The Company You Keep
IGC Member Digest
In This Issue
Mindset
Business LookBook
Clippings
Musings
Quick Links
Jan/2008

Hi IGC Members,

Welcome to Edition #4 of our New IGC Members Only Business Digest
 
As a reminder, through this digest we will share with you some of the best news on small business ideas, models, and innovation that we discover. The content has been filtered because it makes us think differently and critically about entrepreneurship and our business. We hope it will challenge and enhance your thinking too!
 
In the coming Digests you will find at least 4 sections:
 
Mindset: Topic-based thoughts from A & A
Business LookBook: An interesting, innovative, and thought-generating business or business concept.
Clippings: Relevent and thought-provoking articles and news
Musings: A recap of our blog posts
 
Click to read past issues of The Company You Keep
 
keep thinking,
 
Adelaide & Amy
 
Mindset
 
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions... 
 
Something that we have been thinking and talking a lot about recently is decision making. It seems that all the current chaos and change is forcing many of us to either call into question past decisions or presenting us with new challenging decisions that have yet to be made. Maybe this is a part of the collective conscience right now, as there have been a lot of interesting articles on decisions recently. For all those that are hemming and hawing over something right now, we suggest a quick read of these three.
 
***
 
This article by Elizabeth Landeau talks about the two built-in systems that we have for making decisions: intuition and reasoning.
 
"The intuitive system is emotional, fast, automatic but slow-learning, while the reasoning system is emotionally-neutral, slow, controlled, and rule-governed. Neither, of course, is always right, but there are certain simple problems that reveal flaws in intuition."
 
Many of us entrepreneurs rely on our intuition a lot. Our intuition may have been a key factor in getting us into our own business in the first place. While the article states that intuition is not always wrong it does caution that it has serious limitations. And Landeau suggests people should make a conscious effort to distinguish between decisions that should be made with intuition versus reasoning.
 
It is certainly worth thinking about...
* What about the decisions you are wrestling with?
* Should you use an intuitive or reasoning approach to come to a conclusion?
* Which kind of thinking or decision making comes more naturally to you?
* How can you enlist help or guidance on your non-preferred mode?
* When has intuitive decision making served you well? When has it turned out poorly?
 
The article, entitled Segway Inventor Reveals "Toughest Question" by Thom Patterson, discusses the "toughest question" for all entrepreneurs..."When to Quit?". Patterson specifically references the Segway inventor, whose much-anticipated invention, which was expected to revolutionize everything (the way we transport ourselves, the way cities are designed, etc) but has largely been determined to be a flop.
 
In this article, Patterson cites commonly accepted personality traits of 'entrepreneurs' as a whole, including "stubborn, delusionally optimistic, creative, fearless, flexible and focused...and ignorant". He references many experts who all confer on the denial and ignorance that is needed to be an entrepreneur. One researcher states that entrepreneurs often make decisions without checking their conscience, another talks about how entrepreneurs don't care what other people think.
 
This trend of acting first and then sorting things out is related to the behavior of...juvenile delinquents!! Well, just great!
 
'When to Quit' doesn't need to apply to your whole venture. You can just as easily apply these points to smaller decisions: strategic direction, new initiatives, product and service audits, relationships, partners, etc.
 
* Do you have any "When to Quit" decisions that are plaguing you? Who can you enlist to diversify your perspective?
* What mode of thinking should you be using to make that decision?
* What steps can you put in place to make you think before you act?
 
One man recently solved all of these decision making problems by deciding to outsource all of his decisions! Initially, he committed for a period of two weeks to turn over all of his decisions to strangers around him. This applied to what kind of doughnuts to buy, which health insurance and 401(k) plan to choose, what clothes to purchase and what books to read!
 
After his experimental two weeks were up, he felt it was so successful, he decided to continue employing this strategy! He felt that not only did this help to lessen his overall stress and rid him of decision-induced paralysis, but also that perfect strangers were perfectly capable of making good decisions on his behalf!
 
