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Business opportunity #2

January 27, 2010

(1) Passion

I describe my passions as deal making, leading, managing, motivating, team building, boating, jogging, biking, reading, politics, finance, BC’s southern Gulf Islands, business and Vancouver.

My passions as described by my personal board of directors: “big picture”, politics, drive my own vision (not someone else’s), control, client facing, see things work, instinct, not bigco, managing.

  • Deal making: 2
  • Leading: 3
  • Managing: 3
  • Motivating: 3
  • Team building: 3
  • Boating, jogging, biking, reading, politics, finance: 3
  • BC’s Southern Gulf Islands: 3
  • Business: 2
  • Vancouver: 3
  • Big picture: 3
  • Drive my own vision: 3
  • Control: 2
  • Client facing: 3
  • See things work: 2
  • Instinct: 3
  • Not bigco: 3

This opportunity allows me to directly pursue one of my personal passions.  It gets me immersed into something I love and I can see the track to growth.  However, its growth is probably limited.  The income potential is lower in this and the business could very well become a lifestyle, which isn’t really what I’m looking for.

(2) Skill

As identified by my personal board of directors: people, strategy, advising, relationships, goal driven, process oriented, structured, execution, sales, presentation and verbal skills.

  • People: 3
  • Strategy: 3
  • Advising: 1
  • Relationships: 3
  • Goal driven: 3
  • Process oriented: 3
  • Structured: 3
  • Execution: 3
  • Sales: 3
  • Presentation/communication: 2
  • Verbal: 1

I have no doubt that I could execute on this business plan and do a great job.  I’m quite confident that I could build this company into a market leader over the course of time.  But, like all opportunities, it has its drawbacks.  I wouldn’t be totally free to drive my own vision because I’m looking at doing it with a partner.

(3) Economic engine.

This opportunity has the potential to become a bit of a lifestyle business by generating a nice income, but not much more than that.  I’m not a believer in building up a company for the purpose of selling it, rather I think one should build a business to be the best in its market.  The rest takes care of itself.  I get concerned that after taking a financial risk and building this business up that the equity wouldn’t be worth very much.  When I look at other businesses in this space that seems to be the trend.  Now, I could always break free of that but the tides would be running against me.

  • Economic prospects: 2
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I’m going through the process of determining what I’m going to do next.  There are three business opportunities that I’m reviewing and all three come with pluses and minus.  See this entry for an analysis of the first one: Business Opportunity #1

There are personal and professional considerations that matter for each business.  I’m a big believer in mentorship and in seeking advice from people who know me, including my strengths and weaknesses, and understand where I want to go.  I also believe that it’s important to seek advice from people are have been or are where I want to be.

Fortunately, there are some great people around me.  Last week I went over to a friend and mentor’s house for a glass of wine and some advice specific to one business I’m considering.

After a fairly wide ranging and comprehensive discussion, he left me with this nugget:

“If you choose this business opportunity I think you’re choosing the comfortable route.  You know you can do it and do it well, however, the upside is limited.  Push yourself beyond your comfort zone and do more.”

I think he nailed it and this is why this is my third entry into my Mentor Lesson series.

Serious fun

January 22, 2010

My director of business development at PCWorks (who I credit with helping take the company from about $15,000 in monthly revenue to around $150,000 and who has since gone on to build a successful speaking business – visit www.itwitch.com) used to have a turn of phrase, “serious fun”.

I always liked it because it reminded the team that we were involved in building a startup business, which was serious.  But it also reminded us that we needed to have fun in the process.

That company was a really tough one for me.  I had invested all of my available capital before it started to turn the post.  I was stressed because it took almost two years to make a profit and I was the only source of funds.  Let me say that it really is a reality check when your personal bank account is very close to being dry and your company still isn’t making money.

Fortunately it turned around in the end, and while I didn’t make money on that company I did get most (not all) of the investment back.  Even though it was rough at times, I’d like to think we had some fun.  Whether it was first person games played through our office’s network, going to my family’s place in the Gulf Islands, going River Rafting or just hanging out over brunch on the weekend – we never really lost sight of the fact that we needed a bit of levity.

This video was forwarded by Sarah McNeill of McNeill Nakamoto (www.mcnak.com) and I think it’s just terrific.  Kudos to this team for having serious fun.

Enjoy:

Guest and customer service

January 18, 2010

Here’s a link to Barry Moltz’s recent blog entry on customer service compared between North America and Asia: http://ow.ly/Y2dT.  My response is there too.

Myths of a startup

January 17, 2010

I think this post http://gigaom.com/2010/01/17/5-myths-that-can-kill-a-startup/#comment-997615 about five myths of early stage companies is terrific.

