Discourse and Improvisation ON Entrepreneurship And…

November 10, 2006

Tacky turkey

Filed under: Uncategorized — dionea @ 11:24 pm

Well, it’s finally happened: I am now the recipient of a tacky gift that I am obligated to display. I’ve been such a lucky gift recipient all these years! The only way-out-of-my-taste wedding gift was from a distant relative who I knew would never cross my threshold, so I felt no compunction with a donation to Goodwill.

This just arrived from my in-laws, who are coming for Thanksgiving (for not the first, nor the last, time):

tacky turkey

Well, it at least was good for a great laugh!

(I wouldn’t dare post this if this blog weren’t anonymous 😉


Where, oh where did my cursor go?

Filed under: Cool tools — dionea @ 1:40 pm

In the spirit of increased productivity, I’ve upgraded from one old CRT to two LCD screens, and new this week, now three. While I’m really enjoying the increased workspace, the cursor is a lot harder to find!

I vaguely remembered that there used to be some keyboard sequence that would animate a bull’s eye around the cursor. In googling for it, I found:

Guide for Aging Computer Users

Ten Tips for the Awkward Age of Computing

Courtesy of Brian Basset and Microsoft Corporation
Courtesy of Brian Basset and Microsoft Corporation

Ouch, this hits too close to home! The tips are Vista ready, but not quite what I was looking for.

Jiggling the mouse to move the cursor around doesn’t work if it’s in my peripheral vision, I can’t detect the motion. (Shouldn’t I be able to? Something to ask at my next eye exam.)

Any suggestions out there?

November 1, 2006

Do not disturb

Filed under: Cool tools — dionea @ 1:20 am

I wish this device existed: a telephone ringer silencer, with a timer, that controlled every phone in the house.  While I dearly love my extremely short commute, there’s one business disturbance I can’t easily get away from in my own house.  It’s really special when Europe jerks me from slumber. (I’ve long since learned to let it ring.) Taking the phone off the hook is one option, but then caller-ID won’t tell me what I missed.

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.

September 28, 2006

“You can’t fire me, I quit!”

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 12:18 am

I fired a service provider yesterday.

Or, did they fire me?

It was pretty clear that we weren’t happy with each other. We brought them in to do some specific work on our IT infrastructure. As a software company we pride ourselves on being capable of solving most any computer-related problem, yet recognize that some problems have bigger learning curves than others, and are well worth throwing some paid expertise at.

Our attitude probably invited conflict from the start. When we hire experts, we expect expertise. We also have a pretty good sense for how to troubleshoot a problem. So when the expert is lost in the weeds, it’s pretty obvious, and our annoyance only increases as the hourly meter keeps running longer and longer.

I’m sure we were an atypical customer for them all the way around: in company size, system configuration, and technical background.

I thought I hadn’t completely slammed the door when I said we wouldn’t be returning, so half expected them to try to win me back. Their reply back was a complete termination, so I guess it was mutual.

While it’s sometimes all to easy to fire a vendor (except when switching costs are high!), it’s hard to fire a customer. But I’m generally very appreciative when a vendor tells me up front that although they’d like my business, we’re just not a good fit.

September 23, 2006

Launching cool tools category

Filed under: Cool tools,Uncategorized — dionea @ 9:27 pm

With this post I’m going to launch a new blog category: Cool Tools. Cool tools are anything and everything that make my business or my life run just a bit easier, provide good value, and may even be a delight to use.

Today’s installment: free conference calls on http://www.freeconference.com.

That’s right, free conference calls. The only cost is the long distance charges from your and the other participants normal carriers. (If you want 800-number dialing, they do offer it as a paid service.)

The first time I used it I thought, where are the ads? Where’s the upsell to 800-service? How else could they possibly be making money?

The second time I used it I thought, uh-oh, I hope this doesn’t make us look cheap.

The most recent time a well-heeled business strategy consultancy initiated the con call, so I don’t think I need to worry about appearances any more.

So, how do they make money? Is this just some ploy to win “earballs” before they go down in the next equivalent of the dotcom bust?

I assume their model is similar to FreeConferenceCall.com (a service I haven’t used and can’t vouch for). According to the New York Times, “it routes calls to portions of the phone network that don’t get much use. The phone companies pay FreeConferenceCall.com a fee, and they recoup it through long-distance charges on portions of their networks that are idle.”


September 22, 2006

Public vs Private

Filed under: On Blogging — dionea @ 7:15 pm

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for quite a while, but have held back for two reasons. The lesser reason is simple: will I commit to regular posts, or will this turn into yet another dead site? I endeavour to not make promises I can’t deliver on, and I loath ghost sites (except as evidence of other human folly ;-)).

The primary hesitation is the title of this post: do I broadcast my identity for all the world to see, or disguise myself behind a pseudonym. I am blessed (or cursed) with a unique name — Google my “firstname lastname”, and you will find me, and just me. But I am not alone: near the top of the search returns is my father’s obit. Now you have not just me, but the names of my entire family, and guess what — that magic password of my mother’s maiden name.

Besides the very real issue of identity theft, there are other reasons to stay private. I own a business and live within a community, and I want to talk about my business, my competitors, my vendors, my family, my neighborhood and my town. Disclosing my identity effectively discloses the identity of everyone associated with me — and I don’t have their permission. It’s that simple. Could I go get most everyone’s permission? Possibly. Is it worth it? Probably not.

Although you may not know who I am, I will stand behind everything I write.

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