Should you be a one trick pony?

Mark Zuckerberg was quoted in a recent New York Times Article

On desktop where we grew up, the mode that made the most sense was to have a website, and to have different ways of sharing built as features within a website. So when we ported to mobile, that’s where we started — this one big blue app that approximated the desktop presence. But I think on mobile, people want different things. Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences.                {emphasis added}

His argument is that people don’t want a calendar that is also a calculator – that in the mobile space, doing one thing really well is the key.

Zuckerberg is a smart guy – and you have to admire his willingness to pivot and continue to think entrepreneurial even at the top.

What are you working on?  Are you adding features and gadgets that are causing you to drift away from your core competency? Or are you staying true to your idea?

Never underestimate the value of doing one thing spectacularly well.

 

 

Should you have an Exit Strategy?

As regular readers of this blog know, Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot and OnStartups is one of the folks who earn a spot on my home screen.

In his recent post he said:

Here’s why I think an exit strategy is an oxymoron.

The purpose of a business is to build something of value for customers — which in turn creates value for stakeholders.  When you’re walking out onto the field, you should be asking yourself “how do I best play this game?” not “Hey, once the game is over, how do I exit the arena?”

Planning your exit is a good thing when entering airplanes, theaters and bar brawls…

This reminds me of when I used to ask my dad about selling the family business.  He said he didn’t know how to run a great business and run a business to sell to someone else at the same time.  He always focused on running a great business, all the time.  And that, of course, is why someone eventually wanted to buy us.

Think and act like you never, ever, ever want to sell.  Only then will you run a business worth selling.

 

Should you hire an intern?

Looking for some free labor?  Looking to get some great work done cheap?

Don’t hire an intern.

Looking instead to mentor someone? To pay it forward? To give the gift of a real world educational experience?

Then yes, by all means, hire an intern.

Having an internship at your business is about giving, not receiving.  Give of your time, your expertise, and your enthusiasm – and you will receive so much more than just saving a few bucks on labor costs.

I had dozens of interns work for my companies over the years, and I learned to late that having an intern is an opportunity to change a life.

 

 

Should you share your ideas?

James Altucher keeps an idea journal – and uses waiter pads to do so.  Hundreds of ideas, the good, the bad, the ridiculous.  In doing so, he has become an idea machine.Waiter Pad

I’m not so diligent, but occasionally do share ideas with the universe.  My most famous was shared with Fred Wilson, who re-posted Blip Enhance on his blog.

This got me thinking about sharing ideas – could an idea journal work if I shared it with the world?  Wouldn’t people steal my ideas?

I guess, in the end, if I don’t have plans on pursuing an idea, what is the harm? If the innovator – the one who takes the idea and runs with it thinks I can add value, they know how to reach me.  And if not, hopefully they “pay it forward” someday.

So, here are a couple of my latest idea journal ideas:

  1. Criminal Sandwiches – Hire recently released paroled ex-cons to make sandwiches.  Put them up in affordable housing, teach them kitchen skills and customer service, and give them something positive for their resume.  A ten week program where a new class starts every 10 weeks.  One person from each class graduates to shift manager for the next group in. Big sandwiches, big portions, community service focused.  Zero tolerance for behavior and employee theft.  Good recommendations on the way out.  Everyone wins.
  2. Calendar Overlay – schedule appointments via graphic – How many times to you see two people looking at their cell phones trying to figure out when they can both get together.  Calendar sync is a pain, and has all sorts of privacy and API and platform crap.  The solution – an app that takes a screen shot of your calendar, blurs it, and makes a transparent overlay to your own calendar.  Clear times show up easily, and everything links back to your own calendar app.  Can use instant messenger as the transmission platform.
  3. Blip Enhance – Early naval combat in the post RADAR world took two approaches. Minimize your return signal to the enemy, or exaggerate it. The first proved to be a fool’s errand – as each side gets better at trying to remain invisible, the other side gets better at detecting your footprint. The second technology used to defeat enemy radar was to return a bigger radar signature to the enemy…Blip Enhance – fool the enemy radar into thinking you were much larger, and much more complex than you really were. Someone should release Blip Enhance technology for everyone on the internet. Imagine everyone’s browsing history containing thousands of random sessions. Cookies indicating a million online purchases. Tens of thousands of Facebook posts, tweets and relationships.In the confusion, no data can be trusted.

