Innovate to Stay In Business

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 2:00pm by Site Administrator

Sounds like a fairly obvious directive, right? Unfortunately, not every company does it. Witness the demise of SunRocket [NY Times, free registration may be req'd], a reasonably successful player in the VoIP market.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a group of related technologies that allow consumers to make phone calls over their Internet access – be it cable, high-speed dialup, satellite, power, Wi-Fi, or cellular.

SunRocket, like it’s very troubled direct competitor Vonage, are known as “pure VoIP” providers. They pretty much can only offer a few services, primarily because consumers use their regular home telephones and a special converter.

However, competitors such as Comcast, have a million VoIP customers to SunRocket’s 200,000. Why? Because Comcast is a cable company that can offer “triple play” services. Depending on the Triple Play provider, this may include TV, Internet and VoIP over the same “lines”.

Pure plays cannot offer much more than VoIP service, though a few made an attempt by offering home alarm services. So in terms of a service offering, while there is a market for Pure Plays, it’s probably much smaller than for Triple Plays. Pure VoIP providers simply cannot compete long-term, and were doomed to begin with.

Note, however, that with IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) offerings such as Joost and Babelgum, Triple Plays may very well lose their TV package customers. And with cell phone makers heading towards hybrid models that can work on both cellular networks and Wi-Fi networks (whether in your home or elsewhere), home phone providers may also start losing customers. So Triple Plays may become Single Plays – though probably not for several years.

Companies have to stay on top of these “convergence” trends in VoIP or other markets. Just preparing for the inevitable future is not enough. They’ll have to follow through and actually innovate if they want to stay in business long-term.

Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs #2

Monday, July 16, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

[UPDATED Wed Jul 18/07: Despite what this post used to say, there will not be two editions per week. All editions will be posted on Wednesdays starting Jul 25th.]

Welcome to the second Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs (CoBE #2). Critieria for inclusion: relevant to bootstrapping, entrepreneuring, startup/ small businesses. Criteria for exclusion:

  1. Non-articles (list of internal links instead of an article).
  2. Articles that exist purely to promote an affiliate link.
  3. Articles not relevant to bootstrapping or entrepreneuring.
  4. Scraped snippets of someone else’s article. Seriously? Why waste everyone’s time?
  5. Multiple entries for the same edition – it depends on how relevant the articles are.
  6. Persistently not supporting the carnival to link back won’t mean exclusion, but priority will be given to new entrants or those who have been supportive.

To be fair to everyone, entries are being selected approximately in order of submission. So if you don’t see your entry submitted by July 6th, it will likely appear in edition 2 next weekend. Here are the entries for the first edition. Please support this carnival by linking back to this post.

  1. Plan Your Trip Now For Your Business! by Shawn Edwards of Destiny Online. Are you in a business that requires a lot of travelling? Shawn suggests keeping in mind three basic things for business travel.

  2. Business life lesson – Don’t let anyone steal your dream by CA of Atlantic Canada’s Small Business Blog. Feeling a little doubtful about your entrepreneurial dreams? CA relates a couple of personal stories that may inspire you to keep your dream.
  3. Working Through Distractions by Chromegrrrl/ Wendy of HostOmni. For those of you following creative endeavors, such as freelance writing from home, there are probably many distractions in your day. Wendy lists some of her strategies for deflecting distractions.
  4. 3 Reasons to Quit Your Job in order to Advance Your Career by Marc of Marc and Angel. Marc offers three strong reasons why you may want to quit your job.
  5. Interview With Andy Ajello: Environmental Entrepreneur by Alexandra Levit of Water Cooler Wisdom. Opportunities lie in many markets, including the environment. Alexandra interviews Andy Ajello, and discusses what inspired him to find a way to reduce the illegal dumping of electronics.
  6. How to Manage a Sales Call by Jack Yoest of MTDC. Not everyone enjoys selling, but in some businesses you just cannot get around it. Jack tells us how to handle a sales call.
  7. Business, Interrupted by Silicon Valley Blogger of The Digerati Life. If you’re at a crossroads in your business venture, maybe it’s time to sit back and take a look at what you’re doing. That’s what the Silicon Valley Blogger does in this article, offering some rationale for doing so.
  8. No Cost Starting a Business – Startup Example by CapForge of CapForge. Bootstrappers know that you don’t always need to have capital to start a business. CapForge provides a concrete example.
  9. How to Maximize Your Day Job While Creating a 4 Hour Work Week by John Wesley of Pick the Brain. Tim Ferriss’ new book “The 4-Hour Work Week” is of course inspiring a lot of people. If you’re thinking about finding your own 4-hour week, read John’s five suggestions about how to apply the book’s advice.
  10. 7 rules about startup code by Vitor Domingos. Vitor offers some wise and amusing advice to software entrepreneurs who are in the pre-startup stage. I.e., only have an idea.

