The Company You Keep
IGC Member Digest
In This Issue
Mindset
Business LookBook
Clippings
Musings
Quick Links
Feb/2009

Hi IGC Members,

Welcome to Edition #5 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: Relevant 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

Adaptation: What is your company's 2.0?
 
While the economic uncertainties of the fall seemed to deliver an air of pause, caution, and consideration, the new year - and the resounding revelation that the soured economic climate is here to stay - seems to have helped usher in a call for action.
The last few months have encouraged many of us entrepreneurs to recalculate and recalibrate. And now it is time to move. Ah, adaptation - the plan previously unforeseen, the unplanned path taken. 
 
We have talked and worked with many who are in the process of adapting their company, product, service, offering - in other words creating the 2.0 version of their own company.
Maybe, for your company, it previously made sense to do one thing, but now, another. Perhaps a former best-seller is replaced by a lower-cost version or a new suddenly-in-demand product. Or, alternatively, the climate change has brought about opportunities and markets that didn't exist before. On a smaller scale, it could be that your offering remains the same but your pitch and positioning has changed to match the new marketplace.
 
With adaptation on the brain, we spotted some interesting examples from a
Fast Company article this month. The larger article highlights "The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies", but a few adaptation examples stood out. In each case, these adaptations have been in the works long before the economic downtown began, however, they demonstrate the type of thinking (mirroring customer need) that is required today.
 
Amazon - no description needed, as everyone is familiar with the online marketplace GIANT. However, CEO Jeff Bezos had something really interesting to say about Amazon's recent foray into the product market with the recently launched Kindle reader. "There are two ways to extend a business. Take inventory of what you are good at and extend out from your skills. Or determine what your customers need and work backward, even if it requires learning new skills. Kindle is an example of working backward." Read Fast Company's profile.
 
Etsy - originally an online handmade artist community cum marketplace, Etsy is continuing to adapt and change its offering to meet the growing needs of both its buyers and sellers. Some of the new projects that they have integrated into the offering are their "This Handmade Life" - an opportunity for sellers to establish a personal relationship with buyers by profiling themselves and their business through images, text, videos, etc.;  "Virtual Labs" - online meet-ups that can be used (by sellers, buyers, and observers alike) as trunk shows, workshops, and special interest groups; "Custom Section" - an opportunity for buyers to post their specific need and receive bids from interested crafters and artists. Read Fast Company's profile.
 
Zappos - innovative and adaptive from the start and a fantastic example of entrepreneurship, Zappos began by bucking the status quo in online shopping by taking a very customer-experience-centric perspective. Not only do they provide free shipping BOTH WAYS!, but they incorporated multi-view product images to help incorporate a primary advantage of traditional, off-line shopping. Read Fast Company's profile.
We suspect that this will be a prevalent theme and business challenge for some time to come. So, if you haven't already started to think about your company's 2.0, now is the time!
If you have already started to think about it or act on it, then great! We would love to know! Share with us how you have adapted your company in response to the changing economic climate. Dialog with us by emailing Adelaide: Adelaide@ingoodcmpny.com
 
Need some inspiration or guidance?
An excerpt in the Lyles Center newsletter offers a helpful overview of what they call "source of innovative ideas". We think of them more like game changers, things that shake up the marketplace and create opportunity, such as unexpected occurrences, incongruities, process needs. It may be helpful to think about how these 8 shifts apply to your business.
 
We want to know:
 
In what ways have you ADAPTED?
Services?
Products?
Offerings?
Positioning?
The customer experience?
Your operations?
Business LookBook
Bargain Hunting
 
The LookBook is intended to be a section where we highlight an interesting business, entrepreneur, or trend 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?
 
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This month we wanted to highlight some of the innovative ways that companies are meeting consumers need to get a bargain, aside from the more traditional online money saving techniques such as buy in bulk or find online coupons. These businesses represent a variety of strategies that we expect to see much, much more of in the years to come!
 
YOU BID
Most famously, EBay, revolutionized online shopping by revitalizing auction-style marketplaces as an affordable alternative to retail for both new and after-market goods. 
 
