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EXECUTION [Progress] Helping professionals execute and grow.

Rabby

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Edit January 5, 2018:
I changed the thread title from "building industry specific community" to "helping professionals execute and grow.'" After chatting with a lot of you here, this sounds much better to me. As of this edit, my current state of mind related to this project is represented by Post #16. In some of the posts prior to that, I see signs that I was falling into disorder in a way. By that I mean, trying many actions to make something work. With a new project, the problem is usually not that you need to work more and harder. It's that you need to be disciplined and efficient about solving the actual problems for individual people. That is becoming more and more clear to me as I reflect on past ventures, both successful and unsuccessful. It makes things much easier. It's not about the work or the product - focusing too much on those can, ironically, be counterproductive. It's about finding the real problems, validating the need for solutions as quickly as possible, and focusing on helping people with those problems. Special thanks and credit to @Andy Black for exemplifying this concept over and over again, until it sunk in deeper for me. I genuinely owe you one. I know this will be at the core of my business-building repertoire going forward. One of maybe 2-3 concepts that remain inseparable from entrepreneurship for me.
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I've never done a progress thread in a forum, but now that I know it's a thing, I find I can not resist. This is early progress... but I'll post as things develop.

Let me get this out there so you can either beat me up or laugh at me... a core component of my new project is a forum. However, it is not a "be an entrepreneur" or millionaire forum. It is for a specific industry. If that's still a no-no here let me know (I'll respectfully delete this), but I don't think it competes with thefastlaneforum at all.

I chose the format because I'm already familiar with it through my online classes, and I think it works for the industry-specific community I want to draw. I'm playing with some non-forum features to add as well, such as directories, job boards (which I have one of already, and I can perhaps leverage it), and other resources to make these people's lives better.

Phew. Ok, so I set up a Discourse forum, which I chose because it looks nice and modern, supports some cool features like wiki posts, and I like the Ruby programming language. I probably will not do much/any programming myself though.

The forum and other features TBD are for small-medium business owners in the specific industry, one that is so pervasive that the potential audience is quite large. I am ridiculously familiar with that industry. Looking at other attempts to build community for it, I am not impressed.

I got the technical part done a week or so ago. After some procrastination and hem-hawing I finally wrote rules and guidelines, and an intro post, and had some Indian VAs finish a directory page for me (they did a good job!). My friend and programmer who I employ in my other business will help with technicals, and he also has some valuable things to post there.

To get more initial posts, of course I will go through my contacts in the business and ask people to join. But not all at once. I want the ones who will help me with no reservations to post first, to add a sort of growing medium for new conversations. The agar. I have at least 10 people like this with valuable industry experience and strong enough ties that they'll do it just to help out.

But, for some variety, I went to Upwork and made offers to (so far) 5 freelancers who have relevant experience. Some I've worked with before (had them help write/edit course material). One turned me down. Two have said yes and started posting.

But Rabby, what's your revenue model? Well, I have products I can sell through such a community, and I am pretty good at developing products/courses for the industry. In the past I've never sold them outside my home state, so I'm broadening my horizons a little.

Aside from that, I can sell advertising. And the site itself could become valuable enough that an industry publisher wants to buy it. Having no set in stone revenue model may sound lame (and Silicon Valley Startup-y), but there are enough potential revenue sources that I'm actually less worried about that part than I am about just getting the thing going. What I want to do first is provide value to the (soon to be) community of people using the site. Only then does it make sense, to me anyway, to try to monetize it.

Since I'm starting this thread super early in the process, my goals will start off super unimpressive. I would like to attract 100 users. I hope I can do that in a few weeks once the agar sets, so to speak. Then I'll post the next goal, which will probably be 1000 users and baby revenue streams.

So, here's the tiny amount of progress so far:
  • Site up
  • 8 whole users, counting me and a VA (haha)
  • 3 posters posting so far, with 3 more promised
  • 10+ who I think shall promise, once I ask them
See, tiny. But when it grows I'll post here. And if it somehow flops, I'll post here admitting that my imagination got ahead of my ability to execute. Either way, we'll learn something ;)
 
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Rabby

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While not doing beach stuff, I invited another person who is unlikely to say "no" or care that initial content is lite. I know, just one. It's like I'm dipping my toe in water. I'll jump in, I promise.

