Buzz Your Business: Elia Tours

July 31st, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today’s Buzz Your Business features Elia Tours is for all your world travelers – if you’re ever in Australia, you’ll know what to do!



Elia Tours is a boutique tour company established almost 3 years ago in Brisbane, Australia.  Our main service is personalized English Study Tours for small groups who wish to combine their hobby or interest (such as scuba diving or horse riding) with learning English whilst on vacation.  Of course we offer some more general tours too which enable our clients to see what this beautiful part of the world has to offer!

The tours can all be taken with or without the English Study component – which has proved successful with English-speaking clients who just want to experience the vacation itineraries on offer.


Elia ToursWe also run a successful horse riding business offering 1 to 10 day tours – totally unplanned, this business has grown by word of mouth since we ran some trial weekends to practice for the Study Tours when we first started the business!


We have also just launched an ‘Intro to Endurance’ tour – assisting some of our more capable trail riders to break into the sport of endurance racing. We are very excited about this new direction for our small business!


The concept for Elia Tours arose in 2002 when Danni Cullen (Managing Director) was taking a year out from the IT world to work as an English teacher in Japan. Whilst the benefits of classroom learning were undoubtedly important for students, Danni soon realized that it was through speaking English in their free time that students became more natural speakers, and developed the ability to think in a foreign language. And so the idea of combining classroom study with an English-speaking vacation was born.


Danni is originally from England but has lived in many countries around the world including Holland, Japan, the USA and New Zealand.


She moved to Australia in 2006 and found that her passion for adventure and outdoor sports was soon satisfied with the abundant scuba diving, horse riding, kayaking and bush walking on offer within a few hours of Brisbane.


Early 2007 Danni had an accident that left her unable to walk for a while. During this time, Danni decided to pursue her dream of setting up a company that combined traditional teaching with sharing some of the amazing outdoor activities that she herself was experiencing.


Determined to offer an experience that enabled students to meet and interact with local people in small groups, Danni started to devise itineraries that offered a true Australian experience and encompassed plenty of warm local hospitality.


Her Management Science degree and Project Management skills proved invaluable in setting up the business – however it was the generosity and enthusiasm of other local businesses that really enabled the company to take off.


The Tours


When Elia Tours was first launched clients could build their own vacation itinerary choosing form over 80 different activities. However, this proved an unsuccessful model as we were offering too much choice and it was confusing for people who didn’t know the area.


Within 12 months we had down-sized and simply offered five 10-day  tours which we knew we could deliver with exceptional quality and get it right every time. Three of these focused on hobbies – horse riding, scuba diving and bush walking – the other two were more general sightseeing/experience  tours. Being able to admit we hadn’t got it right, and to adapt accordingly was a life-saving decision for the business.


Recently we have been confident enough to add three 5-day itineraries to the product offering – these can be taken alone or combined with any of the 10 day itineraries.


Whilst we were building the vacation/English Study Tour business we were busy launching some ‘trial runs’ for friends and family for the horse riding tours.


Following our first weekend horse riding tour, we had strangers calling us asking to be invited to the next one. And so it continued until now we have a loyal client base of regular horse riders who join us for weekend tours once a month and recommend us to their friends – the whole business has grown by word of mouth!


We occasionally organize something a little different like a 5 day campout tour or our new ‘Intro to Endurance’ tour just to keep the momentum going.


Without doubt, our favorite section of Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide is Chapter 8: Avoiding Cow Pies – it’s a good reminder that as well as focusing on our goals, we constantly need to check where we are now, and that we are performing at our peak there too.  When we first set up the business, we were constantly looking forward. It took us almost 12 months to realize that you need a good strong base now to move forward and our offering at that time was simply not appealing to our clients.  Chapter 8 talks about how climbers were standing on very thin ice, whilst all of their focus was on the summit. This is where we were too at Elia Tours – thankfully we realized this just in time, and were able to save and build a successful company.


For more information on Elia Tours please go to our website at


Or contact us anytime:



Tel:       +61(0) 488 070 405


We look forward to hearing from you!

Seven Years of Plenty, Seven Years of Famine

July 30th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we begin a section that focuses on building a reserve for your business and never jeopardizing everything you have in the pursuit of your small business idea.



