Business Intermission or Post-Mortem?

Sometimes taking an business intermission to reflect, re-group and then re-engage is best, better than quitting.


I’ve tried a lot of business ideas, some better than others. Some fail, more succeed and many of the successes have had to take a break before breaking out.

With there being so many complexities in creating, building and effectively running a business, it is pretty hard to get them all right the first time around.

While busy most of the time working on VoIP Supply, my core business, I often build prototypes of businesses/products, prove their viability and (the hard part) hand the idea and basic objectives off to someone hired to build it from the ground up. Ideally remaining very hands-off and allowing the professional hired to build a plan around it and successfully execute on their plan. “Ideally” isn’t always the outcome.

One such project led to the following analysis which is shaping the second period, areas for improvement in many businesses. These are listed in no particular order.

  • Insufficient Planning and Metrics for Accountability and Measurement: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. That which gets measured gets done.
  • Ineffective Leadership, Not Able to “Wear All Hats” as Needed in Start-Up Mode: You have to be able to see the business at 30,000 feet AND 30 feet.
  • Confusing Messaging to Customers and Staff:  Within a multi-tenant holding company, who are we, how do we fit, why are we here.
  • Lack of Focused Effort, Too Much Time Spent on Non-Essentials: Customers (sales) pay the bills, focus there first. Profits make pretty.
  • No Simplistic Message (“Why Buy”) to Present to Customers and Partners: Explain it clearly in 30 seconds, once.
  • Not Leveraging Strength in Brand and Reach of Strategic Partners: Don’t walk past five $10 bills just to get a $20 bill.

It is my belief that, had the leadership been more tech savvy with interest in learning and using tools to improve efficiency, had they created a plan that included measurable goals and the activities required to achieve them and had they rolled up their sleeves to complete the required tasks before dwelling on non-essentials, they would have been more successful. Furthermore, the messaging, the “who, what, why and how”, the “why buy”, along with their visual and textual representation needed to be simple and crystal clear without detailed explanation. Lastly, the pre-established partnerships and primed customer base wasn’t leveraged effectively.

Second period, back on the ice, avoid these six bullet points and do the opposite. Simple right?

Get with the times NY, budget help from a geek.

I can’t vote, but I can use my brain combined with technology and common sense.

Turn on the news and you can hear all about budget crisis, no money for schools, need for increased taxes, less social benefits, etc…

NY Speeding Cameras (all 12)

As you may know, one of the product categories on VoIPSupply.com is IP Cameras. If used at all, these fancy devices could add a lot of money to the coffers in NY State.

Thanks to some internet resources like the NY State Troopers annual report, I was able to do come quick math to make a suggestion. I’d love to hear why it hasn’t happened yet.

Note: The average speeding ticket in NY is $150.

In 2009, Troop T, the state troopers that patrol the I-90 wrote 85,672 tickets. I’m taking a guess here, but while they were writing those tickets, they missed 5 more speeders driving past them. I’m also guessing that they were not waiting to stop speeders 100% of the time they were on the clock. So let’s do the simple math of $85,672 times $150 and we get $12,850,800, not too shabby.

Now let’s say we put up speeding cameras to snap photos and automatically send the tickets to the speeder’s house. A novel idea, I know.

We could receive some non-cash benefits first. Less accidents or deaths related to rubberneckers and we could then deploy the police to stop more violent crimes.

Financially, big gains for the state which theoretically could be used wisely to close the budget gap, pay police more, increase educational budgets and support greater social services.

How much? For those without a calculator, let’s go very conservative and say we caught just the 5 extra speeders that were missed while our officer was manually writing a ticket.

Five speeders, times 85,672 (manual tickets), times $150 (average ticket)… wait for it… $64,254,000.

If you added in all of the rest of the state troopers in NY and their coverage areas, this number would double or triple and even that is ultra-conservative.

Go even further and add in red-light cameras, wow.

I’d venture, with some use of technology and legislative support, automating traffic tickets alone would wipe out 25%-50% of our current $2 billion deficit.