Worked on my "invite message" a bit to get that genuine "hey I think this is a cool thing you'll get a lot out of" sound.

Wrote what I think is a quite good post, if I say so myself. One of my freelancers also started a good thread. That's it... project still in its infancy.
 
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After some refinements to my email "invite template" and signup instructions, I sent a couple more invitations.

A new freelancer with relevant experience agreed to come on.

Two of my others are venturing into new post topics, slowly.

One of them, I have realized, is an incredible writer with a lot of interesting experience. I might hire him to write articles, or a column or something, for another part of the site. It's something I came all around doing for my autopilot business, just for the marketing value of content, but screening writers is hard. I've suddenly realized the value of a forum for screening writers...

That's all for now.
 
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Feeling more comfortable with the little bit of forum content so far. I sent 16 personalized email invitations today. I don't think any of them will turn me down. One has his business on autopilot and deactivated his email address... I'll have to go duck hunting to talk to him, lol.

Several already wrote me back with an enthusiastic "yes." More enthusiasm than I expected actually.

It was also nice to have a chance to re-connect with people who I might otherwise lose touch with over time. Some of these were my former students, and I got updates on how well they're doing. They're doing really well for the most part! Yay!

Looking forward to how the content develops. Keeping my eyes peeled for other potential article writers in the forum too :)
 
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I went to the grocery store and one of my email invites plus my super-writer guy both posted new threads. And they're talking to each other! How cool is that? I know, it's only 2 more, but yesterday in that amount of time nothing would have happened. We'll get traction ;)
 
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I thought I should document some process here. This is what I have for now:

Daily:
  • Write or post significant comments for at least 1 thread. (too low?)
  • Poke other users so that I get at least two new posts from others
Weekly:
  • Send invites until I've recruited 10 members, while posts < 30
  • If we've broken the 30 post mark, create at least one ad, announcement, or promotion of the site
  • Evaluate growth/progress and look for opportunities to update daily or weekly work
  • Look for lateral opportunities - good authors in forum, products to promote there, revenue development, etc.
 
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Well, I thought we would just barely make activity quotas for today. I'm on a non-profit board, and it ate my whole day (why... whyyy?). But I posted, and a really cool business manager who happens to be my niece posted (three times!) and my programmer who happens to be a secret weapon in this industry posted, so we got some activity by and by. Also, another business owner in the field committed to posting. Better than I thought for one day.
 
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Activity is picking up, and more users are starting to explore forum features. Still small though. Most of content is A+ though... I'm really stunned by this. The forum could be a trade publication. I paid a bonus to one of the freelance writers who is sharing his industry experience there... I felt like I had to balance compensation with value provided. I think he's likely to stay when I'm not paying anyone to prime the forum content anymore. I hope he will... seems to be having fun. Unpaid posters are writing really good stuff too.

I've reworked my daily and weekly process, now that I've had a week to see how it looks. I thought of some things that I wanted to improve while I work on it. Here is what I'm doing:

Daily:
  • Write at least 1k words in posts or comments.
  • Share 1-3 posts/pages on the site to at least 3 places in the Internet. Only places where they are welcome and provide useful information.
  • Study 3 headlines form any media that gained readership, understand why.
  • Write 3 headlines for my topic bin.
  • Study 3 humorous stories, standup routines, jokes or articles for humor material.
  • Write 3 laugh mechanisms for "laugh bin" (I have a theory of humor that works pretty well... enough to win a Toastmasters "humorous speech contest" anyway).
Weekly:
  • Wednesday --> Send 40 targeted email invitations. (I have 50 already for next Wednesday).
  • Run 1 ad or promo, somewhere, and observe results, evaluate.
Monthly:
  • 1st Day - Run one contest within the forum.
Probably sounds like a lot, or maybe it doesn't, but this is pretty close to my normal morning routines anyway. Well, depending on what I'm working on.
 

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Are there other forums on similar topics elsewhere? If yes, one strategy which works for a new forum is this.

Go to the other forums and see if you can sort their threads by views. For example here at TMF forum, for this Execution category -> Progress/Execution Threads

As you see, "Diary of opening a new Business" is the most viewed (and in fact most replied to) non sticky thread. So look at the most viewed threads in each categories on other forums relevant to yours. Next start these very same topics in your own forum. These threads will almost always get popular.
 

