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EXECUTION [Progress] Helping professionals execute and grow.

BigDaddyKane

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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
Rabby, It's funny as I read this today, this has been a personal understanding for me very recently as well.
It's insane how these concepts cycle through various times in our careers, just when we thought we already knew them haha.

Looking forward to hearing the rest of your progress this year.
 

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Rabby

Rabby

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I may have some friends for "The Technology." I had a second meeting with some guys who really really want it. They are value-added resellers, essentially. It was interesting getting their perspective on the need for their clients, not to mention themselves, and what they thought the market would bear in terms of price. Now that I understand more about what they need, I will call some other people in the same business (who I happen to know anyway) and see if they perceive the same need.
 
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Rabby

Rabby

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The Technology - This is my main focus right now. The market is hot. Anyone I tell about it seems to want it (I'll post details here eventually). Anyway, we discovered another market-sector for it if we want to pursue it. Mr. G will have the initial modifications for market #1 done by the end of the month. I'm using 'pidoco' (freee!) to make drag and drop wireframes so I can test ideas with early adopters. It's like art lite!

Business #1 - Doing fine. February ended up even with last year, so we're still ahead year over year, but not quite as much as I thought we would be a week before the end of Feb. Randomness.
 
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Business #1 - Revenue up ~ 11.5% for first quarter, over last year. Yay.

The Technology - UX guy did some work for us, and I'll be showing it off on Monday. This will be a test, partly, to see if I understood what the market wants.
 
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Rabby

Rabby

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Considering pruning Authority Site next week, for a variety of reasons.

Mainly, The Technology is where the energy is. It is my scale project.

The site isn't really costing me much, and it wasn't unreasonable to start it, but it might be unreasonable to continue it, looking at it from the present moment. It's not necessary to move us toward the big goals.

I still have a product that was part of that site, and may even have a writer adapt it for a more general market, and let Mr. R sell it, and use copies as promotional drop-offs. That's just tactical re-use. It don't need the site and forum for that either.
 
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Business #1 - Still growing over last year. Almost entirely passive, other than following along with progress reports. It's creeping toward some new market opportunities working with the training departments of larger companies. There is also an opportunity for it to grow by offering online classes made by another company, which I discovered while working on The Technology.

The Technology
- Some scalability features and a rewrite of the interface are in progress, and I'm staying in touch with a few future customers and allies while we work on it. We aren't selling it yet. Also, a future customer invited me to a conference to see a competing product. They wanted to show me how much better ours is :) The excitement is good. I finally got in touch with a friend who has had an 8 figure exit in a space similar to The Technology, and she and her husband own or partially own some smaller businesses in the same space. She also thought it was a good idea and exciting. We're basically coming in underneath the level of "enterprise" systems that most companies can't afford. For small and mid-market companies, it will be us or spreadsheets for a while. Since execution is what we're good at, I continue to like our chances.

Oh, we also hired a business consultant for this one. He was CEO of a very large company, charges what some would consider a lot, but has a lot of executive and management skills, etc, that we can benefit from. Within a few weeks I'll decide if I want to accelerate this more by hiring additional help (in development, UX, and maybe outreach). I have the money and/or credit, but just throwing money into a process that isn't organized for more help yet, would probably yield bad results ;)

Authority Site - I worked on it for a while, spent a little bit on it but nothing too big, and it just doesn't seem like something people want as much as I thought they would. I'm considering it a paused experiment, and likely something I'll flip the switch to "off" on. Ignoring it for now since there's no need to make a decision.

What's nice is that I'm back to only having one active "business" project (being as Business #1 is passive). That's... how we all know it probably should be. Pruning the wild branches makes for a calm existence, although without letting a few grow and seeing which ones look the strongest, I don't think I would have discovered the same quality of opportunity. I fill the saved time with family, meditation, and investigating societies and social enclaves of interest.
 
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Oh, a funny anecdote happened, but one that I see as significant. First one of the future customers asked about opportunities to participate in equity. They wanna invest, either with money or resources. I politely thanked. Wifey asked me "what's going on, I thought they were customers?" So I told her it was a sign of confidence, and it would probably happen more as people understood that we really have something here.

I said something like: "Don't be surprised if everyone involved starts asking to invest or be part owners." Just a vote of confidence.

The next week, Mr. G our developer called and wanted to know if there was a way he could get equity. I forgot I had said the above, and Wifey looked at me with wide eyes: "you said this would happen." LOL. In his case, he is key to the operation and a loyal long time friend - I'll find a way.

So add this to the list of market validation signals: people who know the business and the product, suddenly want to trade cash in hand to follow the beat of your distant drum.
 
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Business #1, revenue still good, and I'm doing virtually nothing there. I think Mr. R is giving up on sales and wants to do something else, and we're all friends about it. He's got personal things going on that make it hard for him to go out and do outside sales.

