The secret sauce of an entrepreneur

9 02 2010

The week after I posted my simple business plan, I was workin’ it.  I did everything I could to make at least one sales call per day to keep the momentum going.  I always found that after that first call I found energy and motivation to make a few more.  It’s always getting started that’s the hard part.

And so I’ve been thinking about what makes a good entrepreneur.  And one quality I keep coming back to is determination.  Or to better phrase it, “pigheaded discipline and determination“.

This means making non-negotiable disciplines truly non-negotiable, and relentlessly pursuing my business goals every day, whether I feel like it or not.

Add a dash of passion and focus, stir it up with some momentum, and I believe you’ve got the secret sauce of an entrepreneur.

Of course, the sauce isn’t the meal — you have to actually have an idea too 🙂  Anything missing from this secret recipe?





A simple business plan

19 01 2010

Unless you want your startup to die, you need to have laser-like focus on your goals.  For some the issue is developing the focus, but for most (like me) the issue is defining clear goals.

I came across a simple one page business plan from Daniel Harkavy recently, and thought I’d put it to the test.  The plan is described in Daniel’s article above, and consists of three parts: outcomes, disciples, and improvements.

Outcomes are the specific and measurable goals for the coming year.  For ClimbPoint, my goals are to sell 10 licenses (2 by mid-February) and contact every university climbing wall in the US (at least 60 by mid-February).

To achieve these outcomes, there are certain disciplines, or behaviors/tasks I’ll need to repeat over and over (note that disciplines are not goals).  For me that means making 15 calls per week (at least one per day), allocating one hour per week to business development, and doing a weekly sales review.

Along the way my efforts will be helped by a few specific improvements, or one-time projects.  So far my list includes creating a master list of all potential customers, drafting a brief survey for these customers (so I can better understand my market), and compiling tips for climbing wall risk management that I can give away as a free resource.

My plan is mainly a sales plan, and is inspired by The Ultimate Sales Machine. To be honest, I am terrified to put this plan into action, because I know that 90% of the people I contact will not be actively thinking about buying what I’m selling.

Hopefully though the next few weeks will be an experiment in which I’ll learn about sales and gain a better understanding of the state of university climbing wall management.





Find Your Strongest Life: A review

5 10 2009

This is the latest in a series of book reviews that I’ve posted as a Thomas Nelson book review blogger.  Go here for more information on the program and to sign up.

It feels a little odd posting a review of Marcus Buckingham’s Find Your Strongest Life, given the book’s subtitle “What the happiest and most successful women do differently.”

I was intrigued by the book’s premise though, that people (women in this case) can live a life that plays to their strengths — a life that energizes them rather than drains them.

Marcus’ definition of “strengths” as activities that make us feel strong (and weaknesses as activities that make us feel weak) serves as the foundation for this book that explores so many specific issues and roadblocks to living a strong life that women deal with.

I enjoyed it because it gave me a better perspective on life issues that face over 50% of the world’s population, and because it helped me think seriously about my own strengths and the things that energize me.

My main takeaway relative to my journey as an entrepreneur was that selling for me must be a weakness, because it drains me and I avoid it like the plague — maybe I’ll elaborate more in a future post.

Regardless of whether you buy the book, the strong life test is available for free, and worth a look.  In case you’re curious, my lead role is teacher and my supporting role is pioneer (I took the test, even though it is clearly written for women).





Apologies, goal setting, and triathlons

4 10 2009

I feel the need to apologize to both of my faithful readers for the lack of “startup-related” posts the last month or so.  My original intent when I signed up to be a book review blogger was to write some insightful posts on how the book related to entrepreneurship and fit with my journey, but blogging is hard work!

Anyway, I wanted to write a brief post to break up the mass of book reviews that have and will continue to deface the front page of this blog…

My triathlon

I haven’t blogged about it here, but over the past few months I’ve been training for a triathlon.  I actually completed the race last weekend (my first ever race of any sort), and the whole journey taught me quite a bit about goal setting.

First, I was amazed at how much more motivation and focus I gained from actually signing up for the race.  Never mind the fact that I had been training for three months — once I mailed in my registration form, suddenly everything I did was going to impact my performance on race day.

