Category Archives: new business

Announcing Entrescape Online

There are a thousand good reasons to start your own business.  You may want more toys, need to build a college fund, or want to pay off debt.  You may just want to do it for the pure joy of accomplishment.  All are good reasons, but probably the best is to prepare for an uncertain future.  Rapidly changing technology can make your job obsolete almost overnight.  Companies gain and lose by the decisions of their leaders, which may not always be competent or have your best interests at heart. Last, the government has taken a radical lurch toward socialism.  Higher taxes for jobholders are a near-certainty.  Some predict consequences even more dire.

Some people I talk to think this is the time to hunker down.  I disagree.  Being frugal is fine, as far as it goes.  Investing your money is probably wiser than that jet ski right now, unless you make money riding a jet ski. Buying a used car makes sense, as does shopping around for the best deal on life’s other necessities.  None of these will save you, though, when income from your job stops coming in.

I think that this is the time to become an entrepreneur.  Forget the stereotype of the steely-jawed hero, silk scarf fluttering in the breeze or the socially-inept genius who invents the next Big Thing.  Think more in terms of the regular person, like you and me, who knows how to do some things better than other people do.  Ones who may want to hang on to that job while they build a side-stream of income.

Where to start?  Learning, that is where.  My dream is to help people who want to build a business learn how to do so easily and affordably.  Entrescape now offers a course in fundamentals for entrepreneurs.  More are being created and will be available over the coming months.  There is also a free guest login to the Entrescape community, where we will be providing a forum for questions and free limited access to course materials.  Visit us at entrescape.com and release your entrepreneurial spirit.

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The Greatest Risk of All

Risk is a funny thing.  We all seem to have a different idea of what things are risky.  When I took flying lessons, the Cessna 152 my instructor rented happened to be stressed for aerobatics.  I have never done anything quite as much fun as learning cloverleafs, barrel rolls, and loops.  Not once did I ever feel in danger.  Most people I talk to say they would have been petrified.

You know what scares me the most these days?  The idea that I might quit taking risks.  I have blown out a knee in a martial arts tournament at the age of 45, gone broke (twice), and gotten pounded in my first real estate deal.  I have accepted a job offer only to discover that the people who hired me were liars and thieves.  For heavens sake, Noel, would you just STOP IT?  Stay home for a while and make a cup of tea.  It’ll do you good.

No thanks.

My forays are nothing compared to many people.  Adventurers, great entrepreneurs, and free-spirited thinkers abound.  So do the timid–those whose idea of risk is renting a movie they may not like.  Staying huddled up in our jobs seems safe.  I have to admit that there have been times when I wanted to crawl under the bed, especially when that little voice said, “You idiot.  What on Earth made you think THAT was a good idea?”  It didn’t help that most of the people I knew agreed.

Ironically, being safe is the greatest risk of all.  Take some risks.  I don’t mean foolish risks–drunk driving is stupid no matter how you dress it up.  Car surfing, too.  (Watch Dr. G. Medical Examiner sometime on the Discovery Channel for a view into the aftermath of that kind of thing.)  Sinking all your money into an investment you do not understand also qualifies.

Flying upside down is dumb–unless you know what you are doing.  Then it is fun.  Know what else?  Flying upside down, stalling the plane out, and getting into a spin on purpose gets you ready for an emergency in which that happens for real.  Relying on a job as your sole means of income may seem safe, but that strategy may be the riskiest of all.  Get yourself in tight situations intentionally.  Make some mistakes “on purpose” and learn how to deal with them before you have to.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Terry would probably agree to go ahead and cross over J

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Double Your Money in Seven Days!

I have a challenge for you.

I want you to open a business.  Not a big one, just a little one.  In fact, I want you to invest no more than $100 in it.  Run it for seven days with the goal of doubling your money.  That’s right.  At the end, you should have $200 in your pocket.

No need to get fancy–just pick out something you like to do and figure out how to make money doing it.  You may perform a service (probably best if it is legal), make something to sell, or buy something and resell it.  Write down on a piece of paper each transaction–when you spend money and when you make money.

When you are done, and hopefully a tiny bit more wealthy, write your story in a comment.  I want readers to know that within each of us is an entrepreneur waiting to sprout.

_____________________

Terry

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Start a Business NOW

There is one book you must read if you worry even a little about today’s economy.  The title is Empty Nest Egg: Why You Must Start Your Own Business NOW.  Yes, it’s my book, but if it weren’t, I would still recommend it.  Here’s why.

