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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How to write the Business Plan...some tips

This has been cross posted from Guy Kawasaki's blog http://blog.guykawasaki.com/, it is an interview with Guy and Tim Berry he's the president of Palo Alto Software who has some software out there that can help you structure the BP...Interesting stuff...
today is my last day at FDD,tomorrow is a new day and a new challange I go to help start Startburst Solar with a vengance, tune in regulary for the day to day learnings.

How to write a business plan

1. Question: Who even reads business plans anymore?
Answer: How about “Who should read a business plan”? It’s not about whether venture capitalists read plans, it’s about planning to make your business better. So here’s who should read a plan:
First, you the owner, manager, author of the plan--and you’d better be the owner of the plan too—not some consultant. The plan is by you and for you and if tracking it, reviewing it, managing and executing it aren’t important to you, then you don’t understood planning. Planning isn’t about the document; it’s about controlling your destiny, running your business better, setting goals and tracking progress, and keeping your eyes on the horizon while not tripping over potholes in front of you. If you’re not going to read it regularly, then don’t ask anybody else to.
Second, team members, boards of directors, and collaborators. A business plan is a way to coordinate, communicate, and collaborate with accountability and tracking. It should get all the key people on the same page. Nobody can execute a plan they don’t know about.
Third, relevant outsiders. Banks, investors, boards of advisors, key consultants, and even occasionally—but only with caution—vendors or prospective new high-level employees.

2. Question: What’s the most important qualities of a plan?
Answer: First, a plan should set priorities with the understanding that you can’t do everything. After all the buzzwords and analysis, strategy is focus. What can you do better than anyone else? What’s your core competence?
Second, specifics. What’s going to happen, when, how much it’s going to cost, and who’s responsible for it.
Third, cash flow. Growth spurts in a company are good things, meaning more sales, and presumably more profits, but unplanned growth can suddenly sucks up liquidity and in the worst cases kill the company. Growth without prior planning can be as fun a hard kick in the stomach.
Here’s a story to illustrate the concept growth versus cash flow: Willamette River runs through Eugene where I live. More people drown in the slow deep portions of the river than in the rapids because people think they’re okay when it’s slow. Cash flow is like that, you think it’s okay when you’re growing and profitable. Profits are good, but cash and profits aren’t always timed together.
3. Question: In what order should you do the summary, pitch, and projections?
Answer: That’s another chicken and egg question, and the answer depends on who you are, how you think, and how you work. I go through periods of months and in at least one episode years in which I think in broad bullet point terms first, then fill in details, and then I’ll swing over and start thinking in numbers and projections first, then filling in the concepts. I’ve watched people with planning for a lot of years, and it’s a style question.
What’s most important with this order of execution is to understand that it will never be sequential. In whichever order you do it, you will always be doubling back. I’ve done it in every conceivable order, but I’ve never done a plan from step one to step N. Fleshing out the second step will almost always bring up reasons to revise what you did in the first step, and the third step will make you rethink the first two.
At every point that you stop and work with plan, share it, talk about it, or manage it, then you’ll need to review the parts for alignment. I’m not talking about the big fat “Business Plan” as opposed to the larger and more useful real plan, the live plan. You need to keep alignment between the concepts and the numbers, and between the summary, the pitch, and the plan. In the real world it’s hard because a good plan is so alive that whichever part you touch changes.

4. Question: What about the theory that you should develop a pitch instead of a plan?
Answer: A good presentation is a great way to communicate the core of a plan, but it doesn’t substitute for a plan. A pitch without a plan is like a movie trailer without a movie. The plan and the pitch should work together. Which comes first is chicken and egg, a matter of personal style, but it’s crazy to have a pitch without a plan, or, if you’re aiming high in the investment world, a plan without a pitch.
VCs like the contrarian buzz they get when they say they want the pitch instead of the plan, but they’re really always assuming there’s a plan in the background, aren’t they? They’ll probably have some analyst read it. We hear about some rare exceptions, but they are interesting for just that, they are so rare.
Furthermore, the whole pitch versus plan discussion is limited to the exclusive top of the pyramid: the 5,000 or so deals that get VC funding in an average year plus another 25,000 or so that get angel funding. For the other twenty-six million or so businesses in this country, planning is vital and a pitch is an excellent part of the planning process, not a replacement for it.

5. Question: What’s the optimal process for writing a business plan?
Answer: Grab whatever part gets your attention first and get going. Understand that it’s not sequential it’s iterative, and a good plan is never done. Some people do the numbers, then the concepts, most people do concepts first, but it doesn’t matter. Planning isn’t a waiting room where you sit until you’re done. Build it in parts, mix and match, choose items from a menu. If you like, do a sales forecast and see where that leads you.
My favorite process starts with what you want for the business on the long term, moves to establishing a conceptual identify: what are you best at, how do you want the world to distinguish your business from all others. Then it goes to the marketing: what message, to whom, through what media. Then it goes to sales forecast, costs, expenses, and last but frequently most important, cash flow. Key concept: a good business plan is never done.

6. Question: What are some of the common mistakes?
Answer: The worst by far is focusing on the plan instead of planning. This generates the idea that you create a plan as a document, and the related misunderstanding that the plan is for somebody else. You don’t postpone life while you’re developing a plan; you’re always developing the plan. In the meantime, “Get going.” Here are some other common mistakes:
o Blue-sky blurry: lots of strategic thinking without any hard facts. Planning requires specifics: dates, deadlines, responsibility assignments.
o Trying to do everything. I use the rule of displacement: everything you do rules out something else.
o Thinking that being the lowest price option is important. It isn’t. The price and volume thing they talk about in economics classes is for 200-year-old lumps of coal, not your business. Use price as a statement of quality. Leave the low-price strategies for Walmart and Costco.
o Mistaking profits for cash. Profitable companies go broke all the time. You don’t spend profits. Plan your working capital well.

7. Question: When do you revise a plan?
Answer: You need to revise a plan regularly, like steering a car or walking, both of which are constant small course corrections; but you also need to stick to a strategy consistently for two to three years at least to see it working.
It’s better to have a mediocre strategy consistently applied over a long term than a series of brilliant strategies contradicting each other every six months. The hard part is knowing which is which. Don’t ever stick to the plan like running into a brick wall just because some cliche says you’re supposed to; that’s just dumb. But you also need the patience to let things work. Sometimes we keep solving the same problem repeatedly because we don’t have the patience to let the first solution work before we change to the next solution. It’s paradoxical.

8. Question: What’s the best format?
Answer: Form follows function. Planning isn’t about the “Business Plan” document, it’s about the planning process that creates management. The vast majority of business plans are for the business themselves—not to be read by outsiders, and they should stay on a computer and in bullet points and financial projections because that’s how they can be used.
Until your plan needs to go to outsiders you keep it simple and practical. I’ve been running my company with a business plan for twenty some years now, it gets revised often, discussed and managed often. But we print it when our bank asks for it—maybe every five yeras or so.
However, when you do have a “business plan event,” as we call it—meaning loan application, investment, or review for board of directors or advisors—then give your readers a break. Include charts to illustrate numbers. Use easy to read bullets. Use 12-point fonts for people over 50. Make an easy outline to follow. Include an executive summary that could stand alone if it has to because it will. Have chapters describing the company, what it sells, the market, the plan specifics —strategy, tactics, and programs, the management team, and the financial projections. Don’t be afraid to use PDF documents, they travel well and are convenient for all concerned. And let your readers decide whether they want hard copy.

