Category Archives: Business Growth

MyTours is a finalist for the onyas!!!!

There was much excitement over MyTours email in the past few days, when Glen announced that we are a finalist for the onyas (which for those NOT in NZ, is basically our tech version of the Oscars… Sort of)

The funny thing about making products, is that you spend most of your time just trying to make things look/work better, and as a result, you sort of focus on all the bad stuff and the to-do list, rather than how awesome the product is. And despite a very disparate team who are all very much part time, it’s quite nice to look back and see what we’ve made… Which is pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself!

The judges say:

“Worked well. Like the integration of service website, clear targeting, and a nice-looking app.”

Check out the available apps here or signup to make your own

And thanks gang! There is nothing better than working with awesome people, on an awesome idea and seeing it come together.

Allaboutthestory.com 1 year on and it’s getting exciting!

Apparently the gang at Allaboutthestory.com celebrated our one year anniversary a month or so back.

And what a year it’s been!

From the start, we were all aware that this was not the sort of site that will go from no to woah in a year. Anything to do with listings requires a delicate balance of building of the buyer and the audiences. But on the discovery of this satisfied user, it struck me that it could well be a good time for the ‘State of the Startup’ overview.

Our big focus

One of the big mottos of the year, and a question thrown about with abandon is ‘what will this new functionality/tweak/button etc etc TEACH US?’. Learning about how people use the site was priority number 1, 2 ,3 4 and 5. This can prove amusing in the early days when the user base is so small that 50% of your audience doesn’t equate to a huge number of real people.

But we’ve learned a lot. Most importantly, that the mainstream media industry is indeed changing and people are gearing up for it. I think this was proven very early on, when our founder/cheif editor and super talented Julie Starr signed up some fairly substantial publications and journalists before we’d really even proven ourselves.

Some big highlights

  • The first sales made to people we didn’t know
  • Discovering Cartoons! Allaboutthestory.com has some of the funniest and most clever cartoonists around, regularly selling their relevant and timely takes on the world.
  • Watching traffic rise – as I say, it’s early days, but it’s growing. This is especially cool when it’s the result of some new thing that Julie has done (anything from a good blog post, to email newsletters, to Twitter and Facebook)
  • Seeing the quality of the content continually rise. As the site grows, so, it seems, does the percentage of really well written articles. We’ve had some sell within hours of listing, which is pretty exciting and does mean that publications are on the lookout constantly.
  • The process we’ve developed of regular monthly/6 weekly get togethers with intense updates. These are prioritised around time and focused on making the biggest improvement within that site – which can be the subject of much debate and hard questions. Some months, I believe Julie forces herself to not pull her hair out at the lack of progress, other months, we make a leap forward.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many hiccups, barriers and whole sections of the website we still cringe at. But that’s life and a million times better than my experiences of intense startup environments, full of infighting and freakouts.

Check out the website

In the right

About 6 months ago, I wrote about customers who were refusing to pay.

What a way to start the year, it really made life hard and even harder because they not only DIDN’T pay up, they also tried to lay the blame on me.

And I’m one of those people who has weird guilt complexes about almost everything (our building’s fire alarm went off at 4.45am the other day, and despite the fact I’d been asleep for hours, my first thought was that the whole thing was my fault and I’d burned the building down). It’s really hard for me to listen to people tell me something is my fault, without automatically shouldering the blame and assuming they are right.

But in this case, after hours/weeks/months of heartache, searching and searching through conversations and signoffs and milestones, I realised that these slime bags didn’t even make sense.

The other day I experienced a similar situation, where someone tried to back out of a project they’d agreed to. The excuses, once again, made no sense to me, but still, I felt awful and offered to start from scratch and wipe the current fees. It quickly became apparent that they’d just changed their minds and employed a pretty unethical way of trying to weasel out of a contract. My guilt complex really doesn’t help these situations, nor does my desire to leave every customer happy…

But this year has been hard.

And this year I have learned to back myself.

So c’mon you slime bags, I now know for certain you are out there, sliming your way into peoples lives. I’m onto you, I’m not scared of you and I’m certainly not going to deal with you then let you get away with screwing me over without a fight.

Oh the ways life shapes your personality…

What is a Business Entertainment Expense?

