Category: startup techniques

Overcoming Isolation as a Home Business Owner

As a home business owner, you will be faced with many obstacles. One of the most unexpected challenges for many home business owners is the feeling of isolation. New and seasoned home business owners encounter feelings of being isolated from the rest of the world, and even loneliness, at some point during their careers. The quiet home office is certainly a change from a populated office space at previous jobs.

Owning and operating a small business from home has many advantages, but working in an office with others has the social aspect that a home office lacks. This social aspect is a double-edged sword; most home business owners chose to work from home based on office politics or the independence that comes from going solo. Like it or not, co-workers, colleagues, and supervisors did keep you company at your old job.

How can you fight these feelings when your home office is quiet and you’ve been working alone for hours on end? The key is to feel as though you are part of society while not being distracted. There should be a balance between interruptions and total solitude. There are a few ways that you can feel as though you’re not the Lone Ranger while remaining productive.

Turn On the Radio or Television

Depending on your level of distraction and whether you are taking telephone calls, you could turn on the radio or television to keep you company. Light classical music works wonders, and some people find that having background noise helps cure loneliness. Other people find they get caught up in what is on television or are distracted by music.

Take the Dog (or Cat) to Work

The family dog or cat will definitely keep you company. Dogs are great, because you can also take them out for a walk to get some fresh air. Cats are perfect, as they are usually not distracting and need little attention to be content. If you have no pets, it may be a good time to consider getting one, simply for the companionship they provide. Unlike humans, pets do not require conversation to be companions.

Arrange Business Lunches

Arranging business lunches with clients and colleagues is a great way to network, build relationships, and socialize. Pleasant afternoon coffee outings and lunches with clients will also lead to quality word of mouth advertising. Many professional associations, including local Chambers of Commerce, have weekly or monthly business lunches. These are wonderful resources for new business and to simply get out and meet people in your community.

Join an Online Home Business Forum

There are forums online where home business owners from around the world gather to socialize and share ideas. These are a wonderful way to interact with others with little pressure to keep up a long conversation. Beware the vacuum of the Internet – hours can seem like minutes. Online communities such as Girls with Goals are huge distractions for many people; yet when visited in moderation, they are excellent a great source of human interaction.

Pick Up the Phone for Human Contact

If you are feeling isolated, call one of your clients to “touch base”. Maintaining contact with clients is always welcome; keeping open lines of communication allows you to better understand their needs while you are maintaining a positive presence.

Perhaps your line of business requires cold calling for sales or business leads. When you are feeling lonely, there is no better time to cold call potential customers and pitch your business.

You can plan a predetermined amount of time in your day for personal calls with friends and family. These calls will help you to feel as though you are still part of society even though you are working alone. Friends and family will usually be supportive and help you to remain positive during tough times. It is important to set a time limit, otherwise you may find time slipping away from your business matters.

Remember: You Are Not Alone

Every home business owner has the occasional day when they feel isolated, lonely, and even depressed because they miss daily interaction with co-workers. After hours and hours of being alone in a home office, a trip to the grocery store or dry cleaners can seem like a treat. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are thousands of people, working frantically in their home offices who also feel isolated from time to time. Focus on your work, maintain a healthy lifestyle away from the home office, and follow these pointers. You’ll feel much better during your busy day.

__________________________

Erin Hurry
Girls with Goals
“Our Goal is Your Success”

read more | digg story

Advertisements

Startup Techniques: Understand Yourself and What the Business Needs (3)

This is the third ‘Startup Techniques’ blog posting on creating and moving your own Winning Startup Idea into the real world.  The first posting “Startup Techniques: Creating Your New Business Idea” included techniques to create your own winning startup idea and the second post “Startup Techniques: Qualifying Your New Business Idea (2)” gave some tips on how to qualify the idea to make sure it’s really the one that you should be investing your heart, soul and time on.

So what do I do next when moving a Winning Startup idea forward? If the idea has really grabbed me my temptation is to start figuring out all of the pieces that are needed to move it from idea to real business.  To start thinking about the people I’ll need to find, figuring out how to test the idea, how much money it’s going to need and the 101 other elements.  It’s at about this time when you need to figure out a few things before you start getting carried away.

Normally at the top of my list is how do I fit in with this idea?

