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Business

Angela’s Apprisals – Business, No. 2

Angelas Apprisals Business

 

Angela’s Apprisals: my take on keeping you apprised of helpful posts and happenings in the business world.

  • Here’s a pinteresting video I saw on visual.ly: A Marketer’s Guide to Pinterest.  Holy cow!  Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube COMBINED?!  (side note: I just might be addicted to watching animated infographics)
Categories
Business

Angela’s Apprisals – Business, No. 1

Angelas Apprisals Business

 

Angela’s Apprisals: my take on keeping you apprised of helpful posts and happenings in the business world.

  • In the creative business world, there are tons of designers making their own patterns and publishing tutorials online.  How can you detect people stealing your content?  Read this on the KISSMetrics blog: How to Keep Content Thieves from Stealing Your Work.  Google Alerts, baby.  Google Alerts.
  • This post by ProBlogger was kind of surprising to me:  How to Publish Your Blog on Amazon Kindle.  I’ve never heard of such a thing. Do any of you publish your blog on the Kindle, or are you planning to?

 

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Business

A Review of The $100 Startup, a Book by Chris Guillebeau

Aren’t these two sentences powerful?

Imagine a life where all your time is spent on the things you want to do.  Imagine giving your greatest attention to a project you create yourself, instead of working as a cog in a machine that exists to make other people rich.

These are the first two sentences of the book The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau.

Review of the 100 Startup

These two sentences hooked me right in – I just quit my corporate job in early 2012.  For the first time, I am not working for someone else.  I spent most of the last 25 years working in business, finance, policy, marketing, and content management.  My new focus is to do what I love – making things with my own two hands, while enjoying the crossroads of business, technology, and productivity.

Theme of the Book

The book is really all about freedom and value.  Freedom to make a living doing what you love by providing value based on your unique combination of passion and know-how.  This is SO applicable to the DIY niche, with which I wholeheartedly identify.  Soak in another quote from the book, you creative folks:

Often, the combination of freedom and value comes about when someone takes action on something he or she loves to do anyway: a hobby, skill, or passion that that person ends up transforming into a business model.

Throughout the book Chris shares stories of ordinary people (unexpected entrepreneurs) who have turned their passion into profit, in many cases starting out with as little as $100.  These inspiring stories aren’t just told in a general sense – the author shares very specific details, unlike many of the business books out there.

I especially like the example of Happy Knits, a yarn store in Portland (page 195).  Their online sales strategy is strengthened by their close ties to the knit & crochet social network Ravelry, and their focus on quality and love for their customers really makes them stand out.  I’m not a knitter or crocheter myself, but as a sewist I can’t help but think of The Fat Quarter Shop as a comparison.  Their support of the online sewing community is phenomenal – they sponsor tons of sewing bloggers and various online events, and maintain a consistently friendly and engaging presence on Twitter.  Their online store is also top-notch.

I read the $100 Startup after seeing people rave about it on Twitter.  I’d never heard of Chris Guillebeau before, so I looked up his blog and read a little about him.  He struck me as a mix of Michael Hyatt and Tim Ferriss, so I was sold.  I ordered the book from Amazon and read it in a few hours.  I really need to read it again because it is completely full of detailed and helpful ideas – my brain could use another immersion.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the book:

Value

Value simply means helping people.  Think about how you can help people, using your personal talents.  And when you describe the value you provide, talk about the benefits people receive, rather than the features of your product.  Using the Happy Knits example, rather than using the fact-based description “Retail shop that sells yarn”, they use the emotion-based promise “Knitting is fun! Come in to learn, restock, knit, or just hang out.”

As you ponder what your product value really is, think about what people really want.  The table on page 37 is so simple and true.  People want more love, money, acceptance, and free time.  People want less stress, conflict, hassle, and uncertainty.

Review of the 100 Startup Value

Your Passion

One of the most powerful messages in the book directly correlates to the creative DIY niche:

…you usually don’t get paid for your hobby itself; you get paid for helping other people pursue the hobby or for something indirectly related to it.

