Don’t Think Outside the Box for Business?

Monday, October 22, 2007 at 3:00pm by Site Administrator

In Critical Thinking for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs, I pointed out that critical thinking makes the difference between producing a groundbreaking service or product or a variation of “the same”. What I meant was “innovative”.

However, over at Kiplinger.com, Marty Nemko says don’t innovate [via Startup Spark]. He says that doing the opposite of what business schools teach increases your chances of success, that replication is less risky than innovation – for the average shallow-pocketed entrepreneur.

Now upon deep reflection, I’d have to say he’s right. I can’t begin to explain with simple examples, but what I’ve absorbed about business as a whole suggests the truth of this.

So let’s look at the “critical thinking” angle another way. Instead of innovating – if you are following Marty’s advice – apply critical thinking to come up with a more efficient, cost-effective way to offer the same products or services. Replicating a successful business does not mean you have to copy exactly.

The real gem of advice in the Kiplinger article is hidden in point #2, Don’t seek status; avoid it. Dull, normal, unsexy businesses often make bank. And that’s true in the stock market, too. Think of something everyone – or at least lots of people – needs. For example, what do men need? What do women need? What do we both need on a daily basis? Answer those questions – provided you don’t know what your startup business will be about.

Still, all that does not mean you shouldn’t think outside the box. Outside-the-box thinkers often become inventors and entrepreneurs. They come up with improvements on simple things such as the paper clip and still make a fortune. They can innovate new products, or better ways of doing the same old thing.

The Restaurateur’s Online Toolbox: 100 Tips, Tools and Resources to Help your Restaurant Grow

Monday, October 22, 2007 at 2:26pm by Site Administrator

As the owner of your very own restaurant, you’ve definitely made it to the top of the food chain. You have complete creative freedom, unchallenged authority in the kitchen, and hopefully an ever growing clientele. Unfortunately, you’re also in charge of settling disputes among employees and sifting through mounds of paperwork. If only you could figure out a way to finish the boring chores a little faster so that you could get back to the dicing, sautéing, steaming, and saucing. To help you out, we’ve developed this online toolbox of resources and guides just for restaurateurs like you. Blogs

These foodie blogs are full of helpful tips and articles that let you know you’re not alone in your gastronomical undertakings.

  1. Restaurant Marketing Blog: Learn valuable tips to improve your marketing strategy and attract more people to your restaurant.
  2. Eater: If you own a restaurant or bar in New York, LA, or San Francisco, connect with this network to have the food editors review your place. Who knows? You could instantly become the newest local hot spot.
  3. Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter: Commiserate with this blogger as you read witty, upbeat posts about what it’s like to recruit chefs, servers, managers, and other restaurant employees.
  4. WaiterBell Blog: Check out fun, informative posts about customer service, dining etiquette, negotiating the dietary preferences of picky children, and restaurant finance issues.
  5. Blogspitality: Blogspitality is where "RH editors chew the fat." Recent rants include "No Babies on the Table, Please" and "Trying Too Hard." After reading these horror stories, you’ll feel better about your own management mishaps.
  6. Diner’s Journal: As the food and dining blog from the New York Times, the Diner’s Journal is always the first to announce up-to-the-minute trends and industry news.
  7. Customers Are Always: This blog explores the dos and don’ts of excellent customer service. Brief your staff on the principles found here, and your clientele will be impressed.
  8. The Restaurant Blog: The Restaurant Blog, from AllBusiness.com, posts articles like "Staffing Errors Can Cost You" and "Do Your Menu Prices Shout Welcome" to help you improve your guests’ dining experiences.
  9. Restaurant Talking Points: Browse categories like sales, training, and customer service to get detailed tips on restaurant management.
  10. Restaurant Girl: New York’s Restaurant Girl knows her food. Check out this blog for enthusiastic reviews, gossip, and interviews, and get design, holiday, or management ideas for your restaurant from these experts.
  11. Bickell’s Blog: Visit Bickell’s Blog for articles on buying restaurant supplies, featured chefs, industry news, and restaurant management training guides.
  12. Restaurant Spy: This London-based blog reviews the best restaurants in the UK. Become a member to share your news and opinions on the message boards or to advertise on their site.
  13. Vinography: Make sure your bar’s wine selection is complete with the help of this blog. Get serving tips, wine ideas, and more.
  14. Diners From Hell: Read fun "dining disaster" posts, share your experiences on the forum, and find out what customers really expect when they go out to eat.
  15. Diners Nation: Diners Nation is an unbeatable resource for restaurateurs. Meet up with other managers and owners on the forum, post and look for restaurant jobs with the help of Employment Guide, and catch up on industry news from all over the U.S.
  16. Musings from a Restaurant Maven: This seasoned restaurant lover posts clever, insightful articles about customer service, waiting for a table, tipping, and eating out with children.
  17. Barista Brat: Check out this blog for funny "rants and raves" from a coffee shop barista. Get tips on dealing with annoying customers, and find out what your employees really have to put up with when you’re not around.

Productivity and Organization Tools

These handy hacks will cut down on paperwork and leave you free to mingle with your guests, develop new recipes, and have more fun at work.

  1. Spongecell Calendar: Use this online calendar to keep track of meetings, deliveries, and those ever changing server schedules. Easy edit tools will keep your calendar neat so you’ll never have to scratch through or white out changes again.
  2. bubbl.us: bubbl.us is a fun mind mapping application that will help you organize all those recipe ideas and new ingredients you’ve been dying to try.
  3. SlimTimer: SlimTimer urges you to "make love, not timesheets." Create task lists for your employees or run reports on how much time everyone spends at the restaurant to keep track of pay records.
  4. Remember the Milk: Manage your to do lists with Remember the Milk. Add and edit tasks, set up automatic e-mail reminders, and store and organize different lists in the simple Web-based filing system.
  5. Planzo: Share schedules and important events with all of your employees with the Planzo calendar.
  6. Mailman: Organize, edit, and manage your e-mail contacts with Mailman. The security features are tougher than normal e-mail client address books, so personal information always stays safe.
  7. Viapoint Smart Organizer 1.4: This Google Desktop organizer will help you minimize all the papers you have floating around your office. File away invoices, calendars, and other information in the online system, and you won’t have to worry about misplacing your important documents.
  8. Goplan: This online project management and collaboration tool notifies you when project deadlines are looming and allows you to connect with clients, vendors, and employees in the secure network.
  9. iOrganize: iOrganize is "the ultimate notepad" for Mac users. File away random ideas, conversations, inspirational look books or photos until you have time to organize them after hours.
  10. Share It Now: This download allows you to share anything on your desktop, so that you can easily connect with vendors and clients without having to clog up your inbox.
  11. MindMeister: Two heads are always better than one! This ingenious collaboration application lets you brainstorm with other users to come up with new layout plans, marketing strategies, or menu ideas with vendors, investors, and anyone else who wants to help.
  12. Ikordo: The last thing you want to pull you away from the kitchen is prep time for meetings you wish you didn’t have to attend anyway. Ikordo lets you organize meeting notes little by little, and sends you notifications by e-mail so that you’ll never be late.
  13. Harvest: Keep track of time with Harvest, which helps you "improve your business, one hour at a time."
  14. Biz-Plan 3: Even though you’ve already got your restaurant, you might still need to tweak your business plan and marketing strategies a bit in order to attract more investors and customers. Biz-Plan 3 will help you organize your proposals and ideas in no time.
  15. Hyper Office: This online project management application is perfect for small businesses. Engage your employees in extra restaurant responsibilities like scheduling, task tracking and management, and more to help alleviate some of the pressure.
  16. Box: This popular file sharing system offers different levels of membership: individual, business, or enterprise. Send large files to contacts using Box instead of e-mail for a faster, more secure connection.
  17. LogMeIn: Perfect for workaholics, LogMeIn allows you to access your computer’s desktop and software from anywhere. That way, you don’t have to feel like you’re leaving the restaurant when you jet off to trade shows, conferences, or even (gasp!) vacation.
  18. activeCollab: Tired of being the only one taking charge of a particular project? Invite others to help you out by joining activeCollab, a project management tool that helps you "eliminate stress" and "manage success."
  19. PunchyTime: Asking your servers, hosts, busboys and kitchen staff to literally punch in everyday is unbearably old-fashioned. Keep track of time with this Web-based tool that will keep you organized and modern.
  20. Basecamp: Setting up Basecamp on your restaurant’s network will let you and your co-workers easily manage to-do lists, communicate about projects, and delegate responsibility.
  21. Neptune: Stop procrastinating and "get stuff done" with Neptune. This easy-to-use tool prioritizes and organizes your to-do lists for you.

Networking Opportunities

Meeting up with other professionals in your industry will help you link up with investors, vendors, and potential business partners. Swap tips and horror stories with your new friends at these great conferences, clubs, and networking sites.

  1. Hospitality Career Network: Find qualified employees or think about switching restaurants with the job bank at the Hospitality Career Network.
  2. National Restaurant Association: This official site notifies visitors of upcoming events, industry news updates, relevant legislation and immigration policies, and much more.
  3. National Bartenders Association: Encourage your bartenders to join this organization for benefit packages, meet other bartenders, learn about new drinks, and catch up on bar and alcohol-related news. Membership is free.
  4. National Association of Catering Executives: If your restaurant also offers a catering service, consider joining up with this organization, which sponsors regional leadership summits and conferences throughout the year.
  5. Women Chefs and Restaurateurs: Learn about the different kinds of benefits and services you can obtain by connecting with the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs community.
  6. Chefs Collaborative: The community at Chefs Collaborative is "dedicated to promoting sustainable cuisine." Visit their website to find information about local chapters, donating and support, and more.
  7. American Culinary Federation: The ACF is the "premier professional chefs’ organization in North America." Discover new ways to manage your kitchen, further your career, and meet other industry insiders who can help strengthen your restaurant.
  8. Black Culinarian Alliance: This organization assists black chefs, managers, and hospitality professionals bring cultural awareness and diversity to the culinary industry. Search for employees or become involved in a youth-oriented culinary arts program in your town.
  9. National Bar and Restaurant Management Association: Link up with other restaurant and bar managers to learn about liquor licensing, managing employees, customers service, and more.
  10. National Council of Chain Restaurants: This organization is excellent for managers of chain restaurants or independent restaurateurs who are interested in becoming a franchise. Access government resources, join a committee, or just get more information.
  11. Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance: Post jobs at the MFHA employment center, become a sponsor, or just read up on news about diversity and immigration in the workforce.
  12. LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile to meet other restaurant owners and managers in your area, search for employees, or share stories and ideas with your customers.