You will inevitably encounter failures on the road of entrepreneurship. It is absolutely essential to prepare for setbacks. I find relevance in the story of Joseph, which is found in the Bible, the Koran, and a number of other religious texts from around the world. In a jealous rage Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. After years of abuse and hardship, he was unjustly thrown into prison. Joseph had a talent, though: a gift for interpreting dreams.


Having heard of Joseph’s ability, the Pharaoh called upon him to decipher his disturbing dreams. After hearing the dream, Joseph warned Pharaoh that a famine was coming; seven years of plenty followed by devastating shortages. Joseph became Pharaoh’s chief steward and immediately began a program to set aside a reserve of food and supplies. Seven years later the famine hit, but Pharaoh and all of Egypt were ready.


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 superhuman 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, Viesturs 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.  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.[1]


In mountain climbing, it is not enough just to get to the top. 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.



We’ll finish the story of Ed Viesturs’ attempt to summit Annapurna next time.  Hope you’re enjoying the mountain climbing stories and their ties to entrepreneurship.


[1]Potterfield, Peter. “Viesturs Returns to Annapurna,” (February 7, 2007).

Keep Climbing

July 28th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today’s section of Chapter 11: Climb High, Sleep Low is short, but still important!



During our first trip to Nepal, my wife and I hiked with our friends, Steve and Lanette Olsen. Steve was without a doubt the strongest climber in the group, but after one particularly difficult ascent he had difficulty acclimating to the new altitude. At one point, Steve had to go into an altitude compression chamber called a Gamoff bag. Despite the setback, Steve persevered, listened to his body, and kept climbing. He ended up being the strongest finisher of the trek. He overcame the obstacle and achieved his climbing objectives.


In reality, many small businesses do not succeed. Just like on the mountain, there is no one to tell you to turn around and go home. It doesn’t matter how many summit bids you make. As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will eventually reach your goal. Keep climbing.


Porter’s Points – Keep Climbing


·         Expect to win and when you do, don’t be surprised!

·         Experiencing failure does not make you a failure—learn from it and move on.



It’s important for entrepreneurs to push through challenge and keep climbing!  Next time we’ll talk about building up a reserve to sustain your business through hard times.

Reward Yourself

July 23rd, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we talk about rewards and why they’re so important in your small business.



Not even a year after my injury my partners and I had reached our goal. We were ecstatic. It was a phenomenal achievement. I cannot convey the depth of my joy and satisfaction as I sat around the table on that cruise ship with my partners and our wives. My voice quivered with emotion as I stood, lifted my glass, and offered a toast, simply stating, “We did it. We made it.” My dream had become a reality.


In the end, dreaming about the cruise was every bit as enjoyable as actually living it. The satisfaction gained from completing the goal was just as fulfilling as the cruise in the Caribbean. However, what would have happened if I had blown off the cruise? After all, since I had enjoyed the dream, wasn’t that reward and motivation enough?


No. My subconscious would have revolted! Going back on a promised reward would have damaged my desire to dig deep and sacrifice in the future. Take this as a serious warning: you cannot go back on your rewards. Doing so is far more costly to you than the actual cost of the reward.


Even the smallest rewards motivate us to reach the top of big mountains. Standing at the bottom of Mount Everest looking heavenward overwhelms even the heartiest of climbers with the reality of the impossible. Smart mountaineers pick out a series of short-term goals and then reward themselves for reaching each and every single one. Perhaps the reward is a drink of water or 10 extra breaths before pressing upward. They chip away at the colossal goal bit by bit.


During one of our trips in the Himalayas, our trekking team had a difficult time getting used to the food. When we arrived in the village of Namche Bazaar, famished and needing something delicious, we found a little bakery called Everest Bakery that had the most amazing apple pie. We were willing to add an entire day’s hike just to be able to reward ourselves with one mouthwatering slice.


In the same hike, we had a first-timer cook, who just happened to be a vegetarian. Another big motivator to get to a higher camp was the knowledge we would be able to find canned Spam. After hiking for a few days with our vegetarian chef, this reward was particularly motivating. It’s important to realize that money is very seldom a powerful motivator. Small, meaningful, and tantalizing rewards elicit amazing efforts.


