The Five-Minute Whiteboard

June 30th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

A great way to make sure that you’re exerting momentum, and not just motion, is to have and use a giant whiteboard for tracking your employees’ tasks.  Rich tells us just how to do that today:

 

 

I know a manager who insisted on having only stand-up meetings. If he couldn’t accomplish what needed to be done within five minutes, he wouldn’t meet at all.

 

My favorite way to handle meetings is to gather my team around a whiteboard and give each person a chance to answer the question, “What are your tasks today?” We all take turns writing a brain dump of each and every single item on our to-do list for the day. At this point, we don’t try to prioritize.

 

As soon as it’s all up on the whiteboard, we ask ourselves, “Which are the most critical items on the list? Which ones are vital to move us forward and make us successful?” Typically, 10 percent of the list ends up in this category, marked with a big, red A. The rest get marked as Bs, Cs, and on down to Ds, helping us organize precisely what we need to focus on.

 

We all have our favorite tasks, but we won’t get anywhere by just working in our comfort zones all day long. Using the whiteboard this way is like putting a steering wheel on your day—you steer the ship and sail each hour exactly where you need to go.

 

A nice side benefit to this exercise is that everyone has a good handle on what everyone else is doing. This enhances collaboration and community, and helps keep the energy up. It also provides a clear division of responsibility, prevents you from doubling up on the same tasks, and keeps your group from accidentally leaving some assignments untouched. Finally, it gets you back to work more quickly.

 

Porter’s Points – The Five-Minute Whiteboard

 

  • How long do you spend in meetings each week? Cut that in half.
  • Buy a whiteboard if you don’t already have one (and make it a big one). This way, everybody can see how their tasks tie into yours and yours into theirs.
  • You will be tempted to coordinate and troubleshoot simply by using email. Save email for mundane needs; when it comes to saving time, focus on ensuring understanding. A five-minute, face-to-face session of whiteboarding can save a five-hour, frustrating flurry of emailing.
  • When you whiteboard, you control your team’s momentum. Everybody has their to-do list, but you need to be sure that the A priorities drive your team to accomplish your company goals.
  • Review that day’s or week’s goals before and after, allowing everyone to brainstorm so you can all get back to work with speed and precision.

 

 

So go get a whiteboard! And get ready for next time when we talk about walking and talking…

 

Buzz Your Business: Lemonade Day

June 26th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

We’re excited to feature a unique organization today in support of Lemonade Day – encouraging kids to become entrepreneurs.  Hope you enjoy this special Buzz Your Business feaure.

 

Hi everyone!

My name is Esther and I am working with Prepared 4 Life to bring Lemonade Day to the San Francisco Bay Area on May 2, 2010. I’m working with 10 other fabulous team members to bring this program to US cities such as Phoenix, LA, Denver, Twin Cities, Atlanta, Washington DC, DFW, Chicago, Indianapolis, and San Antonio.

Prepared 4 Life’s foremost objective is empowering youth to take ownership of their own lives and become healthy, productive members of society—the business leaders, social advocates, volunteers and forward-thinking citizens of tomorrow. Held on the first Sunday of May every year since 2007, Lemonade Day offers young people the opportunity to savor the sweet taste of success that comes with setting up, owning and operating their very own lemonade business.

The program has seen phenomenal growth, growing from 2,600 stands in Houston its first year to over 27,000 with 75,000 kids participating in 2009! This past May 3rd, the combined youth of the Greater Houston community sold over two million cups of lemonade and, with their profits; they contributed more than $500,000 to local charities.
      
Lemonade Day’s success hasn’t been limited to just Houston alone. The program recently launched in Austin, Bryan/College Station, Richmond, and Minneapolis.
      
We offer the program free of cost to the kids and schools who wish to integrate the Lemonade Day Program into their curriculum. To achieve this we seek the involvement of the entire community through sponsorship, donations, and most preferably, active involvement in the program itself. I’ve been hard at work researching local area businesses, foundations, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and any and everyone who would want to participate in or contribute to Lemonade Day.
                       