Marketing Tips

Check out these resources for tips and ideas when you develop your restaurant’s marketing plan.

  1. Small Business Marketing Tips: This index of helpful marketing ideas from Inc.com will increase your restaurant’s popularity and success rate.
  2. Unsolicited Marketing Advice: Check out this blog for excellent marketing tips for succeeding in a technology-driven world.
  3. Microsoft Small Business Center: Microsoft.com provides all kinds of marketing advice, from holiday-specific ideas to online marketing strategies.
  4. CouponCuisine: CouponCuisine promises to take your restaurant to the next level with their set of tools, mailers, and other marketing resources especially designed for their dining clients.
  5. "Restaurant Marketing Tips: Beyond Coupons": This article from AWeber.com is a detailed guide for increasing your clientele.
  6. Small Business Branding: This Web site discusses the benefits of online marketing, branding, local advertising, and other strategies.
  7. Developing a Business Plan: Sponsored by the CIT Small Business Lending Corporation, this project will help you organize your ideas into one succinct, effective business and marketing plan.
  8. Restaurant Voice: This blog specializes in food service management and marketing tips. Recent titles include "Destination Restaurant: Drawing Patrons from Neighboring Communities" and "Co-Branding and Multi-Branding: When and How to Use Them in Your Restaurant."

Articles and Guides

These crash course guides are great for designing the inside of your restaurant, registering your property, or just getting a little extra support when you feel overwhelmed.

  1. Liquor Control: RestaurantEdge.com provides tips and information restaurateurs who are trying to apply for a liquor license. Find links to liquor license sites for all 50 states.
  2. Maxey Hayse Design Studio: Find easy tips for designing nightclubs, fancy restaurants, and casual diners.
  3. Tips for Great Restaurant Interior Design: This article from ezine.com offers lots of good advice for DIY restaurateurs and provides links to professional designers.
  4. ABCs of Real Estate: Before plunking down a serious deposit on a piece of property for your restaurant, quiz yourself on the ABCs of real estate to make sure someone’s not ripping you off.
  5. RestaurantNews.com: This Web site is full of articles and links to resources like health inspection information, classifieds, supplies, market reports, and more.
  6. Running a Restaurant for Dummies: The famed "Dummies" series now tackles the restaurant biz. Visit this site and find articles about staffing the kitchen, finding investors, and creating a menu.
  7. "How to Develop a Restaurant Menu: This short video explores the dos and don’ts of developing the perfect menu to show off your talents and please your guests.

Resources for Raising Capital

These tools will help you attract and connect with investors, so that having to raise capital won’t slow you down.

  1. Circadian Funding: This firm actively matches investors with restaurants to form "a partnership of business."
  2. "Capital Venture, Angel Investors, Lenders": This guide advises restaurateurs on how to find the right investors and lenders when first starting out.
  3. Bank of America Franchises and Restaurants: Bank of America has several different restaurant and franchise departments to help you acquire loans and financial assistance.
  4. Startup Nation: Startup Nation is a terrific resource for enterprising restaurateurs who need startup capital, want to connect with vendors, or learn how to design top notch marketing campaigns. Designed "by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs," Startup Nation understands the unique struggles of small business owners.
  5. Craigslist: Try posting a request for investors on Craigslist. Offer a free meal, private tour of the restaurant, and lots of coupons to attract backers.
  6. InvestorQuestions.com: This is the place to ask all of your investment and lending questions anonymously. Find out what investors really expect to see in proposals, annual reports, and more.
  7. "The Best Time of Year to Find Investors": This website has lots of great tips and articles like this one to help you narrow down your search when looking for investors.
  8. RaisingMoney.com: Discover clever strategies for attracting sponsors and donors. This site also connects visitors to grant services, credit and tax information, and small business advice.
  9. Fast Pitch: This online networking community isn’t just about meeting new contacts. Sign up to get marketing tips, advice on how to write proposals, and more.
  10. Proposal Kit: Use this software to develop proposals and reports that you can present to current and future investors.

Tips and Tools for Managing Clients, Customers and Vendors

The following list provides resources for organizing contact information, maximizing communication between vendors, donors and employees, and increasing your productivity in general.

  1. Zoho Meeting: If you can’t make a meeting because you’re waiting on a delivery, or you’re having an uncharacteristically busy Tuesday, connect with clients over the Web. Zoho Meeting is an excellent Web conferencing tool that keeps you from having to leave the restaurant.
  2. Breeze: Breeze creates and organizes "amazing email campaigns," so that you can effectively reach all your contacts with style.
  3. Boldchat: Keep your computer signed in to Boldchat, a chat and support system that works with your Web site. That way, you can talk with visitors about any questions or feedback they may have.
  4. Moo: When your restaurant offers new specials or wants to advertise a snazzy event or fundraiser, design and print postcards with Moo.
  5. 8apps: 8apps sponsors "social networking for productive people." Connect food and beverage vendors through fun features like Handshake, Blueprint, and Orchestrate.
  6. Monkey on Your Back: If you need to whip a vendor or employee into shape, send them a virtual monkey to remind them of tasks they need to hurry up and complete.
  7. Guru: This Web site is "the world’s largest online marketplace for freelance talent." Search for freelancers to help you out with Web design, copyrighting, and other chores you probably don’t have time for.
  8. Xing: Log on to this professional networking community to search for new talent, meet financial backers, and recruit new customers.
  9. Comodo: This e-mail client promises secure, uninterrupted connections so that all of your conversations remain exclusive.
  10. Backpack: Backpack organizes your many to-do lists and contact sheets, making it virtually impossible for you to lose track of anything.
  11. Chaos Software: This Windows app offers content management and time tracking downloads that help you stay on your toes.
  12. Highrise: For an easy way to master client relationship management, use Highrise, which includes an address book, contact manager, and project organizer. You’ll be able to keep track of all your kitchen, financial, customer, and employee duties in one place.
  13. eFax: Throw that noisy, junky fax machine out of the back office and use eFax, a system that allows you to send faxes through your e-mail. The first 30 days are free.
  14. SightSpeed: Stop wasting time driving all over town for meetings. Set up video chat and video conferencing with SightSpeed so that you’re always close to the kitchen.
  15. Essential PIM: This popular, all-inclusive CRM software comes complete with calendars, address books, and project management tools. Use with Outlook, your Palm Pilot, or even your iPod.
  16. Wufoo: To keep in touch with what you customers really think about your food, set up a feedback form on your Web site using Wufoo.

Accounting Tools

From employee paydays to paying all your bills, these accounting tools have got you covered.

  1. BillQuick Lite 2007: This up-to-date software combines project management, time tracking and payment plans into one effective system so that you don’t have to spend hours calculating all your bills.
  2. QuickBooks: Use QuickBooks for an easy-to-use accounting solution. Check the Web site before you order to get the best deals.
  3. Adminisoft Freeware: This accounting software is completely free. Organize invoices, "keep track of who owes you money" and "record all your supplier details" with the same tool.
  4. FreshBooks: FreshBooks is a powerful invoicing tool that allows users to automatically send out notices, accept payments through PayPal, and file away all of your important data.
  5. Tick: Tick is a fantastic online tool that helps you track how much time you and your employees spend at work so that you can organize payroll and report back to your investors.
  6. Dimewise: Just because you’re a restaurateur doesn’t mean you can’t also be a financial genius. Use Dimewise to break down your different accounts so that you can analyze exactly how much money you’re spending and how much you’re making.
  7. Blinksale: Blinksale is "the easiest way to send invoices online." Edit, print, and send invoices with this super simplified software, which organizes data by client, date, or template.
  8. Microsoft Office Accounting Professional: If you’re comfortable with Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint, consider using Microsoft Office’s Accounting Professional to help you out when you hit the books.
  9. OneStep Accounting: With OneStep, you gain access to a hefty accounting package but also a business management program that will help you set up and run your restaurant.

Critical Thinking for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs

Saturday, October 20, 2007 at 6:00pm by Site Administrator

What do Sherlock Holmes, Batman and Adrian Monk have in common? Besides being fictional crimefighters in their own ways, they’re all what some people might call critical thinkers. Applied to business, critical thinking might make the difference between producing a truly groundbreaking product or service and just another variation of existing offerings.

What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is hard to define exactly because there really is no universal definition. It’s based on principles, not procedures. It involves non-linear, open-minded, multi-disciplinary approaches and considering multiple potential solutions. It takes a lifetime of continuing to learn, and considering input from all five senses before applying analytical principles to complex problem solving. (Think Batman or Adrian Monk.) Critical thinking is about how to think, not just what to think, and for some it’s a pursuit of truth. To me, critical thinking is the ultimate application of “lifehacking”.

Examples of Critical Thinkers
Who are critical thinkers? Logicians, philosophers, detectives/ CSIs, FBI profilers, forensic scientists, to name a few. They go beyond the basic principles to solve problems, using multi-disciplinary thinking, and have many attributes.

