Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Don't Ignore What Everyone Else Tells You To Do!

I'm reading a book at the moment that has the potential to change my life. I'm also participating in a Mastermind Group for pro-bloggers and entrepreneurs. At the same time, I'm following a course on ways to make money from a blog business (or should that be "business blog"?)

They're all telling me the same thing; but being a stubborn, creative person, I've been ignoring them and doing my own thing, revelling a bit in the failure and passing it off as a "learning experience".

It turns out there's only so much "learning" I'm willing to put up with, and today the penny dropped.

Stop Procrastinating Now!

Here's an odd statement - all my failures to date have been a result of procrastination. In thinking that I've been incredibly productive and pro-active, all I've been doing is setting balls in motion with no follow-up when they fail to produce immediate results.

What I should have done is thought them through, properly, and only executed the ones with a decent chance of success. But, I've been putting that off in favour of direct action, rather than doing what David Risley (of the Blog Marketing Academy) and the Mastermind Group were saying was the best way forward - planning.

So, action is good, but make it the correct kind of action, and start with your business model.

Find Your Business Model

Some of the questions that you should ask yourself involve imagining that this will be the only thing you'll be doing fro around 20 hours per week, solidly.

You need to find a business model that matches your skills - if you can write, then produce written digital products, if you're skilled at doing deals, then make the emphasis on JVs - and that can pay you enough to make it worthwhile.

Should the business model be a membership site? One on one consultancy? An eBook? Some form of Software as a Service (SaaS) offering a clear solution to an existing problem?

It's up to you. But to get the juices flowing...

Kickstart the Creative Process

I recommend reading the book. Heartily. I'm planning to go through it once at speed, and then again, picking out the stuff I can use immediately. At the same time, the author has put together some truly outstanding resources for anyone to deploy.

Fair warning - to get the most out of them, you do need to buy the book. Fair disclosure : the link is an affiliate link, and I'll earn some pennies towards the next book on my entrepreneurial book wishlist which looks like being the highly acclaimed Re:Work.

But, the templates alone will get you thinking, and launching your $100 start-up business.

In case you hadn't guessed, the book is The $100 Start-Up by Chris Guillemeau. The resources I mentioned can be found on the 100startup.com companion site.

Go get 'em. Both.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Standing on the Shoulders of the Four Hour Work Week

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There seems to be a trend in entrepreneurial books to reduce the working week to ever smaller figures, but are these sound-bites or realistic strategies? If they're realistic, how do we go about earning a seven figure sum from a single figure visit to the coal-face?

Let's start by re-visiting the key popular literature on the topic of doing more with less.

At one end of the scale, there is "The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich", by Tim Ferris. In a nutshell, Tim built a business around health supplements that enabled him to abandon a traditional 9-5, 5 day working week in favour of working whenever, and wherever he chooses, with enough income to do pretty much whatever he chooses.

Some people seem to think he's just a glorified self-publicist, using his story to sell books, while others have successfully replicated his strategies and now lead lifestyles that most would be envious of. Whether you buy into the whole kitsch or not, there are some useful nuggets in the book and it's worth reading, or skimming the sample pages available on Amazon, including the Table of Contents.

Of note as far as the lean start-up is concerned:

- delegate out as far as possible;
- remove yourself from the machine as early as possible;
- validate ideas as cheaply as possible.

At the other end of the scale, there's "The 3 Day Entrepreneur: How to Build a 6 or 7 Figure Business Working Less Than 3 Days a Week", by William U. Pena, MBA. The tag-line, helpfully, is "Build a Business, Not a Job", which immediately sets the scene in our favour.

After all, we don't want a job, we just want to have a business that earns money. It turns out that the book is a lifestyle guide, as well as a lean management bible. In fact, like the 4HWW, if you already have a job, you'll be able to use the techniques to streamline that, leaving you time to build a separate business.


Again, the key points are as follows:

- use leverage to reduce resource requirements;
- automate wherever possible (just another kind of leverage);
- create systems, and be prepared to optimize everything by testing;
- schedule tasks according to their value, importance, and contribution to the business.

Oh, and we're not just concerned with time, we also want to be able to do it with less money, as well. Enter "The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better to Live More" by Chris Guillebeau; on the face of it a way to turn a measly amount of cash into a business empire that's fun to run, but in reality more like a cottage industry start-up manual than anything else.