Business opportunity #1

January 17, 2010

As I go through the process of considering my next business (this has been a long process, I sold my last business nine years ago) I find myself thinking long and hard about what I want to do, what I can do and what will provide a return.

There are three businesses that I’m currently considering.  The filter I’m using to assess all three is based on Jim Collins’ Hedgehog.

(1) What do I want to do (passion).

(2) What am I good at (skill).

(3) What can provide me with an adequate return (economic engine).

Essentially, he argues that great businesses only focus on those opportunities where passion, skill and ability to generate profits cross.  I think the Hedgehog can be used for individuals too.

I’m going to post a three part series that run through an analysis of each of these opportunities framed using the Hedgehog (1 not at all, 3 totally).  I’m not yet at a stage where I want to publicly broadcast details on these opportunities, but if you’re interested in learning more then send me a message.  I’m more than happy to talk offline.

Opportunity S

(1) Passion

I describe my passions as deal making, leading, managing, motivating, team building, boating, jogging, biking, reading, politics, finance, BC’s southern Gulf Islands, business and Vancouver.

My passions as described by my personal board of directors: “big picture”, politics, drive my own vision (not someone else’s), control, client facing, see things work, instinct, not bigco, managing.

  • Deal making: 1
  • Leading: 3
  • Managing: 3
  • Motivating: 3
  • Team building: 3
  • Boating, jogging, biking, reading, politics, finance: 1
  • BC’s Southern Gulf Islands: 1
  • Business: 3
  • Vancouver: 3
  • Big picture: 3
  • Drive my own vision: 3
  • Control: 3
  • Client facing: 2
  • See things work: 2
  • Instinct: 3
  • Not bigco: 3

This opportunity would certainly provide me with an opportunity to once again lead and build a team, drive my own vision, follow my instinct (I think there’s an opportunity here) and make deals with suppliers.  If successful it would provide me with time to pursue the “other” passions – boating etc.

(2) Skill

As identified by my personal board of directors: people, strategy, advising, relationships, goal driven, process oriented, structured, execution, sales, presentation and verbal skills.

  • People: 2
  • Strategy: 3
  • Advising: 1
  • Relationships: 1
  • Goal driven: 3
  • Process oriented: 3
  • Structured: 3
  • Execution: 3
  • Sales: 2
  • Presentation/communication: 1
  • Verbal: 1

(3) Economic engine.

This opportunity is an online store that is very focused on a single market niche.  The market is large, the margins are good.  If volume were achieved then the business would be very profitable.  There is competition and I don’t see a “game changing” component.  It would add convenience and provide an easy place for consumers to go for esoteric versions of the product.

Really profitable online opportunities are game changing.  For example, Amazon changed the entire way we buy books and has become a great company.  This opportunity doesn’t have that game changing component, so can it be really lucrative?

  • Economic prospects: 2

Student entrepreneurship

January 5, 2010

The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and other BC based post-secondary institutions are hotbeds for entrepreneurship.

Dating back more than fifty years, some of BC’s local entrepreneur success stories originated from the university environment.

Jimmy Pattison started curbing cars while at UBC.  Brian Scudamore started hauling junk while at UBC.  Peter Armstrong started giving sightseeing tours while at UBC.  Anthony and Andrew Sukow started Advanced Economic Research Systems while at UVic.  There are many more examples.

Useful capital is one thing companies need, but there are two key things entrepreneurs must seek out.

(1) Mentorship – someone with domain expertise and a verifiable track record.  I was 23 when I started my first company and grew it to 40 employees and y second company grew to 12 employees.  I was surrounded by staff, but I struggled to make big decisions and made myriad mistakes.  Had I had effective mentoring I would have made good decisions great and bad decisions better.

(2) Effective relationships – entrepreneurs can’t do it alone and you never know when a relationship is going to pay dividends.  Had I not made a great effort to establish connections while building my second company, I wouldn’t have made two very key hires and, undoubtedly, would have had trouble selling it.

The free market thinker in me thinks that if a student entrepreneur is going to be successful they will figure these things out on their own.  They’ll find a commercially viable opportunity, build the right relationships, find effective mentors and raise appropriate capital.

But the entrepreneur in me who has been beat up (particularly in my second company) likes the idea of giving a helping hand, particularly in the early days.  So, I’ve been helping out a team which is establishing a program in entrepreneurship for my alma mater – UBC.  It will include mentorship, opportunities for relationship building and very early stage pre/pre seed capital.

I will write more on this another time.

In the interim check out this Financial Post article (http://www.financialpost.com/small-business/business-solutions/story.html?id=2403106) on Canada’s current venture capital market.  It features a take on this climate by Danny Robinson, co-founder of Bootup Labs and a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

Bootup is doing some very interesting things in Vancouver and it’s worth checking them out.