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Archive for May, 2010

Lazy Friday Reading Assignments

  • There’s a lot of discussion going on about how patent’s don’t really make sense in the IT world like they do in other industries (such as medicine). The post Microsoft Patent Trolls Salesforce from the guys at 37Signals really does show the absurdity of the world of patents in the IT world.
  • In the post No Plan Survives First Contact With Customers, Steve Blank explains why a business plan isn’t the end all be all. He explains why it’s important to initiate the contact with your customers early on, even before you start building your product if you can. It’s even more important than creating your business plan, which I agree.
  • I’ve been a fan of Balsamiq for some time for quick prototyping, however Google just released a new Rapid Wireframe Sketching feature in Google Docs that looks pretty powerful. And as far as I can tell it appears to be free. Should be interesting to see how that market develops.
  • The world of VC is very froth with peril, and often the founders are taken for granted. Steve Blank tells an interesting story of how he was treated poorly because, as he puts it, You’re Just the Founder. As you can tell I’m not a big fan of VC, and this is just another reason why.
  • Anthony Feint has written How to Suck at Branding, and this is exactly how you can suck. Very simple and very straightforward. My favorite his is last item: Outsource it. I especially liked the last lines, “Did I mention you’re busy.  Let some PR company handle your branding.  They’ll get a nice generic logo designed for you, and they’ll take some nice profile shots of your uber cool founder. Then they’ll launch a “social viral interactive marketing experience” (youtube video), to help spread the word.   You don’t have to do anything.  In fact, why not retire to an island and be a recluse.”
  • Sometimes when you sign up for a new credit card or a new bank account you’re offered a signup bonus, which can be in the form of a cash, an item of value, and so on. The problem is that you need to be careful because signup bonus from banks are usually taxable whereas those from credit cards aren’t. Not only that, but the taxes are calculated on the retail value and not the actual market price, which means that in some cases the bonus signup item may cost you as much, if not more, than if you bought it yourself!
  • And the last reading assignment for this week comes from The Oatmeal, 8 Websites You Need to Stop Building. My personal favorite is #6, The Next Facebook: “All I need is someone who can design, code, host, launch, manage, and market it”. “Okay what’s your budget?” “Well I don’t actually have any money right now. But I’ll pay you in equity, which according to my projections will be worth eight hundred million dollars within 6 months.”





13 Bad Excuses For Not Starting Your Business

If Nick Vujicic from the video above can do it, to be quite honest, then you better have a really good excuse why you can’t. If you’re not interested and it’s not for you, then that’s different. But if you’re using any of the excuses listed below, then I’m sorry but we’ve all heard them before. We know them all too well. These are 13 excuses, NOT REASONS, most people use for why they can’t start a business. The reality is you can, you just don’t want to enough. Because if you did, you’d find a way. None of them are reasons, they’re all excuses. And today I’m going to dispel each and every one of them.

1. I have no time.

Seriously? I call BS on that one. Almost everyone, and I mean almost everyone, has some free time or time that’s wasted.

Do you watch any tv shows? Do you go to any movies? Do you watch any sporting events? Do you go the pub/bar? Do you go out for dinners? Do you hang out on the patio or have barbecues with your friends on the weekends? I understand everyone needs time off to relax and so on, but no one said it was going to be easy either. If you do the math, and really look at how you spend your days, I have no doubt you can find at least 10 hours a week. And everyone can find at least a few hours each week!

2. I don’t know how.

Here’s a big secret, no one else really does either. There is no manual to being an entrepreneur. We just figure it out as we go along. The more experience you have, the better you get at it. Just like anything else.

If you want to look at it another way, it’s like riding a bike. No one knows how to ride a bike on their first try. But if you don’t start trying you won’t learn. The same is true with swimming, dancing, learning a new sport, learning a new language, programming. Even using a cell phone. It wasn’t that long ago that most people would say they couldn’t use a cellphone, and now almost everyone has one.

