Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great Software Blogs


One of the best ways to stay on top of hints, information and insight into running your own business is to track blogs in whatever industry you are in. With a RSS feed, you don't even need to actually check each site, you can just peruse the new links as they come in.

Since I come from a software background, here are some great blogs that I follow regularly:

Ack/Nak: when he writes on product management, his insights are very good, and he often has advice on what to do about it. His posts on design are very interesting as well, though lately he has not been writing much on the blog.

Paul Graham: Software entrepreneur, founder of Y Combinator. Each month he bosts a couple essays on topics ranging across the board. Usually very insightful on starting a business and a great writer, even if you disagree with whatever he is writing on.

Business of Software Network: The Business of Software conference spawned this network site. Contains all sorts of goodies for small software (particularly SAAS software). Also networking opportunities.

Joel on Software: If you work in software, you know Joel's site. Another great writer, and much like Paul Graham, even if you disagree, he gives good ideas and advice.

Rands in Repose: Great from the engineer/developer manager point of view. Really understands what is going on in your coder's head. If you are going to manage creative technical people, he is a great resource.

Cranky Product Manager: Humorous, but insightful postings on product management.

Over the next few weeks I will bring in some other sites, links or blogs I find useful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Overcoming Discouragement


Keeping positive - overcoming discouragement - is critical in all our careers, but especially for an entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs are by their very nature optimists (otherwise why would they open their own business), but inevitably an account will go south, or a client won't pay, or something happens - maybe even in one's personal life - where you become discouraged.

There is no mantra, no easy way to just say "let's get back at it!". Instead, think to why you are doing this - why run your business. That perspective can help. It can also help to discuss with other entrepreneurs. You might find your situation is not uncommon. Just having peers can be very helpful.

For example, our Stillwater Entreprenuer Breakfast is this Thursday morning at 7:30. No cost, just time to meet with other business owners and commiserate over donuts and listen to a speaker.

Overcoming discouragement is not through a happy face calendar, but understanding why you are in the game in the first place.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hitting your Target Market


How well do you know your target market? If you are marketing your product or service to a particular customer - are you hitting that market?

Example: if you operate a guitar shop, I would assume you would want to target people who can afford to buy guitars. Most of them would be working during the day. Yet how often do you find that a guitar store opens at 10am and closes at 6pm. Think about that for a minute: the target market are people at work from 8-5 (and probably later). Consider Bob - played guitar in college, has a good job, driving home from a hard day one evening at 7pm - sees the local guitar shop: guess what - closed!

If you don't arrange your product/service/company to hit your target customers, how will you be able to stay in business?

Better to open the guitar store at 2pm (ready for the high school kids) and close at 10pm (hey, catch the musicians going off to their next gig).

Banker hours (or defining your hours to your customers) won't hold any longer - there are too many alternatives.

Don't miss your target market - it is hard enough to come by a new customer as it is!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Capital Before Starting


Ron Conway, best known for making very early and very lucrative bets on Google and PayPal, but he's also known as one of the most adventurous angels of Bubble 2.0, and has invested in 130 companies since 2005. His advice: “I would tell (entrepreneurs) to keep their day job until they got one year of funding, and if they couldn’t get that, then they’re not meant to start that company right now."

One year of funding - even for a local business will be a great help in this tough climate. If you start your business undercapitalized from the start, you are constantly on the edge for cashflow. If business starts slow, or you have a couple early accounts pay slow, you can find yourself out of business.

The point is: if the first year of a new business is the most dangerous for continued success, why not have sufficient resources for that first year?

"But Brad, I am going to get a loan (or have investors, etc)."If you have no capital, and you are unable to save funds sufficient to get started and through the first year of your business (and your business plan should show how you are going to get there!) - then why would a banker loan you the money? What have you shown him or her that would prove to them you would be a good loan risk?

Showing discipline is a great advantage in our tough economy, and also increases your credibility with others you need on your side.