Sure, I could sew up a ton of iPad cases or make hundreds of mosaic glass vases to sell.  But a good healthy profit just won’t happen with that model, given the time I’d have to put into it (without outsourcing).  And my love for sewing and mosaic art would probably go down the toilet.  Not fun.

The 140-Character Mission Statement

This is how I discovered Chris – by seeing Twitter-pated readers raving about the 140-character mission statement. People were enjoying crafting their own mission statements and sharing on Twitter.  It’s basically a combination of your value and the people who pay for it, emphasizing the benefit.  If you sell quilt patterns, it could be “I help people be creative by making a quilt for themselves or someone close to them.”  If you’re a pet sitter, it could be “I help busy owners feel at ease about their pets when they’re away.”

The Strategic Giving Marketing Plan

My favorite part of the book was the concept of strategic giving.  It’s about genuinely caring and being helpful without the thought of receiving anything back.  When you help people, your business grows.  Think about it, people are naturally drawn to others that give.  Good karma at work.

Checklists and Tools

Chris is a strategic giver himself, sharing scads of helpful checklists and guides, scattered throughout the book as well as at 100startup.com.  A few of my favorites:

  • The Possibilities List & Decision-Making Matrix (page 86)
  • The Thirty-Nine-Step Product Launch Checklist (page 140 & at 100startup.com)
  • The One-Page Promotion Plan (100startup.com)

Contest vs. Giveaway

These are ALL OVER in the online DIY community.  Particularly in the crafting and sewing space, bloggers are hosting contests or giveaways to get people engaged on their site.  And I am seeing WAY more giveaways than contests.  Giveaways are purely random drawings, with the winner receiving something cool for free.  Contests are  a bit more complex, involving competition and judging.  Did you know that giveaways don’t create as much true engagement?  Contests produce more meaningful participation, since they involve more than a name and email address in a comment to a blog post.  Chris recommends to experiment with both methods over time, to see what works best for you.

Hub and Spoke

I was very familiar with the hub and spoke concept before this book, by following the social media marketing niche for quite awhile.  The hub is the center of your online presence – most often, your blog.  This is where you want people to visit.

Review of the 100 Startup Hub and Spoke Model

The spokes are all the other areas you spend time online – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Flickr, and IRL (in real life) events.  These are meant to support your hub, not BE your hub.  This can get really difficult because of how engaging and addictive some of these spokes are, especially Instagram and Twitter for me.

The content on spokes is not owned by you, but the content on your blog hub is YOURS.  Liz Strauss hits this point home with her post Don’t Build Your Business Castle on Another Guy’s Land.  Definitely worth a read.

The whole hub and spoke theme is a big issue in the DIY niche right now.  I see tons of active users on Twitter, Instagram, etc., that don’t even have a blog.  I see sewing bloggers’ calls to action pointing to their Flickr stream, rather than to their blog (especially troubling if they have blog sponsors, who are paying for exposure).

I am by no means perfect when it comes to this.  I often need to corral myself and read My First Blog Post, where I revealed “Sometimes I feel like my postings on other social networks get lost into oblivion.”

My Key Takeaways

  • Value – I asked myself “How can I help people?” and my answers now appear on my About page, and are:
    • I can share personalized guides for people to apply smart plans to their creative passions.
    • I can give people meaningful ways to create something truly unique, beautiful, and functional.
    • I can help organize their creative side.
    • I can relate business concepts to the DIY creative. (Ha! I’m doing that right now)
  • Your Passion – I am protecting my passions.  I don’t want my love for making things to turn into work that I don’t enjoy.  No assembly-line sewing for me!  The LAST thing I want to do is open an Etsy shop to make volumes of handmade things to sell.
  • The 140-Character Mission Statement – I’m still tweaking this, but here goes: “Be creative in a smart and intentional way, using simple organization and business concepts. I’ll show you how!”  Ugh, I think it needs work….Chris, your thoughts?  🙂
  • The Strategic Giving Marketing Plan – I am going to be genuinely helpful and give people what they need.  The hard part for me is to decide on the right mix of what to give away, versus what to sell.  When should pdf patterns and tutorials be free vs. paid?  So far, I’m a strategic giver and am offering them for free.
  • Hub and Spoke – I just need to keep this in my mind.  I need to continue to publish to my blog, rather than spending all my time on other social sites.  Good steps I’ve already made: I have my own URL and I’m not reliant on a photo social site for media library hosting.

