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CAUTION: Don’t Be Another (Failure) Statistic


Caution!  Don't be an entrepreneurial failure!

Did you know that 60% of small businesses go under within the first three years of business, with two-thirds failing within the first 10 years? Those grim failure statistics seem so overwhelming, that some might say you’d need to be an absolute fool to start a business today.

But entrepreneurial dreams are hard things to neglect (thankfully).

So many eager beavers take the leap from worker to entrepreneur, in spite of the odds. Businesses who succeed can expect to lose money the first year, start to break even the third and finally turn a profit in year three.

That’s 36 months of a lot of hard work just to get to a place where you’re finally making something. Thank God for passion and perseverance. It’s at this three year mark when your business finally starts to run more smoothly.

Why do so many startups fail?

For starters, passion doesn’t translate into sound business practices.  You may be great at what you do or create, but that doesn’t mean you are great at running a business. Without having the basic fundamentals needed to run your business, it’s going to be tough. That’s why it’s imperative to conquer the ‘Laying the Foundation’ part of the Trailmap to Success.

Just like building a house, it all begins with the foundation. Without solid footing, you’ll struggle. So take your time to carefully plan every aspect of your business before taking the plunge.

Success is not an accident.

You may be asking yourself: where do I begin building my foundation?

First, before launching the business you are passionate about, you should do a lot of planning and pondering.

In studying businesses that have succeeded and those that have failed, the difference is planning. According to George F. Brown, CEO of Blue Canyon Partners management consultant firm, “Successful business leaders don’t go to work every day expecting a new adventure. They have a plan and know what to do. Over and over, in small businesses and large ones, I’ve seen the benefits of careful planning and the disasters that can result from a failure to plan,” he says.

In other words, you need to determine your vision.

Lack of vision is one reason for failure.

When your business vision is clear and concise, you won’t get stuck in the conundrum of working your tail off and not making any progress. The vision serves as the cornerstone of your foundation.

Consider things like the type of culture you want to create, the brand you want to build, the type of employer you want to be (if you want to even have employees), the type of customer you want to serve, the contribution you want to make to your community, etc.

Have you crafted an executive summary/business plan for potential investors? What’s the size of your market? Who actually is your customer (have you created a persona?) and what drives their purchasing decisions? Who’s the competition? Do you have mentors? Can you partner with experts? How can you test your idea? Where will your leads come from and how will you nurture them?

Lack of funds is another big reason for failure.

What are the financial risks involved? How are you going to fund your business? To determine how much cash you’ll need, develop a cash-flow statement that estimates your expenses and income. Be sure to research actual business costs rather than estimating or guessing based on your own personal experience as a retail customer. Be prudent and spend judiciously; limit your need for cash by avoiding long-term commitments, e.g. long-term leases. Can you (really) tolerate the financial risk at this time in your life?

Bootstrapping is definitely doable, but remember that it’s also challenging and stressful and exhausting pinching pennies all the time. It also slows growth, because there is definitely some truth behind the old adage: it takes money to make money.

Asking these questions will help you maintain focus when you do launch. Your company mission and vision is the biggest picture for your company — the why behind what you do. When evolving from employee to entrepreneur, you get a clean slate to design your role and decide which directives to pursue, so enjoy the period of creation and dream big.

Also, check out 50 Tasks in 90 Days to Start Your Business which details many foundation-building tasks required for constructing your dream business.

What makes your business unique?

Are you giving your prospect a reason to change his or her buying habits and choose you over a competitor? It’s not only what you sell, but it’s also the experience you create. Be original. Play into buyers’ emotions. How are you solving their problem? How can you make their life easier? How can you save them time/money?

Once you can legitimately solve the problems your prospective customers face, you’ll be that much closer to success…and sales!

Bottom line is that you must put in the effort on the front end to create a vision and lay a foundation if you want smooth sailing on the back end.

So suck it up. Do the work. Put in the time. Get ‘er done.

This foundation helps you stay focused, on track and climbing up the mountain of success. You’ll be glad you did when you hit the first of many bumps in the entrepreneurial road.

Live and Learn.

We’d love to hear your perspective!

