Archive for July, 2007

Field Trip Friday: Market Intelligence

Topic: Analysis, Characteristics, Market Intelligence| Comments Off on Field Trip Friday: Market Intelligence

Sorry for not posting yesterday, I had a test along with a presentation of my business plan (which I’ll be sharing with you eventually). At any rate, today is the start of a new segment entitled Field Trip Friday. I had the opportunity to take part in a secret shopping of Universal Studios Florida. It was a great experience, and I learned some good pointers for completing primary research.

Primary research is a vital tool for today’s young entrepreneur as often times you’ll find the data you need simply isn’t accessible. Let’s look at a quick example. Say for instance you are interested in opening a fast service restaurant catering to the after hours crowd. You’ve developed the idea, know what you want to serve, and even have a location in mind. But without actually going downtown at 2am, how are you going to know if your target market is interested? You need to interview the individuals leaving the clubs and get a feel for whether or not your idea meshes with their specific needs.

I’ve outlined a few pointers below that I picked up today, and I think you’ll find them useful in the future. These can be applied to all types of primary research including interviews, surveys, observations (like secret shopping), and analysis.

  • Determine what you want to know and how you are going to get that information.
  • Identify your target market and approach them.
  • Have a questionnaire in mind, with follow up questions based on the answers provided.
  • Be honest about your reason for conducting this research.
  • Exude the passion you have for your idea, and your interviewees will pick up on this leading to more positive responses.
  • Be aware of any biases you might have going into the assesment and try not to let them play a role in receiving the information.

And since this is the first installation of Field Trip Friday’s, I’ve got a special treat for you – Show and Tell!

I’d like to introduce to you my new pet turtle, Larry David. He’s very small and still pretty nervous about his new home. In fact, he hasn’t been eating very much and I’m a bit worried. If any of you startup students have some pointers, please pass them along!

If any of you would like to showcase one of your “field trips” or participate in Show and Tell in the future, please let me know! Class dismissed.

Matrix Analysis: (Finally) Selecting Your Opportunity

Topic: Analysis, Exploration, Startups| 4 Comments »

Good morning. First, sorry for the late posting, I’ve been tied up with a few things all morning. After 7 full days of blogging about opportunity selection, it’s time to finally pick the one that counts. In the coming weeks we’ll take those opportunities and turn them into a solid, viable, high growth potential business with a full fledged business plan and course of action.

I’d like to share with you a quick technique known as Matrix Analysis. Many of you might have performed one of these in school, others might be seeing this for the first time. The idea behind a Matrix Analysis is to mesh objectives with the opportunities you’ve been stewing over.

The analysis is done in grid form and is setup as follows:

  • Down the left side, list your business goals
  • Along the top, list your business opportunities
  • Next, you’ll want to rate the match between each possible opportunity with each objective. You can use “X’s”, a number scale, or any method you like and understand.
  • Now total each column

These totals will generally indicate your best prospect. I really encourage you to do this, it will only take a minute or two of your time, and it’s definitely beneficial in the entrepreneurial process.

Ok students, it’s an early release Wednesday (do you remember those?). Do your homework and I’ll see you tomorrow for a bit more in depth analysis of your selected opportunity. Class dismissed.

Tuesday Top 10: More Opportunity Selection Techniques

Topic: Exploration, Startups, Top 10| Comments Off on Tuesday Top 10: More Opportunity Selection Techniques

Good morning Startup Students! First off, I’m pleased to announce a new partnership with Mind Petals, after just one week of blogging! My posts will now be aggregated onto their homepage daily. If you haven’t visited them in the past, I highly recommend it – there’s some real inspiration to be had around that site.

Now take your seats, because class is in session. I’m starting a new weekly segment entitled Tuesday Top 10, and to kick things off it’s going to be a Twofer Tuesday. Yesterday we discussed methods for spotting opportunities in your daily environment. Today we’re going to take those opportunities you’ve spotted and work to narrow them down into viable business opportunities.

Here’s 10 pointers to help you do just that:

  1. I mentioned early last week that life and business tend to overlap and that is especially true for young entrepreneurs. Don’t worry if your personal and business objectives mesh – it’s actually a good thing.
  2. So you’ve got a few good ideas, now would be a good time to briefly learn more about each industry. Don’t dive in too deep, that’ll come later. Lot’s of you readers are still in college, and that is fantastic because your library (hopefully) gives you access to expensive databases. Hoovers‘ free section should be good enough for this bit of homework however.
  3. Again, I don’t want you diving in too deep, but put a few of each industry’s segments in the back of your memory banks, they’ll come in handy at a later date
  4. Can you see any potential problems that the industry is overlooking? If so, do they seem like something you could capitalize on?
  5. Do any of the solutions to those potential problems mesh with your personal and business objectives?
  6. This one is kind of a given, but start concentrating on the most promising opportunities.
  7. Find a couple blogs on each industry and subscribe to their RSS feed for a week or two.
  8. If you get a chance, try to interview a couple leaders in those industries. You’ll find that people love talking about how great they are.
  9. Subscribe to some industry related magazines. Every industry has at least one – and they’re usually free to subscribe if you meet the qualifications.
  10. And that leads us to point #10, it’s time to Brainstorm!

