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Smart Ways to Manage Your Business Finances

March 25th, 2010 ::

Ever wanted to know what tips and resources you need when running your own smart business in order to manage your finances? David Cotriss wrote eight great tips on how to help your small business handle its finances. You can read the original article here:

Find the best local credit union. Given their frequent willingness to provide loans, finding a credit union that understands the needs of your business can go a long way.

Find a trusted mentor. Access to free help is just a click away, with sites that help connect entrepreneurs with mentors fitting their needs. Having a mentor assist with setting up finances can be invaluable if the person is trustworthy.

Choose the correct accounting software. While software is a mainstay of small business finance, sorting through dozens of choices isn’t easy, since there may be better options for your specific needs than the popular QuickBooks program and related packages.

Consider hiring a bookkeeper. A good, trusted bookkeeper can handle all of the mundane tasks that go along with keeping finances on track.

Accelerate cash flow with mobile payment systems. Mobile payment systems can allow faster and easier acceptance of payments for products and services.

Look into factoring receivables. Accounts receivable financing allows immediate payment for invoices rather than waiting 30 days or longer and tying up working capital as a result. Factoring services advance the amount of the invoice minus a “discount”, or fee (advances of 80 to 90 percent are common), and provide a “rebate” when invoices are paid – the amount depends on how long it takes the customer to pay.

Understand and measure capital versus operational costs. The goal often is to drive down the totals on the capital costs side of the spreadsheet and move more over to the operational side of the equation. Operating costs don’t require complex depreciation calculations and are more easily adjusted from year to year.

Measure bottom line impact by looking at the service budget year over year. Are the costs for delivering a service going up, staying the same or dropping? Figure out how much it costs to deliver specific services to the business such as recruitment, payroll or benefits management. Understanding cost-to-serve offers the business great insight into projects and tasks, how long it actually takes to do them, and as a result how much they cost.

More tips and resources, along with the original article can be found by clicking here.

Businesses & SXSW: There's More To Be Done Besides Partying

March 23rd, 2010 ::

So I’m back from South by Southwest for the second year and I’ve found it quite rewarding. However, one thing that I’m always seeing or hearing about is from people asking what good is it for them to actually attend SXSW. Common excuses for not going is that it’s “Spring Break for Geeks“, which isn’t entirely off-base, but there is so much more to SXSW besides the parties that will benefit businesses. In fact, let’s look at some of the reasons now:

Take part in the parties.

Yes, I’m getting this reason out of the way…if you’re interested in starting a new business and want to get out there and meet some influential people, then you can’t just be sitting around attention sessions and panels. There’s much more networking opportunities that await you at the Mashable MashBash, TechSet & Windows Phone Party, FourSquare Party, etc. And while you might think that simply the word “party” denotes alcohol and pictures that shouldn’t be seen afterwards, you’re probably wrong. In fact, you’re going to have a great chance to mingle with folks like Kevin Rose, Gary Vaynerchuk, Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, Pete Cashmore, Brian Solis and many others. While you won’t have more than 30 seconds to chat with each one of these people, you’re going to do some solid networking because you’re going to wow them with a great opening line and then leave behind a business card and a promise to talk with them more about your startup business, right? Right…there’s more to this pitching thing…

Launching a product? Don’t need a booth.

Traditional convention marketing may dictate doing a booth at the expo hall and that’s probably well and good, but only if you really have the money. Otherwise, you might want to try more guerrilla marketing programs. Just look at how FourSquare did their marketing – they didn’t have a booth at the expo hall. In fact, they didn’t really need one because they didn’t have that much to display. But what they did do was go outside the halls of the convention center and put on an interesting game of real-life Four Square and give out tattooes. In fact, they created their own ad hoc booth, per se. Find a more viral way to promote your product through a lounge area or perhaps a meet & greet event at SXSW to make it more private and captive. Nokia held a lounge at a nearby Fogo de Chao for two days of the festival where people gathered and learned about their latest products. Or, you could simply find a more gung-ho approach throughout the halls of SXSW. Be creative – the more creative and viral means the more attention paid to your product. Especially if it provides some real value.