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So remember when I said this:

Probably sounds like a lot, or maybe it doesn't, but this is pretty close to my normal morning routines anyway. Well, depending on what I'm working on.
Apparently my estimation engine was broken down at that moment. There was only one day last week where I managed to check everything off of my list, because after that I was fried. So I'm scaling back a bit. I think the issue was that I could *only* write on a particular set of topics (those relevant to the project), and as a result the load felt much greater.

I did manage to send more targeted invitations than I needed, and I had some people join, and some even call me to talk about things. Activity is building slowly... "critical mass" will not be the sudden explosion of activity as Oprah notices my hard work :rofl: but I'm getting hints about direction and what's required. I did prove that headlines are really important... "3 whatevers that will really whatever your whatever" is like 10x more popular than "Whatever widgets."
 
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Today I talked to someone with a lot of community management experience. Used clarity.fm, which is a pretty neat thing itself. Anyway, in 20 minutes I had better ideas than I started with. Didn't cost much, and may save me a lot of time and effort. Will try some things this week and see what works.
 
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This is still going.

I managed to break DNS for a few days!

But I also set up a site for content in front of the forum. The forum is alive, especially on weekends, but slow.

I'm still feeling the business idea. It works well with the business I own mostly-passively. Same space. I think I am going to steal my own sales guy and incentivize him to build community numbers. Eventually.

I'm also working on a contract for writers on the content part of the site... I would like to incentivize them based on readership, similar to what I believe Inc. Mag does.

I know, this update is dumb. Sorry. I just got into the operational-details-discovery phase, and operational details make a dull report compared to ZOMG massive growth and sales. Patience! I'll get to the massive growth and sales. I think ;)
 
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Update. Been a while. I have an online trade magazine up and running, if barely, in front of the forum. I've bought two articles so far from a great writer who has a lot of industry experience. I'm paying a good writing rate, but qualitatively, it's a bargain. Whether it is a bargain as an investment will play out over the next year, as a function of my execution.

What I have found is that if I rely on my own direct action to execute things, they get stalled. This is not because I am lazy; rather it is because I am a ball of pure undirected energy. ;) Knowing this, I took the time to write this project (the forum and associated trade zine) into my sales and marketing strategy, which is being executed by my sales and marketing VP. He is also a ball of energy, but with the advantage that he can take direction.

So here is what I did. I incentivized gaining readers and subscribers, and I incentivized gaining active participants, and helping inactive people become participants become registered and active. One nice thing is that I can bootstrap this onto my living breathing business, which pays my sales VP and, well, everyone else. So in making his plan for 2019, I emphasized building this online asset, because I think it is strategically important, and it has potential to scale in several ways that my living and breathing business would have more trouble with (crossing state lines for example).

Even though this is a business experiment that I could easily cut off if it doesn't work out -- my costs are very low so far -- I feel better about it than a lot of things. Having a strategy and an execution plan.... and someone to help implement that plan... eases the anxiety and helps me accept uncertainty with poise, I guess.
 
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Also, I should mention, I do have engaged users. Funny enough, they end up calling me or emailing me half the time, instead of engaging on my forum. Strange. That's something to work on (and working on that is part of the plan). But it is clear that what I'm doing is adding value, and that's key.
 
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Talking to some people, partly in this forum, has made me think on this a little more. Can I say that I am solving a problem with this community? One that people would pay something for if I asked them?

I think I am, but I only am if the community site and trade journal solve the same problem that I've validated personally. Namely, they need direction from people with experience. They're not sure what to do, even though they are business owners with a lot invested in their businesses.

In this thread, I said "don't build the management system" if someone's not willing to pay to solve the problem, demonstrably. A number of experiences tell me that's good advice, assuming building a management system is non-trivial.

I'm not building something as technically complicated as a management system, but getting it going will be non-trivial enough that I should follow my own advice, or risk being full of shit. So...