I won’t harp on any of the sensitive issues, there is no need to when simple solutions are right in front of you.

Stop arguing and do something. Make a decision, even if it means you won’t be popular enough to be re-elected – know that you did the right thing for the people.

Don’t be self-defeating! Innovate.

Big companies need you, don’t let their presence prevent you from moving forward with your ideas, designs and inventions.

How many great ideas have been crushed by thoughts like, “What if I take my product public and a big competitor just replicates it, crushing me and my idea?

There was a good article in Entrepreneur magazine last month (Buy vs. build – Sam Hogg) that I want to summarize, in effort to promote progress rather than hesitation.

In short, big companies typically don’t build, they buy, they typically don’t innovate, rather they automate. Their shareholders demand guaranteed, successful growth, a requirement that start-up entrepreneurs can’t afford and also are not shackled by.

Innovation requires people (entrepreneurs) with wild ideas, solutions to problems and visions of a better future.

Large companies cannot afford the risk nor the time required to create something that may fail, it makes them look bad to their board and investors.

Entrepreneurs can make plans on a napkin and decisions over a couple of beers, large companies struggle to get a memo crafted in a day to call a meeting for next month.

Risk vs. reward…. it makes a lot more sense for a big business to buy a hot innovation than run the risk of trying to make it and failing, even if they have to pay a premium on the guarantee.

If you are thinking of innovation and afraid of getting stepped on, don’t be, just run faster and prove your success to a strategic partner or buyer (big business).

The brain at work or home (and play)

Lists are a big part of any plan for success.

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail.

For tasks at hand, things to remember and other knowledge that you want to recall quickly, I put them to a list written out on paper.

For the skeptics of the world, those that “remember everything” and have no need for lists, try this very simple example.

Below are a list of words. Read them all once, twice, even three times. Now, close your eyes and count to 20 then speak the names of your 5 closest friends.

With your eyes still closed, read back as many of the words on the list as you can in 10 seconds.

 

  1. Two
  2. Paris
  3. Elvis
  4. Galveston
  5. Sea-hawks
  6. Seventeen
  7. 1943
  8. Alan
  9. Nebraska
  10. Disney
  11. Lincoln
  12. Washington
  13. Wilson
  14. Wildcats
  15. Filthy
  16. Fifteen
  17. New
  18. Nine
  19. Twelve
  20. Eyes

Now, open your eyes and read off the list as many words as you can in 10 seconds.

 

I won’t ask how you did because even having written the list myself, I couldn’t get them all in 10 seconds if I wanted to.

From a sales perspective, those words are your customers and actions that need to be addressed today. Outside of work, those are all of the things you need to get done before winter. At play, those are all of the fun thing you have done with friends when next you wonder what to do.

One of the first things I do when trying to remember what I had planned for the day and what I should do next is to create a list, so I don’t have to think about it anymore.

Business Opportunity Follow-up

It’s not the girl or guy who’s number you got last night, it’s someone who wants to hear from you now.

No delays, no games, close the deal!

Having created and run multiple businesses in both the services industry as well as hard goods, I’ve come across a fair amount of opportunities and inquires. While there are  many differences between these types of businesses, there are also some similarities, including the opportunity follow-up.

Answer immediately, particularly in the age of the internet, constant connectivity and instant response/gratification expectations. For us and many, our website is our storefront and any form completed to request information or follow-up communication is someone figuratively knocking on the door.

Just imagine if you had a brick and mortar business and your front door is locked at the moment. A customer shows up and knocks on your door to buy some goods or simply to ask a few questions. How many of these opportunities do you suppose you would close if you chose to answer your door a few hours or even a few days after the customer is knocking? Do you really think that they would just sit there waiting for you to answer the door?

When a customer completes a web form requesting information or contact, especially these days, they demand an answer immediately. If you choose to ignore the knocking on your door (or email on your smartphone) and wait any stretch of time to answer, you will lose nearly every time. They will go next door and find another seller, they will go to another website and submit a request and eventually, they will get an answer in a more prompt and professional manner.

No excuses!