Go to the sessions.

Yes, I am advocating that you send people to SXSW and have them pay attention to the sessions. HOWEVER, what should not be overlooked is the fact that you should not be at all the sessions. Choose the ones that are really important to you, but don’t feel compelled to stay at the session if it starts to get boring just because it might provide some insights to your business. Find the ones that you’ll feel comfortable with and will provide genuine benefit to your business. Stick around at the end for a few minutes and talk with the panelists and get their contact information so you can talk with them later – don’t try and lay it out there all at once because they just won’t remember. With SXSW being so big, you’re going to have to decide which sessions are more important and whether going to a tweetup or lunch gathering outweighs that. But some sessions are definitely worthy of SXSW so just make sure you balance your schedule.

Don’t miss out on the competition.

Did you know that there was at least two competitions held at SXSW? There was a casual gaming competition sponsored by USA Networks and also the annual Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator competition. This is probably a really good program for anyone to participate in if they’re launching a business or feel their existing business is qualified. It’s going to be here that you put your work to the test and go up against your competitors and are judged by well-respected thought leaders in the industry. Once you’ve settled your battles, don’t miss out on the Web Awards program that is also held every year. Each of these programs are open to applications months prior to the conference and you can find out more on SXSW.com.

Submit a panel to talk at SXSW.

Want to be known? You want people to flock towards you to ask you questions about your business, case study or whether you’re hiring right now? Then submit a topic for a panel or lecture at SXSW. Yes, it will be a popularity contest to get your panel chosen, but nevertheless, if you are chosen, you’re going to have a great time speaking to people about something you’re passionate about. If anything, it’ll get your company’s name out there for more people to learn about. But if you’re going to do this, don’t make your topic bland, but find out what people are interested in learning about and that will help motivate people to vote for your selection.

So there you have it…five reasons for sending someone to SXSW to help your business. Don’t mistake SXSW as entirely a partying event because that just becomes way to childish and personal. We’re all going to SXSW for a reason and regardless of our intention, people will always want to do business and learn about the latest thing happening on the web.

Word of Mouth Is Supposed To Be Viral, But Here's Why It's Not

March 15th, 2010 ::

One of my favorite blogs to read is Duct Tape Marketing – they have a great small business blog that has some really great articles. One that I’d like to call out features renowned marketer Seth Godin. I’ve read many of his books, including Purple Cow, Tribes, etc and now he has 10 reasons why he believes that word of mouth simply isn’t making a difference in marketing. Let’s explore the 10 reasons here:

It’s embarrassing to talk about. That’s why VD screening, no matter how well done, rarely turns into a viral [ahem] success.

Is your product embarrassing to talk about? If it involves a subject that can be pretty sensitive for most people to freely talk about, then you need to understand that word of mouth simply won’t work for you. But if you’re selling the next mobile phone, then yes, WOM will work, but like Godin suggests, things like VD screenings won’t fly through the grapevine causing people to become interested…it’s just not that kosher to talk about openly.

There’s no easy way to bring it up. This is similar to number 1, but involves opportunity. It’s easy to bring up, “hey, where’d you get that ring tone?” because the ring tone just interrupted everyone. It’s a lot harder to bring up the fact that you just got a massage.

Like Godin says, there’s never the right opportunity to talk about something and have it spread via WOM. There’s a time and place and when you’re doing marketing or product management, you need to be aware of these things.

It might not feel cutting edge enough for your crowd. So, it’s not the thing that’s embarrassing, it’s the fact that you just found out about it. Don’t bring up your brand new Tivo with your friends from MIT. They’ll sneer at you.

Keep up with the trends and understand your audience. If you’re trying to sell sneakers to your audience and want WOM programs, make sure that they know that it’s something more than just another sneaker – it’s not a new invention. Don’t expect all the products to have the right surprised reaction – it just won’t happen.

Sometimes bloggers hesitate to post on a popular source or topic because they worry they’ll seem lazy.