Recommendation

I enjoyed the book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to start a project on their own.  Actually, anyone with a blog would benefit reading it.  Even though a few of the concepts weren’t new to me, I still learned a lot from this book.  It’s a great mix of business tips, real life stories, and detailed guides.  And I was pleasantly surprised to read about some successful creative DIY companies – that’s a first in a business book!

Have you read The $100 Startup?

What’s your favorite takeaway and your 140-character mission statement?

 

 

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Business

A Review of Business Model Generation, a Book by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

This is my favorite business book.  Ever.  But when I say BUSINESS book, it may be misleading, because it applies to so much more than business.  It’s really about creating value, which reaches way beyond the business world.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers written by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Business Model Generation Book

In order to explain something, we immediately set to writing words.  And if the process is particularly complex, it requires lots of words.  Lots and lots of them.  Not very pleasant if you’re the one who has the responsibility of doing the explaining.  Or for the audience who has to understand it, for that matter.

Entrepreneurs start writing a 30-page business plan.  Teachers set to write out their course curriculum. Project managers begin writing their lengthy project plan.  Nonprofit executive directors start composing their annual report.  As an investor, administrator, CEO, or board member, wouldn’t you rather view a simple one-page drawing that describes the entire overall project, rather than a lengthy report?

Business Model Generation teaches you how to make this simple one-page drawing.

I read this book in 2010, right when it came out.  I was actually waiting for the book to be published.  Several months before, somehow I came across this Business Model Template on Slideshare, which then led me to this illustration.

Business Model Generation Canvas Example

Powerful, huh?  In one drawing, you have an understanding of the entire business picture.

I printed that page out and started following Alex Osterwalder online.  I couldn’t wait to get the book that would help me design a canvas like that.

Why did I want to make a canvas?  I knew it would help me in my current job developing business process workflow, as well as clarifying the processes of a non-profit organization I volunteered for.  But most powerful of all – I wanted to start something on my own (whatever it ended up being) and I knew this would be valuable tool.

Business Model Generation provides a powerful visual approach to understanding complex processes.  To me, this is gold.  After all, the Relator in me appreciates and values visual simplicity.

Here are the main areas of the book:

Canvas

My favorite part of the book – the Business Model Canvas, a design tool.  In a one-page drawing, it describes an entire business model.  WAY more appealing than a 30-page business plan, huh?  The canvas has 9 building blocks:

  1. Customer Segments – who you serve
  2. Value Propositions – the value you provide
  3. Channels – how the value is delivered to your customers
  4. Customer Relationships – the communication environment with your customers
  5. Revenue Streams – your revenue sources
  6. Key Resources – the items you need to create your value proposition
  7. Key Activities – the things you do with those resources
  8. Key Partnerships – third parties who also perform key activities in order to provide the value proposition
  9. Cost Structure – your costs

Those 9 items make the Business Model Canvas.  And there it is, on page 44.

Business Model Generation Canvas

Plot it.  Use it.  Love it.  Share it.  And please give these author geniuses due credit at businessmodelgeneration.com.

Really, can’t you see yourself using this?  For you bloggers out there developing your platform and your personal brand….this is a perfect tool for you!

Patterns

Here the authors give actual examples of the various business model canvas patterns.  Seeing the canvas in action through these examples was very helpful for me to more fully understand its use.