I thought about my nutrition, my training, my downtime, my sleep in a whole new way.  All of my energy could be focused on one goal, and it was powerful.

It also helped to have a specific day that I was training toward and approaching.  It gave all of my workouts much more meaning, knowing that I was doing something to improve my time.

I’ve thought about applying this to my next development sprint with ClimbPoint, though at the moment I’m lacking motivation.  I guess I need an inciting incident (the equivalent of a race registration form) to get me started, to move me to identify and start pursuing my next goal.

Which reminds me again how great A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is.  Go buy it and read it if you haven’t yet.  It’s a quick read.





A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

29 09 2009

I reviewed A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller as a Thomas Nelson book review blogger.  You can also read my review on Amazon.

Everyone loves a good story, yet not many people are actually living a good story.  We watch them on TV on in the theatre, but living them requires facing conflict and discomfort.

This is the basic idea woven throughout Donald Miller’s latest book, which is a delightful and thought-provoking read.  I read the book in just two sittings and couldn’t put it down.

In fact, the only time I stopped reading this book was to go live my own story — I was so inspired to face some of my fears that I put the book down and embraced life, with all its conflicts and struggles.

Entrepreneurs are often in the middle of an epic story (for a few good examples, check out Jessica Livingston’s book Founders at Work).  Sometimes it’s hard to look ahead to the transformation that springs out of difficult times, but A Million Miles in a Thousand Years prompts readers to do this and more: to consider their own story that they’re writing, and how it’s changing them.

This is easily the best book I’ve read in the last couple years.





Book review: Fearless

8 09 2009

Much of America is gripped and controlled by fear — fear of what’s next, letting others down, of not mattering, of failing, of disaster.  This fear drives us to pursue safety and the risk-free life at the expense of our well-being.  We pass this lifestyle on to our children, and studies now indicate that they are more fearful than psychiatric patients 50 years ago.

These are a few of the assertions set forth by Max Lucado in his latest book, Fearless.  Lucado masterfully weaves personal narratives with examples from scripture of people wrestling with (and overcoming) fear.  Throughout, he helps expose the roots of our fears and offers suggestions for managing fear.

I found many of the specific fears he lists to be especially relevant to entrepreneurs (or at least to my experience as an entrepreneur).  Namely, fears about not mattering, letting others down, running out, overwhelming challenges, and worst case scenarios.

In addition to eight worry-stoppers that he recommends, Lucado also offers these thoughts:

Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease.  Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry.  Fear never saved a marriage or a business.  Courage did that. Faith did that…Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.  Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?

He also encourages his readers to embrace change as part of God’s strategy for them.  I’ve found that to be good advice, because if there’s one constant in life and business, it’s change.

As a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson I periodically post reviews of new releases.  You can read my full review with a rating on Amazon, or check out the book review blogger website for more info on the program and to sign up.





Software that works for everyone, even non-admins

4 09 2009

So forgive me if I wax technical here for just a sec…

I’ve seen my good friend Brandon suffer headaches from running software as a limited user in Windows (e.g. not as a machine administrator).  Sometimes the software just wouldn’t install or run, but often it was crippled in some strange way.

My thought was that any developer worth their salt would have tested for this and supported non-admin users, and would allow installing the program somewhere other than the C drive (I am looking at you Google Chrome).

Sadly, I am part of the problem…but no more!  The latest release of ClimbPoint fixes the LUA bug, which incidentally is the only complaint that I’ve had from people using the program.  With that problem solved, I decided to make ClimbPoint available for download to anyone.  The latest version, despite it’s codename (Dicey at Best) is pretty solid if I do say so myself.

This post on StackOverflow motivated me to create a fix, and this guide to fixing LUA bugs was helpful in carrying it out.





Wisdom applied to starting up

3 08 2009

As I write this, I am right in the middle — man am I ever in the middle — of a huge push to release the next version of ClimbPoint, which will blow people away and remove all sorts of reasons people have had not to shell out the cash for the product (pie in the sky rah rah pitch courtesy of the FogBugz 7 vision statement).

Last month I decided that I would apply a little wisdom in releasing the new version (Dicey at Best) by August 15.  I’ve been reading Proverbs lately, and that’s one source of my idea for a development sprint (also inspired by fellow entrepreneur Tim Haughton).

Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

I’ve also been inspired by the ideas of Earl Nightengale in Lead the Field, where he talks about reward being in proportion to a person’s service to others.  So in laying out the features I’d include in the next version I’ve picked the ones that I think will serve the greatest number of potential customers (kind of a no-brainer, huh?).

Anyway, in completing my development sprint I’m focusing on just two keys for success:

Work every day

Every day I’m aiming for only 30 minutes of focused work.  On most days I’ll end up working for a few hours, but none of that can happen without those first 30 minutes.  I find 30 minutes manageable, especially on those days when I feel swamped with other responsibilities.  I picked up this idea from Neil Fiore’s excellent book The Now  Habit.

Focus on starting

So my one goal each day is to start at least once.  I find that if I can keep my momentum moving forward, I’ll tend to use my mental free time to think about problems that are holding me up.  I also try to “leave a little in the tank” each day by stopping before I feel I’m stuck and by making a note of the very next thing I need to do when I come back to the project.  This tactic has really helped draw me toward work rather than repel me from it, so thanks to Twyla Tharp and The Creative Habit for that one.

Those are the two main keys, but there are many other ideas that I’ve gleaned from the books mentioned above.  I highly recommend all of them, especially Lead the Field.





Fun email marketing with MailChimp

28 05 2009

mailchimp2With the recent release of ClimbPoint 0.8 I decided to take another look at email marketing software and was pleasantly surprised — no, delighted — by MailChimp.

Prior to discovering MailChimp, I used generic mailing lists in Gmail and squandered a 60 day trial of Constant Contact (I think I sent out only one email).  This article has a good summary of the major features that MailChimp offers, but there are three that appeal the most to me.

1. Easy to use

First and foremost, it’s incredibly easy to use.  In fact, I was able to just copy and paste my list of contacts from Excel directly into MailChimp.  Creating the email was pretty painless too, no webinars required!

2. Fun and entertainingmailchimp

Sending emails sounds about as dull as it gets, but I have to admit that I truly enjoy using MailChimp.  I think it’s mostly due to the chimpy compliments, but the stats are entertaining as well.  Who knew looking at stats on the most recent mailing campaign could be so addicting?

Thanks to MailChimp, I now know that about 30% of my list members actually opened and read the recent email that I sent, and about 15% actually clicked one or more links.

mailchimp3

3. Priced for startups

I plan to send under 100 messages a month, so I could never really justify spending $180 a year on a Constant Contact subscription — that’s 15 cents an email!  MailChimp has a sweet pay-as-you-go plan which ends up running about 3 cents an email.

My recent campaign cost me all of about $5, and it looks very professional.  If you’re interested in checking it out, sign up using this link and get a $30 account credit if you decide to join!

Kudos to the team at MailChimp for a job well done!





Thoughts from my third summit

5 05 2009

This past weekend I attended the third annual Climbing Wall Association summit in Boulder, Colorado.  My third summit was substantially different from the first two — this time I arrived in Boulder with a company, a product, and a purpose.

I officially formed ClimbPoint, LLC back in January, and there are now about eight universities using ClimbPoint at their climbing wall check-in desks.  My purpose for coming to Boulder this year was to pursue connections with others in the industry who could help me get the word out about easy gym management software for universities and rec centers.

In the past I’ve come to the summit hoping to please everyone, including all sorts of commercial climbing gyms.  This year though, I resolved to disappoint commercial gym owners by letting them know I wanted to totally nail the university market first before adding features useful for their facilities.  I was pleasantly surprised by the reception I received.

It’s too early to tell whether many of the connections that I made this past weekend will result in loads of sales, but I’m psyched that I got in touch with everyone on my list, including various climbing wall manufacturers, hold manufacturers, and key CWA staff members.

To top it off, I met 5 or 6 people from Indiana (?!), two of whom are opening climbing gyms at their universities within the next year.  Should make for a very interesting summer!

 

As always, I’m reluctant to share all the details of my interactions and my strategy going forward — I hope the lack of detail doesn’t sap my updates of any intrigue they might have had, and I will say that I’m considering a more open approach to blogging.  More soon…