For a product let’s consider just a few of the different steps in the process from idea to real product:

  • Developing product drawings (Engineering Skills)
  • Developing a prototype (Engineering)
  • Prototype testing (Engineering)
  • Determining how to produce it in larger quantities (Engineering)
  • Testing the Market (Marketing)
  • Determining Price Point considering the margins required by the sales channel (Marketing)
  • Sanity checking the numbers (Production costs vs. price point to sales channel) (Finance)
  • Understanding and selling the product into the sales channel (Sales)
  • Marketing the product to retailers and the end consumer (Marketing)
  • Managing the invoicing, customer service, tracking cash (Finance etc)

These are just a few broad steps on the road to making a product idea real.  This list is by no means all inclusive.  The point here is that there are multiple component parts necessary to build a business whether it’s a product, service or website.  When you are sure this idea is the one, begin to map out what the idea needs and to overlay that with your own strengths and capabilities.  This will act as a pointer for you ~ it should help make obvious who you will need to find to join the team either actually or virtually.

Thankfully whether your winning startup idea is a product, service or website there are some relatively fixed ‘categories’ that need to be considered whatever the business. Here are some of the key categories and a few thought jogging questions, there are many more:

The Customer:

  • What are their needs?
  • What are they prepared to pay for? How Much?
  • How do they buy products like this? A store / website / telephone / television? 

Competition:

  • Where do customers currently buy or go to use products like this?
  • What products or services do they offer?
  • How much do they charge?
  • How do they sell and market their products?
  • How many competitors are there?

The Product:

  • What does it need to do?
  • How will it be much better than what the competition offer?
  • Who can prototype and build it?
  • How much does it cost to produce?
  • What is necessary to produce it?
  • Who will produce it?

Sales:

  • Where will you sell this product?
  • Who will sell it for you?
  • How will you pay them? Salary or commission or both? Yes, there are sales people who will work for just commission (Blog Post to come)

Marketing:

  • How does it meet the customer need?
  • How is it better than what the competition offers?
  • How much can we reasonably charge?
  • Are we looking for volume of customers or a select group of customers?
  • What do customers need to know that will make them want to buy it?
  • What are the ways to tell potential customers about the product?
  • How much do they cost?
  • Are there any ways of telling potential customers about the products cheaply?

Some of these questions may not work for your idea but most should.  As you go through them more questions should pop up. And don’t worry if you don’t know all of the answers, you won’t. Fact. But you will probably be able to make some really educated guesses in the areas that relate to your personal strengths and won’t have a clue in those areas that are too far out of your own skills and experiences ~ another good pointer the types of people you will need to flesh out the idea and really start the tactical planning of “How to Launch Your Winning Startup Idea”. But again, that is the subject of another blog posting.

I hope this posting helps. Again, questions, comments, relevant rude remarks always welcome and ‘Yes’ this posting could have included much more, in fact, it could have gone on for at least another 50,000 words but like most entrepreneurs I have a tendency towards ADD. Let me know where I should dive deeper and I’ll do my best!

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

NOTE: I grant permission for every reader to reproduce on your website or blog the article you are now reading. But copy this article ONLY, without any alteration and please Include the copyright statement. (NOTE: I am giving permission to host on your website this article AND NO OTHERS. Reprinting or hosting my articles without express written permission is illegal, immoral, and a violation of my copyright.)“Copyright © 2007, Advisor Garage LLC. Advisor Garage Blog. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article on your website without alteration if you include this copyright statement and leave the hyperlinks live and in place.”

Startup Techniques: Qualifying Your New Business Idea (2)

Hopefully you read the previous post “Startup Techniques: Creating Your New Business Idea” and tried one of the following suggestions for coming up with your personal ‘Winning Startup Idea’.

Just as a reminder:

  1. Product Design New Application: Think of how one product or design can be re-deployed to solve other problems
  2. What If?: How could a great product or business be a ‘world class’ business? How does it need to change or improve?
  3. The Pissed Off Brainstorm: If only X did it this way….why couldn’t they just do Y?

