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Archives for June 2007

Stuff

A carton full of STUFF

This is one of those regular posts I write that’s in serious need of some branding.

Maybe I should call it … oh wait a minute, Nate already writes a list called Powerful Posts. Well, I’m sure I’ll figure out what to call this one of these days.

The last time, I called it Leviathan Ran. And Other Free Associations. Catchy, isn’t it. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is. That post received a lot of traffic. Which, like Martin says, is a good reason to never stop experimenting.

What Is This Already?!

It’s a link post and it’s about bringing you some cool posts and ideas from around the web. But rather than just throwing out a list of links, I like to wrap a little blathering around them.

I just haven’t figured out a common theme for doing this yet. Every time it’s different. Every time it’s like doing improv. I went with my cousin to Yuk-Yuk’s one time. It was his first time doing stand-up. He bombed miserably. It was so bad that people were laughing at how bad it was.

Afterwards, we laughed at how bad it was.

But that story should never stop you from trying something different. Which is why I wrote a guest post on Shoemoney about StumbleUpon the other day. Just to do something different.

I like StumbleUpon. A lot. It’s a great place to find thought provoking stuff.

There’s great stuff everywhere. Stuff from people like Penelope Trunk who tells you how to do something big with your blog. Or from Neil Patel, who makes a great point about doing something so simple and smart as linking to your contact page from your about page.

There’s stuff to inspire you and motivate you. Anthony’s motivated. He’s just released his fourth WordPress theme.

So that’s what this is. Stuff. At least that’s what I’m calling it.

This time.

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The Mechanics Of Limited Release Pricing

DVD

Ever wonder why that cool little indie film you wanted to buy was released on DVD for rental only? Well, it wasn’t exactly, but you wouldn’t want to buy it. Not yet.

There are two radically different ways to price a flick when it first gets released on DVD. Sometimes the cost is 20 bucks. And sometimes it’s 120 bucks. The plot thickens …

How Much?

Hollywood studios like to get the best …. hmm … buck for the bang.

So sometimes they release a movie to video twice. The first time it’s for an exhorbitant price like 120 bucks. And then, after a few months they’ll simply lower the price down to the 20 bucks we all know and love.

The only people who are willing to pay the high price are the video rental stores. Which is why they don’t put them on the sale shelf at this price. If you really want the video, you can talk to your video store clerk and they’ll order you up a copy, or you can wait it out until the price comes down.

The Pricing Strategy

Popular films are released at the standard price. You can rent them and buy them off the shelf as soon as they come out. If the movie is popular and expected to do well, the studio’s goal is to sell as many as possible as quickly as possible; fill the rental shelves and fill living room collections.

This way they can capitaize on a burst ad campaign and the buzz that follows by getting it out there. And getting everyone to see it and talk about it.

But sometimes a film has limited appeal. Maybe it has a small cult following or just isn’t expected to do all that well in terms of sales. They’re only going to sell one or two copies to each video store. So to maximize the revenue, they’ll sell it high. Very high.

At 120 bucks, selling one is like selling six. And the video stores pay it because they need the wide selection to compete in the market.

The Value Of A Volume Pricing Model

We all know, the more you buy, the cheaper the per unit price is. The DVD pricing structure is a good way to understand one of the behind-the-scenes mechanisms of volume pricing.

Every product or service has a set amount of fixed overhead costs and a variable cost per unit. In actuality, both these costs are variable, and they both go down as the sales volume goes up.

Every business needs to build in a volume pricing structure. This helps you remain competitive on the large deals and still recover your costs on the small ones. It’s also a good way to upsell higher volume when you lay the pricing structure out for a client.

The other lesson here is that early adopters are willing to pay more to be first in line. This is always a very limited demographic, but they’re there. High initial release pricing can be a good way to get the ball rolling on a project that has limited but strong appeal. It helps raise the capital necessary to build the infrastructure that’s needed to bring the price down to a more realistic level.

To do this, you need to offer something new, special, or cutting edge. Or, you need to have something that a select group of people really need now.

One for the price of six, anyone?