The previous points aren’t meant as an exact guide, but should offer a nice stepping stone towards narrowing down your “idea bank”.

Wait! Sit back down Startup Students, it’s a Twofer Tuesday remember!

I’d like to give you a few pointers to help you with brainstorming:

  1. This one is important – never ever say No once the session starts – just write it down!
  2. Don’t critisize anything, get down everything that pops into your head
  3. All ideas are good ideas (at this point).
  4. Go somewhere quiet, and keep the distractions to a minimum
  5. Use your resources only after you’ve exhausted your brain. No browsing the net just yet!
  6. Create a Mind Map while you’re at it
  7. Once you are completely out of ideas and have exhausted your resources, continue writing for at least another five minutes.
  8. Have some structure to your madness. Try numbering each idea – you’ll feel like you are really accomplishing something.
  9. If you’ve got the time, take each idea and make a scrapbook out of it. Magazine clippings, blog posts, newsfeeds, if it is at all related clip it out and put it in the binder. Remember, ideas breed ideas.
  10. Merge your ideas. Decide if two or more can be accomplished with one solution or if some need to be placed on the backburner.

Today was a little bit more “schoolish” than usual – but hey, you are startup students!

Ok, class dismissed.

5 Steps to Spotting Opportunities

Topic: Exploration, Startups| 2 Comments »

As a young entrepreneur, it’s key that you open your eyes and mind to the world around you. I touched on this briefly here and here. Today, we’re going to quickly discuss six steps you can easily take to find that next opportunity in the rough.

  1. Head to the bookstore!
    1. Thumb through five magazines, remember not to focus on one industry or topic, pick magazines that run the gamut.
    2. Take a quick look at the bestsellers list. If something peaks your interest, give it a quick scan.
  2. Now to the music store!
    1. What genres are popular? What’s hot and what not right now? Which artists and genres are getting primo shelf space?
  3. And now off to the mall (if you aren’t already there)
    1. Are there any new stores? Who has the best prices? Highest prices? Best service? Which stores have long lines? What types of advertising methods do you notice? Which demographics are visiting and what are they buying?
  4. Head over to your favorite store
    1. Any products that were not there 3, 6, 12, or 24 months ago? Which products are experiencing high shelf velocity? Again, what’s hot and what’s not?
  5. You’re probably a bit tired at this point, so head home and watch some television.
    1. Watch an hour or two of your favorite cable news outlet. Bonus points for financial talk. Fox News is a great resource on Saturday mornings, and The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch is really inspirational at times. Any stories that represent opportunities you could capitalize on?
  6. This one is easy, you’re doing it right now
    1. Surf the net, read a few blogs, network with other young entrepreneurs and exchange ideas. The blogs and forums over at Mind Petals are a great resource for doing just that.

I challenge you to complete the above, and I can almost guaruntee your mind will be overflowing with potential ideas and thoughts for inspiration. In the coming months we will discuss ways for narrowing down those ideas and shaping them into high growth opportunities.

Class dismissed, and don’t forget to do your homework!

Jack and Jill: Two Types of Entrepreneurs

Topic: Humor, Self Exploration, Startups| Comments Off on Jack and Jill: Two Types of Entrepreneurs

We can broadly allocate young entrepreneurs into two distinct categories – Artisan (Jack) and Opportunistic (Jill).

Both parties have met the characteristics of startup students as defined in my earlier posts, however both have chosen a different direction of the crossroads every young entrepreneur inevitably faces. Let’s take a look at Jack the Artisan first:

  1. He has sufficient technical training
    1. He’s fairly skilled at fetching a pale of water
  2. He takes a paternalistic approach
    1. Jack invites Jill along for the journey
  3. Reluctance to delegate
    1. He’ll bring Jill along for the ride, but doesn’t have the foresight to enlist her service
  4. Ill-defined strategy
    1. Let’s face hit, Jack broke his crown so the plan wasn’t that well though out
  5. Takes a personal sales approach
  6. Plans for the short term
  7. Lacks a sophisticated record keeping system

I apologize for running out of Jack and Jill analogies, but you get the point. Jack is a great candidate for a “lifestyle” business – one where he’ll see limited potential and limited returns, but will do well enough to lead the lifestyle he desires.

Let’s take a look at our other budding entrepreneur, Jill the Opportunist. She’ll be taking a more focused approach with hopes of high returns and high potential in her next venture.