If you are interested or know anyone who you think will be interested in Lemonade Day, I encourage you to e-mail me, check out the Lemonade Day website and watch this video! We are going to launch each new city’s specific site soon so I encourage everyone interested to check frequently as updates will hopefully come quickly. You can also follow me on Twitter or on our team Lemonade Day Blog!
              
I believe all of the stories and tips in Bootstrap Business are important for entrepreneurs starting their own business! My favorite section would have to be Climb High, Sleep Low and this excerpt: “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.”

 

80/20

June 25th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

The first way we’ll discuss for increasing your momentum as an entrepreneur is the 80/20 rule.  If you’ve never heard of it, pay close attention  - it’s very powerful!

 

 

The 80/20 rule applies to every aspect of life. Twenty percent of your effort will bring about 80 percent of your results. I decided to apply this rule to my own life while in college. I was plodding my way through a brutal undergraduate program, working full-time, and trying to find time to kiss my wife more than just once a month. I was not willing to sacrifice my marriage because it was (and is) the highest priority in my life. I also had an understandable affinity for eating, so I had to keep my job. And, although it sometimes seemed like the only expendable option, I wasn’t about to give up on school. I was stuck.

 

After a soul-searching analysis of my dilemma, I was forced to prioritize and chose to become a B student. I realized that the majority of the semester’s points for any given course were in the main tests. The labs required extensive and timely work, but the points given by the professors for lab work were not as significant. I decided to whip through the labs and always turn something in but focus the bulk of my energy on doing well on the tests. I also chose to become a “9-5” employee, meaning that I did my job but did not put in the extra effort to further my career.

 

With my workaholic personality, this arrangement proved difficult at times. I had to make a deliberate decision to focus on the 20 percent of activities that would achieve 80 percent of the result. It took work, but I’m happy to report that I got back to kissing my wife more than once a month, I graduated from a difficult engineering program, and my career continues to advance—thus satisfying my affinity for eating.

 

As the CEO of a technology company, I had an employee named Daryl Guiver. He was a fine product manager and a meticulous worker. One afternoon, I was shocked to find that Daryl had put a sign up above his desk that read, “Strive for Mediocrity.” I had preached to my team to always do their best, so I was stunned he would put up something so bold and uninspiring.

 

When I questioned him, Daryl explained that he was a detail-oriented perfectionist. There was nothing mediocre about him. With all of his drive for perfection, however, he sometimes got lost in the details. When he was developing a product, he wanted every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted. He realized that this hindered his ability to get things done. By concentrating on hitting perfection only on the most important tasks, while settling for his definition of mediocrity on the rest, he accomplished much, much more.

 

Porter’s Points – 80/20

 

  • What are your top three priorities in life? Do you have more than three competing for your attention? Start applying the 80/20 rule. Now.
  • If you find yourself getting bogged down in details, ask yourself, “Is this getting me to my goal?” If the answer is no, move on. Quickly.
  • Are you a perfectionist? Part of perfectionism comes from placing the same priority on each task at hand. Perfect the art of prioritization first. Burn through the less important tasks; focus your skills and resources on the more important ones.

Another great tool that every small business should have is a whiteboard.  We’ll learn why next time.

Porter’s Preface: Motion or Momentum?

June 23rd, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we begin Chapter 10: Motion or Momentum of Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide.  Ron opens the chapter with a discussion on the difference between motion and momentum.

 

 

Entrepreneurs must address some very vital issues in order to keep their psyche afloat. How do you avoid burning out? What steps do you take to make time for life and work? How do you stay motivated after a long string of 18-hour days? After all, there is only a fixed amount of time in which to accomplish everything you need to do in order to succeed.

 

In this chapter Rich articulates several essential strategies that will help you achieve laser focus and effective effort. Too much of our time is spent doing things that don’t matter, that don’t have positive impact on the desired end result. It all boils down to this simple but seemingly difficult-to-employ principle:

 

Motion is not momentum.

