Archive for August, 2007

Top 10: (Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Topic: Startups, Strategies, Top 10| Comments Off on Top 10: (Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Let me start by saying I didn’t write this, I saw it on one of the blogs I subscribe to and thought it would be a great addition for my readers.  In it’s entirety, here is the article:

The next couple of weeks will bring many students back to school. This time is bittersweet for many. There is the foreboding of classes and homework balanced with the enthusiasm of a fresh start. What if you could keep that “fresh start” feeling all semester long?

Here are the top 10 ways to keep your enthusiasm high after returning to school:

  1. Get your books early – One of the most hectic times of each college school year is that crazy few days in the college bookstore before the semester starts. Who needs it. Get your books early. If your professors haven’t posted them online, call the bookstore and see if they have a list. If still no luck, give your professor a polite e-mail stating you’d like to get your books early so you can prepare for the class. Ask which books you need to buy.
  2. Skim and review before class starts – Review is one of your best weapons against challenging exams. Since you have your books early, spend a few hours skimming and reviewing each one. Familiarize yourself with the table of contents, summaries, bolded text and sidebars. Get the edge.
  3. Do not change your diet – eating more or less can change your concentration, energy level and ability to stay alert. Presuming you are satisfied with your current mental chemistry, avoid changing your diet. P.S. Studies show 75% of college freshmen put on 7lbs their first semester – keep lean and mean.
  4. Decide your main goal – Do you want straight A’s, B’s ? Before you can get anywhere you have to know where you are going beforehand. Choose before the semester starts what grades you want and write it down. By putting it in writing, you are setting an agreement with yourself – after that, all you need to do is not break that agreement. 😉
  5. Decide why you want to make A’s in your classes – why do you want to be a good student? Write up a list of reasons and then hang them in a prominent location in your living quarters. When the going gets tough and you don’t feel like studying or going to class, review this list. Add to it if you can. Reasons are what keep enthusiasm high.
  6. Keep your exercise program going – Hopefully, since you are reading this blog, you have adopted an exercise program. Going to class is no excuse to stop. Stick with it for increased self-esteem, concentration and enthusiasm for learning.
  7. Sit in the front row – Studies have shown sitting in the front row is an easy way to improve your grades. Why? You hear better, you have more interaction with the professors and there is no possible way to doze if you are in the front row. So choose the front row and win.
  8. Reward yourself after small accomplishments – When you get an assignment or test deadline, right then and there, decide on a reward for completing it successfully. I am not saying you have to get an A. Instead a small reward for simply getting through. Some ideas: A new video game, a toy, tee shirt, DVD. Pick something just for you and do not buy it until you finish your assignment. The fun reward will carry you through to the finish line.
  9. Make a habit of studying at the same time every day – Humans function better at different times. When do you study the best? Early morning, afternoon or evening? Work on finding that out and then make a pact that you’ll study at that time every day. This works because 1 you’ll be in your zone naturally and you will be developing a habit of high quality study at that time of day.
  10. Get enough sleep – Staying up late at night watching TV, goofing off or drinking might be fun at the time, but leads to excessive tiredness during classes. It’s tough to be enthusiastic if you are dead tired. So pick a time your fun and serious side can agree on, then stick to it. Set a reminder on your cellphone or computer if you need to. Just get some sleep you look tired.

Brad Isaac is a lead software programmer and blogger. You can read his motivational strategies every day on his goal setting blog, Achieve-IT!

Again, just to be clear – I didn’t write this one and I encourage you to check out the contributing author’s blog.  Class dismissed.