Modern management writers are at it too, by the way. This isn't the place for a full-on review of modern management texts, but a quick Amazon search for lean strategic management yields a good list of starting points. The gist is that using lean techniques, with some of the 4HWW and Three Day Entrepreneur style time and resource management thrown in, even top companies can benefit from this idea that we can achieve our goals by putting in ever decreasing measures of actual effort.

So, where does that leave the start-up entrepreneur?

The opening paragraph posed two questions - is there any substance to the idea that we can do more with less, and if so, how? - and the answers are, yes, and by not actually doing anything yourself that can be done by someone else.

For example, both Ferris and Pena advocate removing yourself from the actual mechanics of the business. Ferris suggests that you do this by hiring a PA from India to cover your tasks (but then, of course, you have to have the $400 or so per month required to pay them) and Pena has a novel idea that you can just choose a day when you do no work at all, and see how the business gets on without you.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the real world, this translates into something akin to putting together a kind of jigsaw puzzle. Only when all the pieces fit together will the business function as a whole; if one thing breaks then the whole house of cards (to swap metaphors for a moment) comes crashing down.

That's the downside of using leverage; if you farm out responsibility and the mechanics of the business, you'd better prepare for what happens when it falls apart behind your back. Luckily, if you follow Ferris', Guillemeau's or Pena's advice, the effects will be minimal.

Not every business model works with these strategies either, of course. Typically, those that work well provide recurring income (like subscription services such as Unexpected Teas or Sumo Jerky) or those that have fully outsourced production of products to be sold through an online retailer like Amazon.

The various jigsaw pieces might include:

- a payment gateway (PayPal, or similar)
- an outsourced manufacturer or content producer
- a PA to manage QA
- someone to oversee issues (usually yourself)
- an online manager (web design, software updates, etc.)
- various bloggers, researchers, paid Twitterers, etc.

While you can make it work whilst doing much of the grind yourself, that pretty much predicates quitting any day job you might have had, and part of the beauty of the three day (or even the four hour) week is that you can start your business at the same time as having the security of being a cubicle worker.

Based on what I've read, it's certainly possible to match your current income, as long as you're not already raking in millions, whilst only 'working' for a few days per week. The trouble is, it's addictive, and before long you might well find that you've swapped one kind of lucrative prison for another as you thrill in the start-up cycle for the third or fourth time.

Whether that works for you or not is another question, and one that only you can answer.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Day the (SEO) Content Penny Dropped



The Day The (SEO) Content Penny Dropped!

Psst. Want to hear something funny? I don't care if anyone ever reads this. Because today, the SEO penny dropped.

I was reading a post on SearchEngineWatch's blog called 'Building a CRAP SEO Content Strategy' and was just thinking how on-message it was for 21st century SEO, when it happened.

There's little point diluting their message, but CRAP is an acronym that pulls together a lot of different, but great, ideas, about SEO and content.

If you're at all interested, I suggest you read it yourself when you've finished here.

Nobody Cares About Your Logo

The last time I set up a blog (TheKeywordCracker.com) I held off launching because I didn't have a logo I was happy with.

Then I hated the layout, so didn't launch.

Then it was the lack of paid member content.

But then it occurred to me that nobody cares about the logo. Visitors don't click through to the site because of the logo. Except under rare circumstances, they'll not see it until they visit the site.

When they get there, they're not going to leave because I don't have a logo. They won't stay because the logo looks pretty.

They're too busy reading the content and deciding if it's crap or CRAP.

So Why Don't I Care?

Okay, I was exaggerating for effect. Of course I care

However, if nobody ever reads this, it's because they're not interested enough in the content. Or that I haven't provided enough content, or that it doesn't engage them. If they don't share it, it's because it is without value.

Search engines can't really rate value. They can infer from Tweets, re-Tweets, social bookmarking and sharing that visitors value it enough to share it, but they can only guess at why.

For those who think that they can tell an image from a textual message; think of an info-graphic. They often have more information than a 600 word blog, so are probably as valuable, if not more. But if search engines apply a strict image/text rule, they'll be classified as 'less' valuable than the text.

Even if they're not.

Is a post with a mix of images and text more 'valuable'? Maybe. Maybe not. Only a human can really answer that question.

How Does This Rant Relate to Start-Up?

I'm glad you asked.

When you start up a business, be it a blog or a lemonade stand, if your product is good, it will succeed despite not having a logo.

Don't let the unimportant details slow you down. Learn what is important, and concentrate on that, and get to launch as fast as is reasonable.