The Technology - at some point we decided to re-write the interface. We also switched databases (I may have mentioned this) and added some structure to support larger organizations. So, there's still some development to do, but we're really really close (I swear!) to at least an alpha version of the new thing. We had some unexpected deployment delays caused by making the software scalable and changing deployment methods.

Wifey and I are working with a business coach to help keep us organized, focused and accountable. It's been a good experience - I recommend it if you can find a good coach. Ours was CEO of a large organization and took it through a merger that made it an even larger organization. He has perspective on operational scaling that I need, and he comes with good heuristics for solving problems in the development on marketing, hiring, etc.

Still no revenue in the new biz of course. I'm breaking down goals into chunks now. 2 week goals to:
  • Revise sales and marketing plan
  • Clarify vision, mission an values for the company
  • Get a reasonably stable demo release from Mr. G, who promises it's coming soon
In 90 days I want to have 20 new channel partners willing to be early adopters. So the early sales efforts will focus on them. I'm building out a full sales system that I can delegate, complete with... well, all the things you would have to know and do to sell something like The Technology. I'm also re-designing my recruiting and hiring process (my old one was "hey, I bet this will work out fine!"). I would like to hire someone in sales by November.
 
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Rabby

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Hi Rabby, what have you been doing?

Thanks for asking :)

Maybe it's...

...time for a quick update.

Ok, actually it's not quick at all.

It starts out sounding normal, brief, not-at-all-unbelievable; but then, it

spirals out of control.​

Where it eventually leads is... right into the local cult scene!

Right into mismanagement and waste!

Straight to Hell and then back again! Ok, maybe not THE Hell. Just, somebody's hell.

Read on, dear reader, if you dare...

First off, Mr. R left Business #1... we agreed in advance on criteria for whether the arrangement was working for both of us. We just weren't going to get there at the rate it was going. Everything stayed friendly, which was a big concern hiring someone I've known so long.

Now, where my energy has been going lately... The Technology.

My goal is to scale this, but my habits are geared toward stabilizing a small (if enriching) company and letting it make money passively. It's a bigger leap than it sounds like... I think it's as hard as going from freelancer to person-who-has-people-working-for-you. Maybe harder! We'll see.

There are only 5 people working on this company. At this moment, there are several roles that I am personally switching between:
  • Governance and Management - Just keeping the group of people together and working on the thing that needs to get done. Defining things that need to be understood.
    • What's our purpose?
    • What values should a good employee of this place hold dear?
    • Who do we make things for?
    • Why shouldn't we all quit and go do something else?
    • Well, most of this is answered, but you're never done in this regard. Plus, you have to communicate "Stuff" to any new people, and make sure they understand it (3 way communication is our new friend).
  • Project management - Or more than PM really. Starting from deciding what features go in, and when. Also keeping track of the schedule, finding out why things go wrong and how to prevent future delays. Providing periodic accountability. We do have an alpha version, with a good number of features ahem mostly-working, by the way.
  • Business analysis - Being technical enough to talk to Mr. G but flexible enough to interpret civilian-speak. Gathering requirements, documenting them, figuring stuff out about the users and the product that will best serve them.
  • Marketing / Outreach - Like, not enough people know about the software. But it's not for sale yet. But they still need to be getting excited about it (some are, but some is not quite enough). The last 2 weeks I switched away from this and worked on project management, because when people see the product they need to want it. I can't be saying "don't click here, it crashes the server." Although admittedly it's funny to say that, and I laugh every time.
  • Sales - Well, right now I'm just writing sales collateral like scripts, and processes for "taking the prospect through the enlightening journey of buying our stuff" etc. When I put a price on the use of the product I'll have to do the actual selling too. Or will I...
  • Recruiting - Life hack: If you're wearing more than 5 hats, one of them should be The Recruiting Hat. ;) It's becoming clear that I should add at least 1-2 more full time people. Maybe more, but let's start with the first one. The important thing is that they are doing a job that needs to get done, and they are effective in their job. Which means I should carefully define what the jobs are ... hmm. ::scribbles note::
Mr. G is of course writing code. He's also deciding on things pursuant to the writing of code, like inventing interface elements we haven't thought to document yet.

Mr. JD is making interface drawings, and starting this week will be actually implementing some of the UI. Professionally, he's a UX specialist. But he can code, and he offered to help. Also, he's a contractor. I have him on retainer.

Wifey is helping out with management, project management, and keeping track of overall timelines and expenses. Timelines and keeping track of expenses are where she especially excels.

Ok, so I wanna talk about recruiting. I'm not very good at it yet. If you have a small company (in terms of the number of employees needed), you don't necessarily "recruit" that often. What's to recruit when the same 10 people work for you for years and years? That's how Business #1 is.

But The Technology needs new people, and it will probably keep needing new people until it has at least 20 people. That's my guess for now. We'll hire 100 if that's what it takes to support the users. But we just need a few more right now.