Disasters Are Not Fun

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Security, Strategies| Comments Off on Disasters Are Not Fun

I live in Orlando, FL and am a native Floridian.  Suffice it to say I’ve been through my fair share of hurricanes.  We lucked out with Dean thus far, but it serves as fair warning of what could happen to any of us.  For that reason, it’s a good idea to have a disaster preparedness plan for not only yourself but for your business as well.  Below are a few pointers for making sure you and your business survive whatever comes your way:

  1. Backup your files.  I’ve made this point a dozen times.  For more information, check out this article.
  2. Print out hardcopies of important documents – invoices, articles of incorporation, financials, contact information, etc.  Take it a step further and put these and other important documents such as insurance and personal information in a fire/water proof safe.
  3. Pick up a battery powered surge protector, this will give you a few extra minutes to save and shutdown when the power goes out.
  4. This tip is more or less for your safety.  Be sure to keep extra batteries, water, canned goods, blankets, clothing, and a weather radio in a safe place.
  5. Keep abreast of the latest happenings before its too late.  Watch a few minutes of evening news or the weather channel each night.
  6. Consider geting disaster recovery insurance.  This holds true especially for those of you with offices and warehouses outside of your home.  But remember, your home owners insurance might not cover the business happenings occuring inside your place of residence.
  7. Make sure others outside of the “danger zone” know where you will be and have the appropriate contact information if you are displaced during a disaster.
  8. Hang on to old reciepts and take photos of important equipment and other valuables inside your home, home office, or place of work.
  9. 9.  Stay sober and aware during the storm or natural disaster.  We like to have hurricane parties for the smaller storms (tropical storms and category 1 hurricanes), but anything bigger than that and you need to be in a proper state of mind to handle any situations that may arise.
  10. 10.  Inform your clients and customers ahead of time (if possible) of the impending situation and make plans to assure their orders are delivered accordingly.

Overall, just use your common sense and stay alert.  It’s not a question of if, but rather of when this will happen to your small business so it’s best to be prepared early rather than late.  If you have any other tips, let me know!  Class dismissed.

Back to School, Back to Business

Topic: Helpful Ideas| 1 Comment »

It’s been a short and hectic summer vacation, especially with the loss of my laptop a couple weeks ago.  But, I’ve moved on and am ready for the semester to get underway.  I’m taking it easy this time around, just three classes plus an internship (and all my business happenings as well).  As you finish up your back to school preparations, I figured I’d toss in a few time management and productivity tips to help you get through this busy time of year.  In mo particular order:

  1. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, employ a calendar.  I use one on my computer, but a day planner or even a notebook works well.  Not only will writing things down help you maximize your time, you’ll find it relieves stress as well – mainly because everything is mapped out for you and you don’t need to worry about procrastinating since you’ve already scheduled time for your planned activity.
  2. Balance work/school with fun.  For those of you caught up in the entrepreneurial lifestyle, it can be tough to decide between going out on a Friday night or catching up on work.  For me, it’s often times an easy decision because I’ve been so slammed recently.  But if you take advantage of the calendar tip above, penciling in some fun time is quite possible.
  3. Outsource.  Whether it means giving your roommate a few beers to knock out your laundry or shipping that next project over to India, outsourcing will really free you up.  I’m beginning to use this strategy more and more, not only in my business but also in my daily life.  I haven’t read the book yet, but some would recommend the 4 hour work week for tips on this.
  4. Prioritize.  We all know school comes first.  But I’m talking a little bit more prioritization.  I like to list my days activities and then prioritize based on a few personal criteria.  This is not an excuse to put off less important activities, but does help you get things done efficiently if used correctly.
  5. Don’t be lazy.  And by this I dont mean skp watching football all weekend, because we all need to do that.  I’m basically saying that you need to keep your plate full.  When you have downtime it affects all aspects of your life and you get even less done.  When my day is chock full of activities, it feels like I get even more done than I had planned.

Feel free to jump in with your tips and I’ll add them to the post.  Everyone have a great first day of school (or another day of summer depending on where you are at).  Class dismissed.

Traditional Advertising Isn’t Dead

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Market Intelligence, Startups, Strategies| 1 Comment »

I’ve made the assumption that most of my readers are internet entrepreneurs – that is they conduct the majority of their business on the web as opposed to in “real life”.  That’s fine and great, in fact I’m in the same boat (obviously).  But that doesn’t mean you and I should stick to internet based advertising.  I agree 100% that if you work online you need to participate in SEO, PPC, Insert Abbreviation Here, but I feel you are really missing out on a large market segment by ignoring what I would call the more traditional advertising channels.