9. Question: How can you project numbers for a new business with no history?
Answer: Aim for the educated guess. Educate the guess with back-up information laying out assumptions for how many potential buyers, what sort of penetration process through the market you’re projecting, and what experience shows in other industries. Look for indicator factors you can tie your numbers to, like web traffic and click-through and conversion rates for one kind of web business, or page views and ad views and ad revenues, on another.
Don’t sit around debating projections—start selling. Prove your sales projections with sales. One of the best things about working with Philippe Kahn during the early days of Borland International was how he jumped out of the planning and into the sales at a moment’s notice. Nothing made the projections more credible than the $90K bundling deal from a computer manufacturer that also put dollars in the bank account (and $90K bought more in 1983 than it does now). There’s no data substantiation better than actual sales.
Always try to get data you can pull apart into assumptions. I just used a web example, but even in the less data-rich world, you can project a restaurant sales by breaking it into meals per sitting and sittings per table and people per sitting and tables available and sittings per hour and peak hours and other hours, all of which helps to educate a guess.
Always try to add experience. People who know a business understand general scale in a way that’s extremely hard to duplicate from scratch. I understand that we’re talking about a new business here specifically, but new businesses are usually derivative. If you don’t have the experience yourself, find somebody who does, and entice them into sharing and listening a bit. Buy lunch. Use flattery. That’s why boards of advisors were invented, as a forum for lunch and flattery.
And remember: Start the planning process immediately. You’re projecting a new business only until you’ve finished the first month, and then you have plan versus actual to deal with. You’re laying down a plan so you can track the difference between plan and actual results. Your plan will always be wrong, but you’ll be tracking where, why, and in what direction.

10. Question: How do you know when you’re done?
Answer: A good business plan is never done. You’re going to be circling back around it for as long as you care about your business and want to manage it better. If your business plan is done then get out of that business, it’s dead. You’re always moving towards the horizon, and you’re business plan is always there to track where you’re going, mark the steps, and help you steer.
The absolute worst business plans ever, anywhere, are those plans in a drawer somewhere. If you’re not keeping it alive, it’s not planning; it’s just a plan. It’s history. It’s of no business value.
11. Question: What do you make of these “Web 2.0” entrepreneurs who say that the world is moving too fast for anything as “1.0” as a plan?
Answer: They’re referring to the the big fat “Business Plan” when what they need is planning. Planning is vital because it keeps you on track and mindful of important long-term strategy and objectives. A plan, on the other hand, a plan taken by itself, is only as good as the implementation it causes.
Planning is exactly what you need to deal with the speed of change. You have to remember that your business plan is always wrong—it has to be because it’s predicting the future and we’re human, we don’t do that very well. But it’s still vital because it’s the way you lay down tracks so you can follow up on the constant difference between plan and assumptions.
Without a plan, when assumptions are wrong you don’t even know what they were, how were they wrong, in what direction, and what can you do about it. With a plan, you use plan versus actual all the time to manage the difference between what you thought and what actually happened.
That’s what I love most about having a GPS unit in a car. When I screw up and take the wrong turn, the GPS still remembers where I wanted to go and tells me how to change my course. That’s what good managers do with a sound planning process.



Monday, July 30, 2007

Is growth the correct thing to be doing for your new company ?

Think Twice About Taking a Smaller Slice of a Bigger Pie
If you are an entrepreneur currently considering selling or merging your company into a larger entity, you've invariably heard the phrase,Its better to have a smaller piece of a much bigger pie.This has become just another tired business adage that people assume must be true because it has survived so long.But sometimes having a smaller piece of a bigger pie is not a better meal.
Diluting your stake in your company in order to grow can backfire dramatically if you don't consider all of the variables.
The Control Issue
Before we even get into the economics of the deal, let's first talk about what really matters the ability to control your own destiny.
When you owned the majority share of your company, you may not have had the brightest future, but it was your future to determine. Now you're talking about putting your future in someone else's hands indefinitely. Selling your company is like joining the mob, once you're in, you're not getting back out.
Having a smaller piece of the bigger pie depends on the assumption that whoever you're giving control to will be more successful at creating a profitable outcome for the company. It's not just the acquiring CEO, either. It's every person in the new organization, from the finance department to the marketing team.
Essentially, you're entrusting an entire organization to collectively make better decisions for your own business than you as an individual can. Are you ready to make that commitment?
The Exponential Outcome Issue
Now on to the economics. Surely you've figured out that owning 10% of a £15 million company is worth more than 100% of a £1 million company. What were really talking about is the probability of a bigger outcome later on, not the dollar value today.Obviously the smaller your stake in the company, the bigger the outcome needs to be in order to break even. This is especially important when taking on a round of investment. Every time you give equity away to investors, you will need a substantially larger sale in order to receive the same return.
To this point someone will invariably talk about how having a 20% stake in YouTube, selling at $1.6 billion, was not a bad deal, and it wasn't. But how many companies experience the same kind of success that YouTube did? Very few.
It's far more likely that you'll sell your company for £10 million with 100% ownership than that you will sell your company for £100 million with 10% ownership. That's because the bigger the pie, the fewer the people that can eat it.
The Faster Growth Issue
The other side of the economic issue is the question of when to take your slice of the pie. Let's assume your company is worth £10 million, which is exactly what you are doing in sales this year. You merge into a company worth £100 million and take a 10% stake in that company. In order for your 10% to double in value, the new company needs to grow to £200 million in sales.
Yet in order for your company to double in size at its present value of £10 million, you only need to do £20 million in sales. The question then becomes is it more likely that you'll be able to add £10 million in sales or that the new company will add £100 million in sales?
The difference in infrastructure, business development, and capital requirements of creating £10 million worth of growth versus £100 million worth of growth is enormous. Or said differently, it takes exponentially more effort to double the size of a big company than a small one.Taking that smaller slice could actually substantially inhibit your value if you take it too early. If you're already growing so quickly, and your future is so bright, would it be worth it to hold out longer to get a bigger slice of the bigger pie?
The Pie That's Just Right
So if all of these questions make you want to bail on the idea of taking a smaller stake, what would possibly make you think it's the right idea?
A lot of it comes down to timing. If you're at a point where you just can't handle the daily grind of managing a company, turning it over to someone else may be worthwhile, despite lost value. Or if you truly believe that you've tapped out the hyper growth opportunities then it would make sense to latch on to a faster moving train.
In a nutshell, the timing is just right when the big questions were asking here don't seem so important. If you think that the management in this new company is just right, the likelihood of a sale is around the corner, and your individual gains could never outpace what this new venture could yield, by all means go for it.

From an Article in Go big network http://www.gobignetwork.com

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Teqlo Adventure, early days in the development off an Ocean liner

“The boiling of the ocean begins with a single puddle.” by Peter Rip,

Todays post is by an early stage VC from http://www.crosslinkcapital.com/ a VC based on the West of of the USA, it is a warts and all look at one of there companies, it talks about the growing pains for a IT based start up. This is not a company looking for a way to survive, but it is a Tug looking to become an ocean liner....

