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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Use More Cowbells to Keep Your Business Focused

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

SNL_Fever_Cowbell_Black_Shirt

If you run a small business, we all have the challenge of staying focused.  We are pulled in a hundred different directions.  You have customers calling you, that new product or service you want to launch, your accountant keeps calling you about this year’s taxes and oh yeah that employee you hired that is just driving you nuts because they are jamming to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face all day at work and not helping you at all.

This Saturday Night Live skit has a good lesson for all of us.  Christopher Walken plays THE Bruce Dickinson during the taping of one of the 1970′s classic songs by Blue Oyster Cult, “Dont Fear The Reaper.”  Walken playing Dickinson implores the band to focus on one critical element to make the song successful.  You will have to watch the video to really see.

What can small businesses learn from the video?

1. Every day make sure you are focusing on the central pillars of your business.  If its marketing to a niche, make sure you are doing everything possible to support your efforts doing that. If it is creating a consistent and coherent brand and then building it. Make sure you have laser focus on this pillar.

2. Eliminate or reduce the distractions of other tasks throughout the day so you can focus on the tasks that grow your business. Here is a great post on how to eliminate distractions in your business.

3. Try, and try again.  Even if you do get distracted.  Stop just like Dickinson does when he interrupts the band’s jam sessions and he makes the band focus on what he sees as the critical element!  If you get distracted, acknowledge it and get back to your core tasks. Yes, that means stay off TMZ and WaitingforNextYear (side note: great Cleveland blog – everyone growing up in CLE knows the refrain with our sports teams…”There is always next year.”)

4.  In the video, learn from Will Ferrell, that even if focusing on a critical element makes you look odd in your business or you have to anger some people by telling them to take a back seat while you focus on More Cowbell go ahead and do it. That focus will only help you and your business to grow, even if it has lots of cowbells.

5. At the end of every rehearsal (i.e. after you end a business day) look back and do a post-mortum: did you focus on the areas of your business that were most important? If not, figure out what you will do to refocus tomorrow.  If so, go celebrate and have a margarita – just dont spill it on your pants!

Did you learn anything from The Bruce Dickinson’s demand for “More Cowbell!” Please tell us in our comments section.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Art of Innovation in 10 Steps – Video Flashback

Friday, January 15th, 2010

On a Friday before the long, Martin Luther King weekend,  we thought we would change things up a bit here.  We would hit you with a 2009 masterpiece from the startup master, Guy Kawasaki.  If you do not already know, Guy is a venture capitalist who did a couple of early tours at Apple and is the author of a start-up must read, the Art of the Start.  He is now the Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, is running his latest company, Alltop, and continues to give speeches and talks across the country on startups, innovation, entrepreneurship, social media and small business success.

This video is a (well) sliced version of a presentation he gave last year where he discusses in about 8 minutes the 10 steps (plus a bonus one) for innovation and making your startup a great company.  Since KikScore is a startup we pay particular attention to the guidance, like Guy’s presentation, that is given on startups. In fact, you can see that in our series where we narrate some of the issues we face building our startup into a viable business.

Please check out the video of Guy’s presentation below so you get context for these ten steps that he covers:

1. Make Meaning

2. Make Mantra

3. Jump to the Next Curve

4. Roll the Dice

5. Don’t Worry be Crappy (no that is not a typo)

6. Let 100 Flowers Bloom

7. Polarize People

8. Churn Baby Churn

9. Niche Yourself

10. Follow the 10/20/30 Rule

11. (Bonus) – Don’t Let Bozos Grind You Down

Please tell us what your thoughts are on the 10 steps.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Diary of a Start-Up: The Challenge to Keep Your Business Focused

Friday, January 8th, 2010

business man watching his business finances grow

As we at KikScore roll into 2010, we are proud of everything we were able to accomplish in 2009.  We launched KikScore. (See Diary of a Start-Up I)  Our blog went live. People actually visited our site!  Actually a lot more than we expected and from some interesting parts of the world.  And we really took the big plunge into social media.  Simultaneously, we are constantly working on gathering feedback from our customers and making changes and enhancements based on that feedback.

