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Entrepreneur Insights

San Diego Urban Land Young Leaders Social Media Panel

By At Work, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups No Comments

Tonight, I'll be on the panel discussing how small and local businesses can use social media to their advantage. Here are my key points:

  • Focus on quality instead of quantity. Be consistent. Be real.
  • Make sure someone is assigned to the task with definitive plans.
  • Focus on Google Places, Facebook, and YouTube
  • Other secondary tools include Google Alerts, blogging, twitter, skweal.com and groupon
  • Showcase customers – not just yourself
  • Answer back customer praises and complaints

Finally, remember that the quickest way to overnight success is to work years on it.

Here are a few links that I've found that can also be of help to you:

http://mashable.com/2010/11/17/business-leaders-social-media/

http://mashable.com/2010/08/20/top-5-social-media-trends/

http://mashable.com/2010/08/19/facebook-places-guide/

http://mashable.com/2010/11/22/sms-marketing/

http://mashable.com/2010/08/26/business-facebook-page/

 

Thanks to Steve Martini at Quality First Commercial (San Diego Commercial Real Estate) for the invite.

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Getting your startup to $10mm in revenues

By At Work, Entrepreneur Insights, Start-Ups No Comments

Here is a post (the first of two) from Steve Carpenter on the different potential business models for internet startups right now and some of the metrics necessasry to get to $10mm in revenues.

I believe that services are one of the best internet business models for the next 10 years for the following reasons:

  • Price shopping. It is tough to compare a service provider to another using an apples to apples comparison. There are no SKU numbers because it's not a standardized product. Thus, it gives good companies the ability to establish brand and customer care around the service in order to raise value.
  • It's just the beginning. Web services is still in its infancy. While there are well-established players for social networking, gaming, and product commerce, services is still the wild west. This leaves room for smart companies to position themselves and get a foothold without having to knock off the 800 lb. gorilla.
  • Accepted. Services are an integrated part of the economy. You're not trying to teach an old dog new tricks. You're just making it more efficient for people to buy.
  • Demographic shifting. More and more people in their 20's are reaching the age of starting their careers, having kids, and arguably increasing their spending power. As this happens, there will be a natural shift towards the web. People will seek out service providers over the web because that's what they're used to.
  • Better technology. It's now worlds easier to discover and choose service providers on the web. Word of mouth is effectively shifting to the web through rating systems, transparent customer feedback, microblogging, and other tech advances. Over time, this will leave a digital identity of most businesses out there, and customers will use the feedback to make quicker, better-informed decisions.

13 Ways To Get To $10 Million In Revenues (Part I)

 

Chart-2-consumer-internet-startup-models-overview



Plant before your Harvest.

By At Work, Business Philosophy, Entrepreneur Insights, Life Lessons No Comments

Our VP of Core Operations, Chris Waldron, sent an email out to the team last week where he quoted the legendary comedian, Steve Martin. I think it chronicles why one of our company core values is Perseverence. On rare occassions, the race is won by the person with first mover advantage. But more likely, it goes to those that keep running.

“I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years.  Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.” 

Steve Martin in Sweden promoting Image via Wikipedia

Chris' interpretaion:

"If you do the math, that was 14 years before he saw any success.  That is a long time to remain focused on one goal.  The ability to not become distracted or work on unrelated/unimportant projects is impressive. We are wrapping up a chapter in each of our lives.  You only have one September 2010.  A part of your life story includes your time at TakeLessons and your impact on the company.  I hope it was a good one for you.  My hope is that you stretched yourself as a person, professionally and personally this month.
 
TakeLessons is also finishing its Q3-2010 chapter and each of you plays an integral part in the monthly metrics.  We have a chance for greatness.  Without your input, the story is not complete.  Finish this month and quarter strong.  Remind yourself that good enough isn’t good enough around here.
 
The ability to hit our goals would not have happened if it were not for each department doing their part and hitting their target each week, month, quarter and year.  I know it is tough some times to see how your words, actions and work really make any difference.  But it does.  Challenge yourself this week to work on the right things, build things you are proud of and to finish strong.  We are close to hitting our numbers but every ounce of effort will be the difference."

My interpretaion: There is a simple rule of life that I've never found a way around – and that is you must plant seeds and work the field before you're able to harvest. It takes a long time to "build stuff you're proud of", but I am learning that the ride is actually more fun than the destination. It's also really cool to see my fellow team members encouraging the rest of the team. This is a sign of a culture that has the ability to allow leaders to grow.

So, the takeaway? Get the short-term quick-hit out of your mind and prepare to keep running.

Strategic Partnerships with Big Companies

By At Work, Entrepreneur Insights, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com No Comments

Recently, our company has been fortunate enough to strike deals with channel partners that should help us in our quest to become the "Starbucks of Music Lessons". Starting in August, TakeLessons will be giving in-store lessons in conjunction with our partners. The service will provide certified TakeLessons local music instructors to thousands of kids and adults throughout the country. Partners include:

From a business perspective, cutting strategic deals is part art coupled with a ton of hard work. The video below walks you through some of the things we've learned over the past 2 years while negotiating with our partners. Main points include:

  • Have persistence
  • Focus on providing true value for the partner
  • It's a long process getting to yes. Don't get discouraged.
  • Build multiple relationships inside the channel partner
  • Get a good legal team
  • Don't spend cash until the deal is signed

Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make – Hire Right

By At Work, Entrepreneur Insights, Leadership, Start-Ups No Comments

Here's a good article from Neil Patel (co-founder of KISSMetrics). He interviewed a few successful entrepreneurs that had built businesses worth at least $50 million to learn what some of their biggest mistakes were.

By far, the reply that kept coming up is hiring the wrong people. It seems that just about everything else falls secondary to "getting the right people on the bus", as Jim Collins would say.

I agree with the general consensus. Your ideas will change, your direction will change, and the skills you need will change. What is critical is that you can find smart, hungry, driven, flexible people with raw talent. Just about everything else can be learned over time. However, just a couple wrong hires can kill a company's culture and make it extremely difficult to grow because you end up spending more time fixing internal staff problems and less time solving the customers' problems.

We've developed a pretty good system of weeding through candidates effectively. We have seperate interviews where a team of two interviewers' job is to specifically focus on one of three aspects: skills, work/school history, and culture fit. By spending a lot of time on each one, the interview teams can get a really good idea of the candidate, and we're not asking the same question to the candidate over and over.

If you've made a bad hire, believe me – your team knows it. Once you become convinced the person is the wrong hire, it's critical to cut bait early. You are doing yourself, your company, and the new hire a disservice by keeping them around. Let them go find something more suitable for their comfort level. If you don't cut bait, I believe it is hard for the new hire to overcome the psychological downward spiral of 'losers slime'. This is where the internal team is not impressed with the hire and thus becomes just a bit less likely to spend the extra time with them. This, in turn, creates an uphill battle for the hire to get up to speed, and eventually everyone ends up frustrated. 

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