The Teqlo Adventure
Few VCs admit to their misfires, though misses are more common in this business than hits. One of the reasons I write this blog is to add some transparency to an all too opaque business of private equity. It has been a while since I talked about Teqlo.com here. Some of you may be aware there have been some changes recently. Others may have been to the web site recently and said “huh?”
I figure the only authentic thing to do is to talk about this again, even when it is in an ambiguous period of re-birth. This ugly period is a re-tooling of the premise of the business to give it more clarity of purpose. It’s not fun being in the sausage phase.
First, let me admit we went down a mashup rat hole. We have a general technology for snapping together web services. "Because they can" is an insufficient answer to "why do people want to create mashups?" We failed to commit to solve a specific problem for a specific market, preferring instead the broad appeal of generality. This has changed.
No one led us down this rat hole. We led ourselves. When we realized we had to make a radical shift, we had to reignite the fire with limited fuel. We made personnel changes because the fuel demanded it, not to penalize or blame anyone. So we did the right thing. We cut, refocused, questioned everything, and sharpened our edge.
The first thing we did was toss out any pretense of solving everyone’s problem. There is an old proverb that I just invented for this situation -- “The boiling of the ocean begins with a single puddle.” We had to define our puddle. So we did.
A friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that Snapfish is driven by a product team that thinks a hypothetical mom named Emily is their user. Their design mantra is What Would Emily Want? We went out and defined our Emily.
The next thing we did was develop a hypothesis of the ways in which web application integration would please that Emily i.e., what is her pain? What is she trying to do? What web services does she use to do it? And how does she cope with using 3-5 discrete web applications to get something done? What does she do now? Then we went out and talked to a small army of Emilys. Arrgh! This will strike everyone as obvious and necessary. It is. And we hadn’t done it before because we were too busy building.
Along the way we re-learned something. Name your user. Ask her what she wants; she will tell you, and often she will surprise you. So we did and they did. One clear consequence is that you will see more emphasis on a configurable application, not a bucket o'widgets that snap together. Leading with "it's so easy to build what you want" is like making a diet fun – it is still a diet, no matter how much more fun it is. You only do it when you must.
So now the Company is heads down executing what we think is a re-jiggering of the basic components. We are packaging to solve a problem - not all problems. Nor are we packaging to provide “examples” of how you can use Teqlo to solve a problem. Nope. We have picked a customer, listened to what they want, and are hacking away to get to market.
We now have an Emily in mind, a clear sense of who our natural distribution partners are, what’s in it for them, and how this little puddle becomes a pond and then a lake. We dream of an ocean, but are navigating the puddle.
I'll tell you this much about the new direction - Web-based workflow. Teqlo is ideal for making a pre-packaged process made from web applications and stitching them together to get something done. There is no market for Cut-and-Paste, but Cut-and-Paste is the wow factor in Microsoft Office. There is no market for reconfiguring web applications, but reconfiguration is the wow factor in workflow for specific problems. Without giving away the punch line, I'll point out that workflow is what's missing from the world of on-demand software.
The site itself has not changed. It is still as confusing as it ever was. That is not important, yet. Over the next few [weeks] [months] the site will begin to molt. We will shed the mashup cocoon and emerge as very different butterfly. (We may even re-brand the site to clarify what this new application is.) This butterfly will not offer you the universal promise of integration of all web applications. This butterfly will promise a specific user community a way to meaningfully improve the way they use the Web in their daily lives. And if we do our jobs well, it will also be clear how we make money, not an insignificant question.
Of course, it might still be wrong, but that's the adventure in adventure capital.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Meetings are a waste of time are they ?


First of all, consider whether the meeting is really necessary. To have a meeting just for the sake of it is a waste of time and resource. Could the business in hand be dealt with by a telephone call, an exchange of e-mails, an audio conferencing call or a video conference or could it simply wait until the next scheduled meeting?
If a meeting is necessary, make sure that the right people are going to be there. Too many people and the meeting is likely to be unproductive; too few and affected individuals are likely to feel excluded. If the meeting is of a standing body, extra individuals may need to be invited for particular agenda items.
Make sure that everyone knows in good time when and where the meeting will be held, who will be there, and what will be discussed. If you know that someone is out of the office or on holiday until just before the meeting, make special arrangements to advise them of the relevant details.
Make sure that everyone has the agenda, minutes of the previous meeting, and all the necessary supporting papers in good time for them to be read, considered, and consulted upon.
Provide a suitable room and ambience. Everyone should be able to sit in comfort and see each other. The room should be well-lit and well-ventilated. There may be a need for a flip chart and felt-tip pens or an overhead projector or a laptop for a PowerPoint presentation. If it is appropriate, flowers or fruit or candles may provide a pleasant atmosphere.
The meeting should start on time and finish on time - and everyone should know that this will be the case. This will encourage people to come along, knowing that the meeting will not go on endlessly, and it will encourage them to arrive for the scheduled start time, knowing that if they do not they will have missed some of the business.
The opening of a meeting is important. It helps if the chair briefly sets the scene and indicates the purpose or aims of the meeting. Some organisations like to open meetings with a few moments of stillness or contemplation, so that everyone mentally puts everything else to one side and focuses on the meeting and what they want out of it.
Each agenda item should have an appropriate time allocation, reflecting the importance of the item and the amount of discussion anticipated. This timetable should be a guide and not a straitjacket - it will assist a sensible prioritisation of business, but some flexibility will be necessary in the light of the amount of discussion which is found to be necessary and the strength of feeling on the controversial issues.
Consider having one or two short breaks. This will allow people to go the toilet or have a smoke and it is likely to help everyone to stay fresh and focused. If there is real tension over an issue, a short break may clear the air and allow a new approach.
The best meetings allow everyone to have a say and allocate the resultant work among the team members. If this does not seem to be happening, you can encourage the chair of the meeting with timely interventions along these lines: "I think that Jane would like to make a point", "I'd be interested to know what John thinks", and "Does everyone have something to do?"
The very best meetings generate new and exciting ideas. This is most likely to be achieved if everyone is allowed to express a view and not cut off or put down as soon as they appear to challenge the conventional wisdom or organisational orthodoxy, if everyone is encouraged to put forward suggestions even if at first they seem novel or counter-cultural, and if everyone really listens to what is being said and judges ideas on their merits and not on the basis of who put them forward.
Effective meetings should be action-orientated. Therefore, at the end of every agenda item, it should be clear what has been agreed, who is to be responsible for giving effect to this agreement, and what is the timescale for implementation. If this is not the case, say to the chair of the meeting: "Before we leave this item, can I just be sure what we have agreed here?" or "Can we just clarify who is going to be responsible for that decision?" or "When do we want this to be done?"
The conclusion of a meeting is important. The chair should summarize what has been achieved or agreed, thank everyone for their contributions and support, and try to ensure that people leave the room feeling good about the time they have devoted to the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, you should be clear what you need to do as a result of the meeting and quickly carry out your action points or allocate them to a colleague. Delay will tend to lead to you overlooking your action points or postponing them to the last moment.
Minutes of meetings should be produced as soon as possible. They should focus on what has been agreed and make clear who is responsible for actioning each decision and what timescale is expected of that person. The minutes should be circulated not just to all those who attended, but also to those invited but unable to attend, to any other colleagues involved in any of the action points, and to others who need to know what is going on or who will be affected by the decisions.

Some notes from Roger Darlington

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Route master,Master Map maker, Resource finder

Three key roles in any Technology based company

Companies require an objective, a way to get there, someone to lead them along the road, a map or roadmap to get to there objective and the provisions(resources) to get there. I have take some liberty in titles and decided to swap names from today's terminology and define them in "Ye Olde World" terms.

Master Map Maker aka: CTO

This function defines the Technology that a company will follow, whether it is a service provider or product based organization, the technology road map it a critical tool to lay out the map by which the company is going to achieve it's goals, time needs to be taken to look at the various scenarios when laying out the road map, this will drive the other two roles.

Route Master aka: COO

The role here is to execute on the road map, making sure that all the required resources are in place or will be when they are required, scoping ahead and checking that the route chosen is the correct one, keeping an eye on market conditions and competitor intelligence. The route master will define the rate of progress and develop the infrastructure to make sure it all happens.

Resource Finder aka: CEO / CFO

All the above will take resource, this needs to be matched to the two functions already discussed,there needs to be a a good look at where the resource will come from, VC cash, Bank, debt, or the other forms of funding that is now emerging, there are many routes to the cash, all at a different cost.

This is a shallow introduction these roles but I would suggest you explore them further, I am not saying we model a company on these old world job job titles, but they do bring some light to this part of the business organization.



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The story of the "New West"

How New West got started:

This is a great article for those who want to start there own online business.