While the control freak in me is riddled with anxiety when considering this strategy, I can certainly see the benefit of clean, fresh eyes on a problem or a decision.
 
* Which decisions could/should you outsource?
 
* How can you incorporate elements of outsourcing into decisions? Advisory board? Using web 2.0 and 3.0 tools to solicit or find others' opinions?
 
***
Decision making is an integral and often difficult part of entrepreneurship. But it seems like a lot of us are faced with making some pretty important ones right now. We are inviting you to examine the decisions that you are currently facing, and consider how you might improve not only the outcome of a particular decision but also your overall decision-making process as well.
Business LookBook
Markus Frind, Plenty of Fish
 
The LookBook is intended to be a section where we highlight an interesting business or entrepreneur that is worth thinking about and considering. Just like a fashion LookBook, we feature "styles", and some may not reflect y/our taste or be what we or you would choose. We share many of these in the 'food for thought' or 'take it for what it is worth' spirit. We can learn something from everything, right?
 
So that being said, I was really struck by an article I read about Markus Frind in the latest Inc. magazine. The article is titled, "And the Money Comes Rolling In" and is about Markus, the CEO of a online dating company.
 
The subtitle is "Markus Frind works one hour a day and makes $10 million a year. How does he do it? He keeps things simple."
 
"Wow! I am sure there is a lot I can learn from this!", I thought to myself. And, it is impressive what he has created. The reporter, Max Chafkin, followed Markus around and went about his usual day. It is true Markus was done his work in 6 minutes and 38 seconds. (getting to the office took longer). Markus employs 3 customer service people who mostly check for and delete nude images and spam. And according to the article, Markus handles "everything else", in 6 minutes and 38 seconds.
 
As I read, I was impressed and awed about just how automated a $10M company can be. But as the article continued, I realized that this entrepreneur profile was quite different!
 
Entrepreneur profiles usually highlight  both an entrepreneurs business savvy - the unique steps they have taken as leaders, the different and innovative things have done in the market, the unconventional business practices, etc - as well as the entrepreneurs admirable personal characteristics and qualities. I am used to reading about tenacity, long hours, difficult battles, impassioned causes, intrinsic motivations, insatiable personal drive, etc.
 
Chafkin does a nice job of detailing Markus' savvy moves in selecting his niche and determining the model of his company. He discusses Markus' unconventional mode of entrepreneurship and I agree that his business savvy is a welcome and refreshing example!
Interestingly though, when Chafkin asked Markus how he will spend the rest of his day, Markus indicated that he would probably, as usual, take a nap and play video games!! Chafkin continued to report that Markus really has no hobbies and doesn't like to travel. He does have a nice apartment and a girlfriend who also likes to lounge. Much of the article is actually about Markus' inactivity!
 
This profile stands in stark contrast to almost all others I have ever read! The article heralds Markus fiend as an example of success for readers and positions him as someone who has got it all figured out, or who has 'beat the game', so to speak.
 
We were wondering what you think??
 
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Reading this piece made us stop and think...
 
* If you only had to work an hour a day, what else would you do?
 
* What helps you to determine if your business is a success? What are your success criteria?
 
* Money is great and we know we all want to make a lot. However, is that the 'end' we entrepreneurs are aiming for? Or, is the money a vehicle for something else?
 
* What are the elements of being an entrepreneur that you appreciate as part of the experience?
 
* In your mind, is this an example of success?
Clippings
Noteworthy News and Articles  
 
The theme of things that caught our eye this month was HELP!. In response to the economic climate and major changes that are transpiring right now, it seems folks are in need of strategic guidance on some of the more fundamental business questions. Everyone is asking, "What do I do now?". There are a swath of articles and resources attempting to help business owners answer this question.
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Case in point. Inc Magazine asked 23 renowned entrepreneurs to share their advice on things you can do right now to strengthen and energize your business. A wonderful resource that includes tips from the likes of John Mackey, Whole Foods; Bert Jacobs, Life is Good; and Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com. Sadly only two of the selected entrepreneurs are women (Jenny Craig and Barbara Corcoran), but they come through with sage strategies.
 