That ends this second edition of the Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs. Any articles submitted that meet the criteria but not listed here will appear in the next edition

Please use the submission form for future editions, and limit yourself to one entry per week. If both your entries for any Saturday through Friday period are selected, one will appear in the “weekend” edition (Sun or Mon) and the other will appear in the mid-week edition (Wed or Thur).

7 Motivations to Start Your Own Business

Monday, July 16, 2007 at 9:45pm by Site Administrator

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to be an entrepreneur, to build their own business or businesses. Some people are serial entrepreneurs, moving from one success to another. Others want to use their success to retire or follow some other dream.

  1. You’re about to be fired.
    You’re about to be fired and you don’t want to give up your line of work just yet. Make sure you maintain your contacts, and maybe consider going into the consulting business. Success at consulting takes a certain of personality – one that often works better as temporary personnel than permanent employee.

  2. You hate your job.
    Also see #1. If you’ve spent time in a career that you no longer enjoy, or cannot enter a new career because it would take too long to get the training, starting a business might be a solution. You could learn a new career as you go, even fund your classes this way, provided you realize what you’re getting yourself into. Not everyone is suited to running a business.

  3. You’ve hit a ceiling.
    Also see #2. Let’s face it, there a limited number of management positions. So not everyone that wants to become a manager or executive will be, unless they start their own business. Just be prepared for the extra responsibility of your new role. Anyone can slap “President and CEO” on a business card.

  4. You want to work for yourself.
    This is almost never the easiest way to go for the vast majority of people. But it’s a perfect situation for others. If you have the drive, vision and discipline, starting a business may be for you.

  5. You want to retire.
    Sounds a bit contradictory? Under a normal career, you’d work and hopefully save, then retire at some point. Working for yourself, you can retire early or take mini-vacations. How long will it be before you can retire if you work for someone else?

  6. You have a great idea and no funding.
    Herein lies the motivation for many bootstrappers. Start one business at no or low capital, build it up, and bootstrap the profits to start something else. Repeat until you have enough capital for your grand idea or passion.

  7. You enjoy starting great businesses.
    Some people are a fountain of great ideas, and are able to win people over to participate. They start a business, build and promote it to a point where someone else can run it, then move on, usually with a profit in their pocket.


Moving a Business Online

Thursday, July 12, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Do you have a business that has traditionally been offline? Wondering how you might transform your operations to an online existence? This is a question that many print magazine and newspapers – and other businesses – are asking, in hopes of solving the loss of readership and revenues.

Large (inter)national publications have an easier time of the conversion because they have a wider pool of advertisers. They still have to be innovative, but at least they’ll probably earn some revenues.

Local newspapers will find it difficult, as will other non-web businesses, especially if most of their revenue is earned locally. It’s not that online publishers cannot target ads to visitors from certain locales. Rather, local advertisers may not know or understand this, and thus may be unwilling to give the online medium a try.