By Jonathan Weber , 6-27-07
Almost every week, I get at least one call from someone who is interested in starting an online publication in their city/ town/ region and wants to ask my advice. I try to be helpful, though since I started New West I’ve also tried to avoid punditizing about this sector and instead prove that I can actually make a successful business. But now that we’re more than two years in and doing pretty well, and interest in this kind of venture only seems to be growing, I thought I’d offer some public answers to the proverbial Frequently Asked Questions. Hopefully these thoughts are worth a bit more than you’re paying for them, but no promises!
Why did you start New West?
In 2002, I was invited to be a visiting professor of journalism at the University of Montana. When I came to Missoula, I got very interested in what seemed to be a big story - the dramatic growth and change happening in this part of the country. At the same time, I had covered and participated in the emergence of online media from the very beginning, and by 2005, with the growth of broadband and other factors, it seemed that online media was reaching a tipping point. I thought if I could marry a big story that wasn’t being covered much as such with a new approach to journalism there might be a business there.
Did you raise money from investors? How did you go about that?
Yes, we raised a high-six-figure sum from a group of angel investors. There are some friends and family in the deal, and there are also professional investors who did it as a personal angel investment. The success of the fundraising was very much dependent on my track record and reputation as editor in chief of the Industry Standard, and required relentless networking and cajoling over a period of almost a year.
Can you get venture capital funding for something like this?
In general, no. VCs are looking for very specific kinds of deals that have the potential for very high returns. Despite what common sense might suggest, the vast majority of VCs are unmoved by an idea which might have less risk and require less capital upfront but does not have the potential to return twenty or thirty or fifty times the investment in the event of smashing success. VC media deals require ‘conquer the world’ business models, and I don’t recommend trying to conquer the world. Conquer your neighborhood first.
Should I consider doing this as a non-profit?
Yes, that is worth considering in some cases. For now at least there is a lot of foundation money out there to support innovative new journalism projects, and depending on the specifics this could be an easier route. Personally I think the discipline of being a for-profit is healthy, plus I don’t want to spend the rest of my life (as opposed to only a year of my life) raising money.
What is the revenue model for New West? Advertising?
Online advertising is the core of the model, yes. However we also have several other revenue lines, including a small indoor advertising business, a custom-publishing business, and a conference & events business. Multiple revenue streams are a lovely thing. It remains difficult to make money on online advertising alone unless and until you have boatloads of traffic, and it is especially difficult to achieve that with a local site.
Speaking of traffic, how do you get the traffic? How do you market the site?
We have focused on good editorial as the key traffic driver. Good stories get links from other sites, those links help drive Pagerank on Google, and Pagerank helps drive search traffic, which drives more links. We have not done any real advertising to date. We have however also found there are limits to what you can achieve in small local markets with the kind of viral marketing described above, and we intend to be more aggressive with marketing in the next phase.
What kind of technology do you use?
We use a piece of software called Expression Engine as our main platform, you can think of it as a sophisticated high-end blogging platform or an inexpensive CMS (content management system). It is not open-source, but the license is very inexpensive and it is “open-source-ish” in its approach. It’s PhP-based and runs on top of Apache, MySQL and Linux, and we host the site at a local Web hosting company in Missoula. I do recommend Expression Engine. There are other good solutions, both commercial and open source, and if you have a good coder it can still make sense to roll your own (as we did with our event calendar sites). I do very much recommend the so-called LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PhP) as the basis for whatever you do. We use OpenAds as our ad server and it’s excellent.
Do you pay a lot of attention to search engine optimization?
Yes, though SEO is a strange world and it’s not always obvious how to approach it. What I think of as basic SEO really has to do with observing best practices on things like HTML tags and URL structure and link building, and we certainly do our best to make sure we’re doing the right things there. The next level of SEO has to do with whether the overall structure and architecture of the site is as search-friendly as it can be, and this can be a much more ambiguous issue. Beyond that there are all sorts of people trying to sell you SEO services, and many them employ tricks to game the search engines. We stay far away from anything that looks like gaming, but the distinction between “white hat” SEO and “black hat” SEO is not always entirely obvious. We have not spent money on SEO consulting but we do try to learn as much as we can and work it internally.
Do you sell your own ads, or do you use an ad network?
We sell our own ads. We do run Google Adsense on the site and we make some money from that, and we have looked at some of the other ad network options and may try some other things in the future. However, we get much, much higher CPMs on ads we sell ourselves then on anything we have seen from a network, and we expect direct sales to remain the core of the model.
Who are your main competitors?
Newspapers still dominate the local news and information business, especially outside of the major metro areas. The local newspaper here in Missoula – a Lee Enterprises paper – has been extraordinarily hostile and even unethical in its competitive response to us, though that has not been so much the case in other markets. There are various small, independent local sites that are competitors on some level but few that have any real traction. TV station and yellow pages Web sites are also becoming bigger factors in the market.
Are there other people doing what you are doing?
There are a lot of different kinds of online community journalism efforts underway these days and I’m certainly not aware of all of them. A few of my favorites are Crosscut.com in Seattle, L.A. Observed, Sun Valley Online and VillageSoup in Maine.
How big a staff do you have? Are your writers paid?
We have a full-time staff of seven, which includes managing editor Courtney Lowery, assistant managing editor Matt Frank, event calendar editor Colin Hickey, sales and marketing associate Jennifer Calhoun, designer Marshall Hibbard, a Webmaster who will start next week, and myself. We have “city editors” in each of our markets who are on contract. We also have a handful of other writers on regular monthly contracts, and we have some people we pay based on the traffic their stories generate. We also have a number of unpaid contributors.
What about citizen journalism?
We have found that the “if you build it they will come” approach to citizen journalism does not work at all. You can’t simply put up a site and invite people to come in and write stories and expect them to do so. However, we have also found there are a lot of non-professionals out there who can and will do good journalism if we work with them and encourage them. We think of this as a “high-touch” model (which depends heavily on the indefatigable energy and talent of the above-mentioned Courtney Lowery). Overall we think of our approach as “pro-am” journalism rather than “citizen journalism” or traditional professional journalism.
What about photo and video and podcasting?
We have had great success with contributed photography. We do some podcasting but find it’s a lot of work for not that much return. We have done a little video and expect to do more in the future but it requires more attention and talent then people sometimes think and it’s hard to do everything at once.
Have you looked at aggregating local blogs and other kinds of content rather than producing it all yourselves?
Good question! Aggregation is a key function of almost any publication these days; no one can pretend to be the source of all news and information. We have found though that aggregating news and headlines from other publications – even if we do it by hand and try to be clever about it - is not what drives readership for New West. We have also found that simple automated feed aggregation of local bloggers and the like is not very useful; you lose all context. On the other hand there are some very interesting new efforts in this area, including Steven Johnson’s OutsideIn and Lisa Williams’ Placeblogger, and I’m sure different forms of aggregation will be an important part of our future.
Do you consider what you do to be “journalism?” Or is it blogging, or something else?
The short answer is, yes, it’s journalism. The longer answer is, I don’t think discussions about labels are generally that interesting, and people can call it what they want. The content on New West ranges from traditional hard-news reporting, to analysis, to straight opinion, to more personalized blogging. We are not big believers in the formulas of “objectivity” traditionally employed by American newspapers – one person said this, another person said that, we reporters have no view on who is closer to the truth. We aim to be conversational in style and open about point of view.
We do believe in the core principles of traditional journalistic ethics: we strive to be fair and accurate, we correct errors of fact promptly, we welcome counterpoints and opposing views, we clearly distinguish what’s paid advertising, and we aim to avoid conflicts of interest and disclose them when they do exist.
How do you handle comments and contributed content? Do you review them before publication? How do you prevent inappropriate things from being posted?
We do not review comments in advance, nor do we require registration for comments, but we do require that people agree to the terms of service. If those are violated - with personal attacks, for example, or inappropriate language, or copyrighted material – we will remove the comments. Online arguments can easily get very vituperative and we wrestle with how to deal with this. On the one hand we are very reluctant to remove comments. On the other hand a lot of readers don’t want to read or participate in nasty arguments and we have to respect them too.
Stories posted to the main pages of New West either come from a New West writer that we know and work with, or they are reviewed by an editor. Stories posted to the “unfiltered” section require the user to be registered but otherwise are not reviewed prior to publication.
Generally we have had relatively few problems with malicious and inappropriate contributions. Spam is a much bigger headache.
Do you intend to do anything in print?
We’re considering a variety of ideas that might involve print, yes. (Now that I’m descending into PR-speak I should probably wrap up.)
Is the business working? Are you making money?
Yes, the business is working and we expect to reach profitability later this year. We think the opportunities are large and growing. We’re also very proud of some of the journalism we’ve done; we’ve won a few big awards and I think we’re making a real contribution to the conversation in this region.
Are you going to get rich?
I hope so. But if getting rich is the only goal I’d suggest real estate or Wall Street.
Anything else I should be aware of before I take the plunge?
Undoubtedly. But I’ve given away about as much as I can for the price.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The use of Lean manufacturing at Zetex Semiconductors UK.