Just as on the mountain, you must reward yourself for achieving business milestones. Milestones can be small or big accomplishments. Match the reward to the effort required. If you don’t take time to reward yourself, your subconscious will start asking, “Why am I doing this, anyway?”


Porter’s Points – Reward Yourself


·         Establish achievable but “stretch” goals for all your projects.

·         Identify a reward for each goal.

·         Make the rewards special and meaningful to you.

·         Display a reminder of the goal in a prominent place.

·         Make the reward a real reward: don’t reward yourself with a trip to an amusement park if you hate amusement parks.

·         Once the goal is achieved don’t procrastinate giving the reward!

·         Create both individual and team rewards: team rewards create a community of collaboration and mutual appreciation.



So take the time to enjoy your rewards!  Don’t cheat yourself or your employees of the celebration that comes with accomplishing goals.

Imagine That!

July 21st, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Imagination is critical for an entrepreneur.  As we dive in to Chapter 11: Climb High, Sleep Low, you’ll see why!



Someone once asked mountain climber George Mallory “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” His legendary replay was “Because it is there.”[1] We recognize the authenticity of this quote is under debate. Bona fide quote or not, human beings are wired to search out unknown boundaries. It’s why people run marathons, are fascinated by space, or work to create new technology. It’s the same reason why many of us feel compelled to create new businesses.


Entrepreneurship cannot exist without imagination. You have to dream it before you make it a reality. Imagination is your mind’s ability to create a blueprint by which you achieve great things.


In 2003 I jumped from the seemingly safe, warm waters of a great salary, a matching 401k, and paid vacations, into the cold, deep water of entrepreneurship. Seven days after making the big jump I was playing basketball with some 12-year-old Boy Scouts. As I went for a three-pointer from the corner, I heard a puzzling pop. As I looked down, I saw that my right foot was hanging in an odd position. I had no control over it. I’d snapped my Achilles tendon.


The result of that surprising snap was two painful surgeries, prolonged bed rest, physical therapy, and six months of recuperation. Physically, I was unable to get out and be about the work of starting a business. But I quickly recognized that even though my leg was useless, I still had a sharp mind and boundless imagination. It was my imagination that fought off despair.


Each night as I fell asleep, I forced positive thoughts into my mind. These thoughts centered around one specific goal. Closing my eyes I visualized cruising the deep blue Caribbean with my new business partners. I saw myself standing, filled with the intense emotions of victory, offering a toast to attaining our objective. “We did it! We made it!” This vision was a stabilizing and motivating lifeline.


“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”  Johann Wolfgang van Goethe (attributed in Murray, W. H. The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1951)


My wife and son drilled a hole in the bedroom floor in order to wire up a computer. Over the course of the next six weeks I taught myself how to program in HTML and built a website, It was an ugly website, but it was a website! My partner Dan Handy had shown me a new advertising program from Google, and I was determined to check it out.


After loading a few advertisements onto the site, I drove some traffic to it. The first day the site made one dollar. Putting several more hours of work into the site resulted in a two-day profit of a whopping three dollars. I was on to something! At the end of the month the site was clearing over $100 per day. This little exercise went on to spawn several business ventures which became million dollar businesses at insane profit levels.


Reflecting on the experience I realized my injury forced me to take a break and rely on my imagination. This success had nothing to do with contacts, phone calls, lunch dates, big meetings, or a hundred other activities that make a “full work day.” Too often entrepreneurs get caught up in the day-to-day maintenance of an idea, forgetting that true strength lies in the idea itself!


There are times when intense focus can be destructive. If a climber spends all of his time feverishly focused on the summit, he could miss finding a more exciting or feasible route! Maybe there’s a better way to get to the top, or maybe there are more rewards to be experienced along the way. Whatever the case may be, the only way to find out is to take time to imagine the possibilities. I promise you that there is time enough in the day. The following section provides several ways to ensure you’re tapping into all of your entrepreneurial potential.


Porter’s Points – Imagine That!


·         Making time to imagine is not counterproductive—it’s essential.

·         Capture your ideas on paper, in a file, or on a whiteboard.

·         Not good at “imagineering?” Practice.



Use your imagination to set goals and rewards – but then make sure you follow through!  More on that next time….

