them coming. A little like Google has done to Microsoft who was overly focused on the ‘desktop’, while the world was moving to web app’s and gathering and storing of information externally.

I noticed this phenomenon first hand recently. My business was moving along swimmingly (which in this case is my tomato plantation). As you can see from the photo below. My Roma’s looked healthy and almost ready for the picking:

tomato1

But upon closer inspection a competitor had been eating away at my market for quite a long time without me noticing. Once I turned around the tomato to inspect the back side of them – I was devastated to find my competition. They caught me napping and had a very big impact on my market share. As can be seen here:

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How did they manage this?

  • The caterpillar was smart enough to attack on the reverse side out of view.
  • His color is exactly the same as the tomato proving an excellent camouflage.
  • He waited till the market was already developed (by me) and the tomatoes had a reasonable size and were worth attacking – in this case risking his life over!
  • In true terrorist fashion he penetrated the market at one entry point and ate it inside out. That is, the caterpillar was so deep inside the market, he was completely out of view.

None of this was by mistake. It has been driven by millennia of evolutionary survival and subsequent genetic coding. Nature is smart.

The implications for startups are many. When we start out to compete, the best thing we can do is replicate what nature does. Stay out of harms way. Stay small and unseen. Try and gain some momentum and size. If we’re lucky will have built our share of the market and be ensconced before anyone notices.

(FYI – I picked the tomatoes, and placed them in another location of the garden to let the caterpillars fight another day – they may just leave some seeds which will flourish next season!)

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Message for the time poor

Here’s the only two snippets of advice which matter for the time poor. Forget all other advice which you have heard.  Especially, the long winded advice for time saving practices, which quite frankly the irony is not lost on me.

Advice snippet no: 1 – Never double handle any task. Touch it once. Do it once.

Advice snippet no: 2 – Cut stuff out of your schedule. Do less stuff, and learn to say no.

Do these two things and life will be better. That is all.

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Revenue

One of our jobs in business is this:

“Make it as easy as possible for people to give us their money”

It’s already hard enough to convince people to buy our product or service, so why some businesses minimize payment options is beyond me.

cash-only

photo by Mike Monteiro

Cash only, just doesn’t cut it these days. Regardless if we are on line, business to business or in retail, minimizing the payment options has this simple repercussion: It minimizes revenue.

Live example is a café in Melbourne called ‘Journal’. I had a company breakfast there and they wouldn’t accept my credit card. They even had the audacity to say ‘Who doesn’t carry cash on them?’ Answer: plenty of people. That’s fine. I’m never going there again and they missed out on around $100 this week.

Startups ought make it easy to collect revenue.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

The Sandwich Man

Maybe you’re a great web designer

Maybe you’re a great coder

Maybe you’re a financial wizard

Maybe you’ve got a flair for industrial design

Maybe you’re a craftsman with unique skills

Maybe you’re great at managing and building a supply chain.

Maybe selling isn’t something you enjoy, like or even care about. Maybe making presentations is the part of business that really isn’t your thing.

Problem is this: There’s plenty of great ideas, businesses and people who never reached their full potential because the selling bit was missing.

Step forward the ‘Sandwich man’

Startup blog definition: Sandwich Man – a gun presenter and public communicator who presents the ideas and sells the dream on behalf of the business.

A sandwich man is called such, because he holds together all the good things like the bread does on a yummy sandwich. Without him all the ingredients, nutrition, ‘reason for being’ could all fall away.

A good sandwich man would start and close any business presentation to people like venture capitalists, suppliers, key accounts, customers and the media.

sandwich

Quite often successful businesses are run by a team where one of the members is the tech genius and the other is the Sandwich Man. Who then communicates the ideas and vision to get people on board. Rarely people are lucky enough to have both skill sets. Regardless of which skill set we have, we always need a sandwich man. We can even bring one into the team on a needs basis.

But without one, we may end up with a great product or business which never gets the traction it deserves.

Big Companies, Big Lies

You need more industry experiencesilhouette

You need to have experience managing a team

It’s out of my control

We care, we’re listening

We have a sustainable perspective

Our interests are aligned

People are our most important asset

Open plan is for open communication

We have a long term strategy

We serve our shareholders first

We put our customers first

We put our employees first

We have a lot of first places… ?

We make stuff up so we can justify the money we extract from something we don’t own.

Make your startup the antithesis of this – mean what you say.

Best advice ‘ever’ for entrepreneurs

I often get asked the following question: “If you had to give one piece of advice for entrepreneurs what would it be?”

Here’s my answer:

Revenue must exceed expenditure.

The more it exceeds it by, the better.

I like doing cool stuff as much as the next guy, and no I wouldn’t sell tobacco to kids in Africa to make money. But it becomes really hard to do cool stuff if your business doesn’t survive.