If you are considering moving to an online presence, whether solely or to supplement your bricks-and-mortar existence, and whether or not you are a publisher, here are a few tips:

  1. Research.
    Some people might have you think otherwise, but not every business needs a website (and not every website needs a weblog.) Make sure you understand if your business has to be operated differently online.

  2. Switch gradually.
    Your research may show that your competitors are online and even earning reasonable extra revenues. But don’t ditch your terrestrial operations all of a sudden, thinking you’ll do fine being only online.

  3. Start now.
    Switching gradually means setting up a basic web presence first. Then improve on it gradually, with extra features and functionality as you are able. If most or all of your revenue is offline, you do not necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars setting up a slick, AJAXified website.

  4. Test the waters.
    Maybe your budget does not yet allow a full-blown ecommerce site or lots of advertising. Why not start by offering valuable information to your customers? What that is depends on your business, of course.

  5. Promote.
    Just building a website isn’t enough to draw visitors. I.e., if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You do have to promote your website, whether online or offline – which does not necessarily cost money.

This is only a very basic summary of the process for transitioning, though it should give you an overview.

Comments (0) | Filed under: Marketing

Carnival Roundup and New Announcements

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Bootstrapper is in three carnivals so far this week. As well, there are some new carnivals that may be of interest to you. First, the roundup:

  1. Carnival of Debt Relief #10 at Debt Consolidation Lowdown. My post 21  Ways to Promote Your Startup Business was acepted amongst eight other posts focus onl issues of debt relief. If you want to enter the next edition of this carnival, use their submission form.

  2. Carnival of Debt Reduction #95 at Picture of Wealth. My post Bootstrapping Your Business Cash Flow was accepted amongst nine other entries, also related to debt. You can enter the next edition with their submission form.
  3. Carnival of Money, Growth and Happiness #10 at Credit Card Lowdown. This is a My post Worthwhile Free Applications for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs made it in amongst fifteen others dealing with healthy money mindset and other related topics. Use the submission form to enter the next edition.

New Blog Carnivals

If you’ve learned the value of participating in carnivals, you may be interested in four new ones that I’ve set up, all of which will be opened up to other hosts.

  1. Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs.

    • Status: The first edition of CoBE has already been posted here at Bootstrapper.
    • Categories: The carnival accepts articles of interest to entrepreneurs, especially if they contain bootstrapping tips.
    • Hosting: This carnival is weekly and will be opened to other hosts if interest demands it, but will otherwise appear at Bootstrapper.
    • Frequency: Weekly.
  2. Carnival of Internet Pros.
    • Status: Watch for announcements of CoIP over at the Carnival of Internet Pros forum on Performancing.
    • Categories: The carnival accepts articles that have anything to do with improving skills and earnings for working professionally online, whether as a blogger, consultant, or something else.
    • Hosting: This carnival will rotate through a number of previously selected hosts, including Bootstrapper, but will be opened to any host if interest demands.
    • Frequency: Bi-weekly or weekly.
  3. Carnival of Small Business and Startups.
    • Status: Watch for an announcement of the first edition of CoSBaS at LogoDesignWorks Small Business Tips blog.
    • Categories: This carnival accepts articles that focus on the early stage issues of a small business, entrepreneuring, or startups. There’s even a business travel category, to make up for a lack in the carnival listings.
    • Hosting: The primary host will be LDW but the carnival will also appear occasionally here at Bootstrapper and possibly other blogs.
    • Frequency: Weekly.
  4. Carnival of Work Productivity.
    • Status: Watch for an announcement of of the first edition aof CoWP at Internet UltraGeek.
    • Categories: This carnival accepts articles that focus on anything to do with improving offline or online work productivity, including reviews of software, techniques, etc. To be very specific, if you write articles similar to that seen at Lifehack, Lifehacker, LifeClever and others but specifically related to achieving an efficient work day, with or without technology, then feel free to submit them to CoWP. Max two submissions per edition only, please.
    • Hosting: Hosting will start at UltraGeek, will appear here at Bootstrapper at times, and will be open to other hosts.
    • Frequency: Bi-weekly, possibly weekly.