Look at the bloggers and give them a good enough reason to write about it. Help them understand and be motivated to write about your product.

You might like the exclusivity. If you have no trouble getting into a great restaurant or a wonderful club, perhaps you won’t tell the masses because you’re selfish…

Do you want your product to be spread by WOM? Who is your target audience…do they want to have that exclusivity? Look at whether you have a luxury item or something that the everyman can own…is there a difference or a distinguishing feature that separates the two?

You might want to keep worlds from colliding. Some kids, for example, like the idea of being the only kid from their school at the summer camp they go to. They get to have two personalities, be two people, keep things separate.

Understand that there are some people out there that separate their work lives from their personal lives along with many other divisions. Is it possible to reach the right person while being aware of potential internal conflicts? I like to separate family from professional contacts and from other college friends, but I wouldn’t necessarily pitch my family on a product that I know my friends would be interested in. Even if my family is the right target, I may not want to be a part of your WOM campaign because I don’t like pitching family. Professional contacts, maybe, but probably not family. Just something to be aware about.

You might feel manipulated. Plenty of hip kids were happy to talk about Converse, but once big, bad Nike got involved, it felt different. Almost like they were being used.

Reassure your audience that it’s not about manipulation. In the end, everyone should realize that your goal, as a company, is to garner more awareness and gain the attention of influencers who will continue to spread news about your product, thereby driving traffic to your site and product.

You might worry about your taste. Recommending a wine really strongly takes guts, because maybe, just maybe, your friends will hate the wine and think you tasteless.

We might not take part in a WOM campaign because we have a lot of self-doubt. Like will this particular blog post become viral? I’m thinking maybe not because I doubt that my blogging standards are meeting the expectations of the reader…if it was, then there’s greater promise that it will be spread virally.

Understand that people talk about you (or not talk about you) because of how it makes them feel, not how it makes you feel.

It’s always about your customers and clients…never about you.

Godin leaves a parting thought on how you can change the game and I think it’s very spot on: What will change the game is actually changing the game. Changing the experience of talking about you so fundamentally that people will choose to do it.

This means that you can’t just simply send out messages and press releases that you want people to pay attention to. Understand the factors why someone will make your product become viral. It’s like how something can be a viral video on YouTube – you can’t force it, but make a good enough video that draws the audience in, and there’s a greater chance of that. Understand your audience and give them reasons why your content and product is interesting – then your message might be spread.

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

BillShrink Offers You Recommendations On How To Minimize Your Budget Spending

March 12th, 2010 ::

In the current state of the economy, one of the hard things for businesses and entrepreneurs to do is minimize their expenses and avoid any unnecessary payments to help protect their profit margins, even if it’s quite minimal. Well it seems that there’s a startup that offers us some recommendations on how to be smart about our finances: BillShrink.com.

According to BillShrink, this is the concept behind the service:

The concept behind the company was born when co-founder Schwark and his wife tried to compare rates when changing their family cell phone plan. Overloaded with data on coverage, features and pricing, Schwark (who conveniently is a data analysis wizard) realized that this was a problem best solved by technology. Two years and many fancy algorithms later, BillShrink saves the average user $1500 and continually provides money-saving recommendations through timely email alerts to keep people saving even more.

So how does BillShrink help to save you and your business money? Simple…just input the information you want in this freemium service to find out how to save on choosing the correct credit cards, cell phone plans, gas stations and bank accounts. Obviously the one question is just how does BillShrink monetize itself? While they do provide a free service, BillShrink makes a share of the profit by encouraging you to switch services (as long as you save money, it seems). But it does appear apparent that you do not pay, but the credit card, business, bank, gas station, etc that you are switching to will compensate the company. They’ve done such a remarkable job that in 2009, over $1 billion was saved through everyday efforts.

