Quick Advice on Starting a Business

Sharing some thoughts on “how to start a business” and “the struggles of starting a business” …

How to start your business…

1) Make your first sale & make sure you deliver 110% (always do this, but especially in the beginning)

—-OR—-

2)Put something on paper, build a prototype (if applicable), and practice pitching your business idea — Then either go after investment or see #1.

Either way, just do it (sorry Nike).

Be prepared…

There will always be stuggles, obstacles, roadblocks, difficulties, and challenges…

Remember that it’s all about attitude.

If you face a situation with a positive attitude.. the outcome will be positive ūüôā

No matter what you do…

Read these 2 books..
http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0671723650
http://www.amazon.com/Think-Grow-Rich-Napoleon-Hill/dp/0449214923
That’s all from me…¬†of course I would like to hear what you have to add……

So You Want To Start A Website
(and get rich)?

Make Money Start Business Website

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard an idea for a business or website… I’d probably have somewhere around $5.75.

I’m not sure if that was a joke or the truth.. whatever…

Seriously though, there are a couple important philosophies to follow when starting a website or a business:

 

Quick note: Only read this if you want to be successful.

Whether you want to impact the world, or make money and be profitable.. or (especially) BOTH.

Really looking forward to some comments on this one.

#1 – Riches Are In The Niches

Make sure your website or business caters to a niche market.

Service or product, just make sure you’re serving a niche.

Why? – Easy: it’s easier to #winning (for the future: that was a¬†Charlie Sheen joke).

Do you want to compete with GE, Microsoft, or Home Depot? No, you want to compete with a few companies that you can easily differentiate yourself from.. or better yet, you want to compete with… NO ONE (Blue Ocean Strategy)!

Long story short: It’s easy to gain (or create) market share and differentiate yourself in a niche.

#2 – Monetization

Have you thought about your monetization strategy? ¬†You gotta love when someone pitches a business or website idea and you ask: “How are you going to make money?” … crickets chirp … “that’s just lovely.”

I participated in¬†Startup Baltimore (where people with ideas and skills meet to bring an idea to life in one weekend’s time) – half the ideas hadn’t even thought of how to monetize their idea… that blew me away.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t HAVE to make money — you can provide a service that betters the world (or community) and operate as a non profit company – that’s fine too.

The Most Important Part of Monetization

Actually, you don’t REALLY have to know EXACTLY what your monetization strategy is up front (I might get yelled at for saying that).

Monetization strategy is definitely very important… but two sound concepts (or focuses) always apply and if you do them both right, the money will always follow:

  1. Traffic First: Retail, service, online, product… doesn’t matter. ¬†All businesses or websites need to start with traffic & gain a following. ¬†Without people digging what you have, you have nothing. ¬†If you’re starting a website, get traffic to the site first, make that your only focus… then you can always monetize the traffic later!
    (Why do you think Facebook, Twitter, and these other websites are worth so much when they don’t make ANYTHING close to their valuation in revenue (let alone profit (yes, parentheses within parentheses within parentheses, you like it)) … it’s because of their potential (because they have TRAFFIC and a FOLLOWING))
  2. And to get that traffic or follow… you need to always provide value. ¬†Value makes the world go round. ¬†No one likes the guy who takes but never gives (if you don’t know that guy, you’re him). ¬†If you’re providing serious value, or have an awesome product, you will earn traffic & a following, and a loyal one at that! ¬†Brand loyalty is hard to accurately value, but anyone in business or marketing will tell you it’s extremely important. ¬†Add value, make the world a better place ūüôā

SO that’s it, that’s all I have for starting a website or business and making money. ¬†Just a quick disclaimer:

The ideas in this post are breifly explained and come form my experience. ¬†I’m not the most successful person in the world (yet, #winning), but I think the ideas are pretty solid for anything getting started with a business or a website.

Please discuss and add your thoughts for the use of everyone reading.