And unlike in the past, there’s a lot more information out there today. You’re not limited to just your local library, you can order virtually any book from Amazon. And if you don’t have the money, you can always research everything you need online on the internet. There’s no end of entrepreneurial information out there. The fact alone that you’re reading this article means you’re already learning from the internet!

3. I don’t have the money.

And? Only a really small subset of companies actually require a significant amount of money to get going. There are many many many businesses that require very little money initially to get started. Sure IT based companies like software companies probably do require less cash (and instead require a lot more time) that a lot of other businesses, but don’t think that’s it. There’s lots of different businesses out there.

In all honesty, the problem is because most people think too big for their first company. If you really want to succeed, start on a smaller scale. Just like when you start driving a car. Is it smart to learn how to drive a car in a Ferrari or is it better to learn in a basic sedan? Do you learn to fly a plane by flying a 777 Jumbo Jet your first time in the air or do you start with a basic 2 seater plane? Therefore start a smaller business, something you can build up from, and go from there. Use the money you earn from your first business to build your second.

PS: Do you have an LCD tv? Have you taken a trip in the last while? What kind of car do you own? Do you go out to restaurants? Do you go to the movies? If you really want to, I’m sure you can find some money.

4. I don’t know where to start.

There is no perfect place to start. But like the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one small footstep. You need to start and the rest will just happen. The biggest hurdle is generally just taking that first step. And don’t stop once you’ve started, keep going. That’s another major hurdle most people fall prey to. They get excited, take a few steps, and then basically just stop taking any steps. Don’t let that happen to you.

5. I’m too young/old.

Really? What’s too young or too old? If you’re reading this, then you’re neither too young or too old. Age is a perception thing, it’s really all in your mind. It’s not a valid reason.

6. No one will give me any money.

Fine, then start something else. This is back to #3, maybe you should start something smaller. Don’t try to fly a Jumbo 777 jet your first time flying. Just because no one will give you money for THAT SPECIFIC business, it doesn’t mean you have to stop everything. There’s more than one business in the world.

At the very least, you can look at starting a smaller idea. It’s the same as when you start your career. No one will hire you as the president or CEO of their company when you first start. You have to build up your career, establish yourself. Start with a smaller business and create a history of success.

7. I’m waiting for the perfect idea.

Good luck with that. You’ll be waiting forever. There is no such thing as the perfect idea. And to be honest, there’s lots of ideas out there. Executing on your idea, I would say, is more important than the idea itself.

8. What if I fail?

What if you fail? What’s the worse that can happen? As Tim Ferris put it in his book The 4-Hour Work Week, what’s the absolute worse that can happen if you fail? If you really think about it, it’s probably not nearly as bad as you think. For sure you won’t die.

And failure is not a bad thing. Of course you’d prefer to avoid it, but so what if it happens. Imagine if you had the same avoidance of failure with everything you did. How would you ever have learned to drive? And by the way you can die learning to drive! How would you have learned to ride a bike? How would you ever visit a foreign country? Learn a new language? Learn to fly a plane? Learn to dance?

9. I don’t have the skills or experience

Were you a professional driver when you first got your driver’s license? Where you a professional basketball player the first time you tried to play basketball. What about doctors? They have to start somewhere. Everyone has to start somewhere, including entrepreneurs.

Don’t worry too much about this. Early on you’ll make more rookie mistakes, but that’s part of learning. As time goes on, you’ll find it gets easier and easier. For example, how difficult was it when you first started driving? Did you make silly mistakes (while still surviving)? Did it take almost all of your concentration? Did you drive at full speed? Now how do you drive? Is it much easier? Now you’re probably not thinking about the details, you’re thinking more of your route (strategy) rather than how much to push on the accelerator and if you’re too close to the car in front of you (daily busy work). Those things become intuitive after a while.

10. There’s too much competition.

There’s no such thing as too much competition. A large number of competitors means the market is too segregated which means there’s no dominating player. That’s really good!

