Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Casino is the Best Place for Start-Ups

I have just been introduced to an article claiming that just 10% of companies that America's top ten VCs invest in actually succeed. This correlates exactly with the yardstick that VCs and seed corn capitalists I know use. 10%!

One chance in ten. We know that only 10% of small businesses actually make it to Year 5 so it could be reasonable to suggest that anything greater than 1:10 (10%) odds would be better than you get from starting a business. Just 10%.

So, is it worth it for a 10% gamble? Well, to put all this in perspective, here are the chances of winning at the casino:

Slot machines: 32%
Horse racing: 41%
Blackjack: 47%
Roulette: 47%

Here is one conclusion (if you are in any way rational).

Conclusion #1: If you go to a casino then do not go near the slot machines (but 68% of gamblers do.)

Some other conclusions might be:

Conclusion #2: If you have money to gamble then do not open a small business (but 4m people have done so in the UK).

Conclusion #3: If you are the Government then do not gamble anything on small businesses but spend the money in the casino.

Conclusion #4: As far as small business owners are concerned maybe it is just not about the money.

Do not gamble at small business unless…

Unless what?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Five Lists of Five Things To Do In The Next Five Days

Here’s a quick warm-up, a quick taster, before I do my “Ten Things To Do In The Next 30 Days” presentation at the Opening Doors Closing Sales event on 18th September.

Read the following list and commit to follow through on just five of the following ideas in the next five days. The list is pretty gentle; the tough bit is actually making the decisions, taking action and delivering on your commitments.

1) Talk to at least five percent more existing/past clients every day
2) Talk to at least five per cent more potential clients every day
3) Find five ways to improve your product/service
4) Find five ways to get more out of your staff
5) Find five ways to get more profit out of your business

6) Find five ways to get more sales
7) Find five ways to improve understanding of how sales and marketing works
8) Find five ways to improve operational efficiency and consistency
9) Find five ways to spread the work load and not be so dependent on you
10) Find five ways to make money get used more effectively

11) Find five ways to improve financial planning
12) Find five ways to spend more time "on" and less time "in" the business
13) Find five ways to communicate the vision/purpose to the team
14) Find five tasks to finish or dump that have been hanging around
15) Decide five decisions you want to make

16) Focus on five ways to enjoy your social/private life even more
17) Find five ways to maximise your time
18) Find five ways to laugh more
19) Find five ways to congratulate yourself on your successes
20) Find five ways to spend a little more time thinking and a little less time doing, but also…

21) Find five ways to be a bit more spontaneous
22) Find five new connections you want to make
23) Find five big steps you want to make
24) Agree five things you are going to do in the next five hours
25) Agree five of the above list that you are going to do in the next five days!

To be honest, this list is way too soft… too much choice… too much wriggle room for you… That’s why I created the “Ten Things To Do In The Next 30 Days” presentation for the Opening Doors Closing Sales event. You’ll find it just a little more challenging!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Empty Vessels Make Most Noise: Why Jerks Get Ahead

An earlier blog of mine bombed: The Ascent of the A-word
Great concept ("This is an age of assholeism simply because we find the phenomenon and the practitioners so interesting - or provocative or compelling, or compellingly repulsive or all these things at once"), lousy title..

So a new title Why Jerks Get Ahead and more evidence, this time from Forbes:

"As much as we'd rather not admit it, jerks often get ahead in our world — usually at the expense of a lot of other people along the way. Psychological research over the past few years is revealing why. As it turns out, acting like a jerk isn't the secret to reaping the rewards of jerkiness. The real secret is simply letting others place you on a pedestal."

Why Are We Overconfident? in the WSJ:

"Psychologists have long known that people are wildly overconfident in their abilities: Most drivers think they are above average; most academics place themselves in the top echelon of their field...

But why would this cognitive quirk come to exist? You'd think it would be useful, evolutionarily speaking—and, well, just plain useful—to have an accurate understanding of one's abilities. For one thing, you'd know what to work on in order to achieve true excellence, rather than ersatz excellence."


"Overconfident people are perceived as having more social status."


I always thought "Empty vessels make most noise..."

Monday, 20 August 2012

#Paralympics. #Parabusiness time to get real

The Paralympics show sport has woken up to disability, but not the politicians in the Guardian... supports the general thrust of my argument. I only found it having written the blog below.