Another timely and savory article comes from Business Week and is written by Emily Thorten. She offers 5 strategic guidelines (with examples) including: Change Your Mindset; Get Your Financial House in Order; Make a Move for Market Share; Rethink Your Reward System; and (my favorite) Dare to Innovate. A great article that really helps to highlight priorities for leaders and also acknowledges the opportunities that exist in times like these.
 
3. Incentives
I read two interesting articles about incentives this month.
 
One, Thanks or No Thanks, was an article written by Joel Spolsky about whether or not to compensate a young summer intern who came up with an idea that added $1M to the company's bottom line. Joel walks us through his decision about how to reward this young performer and also discusses the larger issue of pay incentives. It is a really interesting story and outcome. Love those very specific real world examples!!
 
The second, The Curse of Incentives, by Dan Heath and Chip Heath (Made To Stick authors) talks more globally about the role of incentives and provides examples where well-intended incentives went awry. The article cites sports, business, and innovation examples and demonstrates how often the behavior we are trying to encourage with incentives is diminished instead of augmented. (links are not yet available, as Fast Company doesn't put up their web content until the actual cover date, even through the paper version is on news stands 3 weeks before. duh! We will send a link in the member announcements when it becomes available.) 
 
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a few more interesting tid-bits
 
1. Over Saturated vs. Subliminal
We often are asked by entrepreneurs about how much advertising is too much. We all know there is a fine balance between making multiple impressions and being seen as 'too available' and this tension certainly interplays with brand, image, value, price, etc. Interestingly, The Week Magazine highlighted a study by cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, who shows that after an initial increase in desirability, repeated exposure through advertising eventually decreases a consumers preference for a particular product or service.
 
On the other hand, he found that subliminal advertising is the most effective of all. The oversaturation challenges seems to be mitigated when consumers are not necessarily aware that they are being exposed. So, product placement and subtle exposure seem to have the greatest positive impact on consumer preferences.
 
Changizi has also run studies that have shown test subjects (who self-report being critical and skeptical of all ads) were actually more persuaded by ads that were emotionally based versus information based.
 
Interesting!!
 
2. Most Influential Women in Tech.
Fast Company also put out a list of the Most Influential Women in Tech! They cover executives, entrepreneurs, gamers, evangelists, bloggers, brainiacs, and activists. Such an amazing collection of genius!
 
How have these women impacted you, I wonder? 
 
 (links are not yet available, as Fast Company doesn't put up their web content until the actual cover date, even through the paper version is on news stands 3 weeks before. duh! We will send a link in the member announcements when it becomes available.)
Musings 
(I admit to falling down on the job this month when it comes to the blog. Although I would like to attribute this to the holidays, the truth is that I got sucked into the world of Twilight, reading all 4 books in just a few weeks! Haven't gotten into them yet? I highly recommend them. I am not a fantasy or vampire person, but they were great! Oh, and don't see the movie - it was terrible.)
 
Instead, we want to share two resources:
 
* The next TED Conference is scheduled for Feb 3-7. If you don't know about TED, you should. An tremendous exchange of ideas by industry and thought leaders put into a very expensive and elite conference. However, all the content is put online through video...I have learned some amazing things (like how you can teach squirrels to use a vending machine, and a first and an account of what it is like to have a stroke in your left hemisphere). So...check them out to see stuff from last year and keep it on your radar so you can see stuff from this year!!
 
 
* Tabbloid. A terrific tool that turns your favorite feeds (from blogs and such) into a 'personal magazine' that is delivered daily to your email box in pdf form. Oh, and it is FREE, of course.

All the best,
 
Adelaide & Amy