There are a whole variety of purposes for a website. Some are for vanity, others to build community, some just for venting. But more then a few are about trying to build a business. Especially those website builders that are interested in search engine optimization, building a business is a very common site objective. With that in mind, I am often asked where to go to for resources on getting started.
I often start a discussion about ‘How do I start a website?’ with an exploration of what the objectives and priorities are of a website, before going into the how to.
But assuming supporting your business is your primary objective, here are a few key resources I would recommend:
- High level business plan suggestion -
MS Word Business Plan Template from Guy Kawasaki.
If you don’t know who Guy is, you should. He is a thought leader in how business should be done in this millennium. Guy started his success at Apple Computer, but along the way has become a successful venture capitalist, and therefore has sat through many many business presentations good and bad.
I am listening to Guy’s Reality Check (not Reality Bites the movie by Ben Stiller), and the book is a collection of Guy’s blog posts over the years. These blog posts and his book echo so much the experiences of many who have been successful in growing a business and getting capital investment. He has learned what works from the perspective of what it will get someone to write a check and do a deal.
This blog post is actually a collection of resources for a Pitch (to ask for investment funding) framework, business model spreadsheet and business plan tempate. They are templates and suggestions on how to structure your communication with brevity and clarity. The key takeaway I keep sharing is: most people want to know you know your stuff, and then prove that you know by being able to communicate it with succinctness and in format that tells a story to your audience. Fail to speak to your audience and you will fail to get your objectives met.
His ALLTOP.com is also an interesting tool for trying to keep up on the information firehose in a manageable fashion. I have set it as my homepage.
- I have mentioned Seth Godin a few times. His writing is light and breezy. His insights are disturbing if you have spent too much time in school. His attitude is sacastic or worse. His effectiveness is stunning. Having proven his ability to practice what he preaches (just read or listen to the stories of his writing and how it has paid his bills very well over the years), he has great authority among many in the know. His YouTubes are fun to watch as well. But the library or AddAll.com is worth a stop for reading some of his books as well. I particularly recommend Linchpin
In spite of his light and fun writing style, I think his ideas are pretty fundamental to the way the new world is. You need to be the best or plan for painful mediocrity needing to adjust to everyone else’s desires not yours. Linchpin tells the story that trying to be 2nd best or worse is hardly worth getting out of bed in the morning. Be the best – 2 ways:
- Be ‘fortunate’ enough to be the best in a ‘standard’ area of pursuit.
- Be creative enough to define your niche of being best. The key is you should be able to introduce your self as ‘the best ………’ in a way that everyone you meet knows it is the truth. That may be by geography, or creating a new market segment or reframing an existing segment. It may seem like cheating but it is not it is focusing and niching yourself. If you need to keep slicing your area of pursuit then keep slicing, but be the best.
- Here is the story of the marketing and passionate niche I was telling a few clients about. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2012/01/11/the-tim-ferriss-effect/ It demonstrates how the world of broadcast over narrow-casting has passed from an idea to theory finally as absolute law. Our markets are large enough (over 303million in US alone) and flat enough (ship most anywhere in the US 2 day for under 2 pounds, but so much is the speed of Internet) and segmented enough (how many Yahoo groups are there today, how many Meetup groups are there today in your area) that you need to look at business differently. So many business owners keep trying to get the ‘big’ publicity hit and fail to understand that most success comes from targeting the key people you want to connect with. That success from connection individually rather then exposure of many. There are other lessons, and some ideas that will not apply to you (he gets specific so they don’t match everyone everytime) but concepts are important to understand the direction the world is taking.
- Explore your business using the Business Model Canvas. I have worked with many different start-ups.
Along the way, I have built a variety of questionnaires that I found very helpful for all to understand and clarify what the real objective and strategy. I would create long documents as outlines for information gathering and initial interviews. In trying to find the secret sauce of each organization was an effort. What made them unique over the ‘next guy’. Business Model Generation changed my approach after decades. Having recently found this 1 page tool, I find it naturally replaces my flat mini-book of questions with a single sheet that is far more action oriented, less overwhelming to all involved and more action oriented.
An online tool for creating similar business model canvas is at Lean Canvas
And of course, there is the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. This is what I (as well as many other authors and thought leaders) consider the bible to entrepreneurial strategy. This book has literally fundamentally changed many business owners lives. But also positively changed the many employees and team members working for the those businesses for the better. It has helped many employees from continually beating their heads against the wall, making everyone’s life better. Understanding why so many businesses fail can be very helpful in creating a strategy to avoid the issue yourself.
Michael has created a few empires, and a whole series of books based on his E Myth model. I have read most of them (more coming out almost monthly now targeted into specific industries), but I still recommend reading this easy and targeted parable first before an industry specific volume to anchor the story, concepts and framework the deepest. I usually recommend audio format if you are short on time for most business books, but I still have not found an audio version that is as good as his written version.
What are your favorite business resources? Do you find books the correct format for learning new business models? Join the conversation below with a your comments and help a fellow business grow.
“A feature that you built and tested, but didn’t deliver yet because you’re waiting for the next major release, becomes inventory. Inventory is dead weight: money you spent that’s just wasting away without earning you anything.“ Joel Spolsky
I discovered a new tool for quick survey of the series of tubes of the web (Daily Show fun) – AllTop.com which lets you get a single feed around topics that you can create, or others have created. The ‘generic’ page led me to Joel’s blog post today.
But Joel’s thought on inventory struck me. I have different posts in ‘draft’ stage. I have different ideas in planning stages. I have different relationships in development stage – I promised to get them some useful information (by their feedback) that I have not. This inventory (or more appropriately WIP-Work In Progress) is not creating value for me, or more importantly for others. I am short-changing myself, and others, and I need to stop that.
I notice so many people I respect are not getting hung up in working on getting ‘it’ perfect, before they publish/post/deliver/share so few opportunities are missed. The value they are reflecting is important. So the question becomes, how I do that myself?
I am finally not only hearing the need for creating, sharing and niching, but delivering. Whether that means publishing, posting or just hitting send more often. Thank you Seth Godin, and the many who have preached this newer concept over the old framework of: design, develop, test, fix, retest, fix, retest, fix, retest….. deliver an outdated design for a changing world and market.
So this year there will be more posting, more ideas and consequently more mistakkes as I ‘iterate’ and continually improve. How are you going to change your models to improve this year?