To get started using the site, just go to their homepage and select what you want to begin saving. In order to properly assess what you could be saving, BillShrink prompts you to answer a few simple questions for each thing you’d like to save. By default it’s for wireless services. In this case, just enter the current amount you’re paying and then how many phone lines you might need. After you complete all the prerequisite questions, BillShrink will throw back some plans or information that you can explore along with the expected savings you’ll receive by switching to that account. Taking the phone example, in the screenshot above, I queried what I would save by choosing a different phone plan that was comparable to the one I currently have with Verizon. In the top left you’ll see my criteria for my current plan and by processing that, BillShrink knows that I could get a better deal by switching to T-Mobile. Even better, at the top of the page, it’ll show me the average savings that I could expect across all the carriers. So if I didn’t want to use AT&T, for example, I’ll know what my savings would be with a competitor, making my decision much easier.

Without going into much further detail, when you choose between the other available options like credit card, bank account or gas station, these are the similar results you can expect to get – obviously with different questions to help get you customized answers.

But what does this have to do with more complex businesses? There’s nothing different…since BillShrink will help businesses manage their expenses and budgets in pretty much the same way. Instead of gas stations, businesses can expect to look for customized responses to business account, wireless services and business card expenses. For those companies starting out and wanting to do a comparison and cut down on the time in choosing the right account, BillShrink has the answers that they need. Especially for startups that are often trying to avoid any unnecessary expenses or overhead – or just willing to maximize their bang for the buck, this service provides a pretty good comparison of products that most businesses might need.

Now if only they could also compare car insurance for me…

For more information about BillShrink, visit their website or read their Frequently Asked Questions here.

Brushing Up on Your Business Finances This Spring

March 9th, 2010 ::

As is tradition with the coming of the spring season, we’re all bent on cleaning our homes and making sure that things are as tidy and organized as possible. So too should businesses approach their finances. Isn’t it time for you to brush up on your current finance practices and make sure that they’re up-to-date? That’s the goal of the post written by moneyStrands last week. moneyStrands is a startup devoted to helping you manage your finances, monitor your budget and control your spending. Essentially they’re your financial service startup that wants to make sure your fiscally sound.

So what are some steps you can take to to spruce up your financing? Here are eight of them from moneyStrands:

  • Merge and purge: Dig out all the financial paperwork- bills, statements, paystubs, etc.- that are stuffed in various drawers around your home and organize the important documents, while purging the rest.
  • Systemize: Ideally you want to have a system in place so that you don’t end up with the same clutter next year. Whether that’s online or something more traditional, make sure that there’s some sort of structure to help you handle and file things.
  • Review your accounts: take a look at all your accounts to see if the data is current. This includes your mailing address and contact information along with seeing if it’s easier to consolidate your accounts into a singular one. It may be easier to manage, but might not be for some accounts. And while you’re reviewing your accounts, find out if anything has changed since you last reviewed – including interest rates, features, support, etc.
  • Automate: Make your life a little easier by signing up for online bill pay. You’ll get email reminders when bills are due, plus you can sign up for automatic pay to avoid late fees.
  • Revisit your 401K: It’s always a good idea to review your portfolio annually and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Check your credit: If you don’t already know your credit history and credit score, this would be a good time to find out. Its important to know this information because its used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, so you want to make sure everything is accurate and up-to-date. If you see any inaccurate information, you can dispute it and get it corrected. Checking your credit history is also a good way to monitor for identity theft!
  • Review your goals & adjust your savings: Now is a good time to review your spending and be sure you’re on track to reaching your financial goals. If you received a raise, a bonus or got hefty tax return, you may also want to consider increasing your savings and investment deposits.
  • Cash in your change jar: While you may have been scrimping and saving all the change from the couch or each day after work, moneyStrands is suggesting that you go ahead and cash that in and place that in some sort of savings account. This is probably one specifically for those entrepreneurs that are just starting out…don’t let your change go to waste. Make sure that you leverage all cash and change you have on hand.

Whatever your next steps are, what’s important here is that you take the time at least once in a while to look at your financial position and strategy to make sure that it’s current and that you’re on track to handle any issues or needs you may have in the future. As always, make sure that you consult with a qualified financial planner or investor before proceeding with anything relating to your fiscal standing.