How Can Entrepreneurs Use Critical Thinking?
Entrepreneurs, especially bootstrapping entrepreneurs, probably have the mental framework and background to become critical thinkers, if they’re not already. Bootstrappers in particular have to solve problems in the most cost-effective long-term manner, not just put a bandage on the problem. The bandage is just a superficial solution; the root cause of the problem still exists.

To accomplish this requires both an basic understanding of various types of thinking (science, math, history, anthropology, economics, philosophy, logic, etc.) and an open-mindedness to consider various solutions. To really solve a problem, find not just the symptoms but the root cause, then attack that.

In my opinion, one of the most ideal tools for critical thinking is the use mindmapping. However, not once in over 30 years of using mindmaps have I ever seen anyone connect radiant thinking (mindmapping) with critical thinking.

Why Don’t More Entrepreneurs Use Critical Thinking?
There are probably three main reasons that more entrepreneurs do not use critical thinking:

  1. Critical thinking is not learned naturally by most people, without catalyzing conditions.
  2. It’s not commonly taught in the public education system, if anywhere at all, and certainly not in many careers.
  3. The results of critical thinking sometimes resemble idealism, and there’s a chain of confusion about idealism. It’s confused by some with “bleeding-heart liberalism”, which is confused with socialism, which is confused with communism – considered a sin by most Americans. Idealism and communism are wholly different, buthow do you go against this kind of societal misconception?
  4. Having capital to throw at a problem often dulls the thought process towards coming up with more cost-effective, efficient solutions.

Even if you find you’ve learned to think critically on your own, it takes discipline to experience constant application, and it’s a lifetime learning process. The path of least resistance – which is related to the principle of least effort – suggests we’ll take the easy road out. That is usually to throw money at a problem and have done with it.

Summary
That said, bootstrapping entrepreneurs have the greatest opportunity to become critical thinkers. Out of necessity due to lack of capital, they’re open to alternate solutions.

Entrepreneurship: Getting Things Started – GTS

Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 9:00pm by Site Administrator

Forget about GTD (Getting Things Done). What about GTS – Getting Things Started? If you’re working a full time job, how can you get your startup launched sooner?

Well, I’m an incessant planner. Or I was. This year has finally become a time of action, of GTS for me. I’ve launched several projects with different partners, with varying degrees of success.

Now, granted that I haven’t worked a salaried career job since 1998, and I’m a long-time freelancer (on and off). However, I treat each new project the same way as if I were still working full-time. That is, I have important tasks right now that earn me my living, and anything new could affect that.

If my situation distracts you, let’s forget about it for the moment. Let’s say you’re working full-time and you want to GTS. What do you do?

Firstly, you review both what your goals are/ will be and your current situation:

  1. What are your financial goals?
  2. How will your startup up help you achieve those goals?
  3. What are your current savings? How much of that will you need to start up?
  4. How much free time do you have per week for working on your startup, without interfering with your personal life or day job? (Or night job, as the case may be.)
  5. Have you launched your startup? If not, what’s holding you back? Capital? Time? Resources? Personnel?
  6. What can you do to get past the barrier(s)?
  7. Do you have partners?
  8. Are there any potential sources of capital you haven’t considered, or even silent partners?
  9. Do you have a back up plan?
  10. What are you really waiting for?

Now, what do you need to launch your startup, and what can you do to accelerate that? Your answers to the above questions are obviously not going to be the same as others. If capital is a factor, increase it by spending less. Sacrifice, but not to the point where it affects you negatively. You have to decide what those boundaries are.

There are only two components to GTS: (1) desire and (2) action. The desire is composed of your personal motivations. This in turn drives action. If you don’t desire something enough, there’s unlikely to be any action.

Many successful people have said that keeping yourself just a little bit hungry, literally and figuratively, in all aspects of life, is what will drive you. I know this for a fact, from my own experiences.

Without this “hunger” to do something, there’ll be little creativity or productivity.

By the way, if you need reminders to get something started, try Ping Me if you don’t like regular to-do list applications.

The 100 Best Business Finance Posts of All Time

Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 2:21pm by Site Administrator

In business, nearly everything revolves around finance, so it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular topics in business blogging. From financing to setting the value of your work, it’s essential to get good advice. These posts offer some of the best information that’s out there.

Funding & Earning

The acquisition of money is the lifeblood of any business. Read these posts to find out how you can get money through funding and focusing on earning in your business.

  1. How A Beggar in Grenada Uses Data to Optimize Donations: Check out this post to find out what your business can learn from a beggar.
  2. Open innovation and crowdsourcing: Learn how to finance your project by tapping into large crowds.
  3. Starting A New Business Over 60: Learn how to secure financing if you’re an entrepreneur of a certain age.
  4. The Art of Bootstrapping: Read this post for tips on developing your business without investors.
  5. Can You Make $3,000 in ONE Day?: Think outside the box to earn more money per day.
  6. Need Money? Looking For Another Business Loan? Perhaps There Is Another Option: Consider solving problems before automatically reaching for more money.
  7. Government Grant Money For Small Business: Learn the basics of getting government money in this post.
  8. Truth About Grants: There’s no free lunch–get the lowdown on the reality of grants.
  9. Why Women Entrepreneurs Don’t Get the Financing They Need: Find out why women are "playing small" when it comes to business finance, and what can be done about it.
  10. 10 Ways To Fund Your Business: From credit cards to friends and family, check out these alternative ways to get money for your business.
  11. The Fiction of 20%: Find out why it’s really not that important for venture capitalists to own 20% of your company.
  12. My Corporate Valuation Workbook: Get the Cliff’s Notes to financial analysis in this post.
  13. The Top Ten Lies of Venture Capitalists: Do you need funding, but keep getting blown off by VCs? Get to the bottom of what they’re telling you.
  14. How Entrepreneurs Can Find the Financing Help They Need: Take these steps to locate financing for your business in a responsible way.
  15. What are Venture Capitalists looking for?: Find out if you’ve got what VCs want to invest in.
  16. Focus on Your IPAs: Income Producing Activities: Small Biz Survival reminds readers to focus on activities that produce money.

Planning

Financial forecasting and planning is essential to ongoing success. Learn more about research and modeling in these posts.

  1. Financial Models for Underachievers: Two Years of the Real Numbers of a Startup: Redfin‘s Glenn Kelman lays down the numbers of a startup.
  2. Please Stop With Your Chinese Math: Don’t let market size deceive you–Chinese math is no good.
  3. Inexpensive Ways to Conduct Marketing Research: Get budget-efficient communications with your clientele using these ideas.
  4. The ABCs of Cash Flow Forecasting: Get the basics of cash flow forecasting in this post.
  5. How to use Inkling Prediction Markets for your business: Harness the knowledge of crowds to predict sales for your business.

Spending

Once you’re earning money, it’s important to use it wisely. Read these posts to consider how to effectively spend money in your business.

  1. 25 Gadgets That Actually Save Money: Laptops, power strips, coin sorters and other gadgets can actually pay for themselves in savings. Make an investment with these money-saving gadgets.
  2. Bootstrapping Tip: To rent or not to rent?: Find out if renting office space is right for your business or not.
  3. Even a Small Leak Can Empty Your Money Bucket Quickly: Avoid draining your hard-won earnings by stemming leaks in your business’ spending.
  4. Lease A Car, Don’t Buy It!: If you’ve got fleet vehicles, or just a few executive cars, take these points into consideration when deciding whether you should lease them or make a commitment to buying.
  5. Piggybacking on Your Neighbor’s WiFi: If you’re in a highly populated business area, chances are you have a pretty good chance of tapping into some free WiFi. This post considers the ethical and security implications of doing so.
  6. Discounts Abound for Small-Business Owners: Get these deals that are designed specifically for small business owners.
  7. A Few Ways To Save Money With a Small Business Opportunity: Get started cheaply using these tips.

Customers

Customers are essential to your business, so it’s important that you handle transactions with them properly. Learn how to value your customers and get them to pay their bills in this collection of posts.

  1. Ignore a Customer’s Lifetime Value at Your Own Risk: Don’t forget how much money a single customer means to you, or you could lose more than just their business.
  2. 14 Web-Based Invoicing Tools To Make Sure You Get Paid: These invoicing tools make getting money from your clients a breeze.
  3. What Happens if Your Clients Don’t Pay?: Learn how to handle non-paying clients in this post.
  4. Collecting Receivables: Jeff Cornwall encourages readers to wake up and smell the roses–and get customers to pay you what they owe.

Money Management

When you’re operating a business, money management gets more complicated. Read these posts for advice about financial managers and to get good ideas for handling money on your own.

  1. Make Sure Your Financial Advisor is Not a Loser: Free Money Finance marvels at the fact that a money "loser" is employed as a financial advisor. Read this post to find out the importance of avoiding hiring hacks like this guy.
  2. The Financial Messiness of the Entrepreneurial Life: Navigate the ups and downs of the financial life of an entrepreneur with these thoughts from Inspired Business Growth.
  3. Building Banking Relationships That Last: Make friends with your bankers, and they can help you in a crunch.
  4. For the love of $$$: Find out how the love of money can present obstacles to launching your venture successfully.
  5. Five Effective Ways to Re-Invest Your Profits: When you make money, what should you do with it? College-Startup answers this important question.
  6. Planners and Fees: Get smart about the financial planner that you hire for your business. Use these four points as a start to your consideration.
  7. Five Tips For Managing Your Finances on the Go: Many entrepreneurs are on the go and don’t have a lot of time to sit down and work on money issues. Use these tips and tools to take care of business without having to stop by the office.

Fairness

Businesses are consumers, too, and you need to know how to fight back when you’ve been wronged by another business. Find out how to deal with common problems in these posts.

