Category Archives: Small Business Management

Big Rewards SHOULD equal Big Expectations

I became increasingly agitated as I heard news about the big car company execs who cut their salaries to $1 a year… After withdrawing many millions in salaries for the past few years and not to mention the bonuses they will probably pay themselves regardless.

Marie-Claire appears to agree with how I believed the way the world worked:

If you are a CEO, you have to EARN the big bucks.

I have no problem whatsoever with massive salaries. If one person can contribute that much value to a business, they deserve to be rewarded.

But when they DON’T add that value, and drive the company into the ground… They should GIVE THE MONEY BACK (I would say ‘not take it in the first place’, but these people appear to pay themselves in advance) AND they should be fired.

I am wondering if we have moved into a parallel universe. If you are a CEO and you make a habit of letting companies go to the dogs, you should NOT BE A CEO. I’ve even seen this on a smaller scale, with people who are clearly not CEO material being given numerous breaks, and CEO style salaries… while doing a continuously bad job running the ship.

It’s plain stupid that we now expect salaries to be dis-jointed from performance. The label ‘CEO’ alone does not justify a salary.

The Demise of Open Plan Offices?

Apparently 90% of people who work in open plan offices feel more stressed and are less productive than their non-open plan counterparts.

I can see how in a large office, the sheer noise and distraction of people constantly walking past may lead to this… But otherwise, isn’t the stress and lack of productivity more related to stupid people than open plan?

I know if I had a boss who constantly looked over my shoulder and judged me for taking a minute off to browse facebook, I’d feel more stressed… And I wouldn’t be productive if people thought that just because I was physically in eyesight, I was therefore available for questions and conversations at any point.

I think open plan workspaces work awesomely… As long as there are rules. What most people forget is that a little self control goes a long way and just because you work in a place that doesn’t physically shut you off from the rest of the world, doesn’t mean you have free reign to socialise and/or snoop.

It would be a shame if we as a species could no longer trust ourselves to think and act in appropriate ways unless there was some physical barrier in place.

Ferrit’s gone bust – what a surprise.

Twitter was buzzing with the news this morning, so I imagine I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Since the launch of Ferrit a couple of years ago, the generally accepted wisdom in the NZ tech community is that the site didn’t stand a chance. I’m still not 100% sure what they even do, other than aggregate products from various shops in one place. Lance, as always has all the stats and details behind it, but I thought I’d add my two cents:

Startups and corporates are two VERY different things.

Telecom is one of NZ’s biggest companies and from day one they went against almost every normal technique to nurture a startup into profitability. To name a few:

  • They spent a FORTUNE on advertising
  • They made their business hard to understand (I went there once and gave up when I felt stupid because I didn’t ‘get’ it
  • Their value proposition was kind of unclear – I’m still not sure why I’d go there over going to a store directly

We always hear about the necessity of entrepreneurs to leave their startups behind when they reach a certain stage. At that stage the skillset needed for success is entirely different. Apparently it works in reverse too. It must be hard to think small and simple when you are part of a massive complex corporate.

Balance your spending with your income

Yes, when you start out, your expenses WILL be above your income, but lets keep things in proportion. I’ve seen this exact problem before – money thrown continuously at a product that doesn’t make enough to justify it. I’m not sure what the strategy is behind this because I can’t think of any that make sense other than a lack of confidence in the strategy of the company and the desire for money to fix everything.

The Ferrit ads were stupid. They appealed only to the likes of my mother who doesn’t DO internet shopping. So the money was probably wasted anyway, but also made them the laughing stock of the very people who should have been their core initial customer base – techies and raked up expenses that ensured it would take years to even break even.

Listen to advice

I’m not sure who was giving advice to the CEO of Ferrit, but I am yet to read an article (from the past few years) from a NZ tech expert raving about the probability of Ferrit’s success.

Most of the advice was actually pretty relevent and most people tended to agree. However all I’ve heard from the Ferrit end is that the company was performing as planned… Which may well have been the problem.