Source: moneyStrands

Using Google Alerts To Work For Your Small Business

March 8th, 2010 ::

Have you subscribed to Google Alerts before? If not, it’s a pretty useful service – using a Google account, you sign up for these email alerts that will notify you when a piece of content is published and indexed by the search engine. So for me, I’ve created a Google Alert for my name – so whenever “Kenneth Yeung” appears on Google, whether it be on tweets, photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube or blog posts/articles, I’ll be notified – even variations would be included.

So what does this have to do with helping your small business get promoted and seen? Well according to Serena Carcasole, pretty much a lot of things. Carcasole wrote a very insightful article on the famous small business blog Duct Tape Marketing and I’d like to share those thoughts here.

First of all, Carcasole believes that you can make Google Alerts work for you simply by monitoring what people are saying about it, your brand, your product and any news that is happening. Here are some things to pay attention to, according to the Duct Tape article:

Business/Personal Names
Keep track of your personal name or business name when they are mentioned online by using Google alerts.  If you are a prominent figure or have a business, it is important to keep track.  Google alerts is kind of like having your own publicist letting you know what is happening in the online world.

Domain Name
You can also track your own domain name and who is using it.  When you are using Google Alerts, simply put in yourwebsitename.com in the search book and you’ll have access to knowing where you’re mentioned.  Skip the www, however, as Google doesn’t need the extension.

Blog Name
The same can be said for a blog site.  You can find the results of where your blog is linked or if it is posted elsewhere.  Put in the search box: yourblogname.com.  This is a lifesaver for monitoring when someone is taking notice of your blog.

Article Marketing
When you write an article, you probably want to know who else is linking to it.  You can create an alert using the title of your blog or a link to the web page.  Knowing where your articles appear helps you better understand your audience and where your information is being posted.

No matter what niche you are in, there are keywords that people will use when they are writing about it.  Using Google Alerts to stay on top of these phrases can be important.  You can take your niche to the next level by learning what other people have to say about it.  This also helps you learn about upcoming products in your niche and ideas for improvement.

Watch Your Competition
Try creating a Google Alert to monitor your competition.  You can use phrases such as the names of your competitors and their websites.  Interesting things might come up such as product changes, new ideas, and the knowledge of what others in your industry are doing.

Second of all, after you’ve created these alerts, you should be prepared to monitor them pretty regularly. Just simply getting them will not ensure any action. Make time to review each thread when they come in on a timely basis – especially when news is breaking or a crisis is happening. You’ll want to be aware of the sentiment of your customers.

Lastly, don’t forget that you can easily manipulate your search queries to get pretty granular and specific in the results. Just like you would in a search engine, you can lump multiple words together to show you want results for them (e.g. “Kenneth+Yeung”).  Also, do you want exact phrasing or something with a bit more flexibility? For the former, simply add quotes (“Kenneth Yeung”).

The Google Alerts you generate will be somewhat near real-time, but whatever your overall objectives for your business, it is highly recommended that you set up Google Alerts. At the very minimum, you’re going to find out the buzz about your business…and it can’t be all that bad, can it?

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

Photo Credit: Sachin Ghodke

Taking the Good & the Bad of Paid Search in 2009

March 5th, 2010 ::

In mid-2009, Forrester Research released a report entitled The Best and Worst of Paid Search in 2009. All this month, the theme we’re trying to promote is how to get your business found. One of the common parts of this is through paid search. In this report, Shar VanBoskirk examines the results of Forrester’s search marketing review to 300 keyword ads.