If there’s only a few big competitors, you’re in even better luck! The big guys are just as scared of you as you are of them. Once a company has become big, bureaucracy sets in and doing anything, especially anything innovative, becomes very hard. Which also means don’t try to compete with them head on where resources are the key to success, focus on where they can’t compete! Innovation, customer service, quickness of execution, and so on.

By the way, competition is a good thing. It’s much harder to be the first because not only do you have to sell your product or service, you also have to educate people about it. Personally I prefer only having to deal with one hurdle at a time.

11. I have to wait until everything is lined up just right

This will never happen. All entrepreneurs will tell you this is a pipe dream. You’ll never have everything perfectly lined up.

Now that doesn’t mean don’t plan and try to prepare beforehand, it just means don’t ever expect to have everything perfectly lined up to start because it won’t happen. And in all honesty, no business ever goes 100% smoothly. You just have to roll with punches and adjust as you go.

My favorite analogy, which I’ve taken from the software world, is the classic example of driving a car. When you drive, do you lock your steering wheel and move forward, or do you continually make small adjustments, turn when needed, and so on. If you locked your steering wheel, you probably wouldn’t even make it past your street. The same is true with business. Nothing ever lines up perfectly, you just have adjust as you go.

12. It’s just too risky.

Is it really? How risky is your job? With a business you have multiple clients whereas with your job you have just ONE SINGLE CLIENT. All your eggs are in one single basket. So if your one single client decides they no longer need you, or they can no longer afford you, you’re revenues (paycheck) goes to $0. With a business, if one client drops you because they themselves run out of money, it’s not the end of the world because you generally have many other clients.

By the way, if you run your own company, you know what’s going on. As an employee, you can easily be blindsided and laid off at any moment. And we’re seeing a lot of that today. You’re at the mercy of management, which means you may not know until the last minute. Not only that, but it’s possible you could lose your job just to improve a balance sheet for investors and nothing more. You really have no control of what may happen, nor are you always going to have knowledge of what’s coming.

13. I’m still working on my business plan

This is my favorite which I saved for last! I’ve seen too many would-be entrepreneurs working on their business plans forever, never to actually execute on it. It’s much much much easier to write a business plan than to start a business. Plus you don’t have to push through all the hard walls and issues you’re going to encounter when starting.

Common variations of this are people who move from business plan to business plan. People who endlessly try to perfect their business plan. People who work on the minute details of their business plan forever.

By the way, a business plan is really just to give you an idea whether your business concept is feasible or not. Don’t ever try to execute it to the letter, it will never work as written. What you’re doing is writing down your assumptions and projections, that’s it. As you develop your business, you’ll find where you made errors in your assumptions and projections, and you should adjust accordingly. Trying to force a business plan to life is a recipe for failure. It’s really more of an initial guideline, almost to force you to think about what you’re going to do before you do it.

You’ll also find that as you become more and more entrepreneurial, you’re less and less likely to write up a business plan. After you’ve run a few companies, you don’t need to go through all the detailed planning because you already have a good idea of what’s coming ahead. Plus, your business plan rarely survives it’s first encounter with real customers. But if you’ve never started a business, it’s a good place to start. Just don’t focus too much on getting it perfect, or ironing out all the details. The business plan’s goal is to help you develop your idea, not write it in stone. You don’t have to follow your business plan perfectly, no successful entrepreneur ever does!