Telecom may be a large company but it doesn’t meant they know this stuff. I think this was their first foray into the internet world. They would have been a lot more successful if they followed the strategy I’ve since seen another corporate take and gather as many movers and shakers in the web community around them to pump for advice.

Admit failure and move on

I was pointed to an article on Ireland’s current economic woes the other day. The guy who wrote it was very smart. He openly talked about what Ireland is doing wrong and ways to improve it.

New Zealand is similar in size to Ireland, we need to learn to accept when we have done stuff wrong and how to improve, if we have any chance of becoming more internationally competitive. When a website fails, after years of people questioning its validity, the worst and most pathetic excuse is
“The Recession did it.”

It’s not an excuse, but it gives us an excuse for mediocrity.

Imagine if Ferrit came out and gave us a list of what they did wrong. It would never happen ( I suppose that’s the role of the rest of us), but maybe the attitude of cover bums at all costs is one we need to change.

Yes it is embarrassing, but the web is still in it’s relative infancy. You will be forgiven for getting it wrong, but the mistakes are what we all learn from.

The Driver Didn’t Design the Windscreen

I caught the bus today and somehow got chatting to the driver. He went on a rant about the giant floor to ceiling windscreens buses use. They cost $3,000 a pop and because of the height of the bus, often get cracked on tree branches etc.

The bus driver thought it was a stupid idea, and that the windscreen should consist of two panes of glass so even if one gets cracked, the replacement will be cheaper and the damage generally limited to the top part of the screen so visibility isn’t impaired.

He made the comment “No bus driver would have designed a window like this”

It makes you wonder how we still manage to design and produce products without the users driving or even being involved in the process.

The Web 2.0 Business model.

Thanks Raymond for commenting on my blog. I checked out your ‘About me’ and love your business plan:

The plan.

1. Research the inter tubes to find a gap in the market .

2. Find some smart people to help build a killer site.

3. ?

4. Profit

The 3. is especially clever. I have seen the 3. enacted so many times in the past few years. Sadly however, I am yet to see it turning into 4.

One year Anniversary

Last week was my one year anniversary of being in business on my own. It has been an awesome year and I can’t quite believe it’s passed already. Because I’m feeling super soppy this week (the Post Secrets even drew a tear and don’t get me started on how much i cried when watching Wall-E…) I thought I’d write a quick list of some of the highlights:

  • The people I have met. Man has it been good to get out from behind my computer and into the real world again! There are too many awesome people to list here, but I appreciate your ears, words of wisdom and ability to enjoy a beer/wine.
  • A stress free office. I used to think it was a myth, but we certainly achieved it. Projects delivered on time, flexible work hours, plenty of sun-time and enough exciting, fascinating customers to make the rest of feel like a holiday too. Can’t complain about my colleagues either, coming to work with friends every day DOES result in a lot of gossip (just ask Ronan), but makes this place a pleasure to be in.
  • Getting out of debt. Like many small businesses, we started out with some debt. This year we got rid of it all with room to spare. I think this alone was a sign that we turned DF from a little struggling startup into a tiny web-design powerhouse!
  • Weekends off. I don’t think I’ve worked much more than two weekends in the past year. That’s a never seen before stunt!
  • Strategising The first 6 months were very much about ‘where’s this going to go’. Now we’re in the middle of getting where we are going into a formalised plan of attack. Super exciting and we’ll have some big news coming up int he next month or so on that topic :)

So happy anniversary to us!!! Lets hope the next year is just as exciting!

You just can’t buy service…

Just sitting at Singapore Airport, after the hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City.

The flight home is proving to be harder than expected.

My mother’s leg, which is now swollen and bruised both at the knee and ankle (In fact you can’t really tell much difference in width most of the way down and her toes are kind of sticking out from this little round foot), she is limping heavily and when you go up and everything expands, things only get worse.