How did you launch your business: with or without laying a foundation?  How did your foundation help you succeed?  Can you give an example of a problem encountered that was easily solved by having your foundation in place? Let us know; please leave a comment below.

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CAUTION: Don’t Rely On Gurus

Don’t do it.

After spending most of the past year laying a solid foundation for my resort-based websites, I found myself listening to guru podcast after guru podcast instead of concentrating on things that really mattered to drive my business.

I was of the opinion that everyone else (except for me) had uncovered the secret to online success. If I could just listen to each worthwhile podcast or attend the ‘mustn’t-miss’ webinar, I, too, would learn the secret and be on my way.

Three things happened that not only changed my mind, but more importantly, corrected my course.

The Perceived Experts

There were two back-to-back instances that didn’t just make me take pause, they stopped me cold in my tracks.

I was following one social media guru who I thought had all the answers. First, I noticed her healthy twitter following and her impressive guest lineup for her webinars. I opted-in to receive her free manifesto and purchased one of her online courses on social media.  I even participated in her members-only social media groups.

And then I decided to take the day off, away from the computer. Relaxing by the pool with my podcasts fired up and ready to go, I had the first “oh, say it isn’t so” moment.

This nice guru of mine was being interviewed as a guest entrepreneur for another podcast. Truth revealed, she was barely scraping by and admitted to almost throwing in the towel numerous times.

Here I was, thinking she was making well over six figures a year when she had just surpassed four. I did learn some things from her, but to assume she was the ‘be-all, end-all’ because of her following and connections was a miscalculation on my part.

By the way, you’ll start noticing, once you hop on the guru train, that clusters of gurus begin to form in order to build each other’s email lists via guest posting and webinars. It’s not a bad short-term tactic, but it seemed to me to be more about tit for tat than forging real partnerships focused on bringing genuine value to the end customer.

Mistake #1: Don’t believe everything you hear.

I invested less time in following the second guru.

He appeared to have credentials and came recommended by yet another guru in the circle I followed (one who actually walks the walk), so I was almost hooked when our less-than-impressive encounter occurred.

I registered on his website for his enticing offer to be considered for one of the free spots in his mastermind class. He clearly knew of one proven online secret: the money is in the (email) list.

He got this sucker’s email address.

Yet, instead of gaining access to his ‘expertise,’ I was given random reasons why we weren’t a good fit — one being the name of my company of all things. Another reason?  He wanted members of his mastermind class to possess a robust email list in order to help promote his business.

After I provocatively pushed back, he conceded. I unsubscribed after seeing others complaining in his email threads about similar tactics.

Mistake #2: Believing you can get something for nothing.

It was at this moment that my chutzpah returned, and I finally realized it was time to quit looking outside myself for some illusory magic potion.

Guess what? The secret is that there is no magic potion other than putting in the work.

Interestingly enough, when I stopped looking at the gurus and started looking in the mirror, I realized I possessed more sales and marketing experience from a longstanding sales and marketing career than they had since graduating from college (or not) just a few years earlier.  I’m guessing I also made more money.

Because I came from a corporate sales environment, I was under the wrong impression that my past experience wouldn’t translate into this new online world.

Mistake #3: Thinking online sales is completely different from offline sales.

With 20+ years of solid sales experience, I know one thing for sure: sales is sales is sales.  If you can sell offline, you more than likely have the ability to sell online, given the right tools.

Because of your experience, you’ll know that it boils down to offering value where demand exists.

Yet, since there are so many new variables that impact an online business, ranging from community development to search results, it’s easy to become sidetracked in the confidence department.

Confidence Builders

It wasn’t until I reinstated my confidence and started unsubscribing from those pundits who didn’t deliver real value to my work day that I got back to doing real revenue-generating work.

For one, the time I saved from emptying my inbox of guru solicitations has been nothing short of amazing.

Since unsubscribing, I have used that extra time to complete Technology Entrepreneurship e-145 which is a course offered through Stanford University (it is one of my endorsed programs).

This third ‘eye-opener’ was time well spent.

If you want to succeed in any online business, I suggest you start there, learning from the best (really).  This course, which was difficult and time consuming, was inspirational, educational and invaluable.

I just learned that out of 2,000+ teams who participated in Stanford’s foray into online learning, my Food Compass Team Project is one of a handful being considered by Stanford for promotion of their online course.

