Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Promises, Commitments, and Deals

You make promises to your family. "My new business will not prevent me from spending time with the family."

You make commitments to customers. "We will ship the same day you order."

You make deals with your neighbors. "My business won't make noise or annoy your household."

What do you do when these commitments reach conflict? Shipping on time infringes on family time, or arriving home late from a family vacation puts shipping behind schedule. Construction of your home office disturbs the neighbors.

Deciding at the beginning of the business is better than later.

I have walked away from a total of $1.5 million by making family time the top priority. I'm not sure I made the right decision. I hope I did. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

If you live in Chicago and work in a creative profession, you have lot of people who give you constructive feedback, encourage you, and keep you on track. They help you keep the commitments you've made to yourself.

In a small country town, people may prefer you to not makes waves. They may not understand what you are trying to do. They might be suspicious, and some might even be envious and upset your ambition is revealing their abandoned projects.

That is okay. You also have people who are genuine, people you can trust. You can get the feedback from your online community.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pluralism in America

Bill Clinton claimed he would assemble a Cabinet that looked like America. So he chose six people of various skin tones who were ideological clones of himself. They all had almost identical education, beliefs, thought patterns, worldviews, and skills. Only skin color varied. Groupthink is not diversity.

The situation 20 years later is very different.

Prior to the Civil War, some Christian pastors would incite their congregations to rape and torture Mormons in the neighborhood. Kidnapping the children, shooting the men, and burning their houses was "God's work," they taught. Now two Mormons are among the top candidates for U.S. president. That is some progress.

(Of course, 3,556 people are considering running for the GOP nomination so far.)  Diversity can challenge us and make us better, both in our businesses and in our personal lives, but it needs to be real diversity. 

Working from Home

How can you work from home when you have children? I have not found a way to successfully do so.

The risk is that you do both working and parenting poorly.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kids and Entrepreneurship

Do you want your child to become mogul?

A June 13th Wall Street Journal article by Barbara Haislip gives a list of suggestions for teaching entrepreneurial skills to children. The author wants children to develop the following attributes:

Dependable and Stable
Team Player
Lead by Example

I'm not sure if the author is entrepreneurial or has successful children, but the concept of teaching children to successfully build businesses is intriguing. This is the key point: teaching technical business skills is not nearly as important as developing certain personality and character traits.

What traits to you think are foundational for entrepreneurial success?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bootstrapped Business Feature

A wood shop teacher, Stephan Willner, wanted to start a business. He was aware that some schools in his region were dropping wood-shop programs. 

So he bought an old school bus, ripped out the seats, and made it into a mobile school and teaches woodworking to children. 

This post is our applause to Willner. See his site.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Democrats vs. Republicans

A couple of months ago, our town held city council elections. Candidates were required to campaign in primaries, declaring themselves to be either a Republican or a Democrat. I think this is ridiculous.

City councils deal with local issues: zoning, garbage collection, annoying neighbors, how to run a city on the tiny funds left after states and counties have taken all the monies they want. They do not deal with abortion, foreign policy, or whether or not to destroy the national currency and impoverish the citizenry by overprinting money. City councils do not raise armies and procure battleships to defend their borders.

By forcing a candidate to identify with national party platforms, they may alienate the voters with whom the candidate most closely agrees.

"I'm glad Mabel promised to lower taxes and prevent dogs from biting joggers, but she's a Democrat, so she believes in using taxpayer money to kill children."

"Henry will fix the roads and stop corruption, but he's a Republican so he might halt my adult magazine subscription. Better vote for the other guy."

Of course no one thinks about it that overtly, but the identification does create a little doubt. Unfortunately, this practice is actually quite common in the U.S. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blogging for Free

Here at the Nauvoo Commuter, we publish a regular blog and ask for no money. That's fine. It would be a little weird if we did.

I am advising my daughter on starting a business. One option is to follow the course suggested by a prominent incubator: start a free service. After a large number of people are hooked, then find a way to monetize it. You can offer an upgraded (premium) pay service, offer advertising space, sell other information, etc. But you monetize only after the system becomes an institution.

This is something YOU can do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The quote of the day comes from Jeff Bezos: “you can’t put into a spreadsheet how people are going to behave around a new product.” 

I believe that our over-reliance on proforma tools is caused by our fear of failure. They are either attempts to control the future, or to predict it in order to prevent failure.

But you really can't see how a potential product or service will work unless you can watch a customer, in a natural purchasing setting, decide whether or not to purchase the product. If it doesn't work, then try adjusting the value proposition by changing the price, distribution method, or how you advertise. If it still doesn't work, then scrap the product or service rather than launching it on a full scale. If you don't launch it, then move on to the next idea.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sustainable Frugality

Or would calling it Frugal Sustainability be more appropriate?

Creative accounting might indicate the recession is over, but the real results of recession: unemployment, general uncertainty, etc. linger. Further, since Central Banks had each attempted to cure a hangover with massive consumption of whiskey, intoxication remains. You can't cure a debt problem by multiplying the rate of borrowing.

So perhaps your next business plan should involve assisting people through both economically stagnant and resource-depleted scenarios.

 - Selling wood heating stoves or becoming a Chimney Sweep
 - Re-upholstering
 - Recycling
 - Upcycling
 - As people are reluctant to purchase real estate, try home repair or
   remodeling (help people "love the one you're with")
 - Sell mopeds
 - Teach homesteading
 - Develop a farmers market

"Use it up, where it out, make do, or do without," as they used to say in frugal times of earlier generations.