Lazy Friday Reading Assignments

  • The iPad is not a larger iPhone, it’s much more than that. It’s a computer for the non-technically inclined. Chuck Hollis brought one home, and wrote What iPads Did to My Family. This is exactly what I anticipate will happen all over the world. It’s not a computer as much for geeks and techies like myself, it’s for the rest of the world.
  • The opposite of that, for the geeks and technically inclined, Will Urbina created his own storage appliance capable of holding 16TB of data! He calls his device the Black Dwarf, and in this post he explains how to build it.
  • Like Chess, computer programming is easy to learn but hard to master. This is especially true when it comes to building systems that will be used and maintained over time. Anyone can slap together something that will work, but very few people can build systems that can thrive over many versions. Because of this, Donnie Garvich wrote 10 Ways to Suck at Programming to help you learn how not to suck at programming.
  • Recently Greece has been having some financial problems, to put it mildly. The following piece Greek Debt Crisis Offers Preview of What Awaits US is really eye opening. Although the US isn’t as yet as financially troubled as Greece, it’s still not a giant leap.
  • Ever wonder what your best profile picture is? Instead of trying to guess, you may want to check out MyBestFace. For more details on the how it works and the story behind it, check out the post by Christian called What is Your Best Profile Picture.
  • If you think the housing market is starting to get better, you may want to check out this post from Dr. Housing Bubble. His argument is that we’re just entering the second wave of problems, and based on his data, I tend to agree. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.





LandlordMax Customer Testimonial

It’s been quite a while since I’ve published any testimonials about LandlordMax, so today I’m going to take the chance and highlight a couple of new ones.

As I am a very small business, your software is most likely on the upper end of what I need, but it is what my accountant wants me to use and it has served my needs very successfully since the inception of the business.

- Horace White

And

I am new to Real Estate investing. Your application was recommended to me by a seasoned investor. I’ve been using it for about 4 months, and am extremely pleased with it. It gives a really clear picture of where you are with your investment. I find it very easy to use from the get go. Thanks for your efforts in that regard.

- Rudolph Griffith

As well Teo of PropertyDo.com wrote a 2-page review about LandordMax, giving it an overall 8/10 score, their second highest score for a property management software!

Some of the more interesting exerts (by the way, some of his concerns have already been addressed in the latest version – such as having bar charts, pie charts, etc. in the reports – this is a review of version 3.11 done a month before version 6.05 was released, therefore this feature wasn’t available at the time):

During our LandlordMax review, the first test that we put it through is compare it with our checklist of must-have features. The huge range of features that comes with Landlord Max far exceeded our expectations. It is quite safe to say the features of this software will be enough to satisfy the most picky of landlords.

What’s more important is that the features and details offered by LandlordMax are helpful and practical

This makes it stand out from some programs which look like a bunch of code strung together by programmers who know nothing about property management.

Despite all the functions that comes with LandlordMax, it remains surprisingly easy to use. This is possible due to the clever design of the software which puts the basic features upfront and leaves the advanced ones in the background.

What really makes LandlordMax shine is its unmatched report generator. With the click of a button, you can churn out over 100 different reports. While the creation of reports is a standard feature of most property management programs, no other software comes close to the might of LandlordMax.

Later on Teo does a comparison of different property management software solutions and here are the highlights:

If you have a slightly larger budget, then LandlordMax will be an excellent choice for you. In exchange for paying a bit more, you will be getting a big bundle of highly helpful features such as detailed reports, late fee calculators and a full blown database. These valuable functions are rarely found in low cost property management software under $300.

Despite being armed with powerful features, LandlordMax still remains highly easy to use. We really love the thoughtful design of this software that displays the basic and most common functions upfront while leaving the advanced ones in the 2nd tier. Even if you are a first time user, you will be able to use their basic features with no problems at all.

All in all, a good day for LandlordMax!






