Monday, June 28, 2010

How to hire a programmer

For all of you with a software idea just waiting to be developed...

Derek Sivers has a great post today about how to hire a programmer to make your ideas happen.

Key takeaway pointer - #7: Hire more than one team or person. Having more than one team working independently on your initial project allows you to pick the better implementation - and protects you and your schedule by not allowing one team to hijack or just disappear.

Even within a company, this is probably a great idea for a new product (if you can sneak it past mgmt.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Welcome Aboard Tulsa Forge Incubator!

Yesterday we saw the opening of Tulsa's newest business incubator - the Forge.This is a much needed addition to Tulsa and Oklahoma.

It is operated under the auspices of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's Young Professionals group, and its director is an executive on loan from Arvest Bank.

There will be room for up to 8 companies in the incubator.

I was a bit surprised to learn they had about 6500 people in the Young Professionals group, or at least that many in their database. I wouldn't be surprised if the incubator clients are all members of the group.

One of the hardest characteristics of a business incubator to develop is the networking that goes on in the hallways and after hours. By its very nature, it occurs on its own, not due to formal programming. And with the Forge operated by and for young professionals, this common set of interests could give it a step up on other incubators.

So welcome aboard Tulsa's Forge incubator! We look forward to hearing great things from you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Try a different metaphor

When discussing issues with clients or employees, we usually use a set of beloved metaphors. I like cars and so I often use car analogies or metaphors in my discussions.

I had a boss once who pulled me aside and said he didn't like cars! (So my metaphors were failing to describe the situation and caused him to not listen as well to my comments.)

If you catch yourself using the same metaphor - consider trying something different. People may be more responsive to your comments, and in thinking of another metaphor, it may cause you to rethink the underlying issue.

If all your metaphors are about war or battle - then every situation is combative. If all your metaphors are about cars, then what of friendliness or empathy or warmth. Those qualities are not easily represented by the metaphor.

Try a different metaphor.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Notes from NBIA (National Business Incubator Association) meeting

We just returned from our annual meeting of the NBIA. For those of you who are involved with incubators - here are some notes I took during the sessions. Sorry I don't usually have references!

  • The most useful skill for Incubator Managers is the ability to manage stakeholders.
  • 7 People every Entrepreneur should know: banker, accountant, attorney, coach, technologist, insurance agent and marketer.
  • Give your advisory board a goal of bringing/sending X number of prospects per quarter to the incubator.
  • can do background checks for $25. (Have to check on that one!)
  • Be sure to invite local politicians and legislature representatives to your incubator events - even if they don't come, they will note your activities.
  • Understand the differences between the SBA 504 program and 7a loans
More to come...

Microsoft in Asia

In the latest issue of BusinessWeek, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft remarks that excluding Japan, only 3% of Microsoft's $60 billion dollars revenue comes from Asia. In the face of massive piracy/lack of IP protection - and yet one of the fastest growing regions for computers and software - Microsoft is in a difficult situation.

More important to this readership, if as a small business your greatest growth opportunity is a difficult and 'dangerous' market...what to do?

One strategy is to carve out a beachhead - a small part of the market - and develop from it.

Microsoft is trying to concentrate on business users in China, since they are probably more cognizant of IP rights than of the general public.

Likewise, find a small subset of your market that limits your exposure; for example a particular industry, and expand from it. It makes it easier for you to market and also develop.

Get a beachhead!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Reluctant Entrepreneur

In an op-ed column today for the New York Times, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, writes that many of the new entrepreneurs are really 'self-employed', that is, they want a job but the market has forced them into temporary free-lance serfdom.

He uses the example of George, an aquaintance who lost his job as associate partner at a technology and consulting company - probably a company like EDS or IBM Consulting. George sounds like he is in his mid- to late- career. George is self-employed, doing "exactly what he used to do, for less money, and no benefits - no health care, no 401(k) match, no sick leave, no paid vacation."

My brother Bryan is in much the same situation. Bryan is a mid-career creative Art Director. Good agency experience, great portfolio. Having a devil of a time catching back on in Texas. He too is doing free-lance work work less than he did before.

So what can we draw from this - what if we are a reluctant entrepreneur?

First, there is no easy answer and I will refrain from platitudes about 'keeping your chin up'.

If you have one client who is paying you, can you get a second? Is there any way to carve out a few hours a week to call on a second prospective client? Can you partner with another person slogging away just as you?

Leverage your experience to allow you to do more work in less time, so you can get a second and third client paying you at the same time. You have to free some excess labor from the contract. They are paying you to complete some objective, not piece work.

Not at all easy, but the only way to get yourself back into some control or the feeling of control.

And, if you need a crackerjack creative marketing guy - let me know. I will get you in touch with Bryan.