So what is the issue facing us in 2010? One word – FOCUS – or better yet the challenge to focus.

We have a lot going on at KikScore.  For example, we are in the process of developing an exciting extension to the KikScore product that we hope to launch in the next 30 days, we are fixing and enhancing the KikScore product based on customer feedback,  we are dealing with customer service issues, we are in partnership discussions and we are redesigning our marketing site at www.kikscore.com. We also have multiple tracks of product enhancements that are being prioritized and slotted in for development. And this list is not even near exhaustive of what we have going on.

So as we began 2010, we took our heads out of the weeds and said its time to climb to that proverbial mountain at 30,000 feet so we could take a broader view of KikScore, our product, all of the activity and the daily grind so we could figure out what do we need to focus on.  In all honestly, this was probably the first time in a while where we did the “focus” analysis.  The reason is as a start-up, especially an early stage one, you keep focusing on getting your product out to the market. Once the product goes live, then you are just overwhelmed to some degree with enhancements, customer and market feedback, service issues etc that can test your start-up’s ability to focus.

So this is what we have begun to do and I would recommend that if you are a start-up you may want to do something similar. Also the key is to periodically update, measure and track progress of your focus against each of these items below.

1. Goals. As a team, set your near-term and long term goals. Near term can be 30-90 days.  Long term is 1-3 years.  Keep them in a place where the entire team can review them.

2. Activities. Then create a list of the activities that flow up to the goals.  Make sure every activity can be tied to the goals otherwise that activity should be eliminated.

3. Turbo Activities. From the list of activities try to determine which activities do you get the most out of and that with all things being equal get you closer to that goal at a faster rate.  I call these Turbo Activities because they can really turbocharge you to achieve your goals faster. So for example, we at KikScore recently uncovered an approach that may really help us with customer acquisition.  Customer Acquisition is a very important near and long term goal of ours and we have various activities that help us with customer acquisition. But this method stood out and so just this week we thought lets really focus our efforts using this method and see where that gets us for acquiring more customers.

4. Regular Update. As a startup works through these turbo activities and regular activities, while also dealing with new issues that come up each day, it is critical that the team on a regular and periodic basis assess where the business is at in regards to the goals.  As the activities, objectives and goals change over time, your start-ups focus may have to adapt and be flexible.  But while I say that, you must also be careful to not have the red herrings pop up and that push you to focus on the wrong things or to lose your focus.  This is a delicate dance that each start up needs to be careful to balance so they maintain the right focus to meet their goals.

5. Team Accountability.  Each team member needs to also dedicate themselves to keeping themselves honest and other team members true to focusing the start-up.  Without team members acting as a check for themselves and other team members, a start-up runs the risk of losing that focus. One of the ways to help ensure that team members are keeping each other focused is asking a simple question during internal discussions: Do you think that activity will get us closer to accomplishing one or more of our goals?

In the end, so much of focus for a start-up can be boiled down to the 80/20 rule.  So often 20% of your activities and work, will end up getting your startup 80% of the results that you need.  Remember this when you try to keep your focus to growing your start-up!

How do you keep your business focused?

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Solicit and Listen – Customer Feedback is critical to business success

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Clip noteSocial media was the craze of 2009 and will only continue to gain ground in 2010. Blogging about your product and/or service is an incredible way to promote your business or product. While customers and passersby can comment on blog entries or Tweet their favorites, how do you convert the blog commenter into a devoted and loyal customer for future success?

As a business owner, you need to provide easy to use feedback tools to ensure that you are in touch with your customers (and would-be customers) and frequently and consistently responding to their needs. This entails listening to comments and being able to categorize them and REACT. There are a variety of tools available (some such asCrowdsound, RatePoint, Yelp) but do these sites bring traffic back to your site? Some do, but some are a link off with minimal options to react to comments. In a previouspost by DojoMike:  customers are sometimes reluctant to provide feedback (positive or negative).

