recent thoughts

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I’ve been publishing a few thoughts for the good people at Pollenizer – two recent articles are below:

History repeats: The seminal article written in 1960 by Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business School called the Marketing Myopia is having a sequel. I wrote about it here and why startups are eating the lunch of many fortune 500’s.

Why we don’t have to invent the future: Sometimes it is enough just to participate and facilitate – I wrote about the feeder startup here.

In fact just yesterday I was doing a keynote for the financial services industry and I spoke about the GFD, ‘Great Finance Disruption’, which I believe is on the way given the recent developments in crowd funding, micro payments and crypto currencies. And I got asked a question about it.

And this was the question:

There are many banks in the audience, what advice can you give them to keep an eye on these trends in non traditional banking?

And here is my answer: 

It’s not about watching from a distance, it’s about getting involved, even in a small way, maybe set up a skunk works or a division for radical finance for dissident customer groups. Instead of watching it or trying to fight it, get involved and even facilitate it. It’s very difficult indeed to shape or benefit from something when you are not participating in it.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

We’re all coders

As a startup entrepreneur I often get asked if I’m coder. I used to say no. My answer used to be something like: our job as an entrepreneurs is to organise the factors of production, not be them. But I’ve recently changed my answer to yes regarding the coding question. And no, I haven’t gone out and learned PHP or Ruby or the latest groovy language.

My code is the english language. I’ve become adept at mashing up the approximate 200,000 words we have at our disposal. On the odd occasion I use the core 26 letters in the code to make up some new words that suit me. At certain times I hack together new code short cuts or ‘sound bites’ which promote and inspire a large number of actions on a simple string of a few words. The newness of the code inspires people to act in different ways.

The code I use can stimulate actions and outputs both physical and virtual. As far as I can tell it is still the greatest software code we’ve ever developed. It is totally open source and varies in its use dependent on many things including the geography in which it is used. This language code I use most often, is still the most interesting platform I’ve worked with. Even the same code, said by a different person with a different tone can have a number of different outcomes. It can even change its meaning based on who wrote it when it is exactly the same line of code. It really is worth mastering.

I sometimes use other codes, including the investing code. This one is based on a 10 point decimal number system. This code is very lucrative when you understand its depth as it pertains to equities, venture capital, property and other income streams. It’s super good to overlay the investing code on top of the English code to get profitable outcomes.

While I’m not amazing at the Mandarin code (another language platform) used in large parts of Asia and even Australia – I sometimes drop in some hacks I’ve learned which the receiving platform responds very well to.  try to find ways in which different codes can be used together and interchangebly on the same platform as I find this often gets a result others just cannot garner.

Code is all around us. In many forms, platforms, typologies and physical manifestations. If you’re human you’re a master at more forms of cade than you think. And if you’re an entrepreneur the real benefits arise when we work out how to let these codes interact as an entirely new language. A language which then becomes our own personal operating system. Which when done well can even turn into a powerful personal brand.  Yes, we’re all coders.

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Value yourself

As the new year starts we all set goals and have ambitions to make it a year to remember – as we should. But sometimes we need simple philosophical shifts too. Small shifts that can have a dramatic impact. One of mine is to ‘value myself appropriately’. As startup entrepreneurs an important part of the process is to be a bootstrapper, to maximise the limited resources we have to gain the momentum we need. This often leads us to doing it all ourselves. To be our own courier, printer, door knocker, community manager, clerk, mail room assistant…. anything and everything which is possible to do ourselves. And this is one of the greatest false economies in startup land. A simple rule to circumvent such folly is this:

Never do a task which can be outsourced at a lower hourly rate than what the open market would pay you for that hour.

While it’s easy to argue that we aren’t actually paying ourselves the market rate, it is certainly true that we should be creating the value of our market rate. And this is usually at least double the pay rate. Hence a person earning $100 per hour, should be generating at least $200 per hour for their organisation. Every hour wasted doing a menial task, has more impact than we actually think. Let’s take this simple example:

If we work 60 hours a week for 50 weeks for 2 years and end up with an equity stake valued at $3 million our hourly rate comes out at $500.

Which doesn’t leave many tasks that are worth doing ourselves. Startup blog says value yourself in 2013!

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20 things in 20 years

Since I left school around 20 years ago and in that time I’ve learned some things, that might just be a short cut for you. I’m not going to explain them – just state them. This list is non exhaustive and here they are:

  1. Taking longer to make decisions rarely improves the final result of said decision.
  2. Large companies primarily make decisions to protect income, startup companies primarily make decisions to grow income.
  3. Hard work from an average person invariably has better results than average work from a smart person.
  4. We remember and revere events much more than we do so for things. We should know which one to accumulate.
  5. People who have money problems while on low incomes have them on high incomes as well. It’s the habits that matter.
  6. Spare time is a poor choice to allocate anything important to (read here family, exercise, reading).
  7. Large companies most often reward people on cultural alignment more than actual results of tasks.
  8. Passion projects often take a lifetime to bare fruit. The short term favours sacrifice of belief systems.
  9. Great technocrats always get paid well. Great leaders and influencers always get paid more.
  10. Being aligned to your partners values is more important than alignment of interests. True for business and love.
  11. Financial independence is always a function of spending less than your income. Regardless of income size.
  12. Technology is recalcitrant towards the status quo and history. It forges ahead regardless.
  13. Informal and self education is of greater value than the formal version. It should also never end.
  14. Over time, prices for most everything relative to income drop. The only exclusion I know of is land.
  15. The most valuable things in life cannot be bought or sold, they must be earned. Respect, love, health…
  16. Secrets kill the soul.
  17. Ideas should be shared.
  18. Generosity is rewarded on the long run but may be invisible.
  19. We all have valuable skills, and these skills can leveraged in many ways once we stretch our imagination.
  20. The people we spend our days with has a greater impact on happiness than the work we do.