Below I have put together a list of the traditional media outlets along with some advantages- I hope it helps!

  •  Newspapers
    • These are pretty old school.  You will benefit, however, from the ability to target specific geographic regions.  It’s also nice because you have very short-term commitments and can easily gauge the responses you receive.  And, unlike other print media, you can submit your ad on Monday and have it appear in the paper by Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Magazines
    • You’ll benefit from full color, professional looking advertisements – but remember that it comes with a hefty price.  What’s really great about magazines is the long shelf life and high chance that it will fall into the hands of many (think doctors office).  My recommendation is to target trade magazines as opposed to general interest publications, that way you minimize the so-called shotgun effect.
  • Radio
    • Radio is accompanied generally by a low cost, immediate result.  It also adds a touch of professionalism in my opinion.  Problem here is your market is not well targeted, but the cool thing is you might start attracting customers you never thought would be interested!
  • Television
    • Diverse audiences like radio, except at a hgher cost.  You’ll benefit from the ability to get creative and leave a lasting impression however.  I found this site called Spot Runner a while back that has prebuilt, entertaining comercials for your use.
  • Outdoor Media
    Again, you’re going to run into some costs here.   I had a buddy who used this method to some success and that’s why it’s on the list.  You’ll benefit from repetive views without any additional costs and you can also place it where you want.

That’s all for today, if you have and questions or comments, please feel free to post.  Class dismissed.

Don’t Take Security for Granted or “Getting Robbed Sucks”

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Security| 5 Comments »

Let me apologize for the severe lack of postings.  The dry spell is well warranted however.  Last Monday, I headed out for a weeklong vacation in the mountains of North Carolina.  We have a house up there and it’s really a great getaway.  It feels awesome (although a bit frustrating at times) to not be tied to your laptop, television, and hustle and bustle of the “real world”.  I got to sit by the stream, have a few beers, and just relax.

But it sucked, and here’s why.  The first leg of my vacation involved staying at a friends house in Charlotte.  We went out for a few beers and talked business – an all around good time.  But that night my truck was broken into.  Included in the heist was my cd player,  a chain saw, and my laptop (at least they were kind enough to leave my golf clubs).  For those of you who have been the victim of such a situation, you know it’s not the equipment that matters, it’s the data stored on it.

Invoices, passwords, bank information, personal data, financials, accounting ledgers, etc.  The list goes on and on for me and I’m sure it would for you as well.  One bright spot I suppose is that luckily I employed one of my previous posts and I had sufficient backups of all my data.  All I really must do is keep an eye out for identity theft, but other than that I’m okay.

I guess the moral of this hardship as well as this post is to not take your security for granted.  It CAN happen to you and at some point in your life it WILL happen to you.  All you can do is take the neccessary precautions.  Here are a few pointers to keep you safe and secure:

  • Backups
  • Backups
  • More backups.  The point here is to always back your data up.  A slight inconvenience now will save you a million headaches later
  • Don’t save passwords – especially to online banking or other personal information sites.  It’s really convenient but also pretty stupid.  I’ll make an exception for your desktop but not your notebook.
  • Encrypt sensitive data.  Again, a bit of a hassle now goes a long way later.
  • Utilize strong passwords and some form of screen lock software.  Assuming your less fortunate intruder is not a computer whiz but merely a drug fiend or common criminal, this should suffice for turning your laptop into a paperweight if it falls into the wrong hands.
  • Employ some form of loss prevention software such as LoJack for Laptops.  Maybe overkill for personal computing, but $49 bucks a year is a small price to pay for some added security.
  • Write down serial numbers and other identifying information.  Less than 1/3 of 1% of items are recovered (in Charlotte, NC) but this can be useful for the authorities when attempting to recover stolen equipment.
  • You would think this goes without saying, but not for me apparently.  Keep your laptop with you and not unattended.  Although, I’d have nothing to post about if I did that….