It is good to read about a company who is doing well in the UK, in a very competitive market, interesting read, I met with Zetex's Operations Guru about three years ago, interesting company, with a strong management team......

Zetex Semiconductors, Diet of lean and chips

Manufacturing in Action, Source :
The ManufacturerZone

In an industry increasingly dominated by Far East manufacturing, Zetex Semiconductors is holding its own – and making impressive strides on its lean journey, as Mick Conlon told Bernie Sheehan
In November Zetex Semiconductors became a certified partner of Osram’s ‘LED light for you’ network, designed to provide a worldwide source of technical expertise in LED lighting. Osram – one of the world’s leading lighting manufacturers – holds a number of key patents in this area and the certification will give Zetex early access to the very latest LED-based lighting projects and technologies – and help it to shape future solutions.
Zetex offers a growing range of IC (integrated circuit) products. As well as expanding into lighting – specifically the new generation of high-brightness LEDs for room lighting and car headlights – its power management products are used in applications from cellular phones to digital cameras, hand-held games and laptops, while its signal management family includes audio, video and direct broadcast by satellite (DBS) products – such as analog and digital audio amplifiers and ‘low noise block’ (LNB) products for satellite dishes. The company also produces a wide range of discrete semiconductor products, where a single device (a transistor, a diode, etc) is put on a piece of silicon – compared to a number of devices integrated together, as in an IC.
Zetex employs more than 450 people in the UK, and 750 worldwide. Its annual turnover was £67.2 million last year, up 17 per cent on 2005. Two years ago, the company merged two of its UK wafer fabrication plants at one site, near Manchester, where it now manufactures six-inch and four-inch silicon wafers in separate operations. “The old site was a mile away, on the top floor of a 19th century cotton mill, and was no longer suitable for our needs,” said Mick Conlon, UK operations manager.
Having reduced its cost base with the site consolidation, Zetex turned its attention to improving productivity. “We’re a company that is still manufacturing in the UK in an industry where manufacturing is now predominantly in the Far East, so we were feeling rather vulnerable,” explained Conlon. Mid-2005 Zetex attended a seminar with lean guru Dr Nick Rich at Cardiff University, specially organised by the NMI (National Microelectronics Institute) for the semiconductor industry. It provided an opportunity to get together with all the other ‘wafer fabs’ to discuss best practice. “We’re a very insular industry, very complex and high-tech – we didn’t want anyone telling us how to manufacture semiconductors, but the seminar opened our eyes to the possibilities of lean.”
Following a year of information gathering, Zetex began its lean implementation, focusing first on the manufacturing organisation. “We blanket bombed employees with information on what lean is, how it works and what its benefits can be,” continued Conlon. “Then we started initiatives like 5S in the offices and manufacturing areas.” The main focus remains education and the company has just completed a two-day manufacturing-wide initiative. The production line stopped and everyone on shifts attended a six-hour lean session, including a lean manufacturing game and 5S seminars as well as general health and safety training.
“We got very good feedback, particularly because we didn’t bring in external consultants, we organised it all ourselves,” said Conlon. “The key for our people was the idea of movement from batch to single flow manufacturing. People got a feel for why takt time and kanbans are important, and also understood the quality benefits of checking their own work rather than someone else doing it further up the line. We’ve seen lots of improvements by soaking up and applying lean principles over the last 18 months – we’ve cut cycle time by nearly 50 per cent in and on the yield front we have cut scrap by six per cent in 12 months. Delivery-on-time is now approximately 97 per cent. In the second quarter of 2007 we will start value stream mapping.”
To support the lean implementation, Zetex has been working with the Manufacturing Institute at nearby Salford Quays. It has enrolled shopfloor supervisors on team leadership programmes, high-potential managers on the MSc in manufacturing leadership and senior executives on the lean leadership programme. “Manufacturing has been the core of our lean program so far but we want to roll it out right across the business.”
Meanwhile, the company continues to roll out new products – more than 100 in 2006 alone. The direct broadcast by satellite market is growing and customers are demanding better energy usage from products. Zetex is addressing this by launching new lines with lower power use and more functionality. “Over the next three to four years the IC side of the business will require a very sophisticated toolset to produce the designs we require which will need foundry wafer fabs,” said Conlon. “We will continue to design internally, but source externally.”
The UK sites will then focus on discrete component production. “A lot of IP [intellectual property] in discrete components is tied up in the manufacturing processes rather than the design. Many wafer fabs are sourcing discrete components from the Far East, but we see value in leveraging the processes we have here in the UK and we will design and manufacture the products internally. Applying lean principles will be vital in making that decision the right one.”



Friday, July 20, 2007

Case study off modern manufacturing in an old and historic Industry

This is an article summarised from "The Manufacturer.com" an interesting website.....although many of the techniques talked about were in use in the Semiconductor Industry 15 to 20 years ago, but it is still good to see them being applied well in this company who are making an old product new....

David Bailey is factory manger of Twining’s Andover plant where 230 staff are dedicated to the production of specialty teas. The factory shift patterns cover seven days a week to process, blend and dispatch 1.8 billion tea bags and 3000 tonnes of leaf tea each year. The product range is segmented into Classics, which are refined, traditional tasting teas, followed by the more delicate Light Classics. Aromatics are richly scented teas, of which Earl Grey is the most famous example. Then there are combinations of fine teas with fruit or flower flavours, followed by reserve loose tea blends for true connoisseurs. Output from Andover is destined principally for the 120 countries that represent Twining’s export market.“Specialty teas account for just 10 per cent of the overall market, but that is the focus of our business here. We have deliberately positioned ourselves at the opposite end of the spectrum away from high volume commodity black tea blends,” Bailey explained. “First and foremost, Twining is a marketing company that seeks to capitalise on the value of the brand and centuries of expertise in the art of tea blending. In specialty teas, it is all about finding the right blend that will become a lifelong favourite. We would love, for example, to come up with another Earl Grey, which is a major part of our sales.” One of the principal factors that underpins Twining’s success is the sheer breadth of the range of specialty tea varieties and blends that make up the Twining’s portfolio. “While other manufacturers are seeking to simplify production, our position in the marketplace dictates that we do the reverse. Managing complexity is the secret of our success and managing more complexity is what the future holds.”Bailey joined Twining four years ago after a long manufacturing career with blue chip companies such as Colgate. His challenge was to transform the Andover facility into a world class manufacturing operation. Bailey believes that it is critical to start out understanding the current situation relative to a vision of the future. “When I joined the company, the first task was to measure the site’s performance. This site came in as a traditional manufacturing environment of long runs, low OEE and rigid demarcation on the production lines,” he explained. From a manufacturing perspective the site needs to be geared to produce numerous different blends in small runs. Machine downtime, critical in our early development, is thus less relevant than fast changeovers, which are becoming ever more critical. “Our broad product range is a key strength in the marketplace and in future there will be more new product development, which implies shorter and shorter runs,” he explained. One of his most important accomplishments to date has seen the average changeover time on the 20 different lines reduced by over 50 per cent. Given that each line must make 15 to 20 changeovers every week, the potential for enhanced productivity is immediately apparent. Single minute exchange of die, (SMED) is thus a key process. “As you shorten changeover time you can do shorter runs and then start to reduce inventory. It is also a key process in enabling us to get closer to the customer as it means that we can make to order. As soon as the product is date coded it is starting to age so a fast throughput is essential,” he explained. SMED is one of several methodologies that have been systematically applied to the site. He explained that mapping out a strategy to attain Twining’s vision has involved three main approaches. Total productive management (TPM) is the first. He believes that maintenance, which is often used in place of management, typically sends any director to sleep and so prefers a different meaning to the accepted phraseology. “For me, TPM is fundamentally about engaging people on the shopfloor and enabling them to use OEE (operating equipment effectiveness) as a tool to understand and overcome the barriers that are preventing the organisation from becoming world class,” he commented. Secondly, he has sought to implement a mind shift to continuous flow manufacturing. “This has allowed us to seek out improvements in many areas such as transport, inventory, waste, over production and over processing defects,” he said. The final approach has involved implementing what Bailey terms as ‘Open Socio-technical systems’. “Basically, this means designing your people development processes in line with your technical processes. It is the glue that holds everything together and means making sure that the leadership puts in place values and a vision driven culture that involves and engages people. For example, we believe in involving our technicians and operators in every stage of the design and installation of new machinery. If the first time an operator sees a machine is when it is installed, you have missed the opportunity to gain their improvement ideas and will never obtain optimum performance.” When Bailey joined Twining the factory was operating at around 40 OEE on an index of 100. Today the plant as a whole measures 60 OEE while the high speed, high volume lines, that produce the major volumes, run continuously at around 70 OEE. His goal is to see the plant operating at 80 to 85 OEE, which is seen as world class performance. “Then we will be able to truly describe ourselves as a world class manufacturing organisation. To close the gap, what we need now is a shift to higher level problem solving and that will be the next step forward. Facilitating a culture change that enables our teams to solve problems for themselves has taken a long time to get up and running, but now it is in place, it is worth its weight in gold,” he concluded.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Resolve Conflict if you need too