Here’s a summary of the report produced by Forrester:

Forrester applied an adjusted version of its Search Marketing Review methodology to 300 paid search ads from the retail, travel, consumer packaged goods (CPG), media and entertainment, financial services, and business services industries. Despite some bright spots — primarily in retail and travel — the majority of ads failed. Retail, travel, and CPG companies must improve their calls to action; media and entertainment companies should screen out irrelevant clickers; financial services firms should mention keywords searched in their ads and landing pages; and business services marketers should learn paid search basics. All marketers can improve their paid search return by applying search for shortand long-term goals and across a customer’s entire purchase process.
Here’s some interesting findings from the report:
  • Retail and travel fared the best in a scoring comparison across 300 search ads. However, while they did receive a higher score by Forrester’s methodology – which could be attributed to direct marketers having long search tenure – their Achilles’ heel is the call to action. While you have strong keywords, ad copy and relevant landing pages, Forrester notes that the motivation to getting customers to the next steps may be lacking.
  • Media and entertainment ads aren’t as targeted as they should be. The recommendation from Forrester is that these companies should screen out irrelevant clickers. Look at specific audiences that you want to reach and make your ad copy and keywords focused on that.
  • Financial services should improve on their ad and landing page relevance. Out of the 300 ads that were reviewed, “one-third failed to include the keyword searched in the ad copy or title”. What’s more, the landing pages after clicked by the user did not even include content that tied the keyword in with the page and the service offered.
  • Business services: Master the basics. These are probably the worst “offenders”  of search ads since Forrester claims that those surveyed in this industry don’t adhere to best practices. For example, they did a search on “database marketing” and the result was that business service ads failed most criteria – the ad copy and landing page didn’t match up with the keyword searched or had confusing ad copy.

As illustrated above, Forrester did a comparison of a variety of industries and scored them on a scale from -2 to +2. Using their own criteria, Forrester assessed the ones that passed with a higher score and those that failed with a negative one. Out of six industries reviewed, 4 of 5 on average had their keywords featured in the ad copy somewhere. However, none of the industries had a compelling call to action. Moreover, half of them utilized landing page best practices to aid in improving the user experience.

So what does this boil down to? Here are Forrester’s recommendations:

  • Plan for short-term and long-term business goals. Immediate returns should not be prioritized over reaching long-term customer relationships. Forrester believes that putting emphasis on the instant gratification of paid search ads shows that companies need to think long-term.
  • Use search across user’s purchase processes. A point in the Forrester report is that search ads need to focus on more than driving sales. Your users are on search engines to do research and buy…take advantage of every available touchpoint.

You can read the entire report from Forrester along with their methodology and data by clicking here.

Source: Forrester Research

Three SEO Practices You Need For Your Small Business

March 4th, 2010 ::

One of the most common forms of getting your business noticed online is through Search Engine Optimization. This is the program where you don’t spend any money buying ads or strategic placements, but essentially choose to optimize your content to have the search engines believe that your company is the authority on certain keywords. It might seem easy of a concept, but realistically it’s something that companies may sometimes get wrong. Sage Lewis of ClickZ believes that there’s more and more interest in this topic, but for the most part, websites are not implementing the most basic techniques.

Lewis believes that there are three basic steps that companies can take to do SEO right. If done, it is “highly likely that you’ll see a marked improvement in your search results.”

#1: Use Your Key Phrase in Your Title

Lewis says this is the most important thing that companies can do. Through the use of tools like Google’s Keyword Tool or WordStream Free Keyword Tool, you’ll be able to find phrases that you’d like to target. Afterwards, go ahead and create a page for each of the keywords – each one has their own keyword and should also have their own unique title. Perhaps most important of this step is to use the phrase exactly how you want it to.

As an example, Lewis uses a craft keyword:

…let’s pretend we’re optimizing a site that sells craft supplies. The three primary key phrases we’ll target are: “art craft supplies,” “kid craft supplies,” and “paper craft supplies.”

Our imaginary site happens to have pages for each of these three topics. So, three possible titles for each of these pages could be:

  • “Huge Selection of Art Craft Supplies at ABC Crafts”
  • “ABC Crafts – Really Fun and Unique Kid Craft Supplies
  • “Extensive Paper Craft Supplies at ABC Crafts”

So after choosing the keyword, Lewis suggests that you don’t modify the keyword in the content in any way. If it says “supplies”, then you need to have it read “supplies”, NOT “supply”. Doing it another way would result in less improvement in your SEO efforts. You have more success by using the keyword and/or keyword phrases exactly how you target.