  1. How to Complain: Get the basics on this essential first step of the righting process.
  2. Can You Do Simple Math? Good, Then You’ll Soon Realize Why You Need to Resolve My Complaint: Learn how to reason with companies by spelling out what your complaint means to their bottom line.
  3. How To Take a Case To Small Claims Court: If you need to escalate to legal action, this is the place to start.
  4. Negotiate This!: Follow these tips to become a smart negotiator.

Business Development & Transitions

Whether you’re still brainstorming about ideas or or about to sell off your business, money is a big factor to consider. Take a look at these posts to understand more about its impact in development and transitions in business.

  1. Q&A: Selling Out to a Partner: So you’ve decided to go your separate ways–now how do you deal with the money? Learn how in this post from Bplans.
  2. Should You Quit School Because You’re Brilliant?: Business is booming, even though you’re still hitting the books. Is it time to throw in the towel on school?
  3. Show Me The Money: In business, everything has a price: Learn why you shouldn’t automatically turn down offers to buy your business.
  4. Income vs. Cash Flow: Why Growth Can Kill Your Business: Don’t let rapid growth kill your startup: take this advice from Business Pundit.
  5. How to Buy a Business in 10 [not so] Easy Steps: Take these steps when you’re shopping around for a new business venture.
  6. Making Money With the Boom Bust Blitz: Manage your assets and liabilities to your best advantage, and you’ll be successful no matter what stage of business cycle you’re in.
  7. Is starting a business impossible when you are the sole income earner in your family?: Pamela Slim takes on financial responsibility for entrepreneurs.
  8. Sell Your Business in Twelve Steps: Take these 12 steps when you’re ready to let go and cash in on your hard work.
  9. Q&A: The Balance Sheet When Buying a Business: Take these financial tips into consideration when you’re acquiring a new business.

Employees & Outsourcing

Your employees are perhaps your most valuable asset. These posts consider salaries, outsourcing, and watching out for losses.

  1. Does pay for performance pay?: Get more bang for your payroll buck by considering this question.
  2. 10 Ways of Overcoming Outsourcing Objections: Find out why outsourcing can work for your business.
  3. Is your business vulnerable to fraud?: Don’t let money slip through your hands by opening yourself up to fraud.
  4. Decide Your Success With Bookkeeping Outsourcing: Get someone else to keep a watchful eye on your accounting to save money and time.
  5. Give Your Employees More Rope, Not Money To Buy It: Learn why throwing more money at employees isn’t always the best idea.
  6. To Outsource or Not to Outsource: Consider whether or not outsourcing is right for your business by reading this post.
  7. Avoid Getting Gypped by Fraudulent Web Designers: Outsourcing web design can be a smart money move, but not if you get burned.
  8. Whistlelower incentives?: Consider whether or not you should financially reward employees that report trouble.

Value

Whether you’re setting your prices or considering how much your time is worth, business is all about value. Learn how to set yours and find strategies to improve it in these posts.

  1. Whether or not to publish your prices: Find out whether or not you should make your pricing publicly available.
  2. Four tasks to increase values or prices in business transactions: Maximize your financial returns using these four strategies.
  3. Selling Yourself On The Value Of Your Time: It can be easy to forget to charge for your time, but it’s essential that you do so. Read this post to find out why and how.
  4. How Much Money Is Integrity Worth?: Increase your value by improving your integrity and reducing the risk of working with you.
  5. 6 Simple Steps for Sales Success: Follow these tips for sales and you’ll earn more from your clients.
  6. How Much Should You Charge For Your Web App?: The Instigator Blog answers this essential question.
  7. Will Work for MONEY: Are you tired of getting offers that ask you to trade your service for "experience?" Mind Petals is, too–read all about it here.
  8. Such a Thing As Too High of An Hourly Rate?: Learn why it’s all relative when it comes to rates.
  9. Be Proud of Your Prices: Learn how to stay strong in the face of clients who don’t want to pay what you require.
  10. Are You Short Changing Your Business?: Get down to the emotional root of why you don’t want to raise your rates in this post.
  11. Top Ten Signs You May Be Charging Too Little: This humorous post takes a look at pricing situations you should avoid.
  12. New Price Structure for 2007?: Base your prices on what value you offer, not what everyone else is charging.
  13. Business Ethics: Why Doing the Right Thing Pays Dividends: Learn why trust builds value in business.
  14. Dollars & Sense: Setting the Perfect Rates: Determine the perfect rate for your business using the guidelines from this post.
  15. Flip this product: Adding Value to an Existing Product by Dressing It Up: Sell profitable products using this strategy.
  16. Nine Factors to Consider When Determining Your Price: You’ll need to think about things like market demand and your audience when setting the value of your product or service.
  17. 20 Ways to Add Value to Your Products and Services: Increase your prices and customer satisfaction with these 20 ideas.
  18. Avoiding the horror of the sliding scale: This post asserts that you shouldn’t do sliding scale payments unless you’re in the business of helping people with money.
  19. Should the "Free" In Freelance Refer To the Price?: Watch out for "opportunities to build your portfolio." Success From The Nest says they’re bad news.

Ideas

Although you can’t make money on an idea alone, they’re still vital to sparking a successful business venture. Take a look at these money-making ideas to consider how yours stacks up.

  1. Bottled Water Experiment: Neville proves that his idea to make money with no money actually works.
  2. Top 20 Dumbest Business Ideas That Made Millions…Or Not!: 10 of these dumb ideas made money, 10 of them didn’t. Consider whether or not your idea is on the million dollar side of the fence.
  3. It’s The Economics, Stupid–Why A New Idea Isn’t The Key To Entrepreneurship: Find out why money is more important than ideas in entrepreneurship.
  4. Top Ten Franchise Opportunities for $20,000: Take on these low cost franchise opportunities for easy entrepreneurship.
  5. Why Didn’t I Think of That Billionaires: Check out these billion dollar ideas that came from creating something their originators could be passionate about.
  6. Selling Notes: Neville experiments with selling class notes.

Advertising

Advertising is often expensive, but there are ways to make your dollars stretch in this category. Check out these posts for strategies that will help you get more out of your advertising purchases.

  1. The Secrets to Free Advertising: Find out how you can create free advertising in this article.
  2. Getting Started with Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing: Get the basics on launching a successful PPC campaign in this post.
  3. 6 Tips to Recovering From a Typo in Your Printed Sales Letter or Brochure: Oops! You just made a costly mistake. Here’s how to fix it without going broke.
  4. Spending Those Hard Earned Dollars On Advertising: Get the most bang for your advertising buck by considering the ideas in this post.
  5. 5 Steps To Turn More Leads Into Cash: Get more concrete responses from your ads using these strategies.

Taxes

Taxes are a headache for anyone, but they’re even worse for business owners. Learn about important tax issues in these posts.

  1. The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses: Get the lowdown on writing off expenses like travel and vehicle usage.
  2. Tax Write Offs When Self Employed: Use these resources to get tax tips you can actually use.
  3. Planning a Business Trip: Make your business trip a tax deduction rather than a liability.

Other

These posts cover even more great topics in business finance.

  1. 7 Practical Ways to Earn More By Working Less: Get more money out of your work time with these 7 tips.
  2. 30 Essential Pieces of Free (and Open) Software for Windows: Find free software that can help you run your business in this post.
  3. Online Rival to Quickbooks: Check out this finance software alternative to save money.
  4. Here is a picture of my 10 million dollar yacht: Don’t fall for these money wasting schemes that prey on wannabe entrepreneurs.
  5. Five Credit Card Fees You Can Avoid: Save money by giving these credit card fees the slip.
  6. Managing Time For Maximum Profit: Work smarter, not harder, and you’ll maximize profit.
  7. Does a CEO Have Any Business Posting on the Yahoo! Message Boards?: Consider the implications of publicly discussing your business finances by reading this post.

100 Tools and Resources to Value, Negotiate, and Sell Your eProperties

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 2:26pm by Site Administrator

Domaining is a hot market right now, but it’s been rightfully called a new wild west. It’s a daunting task to sell domain properties without selling yourself short, getting exposed to fraud, or other atrocities. Check out these tools designed to make selling domains easier, safer, and more profitable.

DIY Valuation

Determining what price you should set or settle for is essential. Your gut feeling may have you reaching for the stars, but your price needs to be grounded in reality. Use these tools to figure out the best price for your domain.

  1. MarketLeap: Use MarketLeap’s Link Popularity Checker to find out how many sites link to your domain.
  2. Self Domain Appraisal: Check out this thread to learn how to appraise the value of your site on your own.
  3. Google Adwords Traffic Estimator: Find out how many people are looking for your site’s top keywords with this tool.
  4. Appraisal Measurement Criteria: Check out the way Zetetic values domains.
  5. Valuation of Developed Websites: Consider the cost to create a new comparative website, traffic, revenue, and other factors when valuing your developed domain.
  6. Website Value 101-How to Appraise a Website: Get the basics on website valuation in this article.
  7. Search Engine Optimization Analysis Tool: Use this tool to test your domain’s receptiveness to search engine spiders.
  8. URL Trends: Find out where your domain ranks on PR, Alexa, and links. You can also take advantage of their URL comparison tool.
  9. Pay Per Click Calc: Use this calculator to figure out revenue from clicks and traffic figures on your site.
  10. Web Site Valuation Calculator: Use this formula for a quick way to get an idea of your website’s value.
  11. How To Sell A Website-How Much Is Your Website Worth?: Yaro’s number one rule? "Your site is worth as much as someone is willing to give you for it."
  12. Compete: Get traffic graphs for up to three domains at a time on this site.
  13. A Guide to Basic Variables That Make a Web Site Valuable: Read this thread from Webmaster World to calculate future profitability, traffic, and other valuation basics.
  14. Toolurl: Check rank position, link popularity, Google Page Rank, and lots of other important valuation stats.
  15. Alexa: Get traffic stats and rank information on Alexa.
  16. How to Value Your Domain Name: Check out this guide to domain name valuation from Internet Gold Rush.

