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Bring your breakthrough ideas to life. Learn from successful innovators

In 2003 the Indian environmental researcher Narayana Peesapaty spotted an alarming trend: Groundwater levels in the region of Hyderabad were falling precipitously. He examined rainfall records but found nothing to explain the drop. Looking deeper, he discovered that the culprit was a change in agricultural practices. Many area farmers had abandoned millet—a traditional crop increasingly regarded as “the poor man’s food”—in favor of rice, a thirsty crop that requires 60 times as much water to grow. And because they had access to heavily subsidized electricity, the farmers were continuously pumping water into their fields. Peesapaty tried to influence agricultural policies by documenting the problem in government reports, to no avail. So, he looked instead for ways to boost demand for millet. He hit on the idea of turning it into “edible cutlery”—a solution that could attack not just the groundwater deficit but also the scourge of plastic waste. Peesapaty quit his job to pursue the project. A decade later, after a video he posted about the cutlery went viral, orders began pouring in. Two crowdfunding …

Leverage your platform by creating online courses

You have an expertise; you know others want to learn it because you have been building up your following. What can be more obvious than to develop an on-line course? The ultimate make it once, sell it many times. If only it was that easy. The truth is creating and launching a course is difficult. That’s what Jared Kleinert found when he tried to launch a course called “Yourself with Wealth”. In a very transparent Forbes blog post he detailed his failure. It started with three numbers $997, $11,000, $0. The first number $997 was the price that Jared intended to charge for his course. $11,000 was the amount he had spent preparing his course. $0 was the sales he achieved. What went wrong? As Kleinert puts it; “As entrepreneurs we like to chase the next shiny object, like a cool online course. In my rush to make a quick buck, I missed a vital step. I never interviewed my potential customers” Jared has moved onto other things but his advice to others thinking about …

Build the house (business) you want to live in.

Define your values early and often. Values are not generic two-word commandments that state the obvious.  They should codify what you believe in place where everyone can see them and everyone can suggest changes. Values should be an oral tradition. They should tell your employees how to behave in both normal and extreme situations. And they are effective because values stick in our brains, they are efficient and memorable. Using Nordstrom as an example. For my listeners outside North America who may not be familiar with Nordstrom, it is a high-end department store noted for exceptional service. In an iconic story a customer brings a set of tires to a store to be returned, even though Nordstrom sells clothes, not tires. The store accepts the tires and fully refunds the customer. In another case a clerk being unable to find right pair of shoes for a customer recommends a competitor, Macy’s and pays for the additional shipping cost. These stories tell you more about the service Nordstrom and their customers expect than a thousand-page manual …

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

At this stage of our business cycle, you are profitable and growing organically. Maybe this is the end game for you, you are earning a nice living for you and your family. But many entrepreneurs want to continue to see their businesses grow. And to stand still means to go backwards in this every changing world. You do not need to grow like crazy, but you do not want to stagnate either. As a minimalist entrepreneur you have a built a business that you enjoy working on, it’s a pleasure to go to the office every day. But sustained growth presents its own set of challenges.  One tool that may help you decide the best path for your business in the Ansoff matrix which I discussed in episode 29 of season 7. To listen to that podcast CTRL Click here When a business fails, it is not usually due to a tide of unforeseeable events, its usually for a handful of reasons. The most common of which is running out of money. In his book …

From e-mails and communities to profitability.

Make email the backbone of your marketing – maintain control. Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook can take away your business at any time by changing the algorithms, shutting down your account, or making you pay to turn up. Social media is a great place to gain distribution, but you are building on rented land. Once you have social media followers, start building an email list. Email is a peer-to-peer network giving you a direct line to your customers. This is not controlled by anyone but yourself, an algorithm or whether you spend money. The author’s position is that when someone gives you their e-mail address they are your friend, not a stranger. But it is very easy to lose that friendship. You would not spam your friends so you should not spam these contacts either. I have had some bad experiences recently. Look I get it, a business owner has spent time to develop a piece of useful content, or to produce a YouTube video. If I want more, then I buy the additional information …

The Minimalist Approach to Success.