Great!  Have you found that idea that makes sleep near impossible? THE idea that is now starting to bloom and grow in your brain whether you want to think about it or not?  If you are reading this and even now the idea is demanding attention then maybe you’ve found your own Winning Startup Idea.  Is that all there is too it?  Of course not. This is just the beginning but it is one of the most challenging elements…

The frank reality is that the idea you’ve just conceived is at the start of it’s life and I can promise you that as you move it forward, it will shift and change to the point where when it becomes ‘real’ you probably won’t even recognize it as the same idea.  That’s OK. Every winning startup idea grows up eventually when it hits the real world and spends some time with it’s initial customers. These initial steps are what this post is about.  Initial steps to take a fantastic and very personal winning startup and make it ready to be shared and experienced by it’s customers.

So here it is, your very own winning startup idea – what’s next?

At this stage I normally take a look at myself and examine whether I’m passionate enough about the idea to really grab a hold of it with both hands and push it forward no matter what.  No matter what! Any obstacle, any person telling me that it won’t or can’t happen.  There are always people who will tell you 101 reasons why your idea will fail.  If I’m only half hearted about it now then sooner or later I’ll run out of steam and waste time. My own time (forgivable) and other people’s time (unforgivable).  So this is usually the point where I decide to sleep on it.

OK, so I’ve slept on it and the first thought that pops into my head when I wake up is my winning startup idea…even while mentally sweeping out the cobwebs of sleep my brain starts to turn over the idea and look at it from different directions.  As I mull it over I start to see how it can be made better, how it could be not just a winning idea but Great one.  Yippee, this is one of those ideas – one of the one’s that even if I wanted to, I can’t push side.   That mental shot of near caffeine has happened again. Isn’t life great?

Next, I write the idea down and I don’t worry if its rough…I’m not going to use this document to raise money…just as a tool to develop the idea and test it out.  After getting every part of the idea down on paper I promise to give myself 24 hours before coming back to it. I cheat…I can’t help it, a few really interesting elements come to my mind an hour or two later and I have to add them to the document in case I lose them.  OK.  That’s it. 24 hours. Right.  So next day I read it through and see what other refinements or ideas come to mind. 

Yep, the document makes sense. So who do I know that has expertise relating to this type of business or perhaps know someone who does?  Let’s take the drive through whole food deli idea from the previous post.  Who do I know that has some business experience in restaurants?  Scratching my head the honest answer in my case is ‘no one’.  Damn! 

Lucky for me the internet has websites and forums such as Advisor Garage (http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community) with advisors with experiences across multiple industries.  So, my next step is to find someone that really understands this space and connect with them.  Keep your own reach out at a high level, give them enough information that they can get the gist of the idea without giving away the crown jewels. Remember, not everyone is ethical out there. But likewise, without some risk, this idea will remain in your head and will never become a reality.

OK, now it’s your turn – you’ve run your winning startup idea by someone who understands the space and if you’re lucky, they’ve given you some more ideas, some contacts, told you about potential competitors and if there aren’t any, have probably told you you’re mad.  Don’t sweat ‘mad’, so was Thomas Edison and Marconi in their early days. These are your early entrepreneurial days, take pride in mad…mad is better than bored and boring while watching TV. Sorry NBC!

If there was chemistry between you and your advisor, start cultivating that person as your mentor.  Be appreciative of their experience, let them know that they could be the key to your success – they actually might be.  If they have helped you identified similar business models or competitors, make it your first business to know everything about them. What do they do, how do they do it, what do they charge and most important, what do their customers think of their product or service? See any chinks in their armor? If so great!  This tells you what you’ll need to do better to start pleasing your customers, making money and building your market.

But one person, a winning startup idea and a rough idea draft is not a business.  You’ll need some critical elements and no surprises for what they are:

  • People
  • Money
  • Product
  • Initial Customers
  • Business infrastructure

But securing those elements is material for the next few posts…if you have thoughts, questions, comments or rude remarks about the above, let me know.

Andrew
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com/community

NOTE: I grant permission for every reader to reproduce on your website or blog the article you are now reading. But copy this article ONLY, without any alteration and please Include the copyright statement. (NOTE: I am giving permission to host on your website this article AND NO OTHERS. Reprinting or hosting my articles without express written permission is illegal, immoral, and a violation of my copyright.)“Copyright © 2007, Advisor Garage LLC. Advisor Garage Blog. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article on your website without alteration if you include this copyright statement and leave the hyperlinks live and in place.”