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Change Your WordPress Permalink Structure Without Breaking The Internet

Chain Links

One of the things I’ve wanted to do lately is go timeless.

What I mean by that is getting rid of the date in my WordPress permalink structure. The problem with doing this kind of thing after you’ve started your blog is that it breaks links. And by that, I mean all of them. The internal ones, the search engine ones, and all the links you’ve gotten from other blogs and websites.

Let’s Start At The Beginning

A commonly used permalink structure looks something like this:
www.zoomstart.com/2007/03/23/the-flavor-flav-factor/

I want to get rid of the date and make it into this:
www.zoomstart.com/the-flavor-flav-factor/

That’s very simple to do. All you have to do is log into your WordPress Admin panel, go to OptionsPermalinks and change the structure from:

/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/

to

/%postname%/

Easy, right. Until you break the internet.

Here’s What Breaks

  • Every hard-coded link in your posts to other posts you’ve written. Poof … gone!
  • All your search engine results. Bu-bye Google!
  • All the deep link love you ever got from anyone else to your great words of wit and wisdom. Nice knowing ya!

Luckily, There’s A Solution …

All you need to do is download Dean Lee’s Permalinks Migration Plugin. Upload and activate the plugin. Go to the Options page and select the PermalinksMigration page and type in your current permalink structure. Then go to the Permalinks page and type in your new permalink structure.

The plugin uses a 301 Redirect to get everyone to the right page. Eventually, the search engines will change your links to the new structure, and all your internal links and external backlinks are fine.

It’s that simple.

What’s A Good Structure And Why?

Alright, you might be thinking ‘who cares?‘. And honestly it probably doesn’t matter unless you really want to build timeless content. Timeless content is the stuff that’s still relevant a year or 10 years from now.

It just looks better if it’s not dated in the link. Then, no matter when someone finds your post, they don’t automatically think it’s outdated and they judge the content for what it’s really worth.

It also keeps your link structure simple and simple is good.

Some people advocate using myblog.com/category/postname as a convention. Not a bad idea, but I’ve decided to go with myblog.com/postname. This gives me the easy option to revise my category structure in the future without breaking the links.

So even if you didn’t start out being “timeless”, no worries. You can still get there.

Without breaking the internet.

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Leadership Hats: The Fire Chief’s Helmet

Fire Chief Helmet

Every leader has fires to put out. To do it right, you need the right hat. It’s time to put the Fire Chief’s helmet on.

There are many hats to juggle when you’re leading a company or an organization. Some of the others I’ve talked about are the dunce cap and the inventor’s hat. The key thing to remember is that every hat is just as important as every other one. And the real trick is to know when to wear which hat.

There won’t be any confusion about this one. You’ll know when you need to strap it on.

Fighting Corporate Fires

The Fire Chief’s helmet is a little bit about solving problems, and a lot about directing your fire fighting team. Managing a company that’s in crisis mode is tricky. If you spend too much time stamping out spot fires or battling raging infernos, it’s easy to forget about actually doing business.

And that can make the problem a whole lot worse.

It’s not the Chief’s job to carry the hose except when it really needs to be done. But as the Chief, you take responsibility for everything. And through all the commotion and confusion, you need to have the coolest head in the room.

You have to make sure the job gets done right. Here’s some tips to help you do that …

Rules Of The Helmet

  • Sound the alarm. You can only sweep so many problems under the rug before there’s a huge bulge in it and everyone is tripping over it. When you see a serious problem, sound the alarm and take action.
  • Cut a fire line. If the rest of your business fails because you’re too focused on the problems, you run the danger of losing sales or letting costs get out of control. This is fuel for the problems you’re already dealing with. Cutting a fire line means containing the problems and separating them from the rest of the business.
  • Survey the scene. You want to know what you’re dealing with. The last thing you want to do is throw water on a grease fire. And one of the things too many managers do is go overboard and implement a solution to a problem that’s too much. A solution that’s going to be a burden and cost a lot of time and money long after the fire is put out. Survey the scene and apply the right solution in the right measure.
  • Stay on the walkie. Keeping all the lines of communication open while you deal with the situation is vital. You have to direct your team and you also need quick feedback on how the situation is getting better or getting worse. That way you can make the right decisions as they’re needed.
  • Rebuild. After a problem and even during it, it’s difficult to get back on course. The best thing to do is consult your business plan. Sure, a lot of things could have changed, but your original plan is the foundation of your business, what it’s about, and how you go about it. Make the changes you need to make and use your plan to get back on track and rebuild.