Cheers, -Arsham

The 4 Logical Reasons That
Make Software Businesses AWESOME

I recently learned about this company called Social Solutions.  They make their money by selling a software to non profit companies.

Learning about their business model made me think about how profitable software companies must be… check out the “thought flow” I had (below).

Here are the reasons why software is awesome, written from a user, developer, and sales person of software’s perspective.

#1: Everything is Software

Software From My Mac
Some of the software you will find on my mbPro

You don’t really realize it, but if you think about it – you’re using software right now.

As a matter of fact – anyone device that connects you to the internet uses software! ¬†Computers, phones, credit card processing machines, etc…

Ever burned a CD? You used software.

Have you every wrote an essay or paper?  Did you do it by hand? No, you used software.

So software is everywhere and I’m guessing that people don’t even realize when they are using it.

Why is software everywhere, you ask?  Because of the next 3 reasons below:

#2: Software Makes Things Easy

Software solves problems, makes things faster, and probably most importantly: it makes things easy.

Sometimes a piece of software will come out that allows you to do things that you previously couldn’t do before (TweetDeck is a decent example: allows you to manage multiple social media accounts from one application).

Have you ever used Adobe software? Dreamweaver makes editing HTML very easy.  My man Chris Freeman knows all about this.

Software takes tasks that would usually require classroom training and makes them push button.

AND now-a-days, cloud-based software (which is basically any software that you can access from anywhere that you have an internet connection) is revolutionizing and accelerating the software industry… Google Apps (like GMail, Docs, Calendar) & SalesForce are good examples of cloud-based software.

#3: Software Sells Itself

Most of the time you don’t really need to “sell” software.

The software sells itself!

How many other industries can say their product sells itself?

I just remember a Chris Rock stand up:

Drug dealers don’t sell drugs. Drugs sell themselves. It’s crack. It’s not an encyclopedia. It’s not a f**king vacuum cleaner. You don’t really gotta try to sell crack. Ok?

You will never hear a drug dealer say: “How am i gonna get rid of all this Crack?”

The reason for this is simple: ¬†see reason #2 above ūüėČ

Burn CD’s, manage your accounting, write and format papers, browse the internet… all things that you need to do, so you buy software!

#4: Software is Ultra-Profitable

So you’re telling me that I can develop something one time and sell it unlimited times? ¬†So wait, when someone buys my product, I don’t have to make it from scratch in order to deliver it?

Think about this: when a business wants to grow, it has to get more customers.

In service based businesses, when you get more customers you also have to hire more people, fill more seats, which costs you in both payroll expenses but also administrative headache.

In traditional product based businesses, you have to add to your manufacturing line or supply chain when you grow.

In software companies, all you have to do is have a couple support people and maybe a development team (to improve your software)… both of which you could outsource ūüėČ

It’s no wonder that of the top 20 riches people in America (according to Forbes), 8 of them were running software companies!

Profitable Software Company Thought Flow

Social Solutions sells software to help companies organize their operations and track the company’s efforts to the outcomes they produce… most of their clients are non profit companies…¬†some non profits get government grant money… non profits have to spend money (in order to show no profit at the end of the year) — SO –> Social Solution is indirectly getting government grant money… AWESOME!

(PS, a similar example of this can be found in the computer or IT training classes & trade school industries)

———–

Do you have an idea for a software that could be valuable to a particular niche?

Already work for or own a software (or software related) business? ¬†I admire you and wish you the best! … just make sure you’re ethical and providing value – because otherwise, you won’t be around for long.

I Like Meetup.com

It’s kind of just like another social media site, complete with profiles, commenting, and event scheduling.

The main difference is that Meetup focuses on the niche — both topically and geographically.

Users can create “meet up groups” and invite those who are interested in certain topics to join. ¬†The creator of the group is then responsible for organizing a “meet up”.

The meet up can be in person or over the internet, using GoToMeeting or something like that.

It Gets Your Clients Too!