#2: Use the Target Key Phrase in the Body Copy

Just like you would in your title, you need to make sure that your keyword phrases are also included in the body copy of your website. Whether you’re trying to optimize a landing page or the company’s main website, including those keywords is mandatory.

However, what can hurt your SEO efforts is the following:  don’t put your keyword phrases in the image ALT or comment tags – it won’t be that remarkable. And never try and hide your content from both the user or the search engines (e.g. tiny text at the bottom of the page and/or making it the same color of the background so the user doesn’t see it). These types of “tricks” are known as blackhat SEO and can get you into serious trouble with the search engines.

#3: Cross Link Your Pages Using the Target Key Phrases

According to Lewis, cross linking your pages with the text of the hyperlink referencing the page will help significantly raise the importance of that page. It makes sense that instead of referencing a link by the words “click here”, you should be more specific and use the targeted keyword phrase. So if I was interested in using the target keyword phrase of “SEO tips”, what might help is when I link out to a reference site that might talk about SEO tips (see the hyperlink?).

You can read Sage Lewis’ blog post on ClickZ for more information on the SEO best practices listed above.

Source: Sage Lewis/ClickZ

Photo Credit: svilen001

Kevin Rose Gives His Tips On Being An Entrepreneur

March 3rd, 2010 ::

Late last week, I came across this great article on tech publication ReadWriteWeb covering a talk given by Digg founder Kevin Rose. During this year’s Webstock conference in New Zealand, Rose gave, what Elyssa Pallai (author of the ReadWriteWeb article) called insightful, tips for entrepreneurs.

If you don’t know Rose, then he’s probably one that can be said to epitomize the word “entrepreneur”. He started out being an on-air talent on TechTV and since then founded one of the biggest social bookmarking sites currently online, Digg. He’s also a co-founder of Revision3, Pownce, WeFollow and also co-hosts one of the most popular podcasts out there, Diggnation.

So here are ten tips on being an entrepreneur given by Rose, as summarized by Pallai:

  1. Just Build It: You don’t need anyone’s approval and in fact, you probably won’t get it, so don’t even try.
  2. Iterate: Build, release and iterate. Make a list of the features you want to create over the next six months and get going! For small companies, once a week; for larger companies, maybe twice a month.
  3. Hire Your Boss: Make sure you hire people that you would want to work for, who challenge you and you can learn from.
  4. Demand Excellence: Ensure staff are committed to and understand your vision. Passionate, committed staff have a tendency to rub off on people. There is nothing like a new junior developer who runs circles around everyone to get people hyped up and raise the bar! Stay involved in the hiring process as long as you possibly can.
  5. Raising Money: The higher your evaluation is, the more equity you have to work with. Beg, borrow and steal. Be creative about finding ways to cut costs. For example, tell the bar you are having a “birthday party” instead of a corporate event (which they would charge you $5,000 for). Rent servers, don’t buy them. Don’t just take the cash, make sure your investors can add value. Stick with angel investment. Venture capital mean board meetings, which is a huge sap on time and resources.
  6. Hack the Press: Hit up the lower-end bloggers at your favorite tech blog. They have just as much opportunity to write about your product as any other blogger on the team. Attend the after-event parties. The same crowd that attends the events also goes to the parties, but the parties are free.
  7. Invest in Advisors: Give away a small amount of stock to advisors (which they can vest after a few years) who you can call on in a pickle or for general advice as issues arise. Set the ground rules so you and the advisor know how much time you have access to.
  8. Connect With the Community: Hold a live town hall where you can collect feedback and get advice from your users.
  9. Leverage Your User Base to Spread the Word: Facebook notifications is a great example of how to do this.
  10. Analyze Your Traffic: Pay attention to how people are using your site, and then learn and evolve. Use Google Analytics to understand and track traffic sources and entrance and exit paths.

Regardless of what industry you’re in…if you’re starting a business, these ten tips are definitely great things to keep in mind.