Every venture has its problems. Entrepreneurial ventures have more than most because you’re often walking into new territory. And that territory is tinder-dry.

Fighting the fires that occur in business takes experience and even courage. Stand tall. Stand strong. And above all, honour the hat that real firefighters wear.

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Paris Hilton And The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Business Model

Paris Hilton

Love her or hate her, Paris Hilton’s camp has mastered the art of business. And her business model is driven by the turbo-charged law of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Her core business is not acting or singing. It’s promotion. She promotes people, places and products. And she does that by promoting herself and then attaching herself to the things she promotes through appearances and various media forms.

So no matter what’s said in the media, it’s PR, and it’s good for business. It’s what her clients pay good money for.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy As A Business Model

The most powerful thing you can use to create a self-fulfilling prophecy is adversity. There are a lot of business opportunities in adverse situations. The formula is simple; see a problem, create a solution, make money.

The only catch when it comes to taking advantage of adversity is that you have no control over what the problem is. Or where it is. Or even when it’s going to happen. But what if you could control all that?

Suddenly, everything changes … CREATE the problem, create the solution, make money.

Much more lucrative.

The Paris Hilton Business Model

As I mentioned, her business is promotion. She’s built a very strong brand. And the more media attention she gets, the more media attention her clients get when they’re by her side. It’s that simple.

The self-fulfilling prophecy part is this: Her brand is so strong that if media outlets don’t cover her, they’re losing viewers to those that do. That’s one of the problems she creates and solves.

The other problem that works to her advantage comes from the first. The more media attention she gets, the less there is to go around to cover other people. Which creates adversity for others. And they have to come to her to “be seen”. Which fuels her business forward and makes it stronger.

The self-fulfilling prophecy model is so powerful because it works both the supply and demand side of the market at the same time. It does this by creating both the problem and the solution.

And if you’ve read through this entire post and you’re still thinking about the latest Paris happenings, then maybe my writing needs work.

Or maybe. It’s just a testament to how powerful this concept is. And how well she’s leveraged it.

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The Simplicity Challenge

Square Pegs

One of your biggest challenges as a leader is to take the complicated and make it simple.

There are a lot of fires to put out when you’re running a business. And it’s easy to run around and stamp out every new fire without stopping to survey the whole landscape. The reason is, the fires catch our attention immediately.

When you stop long enough to find out what’s causing the fire and what’s fueling it and perpetuating it, you have a real chance of stopping it. But if things are so complicated that you can’t see through all the trees, it’s a lot more difficult to see and solve the real problems.

Thinning Out The Forest

The more policies, procedures, processes, and nuances of each that you have, the more complicated things can get. And everytime you have a new situation, it’s easy to just add a new layer of policy, procedure or process to the pile.

But how many layers of new paint can you put on a door before it won’t close any more?

So the key to creating simple and effective solutions is to do a couple of things:

  • Think 50/50. Spend 50% of your effort in finding the right solution, and the other half in implementing it.
  • Hone what you have. Focus on tweaking and upgrading your present solutions rather than just adding more work to a previously simple process.

The Value Of Keeping It Simple

And we’re talking dollars here. And a lot of them. Here’s where you’re going to save money by keeping it simple:

  • Training. The simpler your business is, the easier it is to train and develop new people and move forward and grow.
  • Efficiency. Every layer of policy and procedure you add to a task slows it down. Streamlining your workflow means it takes less people and less time to perform a task. Big savings.
  • Quality. Every step you take out of a process chain is one less place where it might break or cause you a problem.
  • Problem solving. It’s a lot easier to find the missing piece in a 10 piece puzzle than it is a 1000 piece puzzle. Solving problems quickly means you can get back to business that much sooner.
  • Results. All of these savings from keeping it simple allow you to get the job done faster, cheaper and better than your competition can. That sparks repeat sales and it sparks great word-of-mouth advertising.

