Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Letting Go of Good Employees

There was a time when I would lose my temper when a good employee would quit to take another job. I would get angry, hurt and bitter as I took the change personally. I am here to say that I was wrong.

Over the past year I have lost two very good employees from RentQuick. The first was Jeff Fife. Jeff had been a very successful salesperson for me. He was loved by the customers and a very capable leader. He quit to be the Executive Director of the Waynesboro YMCA, a job he had longed for all his life. Jeff felt the draw to work with young people and it made sense for him to pursue his dream.

Although losing Jeff was a blow, the pain was immediately fixed by the introduction of Rick Burns. Rick is a rare find in that he knows the technology and is very good with the customers. He is experienced, intelligent and well-read. That adds up to another great employee.

Recently, (like yesterday), Steve LeRose has told me he is going to leave. In the past, I would try to talk him out of it, but now I am happy for him. Steve wants to go out on his own and purchase a franchise. I fully understand his thought process.

I am not worried about replacing Steve. As they say, when one door closes another opens.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Little Road That Could

In 1999, I did my first real estate development project. The plan was simple, but different. I took 330 acres which were in a weird spot between the high density growth of Augusta County and the rural farms which cover the area. This land is rolling and steep in places.

Jamie and I had been looking for a place to build our home, but couldn't find any available land. It was either small or in a bad location or both. So we decided to buy the 330 acres and split it up into 17 lots ranging in size from 10 to 30 acres. To keep things that way, we put loads of restrictions on the property with the most important one being that no lot can be subdivided.

In order to access part of the property, I built a short road (about 3/4 mile). Of course, nothing is easy. To build the road, I needed to purchase a small right of way from the County School Board. They stuck me for $60,000 for a piece of land 50 feet by 130 feet.

The road construction went well. I had traded a lot to an engineer who's job it was to do all the engineering on the project. (Pay attention because this is where I made a mistake.) When the land was ready, I gave him his property although the road was not fully accepted into the state road system (did you see the screw-up?).

So here we are in 2005. The road has been built for some years now, but only now is it ready to be accepted into the system. Guess what happened? No, really guess! The guy who got 17 acres for his labor refuses to do his part to get the road accepted.

Needless to say, I will go ahead and cover the costs and figure out how to get him to pay it later. The problem is that I should have forseen this. (Here comes the life lesson.)

"Don't pay for things until things are done!"

Pretty simple huh? I have found that if you hold off on paying until everything is completely done, then everything seems to work out much better.

Anyway, the best part about the road is that I named it after my youngest son, Adin. He still gets a big kick out of having his name on a road.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New Updates to Newsletter

As it turns out, after running a newsletter for RentQuick for over 3 years, we have created a pretty large inventory of back stories. I just spent the day updating our online newsletter archive.

Newsletters seem so yesterday now that blogging has grown so much. However, for the meeting planner and trainer, these articles can have some value.

In other news, I am not calling for the United States to assinate Hugo Chavez. I believe if we are going to waste any time killing leaders off, I would prefer to see the guys behind the new Dukes of Hazard movie be the targets before some South American leader who just so happens to have lots of oil.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Search for New Business Ideas

So my little brain has been working overtime on this whole concept of a new business. In my search, I have noticed something. The entire idea of making money entirely electronically (ie web based 100%) seems to have a bad rap.

Yes, there are some firms out there doing it. Yes, this is nothing new. Yes, I could have been in on the ponzai schemes of the mid-Nineties. (Don't give me any of your crap sonny-boy, I bought Yahoo! on the day of the IPO for $19.)

What I am talking about is real business plans that make real money without needing un-goddly amounts of startup capital. I believe the net has moved to the level that it is now possible to do this without the huge venture-to-IPO plan for funding. I think we are at a point where the business can be funded by a single person (me) and cash flow. I know what you are saying: There is now way a little guy can compete against the net monsters. You would be correct.

I am not talking about competing against the monsters. I am talking about narrow markets with clear economic benefits from a particular service.

I will try to spend a good bit of time over the next few weeks explaining how all of this works and what idea I ultimately go after.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gutsy Exchange Student

I spent this morning getting our new exchange student, Leslie, registered at her high school. Leslie just arrived from Barraux France this week. She is 16 years old and has never flown on an airplane before. Obviously, she has never been this far from home either.