Lessons from “The Minimalist Entrepreneur – How Great Founders Do More With Less.” By Sahil Lavingia  Are you a Minimalist Entrepreneur? Introduction: Sahil Lavingia started his career chasing unicorns. He joined Pinterest as employee number two but left before his stock invested to build his own billion dollar company: Gumroad. A tool to help creators sell their products online. Simplicity was key, no complicated setup, no elaborate storefront. Just a link for customers to pay and you are in business. Fifty thousand people visited the site on the first day and Sahil felt he was on the cusp of something big. Gumroad never did become a unicorn, after burning through $10 million of investor’s capital, growth plateaued, attempts to raise additional capital failed. Three quarters of the company’s staff were laid off, including many of Sahil’s good friends. From the perspective of Silicon Valley, and in his own eyes, Mr. Lavinga was a failure. A move from San Francisco to Provo Utah enabled Sahil to change his perspective. Gumroad was a sustainable business, thousands of …

More Ideas from Dori Clark’s “The Long View”

Continually reinvent yourself – Think in Waves. That you cannot do it all at once is obvious, nor should you try if you are playing the long game. But do not fall into a trap that many professionals fall into. Which is finding an activity you are good at, and simply keep doing that forever. This leads to frustration as you begin to feel you have plateaued. Often this is because they have overplayed their strengths and ignored areas where they are weak, or they are afraid to take a chance on something new Heads Up, Heads Down. Articulated by Jared Kleinert an Atlanta based entrepreneur. Heads Up, Heads Down provides guidance on how to avoid the shiny object syndrome, the difficulty many of us face in avoiding chasing the next big thing. There is no shame in trying other things, but only when you are in Heads Up mode, where you are looking for opportunities, But not when you should be Heads Down mode, the time when you are focused on execution, getting stuff …

Taking the Long Game View

Making the impossible, possible When setting objectives for our careers whether entrepreneurial or corporate we often default to monetary objectives. That’s why business degrees are so popular, they appear to offer a more direct route to well-paid employment. But one of the best aspects of being an entrepreneur is that you can focus your activities on what interests you. Dorie Clark calls it optimize for interesting. One of my greatest regrets is that I spent my corporate career in a company that made products that really did not fire my imagination. My hobbies were fishing, boating and aviation, not construction chemicals. When considering where your business should take you, evaluate what you are already doing. What catches and holds your  interest? Set big goals for yourself. It may seem to you that making a living out of what interests you is impossible, so you elect to pay it safe. After all who wants to be loser. By playing the long game however, what appears to be impossible becomes possible. Making a living doing what you …

To Achieve Success Learn to say No

Based on ideas from Dorie Clark’s “The Long Game – how to be a long term thinker in short term world.” When Nancy Reagan, wife of then President Ronald Reagan was visiting a primary school in California she told the kids “Just say no” to drugs. This was later used as a slogan in the campaign against drugs in the US during the early 1980s. But as we know many people have difficulty saying no to drugs, and many entrepreneurs have difficulty saying no to requests for meetings, to speak at events, to do write a guest blog, anything to raise their profile. When I stated out, I fell into this trap, if someone who seemed to have a chance of providing me with a lead or a gig contacted me I would agree to meet them. Usually at a place convenient for them, they were a potential customer after all. I have spoken pro bono at many CFO conferences, I have even made Podcasts for that giant ERP provider SAP. All without payment and …

Are you too busy to be successful?

Lessons from Dorie Clarks book “The Long View” Part 1 Rejection is part of every entrepreneur’s life. The proposal that is not accepted, the call that is not returned, the blog that attracts little interest, the client who terminates a contract. But if you believe social media, stories in the press, courses that offer instant income, you could feel that everyone else has the secret to success figured out and only you are struggling to gain traction. Maybe you tell yourself that you need to work harder, put in longer hours, expand your social media presence, start podcasting, writing a blog. These activities take time, and it is likely you are hustling as hard and as fast as you possibly can. You do not have time to breath, let alone think. Even though you know it’s not right, you focus on execution and the short term. What can you do about it? Dorie Clark suggests you adopt strategic patience. Strategic patience is the ability to do the work without any guarantee of success, to toil …