Stop and see the whole field where the fires are raging. Strip away the layers of old paint. Root through the sea of square pegs and find that one round one that fits perfectly.

With the right mindset you can leave every situation better than how you found it. Simpler. And more profitable.

That’s the challenge.

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The Ultimate Blogging Resource Page

What if you could narrow your search to find the best information on the web? 

Google Co-op is a cool little feature that allows you to create your own custom search engine. It’s a little different than Site-search because you can add as many different websites to search as you want. It also has a number of other customization features.

So I thought I’d put together a custom search bar for bloggers. I’ve included a great selection of top notch sites where you can find all the best information about blogging, from advertising to writing and everything in between. Enjoy.

The Ultimate Blogging Resource search bar

Start searching …





Google Custom Search

What Sites Are Included In The Search?

The engine gives priority search to the following sites. It also searches the entire web, so if there’s another blog or website that has better information on what you’re trying to find, the engine should pick it up.

Bloggingpro
Copyblogger
Copywriter
Dosh Dosh
Jennifer Slegg
Jensense
Lorelle
Matt Cutts
Problogger
SEO Book
Weblog Tools Collection
WordPress
Zoomstart (I know, but hey, couldn’t resist)

Check out Google Co-op and put your own customized perfect search engine together. All you need is a subject and a list of great authoritive sites on the subject to drop into the engine. 

*Update. Added the following site:

Daily Blog Tips (Thanks Maki!)

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Partner Up … Your Way To The Fortune 500

Partner Up

I got an email from Mike at PartnerUp inviting me to take a look at their site and share some thoughts on it.

I like it. I like it a lot.

What PartnerUp does is match vision and talent. The importance of this when it comes to building a fortune 500 company from a great idea can’t be overstated. Some of the biggest, most successful ventures on the planet are the result of successful partnerships.

Think About These People For A Second

Bill Gates and Paul Allen

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

Larry Page and Sergey Brin

The list of great partnerships in business history goes on and on. The reason? Vision and execution ability are seldom found in the same person.

We all have some of each. But it’s extremely rare to find both of these qualities in a single person. And, in the calibre that it takes to build a successful company. It’s a lot easier with a great partnership.

How PartnerUp Gets You There

Whether you have the vision or the talent to execute, PartnerUp is a meeting place to find a great partner. And they’ve got the formula right. Which is probably why they’ve built up a membership that’s 10,000 strong after a little over a month.

There are people that have brilliant ideas every day. They just don’t know how to “get there”. On the other hand, some people know how to get there. They’re just not sure where “there” is. If this is the territory you’re sitting in, you need a partner. A partner, that’ll help you move forward by taking a lot of the fear out of the risk.

And not to just leave it at that, PartnerUp also hosts real estate listings. Which is a great value added feature of the site because once you’ve got your partnership rolling, you need somewhere to get started.

I see a lot of great partnerships and future Nasdaq powerhouses coming out of PartnerUp. Check it out. Maybe one of them will be yours.

Final Thoughts

In Nascar racing you can draft up behind a car and use the reduced wind resistance to slingshot forward. That’s what partners do for each other. Said another way …

Every Batman needs a Robin. And vice-versa.

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Folding Bikes Answer The Call To Conserve

Something cool for today.

Folding or collapsable bikes have been around for 30 years. But now, they’re better, lighter, and there’s more room for them in a world of high oil prices and shrinking living spaces.

The Dahon Jetstream folding bike 

Another thing that’s really making them come in to their own is the array of lightweight materials available today. After all, if you’re going to fold up your bike and carry it from the street to your desk in the office, it has to be light.

