A little bit of everything

Tag: Business

Hiring for startups…

A startup is not a regular business and it definitely is not the small equivalent to a big company.
Entrepreneurs get it (sometimes the hard way) but, many times, they face several problems related to hiring and retaining talent.

This happens for several reasons and it’s not easy to solve the problem. From my part, I think that a good first step is to read this article and make sure that everybody you hire for your startup also reads it.
Hope it helps…

How do you fake urgency?

Urgency boosts productivity. You don’t do it perfectly, but you’ll do it much, much faster. But it is necessary to be in a hurry to be able to do that. And most of the times you can’t do it the same way if there’s no urgency in it. And not even the prospect of an urgency is enough to make you run as you do when you really have to.
There’s a similitude between work and the famous law for gases: gases will use all the space available; work takes all the time you have available. The same task might take you 1 week or 1 month, depending on how much time you have on your lap…
So if you want to make sure you ship… The question remains: how do you fake urgency?

Entrepreneurship with kids

Most things you can read on entrepreneurship lead you to believe that it’s an activity for young adults, at their twenties, without kids, or compromises whatsoever.

There’s evidence that’s not always the case (although it often is).

There’s no doubt that it’s easier to commit yourself to a new creation if you don’t have chains holding you, or if there are not “stiff” dinner hours, or diapers to be changed. On top of that, the younger one is, the least he/she has to loose so it’s easier to bet everything… And, usually, as people grow they become more savvy and less prone to jump into the unknown… believe me, when I say being an entrepreneur is pretty much jumping to the unknown, not knowing if the pool will have water once you land.

However, you don’t have to be young, single, with no compromises to begin a start up. Some people might even argue that you’re better at it when you’re not such a “loose guy”, because you do have a lot to loose and that will make you outsmart yourself, push your limits, think twice but think better about your moves. Others would add that if you’re older, you’re wiser (at least you hope so), and therefore your chances to succeed will be enhanced. I’m not sure if that’s the case or not, but I began some neat things at a not so young age, with kids, and compromises…lots of them. And I’m loving it!

Delivering happiness by being happy yourself

I didn’t know Tony Hsieh or Zappos. Actually, I have never heard of them before. But last year, I was surfing the web and found a video with an interview of some crazy guy to Barbara Walters on 20/20. I became curious by the strange business concepts he was pushing forward during the interview, and it lead me to buy this guy’s book the next day. And I read it in 24 hours.

Obviously, the book was “Delivering happiness” and this was my introduction to Tony and his very different approach to company culture, business strategy and entrepreneurial mindset. The book is not great in terms of literary competency, so no Nobel Prize in the vicinity, but the concepts and the ideas amazed me. I guess you can tell that, along with the book, I bought Tony’s concepts about businesses and life. And by “I bought”, I really mean it took me.

When I first saw the interview I was skeptical (to say the least) about this managerial approach. Actually, what interested me the most were not all the concepts in themselves (which I though were just another hype), but the fact that someone made a successful company in spite of them! More than that, something was there, because Amazon decided to acquire that company for a billion dollars (and this was 3 years ago…).

So about the book. First the critiques: as I told you before, it is not a literary master piece as Tony Hsieh himself will inform you in the Introduction. But it does the trick. On the other hand its rhythm is not constant. What I mean is, half the book is an auto-biography. A cool one, about an Asian-American, with an entrepreneurial spirit, business driven from cradle, who wanted to do nice things and enjoy himself while developing his own businesses. Then, you have a second part, which is the implementation of the business philosophy he was developing. And he did so, applying all his concepts at Zappos.com and succeeded. And so far, so good. The book made sense. The organization of it was logical, too. But there is a third part, on I couldn’t figure out as part of the same book. It was a list of things companies should do (according to Tony) to become great and how to do it. But this feels kind of weird inside this book. It almost feels like a strange body that is not correctly fitted in there. But that’s enough with the critiques, otherwise you’ll think the book is not good at all. Which is not true! It is a good book and it is definitely worth reading, because the ideas of this guy are pretty interesting!

Tony argues that a company should run the extra mile for its customers. And that means actually doing whatever it takes to make sure the client gets satisfied. Even delivering a pizza to someone, although your company is about selling shoes… but if that’s what it takes for that person to be happy, you should do it. It’s pretty much assuming the concept of “defaulting to yes” that many authors (Guy Kawasaky et al) are proclaiming but giving the next step and, not only saying yes, but doing yes.

