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Tag: start-ups

Start-ups: Style, Simplicity, Story, Simultaneity

coffee, diary&citymap by France Gipsy via FlickrThe perils of necessity start ups

In 2011, we are going to see more ‘necessity start ups’.  A necessity start up is what it says on the tin. The proprietor would prefer to be employed but finds themselves in a situation in which they must make a living.  And they know what I am going to write next.  The odds are stacked against them.

I’ve been involved in a number of start ups and still find it psychologically hard.

Here are the 4 things I find hardest and what I do to ‘work around them’.  You could try them to see if they work for you.  I’m telling it how it is, so don’t be frightened – just try.

#1  If it were so easy to make a living, ‘deep pockets’ would be in there already

For example, in the mining world, there are gold deposits for the taking. The reason the deposits have not been taken and remain available to the smaller players is that the ground is unstable, the mine is prone to flooding, etc., etc.  In brief, the costs are likely to exceed the returns.

Or as the old saying goes, there may be a gap in the market but is there a market in the gap.

Necessity entrepreneurs are not going to make as much money as they used to and nor will their niche ever allow them to.  The simple but not so easy trick is to think differently about money.  Take pride in paying yourself the minimum wage only and give yourself a bonus when you can afford it.  That’s life in real business.  You don’t waste then money that you took such trouble to earn. You spend every $ wisely and yet with great pleasure.

Changing your mindset in middle age is hard though. Here is the trick.  Keep a diary of your frugality and watch how to jettison the mentality that sloshing cash around makes you the ‘big man’,and how you start to find small business really enjoyable. You’ll stop judging your success by the amount of money you have to spend to buy your lifestyle; and you’ll start judging yourself by your personal style?

What did you do today that was sincerely stylish (and independent of money)?  What did you try and what did you really enjoy doing?

#2  Working in a poorer company is harder because you have to make do with many fewer resources

In a large corporate, so much is done for you.  Like a student whose mum has always done his cooking, suddenly you have to fend for yourself without instant photocopy repairs and other armies of people to do everything from raise capital to deal with angry customers.

The skill of a necessity entrepreneur is knowing the simplest way to get anything done with the fewest people possible.  You’ll feel sad at first because so much of your life has been about complicating everything!  You’ll wonder how you managed to fill your days with such complications and how you have so much time now to do whatever you  like!

The trick?  Keep a diary of all the hacks you have discovered to do anything and everything easily. And count up how much time you have to do what you really believe is worthwhile!  Enjoy having free time to go for a walk and spend an hour with someone who needs the company.

# 3  We have to tell a story of being an owner, not an employee

This is a tough one that took me a long time to explain.  We all invest in our story and many people ‘sold themselves’ as a dutiful wage laborer for a long time.

Selling oneself as a business person is hard for two reasons.  First, we don’t have the track record.  Second, and more importantly, we have invested in the story of ourselves as employees and we are reluctant to water that story down – just in case.

A necessity entrepreneur needs to keep a diary of all the tasks they performed that day as a business owner.  If you try to write your story ‘in one go’, you will freeze.  You need to get a diary and write up each night what you did as a business owner.

I have not done this before but as an experienced work psychologist, I know this will work. You will start to see results within an month and within a year, you will wonder why you ever had an issue.  A daily diary of your tasks as a business owner.

#4   Doing and taking the risk of doing at the same time is quite hard

Very simply, at work, we are often doing what the boss has asked us to do.  Emotional responsibility and  execution are split.  If the task doesn’t work, we can blame the boss – at least emotionally. The boss will blame us too, of course.  And then we can have a competition of who is to blame.

A lot of energy goes into the blame-shifting game.  We need this energy now to cope with the possibility of making bad choices.  This is a new game and we don’t have teacher to guide us through.

Our diary each night should include a list of our technical work and the risk we have taken.  We need to revamp our mental models into bundling risk and task.  It comes ~ but only with practice.  I haven’t done this either, but I am going to because it will work.

Four steps to taking-off as a first time entrepreneur.

Grab a diary. An A5 will do. And every night, write up your day under four headings.

  • Style (that is not dependent solely on chucking cash about)
  • Simplicity (doing tasks simply without oodles of equipment and people)
  • Story (what I did today as a business owner)
  • Simultaneity (being the blame-bearing boss and the long-suffering employee at the same time!)

And let me know how it goes!

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4 things I learned in 24 hours with Google Adwords

Do you used Google Adwords? And does it bring you the traffic you want?

I think all ‘noobes’ to the internet struggle with Google keywords and experienced geeks around us don’t want to come clean and say simply how the system works.

Well there is a chicken-and-egg system here.  You don’t know which keywords to use until you know!  Maybe you may learn something from my this little experiment of mine.

My 24 hour Google Adword Experiment

On Monday afternoon, I found a Googles Voucher in my ‘maybe sometime’ box and it was about to expire on Tuesday.  So I decided to run a Googles Ad and see what 30 pounds could buy me in 24 hours.