I feel pretty good that I have validated the need. I have a few tests:
  1. Some customers or contacts from my related business try to hire me as a consultant. I turn them down, and usually find a way to help them for free, but they try.
  2. Some call me, ask for advice, and send all of their employees to me for classes out of gratitude. Mind you, my classes are measurably the best in my market (no brag, that's just my positioning) so many would anyway. But I am by no means a "price leader" in most of the products. They could go elsewhere, but there is gratitude and also connection to a valuable source of know-what-to-do.
  3. People come to me for the same type of information that I want to base the community/journal on. Then the buy my classes and go into the industry on that advice. They also stay in touch for years/ever. I see this as very strong validation. Not only are they acting on the information I give them by buying something from me, they are changing careers and starting or redesigning businesses on that information.
  4. I have knowledge that suppliers are willing to pay a lot to connect with the professionals. One connection with an owner is worth millions per year in sales. The value to them is staggering, and I have some insider information into their costs for acquiring and maintaining those connections.
So I feel like my reasons are valid. The thing I'm trying to do represents a set of real needs.

That said, I have to be very careful not to get derailed by preconceptions about community, or online social stuff, or trade publications. I have a problem to solve. Success or failure in this endeavor will hinge on how the problems are addressed and solved for individuals. It will not rely on technologies, methods, or even marketing strategies.

Also, I notice that some of my earlier plans posted above are "thrashing." I wasn't clear on what I was doing, so I was attempting to expend more and more energy to "make something work." Silly. Do we ever learn all the lessons?

Fit.

The relation between problem and solution.

The utility value.

The need.

This has been a rather clarifying meditation for me.

The next time I act, every decision will be easier.
 
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Changed thread title. I don't think I've ever felt as confident about the potential of my work as I do now. It's not about the product at all, it's about the problem people need help with. Knowing that, I can't fail because I know their problem like nobody else. Clarity.
 
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Mini-update. I've figured out more about inbound marketing so I can build a subscriber base (my past experience was focused on direct mail, plus just compelling site copy for organic discovery and to support my direct mail).

Here's my process so far...

For people on the site already:
Opt in box with offer --> delivery page and email with two useful business tools (download) --> time passes --> pre-sell offer of industry-specific book, preview chapters for pre-buyers --> they're subscribers so they'll get the regular magazine feed too

For people brought in through email, ads, or my sales person:
Landing page with offer --> same as above process, but I redirect them to the magazine after the download.

Important: The giveaway is a tool that is an obvious step toward solving the problem that is bothering my target individual. It's a breath of fresh air for them.

In the magazine feed, I'll find a way to sell people on using the forum (subdomain of the same site, and WP comments are redirected into the forum). I want that to gain traction too.

No numbers yet. I'm partway through building the "magnets." (See, I picked up some marketing vocab.) Wrote some copy to ask for the opt-in. I'll need to write more for the emails, etc., but the path is well defined. Might finish today if I stop messing around!
 
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Quick update.

First lead magnet is done in theory. I am polishing the look with some design work, and adding examples for how to use the form that makes up a big part of it. A new writer with operations consulting experience is doing some examples for me, so I may swap one or more of those in

I think I'll follow the lead of others and make/get a cover design, even though the tool itself is like 10 pages. But I won't delay putting it up... just add the design when it comes.

Out of the blue I realized I have a fairly well trafficked job board that's part of my other business's site. So I posted a writing job there for content in this business. Duh. Why didn't I think of that?

Mostly figured out how to feed my email and RSS feeds from Wordpress into ConvertKit and automate sending. Still have to test how this looks and works.

The stuff I'm making is business information, books, and printed tools. So far I've spent more time making the first piece than I thought, but it's also coming out better than I thought. The value skew of "free in exchange for your subscription" is really big.
 