  • Unbundling (mobile telecommunications)
  • The Long Tail (Facebook, YouTube, Lego)
  • Multi-Sided Platforms (Google, eBay)
  • Freemium (Flickr, Skype)
  • Open Business Models (P&G)

Design

My second favorite part of the book.  The tools in this section of the book are gems, I tell you, GEMS!  The authors explain six design techniques to help you design your business model canvas.  When I read this particular paragraph, I felt like the authors were writing directly to me:

Businesspeople unknowingly practice design every day.  We design organizations, strategies, business models, processes, and projects.  To do this, we must take into account a complex web of factors, such as competitors, technology, the legal environment, and more.  Increasingly, we must do so in unfamiliar, uncharted territory.  This is precisely what design is about.  What businesspeople lack are design tools that complement their business skills.

Business Model Generation Empathy Map

  1. Customer Insights – The Empathy Map.  First the canvas and now the empathy map?  Wow.  This map tool alone is worth getting the book, in my opinion.
  2. Ideation – creative ways to identify a large number of ideas and isolate the best ones
  3. Visual Thinking – post-it notes and drawings.  Pictures deliver messages instantly.
  4. Prototyping – making its way from not just manufacturing prototypes, but to process as well
  5. Storytelling – think of an example customer for your business model, and tell a story, walking through each of the 9 canvas areas in whatever order that makes the most sense (aha! there’s your investor pitch, entreps!)
  6. Scenarios – create future contexts and create or transform your business model canvas

Strategy

Once you have created your business model canvas, give it a good strategic review:

  • Environment – identify your niche’s key trends, industry forces, market forces, and macroeconomic forces
  • Evaluating Business Models – the authors give a detailed 7-page assessment tool, for you to check the health of your business model
  • Blue Ocean Strategies – question your value proposition and explore new customer segments
  • Manage Multiple Business Models

Process

In this section, the authors give specific ways to implement the business model design initiative, identifying 5 phases:

  1. Mobilize
  2. Understand
  3. Design
  4. Implement
  5. Manage

My Key Takeaways

Whether you’re old school and use post-it notes on a poster or whiteboard, or you’re a techie that prefers the BMG iPad app (yes, I have it), the exercise of creating your own Business Model Canvas is definitely worthwhile.  The complexities of starting a new endeavor, improving a process, or innovating your current way of doing things can be clarified with the canvas.  It is the perfect mix of creativity and structure.

I’m applying the Business Model canvas to developing my personal brand, as I develop my blog as my platform.  I have prepared a canvas for my blog, and it feels so good!

How would you use the Business Model Canvas?

 

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Business

A Review of The Tipping Point, a Book by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point

Here’s how Malcolm Gladwell describes the Tipping Point:

The Tipping Point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.  Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

In The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell gives valuable insight on how human behavior relates to business.  He shares example after persuasive example of various scientific theories in action, explaining what we can do to deliberately start positive epidemics of our own.  I found them to be utterly fascinating and true.

What is the epidemic you want to spread?  What is the word-of-mouth movement you want to start?  Perhaps you’re a teacher that needs to get a point across.  Or you’re a parent trying to bring out the best in your kid.  Maybe you want to launch your business idea or you are trying to grow your personal brand.  Perhaps you want to increase awareness around a cause that is near and dear to your heart.

The Three Rules of the Tipping Point

 

1. The Law of the Few

 

Mavens

Mavens accumulate knowledge and provide the message.  They love to help and are teachers at heart.

They share good deals that they find.  They take you shopping.  They know where the bathroom is in the store.

The unique value of mavens isn’t just what they know, but that they want to share it with others.  The fact that they want to help, for the sole purpose of helping others, happens to be a very effective way to gain someone’s attention.  If a Maven makes a recommendation, you would ALWAYS follow it.  You know that they know their stuff and that they have no ulterior motive.

Connectors

Connectors take the Maven’s message and spread it.  They are intensely social people who have an amazing ability to make friends from all walks of life.

They remember their first grade teacher’s name and the phone number of their best friend from childhood.  Their energy, self-confidence, and anti-snobbery gives them a footing in so many different worlds.  And they can bring all those worlds together.