[1] New York Times. 1923. “CLIMBING MOUNT EVEREST IS WORK FOR SUPERMEN; A Member of Former Expeditions Tells of the Difficulties Involved in Reaching the Top — Hope of Winning in 1924 by Establishment of Base Camps on a Higher Level,” March 18.

Buzz Your Business: StrongWebMail

July 17th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

I’m sure that at one point or another, we’ve all worried about the safety of our email accounts.  Today on Buzz Your Business we’re featuring StrongWebMail, a company that protects email accounts from hackers.



We hear about high profile break-ins of email accounts almost every day. Even Sarah Palin’s email was hacked into during the election season last year. We knew that there had to be a better solution for securing an email account.


StrongWebMail Logo 


The Sarah Palin incident as well as several other stories of high profile individuals getting their email accounts hacked, motivated us to build StrongWebMail and spread awareness of the need for more secure email accounts.


StrongWebMail aims to provide the most secure email accounts on the planet. Hackers break into email accounts everyday (eg. Sarah Palin, Paris Hilton) which can lead to major damage due to the amount of private information most people have within their email accounts.


StrongWebMail uses a telephone verification system provided by TeleSign to ensure maximum security when it comes to logging in to your email account. This feature makes StrongWebMail a more secure email platform than other web-based email platforms.


For more information visit our website at or send us an email at


Our team here at StrongWebMail can relate most to Chapter 2 from Bootstrap Business, Juice to the Light Bulb, in terms of generating ideas by identifying problems and creating a solution. We feel that email security is a huge issue especially because people now have much of their livelihood within their primary email account. We also continue to look at our own security technology as well as other secure email providers and try to identify and solve problems related to technology.

Porter’s Preface: Climb High, Sleep Low

July 16th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we begin Chapter 11: Climb High, Sleep Low from Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide.  Those of you familiar with mountain climbing will recognize the principle “climb high, sleep low”.



Rich and his family are passionate mountain climbers. They’ve summitted mountains and hiked canyons throughout the United States and Nepal. He and his wife have trekked peaks in the Himalayas ranging from 14,000 to 20,000 feet, sometimes accompanied by two of their sons for the adventure. These boys were climbing in Nepal before they were 15 years old!


Safety is always an issue while climbing mountains, but in remembering the last trip his family took to Nepal, Rich remarked that safety was on his mind like never before. As he contemplated the risks his family took to gain altitude and resulting actions required to keep them safe, Rich realized how applicable his climbing rules are to entrepreneurship.


This chapter extracts the fundamental principles of mountain climbing and applies them to steps of creating a business. First, Rich will discuss a critical component of success: imagination! Second, he’ll explain the value of setting goals and rewarding yourself along the way. The third principle is to keep climbing! You will have failures along the way; the trick is to keep at it. The fourth concept in this chapter is entitled Seven Years of Plenty, Seven Years of Famine, highlighting the necessity of preparation. Fifth, the section for which this chapter is named: Climb High, Sleep Low. This principle is integral to Rich’s entrepreneurial philosophy and will provide a foundation upon which you can build success. Finally, Rich lays out his recipe for balancing all the demands of building a business in the section, Cross the Line.


This is one of my favorite chapters in the book. As I approached the full time commitment of stepping out of the corporate world and building my own business, these principles kept me sane and on track. They can do the same for you.



Hope you enjoy the concepts in this chapter and realize how they can be applied to your small business! 

Porter’s Points: Urgent and Important

July 14th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we finish discussing the last two quadrants from Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix.



Now, on to quadrant III: these are tasks imposed on us by others. They occasionally become necessary to somebody, but not necessarily to your problem. We all know how friendly the guy next door gets when his fax machine breaks down, or how insistent door-to-door salesmen can be when they haven’t made their quota. When people start knocking on the door with all their little emergencies for you to handle, it is important to remember and live by the old adage: “Failure to plan on your part does not necessarily create a crisis on mine.”


We’re all hit with this. It’s important to realize that although you can’t help everyone, it is a valuable and important use of time to help some people, sometimes. Actually, it’s worth your time to help out as often as you can. In this way, you’ll develop relationships of trust and respect, and trust relationships are always an asset.


