Entrepreneur Instict

Ebiz Entrepreneurs

by Ben Gehring

Selling online, or ebiz, is not for the weak. It takes a lot of knowledge and a lot of patience.

I personally am on my third attempt at an ebiz. The first two attempts were really great learning experiences, and I am still learning on my third attempt. I was planning to write a post about the things that I learned, and I still will in the future, but I saw a really great article called "People Who Won't Ever Make it in EBiz" by Chris Malta on his blog that I wanted to share.

I won't spoil it, but if you are thinking about having an ebiz you should read this article. It gives a great overview of many of the subjects to become familiar with if you want to have your own ebiz. I highly recommend reading the article and diving in to learn more about each of the subjects discussed.

Technology Investment: Opportunity Costs and Return on Investment

by Ben Gehring

It has been my experience that a lot of start-ups, micro businesses and small businesses resist technology investment. Perhaps it is just a mid-west phenomenon, but smaller companies don't seem to believe that the investment into on-line activities, or other technology investments, to grow their business will yield a worthy return on investment. Some reasons given are that they are a local company and don't need to participate in a national or global market and the investment isn't going to produce the results they require to invest the capital required. As a business consultant, these reasons can be difficult to overcome.

When a company tells you that they are a local company and do not need to participate in the national market there are a couple of things that may be going on there. One option is that the business owner isn't really an entrepreneur, they are self employed. The implication of this mentality is that they are afraid of getting too big because they either feel that no one will do as good at their work as they do or they feel inadequate or overwhelmed by the additional complexities involved with growing the business too big for them to micromanage. If a business owner wants to be self employed, then there is nothing to do. Technology's primary purpose is to increase efficiency and productivity so that the business can increase its capacity. If capacity isn't going to be increased, then the investment in technology isn't going to give the business owner a good rate of return, if any.

Another possible reason a business owner may believe they are not a national or global company is because they believe that isolation gives them a competitive edge. By declaring that they are a local company they may believe that they will attract more business. This belief is misguided in my opinion. The market size for people looking for strictly local companies is very low, and anyone who does look for a local company isn't usually going to require that company be exclusively local. In fact, I believe the inverse would be true. If a company is both local and national, or global, it produces a bit of pride in people to participate with a company that "made it." Additionally, the company with this belief has excluded themselves from a much larger market that looks for larger, better established companies.

The global market exists, and participating in that market can mean the difference between a company with a legacy and a memory of a company. People are shopping all around the world and they are looking for companies that are stable. Stability means that the product they purchase or the service they use will be there for years to come and any issues they have will be resolved because the company has the resources to make any issue right. People automatically assume, for better or worse, that a participant in the global economy is a stable company.

When a company tells you that they won't get a good return on investment, they may be partially right. This is the hardest excuse to overcome because, in general, the technology hurdle is one that doesn't necessarily put you ahead of the competition; it just keeps you competitive. Unless the company is adopting "bleeding edge" technology, they aren't going to get a great return on their investment. What they will receive is a pass toward future competition and avoid heading to the junk pile of forgotten companies. They may not die right away; it will probably be slow and painful, but, as I stated previously, technology increases efficiency and productivity. It also allows companies to broaden their markets. The Internet for example has opened up markets to companies that they previously wouldn't have been able to reach without much larger investments of capital. If a company doesn't see their future as a good return on investment, then perhaps it's better to move on.

The topic of technology investment can be a hard sell. Technology can make or break a business. For startups, it can be the difference between being a success and being a statistic, for microbusinesses it can mean the difference between continued growth and stagnation and for small business it can mean the difference between competing with the big boys or fading away. The investment in technology isn't an investment that will turn a quick buck, it is an investment in the future.

How Do I Get a Blog?

by Ben Gehring

So you want to get a blog, but you're not sure where to start. Blogging for recreation can be a nice pastime. Blogging for money can help you earn more cash. Getting a blog is basically the same for both. We'll go through the process.

A blog is your message to the world. As such, your message should generally have a theme. Some personal blogs are about the birth of a child, a person's college years or struggling through an illness. In business, your blog theme should be inline with your business' theme. If you sell eco friendly products, then your blog should be about eco friendly topics. If your store sells race car products, then your blog should be about race cars. You get the idea; why is that important?

Your blog theme is important because unless you are going to use one of the online blog hosting services you will need a domain name. A domain name does two things. First, it gives people a memory friendly way to remember where to find your blog on the internet. Second, it helps to tell the search engines what your blog is about. For example, if your blog is about race cars, then your blog domain name might be racecars.com (that name is probably already taken). The name is easy to remember and search engines will know that your blog is about race cars.

After you have picked out your name, you need to have a place to host your blog. That is a place to keep the website software that makes your blog work, unless you are going to host your blog at a blog hosting website such as Blogger.com. If you will be hosting your own website, then you need to get some hosting space. What type of hosting space you need depends on what type of blogging software you want to use. If you will use software built using PHP, a very common web scripting language, such as WordPress, then you can host your website on a Linux server (they are very cheap). If you will use blogging software written in asp or asp.net, such as BlogEngine.NET (this blog uses BlogEngine.NET), then you will want a windows server. Linux™ and Windows™ are operating systems for the servers. Where you get these hosting accounts is at a hosting company.

Picking a good hosting company is important. You want to find one that has good prices, but also has good technical support and is stable. Unstable hosting companies have a lot of down time and that is time that your website can't be viewed on the internet. A great hosting company we recommend is Lords of Hosting.