At present, only the first new carnival has a published edition.

Comments (0) | Filed under: carnivals

Should Your Business Website Have a Blog?

Monday, July 9, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

You’re a bootstrapping entrepreneur or business owner trying to keep operating costs down. You’ve heard that everyone and their sickeningly cute lolcats are blogging and you’re thinking you should have a blog, too. Someone told you your website and business need it or you’ll be left behind. So what’s the story? Do you need a blog?

Usability and web design expert Jakob Nielsen of Nielsen Norman Group says no, and that you should write articles, not blog postings. He explains why articles add authority and the majority of blog postings – even those written by “experts” in a niche – decrease authority.

Premise

Nielsen conducted a number of “Monte Carlo” simulations, a statistical method used to predict a possibility of scenarios, given the right parameters. His simulation results suggest that the majority of blog posts in a block of 10,000 posts (1,000 experts each write 10 posts) result in average quality writing for most bloggers. Under the simulations, even a top-ranked expert will have the majority of their posts span from high-quality down to below average – which Nielsen suggests is unacceptable, that customers should want to pay for the information you provide them.

Exceptions

Now that said, these are statistical simulations based on assumed parameters. An experienced/ professional writer who has an understanding of the difference between blogging and article writing can produce an effective blog that adds authority to a business website.

This might mean, however, that you, a business owner, have to hire a professional instead of being the blogger yourself. And the content plan should include indepth pieces as well as short summaries. Nielsen discounts short summary posts, but they do have value:

  1. Increased visibility in search engines.
    The way that some search engines’ algorithms currently operate, not having regular fresh content means a decrease in ranking in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Producing indepth articles every day is beyond the ability of most writers/ bloggers.

  2. Varied content density.
    You do want regular fresh content. While quality is more important than quantity, if you can present quality short summaries, they do have value. One is varied content density, which gives regular readers respite from longer, indepth articles.

    That is, posting lots of long articles is no better than posting lots of short posts. In fact, it’s probably worse because regular readers may feel intimidated by the volume of content you are suddenly producing. Even the most popular indepth writers, such as personal development blogger Steve Pavlina, do not write every day.

    We forget that prior to the Internet loads of research showed that the average adult American male – who still dominates in online presence – gave very little time to daily reading. The blogosphere changed that, but some people still read superficially. Providing only indepth pieces is not the way to grab their attention.

  3. Personal connection.
    Some people actually enjoy reading the personal commentary of those writers they’ve attributed some authority and expertise to. Longer, indepth pieces can establish authority, but short summaries with added personal commentary add the personality that blogging enjoys over regular articles. We humans are social animals and tend to a sort of clannishness.

    This is ideal if your business wants to achieve a one on one relationship with customers. If you don’t want this, then having a blog will detract from your site. You especially do not want a blogger talking about what they had for breakfast – something that happens far too often on too many blogs. Unless, of course, your business has something to do with food.


Conclusion

While you do not have to produce daily content, sometimes short posts suffice. For example, if your business resides purely online, a blog that keeps readers updated as to new features, changes in development platform, announcements, etc., is a must. Only indepth pieces are completely out of place. For a blog of this sort, you do not need a professional blogger.

What’s more, what Nielsen fails to mention (unless it was buried somewhere in the sections of his very long, indepth piece that I skipped because it was too intimidating) is that no matter whether you write short pieces or indepth pieces, quality will still fall into a spectrum. As a reader, would you rather read lots of indepth pieces that are of average quality, or would you have more tolerance for average short pieces?

In short, while not every business needs a website and not every website needs a weblog, there are benefits to having a business weblog that offers a mix of article and post styles. The real question to be answered is “Can you present information of value to your site visitors, and can you do so in an accessible manner, with quality content?” Essentially, Nielsen appears to be saying that most bloggers cannot achieve this with short posts on a consistent basis. I’m saying you can, with the right blogger.