The key is to make sure you do what you can and not what you can’t. If you have the time, energy, and resources to help someone out, then by all means, help! If taking time away from the most important task at hand seriously injures your venture, then don’t do it. You need to achieve this important balance through practice and planning.


Finally, quadrant IV—the fluffy, fun quadrant IV, activities that are neither urgent nor important. Examples would be useless, mindless, endless video games and television shows. Don’t get me wrong; I’m up for some good TV shows or a fun game every once in a while, but if you’ve just finished 19 straight hours of Seinfeld reruns, you’ve got a problem. You are not producing, growing, or creating. You are simply existing.


Recreation is important and, when used for the purpose of recharging yourself and spending time with family and loved ones, it can often fit into quadrant II. Watch yourself, though; it’s easy to get sucked in.


So how do you identify quadrant IV at the office? Check your chat applications; do you chat with other people hourly? How meaningful or useful are those conversations to your strategy? Do you spend a lot of time online without needing to? I’ve even caught people watching DVDs or playing video games during “productivity time.” Statistically, Covey states that most people spend all their time in crisis mode, switching between quadrants I and III. The real power comes when you’re able to spend 80 percent of your time in quadrant II, 5 percent in quadrant I, and 15 percent in quadrant III.


As you find yourself scurrying around the office in pursuit of your busy work, keep these thoughts in mind and develop the discipline to say to yourself: “Back off here. This is a waste of time.” This ability is extremely powerful.


Finally, you must remember that you possess limited time and resources with which to accomplish your goals. Identify critical tasks and organize yourself around them. If you organize yourself, you will be able to lead a team of people confidently, competently, and consistently. Your team is obligated to develop their own critical reasoning so that they can make judgment calls as well, but it all starts with you.


Obviously, using this strategy requires prep work. I’ve found, however, that it doesn’t necessarily need to take a lot of time. The clearer you are with what you want to accomplish, the more quickly you can put a strategy in place and develop it within your team.


Porter’s Points – Urgent and Important


  • When you are continually approached with quadrant III activities, learn to say “no.” Try something like, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but this time I am going to have to pass.”
  • Gather your thoughts. Take time to record your goals and the critical milestones involved in achieving them.
  • Prioritize a series of tasks necessary to implement your strategy. Timing is essential in priorities. For example, you may need to finish developing a product before creating the marketing materials so that your marketing reflects the product as accurately as possible.
  • Choose three important things to do today–and do them. If you have time for others, great; if you run out of time, rest assured that they will be there for you tomorrow. Mountains are climbed one step at a time.



And with that we’re done with Chapter 10: Motion or Momentum?  Next time we’ll start my favorite chapter of Bootstrap Business – Chapter 11: Climb High, Sleep Low.


Buzz Your Business: Appible

July 10th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today’s Buzz Your Business features Appible, a company that works in multi-platform mobile applications.


 Appible’s disruptive thinking is the product of their diverse backgrounds and experiences thinking outside industry norms; having worked in construction management, contract management, accounting, IT, graphic design, programming, and law.

Appible Logo

After trying their hands at iPhone app development and direct distribution, Appible came to recognize barriers to entering the industry: app development is laborious, slow and expensive. Working in an emerging market made it difficult to find qualified developers while keeping costs reasonable. Appible saw a unique opportunity to cure these pains, not only for themselves, but for businesses and individuals who had run into the same barriers of entry.

Now Appible has an exciting product which has given them a unique advantage over their competition: multi-platform applications. Using the Appible engine gives clients the opportunity to publish mobile applications to the iPhone App Store and Google Android Marketplace, as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs. Appible is currently developing the frameworks which will allow their apps to be distributed through the BlackBerry App World and Palm WebOS App Catalog.

Appible Partners

Appible’s platform allows anyone to manage their apps in one central location. Retailers can manage their catalog, promotional codes, discounts prices and branding. Musicians can upload album art, MP3 samples, YouTube videos or concert dates. Real estate agents can custom brand games and utilities to keep their name in the minds of potential clients.

The apps powered by Appible can tie in to many of today’s popular online services such as Twitter, Facebook,, Google Checkout, digg, flickr, and many more. The catalog of available services is constantly expanding. This allows app owners to simply aggregate the content they have already invested time and money in producing.