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Well, it is time for some updates. I want to structure this a little more, to think it out I guess. Come along! I'll combine everything that I and "my people" are working on, even though this thread is about one of the projects. I find that, at least at this stage, things tend to run together because the same people are working on them, or the same customers or contacts are interested in them.
  • Starting materials
  • Plans
  • Progress
Starting materials
  1. "Business #1" A business that can operate passively.
    1. Pro: Income exceeds lifestyle requirements.
    2. Pro: Has excess capacity in sales and software development.
    3. Pro: Many contacts, happy customers, general good will.
    4. Con: Changes in law or regulation may eventually reduce need.
    5. Con: Difficult to scale across states due to state laws and regulations.
  2. "The Technology" Technology systems developed for the business, which can likely be monetized as Saas for schools.
    1. Front end, management system, and learning management system all integrate.
    2. Suitable for many trade and career schools, but probably not for colleges or k-12 (not now anyway).
    3. We can offer it for less than $50 per month, depending on school size.
    4. Most schools are hiring people to duplicate the same work, over and over again, and paying thousands per year to do it. It's a chance to solve an inefficiency and free up labor for new projects.
    5. Still a bit of work to do as we go. Would like full API functionality, Wordpress integration, and some other stuff.
  3. "Authority Site" A site consisting of a Wordpress magazine and a discourse forum, serving the same industry as Business #1, but with no state boundaries. (This one is the original subject of this thread.)
  4. Skills and domain knowledge, some of the best things you can have. Spread between me and core team: Wifey, Mr. G., Mr. R., Ms. B.. Other skills and knowledge as needed from contractors.
Plans
  1. Business #1 to operate passively, or mostly passively, while talented people add to its goodness.
  2. Rent The Technology to schools that need a management system, online class platform, and integrated systems. Improve it as needed for reasonable users.
  3. Develop Authority Site by adding writers, magnets, subscribers, products. Not necessarily in that order. Possibly allow limited advertisements at a premium, once audience is built up.
  4. Help wife with a class/product she has outlined, once her part is delivered.
  5. Ridiculously important: Not get personally bogged down in all the projects. They need to happen, but my role is to initiate them, develop them to a certain point maybe, but then hand them off to capable executors. As soon as I find someone who can do a job, I'm fired. (Note to future self: please come back and read this.)
  6. After the above, take over the world obviously. Maybe it's cliche, but I'm going for the science victory.
Progress

***

Business #1 is doing fine; we're aiming to break 70k for the month, which is good for January.

Historically we are strong in product development and customer experience, so we've only needed referrals for sales. "If we can sell 3, we'll sell 10 more by referral" could be my motto, really.

However, I added a sales and marketing person last year. I picked a close friend for the job; scary, but this has worked for me before. After not being sure what to do for a while, I made a structured plan with controls to promote execution. Eventually I expect that he'll be making the plans, and hiring people to help execute them.

With a good plan (and controls... structural capital), even one person in sales or marketing is more than required for Business #1, I estimate. Thus there is excess capacity in sales and marketing. Some of that is already being diverted as we design campaigns for Authority Site. More on that below. After some more explorations regarding The Technology, I expect to allocate sales attention there too. If we have to hire more, we'll hire more.

The other area where Business #1 has excess capacity is software development. My other close friend works in the business as a software developer and general problem solver. Internally, we've got a robust management system and a lot of automation. Some of my sales and marketing friend's work will be automated, since we've documented and structured it, and so on top of anything else, the technology department's excess capacity reduces load on the marketing department, even though we didn't necessarily plan for that.

***
The Technology is where most of the tech capacity is diverted for now. Originally an internal system, we're making it more market ready and manageable as a service.

I haven't diverted any sales capacity to it yet, other than myself. Here's where the progress starts I guess...

I met with the owner of another school this week. We compared technology - I showed him mine and he showed me his. No creepy thoughts people.

It turns out he has more in the way of management systems than I thought. But to get into self-paced classes (he does webinars, but wants to add self-paced), he'll need an LMS, and then he'll need some kind of integration (student records, downloadable certificates of completion, reports, etc). And he'll likely want some automation for basic followup with students.

So in his case, what I found is that both the student management system and the LMS would be useful to his business. I wasn't sure about that, and talking with him helped me understand needs that I can address. He is interested in piloting the system for a recorded video course he wants to make, but doesn't have the technology for.

I set up a meeting with a second school owner too. This one is actually a direct competitor in a few Business #1 products, but not in others. She had to miss one meeting, but we rescheduled for next week. She has live and self-paced classes, but not webinar. We have all 3, so our system can handle the various types. Looking forward to that.

Still to do:
  • Discover the full range of needs for schools I can help with The Technology
  • Discover concerns I can address, and how relevant they are, such as...
    • "Can I get my data?"
    • "Can bad guys get my data?"
    • "How do we migrate our home-baked thing to this?"
  • Get another school on as a pilot user.