The unique value of connectors is their ability to naturally originate a word-of-mouth movement.  The closer an idea comes to a Connector, the more power it has to spread.

Salesmen

Salesmen take the Maven’s message and persuade us when we are unconvinced.  Salesmen are charming, enthusiastic, and utterly likable.  Because they are just plain happy.

They are naturally magnetic and extraordinary storytellers – we can’t help but to be drawn to them, to listen to their stories.

Salesmen are as critical to a word-of-mouth movement as Mavens and Connectors.

 

2. Stickiness Factor

Stickiness means that a message makes a lasting impact.  You can’t get it out of your head.  Sure, Mavens can provide the message, Connectors can spread it, and Salesman can persuade it… but unless the message is memorable, it won’t grab attention.

This can be especially difficult now, given all the overwhelming pleas for attention in today’s market.  We encounter tons of noise – online ads, vast amounts of email, and spam spam spam.  You just have to find the way to craft your authentic message to separate yourself from this clutter and compel your audience to action.

 

3. Power of Context

Our environment is a large factor that drives our behavior.  In the book, Malcolm cites research and gives examples of the Power of Context in action.  These three concepts were fascinating to me:

Broken Windows Theory

If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.  Soon more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street, sending a signal that anything goes.

Channel Capacity

Our natural channel capacity limit is 7.  We can only handle so much information at once, and once we pass a certain threshold, we become overwhelmed and tune out.

Social Channel Capacity

Our social channel capacity is 150.  To have groups drive a contagious message, they need to be below 150 members.  If more, the group has a hard time agreeing and acting as one.

 

Diffusion Model

The diffusion model outlines how an idea or product moves through a population.

  • Innovators – the adventurous ones
  • Early Adopters – opinion leaders, the respected, thoughtful people who watch and analyze what those wild Innovators were doing and followed suit
  • Early Majority – deliberate mass, who would never try anything until the most respected tried it first
  • Late Majority – skeptical ones, who finally cave in
  • Laggards – the most traditional of all, who see no urgent reason to change

All sorts of ideas and products fail because they weren’t transformed from what makes perfect sense to an Early Adopter into one that makes sense to an Early Majority member.

To be successful, you have to employ Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen to translate the message of the Innovators into something the rest of us can understand. 

 

My Key Takeaways

I’m applying most of these concepts to developing my personal brand, as I develop my blog as my platform.

  • Identify the Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople in my niche.  Be myself, hope they’ll see my authenticity, and let their natural talents fly.
  • Try to make my name and my message sticky.  Still working on this, but my domain name has a ring to it and is easy to remember, right?   angelab.me?!
  • Never let my blog go un-maintained, resulting in abandonment, unsubscribes, and apathy – ala Broken Windows Theory.  That means no broken links and a regular blog post schedule.
  • Never have more than 7 blog categories, per Channel Capacity limit.  Otherwise, folks will tune out.
  • Identify groups in my niche with less than 150 members, reaching out to them.
  • Know my niche audience, where in the Diffusion Model they lie, and do my best to simplify for and relate to them.

 

Have you read The Tipping Point?

What’s your favorite concept and how are you implementing in your life?

 

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Business

A Review of StrengthsFinder 2.0, a Book by Tom Rath

Most people have a hard time describing their strengths.  And I’m not talking about your knowledge or your skills – I’m talking about your core personality traits that make you stand out.

On the other hand, identifying weaknesses is all too easy.  It’s true.  We have been trained to know our weaknesses and to focus on correcting them.  From when we first enter school to now performing our job duties, we spend WAY more time trying to fix what we’re not good at, rather than on our natural talents.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

So what are your natural talents?  I had a fairly good idea of a couple of mine, and so I read Tom Rath’s book StrengthsFinder 2.0 to see what else I could learn about myself.

Here’s what Tom says:

In 1998, I began working with a team of Gallup scientists led by the late Father of Strengths Psychology, Donald O. Clifton.  Our goal was to start a global conversation about what’s right with people.