A conflict resolution tool box by Roger Darlington:

Be calm. Conflict usually engenders strong emotions and even anger but, in such a state, you are unlikely to be particularly rational or in the mood for compromise.
Always show respect. However much you disagree with someone, attack the argument, not the person. To use a sporting metaphor: play the ball, not the man. As Nelson Mandela explained in his autobiography "Long Walk To Freedom": "I defeated my opponents without dishonouring them".
Be magnanimous. In truth, most conflict is over matters of little substance and often it is mostly pride or status that is at stake. Consider conceding the point to your opponent. This will save you time and energy and you can concentrate on the important issues of difference rather than the smaller ones. Also, if your concession is done with good grace and even some humour, it will disarm your opponent and make him/her look small-minded by comparison.
Discuss or debate. So often, conflict is created and/or maintained because there is no real discussion or debate. We make assumptions about the other person's point of view and willingness to compromise which might be quite wrong. We avoid discussion or debate either because we fear conflict (the situation will rarely be as bad as you fear) or we worry about 'losing' (in which case, you've already 'lost').
Apply rationality. Much conflict is not about substance but perception. Try to clear through the perception to discover and agree on how things really are. You won't manage this without discussion and you may need to research the facts and seek evidence. What is really worrying the other person? Has another person or company had a similar experience which might prove revealing and helpful?
Acknowledge emotions. Facts alone - however rational - cannot resolve much conflict because how people perceive those facts is coloured by their emotions. It's no good denying those emotions, so make an effort to see the situation the way the other person does and to acknowledge their emotions before endeavouring to move beyond them. One way of doing this is to use phrases such as "Let me try to explain how I see things" or "Please allow me to explain why this is so important to me". Then reverse these points: "I would like to understand better how you see this situation" and "Please explain to me what is important to you in this problem".
Be aware of displacement. Especially where anger is concerned, sometimes the source of a conflict is not what it appears to be, as anger is displaced. In the domestic context, for instance, an argument about the washing up could in fact be an argument about lack of affection. It's not easy to spot displacement, but a warning sign is when matters that do not normally cause conflict now appear to do so.
Be precise. Someone might propose that something be done "sooner rather than later". His colleague might react against this assuming that we are talking of matter of weeks. When asked what exactly is meant, it might be that the first person explains that he had in mind a programme of several months - so, no argument. It might be necessary to make savings in the family budget. Instead of throwing everything into doubt and caused unncessary upset, be focused. Perhaps it will be necessary to cancel some subscriptions or to postpone a planned holiday for a year.
Think creatively. Try presenting different types of solution from those so far rejected by one of the parties. For example, in the Sunningdale talks on the future of Northern Ireland in 1973, the British and Irish Governments both wanted their view on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland to be stated first in the agreement; the solution was to divide the page in two and present the two statements side by side, so that they both had equal status. In a particularly tough set of negotiations that I led as a national trade union official, I would not accept certain words in the proposed agreement but I allowed them to be used in the covering letter to the agreement.
Change the wording. It's amazing how often we disagree about words and how a change of words can change how people view a situation. Instead of criticising a work colleague for "a mistake", perhaps you could invite him to discuss "a learning opportunity". If two parties to a dispute don't like their eventual agreement to be called an agreement, try calling it a settlement or a resolution or a concordat.
Change the environment. It's no coincidence that some of the toughest political negotiations of all times - for instance those between the Israelis and the Palestinians - often take place in locations like Camp David in the USA or a wood in Scandinavia. I was a professional trade union official for 24 years and many of the most productive negotiations between management and union took place in a neutral venue like a hotel. Sometimes even simply moving from an office to a coffee bar or from a house to a restaurant can make all the difference.
Compromise. This is an obvious point but frequently neglected. If you can't agree on whether to see a romantic comedy or an action thriller at the cinema, see one film this weekend and the other the next weekend. If you can't agree on whether to have a city holiday or a beach holiday, try a two-centre break.
Consider staging. Much conflict is about change. Introducing change in stages often makes it more palatable to the person uncomfortable about it (and can make it more manageable for the person promoting it).
Consider sequencing. Much conflict is created and/or aggravated by lack of trust. Building trust takes time and proof of goodwill. So consider introducing an agreement in stages whereby each action is dependent on another action.
Experiment or test. Too often we argue in ignorance, convinced that our prescription or proposal is the best with no real evidence. Have a trial and review how things go or try two or three ways of doing something and have an honest appraisal of what works best.
Seek mediation. This is a process whereby a neutral third party consults with those involved in a conflict to see if the problem can be presented in a way which facilitates a resolution. The mediator may simply listen and ask questions or he/she may suggest other ways of looking at the problem or even possible solutions. Classically this is approach used in most relationship counselling.
Seek conciliation. This is a similar process to mediation but a little more activist on the part of the third party who will normally attempt to find a solution by proposing a 'third way'.
Seek arbitration. This is a process involving a third party who, from the beginning, is invited by the conflicting parties to propose a solution. The two parties may have originally agreed merely to consider the proposed solution (non-binding arbitration) or they may have agreed in advance to accept the decision of the arbitrator (binding arbitration). This approach is often used in industrial disputes.
If absolutely necessary, apply authority or force. If mediation, conciliation and arbitration do not work or the parties are not willing to try them, conflict can be resolved in a fashion by one party imposing his/her solution through authority (she is the parent or he is the line manager) or through force (calling in the police or obtaining a legal injunction). Such a 'settlement' will cause resentment in the party at the receiving end, but sometimes this is the only way to resolve a conflict and move on. I can tell you - as a former trade union negotiator - that sometimes people in conflict want someone to impose a solution, not because they themselves oppose the solution but because they do not want to lose 'face' or be seen by their constituents to have 'given in'.
If all else fails, wait. Most problems change over time. Either the problem solves itself because circumstances change or one's attitude to the problem changes as the heat dies down and other matters assume more prominence. Therefore, if one cannot solve a dispute and its resolution can wait, maybe the best approach is to leave things alone for a while.
Accept the situation. Conflict is not like mathematics. There is not always a solution waiting to be found and, if there is a solution, it is unlikely to be the only one. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung once wrote that "The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown."

Finally, although this advice is about resolving conflict, be aware that conflict cannot always be avoided (especially when fundamental differences, as opposed to perceived differences, are involved) and not all conflict is negative (sometimes it 'clears the air'). The important thing is to keep wasteful and damaging conflict to a minimum and, when it does occur, use the relevant techniques to resolve or at least ease it.



Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Morning walk around

"Walking the Job"
I have found that the morning "walk the job" is a powerful tool for you tool kit, when was the last time you walked the floor? not just to the coffee machine or to your "mates " desk, this has been spoken about at length by the management gurus in there "walk the job management theories" they had some of it correct but it is not the panacea to all ills in the company , but it does help a lot:

Some of my thoughts on the matter:

  • Be prepared to give answers on the topical subjects/ questions that are being discussed in the organization,

  • Have a daily sound bite prepared, if it was a good day in making orders or shipments say it!!

  • Get to know the folk you will be talking to, show a personal interest, they work for you, you trust them, (book: The CEO and the Monk by R.B. Catell, Kenny Moore, and Glenn Rifkin )

  • If you are asked or you see something that needs to get fixed and you commit to doing it, treat it like you would if a customer had the same problem, get it fixed in a timely manner and make sure they know you got it fixed.

  • Be prepared to commit time to walking the job regularly, if you are just starting to, folk will want to talk with you, if you are going into an area where there is supervision, always talk to the supervisor first support his position there if you can.

  • Encourage informal exchanges with the folks, let them know you are interested in them as individuals, but also seed the exchanges with questions or information on the project at hand.

  • Enjoy yourself

When you walk and talk you will get a dose of reality this will help you to make better balanced choices, for you, your employees and company.



Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Making a good presentation

Some wisdom on presenting live to an audience

Use PowerPoint if the facilities are available. Although some speakers seem to have taken an aversion to PowerPoint, it is so convenient and ensures that your presentation has a clear structure and something for your listeners to take away.

Be very clear about how much time you have - and stick to that time in preparing your presentation. It's very difficult to 'cut' a PowerPoint presentation at the event itself, so it's a great mistake to run out of time. Most presenters prepare too much material; but nobody ever complains that a presentation was too short (it always allows more time for questions).

Be very clear about your key message - and ensure that everything in your presentation is both consistent with, and supportive of, that key message. You should be able to articulate the message in a phrase or a sentence and indeed you might want to use that phrase or sentence in one of your first slides, or one of your last, or even both.

E-mail your presentation to the event organisers in advance. Ask them to load it onto a laptop, run it through, check that it looks fine, and confirm that with you. Then you don't have to worry about the technology when you arrive at the venue; you can concentrate on the delivery of your material. Also it enables the event's organisers to run off copies of your slides, so that they are available to them in good time.

The first slide should announce the title of your presentation (try to make it catchy), the event and date, and your name and position. This may seem terribly obvious, but many speakers miss off some of this basic information and then weeks later listeners (or their colleagues back at the organisation) are not clear who made the presentation or when.

The second slide should seize the attention of your audience for your presentation. It could be the central proposition of your presentation or a conventional wisdom that you wish to challenge or a relevant or witty quote from a leader in your field. If it is amusing or controversial or both, so much the better.

The third slide should set out the structure of your presentation. The default structure should consist of three themes that you intend to examine. For a very short presentation, there might only be time for two; if you want to look at more than five areas, write a book instead.

Each theme should be the subject of a small number of slides. Again, a good working assumption is that three slides for each theme is about right. Less than two and it isn't substantive enough to be a separate theme; more than five and it should probably be broken up into two themes.

Each slide should have clear heading. A question is often a good way of winning attention - but, in that case, make sure you answer the question in the body of the slide.
Each slide should normally contain around 25-35 words, unless it is a quote (when you might use more) or contains an illustration (when you will probably use less). Too many words and your audience will have trouble reading the material; too few words and you're likely to be flashing through the slides and spending too much time clicking the mouse.

Each bullet point should consist of an intelligible phrase, rather than merely a word or two that is meaningless on its own or conversely a complete sentence that is better delivered orally. So, for instance, do use "Focus on profitable and growing markets" rather than simply "Focus" or "Markets" or "It is necessary to focus on those markets which are profitable and growing rather than those which are loss-making and declining". Consider this test: your slides should make sense and be useful to someone who was not present at your presentation.
Make appropriate use of pictures. It's a good idea to break up text with illustrations and it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The last slide should set out all appropriate contact details: certainly e-mail address and possibly snail mail address, the web site of your organisation, and any personal website or weblog if you have one.

Make copies of your slides available. It is a matter of preference whether you do this at the beginning of your presentation or at the end. If your listeners have copies at the beginning, they can take notes simply by annotating the slides, instead of having to note down all the information on the slides. On the other hand, you might feel that, if they can see in advance the slides you are going to use, you lose the element of control or surprise. It might depend on the content of the presentation: if you are going to show detailed tables or graphs with lots of figures, your audience will probably find it easier to have a copy on their lap. It might depend on the circumstances of the presentation: if there is a large audience, people at the back may not be able to see the screen clearly and would really appreciate having copies of the slides.



Friday, July 13, 2007

Some steps of wisdom from Bill Burnham on raising VC money

10 Pragmatic Steps To Raising Venture Capital

This 10 step method is to help you get your foot in the door of a high probability VC. Once you get in the door, the rest is up to you, I would like to thank Bill Burnham from for summarising his wisdom and putting this list together, Bill is running a hedge fund called Inductive Capital, and before that was a major VC, so he knows what he is talking about first hand.

1. Prepare a 10-15 page power point presentation and a 1-2 page executive summary. That’s it. Don’t bother with a 100 page business plan, no VC is going to read it. Make sure the documents cover: stage, location, team, market, market size, business, business model, capital structure, and capital required.
2. Get a list of VC funds. There are many association that are on the web for your own geographical location
3. Go through the raw list and identify those VC firms that make investments in your sector, stage, and city. You can do this by going to each firm’s website and reviewing their high level firm description and noting their location. As a general rule, it’s pointless pitching an early stage company to a Silicon Valley VC if you are in Alabama.
4. Go through this initial subset of firms and identify specific partners at each firm that focuses on making investments in your specific sector and stage of development. You can do this by going to the websites at venture firms and reviewing the portfolio’s of the individual partners. Don’t send your software company pitch to the partner with 10 semi-conductor deals, it’s a waste of time.
5. After you identify a list of specific partners at specific firms investing in your specific stage and sector, then try to identify how many boards each of those partners are currently on. You can usually do this by just reading their bio or just looking at the firm’s portfolio company list. Sort the list by fewest board seats first.
6. Try to identify when each partner’s VC company raised its last fund. You can usually figure this out by looking at the firm’s press releases. The more recent a new fund has been raised the better.
7. Priority rank the partner list with the goal of having the partners with the strongest sector focus, the least number of board seats at the firms with the newest funds at the top. It also helps to rank this list by age, because younger partners are less likely to have significant “recycled” deal flow and therefore more open to newcomers.
8. Figure out if you know someone who knows that partner. For example, go to LinkedIn and try to figure out if you know someone within 1 or 2 degrees that knows the partner. If you do and you are pretty sure you can get a warm intro, call in that favour ASAP.
9. If you strike out on a warm intro, do a Google Search and try to figure out if the partner A) has a blog or B) has recently said something mildly intelligent in some other public forum. Then send that partner a personalized e-mail indicating deep respect and appreciation for whatever they said that was mildly intelligent. Mention that you noticed they invested in Companies X&Y (boards they are currently on) and you thought they might be interested in taking a look at your company because it’s in the same sector they are focused on and has a very promising approach to the market. Attach your 2 page summary to the e-mail.
10. If they respond, follow up ASAP on whatever they ask you to do (usually to talk with their Associate or someone else at their firm). Congrats, you are in! Don’t screw it up. If they don’t respond, don’t bother re-sending your e-mail 4 times, it’s a “no” and you should move on.

There are plenty of VCs in the sea.
These 10 steps do not guarantee getting a meeting, but if properly executed they will significantly improve your chances. If you can’t get a meeting after going through all of this, then chances are you need to do some serious work on your idea/company.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Induction on day one of your new job

Ever thought what it is like joining a start up ? read on this captures your first day at a start up company, slightly tongue in cheek but it gives a good impression of what to expect, forget the complex induction procedures or the soft start, it's hit the road running and in top gear or ............