***
Authority Site
hasn't changed much from outward appearance, although I did re-theme the Wordpress page. Behind the curtain though...

First, I got feedback on Magnet #1. It is a kit that makes it easier to document and improve operations in "the industry." What I discovered was that, at least in the small initial set of reviewers:
  1. I should go ever deeper into "this is exactly what you do and how, and her! Let me hold your hand and walk you through these examples, and how you'll make yours..." People are just too busy to think. I have time to think, so I'll do it for them, and then free up their time to think.
  2. Managing mistakes is more important to them than I thought. When I worked in the same industry, I had almost no mistakes... because I assumed you were supposed to put procedures in place to avoid them or catch them.
Mistakes in this industry do several things:
  1. get you sued.
  2. make your customers angry.
  3. in some cases, potentially destroy the finances of whole families, or cause businesses to be bankrupted, sometimes at scale.
  4. cause lots of re-work in the office.
I guess I naively assumed that people who realized the seriousness of potential mistakes would already have those procedures in place, and would be more interested in management or marketing procedures. Nope! They're in horror of the present situation, and too occupied to fix it apparently. So I guess I have a real problem to solve.

Ok, so that's the problem that Magnet #1 helps you to solve. What about the rest of the site?

Well, while I was talking to School Owner #1, "Mr. K," I asked him and his father, both industry experts, about writing for Authority Site. They're interested, and Mr. K is already working on some ideas. Both of them are very well known in the industry.

I also have a meeting with fellow non-profit board member Ms. C next week. I believe she is a good prospect as a writer.

Also also (also), I have the meeting with School Owner #2, "Ms. O" nest week. I am hopeful that she might have some interest in Authority Site too.

Finally, I have a lottery ticket level meeting with an international best seller planned in a few months... I may be able to convince him to contribute. The site is actually in his wheelhouse.

On the user front, all I have to do is call someone and mention it, and they start using the site. I called one business owner in the industry (he used to do contract work for us too), and he immediately found it and subscribed when I mentioned the site name. I didn't even have to give him the URL. Cool.

By next week, I expect that Mr. R (sales/marketing) and I will have figured out all the technology tools we're using. It's a little cumbersome at first, but we're making things manageable from the start. Using ConvertKit, and other tools to maximize reach and productivity. So, with revisions to Magent #1, I'm optimistic about the first forays into email marketing, phone contact, etc. for Authority Site.

That's all for now!
 
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Mr. G (developer) is a perfectionist. He'll probably find this thread eventually and antagonize me for posting it, but I wanted to share. Here is a conversation about the management system we built for the school which is headed for market:

Mr. G: Maybe we should rewrite everything, including an LMS, and build a full package of things before selling anything.

Me: So, not have users for like a year?

Mr. G: Well, what differentiates our thing from other things? Why is it better?

Me: Well right now it's better for this business because we can't use any management system on the mass market. And the businesses that are similar to ours are hiring custom programmers to hack out similar, often inferior solutions.

Mr. G: Well what about [other business category that's not the target market]

Me: We're ignoring them. They'll have to fend for themselves. Our market is [market].

Mr. G: Oh. Well that's good I guess. I'm still not sure it does all the things...

Me: Neither am I, so we're recruiting pilot users now, so that we can see how they use it and what they really need. For data.

Mr. G: Oh. Well that's not too hard...

@Andy Black all I can think is "stop building things..." Every day the temptation arises to build for building's sake.
 

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Mr. G (developer) is a perfectionist. He'll probably find this thread eventually and antagonize me for posting it, but I wanted to share. Here is a conversation about the management system we built for the school which is headed for market:

Mr. G: Maybe we should rewrite everything, including an LMS, and build a full package of things before selling anything.

Me: So, not have users for like a year?

Mr. G: Well, what differentiates our thing from other things? Why is it better?

Me: Well right now it's better for this business because we can't use any management system on the mass market. And the businesses that are similar to ours are hiring custom programmers to hack out similar, often inferior solutions.

Mr. G: Well what about [other business category that's not the target market]

Me: We're ignoring them. They'll have to fend for themselves. Our market is [market].

Mr. G: Oh. Well that's good I guess. I'm still not sure it does all the things...