One good thing about being in a small business is that you have a lot more control over WHO you work with and you actually build up a fairly substantial list of ‘workmates’… And because you wind up working fairly closely with partners and customers, you build quite solid relationships with them. So you manage to avoid the boring water cooler conversation (that I can’t understand how people find time for), while taking advantage of the support and connections that make the world go round.

It does get tough when you are doing your accounting though. I know some friends have questioned by ‘business entertainment’ at times… And now laugh that every time I go out, I either wind up drumming up a new lead or bumping into an old customer and start talking about work again. In my mind, life is different when you own the company. You NEVER stop working, and you survive off any networking you do.

But, am I the only one who often finds the line blurred between having a good time with friends and doing business with work colleagues?

I know a lot of people would say that if it’s fun, it’s not work, but I feel like that myth was dispelled the day I started working for myself and basically spend my life doing stuff I like (and get severely depressed when I go through a couple of months of NOT leaping out of bed to get cracking).

The I wonder if it’s the mix? Like if Im out with a group of people and one of them happens to be an accountant, and we spend 30 minutes going over the fine points of financial statements on my Friday night – I consider this valuable information, or is it just idle chit chat? If it’s 30 minutes out of 2 hours, does that change it? Is this a meeting or is it a drink?

Is it defined by the purpose? i.e if you INTEND to go get financial information, it’s a meeting, whereas if it happens by accident, it’s a drink.

Sometimes I think it’s funny that the things I get the MOST work out of or the best advice, are probably considered social situations, while the stuffy old ‘business’ events can often generate nothing, but probably look better in the accounts. Hmmm.

Now get $50 FREE Power when you sign up to Powershop!

If you still haven’t taken the leap away from your crusty old power company and joined all the cool kids at Powershop, now’s your chance!

We’ve made it even more tempting, by putting the first $50.00 in your account when you sign up through the Flower Power Daisy promo.

And to sweeten the deal even more, the Power Kiwi AGM yesterday resulted in some cool plans to reward our loyal customers… We’re intend on being everything your current power company is not.

And remember, signing up to Powershop will probably be the easiest thing you do this week. Just enter a few details from an old power statement in their online form, and they do the rest.

So go on! Join the revolution!

Pay for Power On The Go (with your iPhone)!

The gang at PowerKiwi have long since been aware that the average New Zealander can’t get ENOUGH of analysing their power bill.

Actually, we know that you can, and you do, within about 2 seconds of seeing it in the letter box.

However, we also all know that if you don’t PAY the bill, you’ll be disconnected, and I for one, cannot handle icy cold showers all winter, or not being able to cook my new FAVORITE vegetable EGGPLANT, or being able to switch on the old electric blanket, etc etc.

So, while the rest of us were sitting around contemplating how to make your lives easier, Rowan made his first (?) iPhone app.

It’s pretty simple, and like most great inventions, solves one problem well. The Flower Power iPhone app allows you to plugin your current meter balances, then click through to be told how much power you need to buy, which you can then buy from your default Powershop provider.

The great news is that outside of stopping you from having to remember a series of numbers while you head back to your computer, or writing your balance on your hand, only to wash it off… it’s FREE, it’s super easy and it takes the pain away from paying your power bill.

So go on, download it, use it, and send us any feedback :)

A Time For Dancing

Post the debacle with some wonderful ex customers running off without paying, and post Tax Season, where you have to pay provisional tax ON the payments they are refusing to make, and GST and everything else that you were sort of relying on their payments FOR, I wound up a little stress bundle last night.

A well time quote I heard yesterday was ‘in five years, will this problem still feel so big?’

In this case, my initial answer was ‘yes, when I’m bankrupt and out on the streets begging for money, this problem will feel bigger!’

Then I went to dance class… Tired, grumpy and feeling anxiety levels I haven’t felt since I took over this company when it was in debt and had been sort of abandoned for a year or so.

One lesson I learn OVER AND OVER, is when you are the most stressed, and the least able to come up with answers, GO DANCING… Or whatever it is that empties your mind and changes your focus to something fun and energetic and makes you feel a little spark of happiness.

Then you put your problems into perspective.

By the end of the night, I was halfway back to putting the issue into perspective (I still paid all my tax, I’ve got work on, this is ALWAYS a bad time of year, I’m a long way from the streets…)

I think my point is, whenever you’re feeling the least motivated and most pathetic, it’s most important to get off your butt and do something :)

When Customers Don’t Pay

In the five years I have been running this business, never once has a customer not paid.