One principle from Bootstrap Business that has been important for Appible is “climb high, sleep low.” Staying in a position to make mistakes without killing the business has been critical to getting Appible to the point they are today.

To learn more about Appible contact them at:

Phone: 208.650.4088



Twitter: @appible

Urgent and Important

July 9th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we introduce the tool mentioned last time, the Time Management Matrix, that will help you as an entrepreneur to prioritize your tasks throughout the day.



The most powerful tool that I’ve found for sifting through piles of tasks is Stephen R. Covey’s “Time Management Matrix.”[1] I do not claim any credit for these ideas but can definitely attest to their usefulness. This section is an explanation of how I have applied these concepts to my business practices.


The Time Management Matrix



Not Urgent




Pressing deadlines

Deadline-driven projects


Preventing time crunches

Relationship building

Recognizing new opportunities

Planning, recreation

Not Important


Interruptions, some calls

Some mail, some reports

Some meetings

Proximate, pressing matters

Popular activities


Trivia, busy work

Some mail

Some phone calls

Time wasters

Pleasant activities


More information on Covey’s “Time Management Matrix” can be found in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (149-156).


Covey labels these quadrants with numbers and names; for example, quadrant I is “both urgent and important.”[2] I’ll start with a simple example of how quadrant I works. Let’s say you walk out into your front yard and see your child step off the curb directly into the path of a speeding truck. This situation requires you to take action immediately. It wouldn’t matter if the phone started ringing or you had left something boiling on the stove; all of your attention would shift to preserving your child’s life.


Take that principle into a business environment, and it is incredibly surprising the variety of emergencies that can occur. I had a quadrant I situation in my office the beginning of last week. I had just finished up SEO work on a famous musician’s web site. The project was completed by the Friday afternoon due date, but we had a call on Monday morning advising us that we had worked on the right artist but the wrong site!


It wasn’t our fault (the error grew out of a miscommunication between the two companies), but it resulted in my team starting from square one that morning, all of a sudden having two weeks worth of work to complete in just one. Our focus immediately jumped to correcting the oversight and getting ourselves back on track. The project hadn’t even been on our to-do list for that day, but as soon as the task arose, it became our highest priority.


In quadrant II we find tasks that are “the heart of effective personal management.”[3] These items are important but not urgent—for example, finding the time to have a talk with your kids about drugs when they get old enough to understand. This is very important but has no real external deadline. “Old enough to understand” is a pretty loose guideline; you could even have part of the talk at ten, some at eleven, some at twelve, and so forth. However, if you ignore this conversation until your child is old enough to encounter and experiment with drugs, the need reaches quadrant I and becomes a crisis. Learning to make time to deal with quadrant II keeps you from living life in a state of urgency.


In the business world, quadrant II reflects the heavy lifting between you and your goals. This is the tedious work that you assign yourself in order to achieve your dreams. Covey maintains that a successful life is one that works mainly from this quadrant. For an entrepreneur whose entire life and livelihood hinges on the ability to follow through with long-term goals, quadrant II must be the priority.



We’ll cover quadrants II and IV next time – see you then!

[1] Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Free Press-Simon & Schuster, 2004), 151.

[2] 7 Habits, 152.

[3] 7 Habits, 153.

Act or React

July 7th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

As an entrepreneur, it’s critical that you know how to act, rather than just react.



As a child, I loved spending time at my grandparents’ farm. They had a little flock of about 50 guinea hens that I always made sure I “accidentally” encountered as I walked through the garden to the barn. All I had to say was “boo,” and they would look at me, cock their heads to the side, and go “whah!” It started a chain reaction. The first one would squawk, then the next, and then the next, until they were all “whah!”-ing and squawking and running around the barnyard in a noise-making microbial-like mass. It usually took them about five minutes before they collected themselves, calmed down, and went back to hunting for bugs. Sometimes, as human beings, we do the same thing. Someone says something, and one-by-one we start reacting and working ourselves into-a-lather for no reason at all.


I was associated with a woman who was incredibly driven and dedicated to her work, but she was prone to react instead of act. She worked extremely long days and tortured herself by maintaining incredible motion with little momentum. She was the most energetic, sincere, and inefficient person I’ve had the pleasure to encounter.