  1. She has a broad education
  2. Takes a rational approach
  3. Has no problem delegating assignments
  4. Possesses a well defined strategy
  5. Takes a diversified approach to marketing efforts
  6. Plans for the long haul
  7. Utilizes sophisticated accounting measures and makes accurate projections

So there you have it, the two broad entrepreneurial types. I hope you strive for the Opportunistic approach, but please don’t think there is anything wrong with having a lifestyle business – they’re perfect for some people. In fact, in the coming months we’ll discuss some of the options available to these individuals such as franchising and home based businesses (but don’t think I wont try and convince you to take that business opportunity and apply it to a high growth model).

That’s all for now, class dismissed.

More Characteristics of a Young Entrepreneur

Topic: Characteristics, Self Exploration, Startups| 1 Comment »

I’d like to expand a bit on yesterday’s post with a little more detail on the intrinsic characteristics of startup students.

  • Succesful young entrepreneurs see commercial opportunities everywhere they look
    • And the key here is they don’t just leave it at that – they capitalize on them.
  • They tend to be extremely optimistic
    • Some might see this as a fault, but it’s my opinion that a pessimist walks around with their eyes shut and won’t have a chance to find those opportunities.

I think Mark Twain put it best years ago,

I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one”

We can break down the characteristics even further into four distinct attributes. You’ll find some overlap from yesterday’s discussion here:

  1. A sincere need for achievement
  2. A desire to take risks (and I don’t mean you should to be a gambler)
  3. Extreme self confidence
  4. An finally passion along with a healthy dose of enthusiasm

That’s all for now, tomorrow we’ll examine the differences between two types of entrepreneurs. Class dismissed!

Top 10 Success or Failure Characteristics of Young Entrepreneurs

Topic: General, Quizzes, Self Exploration, Startups, Top 10| Comments Off on Top 10 Success or Failure Characteristics of Young Entrepreneurs

When determining if you have what it takes to become the next great startup student, it’s a good idea to check which characteristics you have. Heres the top 10 from both sides of the aisle.

Top 10 Killer Factors (the bad ones):

  1. Weak Personality
  2. The Loner Syndrome
  3. Cash Flow Troubles
  4. Lack of Marketing Strategies
  5. Lack of Control
  6. No Plan
  7. Associate with the Wrong Crowd
  8. Not Enough Financial Backing
  9. Underestimating your Competition
  10. Lack of Focus on your Core Idea

And now for the Top 10 Success Factors of young entrepreneurs:

  1. A Willingness to Succeed
  2. Self Confidence
  3. Understands the Competition
  4. Uses a Targeted Marketing Strategy
  5. Clear Idea for their next Startup
  6. Healthy Managerial Support
  7. Cooperates well with Others
  8. Well Structured in Life and Business
  9. Keeps Close Tabs on Finances
  10. The Business Plan

#10 is a biggie, and we’ll will discuss it in depth over the coming months with tips and strategies, templates, research, and everything else you’ll need when developing the plan for your startup.

If you possess a few (or many) of the Killer Characteristics (remember – those are the bad ones) don’t worry, you’re not alone! I just ask you to make a concise effort to move towards the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

Class dismissed, see you tomorrow!

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Young Entrepreneur?

Topic: General, Quizzes, Self Exploration, Startups| Comments Off on Do You Have What it Takes to be a Young Entrepreneur?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I never took a test on the first day of class. Don’t worry though, this one isn’t graded. Here is a quick four question test to see if you’ve got the goods when it comes to being a startup student.

  1. Determine the difference between what you want to do in life (and business) and what you’re good at. Make a quick list of your skillset and hold onto that for future reference.
  2. What drives you to succeed and what gives you satisfaction in your daily life?
  3. Determine your values and priorities. Looking ahead, what values and priorities do you want to establish for your new venture? Can you find any differences between the two?
  4. Having measured these differences, do you have what it takes to overcome those differences?

Life and business overlap – especially for young entrepreneurs. Knowing the difference between your own personal values and those of your future startup is essential to the success of your next venture as a student startup.

Class dismissed, see you back here tomorrow!

Just an Introduction

Topic: General| 1 Comment »

Since this is the first post, it’s only sensible to get rid of the introductions before we move onto the juicy stuff tomorrow. This blog will be a place for young entrepreneurs to learn skills and share ideas for creating the next big startup. I am the owner of a web development company and am working on a startup of my own – so I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on the status of that venture.

Startup Students will be structured almost like an online classroom. I’ll be delivering a new lesson all the time, and while they wont always build upon each other, it would definitely be beneficial to read up on previous posts down the line – so be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed so you’ll stay updated!

I want everyone to learn as much as they can while creating the next student startup, so remember to digg some posts and make a few comments along the way.

Class will be in session tomorrow so I’ll see all you startup students then!