One thing is going in the right direction, I think. Mr. G asked if I could find someone to help write software tests - specifically end-to-end (e2e) tests so that we can validate all the functionality from a user perspective when we push new releases. So we made a nice specific job description, and I posted it to a local group of coders I'm involved with. Maybe I'll find a test writer that way but...

Then something interesting happened...

** Off the Deep End Warning!!! If you value your nice, normal, comfortable
worldview, then whatever you do, do not read past this point. **

A friend from that group asked, "hey is this your company?" He knows I own Business #1, and I've helped him and his wife with some business projects they were doing. Then it turned out we were coincidentally going to be at the same coder meetup that week. At the meetup we started talking about what he was doing...

That started a conversation. My friend, who we'll call Mr. JF, was formerly working as a VP of engineering heading the team that built the closest competing product to ours. I say "closest" because I feel we're doing something different, and we have an underserved part of the market to serve. Let's call the competitor Company N.

Interlude. Hold on. Earlier this day, Wifey was wearing a T-shirt given to us by Company N. She got it while we were at their convention, accompanied by some of their customers, who invited us there because they want what we're building instead of what Company N built. Basically we were there as spies.

Also earlier that day (the day meeting Mr. JF at the coder meetup), I was listening to an audio book, and the author kept making jokes about a particular cult which we will call Cult W. It's a real life quasi-religious group. Somewhat obscure, but controversial enough to make the news from time to time (for example when a member loses their mind in public, or when the members kidnap someone who later turns up brainwashed or dead). Anyway, I kept seeing Wifey's shirt with the company logo, and then listening to jokes about this group. It's all I can think about... the logo and the cult.

Ok back to my friend. So my friend works for the competitor, Company N? Yikes.

No, actually he doesn't. Not anymore.

It turns out, he left. Why did he leave? Because Company N is thoroughly infiltrated by Cult W. That's right. Members of the cult are running the company. And they won't promote anyone past VP unless they reach a certain level of initiation in the cult. Let's call that level of initiation Level 1 Functioning Mugwump. Might as well have a name for it.

I could not make this shit up. So Company N is having this management shakedown, this internal turmoil, because the management team is actually the business arm of a cult. Apparently a large number of their engineers have left or are planning a retreat, as the cult activity is starting to take priority over the business activity.

Also it was one of those weird moments where you're like, "huh, all I've heard about today is Company N and Cult W. And now I find out that the two are hopelessly entangled, and a friend I haven't talked to for almost a year just left because he doesn't want to drink Kool Aid offered by increasingly agitated Cult W members. All while I'm looking for someone to help build out the technology, which my friend could plausibly do. Synchronicity! Thanks for teaching me that word, Dr. Jung!"

So this week I'm meeting Mr. JF for lunch to see if we should work together. If not, I'll find someone, obviously. But he just happens to have the skill set we need. I think it could be a good fit.

Well that's it for my update. I hope someone can make sense of my ramblings here. Or if not, at least be as entertained as I have been.
 
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Rabby

Rabby

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Today, and this week, I used all my mental energy. Mostly on the problem of "what kind of person do I need to hire next, and what exactly should I make them accountable for?" There is a surprising amount of work needed to get this right. You have to decide what the person's purpose should be, what jobs and objectives they will have, what skills they need, what kinds of people would be likely to fit into the role.

Typing feels like an effort right now. That's how used up my brain is, lol. I don't consider myself good at hiring people, and have made appalling hires in the past. Not just "didn't work out," but "how could I have ever thought this was a good idea?" To be fair, I have made extraordinarily good hires too. The success rate is something I'm working at. It's surprisingly hard.

In other news, I will probably continue the progress here in a new thread, later. It will be an insider thread dedicated to The Technology. That's where all my focus is now, and the other projects are either "gone by the wayside" or completely automated (like Business #1, which is funding The Technology with cashflow).

That's it. If I type another word I'll
 

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BlackMagician

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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.
Does your forum now have initial posts? I have been reading reddit growth hack recently. They created 1000+ of fake accounts and posted industry specific questions and answers. You are targeting a niche and already have deep experience, so you know what questions and answers are needed.

This will give new user a place which is not empty and boost curiosity to interact with already mentioned questions.

A simple Google for reddit growth strategy will bring exact steps.
 
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Rabby

Rabby

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If I try the forum again, I will do something like that. Actually, I've concluded that I will not start a "pure" forum myself (one where the forum is the whole business) without hiring at least one person to attend to it full time, doing things like the growth hacking you mentioned.

It got a little use, but I was pushing it from behind. Interest in the software we made/are making has been much easier, so I've dedicated my full energy to that. I archived and closed the forum.

That's also why I'll probably reorganize the progress into a new thread... this one shows all the experiments I went through, which might be valuable for someone. But if you start from the beginning, you won't know that it ends up being about a software company, lol.
 

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