So where are the businesses run by people with disabilities?

I would like to put forward an argument.

Business owners with disabilities are forgotten despite their huge potential.
• 19% of the working age population are people with disabilities
• Very few people with disabilities actually seem to run businesses despite the clear correlation between certain disabilities (dyslexia) and successful entrepreneurship

This wasted opportunity is a disgrace.

It is great to see the build up towards the Paralympics. But thinking beyond the athletic events, are businesses run by people with disabilities proportionately represented in the business community?

The Paralympics website talks a lot about diversity and inclusion and yet there is an absence of defining who is or is not a paralympic athlete. Very strange. Surely, the Paralympics celebrates the elite performances of athletes who are disabled or challenged. I think that is the case. It is difficult to know from the website. I had to go to Wikipedia to get a better understanding.

So, enough waffle. My point is pretty straightforward.

According to The Disability Living Foundation (http://www.dlf.org.uk/content/key-facts), 19% of the working population are described as people with disabilities - that's 6.9 million people.

If 19% of the working age population is disabled, then, all things being equal, some 19% of small businesses should be run by people with disabilities. This is not the case.

You could round that figure down to 15%. In that case, I would like to believe that some 15% of the 4 million small businesses (ie 600,000 businesses) would be run by individuals with disabilities. Even that is not the case.

Some personal evidence. In the last 10 business seminar events that I ran I saw 1,000 small business people. I am only aware of maybe five individuals who had overtly recognisable 'special needs' (a requirement for disabled access, poor sight and poor hearing issues). So, we could add maybe another 10 or 20 to that number for those people attending who had less obvious needs. Even then we'd only have 2.5% and not the anticipated 15%. It seems that the population with disabilities and small business rarely go together.

I realise that some disabilities are less visible. There is a history of associating dyslexia with entrepreneurship. Articles such as Why Dyslexics Make Great Entrepreneurs argue that the 'disability' may actually be an asset. 

There's even a Top 30 of Dyslexic Entrepreneurs including Ford, Branson, Hewlett, Jobs, Wrigley, Spielberg, Hilfiger, Woolworth, Disney, Rockefeller, Watson, Edison, Roddick, and Bell… not a bad roster. 

Again, the man or woman on the street is probably not aware of what an impressive list this is. It contains six of my business heroes!!! So, some disabilities do go with entrepreneurship. However, I am not sure if being dyslexic qualifies you for the Paralympics.

And now for the big BUT…!!!

It is agreed that the real skill in running a great business is in the thinking, design and planning. Working on the business, not just in it. Spotting an opportunity… marshalling the resources and making things happen. Thinking outside the box. This is probably why dyslexics can make great entrepreneurs. So, leaving out all the possible excuses, I still don't understand why there are not more businesses run by people with disabilities.

In fact, with all this fuss about Paralympics, why isn't there a fuss being made about businesses run by people with disabilities? An opportunity? Certainly opportunities that are being ignored everywhere else...

So much for the Equalities Act and the rest of the rhetoric, it is time for someone to represent and lobby and fight for the opportunity for people with disabilities to run their own businesses.

RELATED ARTICLES - where you can your comments

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

With A Little Help From Your Friends

Brian Solis has just written a blog entitled 
I get by with a little help from my friends where he says

"Every now and then we could use a little help from our friends. This is one of those times. 
If you've read The End of Business as Usual and it helped you in some way, I'd love it if you could take a moment to write a review...
I realise you're busy and that it takes time to write up a review. So in return, I'd like thank you by sending one of the books from my personal library (listed)." 

This direct approach may feel a little un-British but he is just asking for help. (See when is a blog an advert?)

However, while having a dialogue with Brian Solis I was delighted to come across two blogs by Andrew Priestley promoting my Grow Your Service Firm book
He is talking about pushing sales via Amazon on 13th August – he really is very kind.

Do support him (and me) - How? - well, please do spread the word...
  1. Add comments at the ecademy posts (http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=179464 and http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=179357
  2. Add comments on the Amazon review page
  3. Tweet about the post using the hashtag #gysf
  4. ... and facebook and google plus etc etc 

In return I will be doing some form of webinar as a thank you to people who have bought the book or helped to promote it... watch this space...