This compliment (and my team’s five star rating) drives home the point that when you stop looking to others for all the answers, it’s amazing what you’ll uncover — all by yourself.  You’re more competent than you think you are, and the truth is that no one knows your business better than you do.

Now, if you’d just start taking the time to listen to your intuition over their podcasts.

Bottom line?

I may have been prey to some of the self-proclaimed gurus who didn’t deliver, but that’s a thing of my past.  If you don’t have proof (such as a solid Alexa ranking, huge community or a professional write up vs. a guest blog post) or years — not months — of experience backing up your claims, count me out.

You need some feathers in your cap if you’re going to be called a guru in my book.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many experts, both online and offline, who can teach you more than a thing or two, so don’t rule out building partnerships and learning wherever you can.  I just recommend choosing your gurus wisely by teaming up with accomplished entrepreneurs who have built real businesses and/or products that generate real revenue.

I’ve accomplished a lot this past year — but my primary focus from the start should have been testing and confirming my hypotheses about the market. I’ll continue to use Lean Launch Lab to do more of that going forward.

And although I will still follow a few of the proven gurus who have taught this old dog new tricks, I’ll be refocusing my efforts and trusting myself more.

I hope you’ll do the same.

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CAUTION: Don’t Hide Behind Your Computer


Are you launching an online business? Heed these warnings that will save you time and money. Tip: Don’t hire a website developer too soon.
For most of this year, I’ve been hunkered down, hidden behind my Dell laptop screen.

I’ve been working day and night in order to lay a solid foundation for my Resort Lifestyle Network business.  I’ve been building websites from scratch.  I’ve been doing lots of research. I’ve been writing a lot of content.  I’ve been playing around with graphic design and branding. I’ve been taking lots of online courses.  I’ve been building databases. I’ve been putting systems in place.

In other words, I’ve become a loner.

Anyone who knew me prior to 2011 would never have called me a loner.  Throughout my life, I’ve been told over and over again about my outgoing personality…that I never meet a stranger….that I’m a total extrovert…that I’m a natural born salesperson.

Anyone who has met me this year would probably say I’m some weird loser geek who sits and stares at a computer screen all day long and has no life.

Your Online vs. Offline Personality

So, which personality am I?  A little of both, I suppose.

I’m afraid living on the web really has more impact on who we are than we’re willing to admit.

This morning, my loner self chose to engage with a friend who’s having some difficulty in her real-world job.  Her struggles come from being a 43 year old Chatty Cathy living in a 28 year old Loner Larry environment.  She finds it extremely odd that her colleagues come into work, put on their headphones and stare at a computer screen all day vs. engaging with her face-to-face.

Her current office environment, albeit different from mine at the moment, resonated with me. So much so, that it left me pondering one very disturbing question.

Have I actually joined the Loner Larry crowd?

Now that I’m almost done with laying the foundation of my business, I’m gearing up for the promotion stage.  These natural business transitions are definitely a good time to stop and reflect before barreling into the next phase.

What I didn’t expect to happen during this brief period of reflection was that fear would envelop me.

Overcoming Fear

It’s natural to feel apprehensive when you bring your ideas to market.  After all, no one likes to be judged.  But my fear had more to do with the question:

What if I’ve lost my offline mojo?

As Brad Hunter wrote in the Subtle Benefits of Face to Face Communication:

“Online interactions often provide anonymity and an ability to present ourselves differently than we might ordinarily. The predominance of written communication gives us a way to edit our utterances until they fit the image we want to project, something which is not quite so simple in a real time environment. Since our words are our only connection to others, it is much easier to be duplicitous or even self-deluding.”

It’s been so long since I’ve ‘worked it’ offline that I’m afraid my out of shape sales personality needs to be whipped back into shape (along with my hunched over, out of shape body that usually comes with living the Loner Larry lifestyle).

I’m fairly confident that re-engaging will be just like riding a bike.  I just need to get back on that bike.

Although I participate regularly in online communities, telesummits, forums and hangouts as a sole proprietor, it’s scary to ponder how long I’ve gone without any real consistent offline interaction that one normally encounters in an office environment.