Create value, and you'll be successful. Create a pretty logo, and all you've got is a pretty logo.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Three Best Ways to Stay in Business - For the Long Term!


Inside Warehouse
According to statistics* 71% of all start-ups fail in the first 10 years.

That's not the scary number.

The scary number is that 25% of them already taste failure in the first year. Another one is that less than half make it to year 4.

And there are more, but this was supposed to be a helpful post, so let's see what a start up business can do to avoid becoming just another number.

The Danger of Product Multitasking for Start-Up Businesses

Putting aside for a moment basic incompetence, and lack of preparation, knowledge and so on, 30% of start up businesses fail due to over-expansion.

Sure, you have big ideas, or you wouldn't be an entrepreneur. But, especially in the beginning, try to concentrate on getting the process to produce a single, good, revenue generating product or service worked out, before you try releasing anything else.

As Barbara Cochran once said on Shark Tank - "You're moving too fast with too many things, and that's usually a formula for disaster in any young business."

She ended up investing, but only after making sure that the company understood that they had to concentrate on one product at a time.To pick another example - Levi Roots, the UK entrepreneur launched a single sauce "Reggae Reggae Sauce" on Dragon's Den.One awesome product.

So - product multitasking reduces overall quality, so make one awesome thing at a time.

3 Top Tips to Keep Afloat in Year 1, 2, 3...

Here are my own Top 3 Tips for staying in business long-term:

  • Tip 1 : Pick the right business, and the right business for you

There are certain businesses with a high failure rate - think plumbers and restaurants - and others with a very low one : like religious organisations.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go off and found a religion, but I am suggesting that if you choose to open a restaurant your heart had better be in it, and you'd better have the skills. Top aggregate reason for going out of business? Lack of knowledge, and wrong reason for going into business in the first place.

  • Tip 2 : Keep it Simple. Do one thing well. Not a hundred things averagely. 

I'm not the first to point this out, I'm actually paraphrasing from Sam Carpenter's excellent "Work The System". You should check it out if you're starting a business, or trying to live life to the full.

  • Tip 3 : Cut Out The Emotion. 

Okay, that's a tough one, because if you've picked a business that's right for you, as I pointed out in Tip 1, you're probably also going to have an emotional investment in it.

However, if you can make decisions based on numbers (and that's the purpose of having a system, as I pointed out in my last blog post) or other objective information, and remove the emotion from the equation as far as possible, those decisions will likely be better than if you are guided completely by your passion.


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*Source : http://www.statisticbrain.com/startup-failure-by-industry/

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Building a Solid Business Around a Solid System

Recently I was listening to an audio freebie that came with a Dan Kennedy book (No BS Marketing to the Affluent, link pops out, I recommend it, this'll still be here when you get back!) and he said something that struck a chord.

Now, I'm paraphrasing because I want to get this down and don't want to dig out the CD right now, but the general theme was around creating advantage in your business offering - commercial advantage, financial advantage, market advantage, and so on.

Some of these I'd expect most people to think of: You want to be the best in your market, or at least define a niche for yourself that has no competition; you want to be able to outlast the others in your market, even if that means waiting a long time to get your money back, or you want to be justifiably the most expensive in your market.

But then he said something that had echoes of a bunch of other bits and pieces of wisdom I've absorbed recently - systemic advantage.

The advantage of having a system.

As I was walking along, Dan continued his train of thought, but mine had spun off to other avenues (sorry, Mr. Kennedy!)

Here are some others who extol the virtues of a system - Dane Maxwell, creator of the 6-figure Recruiting Ninja business, and currently head honcho at The Foundation (TheFoundation.com) has a unique system that he teaches and which takes a market, creates a product based on feedback from that market, and then sells it before it's even available!

The system has been used by, among others, one Sam Ovens. Look him up, it's a worthwhile story.

Sean Ogle, the Location Rebel, has a collection of frameworks and systems. Dave Risely (of Blog Marketing Academy fame) has a system (which he calls the Blueprint) that can help you build a business from nothing.

The fast food industry is home to one of the most successful systems of all - McDonald's.

I could go on - Michael Senoff (HardToFindSeminars.com) has a system for marketing consulting, Dan Kennedy teaches a system for creating sales letters, and works a system for selling his stuff, etc. - but you get the point.

The one thing your business needs to have, if it is to be successful, is a solid foundation, built on a system that can be deployed, used to measure results, tweaked to get better results, and followed when times are tough and you lose direction.

That's the advantage of having a system.

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