Seven steps to running your first Google Adword

  • Log on to Google Adwords and set up your account
  • Write your ad and link it back to your website (they have a handy system on screen)
  • On the basis of your website, Google will suggest some key words
  • Edit your keywords
  • Put in your bank details & your promo code if you have one.  They will charge you 5 pounds for this entertainment.
  • Set your monthly budget at 30 pounds.
  • Sit back and watch comfortably knowing you can switch all this off at anytime at the cost of whatever bill you have run up – capped at 30 pounds.

My entertainment

  • What I am going to sell.  I wrote a special blog post for this game: I offered to set up interview questions to match a job description and let someone practice with me over Skype (with webcams).  The nature of my product didn’t really matter. What mattered was that it was offered on the landing page of my blog.  Google does limit the length of url that goes in the advert so I couldn’t direct to any post or page.
  • My ad.  I wrote a simple ad saying “Practice for your job interview over the internet with webcam with an experienced coach”.  (The word Skype was disallowed).
  • First impressions.  There was an immediate flurry of activity with impressions from Search (that is the keywords I had chosen) and 3 Click Throughs.  My CTR or CTR was well above 0.5% at that stage.  As we only pay for the Click Throughs and Google is setting the price on a rolling auction, the price varies.  I paid 133p for 3 clicks on my blog.  No one contacted me so I had 0 conversions but I had set my prices rather high.  I was interested in the Google-end of this experiment.
  • Frills. I had left the ‘Content Network’ on.  Google puts the ad on Content partners too.  It advises to leave that option on.  The impressions from Content Partners were slow at first but rose dramatically on the second day.  The CTR was rubbish though.  After 36 hours, my ad was delivered (impressions) to just under 1500 partners with 1 click through.
  • Results.
    • From search traffic, “interview questions” drew 350 or so impressions with 3 click throughs – just under 1% and above the 0.5% which makes Google frown and say you are wasting our time.
    • “Interview tips” drew around 100 impressions and 3 impressions – so 3% click through.
    • “practice your interview” drew no impressions and of course, no click throughs.
    • All my ads appeared on the first page of Google search, but rarely at No 1.  The exception was “behavioral interview”.  (Remember these are ads we are talking about not the list of websites on the left.)
  • Cost.
    • This all came to 313p for 7 click throughs and an average price of 21p per person who arrived at my blog.
    • That might be meangingful in an advertising world.  Can you imagine though attracting 50 000 people a month at that price?  That would be 10 000 pounds a month.  I would need to be selling an awful lot.
    • The real issue though is the conversion rate.  Obviously of the 7 people who arrived – I had made one sale with a profit exceeding 313p, I would be ahead.

What did I learn?

  • Advertise in 10 minutes. Now, at any time, I can log in, write an ad,d and spend down the 30 pounds in my Google Account.  I know I can do it in 10 minutes. I recommend giving it whirl just for the pleasure of being clearer about how Google works.
  • Writing Ads is hard.  Do you remember all those Marketing types at Uni who we wrote off for being flibbety-gidgets?  Start buying them a lot of drinks.  And get them to write a whole lot of boiler plate ads to keep in a notebook when you need them fast!
  • Start early. Google is a chicken-and-egg system but you can break that vicious cycle by beginning.  I learned two important things from this experiment which had no purpose but to spend a Googles Voucher.
    • People are out there looking for interview questons and tips.  The click through rate was better on tips.  There is a market there.
    • No one is looking to practice their interviews.  No market.  Or is it a market waiting to be made!
  • Marketing.  How many of us have an explicit marketing budget?  How many of us have costed how many people we have to wave our product at (impressisons).  How many of us know our CTR (how many people we meet and how that translates into meaningful contacts?).  How many of us know how much each CT has cost us?  How many of us check the check our conversion rate to sales?  Have we budgeted adequately the time we need to spend, the time we need to wait and the money we must spend to achieve the conversions we want and need?

Good luck with your experiment.  Buzz me if you need help.

And sorry about the ad yesterday.  I wasn’t trying to sell you anything.  If you are a friend of mine, I helped you practice your interview for free!

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Stylish events in London

Rounding up Week 4 at Xoozya

Event manager supremo in London

Squeezed in between writing tenders, I was able to attend a most excellent reception in London hosted by the Blur Group and event-managed by the inimitable, Julius Solaris.

Cafe Phillies

On a blowy, summer evening, we converged on Cafe Philles, just off Kensington High Street, an Italian Cafe with elegant, contemporary snacks, light wines and Belgium beer.

Getting down-and-dirty with social media

We were a small gathering of start ups in the social media space.  Everyone was articulate about what they do – and they are doing.  Julius had carefully selected the guests and conversation was relaxed but focused on the economy and the in-depth discussions of business models, be they the economics of on-demand printing, databases for the assiduous management of  backroom cooperation between real estate portals, or communication systems for disaster management.  Everyone worked for start ups and was comfortable in their own skins.

Time to call in the professionals

It was a pleasure to be there.  I am not an event manager at all – I abdicate my events (!), but they are expensive affairs, even for the guests.  I would like to go to more events that are focused and smooth.

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