Bagel Bets

December 30th, 2008 by admin

Happy holidays! Thanks to everyone who’s voted on a title for the book. We’ve had an overwhelming response and are excited to post the results and official title soon! In the meantime, please feel free to continue to vote. As we finish out 2008, I’ll wrap up Rich and Ron’s story to-date then start blogging sections from the book the first week in January.

Looking back over even the past few months, I can’t believe how far we’ve come – in the business and with the book. We already have five New York Times best-selling authors endorsing the book and word of what we are doing is spreading. CastleWave is continuing to grow and increase momentum as well.

After the merger with the New York office that officially changed the company name to CastleWave, everybody kept working hard to keep the customers happy. One fun example of this – once, one large client challenged Rich: “I bet you one bagel you can’t get these words for $.35” (referring to search engine optimization keywords). Rich proceeded to not only get the words, but earn first $100 then all the way up to $15,000 revenue/day for that client. Let’s hope that was one tasty bagel!

Such attention to clients is part of the principle of acting big and behaving small. You want to show that you are established, secure, and stable so that your customers trust you, but at the same time maintain a personal connection with customers and awareness of their needs that earns their repeated business. The rewards for doing business like that will be a lot greater than just one bagel!

Starting next week we’ll kick of blogging the sections of the book , so stay tuned for that!

Vote Early and Vote Often

December 16th, 2008 by Sharon Larsen

We recently finished our presidential election, now we are asking all of our friends and associates to vote on our most challenging pending dilemma.  What do we name the book?  We’re strongly leaning towards Bootstrapped! A No Bull Solution for Small Business Success, (not to sway your vote :) ) but want to get feedback from everyone before the final decision is made.  Your vote would be greatly appreciated – just take the poll on the right side of the screen.  If you’re reading this blog in email form, you’ll have to actually visit the Bootstrap Blog to vote.  Thanks for your help!   

Tee Up for a Long Drive

December 12th, 2008 by Sharon Larsen

It’s been almost exactly two years since Rich decided to take a year’s sabbatical – that lasted for about a month.  After he sold or closed his businesses, he decided he wanted to clear his head and spend more time with his family.  He quickly realized, though, that his kids were in school and a man could only go golfing so many times a week. 

On one particular golf trip, a moment of inspiration came.  Rich’s brother asked why Rich didn’t write a book about his process for starting businesses – something that ‘scares the tar out of the rest of us’ but that Rich has done scores of times.  The idea stuck and when Rich mentioned it to Ron, Ron said, “I want to write it with you.” 

And so Bootstrapped! A No Bull Solution for Small Business Success was conceived.  A few months into the writing process, Ron remained unconvinced.  He didn’t buy all the principles Rich was espousing and insisted that Rich prove it to him.  Rich was reluctant at first (the memory of bad experiences with previous partners still lingered), but Ron persisted – he wanted to see the principles in action. 

Rich relented and they each brought $2,500 to the table.  Huddled around a large white board, Rich and Ron threw 25 – 30 business ideas up and analyzed each according to Porter’s Five Forces Model.  They settled on the SEO idea, even though it didn’t score the highest, because it was quick to cash and Rich had experience in the area.

They followed the book, chapter by chapter, as they developed Everest Web SEO and were soon landing large customers and starting to see some growth.  Six months after the launch, they merged with a New York-based company to form CastleWave.  The business was doing so well that it became difficult to find time to work on the book! 

By the one year mark, CastleWave had reached the original goal of $1 million in top line revenue and has continued to grow since then. 

So what’s the point?  I can sum it up in three words: location, location, location.  Where and how do you receive your best inspiration?  When do ideas come most clearly to you?  For Rich and Ron, it happened in the back room of an office, overlooking the golf course.  If you haven’t discovered your place yet, “Do it!  Do it now!” (thanks to Dwight Schrute for that pearl of wisdom).  Great business ideas don’t miraculously materialize out of thin air, but if you spend time in places where you tend to think clearly, the ideas will come!

Publishing Purgatory

December 10th, 2008 by Sharon Larsen

It’s safe to say that until now, Rich has never had a project that took two years to complete.  We have learned, though, that the process of publishing a book moves like cold tar. 

Early in the publishing process, Rich and Ron engaged with a large publisher, who shall remain nameless.  The publisher was excited to work with us but wasn’t sold on the concept.  They latched on to one specific principle of the book and wanted Rich and Ron to write a book focused solely on that principal.  For nine months, the publisher came back to Rich and Ron with action items, each of which they nailed.  After all the publisher feedback, the final outline was very different from the book they had intended to write, however.  It focused exclusively on the Zig Zag principal – just a small part of the current book.  At this point, all the signals from the publisher were positive and all that remained was to endure the formality of the Review Board (capital letters added to inspire awe and reverence). 

In the end, the Review Board decided to give Rich and Ron a ‘soft turn-down’ because although they loved the concept, there was one problem: Rich and Ron were not famous enough.  Despite their admitted admiration for the proposed book, the publisher was only accepting famous authors at that point.  Result: nine months of wasted time, energy, and momentum on the outline of a book that had zig zagged from its original purpose. 

Seth Godin recently argued that disseminating ideas is more difficult than actually coming up with those ideas.  We’ve experienced that firsthand during this publishing nightmare.   You’ll experience this same nightmare as you start your own business if you have the ability to come up with great ideas, but don’t have the skills – or partner with someone who has the skills – to market those ideas. 

All this is behind us now, though.  We’ve chosen a publisher and the manuscript is off.  Look for the Bootstrapped baby to be born in 3 – 4 months!