Appraisal Services

If you’re unsure of your domain’s value, or just want expert opinion, appraisal services can come in very handy. These services and tools range from precise to ballpark, and free to fairly expensive.

  1. Premium Domain: Find out if you’re sitting on garbage or a domain that’s worth some serious cash by getting it appraised with Premium Domains.
  2. Estibot: This appraisal tool is good for getting a rough ballpark estimate of your domain’s value.
  3. Zetetic: Find out your fair market value with Zetetic.
  4. URLbuyers Appraisal: Get your domain name looked at by an individual appraiser on this site.
  5. LeapFish: Get appraisals and instant domain name values on LeapFish.
  6. Swift Appraisal: Find out how much your domain is worth based on Swift Appraisal’s eleven factors.
  7. The Domain Name Appraisal Scam: Arm yourself with knowledge against scammers who want to take advantage of domain name owners.
  8. Nameboy: Use this tool that values your domain based on length, word count, and demand of words and phrases online.

Market Watch

Sellers in real estate often look at comparable properties to predict how theirs will perform, and domainers should do the same. Use these resources to check out domains that are similar to yours and see how much they’re selling for, as well as who is buying them.

  1. Wikipedia: Comparables: Get an introduction to comparables here.
  2. DomainersHub: DomainersHub is a real-time domain listing monitoring system, which lets you keep an eye on the values of domains for sale, broken down by premium domains and everything else.
  3. DN Journal Year to Date Sales Charts: See the top site sales by rank on this page.
  4. NameBio: Domainers can get sales and comps history on domain names. With NameBio, you can find out information like sales price, auction results, and more.
  5. Sold Names: Check out the sales of past premium domains here.
  6. DN Sale Price: Get sales history for all published domain sales from 2003 to the present on this site.

Marketplaces

So you’ve determined your value and you’re ready to sell. Now what? Put your property out on the market and start talking to buyers on these marketplaces for domains.

  1. Afternic: As one of the leading premium domain sellers and a marketing partner with the majority of the best registrars online, the odds are good that you’ll have a profitable sale on Afternic.
  2. dnScoop Marketplace: Sell your domain on this marketplace, and take advantage of its in-house valuation tool.
  3. Domain Marketplace: Sell your domain names with natural traffic, one and two word generic terms, and strong traffic on Domain Marketplace.
  4. Votan Web: Get exposure to web entrepreneurs, Internet tycoons, and other web developers on this sales site.
  5. V7n Network: On this network, you’ll get access to a large development community and be able to take advantage of a great sales format.
  6. Buy Sell Website: This marketplace has listings for both established and start-up websites.
  7. DomainState: This is a great place to sell whether you’ve already priced your domain or want to put it out for offers and auctions.
  8. Search Engine Forums: Get selling advice and post your domain on this forum.
  9. Domain Shows: Get free or paid listings on this domain marketplace.
  10. NamePros: Post your domain name for sale in this forum of over 69,000 domain name owners.
  11. GoDaddy Domain Name Aftermarket: Put your domain up for auction on GoDaddy’s site and you’ll enjoy low commission fees and high visibility.
  12. Web Hosting Talk: Get offers or check out specific requests on this forum.
  13. DigitalPoint: Digital Point’s Sites Forum allows you to list sites and find resources at the same time.
  14. Experiment: Selling a Domain Name on eBay, Part 1: eBay isn’t considered to be one of the best places to sell your domain. Nonetheless, this domainer’s willing to give it a try. Learn about his experience here.
  15. SnapNames: Get 30 day advertisement and an auction with lots of exposure as well as easy payment and transfers on SnapNames.
  16. Tulip Domains: Put your domain up for sale on Tulip Domains, and you’ll get offers via email that you can accept or reject, with a 5% commission to Tulip Domains.

Development

One effective way to increase your domain’s value is to put some effort into the development of its brand. Full development is best, but these tools and resources offer shortcuts that help.

  1. Domain Development with Ning.com: Check out this article for a look into developing your domain with Ning.com’s social network platform.
  2. Domain Parking Shortcomings: Content: Read this article for an argument to go beyond just parking your domain.
  3. Get a Rush of Traffic to Your Blog: Put BlogRush on your domain, and you’ll have links to relevant articles instead of a plain parked page.
  4. WP Cloner: You can maintain your blog on multiple domains with this tool.
  5. YellowDev: If you want to oursource your domain’s development, check out developers like these guys.
  6. Auto-Generated Web Sites: The Future of Domain Parking?: Find out how domain parkers may soon make pages look more like real web sites.
  7. Domainer: Hire Domainer to develop your premium domain names.

Negotiation Tactics

You want $10,000 for your domain, but your buyer is only willing to part with $100. Where do you go from there? Use these negotiation tools to leverage a better deal.

  1. How to Negotiate Domain Name Prices: Learn more about the art of negotiating and employ the tactics laid out in this post.
  2. Negotiate Like a Pro: Use these simple ideas for a look into the basics of domain seller negotiating.
  3. Domain Price Negotiation: Check out this basic rundown of domain negotiations from iGoldRush.com.
  4. Keep Negotiations Secret When Selling an eBusiness: Find out why it’s vital to keep quiet about your domain sale in this article.
  5. Negotating A Deal: Check out these tips for domain buyers to see how the other side thinks.
  6. How to Negotiate: This site is full of ongoing advice on the art of negotiation that can be applied to any situation, including domain sales.

Brokers

If you aren’t a great negotiator or just don’t have the time or ambition to take on an eproperty sale yourself, consider hiring a broker. Although they work on commission, they generally deliver a better profit than you’d be able to get on your own.

  1. Should I Use an e-Business Broker?: Read this article to determine whether a broker is right for you or not.
  2. Selling Your Domain Name Via a Broker: Check out this guide to using a broker from Internet Gold Rush.
  3. Impressive Domains: Impressive Domains goes beyond "list and hope" with an active team of marketers and experts in domain name negotiation.
  4. Business Broker: If you’re selling an established domain, you’re selling more than just a name–you’re selling a business. Enlist the help of this expert business broker for the best results.
  5. Working With a Broker When You Buy or Sell an eCommerce Website: Learn about how a broker can help you improve your domain sale in this article.
  6. Sedo: From brokerage to appraisals and transfers, Sedo takes care of the nitty gritty work of selling your domain.
  7. Website Auction Hub: Use Website Auction Hub’s broker service to get the most money out of your transaction and preserve your identity at the same time.
  8. iMerge Advisors: For small to mid-market domain businesses, iMerge Advisors offers expert brokerage services.

Financial Services

Once you’ve reached an agreement, it’s time to get paid! Fight fraud, accept credit cards, and make your life easier by checking out these financial service providers for domainers.

  1. Escrow Services: Get an introduction to how escrow services work here.
  2. Authorize.net: Accept credit cards and protect yourself from fraud with Autorize.net.
  3. Escrow.com: With Escrow, you can protect yourself from fraud whether you’re buying or selling a domain.
  4. Ikobo: Use Ikobo’s money transfer services to safely accept money from your domain sale. They even have instant payment notification.
  5. PayPal: This favorite makes it easy to accept credit cards or just about any other kind of financial transaction from your buyer.
  6. Escrow AA: Escrow AA specializes in online escrow services.

Transfers

Once you’ve gotten paid, it’s time to deliver. Get the lowdown on domain transfers with these resources.

  1. What’s the Difference Between a Domain Name Transfer and a Push?: Find out why pushing domains can make domain sales easier and faster for all parties.
  2. ICANN Transfers: Learn about ICANN’s transfers policies here.
  3. How to: Transfer Domain Registrar: Read about one person’s domain transfer experience.

Management Services

Whether you’re juggling 20 domains or 200, keeping track of their status can be a daunting task. Take advantage of these software and service solutions that help you stay on top of it all.

  1. Moniker: Use Moniker to take care of nearly everything to do with your domains: registration, portfolio management, appraisal, escrow and more.
  2. Rebel: Get the Rebel Portfolio Manager to manage an unlimited number of domains.
  3. dnZoom: With dnZoom, you can link your registrar and parking accounts, manage all of your domains in one place, and keep an eye on auctions.
  4. NameFollow: With this software, you can organize, track, and sell your domains.
  5. [email protected] Domain Name Management: For domain name management that’s less automated and more thorough, check out [email protected]
  6. Domainsoho: Check out this service and get in as a beta tester before it’s released.

News & Blogs

Domaining is a growing trend that’s sure to change and adapt in the future. Keep an eye on the industry with these blogs and news outlets.

  1. DN Journal: Get industry buzz, sales charts, resources and more on this online magazine.
  2. DomainerPro: Check out this blog for beginner domainers.
  3. Domain Food: Get headlines from the domain name industry aggregated on Domain Food.
  4. Seven Mile: Check out Frank Schilling’s blog for domainer news as well as information on internet infrastructure and paid search.
  5. The Domainer’s Gazette: Get news, musings and ramblings on the domainer industry here.
  6. Daily Domainer: This major new source covers topics like registrars, disputes, domain tasting, and more.
  7. Domain Names Weekly: Check out the Domain Stock Index on this site.
  8. Rick Schwartz: Learn about domainer strategies from the "Domain King" here.
  9. DotSauce: DotSauce goes beyond news and ICANN controversies with articles, reviews, and apps for domainers.
  10. Domain Name News: Learn about domain sales, news about domain companies, and other happenings in the industry on this new site.
  11. DNHour: Check out this Digg for domainers that lists popular news stories as well as domains up for auction.
  12. Whizzbang’s Blog: You’ll find lots of insightful news and domainer commentary on this blog.
  13. Conceptualist: Read this blog from domain entrepreneur Sahar Sarid.
  14. DomainTools: Check out this blog for the latest in domain industry news.
  15. Domain Name Wire: This news source has information about sales, services, and laws that domainers need to know about.
  16. Other

    Get even more assistance with selling your domain from these resources.