One of WebMechanix’s most recent clients actually called us because they saw me on Meetup. ¬†She said that she noticed I was an active member of the a Baltimore SEO group and since she was in the market for SEO, she decided to give us a call. ¬†Awesome?

List of Meetup Groups

Here is a list of Meetup groups that I am currently part of:

Maryland SEO

Baltimore SEO

Baltimore PHP

Baltimore WordPress

Maryland Internet Marketing

Hospitality Online Marketing

Columbia Business Strategy and Networking

Baltimore Small Business Social Media Marketing

Can You Tell What I Like?

I just realized that you can easily tell what I’m into just be reading the group names… hahaha — Maybe I should join some skiing and tennis groups to round out the heavily weighted Internet Marketint Business groups!

That’s all for now – check out http://www.meetup.com – hope to see you out there!

How To: Become A Better Manager

Business. What do you think of when you hear that word?

Money/Accounting/Finance), Systems/Operations, People/HR … Sales/Marketing, meals & entertainment ;), people in suits, etc…

What do you think of when you hear the word “Business“? (comment below)

how to become a better manager
Part of the WebMechanix crew at a networking event

Let’s Talk About People

I recently read this book “First, Break All The Rules” by Marcus Buckinham & Curt Coffman. These guys worked at the Gallup Organization in a 25 year study that found an answer to two questions:

  1. “What do the most talented employees need from their workplace?”

    They surveyed over a million employees and found that every employee is different and should be treated as such – but they all need great managers. Which lead them to ask the second question listed above.

  2. “How do the world’s greatest managers find, focus, and keep talented employees?”

How To: Become A Better Manager

First off, why do you want to be a better manager?

The answer should be along the lines of “I want to know about each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and personalities so that I¬†can provide them a better workplace. ¬†I want my team to be focused, productive, and to grow with my company.

Sound like your “why”? Read on… otherwise, what is your “why”?

Even though every employee (I like to think of them as team members) is different – you can still gain insight into how they feel about their job.

The book “First, Break All The Rules” talks about the evolution of what an employee needs from their workplace.

They make an analogy to climbing a mountain. Haven’t climbed a mountain before? No problem, allow me to explain:

You don’t just climb a mountain all at once .. instead, you have to make stops at different “camps”. That basically translate to “you don’t become a CEO in one day” (or at least, that’s what I gather).

Let’s Apply It

As a manager, you want to make sure your employees are happy at their respective levels.

You can’t get to camp #2 which is half way up the mountain without first stopping at camp #1, right?

Check out this employee survey (let it be known, these questions were modified a little bit to be more “fun”.. they used to be dry and the answers were the standard 1-5, 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree .. I made the answers a little more fun).

The questions are broken down into sections (denoted by a dotted line). The first section is “base camp”, second is camp #1, then camp #2, and camp #3.

If you answer positively to all 12 questions, you’ve reached the summit (so to speak).

How I Recently Used The Survey

We are a fairly new company, so everyone is pretty much at “base camp”.

Therefore, I want to make sure that everyone gave the top answer to the first 2 questions before looking at theresponses for the next 10.

I gave this survey to all our employees and learned that what I thought about each team member was wrong (and exactly opposite).

Looking at just the first two questions… The employees who I thought knew what was expected of them and had all the materials they need actually didn’t (and vice versa).

Using the results, we conducted a “review session” that focused on the first 2 questions. I asked them:

“What is expected of you?” and “What are you missing that would make you more effective at your job?”

Taking it from there is up to you because every business and every employee is different.

General Advice To Become A Better Manager

I highly recommend the book “First, Break All The Rules” – and there are plenty of other books that can help you become a better manager.

Gotta’ Have A Purpose

From Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Drive”, we learn that purpose is the most motivating factor which “drives” us to do what we do every day.

It used to be biological forces, such as the need for food & water, and money (or other monetary rewards) were the cornerstone of motivation tactics.

But if you think about it .. well, actually think about it.. WHY are you reading this right now? WHY do you go to work? WHY!?