Lazy Friday Reading Assignments

  • To quote Brad Feld: “The great companies that I’ve been an investor in share a common trait – the founder/CEO is obsessed with the product.  Not interested, not aware of, not familiar with, but obsessed.  Every discussion trends back toward the product.  All of the conversations about customer are really about how the customer uses the product and the value the product brings the customer.  The majority of the early teams are focused entirely on the product, including the non-engineering people.  Product, product, product.”.
  • I’ve always wondered if creating a separate virtual machine for each development environment would be worthwhile, especially for consultants working in a lot of different environments. Fortunately for me Alex tried it out and wrote his findings at: Using a Virtual Machine For Software Development
  • I remember studying speech recognition in university a long time ago. It was ok, but it really wasn’t ready anywhere near primetime ready yet. Since then I’ve seen some improvements, but I haven’t really seen a commercial offering. This article helps to explain why speech recognition hasn’t really been moving forward much.
  • I just learned this week about the Memristor. If this YouTube video presentation is right, this could really revolutionize computers. I would compare this jump in computing power to the discovery of transistors. Here’s to hoping it’s real and will come to fruition sooner than later. 1 Petabyte in the size of a sugar cube! Whole databases in fast ram. The way we program would drastically change.
  • I’m a big fan of history, not dates and places, but understanding how things were, which in turn explains how and why we are where we are today. Jeremy Keith wrote A Brief History of Markup which does a good job explaining the history of markup (more or less html).
  • And if you don’t understand why there’s so much discussion about mobile computing these days (iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.), then you should check out this information graph about how teens are using their cell phones. Mobile computing is huge.





You Can Only Achieve What YOU Believe You Can Achieve

Believe

What’s the furthest you believe you will go in life? Do you believe you will own your own company? Do you believe you will be the boss at your job? Do you believe you will climb Everest? Do you believe you will make $1,000,000? Do you believe you will marry the most amazing person?

Firstly, notice I said believe and not think you can. With that in mind, which of the above questions do you truly believe you will achieve?

Now here’s the kicker, I can pretty much guarantee you that if you don’t believe you will achieve it, then you won’t. It’s not very complicated, it’s really that simple!

In the movie Fired Up!, an Animal House style movie, there’s a scene where the team believes they suck and because of that they do! That’s when the hero chimes in with a pretty colorful and somewhat offbeat speech about the importance of believing that you’re good. Below is the exert with some edits (to keep it cleaner for this blog):

- Sorry, guys, I just suck.
– It’s not just you. We all kind of suck.
– We’re not good at all.
– Hey, stop. Stop talking like that.
– But it’s true.
– We’re just not that good.
– Stop.
– Enough of that. You can go as far as you want.
– What do the Panthers have that you don’t have?
– Skills.
– Athleticism.
– Kickass cheers.
– Laser hair removal.
– Big-a** t******. I’m just saying.
– Confidence. They’re cocky a*******.
– Like Nick, the cockiest a******* on the football field. That’s why he’s good.
– He’s right. I’m awesome.
– Because he believes in himself.
– Also because I’m awesome.
– He knows he’s gonna be good, so he’s good. And he takes chances.
– Not hard due to the fact that I’m awesome.
– Nick. Trying to make a speech here.
– I’m sorry.
– Either bet big or go home.
– If you don’t wanna take any chances, then you shouldn’t even be here.
– I know you wanna be here, because you finish last every single year… but you keep coming back…  even if it means taking endless shit…  from total dong-knockers like the Panthers.
– All right. Come on, guys. Let’s be cocky a*******s.
– Yeah, you know what, he’s right.
– And I can say that… because I am the best cheerleader here, so you can all suck my d***.
– I was just being a cocky a*******.
– Oh, nice. That’s what I told you. Look, did you see what she was doing there?
– That’s exactly what I want from everybody.
– All right, let’s do this.
– And remember, you’re awesome. Let’s risk it to get the biscuit.
– All right, get cocky, b******.
– Let’s do it. Come on, guys. Ready.
– Hit it!

Although a bit colorful, and not exactly what I meant the idea is still really there. If you don’t believe you will succeed you won’t. And because the team thought they were bad, they always finished last.

As an aside, if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never take chances, which means you can never really lead. Part of success is also knowing how to create your own luck.

Let’s look at a more concrete example that you can associate in your life. Let’s say you’re making $50,000/year right now and you believe you can’t make more than $65,000. Will you ever make $75,000? No! Why? Because if you don’t think you can make that much, you’ll never ask for that much. You’ll never try to make that much. You won’t do what it takes to make that much. You may achieve up to $65,000, but you’ll never go above that level because that’s as much as you believe you can make.