  17. Preparing a Website for Sale: Take note of some of the steps you need to take when putting your domain up for sale.
  18. Idiot Posing as a Lawyer Attempts to Steal Domain Names: Watch out for fraudsters like this.
  19. Domain Scams Increasing: Watch out for these scams when selling or maintaining your domains.

Secrets of Thinking Outside the Box: 27 Ways Digital Entrepreneurs Can Use Mindmapping

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 11:45am by Site Administrator

One of the most efficient and powerful methods for thinking outside of the box is mindmapping. Mindmaps, when done manually on paper, often look like a neural map – a radial network of connected ideas. In digital form, they’re even more powerful, allowing for "hyperlinks" between maps, to other applications and content, and to web pages. This is an ideal method for many business uses, but is often neglected by entrepreneurs. If you’re famliar with mindmapping, you can skip down to the list of suggested entrepreneurial uses. Else browse through the next few sections first.

Overview

Mindmapping stimulates both the creative and logical sides of the brain. The mindmapping process is easy: start with a central idea and think radially, adding nodes that might in turn have additional branches and nodes. In fact, this method is taught to school kids in some places, but often neglected by adults. Mindmapping is sometimes called radiant thinking. It frees up the mind from linear thought processes that a sheet of lined paper often imposes. A mindmap lets you branch off with many subtopics and variants. It promotes outside-the-box thinking – whether you do it on paper or with mindmapping software. Note: the term "mind-map" is trademarked by Tony Buzan, who did most of the early research on this method as well as wrote most of the books. Some references: Use Both Sides of Your Brain: New Mindmapping Techniques (originally published in 1974) and The Mind Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential.

Mindmap Examples, Tools and Resources

You can see an example at Top 100 Foods for Productivity: Mindmap and several at Tubetorial. A mindmap outlining the article you’re reading is shown below. Also check out Mind-mapping.org, MindMap Search, and College Degree’s 99 Mind Mapping Resources, Tools and Tips. Note that I have a personal bias towards using Mindjet‘s MindManager Pro 7, but there are many great mindmapping tools. Look for a big review, coming soon, at Lifehack.org.

Mindmapping - radiant thinking for entrepreneurs

 

Suggested Entrepreneurial Uses

The uses below can be accomplished with most mindmapping packages, even most free software. So they’re ideal uses for bootstrapping entrepreneurs. Please note that for most instances, I’m referring to software-based mindmaps and mindmapping, unless indicated as a paper-based use.
Information Organization

  1. General organization. Because mindmaps allow both lists (linear) and radial organization of ideas – that is, offer flexible data containers – they’re an ideal way of organizing large blocks of ideas into clusters of related ideas.
  2. Knowledgebases. Prior to building a knowledgebase for your business, accumulate ideas in a mindmap, in a non-structured way. This allows you to change clusters without "physical restraint", until you’re ready to finalize the concepts you’ve recorded.

Design and Planning

  1. Structured brainstorming. One of the problems of regular brainstorming methods is that people often "think inside the box". Since mindmapping frees up both sides of the brain, it often tends to be a better way of brainstorming. Record all ideas as they come, then later drag and move ideas into suitable clusters. If you’re working with someone remotely, try Comapping, which is is an easy to use, real-time, web-based collaborative mindmapping tool.
  2. Business plan design. See the big picture of your business more easily. Use mindmaps to record a dynamic outline first.
  3. Products and services planning. One of the big problems with planning a new offering to your customers is that you cannot always find the capital to offer all features. Use mindmaps to implement your plan for continuous improvement.
  4. Website architecting. Whether you have one or more websites, the natural hierarchical structure of a mindmap can help you design your site architecture.
  5. Editorial calendar. If you plan to have an active blog for your business, an editorial calendar helps organize your plan for future articles. Using a mindmap to develop the calendar makes it easier to revise before final draft.
  6. Create presentations. As with other text and visual content, use a mindmap to help organize and create presentations – whether just for your team or for venture capitalists. If you’re targeting the latter, you can use mindmaps to pull together resumes for team members, which is often a requirement for getting venture capital and sometimes business loans. (Or if that doesn’t work out, redo your own resume.)
  7. Create web resource maps. Because most mindmapping software allows hyperlinks from a map node to a website (not to mention, to other maps and applications), it’s easy to create a web resource. See a clickable example at Case Study: Bootstrapping an Online Information Business.
  8. Daily planning. Mindmaps are ideal for any sort of general planning you need to do, either for business or personal matters.

General Management Use

  1. Project planning. Mindmaps are an ideal way to break down a project prior to applying full-blown Project Management (PM) techniques. What’s more, some mindmapping packages can export a map to PM software. For example, Mindjet’s MindManager Pro exports to MS-Project and ConceptDraw’s Mindmap software exports to their Project software. Still more, you can link map nodes to web resources, documents on your desktop, or other desktop applications.
  2. Team management – hiearchies. Startup companies sometimes have very little in the way of management hierarchies. But as a bit of experience will show, functional hierarchies based on skillsets are a necessity. Map out your teams skills and explore some possible functional hierarchies.
  3. Task Management. A look around the blogosphere shows that a lot of people are becoming interested in David Allen‘s GTD (Get Things Done) principles. Mindmaps can help you to organize your to-do lists, manage and prioritize tasks. You can also manage/track teammates’ tasks
  4. Meeting management. Depending on the mindmapping software you use, you might have the option of an event reminder servic. A mindmap can provide a nice visual way to plan meetings with all sorts of players: team members, hiring candidates, suppliers, venture capitalists, etc. Mindjet’s MindManager Pro, for example, is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office products, and has a event reminder desktop popup service. You can also use mindmaps in a meeting, to present ideas or take notes.
  5. Information management. Generally speaking, mindmaps are ideal for organizing and managing structured information. A hard example: if you have an active weblog and multiple writers, use a mindmap to keep a daily list of draft article URLs that need to be edited then pushed live.

Problem Solving, Decision Making, Goal Setting

  1. Goal setting/ time management. With advanced mindmapping tools, you can specify node times – where a node represents a task/ milestone. Thus a mindmap can be used for goal setting (by mapping out subgoals) and time management (by tracking time taken).
  2. Problem breakdown. Imposing problems are more easily solved if broken down into manageable chunks. Fortunately, most of the better mindmapping software allows you to interconnect maps. So you can start with a broad-view map and attach detail maps to various nodes. Click on a node, and you’ll be taken to the corresponding detail map. This is ideal for what software developers usually call top-down development (general progresses to specific). This also allows you to focus on a specific sub-task, without clouding your thought process.
  3. Explore alternate options. Because mindmaps are so dynamic in nature, you can easily map out alternate solutions to a problem. You get a broad view, then can explored each option. This is useful in TRIZ problem solving. TRIZ is the Russian acronym for a technique that takes a specific problem, turns it into a general problem, finds a general solution, then finds a specific solution. With a mindmap, you can apply TRIZ but explore options.
  4. Spark creativity. Sometimes you’re looking to produce something creative that’s lurking just beyond mental reach. Start by accumulating a map of ideas until something creative sparks. Including not just text in your map nodes but also icons, pictures, screenshots, URLs.
  5. Planning aid for selling. Want to improve your sales effectiveness? Use mindmaps to map your territories and opportunities, and to catalog your action items.
  6. Thank you lists. Have a list of people to thank during the Dec-Jan holiday season? track them with a mindmap. Have a map with two nodes: sent and not sent. Moving names between, and have name nodes attached to an email address. Clicking on a name will fire up whichever desktop email client you have configured.

Research, Writing, Learning, Teaching

  1. Research. In a mindmap, maintain a sublist of web URLs that you need to review or otherwise research. In most mindmapping packages, you can doubleclick a node or its associated icon to cause the web page to display in your default browser. (For example, DeliciousMind is a hybrid application that converts your del.icio.us URL bookmarks into a XML format, which can then be imported into FreeMind.)
  2. Note-taking. In addition to accumulating ideas – as mentioned earlier – the more advanced mindmapping packages also allow you to attach text blocks to any map node. This ideal for note-taking during research, before you’re ready to produce an outline for a document you’re working on.
  3. Outlining. Once you’ve done your research and note-taking – whether it’s for documents, manuals, company policies, reports, or presentations – a mindmap allows you to very quickly and easily outline chapters, sections, etc.
  4. Writing. A mindmap can help spark the writing process – especially for your company blog – from a list of keywords, even aid in producing an editorial calendar (mentioned earlier). Or you can tweak the outline you’ve already produced and pull together and expand on the notes you’ve taken during research. It’s far easier to reorganize content visually, in a mindmap, than in a word processing document.
  5. Learning. When you’re learning a subject – which some entrepreneurs find themselves doing – a mindmap helps you to map out what you’ve learned and what you’ll be learning. If you’re a nomadic entrepreneur, you might want to even use a mindmap to learn a foreign language.
  6. Teaching/ workshops/ lesson plans. If you join the workshop circuit like many successful entrepreneurs, use mind maps to help produce your learning materials and to pace your lessons.

 

Summary

Sometimes, all you need is a list. But if you get into the habit of daily use of mindmaps for managing your entrepreneurial tasks, you’ll no doubt discover other uses of mindmaps than those listed above.