I cannot help but be amazed at the courage this young lady has shown. Imagine when you were 16. Imagine leaving all your family, friends, and home and traveling around the world where you know absolutely no one. Where they speak a different language and where you are living with a strange new family in a strange new place.

As I said, I am simply amazed and impressed by her courage. If we all were that brave, imagine how much better our lives would be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Entrepreneur Rantings Not in Top 500

This just in: Feedster has released it's top 500 blogs and I am not in it. This is in keeping with my goal of not being in any top 500 lists. For years, I have succeeded at avoiding the Fortune 500 list. Of course, my success in staying off the S&P 500 is well unknown. You may not believe it, but I have managed to stay out of the Forbes 100 riches people list, but only with some serious accounting magic.

Unfortunately, it looks like my list avoiding has failed in one respect. The People Magazine 100 Sexiest Men Alive list is adding me in around #36, right after Richard Pryor (#35) and just before Howie Mandell(#37).

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sorting Online Business Ideas

I like lists. Lists help me organize complex data. After I work to create a nice, neat list, I feel fulfilled and complete. Call it my comfort food.

Here is my list of major network based businesses:

1. Content--write content and sell advertising or sell the content directly.
2. Data--gather data and sell access to it or gather data, give away access and sell advertising on the traffic.
3. Computation--Write a nice program that computes information for people who are willing to pay for it. A nice example is click fraud tracking.
4. Matching--match buyers and sellers. This is a well known model such as Ebay, Monster and Match.com. Link exchange servers are a great example.
5. E-Commerse--See stuff online. Nuff said!
6. Services delivered online--Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a good example. Essentially, you are charging for an hourly service, but delivering it online.

Of the major online marketing opportunities, these are the...well... major ones. In a totally different list is the mobile network list and the 5th wave stuff. Everything I am talking about today has been around since 1996. The main difference is that before people were trying to build a business to go public, whereas I am trying to build a business to make friggin money.

Now that I have happily submitted another post, I will go drink my shiraz as a reward.

G'night ya'll.

Focus on Search Engines

During the past year, I have been attempting to get better exposure through the web. As you can imagine, this is a pretty open field where there are plenty of snake oil salesmen out there for a quick buck.

However, here is what I have found:

1. Google Ad Words is the only pay-per-click program that works for me. All the others, while sometimes cheaper, just don't have the breadth of users.

2. Back-links are difficult to build, but are extremely important in getting organic searches.

3. Ultimately, you must provide good information on your site in order to generate traffic. Crappy info or search engine tricks just don't hold water.

4. All the web traffic in the world won't help if you have a lousy offering. Your service and product must be top shelf.

5. Simple is still king. Making your site heavy with loads of graphics, flashing ads, and blinking text does absolutely nothing.

6. Finally, put a sitemap on your site. This is the best way to get the server crawlers to find their way around your site. Google offers a sitemap generator.

7. If you are really serious about web marketing, check out MarketingSherpa. They have plenty of great articles based not on opinion but instead on actual studies.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Summer Sucks

Okay, this is a tough one for me to write. Since my last post, there have been some pretty major changes in my business. I won't go into it now, but it brings to mind the real reason why I went into business in the first place.

When tough times hit, I like to regroup and focus on why I am doing what I do. Do I do it for the money? To some extent, yes. For instance, if I weren't making any money, would I continue? The answer is no, so therefore money is a factor.

But money is not the only factor. There are some projects where I could have made more working for someone else. Certainly, the lifestyle of an entreprenuer fits into my choices. It is a pretty good lifestyle for a person who is independent. I create my own rules and in some cases, my own demise. But at the same time, I create my own future. When I look at where I am at in my life, I smile. (See, I am a sensitive guy!)

Okay, so money and lifestyle are factors. Is there anything else? I would say that purpose is the next big factor. I like having a purpose or better yet, solving a problem. For instance, how happy could I be if I just traded stocks everyday. I wouldn't really solve anything or create anything. Instead, it would be the typical day trading where I plop down money and hope to rake more than I plop. That certainly meets the first two factors: money and lifestyle. But it leaves out purpose.

I would never be happy being a day-trader simply because I would not have a sense of purpose in what I was doing.

So there you have it, all neat and summed up for your consumption. Money, lifestyle and purpose. I am sure there are more factors, but those are the three that I can spell withou much help.

Till later,