First, having a business to supplement your income is just plain common sense.  We all know that “things” happen.  Loss of a job, relocation of a spouse, and the child that arrived off-schedule make life interesting and scary.  Extra money never hurts.

Second, we may not have jobs if things don’t turn around soon.  You would think mine–being a university professor–would be about as stable as you can get.  Not so.  The State of Illinois is furloughing employees on some campuses to make up a budget shortfall.  I read recently that we rank second only to California in terms of how badly we have screwed up our budget.  Yours Truly is busy hoping for the best and planning for the worst.  You should too.

Third, there will come a point at which we are either no longer able or no longer willing to work.  My grandmother is 99 years old.  She is truly astonishing, getting around better than many 60-year-olds.  I kind of doubt she could get a job, though.  I remember her when she was my age, and it is a little unnerving to think how fast the intervening time has passed.  Retirement will hit us before we know it.

In my view, a time of reckoning is upon us all.  As a nation, we have chosen to pretend that we can spend without restraint, make the rest of the world behave, and protect everyone from everything.  The bill is coming due and our collectively disastrous decisions will come back to haunt us.  For those who continue to think a J-O-B is their only means of income, life may take a nasty turn.  For those who see the coming disruptions as an opportunity to prosper by starting a business, life may get much better.

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Terry practices what he preaches.  After he found out about the furloughs, he checked to see if Chippendales was hiring.  No such luck, so he writes books and teaches people how to start businesses in addition to being a professor.

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Build a Business Model That Works

If you know what unique value you bring to others, it is time to turn that into a business model.  A business model is to a business as a toy jet is to a real one. The toy does not fly or drop bombs, but given sufficient detail, it gives us a good idea of how the jet functions. Your business model needs to include a description of how raw materials (even intangible ones like ideas) are turned into value-added products. Sometimes, a graphic depiction is helpful. Keep it simple, along the lines of the following:

Stuff goes in > I make it more valuable > Stuff goes out (and customers pay me for it)

For example, I take flour, sugar, eggs, and other stuff, mix it together, shape it up, and out come wedding cakes.  Separately, those things are not worth anything like what the beautiful cake is worth.  Sound silly?  Well, I have worked with any number of people over the years who have not a clue what they are really doing.  Their business model is vague, too complicated, or simply won’t work.

Start with figuring out your “input.”  In the above example, this is the flour, etc.  Where do you get it?  The store?  Do you grow the wheat and sugar cane yourself?  Raise the hens?  Once you know that, you can figure out what those inputs cost you.

Next, make those inputs more valuable.  Remember that you are the magic ingredient.  If I were to take those inputs and attempt to make them more valuable, it would look like Armageddon in our kitchen and my wife would throw me out of the house.  Wait, she did that yesterday.  Well, you know what I mean.  If you are good at that kind of thing, the result would be a picture of beauty and good taste.

Last, figure out how to sell what you make.  You might cater cakes, sell them in a store, or bake them on site.  You might deliver them in a van.  No matter how you do it, remember the customer.  The way you “harvest” the value depends on what is convenient for the people who buy.

Drawing out your business model may seem unnecessary, but trust me, this is important stuff.  Many business owners try to do it all.  Let’s say that Wilma of Wilma’s Wedding Cakes grows her own wheat, raises her own chickens, and grinds her own sugar cane.  Not only that, she delivers each cake by hand and sets it up on site.  Now Wilma is great at baking, but only fair at farming and delivery service.  She is wasting her time and energy doing things that other people could do better.  To make it work, she would have to charge much more because it costs her more to, say, deliver a cake than a delivery service.

In other words, pick out what you do best and focus on it.  There are thousands of people out there ready to do everything else.  When your business model starts to look like a clean, sensible proposition, it is time to move on to more detailed planning.

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Terry takes specialization seriously.  He won’t change light bulbs in his own house because writing is what he does best.  That is why his wife threw him out yesterday.  Since he needs a new place to live, maybe you could sign up for a course at entrescape.com.  Thanks.  It’s cold outside.

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Specific Gravity

The purpose of a social network for business is to drive traffic to a particular place.  When we interact socially on Facebook or some other network, we send people all kinds of places–funny sites, music videos, and games.  Nothing wrong with that, of course.  The chaos and spontaneity are part of the fun.