The 100 Tools Freelancers Can’t Live Without

Monday, October 15, 2007 at 1:25pm by Site Administrator

Everyone has their go-to bag of tricks that they can’t imagine functioning without. This list represents exactly that, but on a much larger scale. Clearly, there’s no way you’re going to have 100 different tools you can’t live without, but you can use this collection to find solutions that you’re sure to get hooked on.

Powerhouses

Many of the tools on this list address a few specific needs. The tools in this section are far too ambitious for that.

  1. Panthius: This ebusiness suite is a a headache eraser for freelancers. Use it to manage customers, sales orders, purchases, information and lots more.
  2. Netvibes: Bring everything together in one place with Netvibes. You can get your email, feeds, gig boards, messaging and lots more on this start page.
  3. Help Me Work: Take the headache out of the up-and-down life of a freelancer with Help Me Work’s service. They look after your taxes, billing, benefits, and a lot more.
  4. FreelancerPanel: What can’t you do with FreelancerPanel? Keep track of invoicing, communicate with clients, manage your website, and stay on top of your time with this awesome tool.
  5. Firefox: As a busy freelancer, you don’t have time to mess around with anything less than Firefox. This ultra-handy tool saves you the trouble of worrying excessively about browser security, and more importantly, lays the foundation for what seems like unlimited add-ons designed to make your life easier.

Gigs

Without work, your livelihood ceases to exist–you can’t get more essential than that. These resources will help you find work to keep going.

  1. JibberJobber: This tool does job seeking, and it does it well, but it goes even farther, offering a way to manage relationships with customers, prospects, and more. Be sure to take advantage of its available integration with Skype, Gmail, LinkedIn, and other popular services.
  2. Contracted Work: Find loads of projects in different industries on this site, and use their escrow service to make sure you get paid.
  3. Guru: Find work in a wide variety of different job categories on Guru, one of the most popular freelance job sites online.
  4. Professional On The Web: If you’re a professional web designer, put your portfolio up on this site to get connected with people who need your services.
  5. All Freelance Work: Get independent jobs on this site, then use their system to get rated, manage your projects, and more.
  6. Get A Freelancer: Find customers all over the world that are looking for your service on this site.
  7. Web Pro Jobs: Whether you’re a designer, copywriter, or marketer, you can find lots of jobs for web profressionals on this board.
  8. Freelance Switch Jobs: Freelancers in the fields of writing, designing, and programming can find gigs on this job board.
  9. Job Pile: Get an aggregated list of freelance posts from popular job boards on Job Pile.
  10. GoFreelance: Browse freelance jobs in loads of different fields on this site. You’ll have thousands to choose from.
  11. Sologig: Get connected with freelance, consulting, and contract jobs on Sologig.
  12. Freelance Job Search: Bid on projects in your area and price range on this site.
  13. iFreelance: Bid on thousands of projects and get advertisement on this site.
  14. Writerlance: With Writerlance, you can browse and bid on hundreds of projects.
  15. Elance: Post yourself as a professional on this job board, and you’ll get connected with jobs for the web, writing, support, and more.
  16. Craigslist: Craigslist will give you access to a wide variety of gigs in your area.

Organization & Task Management

Does staying on top of everything leave you feeling frazzled and helpless? Take control with these tools.

  1. Spongecell: Use this intuitive online calendar app to schedule your time and get reminders via text message.
  2. Priorganizer: For most people, online to-do lists get gunked up with stuff that you intended to do, but just never felt were important enough to actually devote time to. With Priorganizer, the tasks that fall by the wayside don’t get in the way, because you can structure it based on priority.
  3. TimeXchange: Although primarily designed for businesses that need to keep track of timesheets for employees, TimeXchange can help you identify clients that suck time and which ones need more of your attention.
  4. Toodledo: Toodledo makes the list for one simple reason: because you can add it as a sidebar in Firefox. For anyone whose work is primarily browser based, this extension is a lifesaver.
  5. Tweeto: Organize and stay on top of your tasks and projects, even offline, with Tweeto.
  6. TodoBot: If you chat with clients on AIM frequently, you probably find yourself constantly switching back and forth between your IM and to-do list. Use this tool to send yourself to-do items straight from AIM.
  7. Stikkit: If you’re not the to-do list type, use Stikkit’s virtual post-it notes to keep track of tasks and ideas.
  8. SantexQ: Use SantexQ to manage projects, keep track of time, stay on top of tasks, and more.
  9. Online Alarm Clock: It’s so simple, yet so effective. Give yourself a certain time in which to finish a task, and set your alarm on this site to back it up.
  10. Remember The Milk: Remember The Milk is great for freelancers that are spread out in lots of different directions. With this simple tool, you can create separate lists for each of your clients and prioritize tasks by color.
  11. Jott: Need to remember to do something, but you’re nowhere near your online to-do list? Leave yourself a transcribed message that’s sent to your email, and you’ll be able to add it when you get back online.

Communication & Sharing

If you can’t connect with your clients in some form or fashion, your business does not exist. Get with them over the phone, online, and more with these essentials.

  1. Gmail: Of course–Gmail. This perennial favorite is organized and really good at banishing spam. Plus, you can always use it with email from your own domain.
  2. eFax: You may loathe the old fashioned fax machine, but there’s a pretty good chance your corporate clients are still living in the past with this dinosaur. Make sure you can accept and send facsimilie communications by using this web-based fax tool.
  3. WordFast: If you’re working with international clients, a translation tool is essential. Check out this one that’s compatible with any language supported by Word.
  4. ClearContext: Use ClearContext to wade through the muck and get to the good stuff in your inbox. This system organizes email, identifying important senders and color coding everything.
  5. Box: Share files online with your clients using this simple tool.
  6. CoreBlox: Anyone who provides technical support will find CoreBlox essential. With this tool, you can provide case management, downloads, a searchable knowledgebase, and lots more.
  7. FlyUpload: For easy, simple file sharing, check out FlyUpload. You can send up to 2GB and share links, too.
  8. Salesforce: Get this platform for CRM success. Use it to increase sales, customer service, relationships, marketing, and other essentials.
  9. SpamSieve: Spam is a mess. Clean it up with this junk mail zapper.
  10. Senduit: So what happens when you have a file that’s too big to email? Unless you’re willing to hop in your car with a CD, you’re stuck with a pretty frustrating situation, but a file sending service like Senduit can save you. This tool lets you send files of up to 100MB at a time.
  11. Skype: If you have long-distance clients, colleagues, or suppliers, your phone bills can rack up huge charges pretty quickly. Skype takes a load off, making these calls significantly cheaper, or even free, plus you don’t have to be tied to a land line.
  12. Highrise: Manage your contact with "cases" that organize everything you’ve got going on for that particular case in emails, to-dos, files and more.
  13. Copernic Summarizer: If when reading client emails you find yourself thinking, "blah, blah, blah…Can we get to the point?," Copernic Summarizer is for you. Cut to the chase and use this program to highlight the key points in any message.

Mind Mapping

If you’re like most freelancers, you’ve probably got what seems like a million ideas and thoughts about your business floating around in your mind. Get those brainstorms out of your head and into something concrete with these mind mapping tools.

  1. FreeMind: Create mind maps with lots of functionality using this tool. It works great with Word, web links, and Outlook.
  2. CMap: Go beyond mind mapping and get into concept mapping with CMap. It lets you draw a line between relationships and ideas and label them.
  3. NovaMind: NovaMind’s mind mapping software uses graphic text, link lines, branches, and bright colors to create an attractive map of your thoughts.
  4. Skrbl: For low-tech mind maps that you can draw on your own, use Skrbl to-you guessed it-scribble out your thoughts online.
  5. MindManager: Visually capture and organize your ideas with MindManager.
  6. Bubbl.us: Put your ideas into bubbles in order to create an attractive and clean brainstorm.
  7. Thinkature: Banish the multitudes of sticky notes full of thoughts from your desk, and put your brainstorming online with this useful mind mapping tool.
  8. iMindMap: Put your ideas out on branches that replicate the non-linear way your brain thinks.

Money & Legal

Financial and legal issues are perhaps every freelancer’s least favorite things to work on. These tools will help you get paid, save on accounting fees, and best of all, keep you from burying yourself in paperwork.

  1. Mint: This new tool is really easy to use and set up, and it’s a great way to put all of your accounts together. You can use it to see where exactly your money goes and plan what to do with it in the future.
  2. Quickbooks: Unless you’re some sort of accounting geek, you probably get a little nervous about all of the financial documentation that’s involved in business transactions. Employ Quickbooks, and you’ll have one handy place to corral everything in.
  3. Less Accounting: Get paid, and do it easier with Less Accounting. This app offers a simple way to send, track and manage invoices, plus conduct simple CRM tasks.
  4. Nolo: Need some quick legal advice for your business but don’t really want to spare the time or the money to get in touch with a lawyer? Find answers to your common legal questions on Nolo.
  5. Creative Commons: For creative freelancers, copyright protection is a must. Set how much or how few restrictions you want on your work.
  6. Blinksale: Send invoices online with this handy tool. You can also use it to create recurring templates and keep track of your invoices and purchases.
  7. XE: Freelancers with overseas clients know that a good currency converter is a must-have. This tool does just that with accurate calculations and up-to-the-minute rates.
  8. Business Credit Card: Whether you’re waiting on clients to stop dragging their feet on payments or could use a little extra capital, a good business credit card is essential when you’re in a pinch.
  9. Escrow: Save yourself from non-paying clients by requiring that they place funds in escrow.
  10. Freelance Switch Rates Calculator: Trying to figure out how much to charge for a job? Give this calculator a whirl.
  11. MoneyManager: Track transactions that you make away from your computer with this reporting tool.
  12. PayPal: PayPal goes beyond eBay by allowing you to accept electronic payments from anyone, even using credit cards.
  13. CCH Calculators: If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty numbers of taking on a new venture, or figure out the profitability of working with a certain client, take these calculators for a spin.
  14. Freshbooks: Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of freelancing is invoicing and getting your clients to pay. Freshbooks promises to make billing "painless," and offers a way to track both invoices and time easily.

