In the world of technology startups, four ideas/books seem to be quite influential: Business Model Generation, Steve Blank‘s Customer Development model, Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup, and Agile Development. I’m not a technology guy, but they talk about launching companies often and with abandon. What can we learn from them that we can apply to the non-web venture.
We’re in the process of launching a new company. Really, we’re spinning out our transportation operations into a separate company. I’m in the process of reading Business Model Generation and The Startup’s Owners Manual. I’ve read The Lean Startup. I’ll be looking for a book about Agile Development.
We’re starting out with the Customer Development model and speaking with many potential customers. We’re working on a Business Model Canvass. One initial thought is that we’re moving pretty quickly. We’re starting to send proposals out. If we create customers, we’re on to something. If not, we’ll have to try again.
We’re starting a new venture; rather, we are in the process of spinning off some transportation operations into it’s own company. We’ll be in the transportation space, so it’s a service that everyone needs (but will anyone pay for it?). There’s lots of competition: planes, trains, and automobiles. We’ll be focusing more on non-emergency medical transportation, shuttle services, and senior living services. We’re writing a business plan or perhaps we will use the ideas presented in Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur’s Business Model Generation using their Business Model Canvas. What questions do we need to answer? I came across a great article by William Sahlman in the Harvard Business Review entitled: “How to Write a Great Business Plan.” We’ll explore the ideas more fully in future posts, but here is the basic framework:
- The People
- The Opportunity
- The Context
- Risk and Reward
The questions begin with who is involved and what expertise do they have. Then we want to understand the opportunity, who the customers are and why they need our services. Can we create economic value? or Will we simply be throwing money down the drain? We need to understand the context of the opportunity. This clearly looks at the industry and other macro-questions. But, it also asks the questions about LEGAL requirements. We’re looking at transportation, so we’ll be spending a lot of time at the US Department of Transportation Web site. Finally, we need to understand the risk and the reward. The article has a great chart showing this: consider the hole created at the beginning of the venture as well as the possible positive outcomes.
A while back, a colleague invited me to partner with her in her business. I was intrigued by the possibility, but ultimately decided not to do it. The key morsel of advice came from my attorney, who begged me: “Don’t do it!” I’ve been thinking further about the partner/no partner question:
- Does the partner bring something to the table that you don’t have besides money?
- Can the partner round out a management team?
- Can you work and live with the individual for a long period of time?
- It’s hard to get a divorce. Who has control? How do you escape?
It’s probably inevitable that a partnership will develop. There may or may not be ownership in the company, but if there are any employees, the operating owner-employee relationship will start to look like a developing partnership.
One last thought: find a good attorney. Ultimately, the partnership needs to be put in writing with an operating agreement. The agreement will have a lot of boiler plate language in it, but it needs to spell out who the decision maker is and how control is divvied up. It better also represent how the partnership will dissolve whether for amicable reasons (one person wants to move to Hawaii) or because of more nefarious reasons.
I’ve been thinking a bit about topics for this blog. David Cummings writes a great blog about technology startups. It’s at times analytical and promotional, always thoughtful and insightful. But, while I tend to analyze business, my experience is in healthcare and in person centered businesses. Johnson Cook’s blog is full of energy. It reflects Johnson’s personality perfectly.
I think I can contribute some thoughts to the small business owners. I’m sure that I will focus more over time, but this where I will start. The immediate areas that come to mind include:
Sales and Marketing
Faith and Theology
My hope is to explore these issues as I’m dealing with them. We’ve developed some useful tools and, truth be told “stolen” some ideas which I plan on sharing.
I plan on looking at faith and work as well. Many moons ago, I attended Princeton Theological Seminary. It’s an interesting juggle to balance the diversity of beliefs and thought found in today’s workplace and Christian faith. I’ll attempt a balanced discussion.
So, this is my second blog post. Over the last few days, I’ve been looking around at a number of other bloggers. Some of my favorite bloggers are Johnson Cook (www.johnsoncook.com), David Cummings (www.davidcummings.org), and Matt Candler (4.0schools.org). I’m just starting this process.
Despite the last blog topic coming from an American Express article, I appreciated the conversation about discipline and habits. In business it’s easy to get off track. There is an urgent need that crops up. A long term employee wants to quit. An employee needs to be fired. The Internet connection goes down, and yes, I’m the only one around who won’t freak out if the settings need to be changed. There’s an vehicle accident. The email pops up. Someone wants to chat.
The business leaders that I know and respect often have the ability to be very disciplined with their work; they get things done; and yet, they seem to have a lot of flexibility in their day for what comes up and the people that come up in their lives.
I think that is the first thing to strive for in this blog: discipline. Make it a habit and explore the topics that will make this something interesting and useful. I don’t if daily is going to work or not, but it’s got to be a regular occurrence. I’ll figure out the what as I write. Hope there are some interesting comments that come up.
I found this blog Five Daily Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs recently. It was written in 2011, so i’m a bit late to reading it, but somehow it strikes me as pertinent. The Five Daily Habits are:
- Plan tomorrow’s agenda today
- Put your meetings on a diet
- Find a way to manage email that works for you
- Never stop selling
- Exercise regularly
Many writers have identified the habits of success. Steven Covey‘s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is perhaps the best known. I was first introduced to this idea of daily habits or disciplines as a teenager reading something like Mere Christianity by CS Lewis or Discipline by Deitrich Bonhoeffer.
I wasn’t very good at the daily disciplines and habits back then, and I’m still not geared that way. Yet, I find the rhythms/habits/disciplines useful in my business. We have billing. We have sales practices. We have a million other things that go by a rhythm. It’s helpful in that it keeps things going, but it’s also easy for the business to get in a rut.