Comments (3) | Filed under: Marketing, Skills

Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs Edition #1

Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

Welcome to the first Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs. Because of the high volume of entries, the first edition is running approximately one week earlier than originally announced. Critieria for inclusion: relevant to bootstrapping, entrepreneuring, startup/ small businesses. Criteria for exclusion:

  1. Non-articles (list of internal links instead of an article).
  2. Articles that exist purely to promote an affiliate link.
  3. Articles not relevant to bootstrapping or entrepreneuring.
  4. Scraped snippets of someone else’s article. Seriously? Why waste everyone’s time?
  5. Multiple entries – it depends on how relevant the articles are.

To be fair to everyone, entries are being selected in order of submission. So if you don’t see your entry submitted by July 6th, it will likely appear in edition 2 next weekend. Here are the entries for the first edition. Please support this carnival by linking back to this post.

  1. Tens of Different Ways to Make Money from Home Through the Internet by Vahid Chaychi of Weboma. Vahid’s article gives an introduction on a few ways to get started working online from home with little or no capital.

  2. Similarities – B2B by CA of Atlantic Canada’s Small Business Blog. CA details how building and running a new business is much like bringing up a baby.
  3. Creating a Culture of Entrepreneurship by Wilson Ng of Reflections of a BizDrivenLife. Wilson puts forth the idea that if we are schooled in a mindset and culture of entrepreneurship from an early age, that we have a better chance of success in life.
  4. Buddy Networking: A Clever Way to Expand Your Network by Michelle Cramer of GreatFX Small Business Tips Buzz. Michelle suggests that buddying up with other entrepreneurs is an ideal way to expand your network of potential clients. Find a complementary business, and the both of you can benefit at little added cost.
  5. What the Shawshank Redemption Can Teach You About Entrepreneurship by Rob of Business Pundit. What a great title. Rob offers two entrepreneurial lessons gleaned from the situations in the movie Shawshank Redemption.
  6. A Credit Card For a Small or New Business Can be a Powerful Monetary Tool by Aaron Wakling of Credit Card Articles. While bootstrappers typically start ventures with little or no capital, they often do turn to a credit card, which can make the difference between staying in business or going out.
  7. Building a Sustainable Infrastructure by Erek Ostrowski of Verve Coaching. Having a sustainable infrastructure of systems and procedures means consistency for a business, which can save on time and operating costs.
  8. Buying a Business: Asset Sale vs Stock Sale by Dax Desai of DaxDesai. Entrepreneurs don’t always start a brand new business. Sometimes they take over an existing business. Should they buy stock or assets? Dax explains the difference.
  9. Why You Would be Very Wise to Start a Business While You Still Have Your Day Job by Stacey Derbinshire of Starting a Small Home Business. This one wins the award for longest title, but it has wise advice for would-be entrepreneurs still in the paid-salary stage. In other words, don’t wait until after you are retired.
  10. Is Guy Kawasaki’s Backhand Better Than His Serve? by Ben Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog. Ben, who recently launched Standout Jobs, compares tennis, entrepreneurship and Guy Kawasaki’s recent launch of his Truemors web 2.0 site. Moral: follow-up matters in entrepreneurship and business.
  11. 5 Ways to Boot Strap, Prototype, Market Test, Focus Group, and Product Feature Your Way to Success, or Utter Failure by Ashton Udall of Product Global. Oh wait. This entry has the longest title! Ashton encourages would-be entrepreneurs and inventors not to get discouraged just because they have little capital. Ashton also analyzes Guy Kawasaki’s Truemors launch, then offers 5 ways an entrepreneur can bootstrap their way to success.
  12. What Big Oil Can Stand to Learn From Google by Chris Harris of Inventure Global. Chris offers a fascinating look at something called the Ultimatum Game, then shows how Google gets away with rising AdWords ad prices while Big Oil companies get hauled in front of Congress. The article is a lesson in pricing.
  13. More Scams That Sabotage The Simple Life by Sheppard Salter of Salter Blog. Sheppard points out online scams that target both individuals and small business owners.
  14. How to Estimate Market Size for a New Product Startup – the Dyson Example by Capforge of Capforge. Do you know what your product’s market size really will be? Capforge explains how to estimate market size, which is especially important if you’re running a bootstrapping startup. In other words, not everyone is going to buy a hand dryer blowing air at 400 mph no matter how cool it is.
  15. An Interview with Real-Life Student Entrepreneurs by ispf of Grad Money Matters. A couple of computer science grad students offer some insight into their entrepreneurial process for setting up a web-based shared-expense tracking service.
  16. How to Setup a (Monetizing) Blog From Scratch by Johan Idstam of Relay Blogger. Normally I wouldn’t include articles with affiliate links, but this one has a lot of valuable advice for those of you planning to be an online, work-from-home entrepreneur.
  17. Cutting Through the Hype and Lies About Internet Marketing by Terry Dean of Integrity Business Blog. If you spend any time trying to earn a living online, eventually you’ll probably consider buying the information products of one Internet marketing company or another. Just make sure you know which claims are real and which are hype.
  18. 3 Questions To Make Your Business Enjoyable And Durable by Cade Krueger of Write to Right. You’re working on your startup business, with a vision of how big it’ll get. Do you really know where you’re going and what it’ll take to get there? Cade offers three questions you should ask yourself and answer.
  19. Bootstrapper Confessions: From the Beginning by Chris Conley of Startup or Bust. Chris has a goal of starting several startup businesses online and writing about the process. Here are his confessions of what he’s gone through so far.
  20. Making Time for the Important by Steve Pavlina of StevePavlina. If you don’t know Steve, you cannot have spent all that much time on the Internet. He’s the author of the immensely popular StevePavlina.com personal development site. Steve is also a very successful software entrepreneur. In this article, he offers some very important productivity advice that is relevant to anyone, but especially to bootstrapping entrepreneurs – namely, pay yourself first, and how to go about ensuring that.