Travel

Hitting the road to meet with clients may leave you feeling a little harried and out of your element. Get back to good with these tools.

  1. TripIt: Email TripIt your travel plans, and they’ll build a master itinerary with your plans that’s printable and shareable from anywhere.
  2. Bear Trap Guide: If you’re visiting clients on the road, the last thing you need is to rack up a speeding ticket on the way. Avoid speed traps with this guide.
  3. FlightStats: Use FlightStats to get up to date information on your flight, so you’ll always be able to let your clients know if you’ll be running a little late.
  4. AirPower Wiki: So you’ve gotten hooked up with some airport WiFi. Great, but what happens when you drain your laptop’s battery? Locate an outlet in loads of major airports with this wiki.
  5. PublicRoutes: When you’re visiting clients in a big city, public transportation is often the best way to get around. This tool maps out routes for public transportation, so you can get there quick without taking a cab.
  6. Travel Rewards Credit Card: Travel gets expensive, so a good travel rewards program is essential if you want to save a little money on getting from point A to point B.
  7. Points.com: If you’re going to earn travel rewards, keep track of them in a handy tool like this one.
  8. AboutAirportParking: Find the best airport parking lots on this site, plus delay and security times for the airport at the same time.
  9. TripWiser: Micromanage your travel time using this tool.
  10. Google Transit: Plan public transit trips in 20 popular regions with this cool Google tool.
  11. Farecast: Save yourself some travel cash by using Farecast to find the right time to buy your airfare.
  12. Trippish: On a road trip, weather can make a big difference. Use this app that studies the weather forecast to let you know when it’s a good time to leave.

Learning

Even if you think you’re a genius, chances are you could stand to learn something from others. Get ideas for streamlining business, attracting clients, and more with these blogs and news outlets. We’ve also include a couple tools that make reading these resources a little more handy.

  1. Freelance Switch: Freelance Switch keeps readers up to date on the latest resources and developments for people who work freelance.
  2. FreelanceVenue: Get advice, tips, and a heads up on available jobs on this blog.
  3. RSS2PDF: Your online time is valuable, so turn your RSS feeds into PDFs and read them later when you’re offline.
  4. All Freelance: Get helpful tips on taxes, finances, working at home, and more on this blog.
  5. Web Worker Daily: This blog is aimed at freelancers whose work is web-based, like bloggers and developers.
  6. Chief Home Officer: If you’re in a home office, read Chief Home Officer for tips on how to stay sane and improve the way you work.
  7. Entrepreneur.com: Visit Entrepreneur to get hooked up with some awesome resources and some of the best small business articles online.
  8. Freelance Parent: Learn how to handle freelancing and parenting at the same time on this blog.
  9. Ninja Freelance: Stay on the "cutting edge" of freelance news and articles with this blog.
  10. Coroflot’s Creative Seeds: Learn how to find creative work and get advice on freelancing on Creative Seeds.
  11. Working Solo: Working Solo is a great information source for freelancers, and it’s chock full of resources.
  12. WorkHappy: Stay on top of the latest apps and other resources for freelancers on this site.
  13. Contract Worker: Contract Worker has some great ideas for making work better, highlighting interviews and useful tools online.

Documents

Whether you’re sharing your writing or giving a presentation, these document tools are essential.

  1. Qlipboard: Create online slide presentations in which you can record your own voice with this free tool.
  2. CutePDF: Print nearly any Windows application to PDF with this app that can be installed as a printer.
  3. CZ Document Converter: If you’ve got a bunch of documents in Word that need to get converted to PDF before you send them off, use this batch document converter to automate the process and make it easier.
  4. RapidoWrite: Freelance writers can cut down on repetitive text with this tool.
  5. NoteSake: Put an end to scribbled meeting notes with this app. Put them online, and make them searchable, printable, and organized.
  6. SlideRocket: For presentation software in a slick, beautiful package, consider using SlideRocket. In addition to its presentation capabilities, it has built-in web meeting tools.
  7. Skim: Take notes directly on a PDF file as you read it with Skim.
  8. Google Documents: Word and Excel are pretty much one-user programs. You enter information, send it, and there’s not a lot of back and forth. With Google Documents, your documents take on a whole new collaborative life, which clients are sure to love.

Start an Online Publishing Business From Scratch – Part 2: Navigational Structure

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 8:30pm by Site Administrator

Part 1 of starting an online publishing business from scratch, covered the basics of how to come approach setting up the publishing of mini websites (aka minisites). In this article, Part 2, I cover some specific steps for setting up the sites, as well as your “publishing company” home page. The primary point to note here is that if you want to publish content about different topic niches, you can. Furthermore, you can structure your sites in such a way as to minimize cost of setup and promotion.

Site setup:
This is a general process for setting up one or more topic clusters (as discussed in the last article). The diagram later in this article might help you to see what I’m getting at.

  1. Decide on a publishing name and register a suitable domain name for your online publishing business.

  2. Pick topic/niche cluster #1 and register a suitable domain name.
  3. Pick subtopics for the cluster and build mini-sites for each, on subdomains. You might want to have each minisite in a cluster link to its siblings. It helps visitors to one site find similar topics.
  4. Set up the cluster index on the root domain of the topic domain.
  5. Create a home page on your media domain. Point to the topic domain (not the minisites).
  6. Repeat steps 2-4 for the next topic cluster, and add an entry for the topic on your media home page.
  7. Promote/ advertise either the main media site or the topic cluster homepages. That reduces your promotional efforts and budget needs.

Example setup:
Here’s a specific example: a publishing company site, two topic clusters, and at least two subtopics per cluster. The total number of domains is 1+2 = 3. The total number of sites is 1+2+(2×2) = 7. This reduces the cost of registration and hosting, and can reduce the cost of promotion.

The diagram somewhere below shows a more generalized structure. [Note: None of these domains were registered at the time of this writing.]

  1. Company: MyMedia; domain: woofmedia.com

  2. Topic: Crafts; domain: lotsofcrafts.com
  3. Subtopics: Create minisites for each
    1. Knitting, knitting.lotsofcrafts.com
    2. Crocheting, crocheting.lotsofcrafts.com
  4. Create a home page on www.lotsofcrafts.com that conists of links to these subtopic minisites. Include a paragraph or two of description for each minisite. You can always add a general crafts blog later, and have some of the posts link to the minisite pages.
  5. Create a home page for mymedia.com. Display at least a logo. Add a link from woofmedia.com to www.lotsofcrafts.com. Any description added should be generalized to cover the subtopics in the cluster.
  6. Topic: personal finance; domain: itsmyfinance.com
  7. Subtopics: Create minisites for each.
    1. Investing, investing.itsmyfinance.com
    2. Mortgages, mortgages.itsmyfinance.com
  8. Create a home page on www.itsmyfinance.com, as with lotsofcrafts.com in step #4 above.
  9. Add a link and description to www.itsmyfinance.com from www.lotsofcrafts.com.
  10. Repeat for other topic clusters.

Generalized architecture:

Topic pyramid architecture for websites

Additional reading:

I’ve done only a very light treatment of setting up clusters of related minisites. After writing the last article mostly from my own web experience, I searched for references and found the following great articles that can provide you with a lot more detail:

  1. Net Business Blog – Building a Niche Minisite Part 1.
  2. Net Business Blog – Building a Niche Minisite Part 2.
  3. Domaining UK – Domain Name Monetization, Minisites and Niche Sites.

Other relevant articles worth looking at:

  1. SEOproToolZ discusses doing bulk searches for domain names.

  2. Net Business Blog guides you in finding keyword-rich domains for building minisites.
  3. Hart-Empire has a very thorough (advanced) explanation of how to consolidate sites into subdomain clusters. This applies if all your sites are currently on their own domain. Note that this article is a case study around a set of blogs, not static minisites.
  4. Read Xfep if you’d rather launch a network of blogs. Just keep in mind that a blog is far more effort to maintain, since it has to be updated regularly.


Note: Illustrations are copyright 2007-present, Business Credit Cards.

Kaizen: Continuous Improvement of Business Offerings

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

One advantage that business owners with capital have over bootstrapping entrepreneurs when developing new products or even services is the luxury of offering multiple features upfront. On the other hand, this sometimes leads to aggressive schedules and missed deadlines. Sometimes, it’s better to start with a good offering with fewer features and then continually adding more in the future. Bootstrapping entrepreneurs generally have no choice but to develop their offerings in this manner.

This concept of continuous improvement of anything is encapsulated in the word Kaizen. This is disputable, but my research over the past decade indicates that the term Kaizen is based on a Chinese Taoist concept, is actually a Japanese term, but was coined by American management specialists in Japan after WW II.

The philosophy of Kaizen is an ideal way to bootstrap life and business. Many large firms actually apply Kaizen. Or at least they think they do. Some just go through the motions.

Unless a company applies it consciously in their processes, the continuous improvement usually doesn’t happen. But a startup that’s bootstrapping their operations live by Kaizen, even if they don’t realize it. It’s a must:

  1. Design a quality product or service now, with a few essential features.
  2. Refrain from going overboard, no matter how much you want to offer such and such a feature. Just do a few things well for now.
  3. When you have more research or development capital, improve the offering.
  4. Keep repeating the cycle of improvement, until it becomes what you want. This takes longer but you have a more solid product or service as a result.

Thoughts? Are you familiar with Kaizen? Have you seen it consciously applied? It’s much easier to grab a credit card and fool yourself into thinking you have the capital you need; much harder to find the discipline necessary to apply Kaizen properly.

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