And I know that the lack of offline interaction negatively impacts my bottom line.

Engaging Offline Brings Quick Results

It’s critical that I engage my community, customers, affiliates and partners in a variety of ways to create the best possible results.  So over the last few weeks, I recommitted to raising my offline social capital.

When I changed the means of communication to phone calls and in-person meetings, I was immediately struck by the speed with which things happen offline vs. online paradoxically.  So much so, that I’m committing to having a minimum of three real phone calls or face-to-face meetings each day.

My offline encounters were more in-depth vs. skimming the surface. They seemed more deliberate and results-oriented vs. meandering happenstance.

Whether real or imagined, I was left with the feeling that it would have taken 1-2 months of online back-and-forth to reach the goals achieved in 30-minutes of intense and deliberate offline conversation.

Maybe it’s as simple as having too many self-indulgent distractions when working online that cause you to be less mindful or present when engaging with those on the other side of a laptop screen.

The Bigger Health Concern of Isolation

Loner Larry’s take note.

In his book [amazon_link id=”0743203046″ target=”_blank” ]Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community[/amazon_link], Robert Putnam argues that involvement in community actually increases a person’s biological and mental health. Biologists and psychologists have also shown that without physical contact, people become depressed and ill.

“Does typing ‘LOL’ on a keyboard have the same benefits?”

Hunter continues, “Malcolm Gladwell argued in [amazon_link id=”0316346624″ target=”_blank” ]The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference[/amazon_link] that much of communication is done non-verbally and emotions can easily be transferred from person to person without the utterance of a single word. If community loses its physical aspect, I believe that many of the subtle benefits that go along with physical face-to-face contact will also be lost.”

Resort entrepreneurs (or any lifestyle business owner) may rely more heavily on non-physical means of communication to  connect since they are less tied down geographically.

Hunter worries that “in such a system, the value of each connection is lessened and that the benefits we gain from each connection decreases. I think that in this world of the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones, pagers, faxes, and the World Wide Web, we should keep in mind the importance of face-to-face communication.” 

I couldn’t agree more.

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CAUTION: Average Is Over

I recently watched Thomas Friedman’s (Pulitzer Prize winning author and NY Times columnist) appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight, and I was struck by something he said.

In talking about education in America and the new world economy, he suggested we ponder the serious question: “What world are we living in?”

This discussion is one he addresses in his new book: [amazon_link id=”0374288909″ target=”_blank” ]That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back[/amazon_link].


What World Are We Living In?

Good question.  He certainly got me thinking about competition and the economic environment we live in today.  He went on to define it.

“We’re living in a “hyper” connected world which means employers have more access to more machines, more software, more robots and not just more access to cheap labor, but cheap genius, from anywhere in the world.  And this is posing a huge challenge to our workforce.

He continued, “Everyone needs to start thinking like an immigrant or an artisan.  An immigrant thinks: ‘nothing is owed me.  I don’t have a place at Harvard waiting for me.  I better understand the world I’m living in and boy, I better work harder than the next guy because I have nothing else going for me.”

Think Like An Artisan

Friedman added, “And everyone needs to start thinking like an artisan.  Before mass production, artisans were so proud of what they were doing, they carved their initials in it.  When you are doing your job today, think of the artisan.

Everyone needs to bring their “extra” because average is officially over.”

Jolting, huh?

When you own a small business, you set out all excited and professional with the best intentions and a perfect vision.

Then work happens.

You have research to do, financing to raise, meetings to attend, products to manufacture, sales to make, clients to please, colleagues to appease, websites to develop, conferences to attend, reports to read, podcasts to hear, decisions to make…the lists goes on and on.

You’re exhausted at the end of the day.

There’s Never Enough Time. 

In other words, entrepreneurs can become easily overwhelmed by their busy schedule.  Unfortunately, being overwhelmed wreaks havoc on your perfect vision and good intentions.

Before you know it, you start accepting less-than so you can just get-‘er-done.

You begin to justify to yourself why that’s okay.  And sometimes it is – you may not have a choice if you’re up against a firm deadline and need to move forward.

Sometimes, though, being busy becomes a crutch.  Excuses can always be found when needing to justify less-than deliverables to yourself and others.