They BID
More sites like CrowdSpring are 'springing' up. Centered around a specific need - in this case graphic design - CrowdSpring allows YOU to post your needs and budget and have multiple artists bid for the work. A beautiful hybrid of Lending Tree and Craigslist.
 
ACCESS TO SMALL FRIES
Etsy is a great example of how you can access more affordable goods and products by gaining access to 'small fry' independent purveyors that leverage shared business infrastructure (site, ecommerce, advertising, etc.) and therefore need to mark up their goods less.
 
GROUP PURCHASE
The strategy for sites like CrowdSprout is to aggregate buyers and negotiate directly with manufacturers for product discounts. While this has been a popular informal strategy in the past (note: IGC member Jill Stern is very good at doing this!), it seems to be an increasingly popular option to formalize this service into a business.
 
AGGREGATED DISCOUNTS
Often industry-specific content sites also have access to discounts, often exclusive ones, for multiple retailers and providers. Two of our favorites: InnerRewards (IGC member Julie Elaine Brown) which shares discounts to multiple spa and wellness services and StoreAdore, which does the same for retail. You often can't find these discounts elsewhere, but even if you can, using one consolidated place is much easier!
 
LIMITED OFFER 
We have profiled several of these limited offer groups in the past, such a Gilt Group and OneGoodie.
 
 
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Reading this piece made us stop and think...
 
* Can your company employ any of these strategies to better serve your customers?
 
* Which of these strategies can you utilize more of in order to save money (either for yourself or your business)?
 
* Can you save on expenses and/or reach new markets by joining up with an existing discount service in your market/industry? 
Clippings
Noteworthy News and Articles  
 
The theme of things that caught our eye this month was A New Approach. Echoing many of our sentiments and thoughts above, there seemed to be plenty of articles and resources highlighting both individuals and companies trying and offer various new approaches and solutions. Perhaps it is time to try something different?
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Be gone stretch goals and 5 year visions! Fast Company authors Dan heath & Chip Heath make a compelling case for "smaller goals" during tough circumstances. They posit that this is the best way to get big results.
 
 --- What daunting goal could you scale back?
 
2. Clear your full plate.
A NY Times article details a decision by Google, a typically unending source of online gadgets and gizmos, to halt work on several projects because they failed to meet several criteria such as: not being especially popular with customers, difficulty attracting Google employees to develop them, didn't solve a big enough problem, or they failed to achieve internal performance targets.
 
--- What projects could you scrap?
 
A new marketplace for alternative and local advertising medium (including table tops, bathrooms stalls, sail boats, locker rooms, trucks, etc.) encourages consideration of different marketing tactics.
 
--- What interesting ways can you get in front of your customers? 
 
4. Importance of Urgency
Flying in the face of zen advice and seemingly out-of-step with our country's crisis MO, author John Kotter tells us what we actually need is MORE urgency! His new book, A Sense of Urgency, presents an interesting argument about how companies can move away from complacency and towards meaningful action. A primary and compelling tenet is that urgency should be founded on a sense of opportunity rather than panic.
 
--- What is your level of urgency? What is is based on?
 
5. Ditch the Blackberry
All the buzz over Obama's decision to blackberry or not to blackberry has surfaced some interesting statistics and opinions. While you may have heard the hazards and praises before, an interesting Newsweek article explores the impact of blackberries more specifically.
 
--- What is the net impact of your technology/blackberry use?
 
6. Barter?
While we have historically been ardently against bartering, a recent NY Times article takes on the topic through one person's account of trying out this cash-saving technique.
 
--- What types of bartering would work for you?
 
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another interesting tid-bit
 
Women Under-Performing Men
A new study by the Kauffman foundation finds that women owned business underperform men-owned businesses on nearly every criteria they measured including lower numbers for overall size, rates of growth, owner earnings, and overall profits. The study also finds a positive correlation between start-up capital and these performance outputs.
 
However, the study then also smartly asks whether these indicators really demonstrate a gap in the women owned businesses desired and actual performance or whether perhaps these women-owned businesses were exactly where they wanted to be.
Musings 
 
Some of our Blog postings from the last month:
 
 
 

All the best,
 
Adelaide & Amy