Fake Work

December 4th, 2008 by Sharon Larsen

Ok, let’s admit it; we’ve all done it – fake work.  Rich and Ron call it ‘motion v. momentum’ but the principle is the same – being busy does not necessarily result in meaningful accomplishments, especially in the workplace.   I’m sure you know what I’m talking about and that you’ve had days running from dawn to dusk, one meeting after another, blackberry constantly buzzing.  How many times, at the end of one of those days, have you thought to yourself, “Am I making a difference for this company?”

One of Rich and Ron’s good friends, Brent Peterson, recently completed a book with Gaylan Nielson about this very subject – Fake Work.  The basic idea is that even though people may be working harder than ever, they are actually accomplishing less because their time and energy are not focused on the right actions – actions that are tied to the strategies of the organization.

Let’s take this to a personal level.  I’ve always assumed that being constantly connected and consistently in motion made me more productive, but is the work I’m doing fake work?  What does fake work even look like?  How can I recognize it so I know what to avoid?  According to the book, fake work can include meetings that waste time, meaningless paperwork, empty training initiatives, etc.  Sound familiar?

I took the test on the Fake Work website to determine just how little I am accomplishing.  I must admit I was a little apprehensive – it’s hard to take a test like that and not be nervous, especially when you know your bosses will see the results!  I don’t think I fill my time with fake work, but isn’t that the point Peterson and Nielson and Rich and Ron are getting at – you think you’re busy so you must be accomplishing something significant?  I am happy to report, however, that according to the results, I work in an environment that does very little fake work – that’s good to know!

In these crazy economic times, the companies that are going to survive will be those that are highly efficient and focus employees’ energy on strategic tasks.  There is no time for fake work in today’s economy!

The Currency of Toil

December 3rd, 2008 by Rich Christiansen

Who uses phrases like The Currency of Toil?

Well I will tell you who….. High altitude climbers!

Ed Viesturs

Ed Viesturs

In preparation for submitting the book to our publisher, I have been having conversations with all of the individuals that I have quoted or told stories about. As part of this effort, I was able to have a great discussion with Ed Viesturs. One of the chapters in the book is titled Climb High Sleep Low. In this chapter I contrast parallels between mountain climbing and what it takes to succeed in the ups – downs and around’s of small business start up. (See excerpt below from the actual chapter of what I said about Ed in this chapter.)

As we were comparing notes, Ed made a statement relating to mountain climbing that I had to write down and share. He used the term The Currency of Toil. Ed said this is what what he and his climbing friends had started terming the exquisite pain and sacrifice that occurs high on the mountain. If that phrase does not describe the GRIT and tenacity to succeed in a start up business I do not know what does.

These words almost allow you to visualize the pain and intensity of each step as climbers and entrepreneurs push forward into the death zone.

Maybe a little to much time without oxygen also occurs when you consume the label entrepreneur. I now also embrace the mantra The Currency of Toil

……….. Excerpt from Chapter 11 Climb High Sleep Low …………..

Ed Viesturs, one of my personal heroes, was the first American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter summits. He accomplished this remarkable success without the use of supplemental oxygen. Only those who have confronted high altitudes understand the super-human ability required to accomplish this task.

I identify with Ed for two primary reasons:

1) His work ethic and attitude on the mountain.

Countless times he sacrificed his own summit bid in order to rescue others. How Ed climbs the mountain is as important to him as climbing it. Ed was a member of the IMAX team and one of the major heroes in the rescue attempt that occurred in the infamous 1996 Everest disaster.

2) His climbing philosophy.

When Ed is acclimatized and the conditions are right, he goes for it. When the conditions are not right or he considers the venture an unacceptable risk, he has the courage to back off and go back to the tent. Sometimes this frustrates others around him, but he does not let peer pressure push him to climb a mountain when it does not feel right.

In an article about his third attempt to summit Annapurna, Veisters said:

Veikka and I will approach this attempt the same way we have all our other climbs. I’m quite prepared to just turn around and come home if conditions are as dicey as they were on previous attempts. I admit to being pretty motivated to reach my goal of climbing all 14 peaks, but I’m not going to take unreasonable risks to do so. No mountain, no summit, is worth dying for. I do this for fun, not because I have to. I do this for me, and I do it my way.

Now, you have to keep in mind that Ed had already attempted this climb twice, and backed off both times. This was the last 8,000-meter peak he had left to conquer before attaining his goal of summiting all 14 peaks. Annapurna is arguably the most dangerous and most difficult of all of the 8,000 meter peaks, with the possible exception of K2. He had already tried and backed off twice. Ed’s team chose a route that required them to be above 26,000 feet, the death zone, for an extended period of time. However, taking this route allowed them to avoid the huge avalanche-prone faces of the foreboding mountain. Well into their summit bid they came to a corniced face that “just did not feel right.” Ed and Veikka chose to go back down the mountain, but two other climbing partners decided to press forward. In an amazing climb these two reached the summit successfully. Some people watching called Ed and Veikka weak-kneed, and they received an enormous amount of criticism. However, they did not waver and offered no regrets. They had the courage and fortitude to “go to the tent” despite peer pressure, despite it being the final summit, and despite the world watching.

Ed said: “For me and the people I care about, my style of climbing is the right style. Getting to the top is optional, but getting back down is mandatory.” In mountain climbing, it is not enough just to get to the top of the mountain. The goal must be to get to the top and return home safely. In business you must plan for the difficult times. As you reap the rewards of your hard work, build a financial buffer for your future.