To maintain an open dialog with customers and encourage feedback, the comment avenue needs to be easy to use and promote responses from the merchant/business owner. As a business owner, you also need to be able to solicit feedback and react to it, professionally. If a negative comment comes through, don’t ignore it, you need to respond and make changes that address the issue. At a minimum, sending an email to a customer who recently bought an item from your online store is an easy avenue to inquire if the ordering process was seamless and also to ask for website suggested changes or product improvements. The more you ask a customer for their input, the more likely they will become a repeat customer AND tell their friends about your site and excellent customer service.

At KikScore, we have created a feedback tool within the KikScore seal itself. Comments that are posted here are sent directly to merchants to review and respond. These comments are also available for all to see that are reviewing that site’s KikScore Seal.

How do you solicit feedback from customers? What do you do with the feedback you get? Do you have any feedback/suggestions for KikScore? Please share with us!

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

2010 Is Here: 10 Rules for Killer Business Card By Steven Fisher

Friday, January 1st, 2010

We all use business cards.  Can you tell me the last one that made an impact on you?  Some people would say that cards are just supposed to convey basic contact information.  But think about it.  A business card is the first item that a business contact sees that conveys your personality and creativity after a conversation.  So why not actually use your business card to make that impression?

As 2010 gets rolling, we at KikScore thought this would be a good 10 minute, highly enjoyable video of  a presentation from the GrownSmartBiz Conference that Steve Fisher gave on business cards (the presentation starts a little after the 5 minute mark).  Check it out and let us know if you are going to make a change to your business cards in 2010 so you can start making an impression.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Your Holiday Gift: 30 Second MBA from Fast Company

Friday, December 25th, 2009

One of the truly creative and ingenious ideas I saw this year to help small, medium and large business was Fast Company’s 30 second MBA.  What is it?  Fast Company gets industry and business leaders from Digg, Accenture, Ford, Pandora and many other companies to give tips and guidance on key areas of business such as Making Better Decisions, How to Change a Company’s Culture, How Should You Think about Failure, How Do You Retain and Nurture Talent, and many other topics.  Its really a top notch faculty covering key business areas in a short period of time!  Each week there is a new subject matter and five leaders speak on the subect Monday through Friday.  Here is just one excellent 30 second clip from the CEO of Digg, Jay Adelson on making better decisions.

So spend your holidays learning with these 30 second clips.  A great gift to all of us from Fast Company.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Is your business a trail adventure?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
A favorite route - Apex Trail

A favorite route - Apex Trail

Living in Colorado is refreshing and rewarding… and can force one to tackle adventures with a free spirit. The assumption is that if you live in Colorado, you are hitting the slopes every weekend. Well, I’m not a skier, but give me a good pair of trail running shoes, a crisp morning and a trail that winds up a mountain or hillside – now that’s what I call adventure! Will there be the unavoidable tree root to navigate or an elevation change that I wasn’t quite prepared for? Maybe encounter a snake or snow/ice which forces one to slow down and proceed with caution. Starting a business is a similar adventure in putting on those running shoes, climbing up the mountain, yet not certain what you may encounter along the way.

When launching a new business, we are forced to be selective of which trail to tackle first and more importantly to keep track of where we’ve been so as not to make repeat mistakes. The path of a new business needs to be able to react and learn from last weekend’s trail run and plan accordingly for next week’s adventure. My favorite poem, Robert Frost’s The road not takencan be interpreted many ways. In the success of business, we over analyze which can paralyze… How complex should your beta launch be? How are we going to support customer inquiries/issues in a timely manner? What enhancements should we concentrate on? How will we measure success? I can go on…

In trail running, I cannot be afraid to take that challenging trail and have an incredible story to share from my adventure. In starting a business, we need to be brave enough to take that less travelled road that can pave the way for others to follow, which will be our loyal customers.