Listening to Thomas Friedman served as a good reminder for me to stay true to my vision — and work extremely hard to achieve it — so I stay proud of my work.

Are you prepared to carve your initials in your work creations?  I am.

Live and Learn.

We’d love to hear your perspective!

How do you think you compete in today’s global economic marketplace?  Are you proud of your work this year?  What changes can you implement or intentions can you set today so you do better work tomorrow?

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It only takes a second, but it makes a huge difference to me!

~ by Connie Hammond ~

Live and Learn.

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CAUTION: Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Don’t do it.

I’ve always been one to work extremely hard.  Most entrepreneurs do — especially during the all-encompassing start-up phase.

Sole proprietor’s are incredibly fired up that they work around the clock to bring their ingenious ideas to light.  This tireless effort is exhausting enough, but when you throw your negative internal critic into the mix, it’s difficult to stay positive and proud.

“Why can’t I get more done?”  “Who do I think I am?” “Why can’t I figure it out?” “What was I thinking?” “I’m such a loser.”  “I should have kept my day job.”  “Why didn’t I workout today?” “I should have taken more technology classes” “No one gives a shit, so why am I wasting my time?”

OK.  Those negative thoughts just rolled off my tongue in five seconds flat which goes to show how hard it is to keep a positive attitude (even if you’re a positive person by nature and have been working hard to stop your internal critic by being conscious).

Those self-doubts are in the back of your mind just waiting to pounce.   Without a doubt, I’ve been harder on myself than anyone else could ever have been on me.

(Mistake #1: Engaging in negative self-talk.)

Thoughts. Words. Actions.

The problem with being your own worst critic is that it’s really a disguise for self-sabotage.  We’ve all heard about the power of positive thinking and how what you think affects what you do, but let’s face facts.  It’s hard to stay positive when you’re fried most of the time from working nonstop.

Instead, what you really need is to be your own best cheerleader and best friend.

When I find myself questioning why I launched a business and going through all the worst-case what-if scenarios and self-deprecating comments, I stop myself and ask “Is it true?”

If you’ve ever listened to Dr. Wayne Dyer or read his book [amazon_link id=”1401922945″ target=”_blank” ]Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits[/amazon_link], you’ve probably heard him talk about the problem with memes.  Memes are cultural characteristics that are passed down from generation to generation.

Reset your mind to the possibility that your beliefs carry far more weight than you realized in determining what you can do, what you’ll undertake, and how far you’re capable of going.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer

Just because it’s a meme doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

It’s one thing to have a healthy inner self-critic that keeps you from being complacent and reminds you of where you need to grow as a business owner.  It’s another thing to have an unhealthy self-critic that operates on false assumptions.

Be Your Own Friend

If you were your friend, what would you say?  I’d probably tell myself that I am deserving of success, I work extremely hard, do my best and am already successful because I at least had the courage to go for it which is more than most can say.

So do the Stuart Smalley.  Say positive affirmations to reprogram your thought patterns if need be.  Get rid of those dysfunctional, negative beliefs.  Focus on the positive and grow your business.  Concentrate on the good — things like the tasks you’ve accomplished today, how far you’ve come overall, new partner relationships forged, new business secured (no matter how small), new podcasts heard or webinars completed.

One thing I know for sure — you’re more knowledgeable today than you were when you began on the entrepreneurial path.  So, embrace your wise self.

Bottom Line? You’ll be doing yourself a huge disservice if you engage in negative self talk more than you engage in positive self-talk for one reason: it affects your attitude.

And attitude permeates everything you do, and how you’re perceived.

Live and Learn.

We’d love to hear your perspective!

Are you constantly cutting yourself down in spite of how hard you work? Or, have you mastered the power of positive thinking?

Please share your comments below.

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CAUTION: Don’t Assume You Know Your Audience


Don’t do it.

When I launched Hire Me Aspen, I thought I had a pretty good handle on who my target audience was.

After all, I was targeting someone just like me.

The idea of my website arose out of a genuine concern about the economy and living in a resort town: “What would I do if I lost my work-from-anywhere corporate job and needed to freelance on the side to make extra money while I launched my business?”

Plus, there’s a frequently heard saying circulating around resort towns that goes something like: “When you live in a resort town, you either own three homes or work three jobs.”