She was a wonder to watch, running here and there, sometimes jumping in her car and whizzing away just to whiz back and run around again. The police even had a hard time keeping up with her, but she had enough speeding tickets to prove that they caught her now and again.


This woman eventually ran herself into the ground by working like a guinea hen. She wore herself out and felt the need to choose a new, “relaxing” lifestyle. It would have made such a difference for this bright young woman if she would have just taken the time to organize and focus her energy and stop when other necessities (like sleep and composure time) became more crucial. (See the following section, “Urgent and Important,” for tips on organizing and focusing your energy.) This woman ignored the fact that sleep and downtime became quadrant I priorities and, instead, she burned out.


Don’t react. Plan and then take action.


In my current office suite, I have a great office with an elevated 20-foot ceiling. My window looks out over a golf course and then off to the distant snow-capped mountains. I love it and won’t leave it, but there is one problem: my door is right next to the entrance to our suite.


Everyone who stops by sticks their head in to say hello and chat for a bit. Even if no one actually knocks on the door, someone walking by is enough reason for me to lift my head and lose my focus. When I’m involved in a critical task and can’t be interrupted, I leave my office and head down to the “war room,” another office down the hall with the same beautiful view but far from any of the daily foot traffic.


This doesn’t just make me more effective, though; this works for everyone. The best way to keep a team of engineers from reacting to every distraction is to locate them in the back offices and give everyone else the directive to leave them alone (except to slip a pizza under the door every once in a while). When it’s time to get down to work, you must eliminate distractions and start acting on your project instead of reacting to whatever crosses your path.


Porter’s Points – Act or React


  • Eliminate distractions. Find a workspace more conducive to concentration or a way to limit the noise around you. Do what you have to do to get done what you have to get done.
  • Set a regular time each day to check and respond to your email and voicemail. Don’t react to it all day long as it comes in.
  • Turn your cell phone off or put it on vibrate and set it aside when you are in a critical work mode.



As Rich mentioned, we’ll introduce the Time Management Matrix next time so you can sort tasks according to their urgency and importance.


Walk and Talk

July 2nd, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

As promised, today Rich shares his secret of ‘walk and talk’ meetings and why they can be so helpful for your small business momentum.



In business, surprises are never good—even when they are a good surprise. Good or bad, you’ve done something wrong if you didn’t see it coming.


When I was the general manager of’s Web Services division, I found myself working with a group of brilliant engineers. Despite their brilliance, one of the challenges the group faced was a continuous breakdown in communication. Management would give direction to the engineers on a project, and the engineers would then disappear into their cubicles for several weeks to work out the details.


It was like waiting for a baby to be born—boy or girl? Ten toes and fingers? Pretty or ugly? They would surface several weeks later and present their interpretation of what they had been asked to create. Sometimes, it would hit the mark; oftentimes, it would not.


After several of these “little surprises,” I established weekly “Walk and Talk Meetings.” Some organizations share a common problem: they talk, talk, talk the day away and never get down to work. This is not good. My division had the opposite problem; the engineers would go off on a long “walk, walk, walk,” reaching a destination (the surprise product or feature) that no one wanted in the first place. When I realized this, I created a new approach for our team: “Walk and talk, walk and talk, walk and talk.” Walking and talking involves frequent, brief check-ins to keep everything on course. We would touch base in a way designed to keep everyone moving in the right direction together, avoiding the need for major course corrections.


It sounds simple, but it became a weekly ritual that was not only productive but fun. I ended up tying rewards to it, setting benchmarks and then springing for group lunches or handing out incentives upon completion. This dramatically increased productivity and stopped our brilliant engineering group from wasting energy.


Porter’s Points – Walk and Talk


  • To avoid surprises in your business, keep tabs on all assignments that you hand out. People quickly lose interest and momentum, though, so keep this contact brief and to the point.
  • Come to meetings with goals made and plans in place. If something doesn’t help you toward a goal, don’t use it. Talk things over with your team, then make decisions quickly but wisely and make sure everybody understands the plans and goals.
  • Some teams come with a little bit of inertia. Use reward systems to kick-start your own walking and talking. This will encourage the appropriate behavior and keep the inertia from settling in as you roll forward.


As an entrepreneur, do you typically act or react?  We’ll talk about the difference and why it’s important to distinguish between the two next time!