 

Do you remember the last time you walked into someone’s workplace (or your own) and witnessed activity like a beehive? Was it motion or was it momentum? Rich and I have both seen more than a few businesses exuding this type of motion. Everyone is rushing around with frantic looks on their faces, hauling files hither and yon, shuffling paper and guzzling coffee and colas as if their very existence depended on them. They look exhausted but quick-step between cubicles and offices performing tasks that appear to be incredibly demanding and important. At first glance, this is an impressive sight—busy people mean a successful company, right?

 

Peeling away the layers causes one to wonder: How many of these folks are just rushing around doing meaningless work? Rich and I have a friend, Brent Peterson, who calls this “fake work”. In fact, his book Fake Work will be released in early 2009. Fake work is pervasive in business. Will it be in yours? It will unless you learn to identify the critical tasks (those tasks that really support your strategic objectives), examine the timing required to complete them, prioritize them, and then execute on them. You need both to answer these questions for yourself and to coach your team to understand and act with this mindset.

 

Particularly in the early stages of a business, owners waste a bank-load of energy on countless unimportant tasks. It’s easy to get bogged down in emails, phone calls, lunch dates, and hollow meetings. Sometimes, owners attempt to “will their success” by forging ahead and throwing themselves in front of the bus. When we hear someone say, “I’m working so hard, I have to succeed!” we get a little nervous. They have confused motion with momentum and could very well work themselves into an unfruitful, frenzied failure.

 

Rich saw this firsthand while working in Japan. “I love Japan,” he told me. “I feel a deep connection to so many aspects of the culture. But one aspect that drives me crazy with many of the Japanese businesses is the wasted motion, physically and emotionally. Everyone shuffles around the office moving papers back and forth, acting busy. No one goes home until the boss goes home. Politics prevail, and no one speaks their mind or asserts a thought or opinion on the best way to get things done.

 

“After hours, though, that’s when the real work begins! They go to the karaoke and sake bars, get a bit tipsy, and all of a sudden have no problem saying what’s on their mind! Motion, not momentum.”

 

Starting and maintaining your own business requires hard work. Waves of pressure come and go, encouraging you to move faster and move forward. As they come, are you focused on the right actions, the key movements that will actually get you somewhere? Are you exerting focused energy? People thrive on habits. If you are used to a two-hour meeting on Tuesday mornings, it’s hard to let it go. But what if you don’t need it this week? Skip it!

 

The following sections will help you effectively move forward through the mire of motion and allow you to benefit from the miracle of momentum.

 

Buzz Your Business: Wordtree Consulting

June 19th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today on Buzz Your Business we’re excited to feature Sue Varty of Wordtree Consulting!

       

Seeding a Business

Wordtree was planted without fanfare when friends, family, and co-workers would come to me for tips and tricks based on my experience as a software trainer. My documents were a showcase for my skills and other people wanted in on that! I was happy to help them out. Now, I offer these types of services to small business owners who need an edge.

 

Nurturing New Growth

Wordtree provides sales writing to satisfy “old school” copywriting needs. At the same time, I inform my clients about new software, innovative sites, and social media. As a result, my creative marketing side gets to express itself and people get the content they need – a great match no matter what the media. I charge flat fees so my clients know up front what they are purchasing.

 

Learning Under the Wordtree

Training is a large component of my business so people can become more efficient and learn the techniques that have become the key to my success. I love to share knowledge and offer $10.00 support calls/emails as an initial service. I understand when you’re stuck and you don’t know the terminology to decipher the manual.

 

Wordtree is Still Growing Branches

My business does not have a lot of bells and whistles yet. My homepage is a simple brochure. My clients come first and I focus my efforts on a monthly eNewsletter that is fairly exclusive. One day I will enhance my own site. However, I find it doesn’t stop me from working creatively for my clients. Twitter has been an amazing tool for people like me and there are things coming from the IT world that will change the game pretty soon, such as Google Wave.