So I knew there was a real possibility of my having to work side gigs to make it happen and stay where I loved.  And I knew this old adage proved my theory that there would be a definite need for my service.

(Mistake #1: Don’t base your market research on hypothetical sayings).

I was qualifed for a variety of side jobs, but getting a babysitter gig or something casual like that when you’re not 15 years old could prove challenging for a middle-aged corporate executive-turned-resort-entrepreneur.

I certainly had side-job skills, but how would I get the word out that I wanted to earn some extra money?  There wasn’t an efficient way for me to market my multitude of services (ie. writing, dog walking, personal assistant, etc.).

So with “me” in mind, I created Hire Me Aspen.

(Mistake #2: Thinking everyone thinks just like you do.)

Do Your Homework

It’s easy to jump right in, believing that there will be a hungry audience for your outstanding services.

You trick yourself into believing, “Hey, I’m a fairly normal person (in the scheme of things).  I’ve discovered a need that wasn’t being met.  I’m extraordinarily intelligent.  I’ve got what it takes.  I’m going for it.”

And with those misguided thoughts, you’re off and running.

Well, I’m here to tell you to slow your roll.  First things first.  You have to do some homework to get it right.

Start With Personas

So, what exactly is a persona?  The following description is paraphrased from wikipedia.

In marketing and user-centered design, personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use your website, brand or product in a similar way.

Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of your users and help guide decisions about your products and services.

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a real group of customers.  In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. 

For each product, more than one persona is usually created, but one persona should always be the primary focus for marketing and design. 

Check out this article which also includes an example of a persona: How to Use the Power of Personas to Connect with Your Target Audiences.

Personas help you have clear and succinct understanding of who your target market is.  Personas help you decide which products, services and promotional materials you should be producing.  Personas help you develop meaningful and relevant content that drives sales.  Personas help you determine what content your audience would likely search for, subscribe to and share (in social media).

It’s also a good idea to market to someone’s potential (or who they want to be) vs. who they are right now.  When Marlboro launched their Marlboro Man marketing campaign, they were targeting cowboy wannabes.  The average Marlboro customer looked nothing like the man in the ads.

Having a deeper understanding of who that person is can be extremely helpful when formulating your business strategy.

Tell a story.

Are you a good storyteller?  If not, please learn.  Being able to articulate a user narrative is an important part of the business planning process.

I love listening to Stanford e-Corner podcasts whenever I can because I always learn something new about running my business.  Just the other day, I listened to Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square, share his thoughts on the power of user narratives in one of those podcasts.

“Your user narrative should read like a play,” says Jack.

You have to get into the mind of your customer to write your narrative.  They don’t have to be written in stone.  They just have to be written.  Consider them a work in progress which will continue to evolve and change over time as your company evolves and changes over time.

Here is another example of a narrative which demonstrates the detail and structure needed for it to be a thorough exercise.  It’s important to note what a narrative is not:

“I went to the store. I got some milk. I checked out and went home.”

In this brief example, there is a character and setting, but there is no conflict. The story seems to not go anywhere.

In other words, when composing your user narratives for your business, be sure to ask yourself about the challenges your customers face and how your products and services solve those challenges.

Bottom Line? Taking the time to write out (vs. think out) your user narratives is critical for reaching a truly targeted audience.  Otherwise, you’ll just be throwing darts with a blindfold on where your marketing efforts are concerned.

Live and Learn.

I’d love to hear your perspective!
Have you taken the time to write out your personas or user narratives? Or, are you a “wing it” kind of business owner?
Please share your comments below.
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CAUTION: Don’t Be Domain Happy


Don’t do it.

When I decided to branch out on my own, I spent an entire weekend brainstorming like a mad woman.

They say when you lose track of time, you’re most certainly following your passions.  Clearly, I was on a roll and loving every minute of it, so I guess you can say it was a passion-filled weekend.

One of the biggest brainstorms that came out of that weekend was the creation of Sharing Profiles, LLC and how my network of websites would work together to form my “conglomerate.”

(Seriously. I’m not joking here…I’ve always been one to dream big.)