When in doubt, run uphill! What twists and turns, and unexpected elevation changes have your business taken you on? Share your experience with us.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

A Few Good Blogs: Our Go To Small Business Blogs KikScore Likes Part 2

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

This is Part 2 in our series of KikScore’s go to small business blogs. Part 1 is here

There are blogs now for nearly everything under the sun. That translates to a lot of noise out there. So how do small businesses try to figure out which resources they should use online to stay up to date on trends and to get rock solid guidance from experts? The best way is through word of mouth and also getting recommendations from other small businesses. So here is our Part 2 of our list of some really good blogs that we at KikScore read:

1. Duct Tape Marketing- John Jantsch who runs this blog is a master of small business marketing, social media and strategy. His guidance is practical, to the point and is recognized by the small business community as one of the go to resources for small business success.

2. Fresh Inc. – Inc. Magazine is by far my favorite magazine to read. If you are an entrepreneur or a small business enthusiast, Inc. is a must for a number of reasons including its rich stories, wonderfully written profiles of small and medium businesses and its relentless focus on telling the small business story. Fresh Inc. is the blog of the writers of Inc. and it is a fantastic extension of the magazine.

3. CopyBlogger -Brian Clark is the founder of CopyBlogger. We like Brian for a number of reasons including because he calls himself a “recovering lawyer.” We have three of those on the KikScore team. But the interesting thing is he uses that legal background to give great guidance on all types of issues including writing copy for websites, making great sales pitches that stick and delivering killer content. Entrepreneur and Technorati are just some of the folks that have recognized Brian and the CopyBlogger.

4. Small Biz Survival - Becky McCray writes from a unique small business approach. She writes from a small town perspective as she owns a liquor store and cattle ranch in Oklahoma. She might write from a small town perspective, but she knows the ins and outs of small business issues big city, small city, global or local.

5. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur – Mike Michalowicz runs this fabulously named blog! Mike’s approach to his blog and small business success is to stay away from the media’s over glossy approach to entrepreneurship and instead focus on the incredible hard work that makes entrepreneurship success possible. He does a great job of equating in a very good (and clean!) way entrepreneurship with the bathroom experience.

Check these blogs out, when you get a moment. You will not regret it!

Do you have a go to blog? Let us know which one it is.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

The Rise of Nights and Weekend Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

While entrepreneurs may share various character and personality traits, there are may types of of entrepreneurs.  Some exist under the radar while others get all of the hype.  The one that probably gets the most news coverage and are therefore the most well known is the startup entrepreneur. The startup entrepreneur is the person that takes an idea, may get some angel or VC funding (or even self fund) and creates and launches a product.  These types of entrepreneurs get a lot of coverage as they sometime have high profile exits where other companies buy their product for millions of dollars. The recent Mint.com story is an example of this.

Other Entrepreneur Types

Of course there are many other types. One that is getting a lot of recent attention is the home based business entrepreneur.  Businessweek just had an article that covered some surprising stats for this group.  There are also the small business entrepreneurs that have stores, shops, bars and restaurants that we all visit nearly everyday of our lives.   Then there is the purely unintentional entrepreneur that due to job loss are forced into starting a business.  There has been a lot of coverage of these unintentional entrepreneurs lately due to the huge amount of job losses during the economic downturn.

Enter the Night and Weekend Entrepreneur Warrior

The entrepreneur that floats under nearly every radar is the person who has a full-time day job, but still is an entrepreneur through a side business. As demonstrated from this clip from the cult classic Office Space, Milton Waddams exemplifies where some people get their motivation for their side business while they work their full time job:

While nights and weekend entrepreneurs have various motivations for starting their businesses, they all face very similar experiences:

1) Time Crunch – Even more than other entrepreneurs, because of their 9-6 day jobs,  nights and weekend warriors can really only fully focus on their side businesses during limited time periods.  That can be used as an advantage because since time is so precious, these types of entrepreneurs must be even more focused on time management and efficiency when they do work on their own business.