 

Wordtree and Bootstrap

Wordtree follows Rich and BootstrapBook on Twitter and appreciates their business insights and real-time advice. I feel like I connect with Rich and Ron throughout the day because their “tweets” are always informative and relevant for my small business. They keep me focused on my goals when I have my entrepreneur self-doubt moments! The “Death by Net” section really hit home for me. Just because I send an invoice – doesn’t mean the money is in the bank!

 

Why Contact Wordtree?

Sue may be an “old school” copywriter sometimes but her approach draws people and small businesses to her time and time again. Sometimes “tried and true” can bridge the gap to using an innovative, new technology and take your business goals to another level.

 

My eNews subscribers qualify for discounts and are treated to special, personalized content not available online.  Sign up tonight: http://wordtree.wufoo.com/forms/enews-subscription-request/

 

Everyone is welcome to visit www.wordtree.ca or call me direct at 1.416.712.4440.  I provide a lot of useful links about writing, marketing and technology for free through my twitter account: twitter.com/wordtree.

 

Sue Varty, Document Expert, Wordtree Consulting

Writing | Communication | Training

www.wordtree.ca

twitter.com/wordtree

1.416.712.4440

Secret Recipe

June 18th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

What is it that sets your business apart from all others?  Make sure you have this mastered before you attempt to scale your small business.

 

 

In the early days of the dot.com era, I was the general manager of an Internet technology company that was heavily funded by venture capitalists. In those days, people were getting funding for throwing together business plans created over coffee on that same morning. The company that employed me actually had a fairly good concept built around helping people find jobs. One of my educational experiences while at the company dealt with scaling the business before our model was fully developed.

 

The CEO and the venture capitalists were eager to see progress quickly! The problem in those early days was that we had no structured models to follow. That left us trying to figure out the technology in addition to the model. We were still experimenting with the gears and were actually getting pretty close when the CEO hired a new vice president of sales.

 

The VP was absolutely convinced that we needed to hurry and hire a sales team. He almost immediately hired between thirty and forty salespeople before we even had the product completed. This team was out contacting businesses—and selling our unfinished product. We were sitting on the edge of a web bubble that was about to burst, and then we threw in an aggressive sales team selling only the prototype of a product. It was the undoing of the company. We ended up with forty sales folks selling forty different products, all unique, all custom. You can imagine the nightmare that ensued.

 

As the general manager, trying to hold it together, I vowed to never again attempt to scale something before the gears were meshing together. I learned the importance of making sure the process was carefully diagrammed and could flow so that the thing would scale well in the first place.

 

It’s imperative that you get the sequence right. First, you have to poke around the gears, fiddling with them and making sure they’ll run smoothly. Next, turn the crank! If the inner parts work, turn it again! Make a few adjustments, add a little lubricant, smear on some grease, and change the torque angle. Then turn it five or ten more times. If everything still holds together, keep improving and optimizing it.

 

Now you can go ahead and scale your product as rapidly as you choose. But don’t think about scaling it before you know what will happen when you turn the crank for the first time. The reason franchises are so successful is because someone has already tested the plan and checked the scalability. Regardless of who does the testing and checking, a franchiser or you, it must be done.

 

So, you’re all excited to scale your businesses and move to Tahiti, right? Well, not so fast! First, you have to create a business that will make some money. You must first document the processes you’ve found that work and, second, determine what distinguishes your business from all the others. At this stage in the game, it’s really important to watch and learn from other businesses.

 

When my wife was a teenager, she spent a summer working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. When she first started, her manager had each of the employees go through a training of the procedures that KFC required of its franchisees. You see, the successful fast-food chains have a simple, step-by-step guide for how to make each recipe. When you go into KFC, you expect it to taste exactly the same every time. That’s why you go! With so many employees the company has to provide step-by-step procedures that are quickly taught and easily grasped. In order to make the biscuits, they use a certain bread machine. I suppose the process looks something like this; first, the flour goes in, followed by the shortening and the “spice packet.” The machine is set to turn at a certain speed for so many turns. Then the dough is rolled out to the same thickness and cut with the same size cutter every time. The biscuits are put into the oven and baked at the same temperature every time. When they’re done, butter is carefully brushed over each deliciously flaky biscuit. This was the process followed every time when my wife was making biscuits years ago. More than likely it’s pretty close if not identical to the process KFC uses today. The biscuits still taste good, don’t they? KFC’s Original Recipe chicken is made with a same step-by-step process. KFC was careful to provide the exact procedures to make the chicken, but didn’t tell anyone the exact ingredients of the “secret recipe.”