We thought life would be ok, given dad’s Gold Elite Star Alliance rating. Either we could negotiate an exit row, or he could use airpoints or dollars to upgrade her to business class.

It appears not so.

Despite years of traveling almost monthly and their combined status, there has been absolutely no help. The first person told us the plane here was full, there was nothing we could do and to sort out the long leg from Singapore… We then boarded the plane to find it almost empty and rows of seats available.

We arrived here to find that you have to book upgrades DAYS in advance – even if business class isn’t full and you have the airpoints or dollars to do it.

What I find almost amusing is that airlines have a tendency to make it clear that they are not offering service because they LIKE you, it’s because you give them a LOT of money with your decision to fly with them regularly. What we are now finding, is that even money doesn’t really buy you the service. In fact, if you ASK to fund the upgrade, they still don’t deem you worthy (even if you are struggling to walk).

Luckily, my mother is not one to cry about it (in fact she is yet to shed a tear, despite her fairly substantial injuries). But I wonder what would happen if someone as high maintenance as ME was in that position? I suppose luxurious air travel was the gap Emirates intended to fill when they came on the market.

Staying Calm

Over the past month or so, I have spent a lot of time strategising what I WANT. For most of this year that I have taken solo control of Decisive Flow, my aim has been to ‘see how things go’. But now I’m more clear headed and have tried a few different things, it’s time to come up with a plan.

Hiring a business mentor has been key to this. I don’t believe it is possible to run a business on your own, and I don’t think that the advice of friends and family is enough to back you up (which is not to deny the value of it!)

One thing I woke up and realised recently is that for the last 3 or four years I have never ONCE woken up without feeling stressed. It is a very mild stress that is a combo of:

1. Worrying about the future
2. Worrying about having missed something important

It struck me that this kind of ongoing stress is not normal, and that I have come to accept it in my life.

So, one of the key things I hope to get out the the next 9 months with my business mentor is how to GET RID of that morning (and all day) stress and ensure I have plans in place that I feel comfortable enough with to rely on!

It just struck me as insane that I wasn’t even aware of how ingrained the stress was and how I had simply accepted it.

You know you will be ok when…

This week has been a nightmare of work, things breaking, huge hyper, mega stressful situations and no time to even think – falling into bed at 9pm from exhaustion…

But when Emma fell so sick she was ordered to be in bed for the next 5 days, she called to say she was coming in anyway (I declined and agreed with her doctor).

I didn’t even realise how awesome she was until I realised she has a great excuse for sick leave and was NOT GOING TO TAKE IT.

Just now I asked Alex to quickly do something even though she isn’t working today. Her reply?

“Oh that, yeah I already checked my email, I’m halfway through it.”

You people do not have any idea how much I appreciate you.

3 Startup lessons we should all learn

Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends has written an interesting article describing three (Although it appears to be a lot more than 3) lessons she’s learned in your startup career. If you’re anything like me, you will laugh at your experience with some of these, and shake your head in wonder at the wisdom of others…

1. Offer small ticket items that sell quickly

You are small. No one knows who you are. Why on EARTH do you expect them to throw money at you willy nilly?
Other tips
Give your customers something small.
Publicise your prices (Yeah I know, we don’t. We are re-doing our website though!)

2. Don’t waste money on expensive marketing UNTIL you’ve figured out your offering and your brand.

I don’t know about other people, but we are still defining and narrowing down on what we are. Most startups initially rely on doing whatever they can to fund their product/business development… But that’s not who you are! It takes time to know what specific value you offer the world, and what’s just diluting your message.

3. Integrate technology deeply into your business.

YES!!!! Check this blog’s sidebar. We rely heavily on technology to automate or aid in some of the more mundane areas of business… But we are techie people…

I also agree, once again. Start small, and build on your solutions as and when required. Man oh man the one thing we have in our advantage is that we don’t rely on legacy and outdated, mammoth business systems.