One of the things I enjoy most about being in business is its ever changing nature. I’ve noticed a particular pattern that I liken to powering down a mountain at 1,000 miles per hour only to hit a bump and suddenly have your wheels start to fall of. You madly scramble to re-attach the wheels properly whilst still powering down the hill. Once you pull through you’re back powering down the mountain, feeling like an unstoppable F1 driver.
Like I said, I love this feeling. Especially that moment when you pull the wheels back on.
The bumps might come about because you’re growing – you’ve got to pull the team together for some extra effort until your new hire comes on – or they might come about because something didn’t go as planned.
Earlier in the business I’d get quite worried when we hit the bump. Overtime I’m getting better at seeing the bumps before they occur and having the confidence that we’ll pull the wheels back on.
infome sent out its first invoice the other day. In getting to this point through pickmylunch.com.au I’ve learnt a few things, I thought I’d share them:
- Do something useful. It seems obvious, but it is so easy to get caught up in cool ideas and grand schemes. All you need to do is do something useful for someone. Businesses want more customers and customers want a good deal.
- Keep it simple stupid. If you’re going to be useful, people need to be able to use you. It’s tough for them to use you if they don’t even understand what you’re doing in the first place. For businesses, “we bring more customers to your door” and for customers “we get you a good deal on lunch”.
- Get yourself noticed. Placing massive red lunchboxes with our website on them around North Sydney, often accompanied by a glamorous blonde girl handing out discounts, has played a huge role in getting to this point. By making ourselves stick-out, we made people double take, point fingers and take notice of us. Don’t be afraid to be a bit outrageous. (I loved it when I put the boxes next to some suits handing out pamphlets and the suits didn’t even get a look-in from passers by.)
- Talk, talk, talk. The more people we talked with the more we improved the business model and the offering. Go and talk to someone. Now.
- Stick at it. It’s easy to hang up the boots when you’re facing a bit of adversity. It’s easy to move onto the next exciting thing. I’m learning to push through these sorts of things, pushing through is leading to rewards.
- It’s all about the journey. I’ve been saying to myself, I should have reached this point earlier. However, the more I look back, the more I trace my steps, the more I realise that each and every step along the way has been essential in getting to this point.
- It’s an internal battle. What’s stopping you from getting that next customer? What’s stoppping you from looking at new partnerships? What’s stopping you? Well, you. You are both the greatest asset and the greatest obstacle you have.
These are the things that have stood out the most. I hope you can take something away from them.
Last night I sent out the first infome invoice. It’s been almost a year or more in the making. Evolving from rough idea, tried concept in many different fields through to what infome is today, www.pickmylunch.com.au.
Part of me wishes I could have reached this point sooner. Another part of me realises that there is no way I could have arrived at this point without going through the process I went through.
I’ve come to realise that it is a lot harder work then I thought it would be, however it isn’t hard in the way I thought it would be. Instead, it is hard in that you are confronting yourself each day, questioning yourself and pushing yourself forward. It’s easy to slave away writing code, writing plans and writing documents. It’s hard, so hard, to work up the courage to walk up to someone you’ve never met and convince them to pay you for a service that has never been used before. The battles you face are with the conflicting voices in your head, rather than with those around.
I love it. Every bit of it.
A comment made by Rob Antulov (3eep CEO) via Phil Morle’s blog really stood out to me because of the point it was making. That is, your next great feature probably isn’t going to mean success for your business if you just aren’t getting the basics right.
I really like the use of the burger shop in the analogy:
“We want to make great burgers before we try to open McDonalds”
However, I think it could also be:
In software we try and develop a new sauce for our burger thinking it will increase our customers. However, we miss the fact that we built our burger shop in the middle of the desert.
Published August 29, 2008
Marketing, Sales & Business
Tags: australia, australian startups, business, investment, mobile, pitches, Pitching, search, sydney, sydney startup, sydney startups
Yesterday I made a pitch to the guys at Geeksville on a real-time local mobile search service (similar to buzzd). We’ve got a provisional patent on a particular method and believe there is an exciting opportunity to use our technology in the local Australian market. (Email me if you’d like to know more about our plans).