Welcome to Day One of your New Startup Job
Welcome to the first day of your new startup job! We're so excited that you've decided to be part of our venture. You're going to find that compared to your old job at a big, stodgy corporation, a startup is a totally different world.
To get you acclimated to the change, let me walk you through the perks and benefits of your new job while you settle in.

We have a Premium Coffee Service
Oh, you want to know where the coffee is?
We have an amazing service that offers premium coffees and a full assortment of cakes and snacks. It's called Starbucks, and it's conveniently located two blocks down the street. They aren't around as early or late as we are, but if you can use the service, I would highly recommend it.

Your New Computer is Already Configured
No need to worry about setting up your new computer, you already own it. It's the laptop you brought from home. The great news is that you won't need to waste any time configuring your email client or figuring out your new bookmarks.
What's even better is you are free to take it home with you and work throughout the entire weekend like the rest of us are going to.

Your Phone Number is Easy to Remember
In addition to your computer, your direct phone line is already set up. As it happens, you already know the number because it's the same as your cell phone number. Why bother adding additional lines with money we don't have when you have a perfectly good phone on you at all times?

You Now have Three Assistants
Maybe your last company thought you only needed one full-time assistant to handle your inbound calls, your calendar and your entire travel schedule. At our startup, we've got three. Their names are Outlook, Treo, and Expedia.
Between the three of them they will handle all of the work that you thought only one full-time person could handle before. They will always be available to you and will never complain. Feel free to use them as much as you see fit.

You Set your own Travel Budget
No need to fill out any requisitions for travel or any expense reports. We're too innovative to worry about all that paperwork. In fact, you can pretty much tell us what your travel budget is going to be. After all, it's dictated by how much cash you have in your wallet and how much gas you have in your car. Assuming those two are full, you can go as far as they will take you.

Take as much Vacation as You Want
Not only do we not worry about travel budgets, we don't even budget for vacation. Sure, your last company made you count the number of sick days you had available and kept you from taking as much time as you really needed. We're the exact opposite you can take off as much time as you need and never worry about it.
While you're planning that vacation, remember that we're working Monday through Sunday from sunrise to sundown. None of us have taken time off in the last three years, but we'd be thrilled to see you take a two-week siesta to relax after you've been hard at work for three months in a row.

Our Hours are Super Flexible
Aside from not tracking vacation, we don't even track when you come or go. Maybe your last boss was looking at his watch when you showed up fifteen minutes late. Not us! We don't care what time you show up or what time you leave. So long as you're working every waking moment of every day of the week, the hours are totally up to you.
We don't care if you come in on Sunday at 8:00 AM or 1:00 PM. We're just so focused on getting this startup off the ground we can't worry about things like normal business hours. Some of us haven't slept in the last day and a half so we've lost track of time altogether.

You Call the Shots
We're not about telling you what to do. That's why we hired you, because we knew you were tired of having your boss lead you around like a puppy. At our new startup, you get to make your own schedule and call all of the shots. We hired you because we knew you wanted this type of responsibility, and now you've got it!

I'm sure by now you're thinking this is simply nirvana. Not only do you get to run your own show, set your own schedule and enjoy all of the perks of a startup, you also get the opportunity to strike it rich with your new stock options.
Just don't forget that you really aren't going to get paid in cash this week. Or next week. Or next month. Isn't a startup great?

from an article by Wil Schroter, CEO and start up guru

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

One thing you need to do is sell

You need to sell things

You start a company for many reasons, but one of the basic functions in a company is that you must sell your product to make money, to pay your way in the world, you can do this by different sales channels, reps, distributors, online, or cold calling, the list is nearly endless, but there are a few basic things you can do to make sure what ever channel you use, you can make sure it is effective>

Case study:

I just sold my house last week, and I did not use the Estate agent's services, as I feel they are a rip off, the quality of service they provide in the UK is very poor, in the US it is different and it does add value to the process, but in the UK it is giving away a large amount of money for not much in return. I followed a few basic steps:

  • I knew the market value of the property, from the records of local sales, I knew what I would accept for the sale of the property, so I fixed the price at just below the market value for a quick sale and the money I saved on fees made it up to the market value.

  • I knew that the position was good, main street with plenty off exposure, so I marketed the property there and online. I knew that there would be plenty of traffic passing the house and hence the exposure of my advertisement was good. If I did not have a such a good position or place, I would have suffered from lack of exposure to my advert.

  • I knew the house well, so when there was prospective customers viewing the property, I could present the house to it's best and most attractive.

I may not have sold the house as quick as I did, if I did not have a good location and a strong market demand, I believe in other reasons why, God wanted to move me on to my new role so he was giving me a helping hand.

So to give you the professional spin on selling 101, I have included a summary below of key points, using the 4P's of marketing, and remember as an entrepreneur you will be selling your company every minute of your life, to your family, to your supplier base, to your investors and to your customers, so this is a very good skill to have in your tool box.

In popular usage, "marketing/ selling" is the promotion of products, especially advertising and branding. However, in professional usage the term has a wider meaning which recognizes that marketing is customer centered. Products are often developed to meet the desires of groups of customers or even, in some cases, for specific customers. E. Jerome McCarthy divided marketing into four general sets of activities. His typology has become so universally recognized that his four activity sets, the Four Ps, have passed into the language.
The four Ps are:
Product: The product aspects of marketing deal with the specifications of the actual good or service, and how it relates to the end-user's needs and wants. The scope of a product generally includes supporting elements such as warranties, guarantees, and support.
Pricing: This refers to the process of setting a price for a product, including discounts. The price need not be monetary - it can simply be what is exchanged for the product or service, e.g. time, or attention.
Promotion: This includes advertising, sales promotion, publicity, and personal selling, and refers to the various methods of promoting the product, brand, or company.
Placement or distribution refers to how the product gets to the customer; for example, point of sale placement or retailing. This fourth P has also sometimes been called Place, referring to the channel by which a product or service is sold (e.g. online vs. retail), which geographic region or industry, to which segment (young adults, families, business people), etc.
These four elements are often referred to as the marketing mix.[2] A marketer can use these variables to craft a marketing plan. The four Ps model is most useful when marketing low value consumer products. Industrial products, services, high value consumer products require adjustments to this model. Services marketing must account for the unique nature of services. Industrial or B2B marketing must account for the long term contractual agreements that are typical in supply chain transactions. Relationship marketing attempts to do this by looking at marketing from a long term relationship perspective rather than individual transactions.
As a counter to this, Morgan, in Riding the Waves of Change (Jossey-Bass, 1988), adds "Perhaps the most significant criticism of the 4 Ps approach, which you should be aware of, is that it unconsciously emphasizes the inside–out view (looking from the company outwards), whereas the essence of marketing should be the outside–in approach". Even so, having made this important caveat, the 4 Ps offer a memorable and quite workable guide to the major categories of marketing activity, as well as a framework within which these can be used.
Seven Ps
As well as the standard four Ps (Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place), services marketing calls upon an extra three, totaling seven and known together as the extended marketing mix. These are:
People: Any person coming into contact with customers can have an impact on overall satisfaction. Whether as part of a supporting service to a product or involved in a total service, people are particularly important because, in the customer's eyes, they are generally inseparable from the total service. As a result of this, they must be appropriately trained, well motivated and the right type of person. Fellow customers are also sometimes referred to under 'people', as they too can affect the customer's service experience, (e.g., at a sporting event).
Process: This is the process(es) involved in providing a service and the behaviour of people, which can be crucial to customer satisfaction.
Physical evidence: Unlike a product, a service cannot be experienced before it is delivered, which makes it intangible. This, therefore, means that potential customers could perceive greater risk when deciding whether to use a service. To reduce the feeling of risk, thus improving the chance for success, it is often vital to offer potential customers the chance to see what a service would be like. This is done by providing physical evidence, such as case studies, testimonials or demonstrations.

I hope this helps out, my friends from Wikipedia were a big help in supplying some of the information.