I was hell bent on staying local since local was all the rage, while being flexible enough to scale.  Thus, my website planning began in spite of the fact I hadn’t performed one google search on “website strategy” or “domain strategy”.

Consider no initial research to be mistake #1. 

Take my advice and do yourself a favor.  Do some research on buying domain names before you jump in feet first.  Or check out this thread on Quora regarding negotiating the purchase of a domain name.

Start Small. Think Big.

I started putting together the pieces of the Sharing Profiles website puzzle that would fit nicely into my “sky is the limit” strategy.  I went vertical.  I went horizontal.  I even went global (and then I back-tracked just a bit).

First up was figuring out the resort branch of Sharing Profiles and those resort-based domain names that I needed to secure.

I focused on the geographic location for each resort town I wanted to target initially (ie. Aspen, Vail, etc.).  Then, I focused on the verticals where “sharing profiles” would make the most sense to that local market.  For example: Hire Me (employment), House Me (housing), Buy Me (products), Meet Me (friends), Love Me (romance), and Help Me (charity).

Obviously, Hire Me was the first vertical I focused upon due to the economy.  Aspen was the first resort town I targeted because I called Aspen home.

And with that, HireMeAspen.com was born.

The second stage of my website strategy was determining other industries where people might share their profiles (ie. mentors, renters, artists, etc.).  The good news is that you can go high and wide with the Sharing Profiles concept.

Unfortunately, that’s the bad news too.

I settled upon:

  1. Colorado resort towns
  2. The six verticals (ie. HireMe, HouseMe, etc.) for each Colorado town
  3. Geographical family (ie. AspenProfiles) for each Colorado town
  4. Education (MentorMeAlumni and HireMeAlumni)

Consider overkill to be mistake #2.

Easy enough?

Ummm…no.

In an effort to start small while thinking big, I didn’t realize what a headache and needless expense it would be trying to maintain so many different websites and domains (duh!).  Remember, I was still in the naive planning stage.

And my domain challenges didn’t stop there.

Besides being overly aggressive when it came to building my “empire,” I also got bitten by the “what if someone else buys it before I do?” bug.  It’s a fear-based syndrome that is best to avoid at all costs.

Consider paranoia to be mistake #3. 

You’ll want to consider domain names which have strong keyword potential for search rank which can also cause you to lose focus and gobble up more than your fair share.  You also may want a plural version (where applicable) or different versions of your domain name (.com, .net, .biz, etc.), but I didn’t go that route since the .com’s were available.

“What-if sick” and “domain happy,” I purchased over 40 domain names (to start) ranging from $9.99 (1 year) to $29.99 (3 years).

When all was said and done, this illness cost me over $850.00.

It wasn’t so much the outlay of cash that was the problem as much as it was the outlay of time when it came to managing and executing this well-intentioned yet a bit naive domain strategy.

If only I knew then what I know now, I would have purchased two domain names to start.  Why?  Because Sharing Profiles.com and HireMeAspen.com are as far as I got before I pivoted.

You will pivot too.

You can trust me.  You can also trust retired serial entrepreneur (8 Silicon Valley startups, no less), author and Stamford professor, Steve Blank who wrote about pivoting in his article: Why Startups are Agile and Opportunistic — Pivoting the Business Model.  I also suggest reading his book: [amazon_link id=”0976470705″ target=”_blank” ]The Four Steps to the Epiphany[/amazon_link].

Anyway, upon launch of that first Hire Me website, I realized immediately that:

  1. My market was too small.
  2. Building and maintaining the necessary social media sites (twitter, facebook, slideshare, etc.) for each domain was absurd and next to impossible for one person to handle.
  3. I’d bitten off more than I could chew with my overkill strategy

Back to the drawing board.

So, like I said, I pivoted.

Now, instead of the old 40+ domains, I have seven new ones which are part of the new Resort Lifestyle Network.  They are Resort Workers (employment), Resort Locals (news and information), Resort Pix (best of), Resort Entrepreneurs (business owners), Resort Renters (housing – to come), Resort Lifestyle TV (videos – to come) and the Resort Lifestyle Program.

This revised approach is much easier to manage — but it still could be simpler.

I realize that sometimes you just need to take the leap and get your feet wet and I’m all for bolting out of the gate, but it’s also good to take a deep breath or two before blissfully charging up a storm on Go Daddy.