Whilst I’ve made pitches for various things, internal projects/change initiatives, sales pitches and pitches to get people interested in my idea I had never pitched with the intention of getting financial commitment.
I went into the meeting with the view that no matter what happens today I win. I either a) walk out with the backing that I wanted or b) walk out having learnt a huge amount about making a pitch for investment.
Interestingly I think I walked out somewhere in the middle.
Here are the lessons I learnt:
- MAKE SURE YOUR NUMBERS ARE OFFERING THE SIZE OF OPPORTUNITY YOUR POTENTIAL INVESTORS ARE LOOKING FOR. My feeling was that these guys are looking for something that goes profitable in the first 12 months and breaks even that year or the year after. I went in aiming a bit low and my numbers reflected that. I should have aimed higher. Which brings me to my next point:
- Aim high, have a big vision but be realistic. I should have looked at the larger opportunity, I focused primarily on Sydney and then later in the first 12 months on Melbourne. I should have said “Hey let’s tackle Australia, then NZ and then parts of Asia.”
- Get your cost of customer acquisition as low as possible. Understand how much each customer is worth to you over a year, I only looked at over 5 years (way to long). Then look at how you are going to acquire each customer, how much is that going to cost? My costs were probably too high.
- Don’t be on the bleeding edge, be on the leading edge. This is somewhat related to number 3. My marketing strategy involved an expensive campaign that was partly focused on educating customers. This drove up my cost of customer acquisition and made it hard for me to be profitable. I need to cut these costs and find an innovative way to raise awareness and service use.
- Understand who you are pitching too. I should have spent much more time than I did in understanding who these guys were and what each company in the Photon Group does. In particular which ones, when combined with our offering could find substantial leverage.
- Explain your assumptions and your financials. I didn’t spend enough time explaining why my financial projections looked the way they did.
- Present alternative paths. With a service that doesn’t yet have signed on customers it just makes sense to present alternative paths. E.g. if we tackle all of Australia at once it will cost X and we can expect revenue of Y and a profit of Z. If we tackle take a staged approached going city by city it will cost X2, we can expect revenue of Y2 and a profit of Z2. These alternative paths should also be used to answer the question “how much do you need?”.
- Just when you think you understand as much as you can about the market – learn more. I backed up most of my arguments and discussions with relevant reports, studies and statistics however I still think I said “I’m not sure” too many times. Just when you think you understand your market, start learning more about it!
- What is unique about you? Make sure you can clearly articulate why you are unique and why you are the man/woman/team to do the job. At the end I stumbled (at least thats how I view it) into our strong background in technology/telecommunications and the provisional patent we have.
So now I’m going to incorporate everything I learnt last night into my next pitch, the service and future pitches.
I’ve just been voted in as the President of the Young Entrepreneur’s Society for FY 2008-2009.
The main initiative I’ll be focusing on is creating and running a business planning competition in the first semester of 2009. Sydney University is in the heart of Australia’s business capital so it has every reason to aspire to have the best business planning competition for an Australian university.
I’m also looking to get people interested in starting their own business or running a business together on a regular basis for an informal coffee and chat on campus.
As per usual we will be running events to do with starting and running a business.
If you’d like to present to our 400+ members or get involved with us (non-students are more than welcome) then please contact me.
Published June 20, 2008
Tags: business, startup
Published April 9, 2008
Tags: authenticity, business
Interesting little article in my Google Reader this morning; Authenticity Lessons from the American Girl Store:
I stood there transfixed, watching the stylist as she spritzed a doll’s hair, and chatted breezily with her three-foot-tall owner, as if they were old friends. As if all of this was normal. My mother came up next to me asking, “Do you want a doll? I’ll get you one if you want. They didn’t have this sort of thing when you were growing up.” I found myself nodding involuntarily. Yes, yes, I do want a doll.
I wonder if you can build this kind of authenticity with a website? It would be quite difficult because you just can’t create that same level of emotional connection that a physical presence can.
On the other hand you can create little fun things like the doll hair stylist using flash games, polls and user forums.
I wonder if there is anything else that can be done…