That ends this first edition of the Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs. Any articles submitted that meet the criteria but not listed here will appear in the next edition, which will be posted next weekend. Thanks for all the submissions. Please use the submission form for future editions, and limit yourself to one entry per edition.

Weekly Carnival Roundup

Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 5:00pm by Site Administrator

Bootstrapper was accepted into three more blog carnivals this past week, including

  1. Working at Home Carnival #40. My post Being an Expert Online Entrepreneur was one of nearly 30 submissions, spanning four categories, and dealing with different facets of working at home. If you are interested in entering the next Working at Home Carnival, use their submission form. They have a one article per carnival limit.

  2. Carnival of Debt Management #16. My post Bootstrapping Your Business Cash Flow was one of nearly 20 submissions focused managing personal or business debt. Use the submission form to enter this carnival.
  3. Carnival of Budgeting #10. My post Bootstrapping an Online Information Business was one of 14 entries covering personal and business budgeting. Please use the submission form to enter this carnival.

Please go check out both carnivals, even link to them to support them. If you have a blog with relevant quality articles, consider submitting them.

The first Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs will be up hopefully later today. I’m working on it now. A reminder, if you are submitting articles for later editions that you should only submit one per edition.

Comments (0) | Filed under: carnivals

Web-Based Meeting Managers

Friday, July 6, 2007 at 10:30pm by Site Administrator

While Apple fanboys and girls are going nuts over the recently-released iPhone just because it’s from Apple, I’m thinking of all the web-based applications an on-the-go nomadic digital entrepreneur can run on them or even a variety of other web-enabled phones. One of the big problems of being on the go is the scheduling or rescheduling of meetings – especially if more than one person is involved.