Me: Neither am I, so we're recruiting pilot users now, so that we can see how they use it and what they really need. For data.

Mr. G: Oh. Well that's not too hard...

@Andy Black all I can think is "stop building things..." Every day the temptation arises to build for building's sake.
Engineers like building things. They’re also trained and experts at solving problems they don’t have yet. It’s necessary for their job of building things that work and are future proof.

We’re not engineers though.
 

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An engineering mindset has a hard time dealing with the minimum viable product principle as it is totally at odds to their very being. Perfectionism is very hard trait to overcome.

I have a product at the moment that I keep telling myself I will launch at 70% because my 70% will be most peoples 100%. I have a post-it note on my screen that says this and an accountability partner who reminds me weekly (the ba%s*^rd). :rofl:
 

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Attended Synapse Summit this week and interacted with the market a bit. I discovered new customers for my management system. And more interesting, new uses and applications. These don't require changing anything. They just require applying the same tool to different problems.

I have meetings set up for next week, and will be following up for more.

Interestingly, I was originally thinking of the management system as separate from the content site and forum. However, it solves a problem for (a segment of) the audience of that site too. I was surprised to learn this.

Also, the management system "helps professionals execute and grow" in more ways that I realized... and that's the title of this thread.

Some unexpected leads for the software:
  • A trucking company
  • A non-profit focused on STEM education
  • Insurance agents
  • Corporate HR departments
Had I just gone about "marketing" I would never know that these diverse clients share a set of problems and experiences. It might seem obvious to some, but the value of just going out and talking to people is enormous, especially when you have a new solution that's not already commoditized.
 
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Lunch later today with the owner of a training company. Friend of a friend. Who knows what I'll find out? My guess is that I can give him something of value, since I know the business of teaching/training 'knowledge workers.' One thing to find out will be if he or his corporate customers want the benefits my software can deliver.
 
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Life of the Project Juggler

It must be time for an update. How do I know? An odd sense of guilt, this thread calling out to me. I have a lot of irons in the fire, so I'll update them her as I think of them. This will be pretty stream-of-consciousness.

As a refresher, here are the projects "I" have going on... I'll put a *** next to the ones that can't progress without my direct involvement (yet):
  • Business #1
  • The Technology ***
  • Authority Site ***
  • Quick Info-product ***
But Rabby, that's a lot of ***'s... aren't you over-reaching? Ahem.

Thank goodness nobody noticed that I added a "quick" info-product to that list. If I told them I have a whole site and potential other business in queue based partly on that product, what would they say? I'm sure they would judge me...

Wait, did I say that out loud? Uh oh.

Business #1
My sales and marketing VP is really getting into a good routine, I think. And his efforts are paying off. We had the best January since I've owned the company. February is up 24% so far. Will this keep up? That would be nice :)

Here is what I did. First off, I have to tell you that for the first year of having someone dedicated to outbound sales and marketing, I wasn't really sure how to manage. Why weren't you sure Rabby? Well, because I had gotten fairly used to working on my own in business development. My default assumption is that people will do what I would do if I was dedicated to that task full time. They don't necessarily.

So, along with my wife who works on management things with me, we re-designed his job. It is now a specific set of strategic actions that are tied to base compensation. This helps him know when he is following "the strategy," and it makes it possible to make fairly brief checklists for our weekly reports. The theory is that, if he makes most of the strategic activities happen, he'll end up making plenty more than the base compensation because our sales will go up. Well, they seem to be doing that.

Example check-off-the-list items:
  • Documented in the CRM (which we didn't have last year) x number of conversations with prospects or business development partners.
  • Sent targeted email to targeted group (say 100+ people) about specific product.
  • Attended x events related to our acquisition goals.
Once he has done this for a while, I envision him pulling new hires along a similar process. We've already edited some of the original "plan," and I suspect it will get better over time. Then we can have specialized people implementing parts of that future-version plan, and the process will become more self-managing over time. Why? Well, because everything is implemented with controls.

What I think is fun about this is that, while I've made plenty of money and built respectable assets, this is the first time I can think of where I've gotten the outbound sales and marketing aspect of a business running smoothly from scratch, without me doing the work. It's a thing I've known I needed to do though. I just get distracted by automating other things, and sales and marketing either don't get as much attention as they should, or they take up my time.