On the other hand, Tony says that if you want a company to completely commit to its customers, you have to make sure that company has its staff committed with each other and with the company itself. And to do so, you have to make sure your employees are happy. Completely happy. And ready to do the extra effort for the company. And they should do it because it’s not going to fell like an effort at all. To achieve it, Tony argues that all the staff should be as a family. And, yes families have problems, and arguments, and fights, but people try to keep it and solve it within the family. And as if that was not enough, he proclaims that excellency (in terms of this concept of the company as a family) is only achieved when employees want to spend all their time with other co-workers.

Bringing all this together, Tony Hsieh built Zappos.com and made it the most successful online shoes retailer by far. And it was so successful that in 2009 Amazon decided to acquire it for a sum around 1 billion dollars… Yes, a load truck of money, right?

I’d say that’s a pretty convincing argument about, at least, giving these ideas a chance. In the end, they might take you. They sure took me.

In the book you’ll find these ideas, but better thought and better explained (it took him a couple more characters too…). Don’t loose the interest because I didn’t argue for these concepts well enough. He does it way, way better. And it’s by far more interesting, because it’s full of funny episodes of his own experience. So, definitely worth to read.

 

Instagram and the bubbles…

Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine about the internet bubble.

Is there a bubble? What’s causing it? What effects of it are you seeing? Why do you think it’s a bubble?

Obviously the topic came to the conversation because of Instagram… There’s nothing more spoken of these days than the grand acquisition by Facebook. And we were coming around some of the same questions that are being formulated by many:

Is Instagram worth that truck filled with money? Do you know they don’t even have a business model? At least one everybody can see?

What the hell does FB wants Instagram for? Is it for the mobile? Is it just to keep it out of someone else’s hands?

And we discussed lots of other deals done or not done, that changed or should have changed the internet, the way we do businesses, and our world as we know it. And how many of them didn’t.

And we kept discussing if people were once again looking at the internet and all “net related” businesses as the new Nirvana. And wether internet traffic or “web” traffic was being over considered and over evaluated.

And hence came the question:

It’s all about marketing, commercials and advertising. – my friend said, and continued – For the past decade or so, commercial money is ruling the world. Brands make products and want to sell them. To do so they need to advertise. And they look for the best place to do it, where the most people are. And that’s the internet. Therefore, whatever the bubble is – and he didn’t understand the Instagram acquisition – , it won’t affect the ad industry or the internet businesses based on ads. Brands will have products to sell and will have to sell them to people, wherever they are. And whatever happens people will still be there (on the internet).

I don’t find it to be so straightforward. And this is my euphemism for: I don’t agree…

I think there’s definitely a bubble. Although I think the bubble is exactly because / around / with the commercial / advertising industry. And therefore, yes, I think when the bubble bursts, it will definitely explode on the hands of all those who where solely basing their business on the ads and commercial strategy.

The free strategy, which was so much in vogue on the internet in the past few years, might be good for the few successful ones. But it’s not the solution as a whole for the content producers around the world. The concept that I can offer whatever product I have, and in return I’ll have millions of users doesn’t strike me. And that I can “distill” those millions of users in dollar bills and monetize my business… doesn’t look like a very good model to me. And yes, there will always be those who live on that, and can build a business on those assumptions. But the majority won’t. If you create something (a product, a content, a service) it costs you, and most of the times it has to be paid for. Directly! If nothing else, and if you can’t sell your product to anyone, maybe that’s a clue your product is not that good after all… I’m not saying you have to charge for everything. I’m not saying some free goods cannot be the lure for other stuff your selling. That’s different than just offering everything for the sake of the number of users…

Yes, there are great examples of some who succeeded doing the opposite… Yes, Alexander Magnum conquered half the world, and look at what happened to most of those who tried to do the same after him…

Although there are many critiques to the free model these days, one can still found several examples of businesses gurus making the apology of these model. And many of the over evaluated social networks or pseudo networks are being built (and financed) on this assumption: if you have a large base of people following you, you can “sell” those numbers to ad companies and that will monetize your project.

I have my doubts… but then again, what do I know about this, right?

What do you think? Let me know…

Social networks and Pinterest

Everyday a new social network comes into our world. Some of us don’t even look at what it means, others look at it and try to understand what does it mean (business wise).

What really interests those who look at these new social networks – and try to figure out which ones will be here in one year, which ones will be sold by one billion dollars or which ones will just be abandoned – is what these new “things” can do for us: the person or the business.

Pinterest is the new big thing. Or at least it seems like it. As someone was telling me the other day, “whatever business model you can think of, Pinterest is able to implement it. It will definitely work out for them.” Maybe so…

One of the big discussions is should sellers attach (or not) the price tag to their pins? Mashable refers a study from Pinreach about this.

But what struck me was that options like this might not only harm or boost whoever chooses to attach a price tag to it. If everybody begins attaching the price tag, Pinterest will become a marketplace, right? And my guess is that’s not what people like about it…

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