Once you have a domain name and a hosting company you need to install your blogging website software. That may sound daunting, and it can be for someone that doesn't know how, but fortunately some companies like Lords of Hosting make setup as easy as a click of a button. They will automatically install it and get it ready for you.

If you're like me, then you also want your blog to look nice. Both WordPress and BlogEngine.NET have numerous themes to pick from and install very easily. Both also allow for custom themes to be created and installed.

Now, you have your domain name, your hosting site and your software installed so you're ready to start blogging away. Remember, you will also want to syndicate your blog and market your blog to let people know they can now come to see what you have to say. That's a whole other process in itself. We'll save that for another blog post.

Business Partner, Blessing or Curse?

by Ben Gehring

There are pros and cons to having a business partner. How successful your partnership is depends largely on the partners you have. A good business partner can give your businesses a boost of productivity; a bad partner can break your business.

A good business partner will be reliable, trustworthy, dependable, self motivated, mentally and emotionally stable. A good partner is one that adds to your business and can take the initiative to see what needs to be done and do it. A bad business partner, of course, is the opposite of a good business partner. A bad partner can drive away customers, alienate vendors and potentially drive your business into bankruptcy. Of course, there are many variations of partners between these two extremes, but ideally, if you're going to have a business partner, you should try to find one optimal to your business.

Outside of good character traits, a good business partner needs to have experience in both business and the field in which your business conducts itself. If you are very experienced, you may be able to find someone with good character and little experience and train that person, but be prepared to do more of the work than them until they are able to do the work themselves.

There is a saying that says that you shouldn't be business partners with anyone you wouldn't marry. If you can't stand being around the person for eight or more hours, then you probably shouldn't become partners with them. Chances are you will be spending long, and potentially stressful, hours with that person, so you need to make sure that if you're going to have a partner that you pick someone that compliments your personality and your skill set.

For me personally, I wouldn't have a business partner. I have before and it didn't work out. I tend to be very driven and almost obsessive about my work; most people aren't and that creates friction. From a practical standpoint I find a partnership unnecessary. It is very easy to create an agreement with another person the same as you would another company. You write up an agreement about what each others responsibilities are and what is expected in a set time and then you execute the agreement. There is no reason, in my opinion, to base the existence of a company on more than one member. If you use a large corporation as an example, the company isn't dependent on individual board members. Each member has rights and responsibilities and they each vote at the shareholder meetings who they feel should operate the company. If a board member leaves, the company doesn't cease to exist as it potentially could in a general partnership. This corporate model can be followed on a smaller scale between two people or two companies and avoid the pitfalls of a general partnership.

Whether you choose a partnership or a cooperative agreement, the people you choose to do business with still need to have good character and complimentary skills to make your joint venture work.

Are You An Entrepreneur or Self Employed?

by Ben Gehring

It isn't uncommon for employees to think that being an entrepreneur means working for yourself. Working for yourself can have its rewards, such as setting your own schedule and deciding who you do and do not want to work for. The down side is you are still trading time for money.

When you're self employed and you're just getting started you often have to wear the hat of the employee, but also the hat of the boss, the accountant, all the hats of the marketing department and the customer service hat. Because of all the work that needs to be done, you can end up making less money for your time than you did when you were just an employee for someone else.

That's pretty bleak, so what's the upside? The upside is that you have the one thing you can never have as an employee: opportunity. Opportunity is the key that opens the door to a life of success. What do I mean? When you're an employee can you decide the direction of the company? No. Can you decide who what customers and clients to pursue? No. Can you choose to differentiate the company in a way that will attract more and better paying clients? No! That's what I mean.

When you start your trek from employee to entrepreneur you may have to pass through self employment land before you get to entrepreneur world, but don't get stuck there. The key is to document your path along the way so that eventually you can turn the reins over to someone else and have them make money for you. By that I mean, document how you want your customers to be treated, how you want your daily operations to run, how you want your work to be done and how you want your company to be managed. In that way, you can help to ensure that the people you put in your place will be more likely to reproduce the successful patterns that made your company a success and ensure continued streams of ever increasing income into your pockets. That's really what you're looking for anyway, isn't it?

What Does it Mean to Be An Entrepreneur?

by Ben Gehring

So what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Dictionary.com defines entrepreneur as a person or organizes and manages an enterprise. I think an entrepreneur is more than that. Anyone can organize and manage an enterprise; it doesn't mean they will lead that enterprise successfully or manage it in a way that produces value and growth. An entrepreneur is a person with a vision for their enterprise.

A successful entrepreneur will see what they want their enterprise to become right down to the details. They will see how it should be ran, how the employees will interact with the customers, how the operations will look and even the decor. If the person is successful, their leadership will produce what they envision.

Sometimes, people feel like they want to be an entrepreneur, but they don't know where to begin or what to do. I would encourage that person to ask what they envision. What does that person see when they think about running an enterprise? What kind of enterprise do they feel strongly about running? Asking these types of questions can help determine the direction to take in pursuing entrepreneurship.

What if a person doesn't have a vision? Does it mean they aren't an entrepreneur? Maybe, but not necessarily. Sometimes, people become conditioned to being an employee that it is difficult to entertain and indulge in these new ideas. Take some time and run through some different scenarios of running a business until you find one that interests you. You may end up thinking of something that you find really interesting that you never considered before. If you don't, don't give up. Where a person is in their life is a big part of how we think of ourselves and evaluate what skills we have. I recommend reading "The E-Myth Revisited" and "Quitter". These books will give you more insight into the process so you can decide if this is something that interests you.