What are some of the philosophical things you’ve learned?

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Stay true vs the pivot

I bumped into  friend who recently had a successful exit to a tech start up. One thing that I have really looked onto with envy is his ability to throw the old model out and start a fresh. In fact, he did it more frequently and with more haste than most people I know. if it wasn’t working he moved on to an entirely new idea, or made a quick pivot onto the sticky good parts of the concept.

Turns out this process has worked for him.

I’ve been more of a stay the course kind of guy. This comes from my general long term philosophy on when it comes both investing and how to live life. I’ve recently wondered how much this has held me back in startup land – while acknowledging it has worked very well for me financially.  But what I’m starting to realise now is the difference between pivoting from an idea as opposed to pivoting the process. And that I can remain true to my ethics so long as I don’t confuse the former with the latter.

The course is the process, the pivot is the direction.

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10 ways to significantly increase your income

There are a bunch of ways to increase our incomes. Whether we are business owners, startups or employees the principals are the same. So here’s a list of 10 things we can do (starting tomorrow) to boost the income we receive from whatever we do.

  1. Learn or improve our public speaking skills - Our ability to sell ourselves and anything verbally is still the number skill in business. Anyone who can speak in private, can speak in public – it just takes practice. There are tricks we can learn and if we learn them what we earn will increase dramatically.
  2. Write a blog – If we write a blog on what you do it has a wondrous way of increasing our knowledge bank, our reputation and builds a verifiable asset we can use to sell our credentials. All I can say is that of all the things I’ve done in my life, blogging has created more  economic benefit for me than anything else. You’ll only know how this happens if you have faith and do it.
  3. Keep your body in good shape - I believe it has two important ways it impacts our earning potential. Firstly a fit body has a brain that works better. This is a medical fact. Secondly, people subconsciously judge us on what we look like. If we are in good shape people increase their trust levels of us. Because we look after ourselves, they believe we can look after them and their business. I know this is almost cultural heresy, but I do think it is true.
  4. Groom & dress well – As per the second point above. How we look is an asset. It doesn’t mean we need to wear expensive clothes or look like a movie star, but have pride in our own human existence. Never be afraid to invest money in nice clothing.
  5. Work harder on yourself than you do on your job – People buy us as they asset, both in startup land and employment land. So we must invest in self development more than developing the business. If we do the former, that latter happens automatically.
  6. Leverage the wood chips – Every job has some kind of ‘off cut’ or left over which is part of the process of being productive. This is often a great asset which can be leveraged. Know what your wood chips are, and take them to market. This not only invents revenue, but displays vision. People will notice.
  7. Learn another language – It might be Chinese Mandarin or Javascript. Any language will do. The point is that it increases our mind power and enables us to see and understand things that other people can’t. It is far more impressive to know how to speak another language than it is have a post graduate qualification in the same area. It separates us from the crowd. And differentiation leads to greater income.
  8. Help others grow – Help friends and colleagues achieve their goals. Help them with what you know and inspire them to be all they can. Do it without desire for any repayment. It will inspire you and karma will return the benefits.
  9. Save 30 percent – Keep 30 percent of your income to be invested. Do this before any expenditure occurs at all. Put 10% into active capital (your own entrepreneurial ideas). Put 10% into passive capital (shares, interest bearing deposits, other peoples business ventures) and put 10% back into society – this should be defined by yourself. It takes far less than people think for the compound benefits of such a simple financial strategy to accrue.
  10. Spend 10% on your income on self education – No matter what we earn we must ensure we allocate 10% of this to re-educating ourselves. In a world of rapid change this is not a choice but a must. This is the ingredient to continued self worth and value. It pays for itself many times over. Just ask any millionaire.

By the way this list is ‘non-exhaustive’ – but a set of activities I have learned and used. Maybe you’ve got some additional tactics you can share in the comments.

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Entreprenuerial double dipping

An important fact that emplyees and entrepreneurs ought remember:

You can’t sell your job.

Yes, we can build personal brand equity, but the revenue and value we create belongs to the owner of the organization we work for.

This leads me to an important factor that we must remember when we set out out on our way into startup land. We get the uncommon opportunity to get twice the benefit of everything we create. Let me explain.

Whenever we make a sale – we get to keep the gross margin. Put it in our pockets as profit. If we do this often enough, and well enough we also usually have a residual amount that we can pay ourselves as a wage. (yes, it is the opposite of what most people think, profits come before wages when we are building a business.) But the real kicker is revenue we create becomes a sale-able asset. We can sell our invented revenue stream. What this means is that for every dollar we earn, that is a dollar that we can sell. It’s a kind of entrepreneurial double dipping. And this is exactly the same thing the company anyone works for is doing by employing people.

The reason we can sell this revenue, is that the average sale price of a company is its annual revenue figure. So $1 in in real terms equals $2 generated.

Startup Blog says – get out there and generate.

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