Bottom Line?  There’s so much more to a domain strategy than I have even begun to touch upon here.  But when it comes to actually buying the domains, know that it’s so easy to be over zealous and over spent when attempting to lock a name down or create the universe.  Be realistic, practical and smart.

Live and Learn.

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~ by Connie Hammond ~

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CAUTION: Don’t Hire A Developer…Too Soon

Don’t do it.

When I started planning my first website, the first thing I did was call the smartest developer I knew and trusted.  Unfortunately, that should have been the last step in the startup process, not the first step.

The truth is, I had no business going into an online business without doing my homework first.

Keep the control.

When you hire a developer without basic knowledge in place, you’ll soon realize that your hands are tied because you can’t make updates or even the most minor edits without engaging your developer.  Don’t put yourself in this precarious position.

If you are going to have an online business, you have to learn, at a minimum, the basics of website development: Basic HTMLSEO, Use Cases, Wireframes, Membership Sites (we recommend Wishlist Member), Squeeze Pages, Email Marketing (I use MailChimp), Payment Processing, etc.  Not to mention, you should learn the design basics (check out this exceptional article on visual design basics).

Don’t shortcut this step.

Before hiring a developer, please do yourself a favor and go to Lynda.com, pay the $29.00 monthly subscription fee (which you can cancel at any time), and access Lynda.com’s online training library.  Then dig in and actually take the classes (you can even learn at your own pace, so no excuses).

One of the first classes I recommend is WordPress Essential Training. It takes 5.5 hours, and it can be a bit tedious for the novice.  But endure it.  It’s worth it if you’re launching an online business via a self-hosted WordPress site (which I recommended doing). Trust me, it will be time well spent.  That way you’ll have an idea of what you’re developer is doing. Go to Lynda.com for more information and to sign up.

Spend wisely.

Had I just taken the time to take some online courses in the beginning, I could have saved over $20,000 which was the development fees that I paid on the front-end of my startup and instead spent that money now that I know what I’m doing.  Granted, my interactive website, HireMeAspen.com, had lots of customization and complicated functionality like posting profiles, connecting users and ratings / recommendations.  It was also built to scale and will serve as a great foundation for profile sharing on the Resort Workers website.

My trustworthy developer did a fabulous job and delivered what I asked.  However, I should have gained the necessary knowledge about which features are worth pursuing and which aren’t before blindly spending the money and forging full steam ahead.

Mostly, I would have known how to engage my developer in a more productive way vs. naively trusting his opinions.  Knowing what I know now, I would have asked more questions, acted more deliberately and learned more about technology and market needs.

I wish I would have spent that money more wisely out of the starting gate.

Take Your Time

Had I just waited a bit longer and started with the most basic product features, I would have known what’s really involved in launching a site. I would have known that no matter how gung-ho you are, there is a natural learning curve that is difficult, if not impossible, to bypass quickly.  I would have known that it’s not necessary to have all those bells and whistles on your website that you think you need. I would have known about the Minimal Viable Product.

I would have been able to discern which features were nice-to-haves vs. ones that could really impact sales.  For most (not all) online entrepreneurs, a do-it-yourself hosted WordPress site will more than suffice for the Round One learning curve.

Minimum Viable Product.

As Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur, will tell you: your goal in the beginning should be simple: to launch the most basic, minimum viable product you can get away with so you can test your idea in the marketplace as soon as possible, and then change course or pivot as needed.

Your vision will evolve based on what you learn during the first year of planning and launching your online business…guaranteed.

To be clear, I’m not saying spending money on a developer is wrong; it’s just the timing that matters most.  In my case, it was premature when launching my first online business to hire a developer without knowing more about technology (since I was launching an online biz), fine-tuning my vision (including my target market) and testing the waters.

My developer did a fantastic job by delivering a custom site built from scratch that functions properly.  He did what I asked.  I just asked the wrong questions and wanted the wrong things.  (And if you shirk this advice and hire a developer anyway, at least be sure to have measurable deliverables, firm deadlines and a no-frills, get ‘er done and roll ‘er out policy).

Bottom line? I wish I had hired my awesome developer during Phase Two vs. Phase One.