Category Archives: Small Business

Business is a Game.

Business is a game with many players. You have customers, partners, workers, and yourself. All of these players have different payoffs. Some it’s an emotion (customer), or cash (worker/partner) or profit (yourself). It does not really matter what business you are in, it’s really played by the same rules, maximize cash/profit, minimize work.

Some times the rules of the game are known, but most of the time they are not. People will tell you they are working for something called A but they are really just working for B but they can’t tell you that. Customers are also telling you they want something, but most of the time they just want more of something like money or time, or less of something like stress.

For those of you reading a business book on how to make your millions. Keep in mind the author can’t tell you everything that worked for them because some stuff might not fit the theme of the book, or wouldn’t help the sale of the book. They also might leave out something so you can buy the next book from them. (I’ve yet to find one detailing how they got 100+ 5 star reviews on day of launch.)

For those of you working a job in a corporation be careful, you might think you are working for the company to do better, but it might just be that’s not the important game, it’s watching out for your peers trying to get your job or your promotion.

For those of you out there that are freelancing, your customers might not really know what they want either. They might tell you they want X but they really don’t know and also they don’t want to sound stupid so they will tell you they want X, but they really might just need Y or something close to Z.

For those in software, you might be learning a new methodology like Agile. Agile is just a game designed to get you to work more efficient and communicate better.

Advice: Before starting any game, sketch out the players, rewards/payoffs for each, and your best guess at the rules. Also, checkout game theory 101.

You can’t be creative until you’re Popular

Just a quick thought on businesses that make it doing something new:

  1. You are popular first, then you do something new & creative and people love it rave about it, and you’re a hit.
  2. You are lucky. The right set of circumstances occur and you’re new creative idea is a big hit.
  3. You piggyback on something already popular, but spin it different.

I’ve done really well on new creative projects, but because they were not “popular” they only enjoyed minor financial success. Had I piggyback’d on a more popular idea, I bet the rewards would have scaled much different. I’ll let you know how my next experiment goes.

Business Books – In A Nutshell

After reading my 100th or so business book I’ve come to the following conclusion, they all basically say 4 of these 5 points:


  1. Pick an Audience
    1. This can be any audience, pick one that don’t annoy you or will grow tired of.
    2. You have a reach to this audience via some amount (%). If you don’t have reach, figure out your reach. These are your prospects.
    3. That % either cost you time or money or both.
    4. Pick one that minimizes each or both.
  2. Pick a problem (what people really want)
    1. This problem will be felt by a % of the audience and similar % of your reach but these numbers are not the same.
    2. People want More (love, money, acceptance, free time, etc.)
    3. People want Less (stress, conflict, hassle, uncertainty, etc.)
    4. Provide value (aka helping people) what can you add to or remove from someone’s life and then get paid.
  3. Try to sell the solution (product or service)
    1. This solution will hit with a % of the people that have the problem that you can reach.
    2. Your sale will have a interval of time between first contact and completion, pick one that you can scale, and that falls within your time-line.
    3. The people that purchase are the end of your funnel and relative to other businesses selling the same/similar solutions to the problem, that’s your market share.
    4. The solution often takes the form of a belief, I believe X can give me MORE X, or LESS Y. See #2.
  4. Build the solution
    1. This cost less and saves time to build second and sell first.
    2. If the cost to reach the customers at the top of your funnel is less than you make per sale, then you have a business, continue.
  5. Refine the solution & communicate to customers until efficient
    1. This is making more money, by maximizing conversion rates and increasing the size of your funnels to achieve maximum efficiency.
    2. Measure what you want but don’t spend too much time measuring (See Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle).

Trust me any book you purchase will tell you 4 of these 5 things, leaving you wanting more, and thus purchasing more books. Save yourself some time and money and know this before purchasing anything else.

Are We All Sheep?

Why is it most people only buy what’s most popular?

Why is it most people only click on stuff recommened by people they “follow” or “subscribe to”?

Why is it most people care so much about their Twitter or other “Social” metric?

Answer: We’re all sheep.

But the reason why we’re sheep is because there’s a HUGE need for a better filter mechanism that’s not been invented. Social proof is the “New Noise Filter”. But the problem, at least for me, is that I don’t like what’s popular all the time. I don’t like what everyone as deemed their 20% that gives them 80% profitability and I really don’t like contrived social proof by master marketers.

My guess is there’s thousands of great books on Amazon that will never make it to the top 100. Hundreds of great internet products that will get created and die before you get to use them.

Don’t be a sheep, buck the trend, make yourself an outlier.

How to make $10,000 in eBooks in 10 days.

I was reading this book called The $100 Start-Up. I was about 1/3rd the way through the book when I read this story about Brett Kelly who created an eBook called “Evernote Essentials“. I found the story great, but I was curious.

No place mentioned in the book or on the blogs was “how” he did it. Basically it was “if you build it, they will come.” Which immediately I was doubtful of the rest of the book. I was thinking, here we go again another bunch of recipes for how to succeed without telling you the “Real Secret” of success.