Well, as long as you have email access, Ikordo, a meeting planning service, will ensure that all expected parties are contacted and the most optimal time slot for everyone is chosen. This is accomplished by repeated “negotiations” between Ikordo and attendees. When the meeting time is set, a text or email message is sent out.

According to Mashable, there are still some glitches, and you probably don’t want to try scheduling a same-day meeting. But as a former assistant project manager responsible for bringing together clients, vendors and the project team, I know how hard meeting management can be.

The next step for something like Ikordo appears to be a better response time so that mobile entrepreneurs can schedule same-day or at least next-day meetings. Booking a room, however, is probably going to remain up to you, the coordinator, for the time being.

Of course, if Ikordo doesn’t work for you, you could try meeting management via Google Calendar, which allows personal schedules to be shared with one or more people – provided all have GMail accounts.

How Entrepreneurs Brainstorm

Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator

Every entrepreneur will experience times when problems (will) arise and a solution is needed, preferably before anything significant happens.

Brainstorming is a powerful activity for generating solutions to a problem, and a tool for productivity. The act of brainstorming was originally supposed to be a group activity to generate any ideas, without censoring anything. It can, however, be used by a single person if you follow the same rules: record everything and do not let your logical mind censor/filter each thought. Do the filtering after the brainstorming session. You may even want to wait a few hours or a day, if there’s time, in case other ideas present themselves.

Options for  brainstorming:
These are some options for brainstorming, both in technique and in medium, for a single person or a group.

  1. Mindmaps.
    Some people like to use mindmaps for brainstorming. Mindjet‘s MindManager mindmapping program actually has a brainstorming mode that minimizes distractions. It’s a bit disconcerting at first because this mode forces you to follow a process. This is more useful for a single person, not a group, unless used with a projection unit and screen.

  2. Paper.
    Brainstorming on paper can free up “flow” because it’s done on a blank canvas. However, a blank page can be intimidating to some people. This could work for a small group, say of 1-3 people. Ideas still have to be transferred to the digital medium – something e-paper married with a tablet computer may help with in the future.

  3. Lists.
    Some people prefer lists, though they are restrictive in structure, not allowing much ability to branch off with multiple ideas. Accessibility to a group of people depends on what medium is being used. Lists are probably the least useful in brainstorming, though they can supplement other methods. Web-based to-do list software such as Neptune offers some flexibility for recording ideas.

  4. Chalkboards/ whiteboards.
    In a corporate or academic setting, a chalkboard is comfortable, often productive, and visually and physically accessible to all participants. But chalkboards are impermanent. How do you transfer the information easily to more permanent storage? Digital whiteboards solve this problem, digitizing all penstrokes into screen images, storing them for later retrieval. These are typically expensive and thus not ideal for bootstrapping entrepreneurs.

  5. Audio recordings.
    Audio recordings aren’t so much a way to brainstorm but rather a way to preserve ideas while on the go, when paper isn’t handy or might be inconvenient (such as while driving). In such cases, a mini cassette or digital recorder – even some smart phones – comes in handy. Record your thoughts vocally, then review at a more convenient time. This is ideal for individuals with a tendency to censor their own ideas.  Depending on how you record, you might turn your recordings into podcasts, with a bit of production effort.

  6. Video recordings.
    An alternative to audio recording is video recording, and can include an entire group’s discussions, anything written on a blackboard or whiteboard, and any verbal discussions or physical acting out of ideas. Video cameras are relatively inexpensive, so setting up a couple on tripods and letting them run is often feasible for a small business. Anything recorded would be reviewed later by a smaller group of people. Videos can be posted on various video sharing sites, to make them accessible to remote team members. Just remember to use a privacy setting.

  7. Weblog or forum.
    If you have a popular weblog or forum, present questions to readers/ members. Ask them to comment. This could be a very effective way to produce solutions.

These are only a few methods and mediums. If you can think of others, please feel free to comment.

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