We were tired of living in a world that revolved around fixing our weaknesses.  Society’s relentless focus on people’s shortcomings had turned into a global obsession.  What’s more, we had discovered that people have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.

Based on Gallup’s 40-year study of human strengths, we created a language of the 34 most common talents and developed the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to help people discover and describe these talents.

I loved this concept, so I dug right in and absorbed this quick-read of a book, took the online assessment, and learned that my top 5 strengths and corresponding insights are:

  1. Relator – People count on you to simplify things that are vague and abstract.  By nature, you have the ability to instruct, train, or offer suggestions to people who look to you for assistance.
  2. Achiever – You normally dedicate yourself to acquiring knowledge and gaining skills.  You yearn to dedicate yourself to worthy causes or noble purposes.  You take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
  3. Futuristic – By nature, you may be viewed as innovative and an original thinker.  Your ability to generate options causes others to see there is more than one way to attain an objective.  You refuse to be distracted by what you cannot do.
  4. Discipline – By nature, you spend a great deal of time researching your ideas.  You are delighted when everyone in a group adopts your methodical procedure.  It is very likely that you double check your work.
  5. Individualization – You guide the exchange of information by drawing out the singular perspectives of everyone involved.  You automatically compliment those who freely share their knowledge, skills, or talents.  Instinctively, you gain satisfaction when you can be of some service to others.

WOW, these rang so true for me!  Discipline was not much of a surprise, but Achiever and Futuristic?!  At first I was leary of how accurate it was, but then as I read more and more about each one, it made so much sense.  And not in a horoscope kind of way.  This was developed by Gallup, folks.  It’s supported fully by research.

Along with each of these strengths, I received 10 ideas for action.  Here’s a sampling:

  1. Relator – I need to proactively put myself out there, so others will quickly see the genuine individual that I am.  I’m doing this with my blog!
  2. Achiever – I need to launch initiatives and new projects, and attach timelines and measurement to goals.  I’m working on launching something as we speak!  Achieving “No Regrets” also fits here.
  3. Futuristic – I need to read extensively to gain knowledge that will fuel my imagination, seek audiences who appreciate my ideas for the future, and partner with someone with strong Activator talents.  Oh my gosh, I read ALL THE TIME, I crave learning, and my husband is an Activator!
  4. Discipline – I need to discover situations in which time or money is being wasted because of inefficiency, and create systems or procedures to improve efficiency.  This has always come naturally to me and was an inherent part of my former financial and process analyst positions.
  5. Individualization – I need to help identify areas where one size does not fit all, relate my topic to the experiences of others, and help others understand that true diversity can be found in the subtle differences between each individual.  I have always said that the world would be a very boring place if we were all exactly the same.  This is true to my heart as well, since I’m a champion for my cousin Justin, who has Down syndrome.

Tom Rath says that when you’re not in your “strengths zone”, you’re quite simply a very different person.  You may dread going to work, treat your customers poorly, achieve less on a daily basis, and have fewer positive and creative moments.  Gallup’s research shows that operating in your “strengths zone” has shown to improve your confidence, direction, hope, and kindness toward others.  Sounds good to me.

Find out what makes you stand out.  Determine the role in which you naturally excel.  Invest more time in the areas where you have the most potential for greatness.  Build on who you already are.  Grab the opportunity to do what you do best, every day.  Extraordinary growth can happen as a result.

What an outstanding book – it’s in my top 5 for sure.

Here is what I suggest you do:

  • Get the book StrengthsFinder 2.0
  • Read the first 31 pages.
  • Go to www.strengthsfinder.com, login using your unique access code (found in the back of the book), and answer the questions.  It will take you about 30 minutes.
  • Read the applicable sections in Part II of the book, Applying Your Strengths, now that you are armed with the 5 areas where you have the greatest potential.
  • Go back to the website and download your customized Strengths Insight and Action-Planning Guide.
  • Change your life – invest more time in these 5 areas.

Have you read StrengthsFinder 2.0, or are you planning to?  I would love to know your top 5 strengths.