You might find that you did something for a friend just because it gave you purpose. That is, you didn’t get any food, water, or money, but you did it because it gave you a purpose.

You can give purpose in many different ways, such as having a company mission or telling employees why they are doing what they are doing.

Communicate

This is somewhat obvious, but works like a charm.

People like feedback, they like to grow, and they need to know what they are doing wrong (and right) so they can change.

If you think someone is going to change their ways without any intervention, think again (refer to Newtons first law).

Have quarterly (or bi-annual) reviews with your people – look up “how to conduct an employee review” in Google to get some tips.

That’s all for now – I hope this helps. Leave your feedback below.

I Will Always Get Custom Made Clothes & Suits

Eric Finn Custom Clothiers came by today to do the final fitting of my custom tailored suit.. IT LOOKS AMAZING!

Guess I should have taken a picture of it while the suit was on me, but it was chalked up in a couple places to go back to get tailored a little more.. just so that it’s extra perfectly fit to my sexy body (had to throw that in there).

I’m so excited to go on business meetings now, and I think I might have to buy another suit from him as well..

Oh, did I mention that they hook it up with shirts to go along with these suits.. custom fitted shirts that is.. with your initials embroidered in there (and the suit has your whole name embroidered on the inside)

Custom Made Shirt By Eric Finn For Arsham Mirshah
Custom Made Shirt By Eric Finn For Arsham Mirshah

More pictures to come when I get the finalized suit and put it on.. I’ll probably have a photo shoot done haha — YES!

Thank you Eric Finn!

Inspiration Is Perishable – Thanks 37Signals

Just finished reading the book ReWork by Jason Fried and David Hansson, founders of 37Signals (makers of awesome small business software such as BaseCampHQ)

Awesome guys.. pure awesome. ¬†I’m a raving fan.

What I really like is the short sections that touch on the most important aspects of the chapter they are contained within.

For instance, in the Productivity chapter, there is a section called Interruption is the enemy of productivity.  This is so, so true.

I seriously couldn’t agree more.. it’s awesome because we (when I say “we”, I mean me and my team at WebMechanix) already practiced some of what you guys preach.

When we worked on this career college in Toronto, Canada – we would shut everything off, including phones (cell phones are the WORST) – and THEN we did our work.

AND we did the work in the morning, because you’re fresh in the morning — I’m telling you, 8-10am is 400x more productive than 3-5pm (you agree?)..

Another awesome example from ReWork is the section called Hire great writers in the section Hiring.

EVERYONE writes.. emails, training documentation, blog posts.. AND like you said, good writers are good communicators — and EVERYONE communicates (at least you hope they do :).

The absolute best part of the book was the very last chapter… Inspiration is perishable

This is 200% true (if that’s such a thing).. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me about an idea, and it sounds pretty good – and they sound passionate and inspired, but then they never do anything about it.

There are a couple quotes (if you don’t mind me posting them here) that I loved:

Ideas are immortal. They last forever. What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. ¬†Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: It has an expiration date.

And another one:

Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator.

All in all, great book guys, thanks a lot for putting your thoughts down on paper and being the best teachers ūüôā

How To: Add 3 Months To Your Year

Would you like to get 15 months worth of stuff done in only 12 months?

Let me explain how I’m planning on adding 3 months of productivity to my year..

Assume you wake up and start working (productively) at 9am.. and like everyone else, your productivity starts to fade when 5pm starts to roll around.

Without a lunch break, that’s about 8 hours a day. ¬†Not bad.

That isn’t cutting it for me though, I need more time in the day.. there is a lot more to do than 8 hours allows, so I’m looking for 10-12 hour days.

But I’ve noticed that after 5pm, I am no where close to as productive as I am in the morning since I’m starting to get tired and hungry, and feel like I should do other things like work out and socialize…

Therefore, I’m instituting a rule where I have to wake up by 6am.. why?

Because If I’m up and productively working by 7am, that adds 2 hours per day!