These bikes just fit the urban lifestyle. They’re a quick way to get around and they’re easy to stow away at work, at home or under your seat on the train. Check them out …

Some Folding Bike Makers:

  • Silkmead – A tube company. They make the Airframe; a nice and easy leisure bike.
  • Airnimal – High performance road and offroad bikes.
  • Bike Friday – They make a bike for every use; road, touring, mountain, commuting.
  • Birdy – Full suspension. Need I say more.
  • Brompton – One of the most well known names in folding bikes.
  • Dahon – Pictured above; they make a wide assortment of bikes including road, offroad and suspension.
  • Mezzo – Fun-loving commuter bikes.
  • Moulton – Alex Moulton has been designing one thing or another since the ’50s.
  • Sinclair Research – They make cool stuff. The A-bike is a real pocket bike. Sort of like a scooter with a seat.

One more thought. These bikes offer a great opportunity for starting a bike rental business. Especially a small urban shop or the mobile kind that goes out to popular locations and sets up shop every day.

Just think about how many of these collapsable commuters you could fit in the back of a van.

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44 Bootstrapping Tips And Ideas To Cut Costs For Your Company

Boostrapper’s Desk

A while ago I talked about the art of bootstrapping.

It’s not as important as focusing on getting out and getting sales. But it’s still important. Especially for a new startup or a company that’s on shaky ground.

There are all sorts of expenses that conspire to erode your cash and profitabilty. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up. Sometimes it’s the big things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