 

Bringing the discussion back to my friend, the tile layer, this is one of his main problems. As he teaches and trains employees to work for him, they eventually branch out and start their own tile company—because they’ve learned all his secrets. Is there something unique about your business that you can and should protect? Is it a product recipe? Is it a process recipe? Is it a patent? Whatever it is, find it and use it to help set your business apart from all the others.

 

Porter’s Points – Secret Recipe

 

  • As you implement your business plan, document what works and what does not. Refer back to your notes often to ensure you duplicate your successes and learn from your failures.
  • Keep your plan simple, with step-by-step processes anyone can follow.
  • Don’t attempt to scale the business until you have all the components defined and functional, and then increase the speed gradually.
  • Identify areas that slow the process down and find a way to speed them up. Document the changes.
  • Want it to scale well? Be consistent. Just like KFC doesn’t want variations in their chicken, you do not want variations in your business that hinder scaling.
  • Define and protect your “secret recipe.” Protect and control one or more parts of the process very carefully so that others cannot easily duplicate your business.

 

 

We’ve now completed Chapter 9: I Never Want to be a Doctor (And Certainly Not a Lawyer!) and are about halfway through blogging the entire contents of Bootstrap Business!

 

 

Buzz Your Business: RedStage Networks

June 12th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today on Buzz Your Business we’re featuring Agbi Bajrushi of RedStage Networks.

Redstage Networks is a design, marketing, and development firm specializing in web/digital marketing. Our focus is in ecommerce development and marketing, with an emphasis on solutions that don’t sacrifice design for functionality or vice-versa. Because the company has a strong marketing background, we pride ourselves on building web presences that convert well, as well as look good.  Among the platforms we develop in are Magento, ZenCart, WordPress, Drupal, and several multichannel ecommerce solutions.  We’re also in development on 3 custom web apps, including a Twitter app, scheduled for release over the next few months.

 

Redstage Networks started life as two companies, SellCenter and AE3 Interactive.  SellCenter offered marketing and consulting services, as well as a proprietary multichannel ecommerce solution.  AE3 Interactive provided custom design and development in several mediums.  As SellCenter started to grow their multichannel service, they brought on AE3 Interactive to provide front-end ecommerce site design to their clients. 

After several very successful projects, and an inordinately low number of shouting matches, the companies decided to take over a floor at 80 River Street together.   Within 3 months of the move, they were merged into Redstage Networks, which now offers a focused distillation of both companies’ core competencies.

Having stepped in several already, our favorite section of Bootstrap Business to date is “Avoiding Cow Pies”.  As a young company, it’s heartening to see that we’re not the only ones facing issues like these.  Bootstrap Business has been offering great insights into how to overcome these problems, and we recently took your advice to heart and implemented new payment terms for our invoices. For the first time, we’re offering our clients 2-10-Net 30 payment terms (2% discount to clients who pay within 10 days, 30 day grace period) and are waiting to see the results. In addition to updating our billing terms, we have improved our invoice design by making it more professional. We have also begun mailing and e-mailing invoices. The combination of these three improvements have helped reduce our Accounts Receivable lag time dramatically!

Contact Information - For more information, contact us at:

http://www.redstage.com/

http://www.redstagesolutions.com/

http://www.redstagecreative.com/

By Email:              info@redstage.com

By Phone:        888-335-2747 x220

By Mail:           Redstage Networks LLC
80 River Street STE 5M
Hoboken NJ, 07030

Is It an Asset or Just a Job?

June 11th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

So what exactly is the difference between an asset and a job and how do you make sure your small business is an asset?  Rich explains it all today…..