Every now and then, we run into issues, but every time, we have managed to come to an agreement that works.

We are a design company. I accept that sometimes the designs we do don’t fit with our customers immediately. That is why I stress to them from day one to be blatant with their feedback and give the guarantee that we will rework our designs until they are 100% happy.

Currently I have two customers who are refusing to pay me.

I know it is because they either have no money or the money they do have, they’d rather keep for themselves.

These two customers went the entire way trough the design process, they signed off on the designs, they used words like ‘happy’, ‘this looks good’, ‘yes lets proceed’. I keep a good record of these conversations for exactly this reason.

Because several weeks after they were meant to pay, they still haven’t.

The initial excuses were over the arrangement. So I reproduced the proposals and quotes they signed off on. These contained the full fixed quote and our payment details. No fine print.

Now, and this is what kills me. They are both claiming that they were ‘unhappy with the work’. This is the first I have heard of it, and comes several weeks after the project was completed on the basis that they told me the EXACT opposite.

Neither of these companies is based in New Zealand, both owe me several thousand dollars and I suspect neither was ever planning to pay it.

What can I do? I have tried talking to them, I have shown them everything they wanted. Now I am stuck in a position whereby they can attempt to ruin my reputation, while also walking away with hours and hours worth of work that I produced for them (There is only so much in design that you can NOT deliver before payment).

10,000 People have joined the revolution!

Last week, Powershop announced that they now have 10,000 customers. For a power company that is revolutionalising the way New Zealander’s buy power, i think this is a pretty big deal. So big indeed, that I have been telling everyone I know.

However, as I started telling people, it quickly became apparently that those I know and love and hound with information all the time, still don’t always ‘get’ Powershop. So I figure now’s as good a time as any to fill you in on the easiest thing you can do this year to gain power over your power supply.

Powershop is JUST ANOTHER power company

What I mean by that is that it’s not this funky weird tech company, when you join Powershop, you are joining a power company in EXACTLY the same way as if you would join Meridian, Genesis or any of the old lot. It also means that if you aren’t overly interested in analysing your Power account, switching suppliers every month or taking advantage of the numerous other awesome features of Powershop, you can simply select the power supplier you’d prefer (or just set it to the cheapest) and your power is bought for you every month, by direct debit, without you ever having to look at it.

Powershop has the best support I’ve EVER encountered

And I can back this up with testimonials from everyone else I have convinced to signup. They chat on IM, call you and email you PROACTIVELY if they notice something amiss or if you have a question. They are polite, friendly and genuinely believe in the company they provide support for. Show me another power company that can say that.

Powershop IS changing the way we buy power

I’ve been using Powershop pretty much since as soon as I could. My sister signed up as soon as she bought a house. We both have very different ideas about what we require from a power company – Sarah all about saving money and monitoring how much she uses. Her competitive spirit kicked in and she really enjoys figuring out how to keep her power costs low.

I love the fun! I LOVE signing in at Halloween and buying 666 power (for bargain basement prices), I like knowing that when I buy power, I can offset my carbon emissions. I like that when I have time, I can take an active role in choosing who supplies my power, but when I don’t, I can reply on my default option being far cheaper than any other power company can offer.

One more cool thing

Powerkiwi (a business that I have a shareholding in) is one of the first power suppliers to jump on Powershop. We’re so excited about converting people to Powershop, that if you signup using our promo we’ll give you $20 off Flower Power. AND (final, final good thing), when you signup, you can fill out the direct debit form ONLINE. which means no downloading, no printing, no posting AND no effort!

The Girl Effect

I just got sent this link. It is a video that sort of follows along a line of thought that seems to be common in micro financing and new age development studies. i.e invest in girls and ‘let them do the rest’.

I imagine is slightly controversial? In my experience men are the first to get hurt and angry when someone suggests that maybe they are not the answer.

It might be a little idealistic? You can’t buy 6 million girls a cow and expect the world to become a better place.

But it definitely makes a lot of sense. There has been all sorts of research (and generally it’s done by the people leading the micro financing charge) that shows that lending to small groups of women is the most effective and successful method of increasing the living standards of the world’s poorest.

I also LOVE the idea that you are investing in these people, not donating to them.