In Business #1, we really only had an order-taking department and referrals from happy customers, before Mr. R came on. Those are good things to have, but proactively acquiring new customers from "who the heck are you guys" is also a good thing for a business to know how to do.

Oh, one other thing just happened for Business #1. I have for a long time had a desire to diversify its offerings somewhat. I mean, not have them all in exactly the same industry, for the sake of resilience. Well, I have two people in another industry (same as guys below under The Technology) who are very motivated to develop a course. We'll sell that course through Business #1.

The Technology

I met with two partners in an IT business who have a use for "The Technology." As a reminder, that is the code name for our internal management system, which has become robust enough that we can sell it. Our goal is to be selling it by the end of March... or at least offering it and getting rejections and reasons.

Instead of rejections, I'm getting, "You should talk to Sara and Bob at Company." Or "you said this is for <business type>, but would you consider making it work for <my business type> too?"

That latter quote is basically what happened at lunch. These guys can use my management system, built for educators, for a completely different use. I told Mr. G (code wizard and magical technology guru), and it cracked him up. There are PCI and SOx aspects to the new use case, and Mr. G has coded/managed compliance with these for a large financial institution... we know enough about it. And as far as we can tell, The Technology already meets most or all of the criteria for the new use case. I'm a born-again lunch meeting participant. Just talk to people about what they're doing, what you're doing, and things start to happen.

In the new use case, we think an average company might pay $20k per year for The Technology. That's a number out of thin air though, so we'll see. The need and the money are there, anyway.

Authority Site

This survives, but I have not figured out how to drive traffic. The problem here is that I am doing things myself. I fumbled at the keyboard with Adwords for a few minutes, and then nothing happened. I hate to admit this, but I'm completely helpless in this area. I am meeting a guy next Tuesday to talk about marketing... maybe I can convince him to help. Or maybe someone on this forum will help? Not asking anyone to work for free ;)

I suspect the Internet traffic will pick up over time as more content appears on Authority Site.

Beyond the Internet traffic, the content there looks good. There is still only a bit, because I haven't gotten a second writer. It's Mr. T, myself, and nobody. Mr. T is doing an article every 2 weeks.

I did talk to someone this week who might be able to help. His name is Mr. J, and he is an international best selling author, and widely read columnist, and most importantly a really humble and likeable guy. All we talked about really was an event he is doing in my city. But we will have dinner, and I'll ask him if he would be interested in writing for the site. He can always say "no thanks" and it won't hurt my feelings, but it's paid writing, pays even more if lots of people come read it, the contract is writer-friendly, and it's fun. So maybe?

So in summary, the authority site needs both traffic and content. LOL.

Quick Info-product

This came up because my wife wanted to make a project. So we made a thing, got some excellent feedback, and are re-making it. This means "I" am re-making it, because I can write (when I need to) and illustrate (always, please, thank you). It seems like this quick info-product would be much better if it was really really funny, and illustrated. So that's what it will end up being. Of course, that means I have more work. At least part of it is doodling.

What Do You Do When You're Bored?

It turns out, I make things. So if any more side-projects pop up here, and it sounds like they will take months to get to market, would someone please yell at me? I need to resist the urge to turn every 1AM tinkering thing into a months-long development cycle. Or maybe I just need to hire more people to implement ideas... but then that's a months-long personnel development cycle, potentially.
 

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“Talk to *everyone*.” was some great advice I heard. I’m a fan too.

Also... holler if you want some help with that AdWords stuff. Maybe you could look over what I’m doing with my course and I could look over what you’re doing with AdWords...
 
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Rabby

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@Andy Black yes! Let's skype whenever it's convenient for you. I have been thinking I will sign Mr. R up for your course when the videos are up to date and all that (if they're not already). He's more sales oriented, and I want to build up his digital marketing skills a bit. However, I'm not the one to teach him.

I made one ad, probably not a well designed one, and scratched my head when Google didn't run it for whatever reason. I could figure it out, but then I wouldn't be doing the other things mentioned above. I think getting a head start might get me to where I can at least tell someone "here's what I want to get done with adwords" and have it be a credible request.
 

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