 

 

I like to make money while sleeping, golfing, sitting in church, playing with my kids, and, yes, even while working at the office. You may think that sounds too convenient to be true. All businesses have obstacles to overcome, but certain businesses are much more attractive simply because they can become long-term assets. If you have to go to work every day and you don’t make money unless you’re there, what you’ve got is a job. What you need is an asset.

 

Robert T. Kiyosaki, in Rich Dad, Poor Dad, defines an asset as “something that puts money in my pocket” and a liability as “something that takes money out.”[1] After reading this book, I decided to teach my children the difference between assets and liabilities. Their asset of choice: candy machines. After buying a few candy machines using their Dad’s “venture capital,” my kids had to go around and find businesses that were willing to let them put the candy machines by their front doors. Once they felt the exhilaration of harvesting quarters from their venture, they never asked for money to stick in a candy machine again. They had learned that it’s much more rewarding to take the money out than to put the money in.

 

One afternoon, I found myself craving a snack. After going through the cupboards, I remembered one of the candy machines in the garage. As I opened one up and dug in, my nine-year-old son Matthew walked by. When he saw what his father was doing, he stopped in horror, exclaiming, “Dad! Stop eating the profits!” Matthew knew he needed to protect his assets! He had learned through experience that he could put a little candy in a machine and let it sit while he went to school, played with friends, and did all the things that he really wanted to do. Later, he could return to the machine and enjoy the rewards of his asset.

 

You’ve probably read books or heard presentations on using real estate to create wealth and assets. Rental properties are a continual asset. Sure, it’s a pain to get called out on the weekend to unplug a hairball in the bathroom sink. However, fixing a drain once in a while is a very small price to pay for having an asset that pays for itself every month and brings in positive cash flow without your having to be there. Maybe it’s worth getting a rental agency to take care of the daily work of managing the apartments, which can still keep the cash flow positive while you find other ways to enjoy your time.

 

Whatever your business or venture, you can ensure that it becomes an asset. It all starts with your knowledge and awareness. Do you always have to be in the office in order to make money? Can your company breathe without you around? Once you’ve figured out if you have an asset, or just a job, you can plan accordingly.

 

Maybe you’ll need to hire some employees or look into better technology that keeps things going even when you’re not in the office. There are as many ways to get out of a liability as there are ways to get into one. If you’re just beginning your venture, now is the opportune time to make choices that will help you avoid being stuck with a “job.” If you’re already in deep, I’ll bet there’s wiggle room in there somewhere. You simply have to pinpoint the opportunities that will turn your job into an asset.

 

Porter’s Points – Is it an Asset or Just a Job?

 

  • Until it starts putting money in your pocket, it ain’t an asset.
  • The more money it puts in your pocket with the fewer resources, the better an asset it is.
  • No matter what your current “job” is, you can find a way to turn it into an asset.

 

 

Up next week is a section on entrepreneurs and their ‘secret recipes’. I think you’ll enjoy it!

 

 


[1] Kiyosaki, Robert T. Rich Dad, Poor Dad (New York: Warner Business Books, 1997), 61.

Porter’s Points: How Well Do You Scale?

June 9th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Last time we learned about the importance of scaling and saw a couple of examples of businesses that are difficult to scale.  Today we learn about small businesses that do scale well.

 

 

So, what is an example of a business that scales well?

 

Let’s take a look at a gorilla: Microsoft. Bill Gates and his buddies built an amazing operating system, one time. Okay, they have delivered a gazillion versions, updates, and upgrades, but they built the basic thing once. They conducted beta tests and documented what worked and what did not. And, while still on the road to perfecting their Windows OS, they sold it millions and millions of times. What is their upward limit on how many times they can sell that piece of software? Infinite is high, but not too far off. Do they have to sell it themselves? Nope. Pretty much every PC maker sells the software for them.

 

Look, most of us won’t get the opportunity to create a Microsoft. But here’s the thing: I firmly believe there are opportunities for scalable success everywhere.