2) The Constant Pull Away From the Business- Each night and weekend these entrepreneurs face the temptation when they come home from work or on that weekend, to turn on the TV or to go into procrastination mode.  It is even more tempting to the nights and weekend warriors because of the fatigue that sets in from the day job.  Nevertheless, there are successful entrepreneurs that overcome this temptation and beat the fatigue and procrastination demon that is there every time you come home from the day job.

3) Beating the Not Doing Enough Syndrome – Because the nights and weekend warriors do not have a dedicated 40 hours of time for their business, they constantly are fighting the guilt that they are not moving fast enough or getting enough done.  The way these warriors get through this syndrome is keeping that eternally optimistic side that is in the small business psyche and saying, I am moving forward and doing all I can.  Otherwise, this guilt will overcome and doom you.  Night and weekend entrepreneur warriors battle this syndrome every time they look at their “to do” list.

While these are common challenges, nights and weekend entrepreneurs also share the same hunger to create something that they can set the direction for and grow.  We imagine that we will increasingly hear more about these entrepreneurs in the future.

Examples of Nights and Weekend Entrepreneurs

Here are just a few examples of Nights and Weekend Entrepreneurs we know about:

KikScore is a company that is made up of nights and weekend entrepreneurs and see here and here for some background on our experience.

Design 2 Print – which is KikScore’s hats and bumpersticker vendor.  Rush at Design 2 Print offers a lot more promotional items such as apparel, glasses, mugs, badges, calendars and much much more. Their slogan is “Our Business is Promoting YOUR Business.”

Simply Astro – Shiv who owns this site and a host of others spends nights and weekends devoted to fine tuning his astrology, horoscope, match making and Feng Shui site.

Know of any more, please leave them in the comment section below.

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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Diary of a Tech Start-Up: Disagreement Over Product Features

Friday, November 13th, 2009
Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

If you’re doing a start-up with other people, I guess it’s unavoidable to have disagreements with your team. If you’re lucky, the biggest disagreements center around where to go for happy hour. Personally, I like Chili’s. I know it’s not necessarily cool, but the chips and salsa is really good (very salty chips) and the margaritas are big (and unlike I’ve mentioned in previous postings, the glasses are very easy to hold onto). It’s also very unlikely that you’ll run into your competitors at Chili’s — as these weak-kneed companies can’t buck peer pressure and social convention and won’t be caught dead there.

Recently, our team has been caught up in a larger kerfuffle.  It centers around how we promote and/or explain the shopper experience that can be expected on our customer sites — via a numeric score. Some of the customer feedback is the concern that shoppers may equate an 820 (which is a really high score) with a “low B” rating (which would get you valedictorian status at my high school).

A contingent of our team believes that, because we already spell out the guidance of the numerical rating (“great experience”, “good experience” and “poor experience” expected), to remove customer confusion, we could eliminate the actual score. Other team members argue that the numeric rating shows the precision and sophistication of our scoring model (see posting on our algorithm), and it is something that our customers need to accept.  Take a look at one of our customer’s sites, at www.17thandriggs.com to see the current version of the user experience.

We’re working through how to please all the team members, but this disagreement doesn’t seem to have a clear mid-point. I guess that’s the point of working with the right team. If everyone has an opportunity to express their views, whether the decision goes the way a particular team member wants really isn’t important. It’s that there’s an underlying level belief that ultimately, with enough deliberation, the group can reach the best decision for the business and the customer.

On the other hand, instead of thoughtful deliberation, we’re also thinking of implementing Mixed Martial Arts in our team meetings. I may have a bit of a paunch, but I have a pretty good reach.

Feel free to give us your opinion in the comments below on your feedback on this issue.

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