A business is different.  Using social networks to promote a business means you have to know what you want.  Specifically, you want people to do something.  Let’s say you find homes for abandoned pets.  At this point, it does not matter whether it is a for-profit business or not.  What is your goal?  I like to explain this with a story–how I got Moose.  Not a moose–Moose, a dog.  The funny thing about this story is that not one bit of it involves the Internet.  It does show, however, that networks can lead to good things.

I took my Labrador Retriever in to the vet for a nail trim.  I know, I could have done it myself, but I hate doing it almost as much as Cody (the Lab) hates having it done.  The price was right and off we went.  While waiting in the lobby to pick him up, I saw pictures of dogs that needed a good home.  Cindy and I were not even looking for a dog, but a cute little Shetland Sheep Dog caught my eye.  When I told Cindy how cute this dog was, she wanted me to go check her out.

Bella, the Shetland, was already adopted when I got to the kennel, which also served as a shelter.  But they told me about a no-kill shelter outside of town.  Only an hour before I had not even a thought of adopting a dog, and here I was driving 14 miles just to see if there were any similar to Bella, whom I knew only through a picture.  No sheep dogs or similarly cute small dogs were there.

There was, however, a humongous shadow cast from the front of one pen.  In it was the largest dog I had ever seen.  The attendant said, “That’s Moose.”  Realizing she had probably heard the response, “No, that’s a dog” before, I refrained and took her up on her offer to take Moose for a short walk around the yard.  Well, one of us took the other for a walk.  In the end, I called it a draw.  Moose, an English Mastiff who may well top 200 lbs. when he is full-grown, is now part of the Noel household.

A network, whether based on the Internet or just word-of-mouth, is like gravity.  Objects enter the fringes of the force and are drawn to the center.  Moose, like all the other dogs needing adoption and all the people in the world and all the products and services that exist, are centers in their own right.  He just happened to ensnare me because I randomly looked at a picture.  From there to a kennel and from there to a shelter and from there to a fabulously happy outcome.

When you make yourself a specific center of gravity, you draw people in.  Had the shelter not put pictures in my vet’s office, I would never have even known about Moose.  They knew what they wanted– a good home for Moose (and all those other wonderful dogs).  And that’s exactly what they got.

As you start your business, think about all the people floating around in the world doing what humans do.  Figure out how you can make their lives better by providing something of value.  Then, get specific.  Become a center of gravity.

Next week: Destination Me

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Terry loves Moose.  His wife thinks they are soul-mates.  Terry is not quite sure what she means by that.

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Social Network Nation

OK, I admit it.  I am a tech hound.  I love what technology has made possible for carbon-based life forms.  Within the last six months, I have made contact with friends I had not seen in over thirty years.  I have enriched my ability to teach by increasing communication with my students.  I have seen tasks that formerly would have taken hours reduced to seconds.  All of this courtesy of technology.

Those of you who read my other blog regularly know that I talk a lot about our upcoming economic conflagration.  Economic upheaval is distressing.  But, like a forest fire, what appears to be a catastrophe is from another perspective a cleansing.  Old growth is incinerated in favor of tender and fragile new shoots of life.  Animals whose homes were burned to a crisp often return to find a bounty of new food and water sources.

What does this have to do with social networking?  Social networking is the new growth straining to get out from under the dead cover of the old economy.  If (in my opinion, it is when) the forest fire comes, will you be one of the mammals that learns to thrive or one of the dinosaurs lying on its side, breathing its last gasps?

Here are some things to think about.  No matter what your line of work, whether you have a job or your own business, or whether you hug or curse your computer daily, think about how your network of friends and acquaintances works.  In other words, what makes your social network tick?  In my case, I was astonished that it was so easy to get, and stay, in touch with friends from long ago.  I learned things about them that had escaped me until now.  My life is richer because of it.  Moreover, they have introduced me to numerous other great people.

If you want to be prepared for the future, think about how all the things you do on Facebook and Twitter can serve as the foundation for generating more income.  Now, hold on.  Before you go spamming all your friends, think about why these networks work the way they do.  Why was it so easy to get in touch with so many people?  Why do people log on to Facebook regularly?  How many people are in your network?  If you worked at it, how many could be in it?

Next week, I will talk about your network “destination” and how to increase its value to others.  Until then, don’t get burnt!

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Terry is not a dinosaur, but his mother-in-law might be.  He thinks you ought to check out the Entrescape community.

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