Tools for Meeting Preparation

As part of a local intiative I’m working on I’ve had the chance to meet a number of entrepreneurs over the past couple weeks. Historically, I would have Googled their name to see what blurbs I can find out about them. Now, in addition to the standard Google search, I always check their LinkedIn profile, their blog (if any), and their Twitter account (if any). While it might take a few minutes, it is invaluable to learn as much about the person as possible and to read what they’ve been writing (even more important!). With this at hand, the conversations can get much more interesting in a shorter amount of time and shared experiences can be discussed to establish rapport.

I recommend taking advantage of the different online tools as part of your meeting preparation routine.

Aligning Company and Customer Interests

At lunch today I was talking with my friend about a new business he was starting. We got into a good conversation about different pricing and business models, especially in relation to what was in the market already. During the conversation, I expressed how passionate I am about aligning the company’s interests with that of the customer. Some common examples come to mind:

  • Have monthly contracts (unlike most cell phone companies)
  • Only charge if a transaction was successful (like Google Pay Per Action or eBay Motors)
  • Provide an unconditional money back guarantee

By building these types of programs into the business model from day one, the company adapts and grows around them such that in the long run the company’s interests stay aligned with the customers’.

Don’t solve a problem that doesn’t exist

I was at a meeting for a non-profit last week and we were talking about some upcoming projects. One member brought up a potential issue that seemed very unlikely and another member chimed in that we shouldn’t try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Wow. That really resonated with me. I think all too often we try to solve problems before they become an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be proactive, but not for unlikely issues.

Fun with Incorrect Predictions

I just finished reading “The New Positioning” by Jack Trout. It was a fun, quick read that provided several salient points on positioning a company and/or product line. The book, published in 1996, included several of the authors predictions about different markets and categories. Of course, it is much more interesting to make a prediction than say nothing at all but I particularly enjoyed this incorrect prediction:

Consider the problems that Apple encountered with the introduction of their Newton, a product they called a “PDA.”

PDA, or personal digital assistant, is not a category. Nor is there much hope in its becoming a category. (Pretty Damned Abstract is one tongue-in-check definition of PDA.)

We all know that PDAs did turn out to be successful (not the Newton) and that the name PDA stuck.

Y Combinator for Atlanta – Costs?

Lance Weatherby has an interesting post titled “Who Wants Seed Money?” in which he discusses the idea of a Y Combinator for the Southeast. I’m a proponent of the idea and was part of the discussions last year with the people he mentions. Mike Landman and I hashed out the idea once again today at lunch and concluded that Atlanta really needs such a program. Mike is heading up the EO Accelerator program for Atlanta which helps entrepreneurs with businesses between $250k and $750k grow to $1 million plus so as to be eligible to join EO (which I highly recommend).

Naturally, Mike and I dove right into some of the details of doing a Y Combinator for Atlanta. We each have a couple thousand extra square feet at our respective corporate offices to provide a co-working environment. What are some of the other costs? Here are the initial thoughts on costs on an annual basis:

  • Managing Partner – volunteer (~$5k in expenses to talk at regional organizations and schools)
  • Part-time Program Coordinator – $20k
  • 5 teams in one summer class @ $20k investment per team – $100k
  • Office space (2,000+ sq feet for 20 people) – $25k (possibly less)
  • Legal – $5k
  • Accounting – $3k
  • Miscellaneous (food, infrastructure, etc) – $7k
  • Cushion (more people per team than expected, legal/accounting in future years) – $10k

Total: $175k annually

Entrepreneurial Force Multipliers

I was reading an article about technology in the military/police context and the term force multiplier kept being mentioned. Naturally, I thought it was an interesting term in the entrepreneurial/business world. Here is Wikipedia’s entry on force multipliers:

force multiplier refers to a factor that dramatically increases (hence “multiplies”) the effectiveness of an item or group.

Here are some force multipliers:

  • Product development — not one-off features for a specific client but rather opinionated features that fit a focused vision
  • Investment capital — particularly when you have the basis for a repeatable sales process that is profitable and/or gains market share
  • Search engine optimization — PageRank operates like the Richeter Scale such that each incremental increase results in substantially more credibility

What are the force multipliers in your business?