The same is true with your dream job, the raise you want, the promotion you want, and so on. If you don’t believe in it, you will never try or get it. The very fact of not trying alone will prevent you from succeeding.

And it’s not just jobs, the same is also true for finding your perfect girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. How many people are just too shy to approach the person they really like? They just sit there and wait, thinking they don’t deserve that person. They never take the chance. How many movies are about someone in love but never having the courage to take that initial leap?

The reality is that you have to believe you will succeed to succeed. When I started LandlordMax, I knew it was going to be a success. It was a fact a fact in my mind. And it is succeeding!

As Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear so well put it in the Bolivia Special episode (4:48): “If you believe something will happen, it will happen”.

What’s the furthest you think you will go in life? Do you think you will own your own company? Do you think you will be the boss at your job? Do you think you will climb Everest? Do you think you will make $1,000,000? Do you think you will marry the most amazing person?

Whichever questions above you answered no to, I can almost guarantee you won’t ever achieve. If you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t. It’s not very complicated, it’s really that simple!

In the movie Fired Up!, an Animal House style movie, there’s a scene where the team believes they suck and as such they do! But then our hero explains, in a pretty colorful and more entertaining method, the importance of believing that you’re good. The following is the exert:

Looking at a more concrete example. Let’s say you’re making $50,000/year right now and you believe you can’t make more than $65,000. Will you ever make $75,000? No! Why? Because if you don’t think you can make that much, you’ll never ask for that much. You’ll never try to make that much. You won’t do what it takes to make that much. You may achieve up to $65,000, but you’ll never reach above that level.

The same is true with your dream job. If you don’t think you deserve or can do it, you will never try for it. The very fact of not trying alone will prevent you from succeeding.

And it’s not just jobs, the same is also true for finding your perfect spouse. How many people are to shy to approach the person they really like? They just sit there and wait, thinking they don’t deserve that person. They never take the chance. How many movies are there about someone trying to fall in love with their dream person but never having the courage to take that initial leap?

The reality is that you have to believe you will succeed to succeed. When I started LandlordMax, I knew it was going to be a success. As a matter of fact, I also didn’t really have a choice. It had to succeed. As Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear put it in the … episode, if you believe it enough, you can will it to happen!

Jeremy clarkson

Sorry, guys, I just suck.

– It’s not just you. We all kind of suck.  – We’re not good at all.

– Hey, stop. Stop talking like that.  – But it’s true.

We’re just not that good.

Stop.

Enough of that. You can go as far as you want.

What do the Panthers have that you don’t have?

– Skills.  – Athleticism.

– Kickass cheers.  – Laser hair removal.

Big-ass titties. I’m just saying.

Confidence. They’re cocky assholes.

Like Nick, the cockiest asshole on the football field. That’s why he’s good.

– He’s right. I’m awesome.  – Because he believes in himself.

Also because I’m awesome.

He knows he’s gonna be good, so he’s good. And he takes chances.

Not hard due to the fact that I’m awesome.

– Nick. Trying to make a speech here.  – I’m sorry.

Either bet big or go home.

If you don’t wanna take any chances, then you shouldn’t even be here.

I know you wanna be here, because you finish last every single year…

but you keep coming back…

even if it means taking endless shit…

from total dong-knockers like the Panthers.

I wanna cut the blond one.

– What?  – What?

– What?  – What?

– What?  – I’m just saying.

All right. Come on, guys. Let’s be cocky assholes.

Yeah, you know what, he’s right.

And I can say that…

because I am the best cheerleader here, so you can all suck my dick.

I was just being a cocky asshole.

Oh, nice. That’s what I told you. Look, did you see what she was doing there?

That’s exactly what I want from everybody.

All right, let’s do this.

And remember, you’re awesome. Let’s risk it to get the biscuit.

All right, get cocky, bitches.

Let’s do it. Come on, guys. Ready.

Hit it!






 
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