That’s all for now, I hope you take this one to heart and learn from my mistakes.  Condolences accepted but not required…

Class dismissed.

Visualizing Your Customers

Topic: Analysis, Exploration, Self Exploration| 1 Comment »

This is a quick tip I picked up in class recently, and I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s similar to other strategies I’ve discussed for different aspects of your small business, but in this case we’re applying the techniques to your target customer.  It’s pretty simple and even somewhat enjoyable.

By profiling your customers, things inevitably become easier.  You’ll even discover a few “invisible” customers you didn’t even know were lurking.  The technique I’d like to share with you involves building a target market collage.

  • Look through old general interest magazines, industry publications, and those you think your target audience would read.  Cut out twenty of so pictures, phrases, and quotes that seem to represent your target customer.
  • Come up with a list of your target customer’s favorites.  Include TV shows, movies, dining options, hobbies, mucic, books, URL’s, etc.
  • Combine these into a collage

Sounds kinda corny but it helps you to start thinking “outside the box” – opening your eyes to alternative thoughts about your target.  It’s also good to stimulate the “other” side of your brain for a variety of reasons.

Again, quick post today but I just thought some of you might be interested in giving this a shot.  Class dismissed.

The Art of Prioritization

Topic: Characteristics, Helpful Ideas, Self Exploration, Strategies| Comments Off on The Art of Prioritization

Good evening startup students.  Sorry about the lack of posting, I’ve been crazy busy with school, work. and my startup’s business plan.  And that’s what lead me to writing this post.  Let me quickly take you back in time to last Saturday.

Things were going great, readership on Startup Students has really picked up, school was going well, and all my clients were at bay.   I took Sunday off, then Monday rolled around.  That’s when things started spinning out of control.  I had two finals this week and needed to complete my 45 page business plan in addition to putting together a 20 minute presentation.  On top of that I was hit with two rush order projects that absolutely had to be completed according to their schedule.

I managed to survive, but was forced to neglect this blog in the process.  In fact, I think things worked out okay because I’m still getting great responses to last Friday’s post.  At any rate, today I’d like to talk about geting your priorities in order – including  saving time to accomodate for urgent or surprise issues.  Below are a few points to thing about.

  • Maintain a calendar.  You can use Outlook, an online equivalent, or regular old paper.  I use a combination of Mozilla Sunbird and Notepad.  Before I go to bed I scribble down the next day’s priorities.  No particular order, I just try and get everything down.  In the morning I’ll take a look at my list and prioritize based on a couple of factors, namely urgency and value.

Keeping a schedule and not just going at things blindly is really the only advice I should need to offer, but here’s a few more…

  • Ignore time wasting activities.  Stay away from your inbox, or instant messenger.  Turn off the tv and iTunes, focus on the task at hand.  It’s really amazing how much time this will save you, enough time in fact to actually enjoy those time wasters at a later point.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew – unless you can handle keeping it down and not letting it spew all over the floor.  Don’t get me wrong, have a full plate is great – in fact I think I get more done because of it.  But there comes a point of diminishing returns where it simply doesn’t make since to take on any more assignments.
    • One option here is outsourcing.  It’s a technique I employ and it’s highly recommended.  In the coming weeks I’ll be talking about it more.
  • I’m betting a good portion of you are perfectionists in at least one aspect of your life.  It’s appropriate to be a perfectionist at some things, spelling and grammar come to mind, but in general it’s a complete waste of time.   I picked up one of my clients because their previous developer was too caught up in assuring his code was 100% perfect and in turn neglected what the clients really wanted – fast and reliable service.
  • Remember to resist the temptation to do small and tedious tasks extremely well, it’s the big picture that counts.  This goes hand in hand with the above point.
  • Nobody ever said you have to please everybody, and in fact nobody expects you to (other than your professors maybe).

I’ve got a few more pointers tucked away, but I’ll save them for another day.  Don’t forget to share this post with others if you enjoyed it and I look forward to everyone’s comments.  Class dismissed.