It’s time to cut some costs. Let’s get to it! …

  1. Get cheap furniture. Build a desk out of a door, an old sawhorse, and a street barricade. You can also find funky old furniture from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that has a lot of character at garage sales.
  2. Lease. Preserve your cash by leasing the equipment, property and other capital assets you need instead of outright buying them. Now you’ve got more cash to put into your sales and marketing effort.
  3. Start small. Figure out exactly what you need; how much space, how much equipment. Now divide by 2.
  4. Filter it. Scrap the office water cooler service and buy a good water filter for the tap. If your tap-water quality is really nasty, buy a mini reverse osmosis system.
  5. Get handy. The more you can do yourself, the more cash you can preserve. Cut down on the services you’re paying for and use extra time and extra bodies to get it done in-house.
  6. Blow a bubble. Bubble furniture; it’s cheap, funky. All your visitors in the waiting room are gonna love it!
  7. Work the web. Spare the long distance fax and phone charges. Buy a small scanner for digitizing documents and make good use of email, Skype and VoIP.
  8. Go open source. There are a lot of great software options for business, and they’re all completely free.
  9. Barter. Leverage your network to trade products or services at cost prices.
  10. Beg, borrow, and steal. Okay, don’t steal, but utilize your network, friends and family and their expertise to get things done.
  11. Make the weather. Lower the thermostat in the winter and hand out company sweatshirts. Raise it up in the summer and make every Friday “Bahama shorts day”.
  12. De-light. Replace vast ceiling arrays of fluorescent lights with desk lamps and energy efficient lighting.
  13. Pay for mileage. Instead of buying a fleet of company vehicles, utilize your employees’ wheels and pay them a mileage rate.
  14. Practice JIT. Just in time purchasing helps your efficiency by utilizing a small space to it’s fullest. It also makes sure you don’t buy things before you need to.
  15. Co-brand. Get a sponsor or put a co-branding deal together to cut down the costs of your next big project. It’ll also help get the word out there through the other channels that your partner has.
  16. Get some interns. Hiring students in a work experience program is a great option if you have a company full of experienced players. They get great mentorship and you get low cost help.
  17. Sub out. Take advantage of your extra space and sub-lease it out to another business or to someone who needs some extra storage.
  18. Recycle and reuse. Separate your recyclables to lower your waste charges. Reuse boxes from things you recieved for things you have to ship out.
  19. Renegotiate. Pick a lucky supplier and renegotiate your rates or shop around and get a better deal somewhere else.
  20. Work at light speed. Put off the time and expense of doing a job, and then blitz to get it done. You’ll be focused like a laser on it and as long as you keep other distrations at bay your efficiency will go up without a loss of quality.
  21. Get down. Get a down payment for products or services before you start the job to help cover your purchasing costs of fulfilling the order.
  22. Refill. For 20% of the cost of buying a whole new ink cartridge for your printer, you can get it refilled.
  23. Go to ground. Shipping is much cheaper if you send it by ground instead of overnight. Stay ahead of the curve and send out your packages a little earlier. Delivery takes longer, but you’ll save a bundle.
  24. Find a purchasing partner. Volume buying can save you a ton of money. But you don’t want to buy more than you can comfortably afford or have all that cash sitting there doing nothing. Find another company or a few companies and put together a buying co-op so you can pool your purchasing power together and get a great deal.
  25. Screen everything. Rather than printing out documents and using up endless reams of paper, just view them on your computer screen. Create fillable forms in MS Office that you can save and email. And buy a USB hard drive that you can just plug in to back up all your files easily.
  26. If it ain’t fixed, broker it. Sometimes you can’t get anywhere near the price you need by negotiating with the big boys because of lack of experience or purchasing volume. Use a good broker or distributor to negotiate for you and get you what you need at a better price.
  27. Sell the dust collectors. Things that you aren’t using clutter up your space. Turn that trash into cash and sell them on Ebay or Craig’s List.
  28. Check your im-pulse. If you haven’t found the perfect solution at the right price, wait a little. Impulse buying is a great way to spend cash you shouldn’t spend on things that are of little use. Put it off for a day or a week. Do your homework and look around for other options.
  29. Upload it. Instead of printing out a ticker-tape parade of brochures, upload a pdf version to your website for people to download. And keep it handy on your computer. When you meet someone, get their email address and send it to them.
  30. Put it in the garage. Go big by going home. Forget leasing an office. You’ve got a garage!
  31. Mind the china. Using paper plates and plastic cups? Get some real dishes for the office kitchen and roll up your sleeves and wash them when they’re dirty.
  32. Shop online. Get a Staples corporate account. Use Amazon. And check out McMaster-Carr. They have everything. Seriously. Everything.
  33. Grab the red eye. If you can’t teleconference of set up a video conference then fly in early and catch the red eye flight out. You just saved the cost of a hotel room.
  34. Get hostel. If you have to stay overnght, scrap the hotel and stay at a hostel. They’re cheap, and you’re briefcase and power suit will be a big novelty to all the backpackers. And hit ’em up to get creative ideas from all around the world while you’re there.
  35. Clip it. Take advantage of coupons, sales, promotions and flyer deals.
  36. Be media savvy. You can pay for newspaper, radio and television ads. Or you can develop a network of media contacts and throw a great story about your company at them every once in a while. Do interviews and give them first dibs on your press release. Start small at first and work your way up to getting on Oprah.
  37. Ask for freebies. When you’re developing a new project and you need supplies, don’t buy them. Contact the manufacturer or supplier and get some samples. They’re always very accomodating because it’s an investment in getting new business.
  38. Pull out the axe. Let’s face it. Whoever’s not cutting it needs to get cut. It’s better for you and honestly, it’s better for them too. Sometimes great people and great positions just don’t fit together.
  39. Time it right. Old inventory is usually a good bargain. As the new stuff rolls in, businesses have to get rid of last year’s or last month’s models to make room for the new stuff.
  40. Change with the seasons. Every business has its busy season and its off season. Use the off season to ramp down, schedule holidays, and strategize for the next busy season ahead.
  41. Cut your fees. Business bank accounts are notorious for charging you fees and paying next to no interest. Go in and get your fees dropped or shop around and find a high interest savings account and a no fee checking account where you can shuffle funds back and forth. This is easy to do if you have a decent balance.
  42. Get help. Sometimes an outside perspective or an experienced mentor can see things you can’t and come up with creative cost-cutting solutions.
  43. Reward. Hand out a bonus every once in a while when someone comes up with and executes a great cost-cutting idea that saves you a lot of money.
  44. Review everything. Go over your financials every single month with a fine tooth comb. Compare your expenses from month to month to see what went up and what didn’t. And why. Make an effort and set goals for implementing some of these cost-cutting ideas every month.

Now that you have all this extra cash, push it into your sales and marketing budget. Oh yeah, and pay the rent.

Got a great bootstrapping tip? Share it in the comments.

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