So, please do spread the word.

Thank you

When is a blog an advert?

I am arguing in ever-decreasing circles as I try and figure out what hacks me off about certain blogs and articles while others are fine.

Basically, I'm a bit confused about what is and what is not OK for a blog or an article for something like Entrepreneur Country.

Blatant, flagrant ads are a total turn-off:
"Come and buy from me at www.i-need-your-money.com". I get that.

Case studies seem to be OK as long they aren't pushy:
"Let me tell you a story with some learning points..."

Painfully thinly-veiled requests for help are not OK:
"Just wanted to ask your opinion. I run a company that needs more clients and wondered if you wanted to know more about what I do... please visit www.i-need-your-money.com"

Requests for help can be OK if the author has a track record of being a good egg.:
"Wanted: feedback - what do you think of my website?" or "in the interests of research can you spend a few minutes helping me..."

Pure educational pieces are fine. As is good quality commentary and journalism if it doesn’t have a ‘commercial’ interest or angle at the back of it.

Obviously, the clincher is if there is a blatant call to action which says BUY ME NOW.

Most blogverts are so thinly disguised that it just creates waves of disgust. They are counter-productive as they create such a turn-off for the majority. The digital equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. If someone could be bothered, I am sure they could stratify and label the different types and flavours...

I guess the crux of the argument is based on the premise that nearly every blog and web-based article has some element of ‘sales pitch’ in it? Either it says “look at me” or it says “look at the ad just to the left”.

In conclusion, it is worth remembering what a Blog was originally - a Web log. Wikipedia defines it as "a personal journal published on the World Wide Web", and one that invites interaction or some extension of the dialogue.

That is so very different from advertising. Or is it?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Stop Stealing - all of you!!!

 The internet gives us all unparalleled access to unlimited articles, blogs, workbooks, images and videos.
They are put up to inform, educate and entertain (see the old BBC strapline).
The upside of this information overload is that we get exposed to an incredible richness and variety. A by-product of the sheer volume of content has been the creation of intermediaries that direct you to the ‘most appropriate’ source, e.g. google.com or youtube.com.
Another by-product is the growth of the curation and blogging industries that feed off the back of other people’s work.
As an author, I have had people copying individual articles and book chapters yet claiming them to be their own. In one instance a university professor copied three book chapters and passed them off as his own work!
A couple of simple observations. 
First, it is incredibly lazy. 
Second, it is dishonest. 
Third, it is stealing. 
Fourth, it does your reputation no good in the long run.

So, let’s be clear about what is and what is not stealing.

The excellent Fast Company article Content Curators Are The New Superheroes Of The Web was the stimulus to write this article.  Steven Rosenbaum discusses the rise of the curator as the person who can bring specific and relevant content to an audience and save the audience time.

More importantly, the curator commands respect for their opinion as well as their hard work. They act like a quality controller ensuring that only certain content will be presented.

For instance, scoop.it curators gather and share online content on a specific subject (see http://www.scoop.it/t/grow-your-business). Likewise, subscribers will pay to see a specific curator’s work. To have access to the efforts of someone who has selected and chosen specific material that will resonate with a specific audience (see www.directorscentre.co.uk).

But, just taking someone else’s material is stealing. So what makes this different?

It is stealing if you take content and use it and you don’t add context or opinion or your own voice. 
It is stealing if you don’t provide attribution and a link or a URL taking the reader back to the original source. 

It is stealing if you just take a huge lump of content.

It is stealing if the original author states that you cannot reproduce the material without permission and yet you ignore their wishes.

A few years ago, the internet was a bit more of a free-for-all. Nowadays it is a more established medium. It has its own unwritten rules as well as a relatively unspoken etiquette. If the old world internet could be considered as the Attention Economy then the new one is really the Reputation Economy. And if you are seen or are thought to be stealing you will do your reputation no good.

What is great about curating is that it ticks so many of the new world sexy buzzwords: it is all about nurturing your reputation by being relevant and engaging your audience and being transparent. 

Get curating. Be honest about how other people stimulate and motivate you to write. Your readers will respect your honesty and integrity. You will have nothing to hide. No-one really believes that you only create 100% unique and original ideas.

Just respect your sources.