Not to mention, these are probably the most productive hours of the day! …

  • No social threads are being updated
  • No phone calls coming in
  • No meetings scheduled

So 2 more hours per day = 10 more hours per week = 1+ extra 8-hour work days per week!

Rough Calculations…

So if you work 2 extra (wicked productive) hours per day.. you get 10 extra hours per week…

4 weeks in a month * 10 hours per week = 40 extra hours per month…

40 hours per month = 1 extra week per month…

1 week per month * 12 months = 12 extra weeks per year!…

and of course, 12 weeks per year / 4 weeks per month = 3 extra super productive MONTHS PER YEAR!!

You don’t have to follow the math, or be as excited as I am.. just know this: ¬†If you start working earlier, you WILL get more done, in less time..

“Work smarter, not harder”

Nothing good happens on weeknights after 10pm anyway, you’re either drinking, watching tv, or bullshitting on the internet.. go to bed, wake up early, get more done, be happy.. and take more vacations with your new found time!

Your thoughts? ¬†Don’t be scared.

Chamber of Commerce & Tech Council Networking WORKS!

My company (WebMechanix) is part of several different chambers of commerce and tech councils.

We joined these organizations for several reasons:

  • To get our name out there
  • Benefit from the resources available to members
  • Make new connections within our community
  • Give back to the community with¬†volunteer¬†and pro-bono work
  • Learn from seminars put on by the chamber/tech councils
  • Network with local businesses who have products/services that we need as well as provide them with our services

That last one could be categorized as business development.. and that’s exactly what I wanted to write about here…

Here is my testimonial to the Howard Tech Council (specifically Larry Collins):

Dear Howard Technology Council & Larry Collins & Linda Burger,

I wanted to write this to show my thanks for your valuable, continued support!

You guys certainly know how to kill two birds with one stone.¬† I attended the recent ‚ÄúFacebook for Business‚ÄĚ seminar where there were a few dozen professionals that came to learn how to use social media for their businesses.

WebMechanix came to participate in the discussion and network with local businesses.  During the networking portion after the seminar, I made a connection with the marketing manager of a fellow HTC member and scheduled a lunch meeting with them later in the week.

Long story short, they expressed their interest in learning more about the internet and social media (our specialty) and they became a client!

Both WebMechanix and the new client received a pretty dramatic ROI from the seminar.  WebMechanix got a new client and the client now has a dedicated team handling their social media and web marketing strategy.

Thank you very much HTC, Larry, and Linda!

Sincerely,

Arsham Mirshah
Chief Technology Officer
WebMechanix

What If Everything Was Like A Buiness Transaction?

Could you imagine!?

If not.. think of it this way…

Business transactions are based on facts, science, numbers, legalities, etc.. there is rarely too much emotion that goes into a business decision..

Whereas on the other hand, personal decisions usually have more emotion or feelings involved.

Here is an example:

Say you’re dating a girl.. and you like her, so you want to make her happy. ¬†What if making her happy means spending a lot of money on her, and you don’t have that much money.

Wouldn’t it be a little taboo to say to her: “Hey I like you, but I don’t have that much money.. so I’m going to spend 10% of my income on you”

I don’t think she would like that very much (correct me if I’m wrong). ¬†But in a business decision, that would be a BRILLIANT move.. “We are going to spend 10% of our EBITA on marketing”, for instance.

I guess a prenuptial agreement is somewhat like a personal business transaction.

Note: Since writing this, I spoke to some friends who live down the street (near Baltimore, MD).. they said that when they were looking at getting a home addition – they broke down their finances and made a decision as though it was a business transaction. But in that case, it is.. so that doesn’t count.

The reason this is interesting for me is because business decisions are easier to make (for me at least) than personal ones.  I get too tied up in the emotions and feelings when it comes to friends, family, and relationships.

If I were able to make personal transactions with a similar attitude as business, I THINK life would be easier.. not sure though.

Would love to hear your thoughts ūüôā