 

Are local chicks better?

One of our own homegrown small businesses has a chance at a commercial in the Superbowl – thanks to Intuit and their Small Business Big Game campaign.Get Locally LaidLocally Laid helps local egg farmers connect with consumers interested in great tasting, healthy local eggs.  Please check them out, and please vote here – vote like you are from Chicago – vote early, vote often!

You can vote once per day through 12/1/2013. It’s time to make history.

(Yes -  a bit of an attention getting headline. But I thought it better than “Have you been Locally Laid?”)

Why I like Penelope Trunk

I invited Penelope to speak at my MBA class a couple of years ago.  I asked her to lead a discussion on career and the choices ahead for our students.  The Dean even sat in.

She had recently launched her third company – http://www.brazencareerist.com/

She asked the students to send her a copy of their resumes before class. She received just a few. In class, she picked up the first resume and asked “What is this S**t? And threw it to the floor.

She tore it apart.  Asked brutal questions.  Asked what the hell the student thought their next job would be.

Stunned, the rest of the students were speechless.  Then, snapping out of it, they hurriedly sent me their resumes for the same treatment. Everyone wanted her opinion.

You see, they respected her honesty.  She speaks her mind, and holds nothing back.

And, she launches companies.

Recently she started her fourth company, http://www.quistic.com/  Quistic

It looks great.  And, I can tell you, a thousand other people have had the same idea.  A hundred Universities are better equipped to offer online training.

Of course, the difference is, she did it.

She chases each opportunity without regard to resources. She is one hell of an entrepreneur. And that is why I like Penelope Trunk.

Self publishing – the new business card

James AltucherOne of my favorite bloggers is James Altucher – no one else bleeds on the screen every day quite like him.  Topics range from Finance to Entrepreneurship to Failure to Yoga.

James has published quite a few books, and outlines just how easy it is to self publish though Amazon these days.  Later posts tell you how to do this with the help of professionals.

My friend and mentor Mike Kerrison uses his book as a gift at every speaking engagement.  It is a tale of failure and success, and an insightful look at the life of a great entrepreneur.

What do you have to say?  Is it important enough to invest a few dollars to leave behind with those whose life you have touched?

Questions to ask when creating the compay.

Jeff Minch is a very smart guy.  His Big Red Car blogs his wisdom here.

I met him through Fred Wilson’s AVC.com – and Fred even featured Jeff on a guest post.

I’m researching a new series of lectures, and had put a pin in this particular thought from Jeff:

Create a clever and insightful graphical representation of the business model which will become your company.

  1. Identify who the customers are and why they will pay money for your product.  This is the revenue side of the model.

  2. Identify the elements which must be incorporated into your product to create it.  This is the expense side of the model.

  3. Identify all the management functions which are necessary to transform the ingredients into the product and to educate the customers and to make the sale and to manage the money.

  4. Identify the competitive forces that are lurking in the darkness wanting to destroy you — the ones that are real and the imaginary ones.

Make a drawing of all of this on a single very large piece of paper and then marvel at what you have done.  Do it about ten times until you have perfected it.  It keeps getting better each time.

I’m going to ask Jeff if I can use his wisdom (with credit, of course.)  And, politely ask him if I can expand it a bit.  Something like:

  1. Identify who the customers are and why they will pay money for your product.  This is the revenue side of the model.

  2. Identify the elements which must be incorporated into your product to create it.  This is the expense side of the model.

  3. Identify all the steps which are necessary to transform the ingredients into the product. This is the production side of the model.

  4. Identify all of the communication needed to educate the customers and to make the sale. This is the marketing side of the model.

  5. Identify all of the management functions needed to make all this happen. This is the leadership side of the model.

  6. Identify the competitive forces that are lurking in the darkness wanting to destroy you — the ones that are real and the imaginary ones. This is the threat assessment side.

What I love about this exercise is, that at the end, you pretty much have a white board version of a business plan.  Turn this into a 10 slide, 20 minute pitch – and you are off to the races!

 

Crashing the party

Lenny Kravitz crashed a High School band when he heard them playing “Fly Away” – watch how the kids picked up their game… especially the drummer at 4:20 or so.

What parties can you crash this week?  Who playing your song in your town? Who can you help out just by showing up and being part of the fun?