 

I personally favor businesses that involve digital assets. By digital assets, I mean companies that do not stock inventories of physical goods, but instead are based on software or technology. Digital assets are not prerequisites for scalable success, just my time-tested preference.

 

A good example of one of my favorite digital assets is a website. Several years ago during the height of the housing boom one of my partners and I built a website that collected mortgage leads. We found a nice picture of a house and created some meaningful content that would appeal to people in the market to buy a home. We added some useful tools the visitors to my site could use to calculate their mortgages and topped the site off with advertisements that provided links to take users to other sites. It generated revenue 24 hours a day via advertising and affiliate deals.

 

Every time someone clicked on the site, the company brought in money. This business scaled incredibly well. It turned out to be wildly profitable and made money with very little human involvement. We made money in our sleep!

 

Think about this. Once the website is programmed, set up, and running, do you ever have to hire a clerk to sit at the checkout register and collect money from every user? No. Do you have to worry about the eggs spoiling if they get too old? No. Do you have to worry about an employee making off with inventory? No. This is an asset built one time; and, if put together properly, it will grow quite nicely, without an army of employees!

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for an attentive doctor and you better believe I turn to my lawyer’s expertise regarding my businesses and assets. This breed of entrepreneurship is simply not suited to my particular taste. First, it requires a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to scale well; and, second, it requires constant care and attention.

 

When deciding what kind of business or profession you are trying to bootstrap your way into, make sure to evaluate your idea’s scalability as part of your deliberations. Do you want to be your company’s only source of oxygen, or do you want some left over to breathe life into other interests as well?

 

Porter’s Points – How Well Do You Scale?

 

  • I can’t think of a business that cannot scale; the matter to consider is “What resources will be required to scale it?” Know up front what those resources are and whether you can afford them.
  • The ideal for scaling a business is to figure out what you can accomplish with the fewest possible resources.

 

Beyond being able to scale your business, you need to know if it’s an asset or just a job.  More on that next time!

 

 

 

 

Buzz Your Business: ProSales Connection

June 5th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

We’re excited to feature Mike Faherty of ProSales Connection today on Buzz Your Business.

 

 

ProSales Connection, LLC, is the small and medium business market’s on-demand sales force. We provide businesses all over the country with professional, inside sales as a service. 

 

 

For me, life at the Mega Corporation where I built and led top performing inside sales organizations was exciting but not fulfilling. It frustrated me that no matter how successful my organization was, I would never “move the needle” in terms of earnings. I wanted a richer work-life experience, so with $3,000 I launched ProSales Connection, LLC to help small and medium sized businesses grow. 

 

Large corporations have been augmenting their sales force with contracted sales teams for years. I would know, over my career I have implemented outsourced inside sales programs on 3 separate occasions. This proven sales model works even better for emerging enterprise companies who need to get the most from their sales teams without adding headcount. In today’s market that resonates with business owners!

 

 

A question I always ask business leaders is, “How long does it take your sales people to uncover a qualified lead?” Chances are, if all they worked was warm, qualified leads it would have a huge positive impact on the business. Our clients leverage our experience and expertise at ProSales Connection to generate these leads for them, keeping their sales force in front of prospects and customers.  Many of our clients are founder run businesses that have networked their way to success, but are finding it increasingly difficult to make their revenue targets. They know they need to build a sales force, but don’t know how. For these clients we deliver a complete turn-key sales organization with systems, processes and management designed specifically for their business. So in just weeks they can go from Zero to 60! It is a very successful model… Focus on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses! 

 

The Bootstrap Business Blog section that is pinned to the wall at my desk is titled, Don’t Destroy What You Want to Create. This section reminds me that I started ProSales Connection, LLC for several reasons and only one is financial. We take time to celebrate our success and stop to learn from our mistakes, and we never lose sight of the prize. Freedom! 

 

At ProSales Connection, LLC, we approach business everyday with the heart of a teacher and we are vested in our client’s success. I am finally able to “move the needle” the way I knew I could.  If your business could use an outsourced inside sales program or just warm, qualified leads for your existing sales team, please contact me at:

 

Mike Faherty

mike@prosalesconnection.com

www.prosalesconnection.com

832-365-0730

Follow me on Twitter @ProSales_Mike

 

 

How Well Do You Scale?