But I found a video interview of Brett, he seemed like a nice enough guy and he spilled the beans, it was able to get a spot on the Evernote Blog, and had a few of his famous friend bloggers mention his eBook. Without those two things the book would have made him a little extra cash, but not the $100,000 plus he’s made today.

I find that a lot when I read these books about how easy it is to make money by just creating digital content. I’m not entirely sure if the number they are saying are real or just made-up. I also know that without the blogging connections they have, which most of their readers don’t have, none of them would make anywhere near what they are espousing.

Links and referrals are the key. It’s still who you know, even in the Internet Age.

A Business Take Time

I’ve mentioned before I’ve had a bunch of different projects I’ve launched, none of which are alive today. Why?

I think every project I had a certain time-frame for success, IMMEDIATE, or 1-WEEK.

Then when it did not meet certain success criteria I would give-up, stop working on the project, or withdraw the project from the world, then repeat the same process with a new project.

What I realized this morning when I woke up was that every successful business that I read about that happens over-night, actually started in some shape or form 18 months before. That’s a year and a half of refinement, tweaking, testing, modifying, adjusting to the market.

So the product that’s there 18 months plus, is rarely the same product that was there at the beginning, more-over it was the constant tuning that got it there.


  1. Do something you’re passionate about because 18 months will be very long if you don’t like what you’re doing.
  2. Try to sell it before you build it, use adwords, blog post, other landing pages to qualify your market.
  3. Create your business model, i.e. how you will make money, how many sales you need per month, per day, what your estimated conversions will be, etc.
  4. Start off with a MVP (minimum viable product) to get it out there.
  5. Start measuring, start tweaking, increase visits, increase conversion.
  6. Wait 18-24 months, doing number 5.
  7. Retire Rich.

I think I’m going to create a book, called 18 months to Retirement.

Bitter Customers

I think it’s really sad when a business has to experience a bitter person or worse a bitter customer. There’s nothing the business can do to make this person happy that person is just mean and miserable for no fault of the business.

If that business has un-informed or reactive management then the employee on the receiving end of that unhappy person might get counseled about how to be a better employee or how to improve their people skills when probably the exact opposite is true.

I think the same is true with online and customer reviews. If you happen to be a business just starting out and you happen upon these kinds of “customers” at the beginning of your business you might in trouble because you’re never going to sell to the silent majority of people that might actually enjoy what product or service you’re offering.

Not really sure how to handle these kinds of people in general, just hope you are doing things to attract people on the other end of the curve to cancel them out.

A Million Details

I was reading another post by Seth Godin and I’ve also been re-reading books about 80-20/Pareto! The thought that is occurring to me is the balance between a million little details and the vital few.

You see the Mexican Restaurant that Seth talks about does a buch of tiny things that are NOT readily apparent 80/20 efficient. For example the 14 different kinds of salsa, scream 80-20 optimization. I bet that most people only get 3-4 salsas, yet as soon as you take-away 10 varieties, you lessen the experience.

So if you’re out there and are looking for a recipe for a successful business I’m thinking that there’s not so much a perfect equation but rather there’s a million little details you’ll need to work on that you’ll need to rigorously refine until you get to the vital few that make you a success.

Pioneers vs. Settlers

I was watching an episode of Shark Tank the other night when I heard something that’s been sticking with me: “…pioneers get slaughtered while settlers prosper…”. The quote was from Daymond John, billionaire VC guest on the show.

I think that it’s a really keen observation when looking at most products that succeed in the end. Word was not the first word processor; Google was not the first search engine; Facebook was not the first social network.

As a pioneer most of my business life I relate to this A LOT. I created new products, new products that had never been created and business problems that have not been solved.

I think the lesson here is unless you have a Trust Fund, develop something slightly different to be new, but learn from the mistakes of others and become a settler right after the pioneer spends his time and money paving the way solving the stuff requiring lots of time and money… Something which you might not have…

The Winning Team – The Real Answer

I hate blanket rules with no explanation. Having a winning team before starting a business is one of them.

Book after book, or VC after VC will give that same advice without providing a logical underpinning, or reason for the advise. It’s akin to the teacher that says because I said so, rather than actually giving a real reason. I think it’s also because in business people think anecdotally, or are unable to give the real reason, they just know because they’ve been told that or that’s what they’ve seen. But for some reason they don’t explain or know why. Well I’m here to tell you why!

It took a physics analogy in a post by my virtual mentor (Seth Godin) for me to understand what it meant by having a winning team, and it all has to do with the stable size of a business and it’s ability to scale.

Now the stable size of a business depends on the business you are in. That size could be 1 person or 5 people or 10 people. But if a 1 person company tries to start a business that works best for 5 people, it will most likely fail.

Also, VCs are trying to build companies that can scale fast to turn a little bit of money into a large amount of money, companies without a foundation to move from one level of business to another are most likely not going to get funded.