Source: ReadWriteWeb

Photo Credit: Joi

Finding Businesses with Geo-Location Services, But What's The Larger Implication Here?

March 2nd, 2010 ::

Future of Geo-LocationDuring Social Media Week here in San Francisco earlier this month, an interesting panel was held at the offices of Stage Two. The topic of the evening was about geo-location device and technology and what lies ahead in the future of these services. Among the stars on the dais, BT/Ribbit Vice President of Web Services Kevin Marks helped moderate this interesting group who talked about privacy, innovations, whether there was any business applicability and many other things.

But before we go any further, let’s discuss what geo-location is. If you’ve heard of Google Latitude, FourSquare or GoWalla, then that should be three good examples of geo-location. Essentially, it’s a form of entertainment that shows you (the user) and your friends where you are when you voluntarily “check-in” to a location/venue. Rather than it being just a GPS device, your phone and/or laptop can be used as a homing beacon when you check-in so that you can have friends and family follow along to see what interesting places you’ve been to. Another definition can be found by looking on Wikipedia:

Geolocation is the identification of the real-world geographic location of an Internet-connected computer, mobile device, website visitor or other. IP address geolocation data can include information such as country, region, city, postal/zip code, latitude, longitude and timezone. Geolocation may refer to the practice of assessing the location, or to the actual assessed location, or to locational data.

Featured on this geo-location panel were some analysts, users of geo-location and devil’s advocates. Interesting discussions came from technology evangelist from Rackspace, Robert Scoble, analyst & blogger from TechCrunch, MG Siegler, founder of SimpleGeo, Matt Galligan, Yahoo Fire Eagle employee, Tom Coates, and founder of Stage Two, Jeremy Toeman.

For the average person, geo-location is probably an interesting thing to start using, but when you examine it a bit further, you’re going to have to look at how it impacts your privacy and what is its implications on business. In using services like GoWalla or FourSquare, you’re voluntarily giving up your privacy to those people who are following you when you check-in. But in doing so, you might also be surrendering some other private information to those people at any given time. But then again, Jeremy Toeman puts it in a pretty simple way: “Do you know everyone that is following you?”

Do you?

I’d expect with geo-location services, there needs to be a clear definition on boundaries. For people used to just adding everyone and anyone to their friend list, individuals need to understand that they could potentially be giving strangers access to their specific locations or even their homes  - which can greatly risk their safety/privacy.  So what’s the big deal and why do we choose to participate?

According to Matt Galligan, location provides us with context. By knowing where we’re standing provides context to my “to-do” list. It seems that rather than telling someone that you’re going shopping, by checking-in to a Safeway, you’re giving your followers a better context on what you’re shopping for…in this case: food. Robert Scoble believes that geo-location should provide some value back instead of just listing where we are. In fact, he says that he’s willing to give up his privacy, but won’t even use Google Latitude – he’ll use FourSquare because of the entertainment value attached to it (badges, points and a sense of businesses offering services/deals).

Also at issue was whether businesses can get anything out of geo-location services to raise some revenue. While still yet to be wholly proven, there have been some considerable breakthroughs in this area. Businesses are now starting to award “mayors” in FourSquare with discounts just for checking-in and special badges are created for major events. What’s more…Bravo TV has inked a deal with FourSquare so that prizes and badges can be awarded when service users check-in to locations promoted by several of their TV shows.

So should you have your business invested in geo-location as a marketing tool? I would say that it would be a great service to utilize, but keep in mind what the implications are for you using it – both as a user and as a business. We are in an age where we are all living in public. As Toeman said at the panel: “Google and Facebook have pulled off the biggest bait & switch known to man. Facebook made us comfortable to share this information and then trained us that it’s alright to post it in public on other sites.

While your service may want to utilize geo-location means, show the public that you care about their privacy and will do whatever it takes to secure their data. By using these services, the public is surrendering their data, but not without a caveat: do no harm – that means that you’re not allowed to exploit their data and you are ultimately responsible for insuring the integrity of that data as well.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Yeung