June 4th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we learn specifically why it is important for an entrepreneur to be able to scale his or her small business.

 

 

My brother-in-law, who is a successful doctor, loves to hike. Every time I get ready to head off on an extended hiking vacation, he expresses frustration at his situation: “I would love to do that, but if I’m not at work, my practice doesn’t make any money! My overhead doesn’t go away, and if I’m not there seeing patients, no revenue is coming in.” His cost of missing work is far greater than the cost of the trip to Nepal for a week. If he gets sick, he has to cancel all of his appointments and loses an entire day’s revenue. Sure, he can double-book his appointments the next day, but there are only so many hours available during which he can see patients.

 

Ron’s brother is an attorney, as is his brother-in-law. They face the same challenge as the doctor. They can only bill for services when they are meeting with or solving other people’s problems. How does a doctor replicate himself? How does an attorney scale her business? No doubt about it, doctors and lawyers are entrepreneurs who build a business around themselves. However, these types of businesses do not scale as well as other businesses. It’s not that it can’t be done, but doing so involves leveraging other professionals or bringing in additional partners, which brings its own set of challenges.

 

I have a friend who is a professional tile layer. The work he does is absolutely remarkable, truly an art form. But when the building market is soft, he can spend hours or even days bidding to win a contract. Sometimes he gets the bid, but increasingly he’s finding that people are choosing to use cheaper tile layers.

 

When he does land a job, he spends his own money or credit to get the supplies he needs for that job. Frequently, his work requires him to order special tile products from overseas. He worries (understandably) that his workers might break the expensive tile while transporting it to the job site. The cost of Italian granite or Egyptian marble is enough to bankrupt him if it gets broken before the masterpiece is finished. To mitigate his worry, he involves himself in every aspect of ordering and moving the imported tiles and supplies.

 

As good as he is at what he does, the question he forgot to ask himself years ago was, “Will this tile business scale well?” Do you understand why the tile business is difficult to scale? He can only lay one piece of tile at a time. And no matter how many tile layers he hires and trains (and pays!), each one of them can only lay one tile at a time.

 

Before you jump headlong into starting a business, it is absolutely critical that you consider how you will scale your business. Most people start their business without asking themselves this essential question. But the answer will make all the difference in the amount of work you are required to do yourself in the business and the amount of revenue you can make via the business, without having to clone yourself.

 

 

Next time we’ll get some examples of businesses that do scale well.

 

 

Porter’s Preface: I Never Want to be a Doctor (And Certainly Not a Lawyer!)

June 2nd, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

We open Chapter 9 of Bootstrap Business with Ron’s introduction to the idea of scaling your small business

 

 

Rich and I have several family members who are doctors and lawyers. This chapter is certain to offend them. But here is the reality: if a doctor isn’t in her or his office sticking a tongue depressor in someone’s mouth or snapping on a rubber glove, he or she is not making money. Attorneys are no different. Sure, their rubber gloves may be metaphorical, but the outcome is the same. The only way these professionals make money is by putting on the gloves. Now, we both realize there is nothing wrong with choosing either of these professions. They just don’t scale very well.

 

The three sections in this chapter deal with the importance of scaling your business. The first section deals with the brutal fact that some types of business are simply more inclined to scale or grow than others. It is critical that you carefully consider your idea’s potential for scaling—for better or worse—when deciding whether or not you want to turn it into your business.

 

The second section explains the difference between an asset and a job. The purpose of this section is to help you get in the mindset of building a business that is an asset, not a liability.

 

The final section shows the importance of your timing in scaling your business. Rich and I have both learned from personal, painful experiences how important it is to get the models and structures in place before growing your business. It may be hard to believe, but growing a business too fast and without an effective process guide can be as big of a problem as that identical business not growing fast enough.

 

 

Now that you have a taste, we’ll dive into the first section next time!