Discourse and Improvisation ON Entrepreneurship And…

October 30, 2006

It’s just business

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 2:35 pm

Seth Godin’s short, to-the-point post, it’s just business hit me over the head. Ethics does matter, a lot, and is inseparable from business or life. “It’s just business” is often used as an excuse for abominable behavior.

Whoops, I forgot about the negative connotations when I named this blog category “it’s just business”. I was trying to remind myself to:

  1. Put my priorities in order. Business should always get in line behind family and living a healthy life. As an entrepreneur I tend to forget that, daily.
  2. Not take my business, or myself, quite so seriously. The success or failure of any or all of my business is not life and death.
  3. While I try to live my business as I live my life, I should not let my business live my life.

October 24, 2006

The competition is never as close as you think.

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 11:21 pm

(New blog posts only seem to come to mind when I can riff off of someone else’s comments. The title line of this post is courtesy of David Cohen in the comments on coloradostartups.com)

Call this a lesson learned, but the competition really never is as close as you think.

Two reasons we started this business were it was explainable (3 words will get you started, a few simple sentences can paint a picture for the most technically unsophisticated, including my mother) and it appeared that nobody else was doing it.

Well, the nobody else didn’t survive long, and we needed some competition to help prove that there really is a market space. Plus customers need choice, even if the choice is clear.

That high-level mindset never prevents my initial panic every time someone new appears in our space. I especially panic over large, well-funded or public companies who ought to have resources I can only dream about. I fear stealth projects that appear from nowhere. I watch the ones that appear to be lagging, in case they get their act together.
However, since we’ve started, we’ve seen one competitor after another fall by the wayside. Some have gone down in flames, others still pretend to have life although they don’t market and haven’t released a new version in years. The obvious causes of death include:

  • “Wannabes” clearly without basic business skills
  • The competing product is a side-line or peripheral add-on, and not core to the overall business
  • A shift in marketing or business focus
  • Failure to stay current with the technology
  • Fraud (the kind that made their local evening news, repeatedly)

In self-congratulatory mode, maybe, just maybe,  we’re better focused and better at getting the job done. But I can’t count on it.

So, I temper my panic. Mostly. But it is useful to keep my on my toes.

Thanks to Google News, I’m getting yet another opportunity to calm myself this evening…

October 17, 2006

Banner ads

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 9:23 pm

I’ve long suspected that banner ads are a wasted buy. Our customers are more technically savvy than I am 🙂 and I’ve been running ad blocking software for several years. My suspicious side even suspects that CPM (that’s cost per 1000 impressions) charges are based on page views, and don’t count blocked ads.

I tested this theory a while back, running text-only ads on one of the larger trade sites. However, the server was DoubleClick, so I didn’t see my own ads. Based on the response level, no one else did either.

I’ve recently been talking to another site about ads, newsletter sponsorships, and sponsored white papers (otherwise known as advertorials). After explaining my position about banner ads to the sales rep, she actually sent me the following survey results from her own web site:

48% block ads for all sites
13% block ads for sites with obnoxious advertising
15% block ads except for a few select sites
That’s 76%!

So I’m right after all.

But why is the sales rep giving me a reason NOT to buy?

October 4, 2006

5 Things You Should Spend Money On When You Start a Business

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 4:34 pm

I just ran across
5 Things You Shouldn’t Spend Your Money On When Starting a Business.

In the spirit of Ben’s self-declared Blog About 5 Things Week I’d like to list the 5 things you should spend money on when you start a business.

1. “Sufficient” infrastructure.
Sufficient infrastructure is hard to define, as it’s a continually moving target as your business grows. Get too far ahead of the curve and you’ve spent cash you don’t have. Get too far behind and your ability to run your business or serve your customers can be dangerously compromised. Best is if you can stay a step ahead, which leads me to number two:

2. Switching costs.

Is a product or service provider not fulfilling your needs? Fire sooner, not later, and take any hit in switching costs early on as a lesson learned. Putting off inevitable change always winds up costing far more in the future: you have more invested in a lousy solution, you have less time to switch, and you’re probably in crisis mode as a critical business function is now failing.

3. Bona fide appearance.
Little things can make a huge difference in making you look like a real company. For example, yourcompany@gmail.com implies a hobby, you@yourcompany.com looks more legit. And of course you have an accompanying http://www.yourcompany.com that looks professional, is well designed, and clearly tells me what you do. As the old joke goes, on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog. But you can certainly look like one!

4. Time.
One bit of advice that has stuck with me is “you can do any of it, but you can’t do it all”. As an entrepreneur you have to stretch to wear many hats, but sometimes the stack gets way too high. Figure out which hats can easily be worn by someone else, and buy their time. These hats are frequently things you suck at, or could learn to do — if you just had more time.

5. Money.

Yup, buy money, or at least access rights. The best time to get a line of credit is when you don’t need it. The ability to tap into a 7% home equity loan is far superior to a 21% credit card alternative. You will have cash flow problems, so plan for them.

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