Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CVG Workshop for Entrepreneurs

This Wednesday, the Connecticut Venture Group is giving a workshop for entrepreneurs in Stamford, CT, to help them with business planning and with finding capital. The next day, there's one in Hartford on resources available through UCONN. Worth attending, if you're in the area:

Upcoming Events:

Entrepreneurs Association Workshop: Developing Your Business Plan:
What You Need to Know
When: Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Time: Noon - 2:00 pm
Where: University of Connecticut
Stamford Campus, Stamford CT
Directions and Parking
Charge: $20. For Entrepreneurs Only
Other Info: Lunch will be available
Registration: Click here to Register
More Information: Click here

Accessing UConn's Resources to Develop and Expand Your Business
When: Thursday, October 1, 2009
Time: 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Where: UConn Graduate Business Learning Center
100 Constitution Plaza
Hartford, CT
Charge: No cost. Registration is required as
seating is limited.
Registration: Click here to Register
More Information: Click here

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Tip of the Week: "Freemiums" As a Business Model

Choosing a business model that will generate revenue is important in the online and off-line worlds, especially in a recession, when investors and creditors are particularly jittery.

One revenue-generating model that has worked very well entails the concept of a "Freemium." A freemium model starts with giving away free stuff or free access to build a loyal customer base and then charging for deeper access or merchandise. Author Chris Anderson discussed this idea at Advertising Week at the Mixx Conference. His comments were captured and posted by Ad Age in this online video.


Chris notes that Club Penguin and the online Wall Street Journal both use the freemium model to lure customers to start opening their wallets to buy premium content or merchandise.

Think about your business model. Can you think of creative ways to generate revenue from a loyal customer base?

For more on developing a business plan, visit:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Health Care Bill Will Cripple Business Owners

The proposed health care reform bill will seriously harm entrepreneurs, freelancers, business owners, starving artists and part-time workers. We need a plan that lets people self-insure for the small stuff but protects us from catastrophic health care costs -- in other words, a high deductible plan. That is the only plan that is reasonable for people who can barely afford insurance now. It also makes people think twice before approving lots of tests or running to the doctor for the sniffles. It puts control in the hands of the consumer. But the current plan outlaws high deductible plans. This is crazy.

In states like NY where high deductible plans are outlawed, insurance for a part-time worker or freelance individual is $1,000 per month. In states like CT where they are allowed, the cost is $100 per month. For my daughter who is a nursery school teacher, even $100 per month is hard. She lives in MA, where her premiums are 40% higher than CT and are rising at 16% annually, even with a high deductible plan. (So much for Massachusetts's claim that costs are under control there. And, no, she cannot get subsidized insurance from the state. They turned her down on a bureaucratic technicality.) She can barely make ends meet. This is not right.

The new bill is misguided. It will have highly detrimental, unintended consequences that are far reaching across the economy as it puts health insurance further out of reach for those not employed in a corporation or government system. And it will make people even more insulated from the true costs of medical care. This will not help get costs under control.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Business Tip: Be Happy in Your Work

In one of my favorite movies "The Bridge on the River Kwai," the commandant of the Japanese prison camp tells the British prisoners, "Be happy in your work." Part of the irony in the story is that once the British took ownership of building the railroad trestle for the Japanese, they did become happier. It made them feel less like prisoners. They had pride.

So when I read Sue Shellenbarger's column in the Sept. 16 Wall Street Journal about happiness in work, I thought of Kwai. Her piece, "Plumbing for Joy? Be Your Own Boss," reinforced something I already suspected -- that entrepreneurs and small business owners are the happiest people. Yes, they work more hours and harder than the average person, but they are in charge of themselves and their businesses. Plus, most people who start businesses do it in a field in which they have a passion or a talent. They are following their bliss, as Joseph Campbell would say.

The article reflected a major study by the Gallup Poll of people's attitudes toward their work/occupations. A plumber who owns his own business is a very happy fellow. The article is well worth reading.

So my business tip this week is to find your passion. Follow it. If you are thinking of starting a business, do it. But only do it, if you think you'll love the work.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Business Tip: Know Your True Competition

One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is thinking that they have no competition. I can't tell you how many have told me that their idea is so new and innovative that no competitors exist at all. But the truth is that some other product or service is competing for the customer's time, attention and money. Investors know this. They always look askance at businesses that claim no competitors. Investors want to read a good competitive analysis and know that you know what your competitive advantage is.

You may just have to think more broadly. Who is a partial competitor? Who is in a related industry who might jump into your category and become a competitor?

I just read a great quote from Mike Linton, who is the former CMO for Ebay and Best Buy, which shows how even large, established industries don't always understand who their true competitors are. Read it, and think of how this might apply to your business and category. The quote appeared in Ad Age.

"Don't be blindsided by the competition and get lost in what innovation is.
Record labels still believed they were each other's competition even as they engaged in legal battles with music download, peer-to-peer sites and the consumers who used those sites. They didn't see that consumers were bypassing the $19.99 CD en masse while Apple created a colossal digital-music franchise."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Management Lessons From Ford

Some people think that entrepreneurs cannot manage well. To that end, I'm recommending a terrific interview with Alan Mullaly, head of Ford Motor, which appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, September 6. It has so many nuggets of great advice on management and building an organization. It also has excellent personal advice for anyone who wants to advance their career.

Here is a brief excerpt and link to the article:

"One of my favorite stories is an analogy where this reporter stops by a construction site and he interviews three bricklayers. He asks the first bricklayer, “What are you doing?” And he says, “Well, I’m making a living laying these bricks.” The reporter says: “Oh, that’s great. That’s very noble.”

"He asks the next bricklayer, “What are you doing?” And he says, “Well, I am practicing the profession of bricklaying. I’m going to be the best bricklayer ever.”

"And the reporter asks the third bricklayer, “What are you doing?” And he says, “I’m developing a cathedral.”

"There is technical excellence and professionalism, but we all want to contribute to making a cathedral. And the more we feel that and we know what our part in it is, the more I think you can take the team performance to a whole other level of excellence."

To me an entrepreneur is building a cathedral. An entrepreneur always has to have the big vision in mind -- the end grand result. He or she can then turn that dream into something real by getting others to share the vision.

Planes, Cars and Cathedrals
Published: September 6, 2009
Ford’s chief executive says corporate leaders should articulate a compelling vision for their employees.