Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Don't Fear The Business Plan...

Many an Idea Generator (someone with an idea for a business start-up) has said, “I've got this great idea; I just do not know how to do the business plan for it.” 

My response is usually something such as, “don’t worry about it … at least not yet… there is no need to fear the business plan!” 

At this early stage of your idea, the focus needs to be on creating experiments that can validate what you really need to learn about your idea in order to help assess its true potential. Fundamentally, you’re hoping to become a startup that can innovate its way to a real business, and so putting together a 3 to 5 year, highly detailed business plan spreadsheet at this stage, is simply the wrong use of your effort. 

Instead, use tools such as the business canvas, and in a single page, you'll be able to list the necessary elements for a business plan that is more appropriate for this stage of your idea. What’s more, as you edit the canvas with the results of your learning experiments, over time, you’ll be capturing all the nuanced detail that can be turned into a full-on business plan later down the project’s pipeline. 

On the Canvas, you'll collect information about the basic problem your idea is working to solve, the basic customers you're going to target, typical revenue and cost elements, what channel(s) of distribution you’ll use to get to market, key partners and resources you’ll need, and more. 

You’ll do it all in a simple, post-it note fashion which ultimately will combine to give you a perfectly adequate start for your business plan that matches the stage of your idea’s growth reality. If you have worked your Canvas over well enough, everyone will be able to see the business potential in your idea quite adequately for this early stage of the process. 

Check out the following tools just waiting for you...

Of course being a good entrepreneur or even an intrapreneur (an entrepreneur inside a corporation) you are going to want to “please” the system by completing a big, fat, multi-page, 3 to 5 year document with detailed internal rate of return calculations and all sorts of other metrics (important later, not now) and you’ll call that your business plan.

My advice is simple: Don't do it; resist the temptation at this stage as your idea is far too fragile and far too uncertain to spend your time developing a multi-year plan for which the only thing you can be certain about is that the plan will be wrong.

Instead, create hypotheses, run experiments, and validate the learning you need in order to determine if your idea is on a good track, or needs to pivot in order to survive. There will be plenty of time and help from myself and others (if you like) for building detailed business plans down the road.

Don’t fear the business plan. Take your idea to the Canvas and learn!


Friday, May 03, 2013

Our Uniting Differences - a guest blog by J. Hallbauer

As leaders, innovators, and fellow citizens, our greatest responsibility to one another is to be able to put our differences aside and work together to solve problems.  This concept is often difficult to grasp because we are constantly exposed to the exact opposite; people fighting, nations feuding, leaders unable to get along.  All of these problems stem from a basic fault in communication – the refusal to encourage ideas that may differ from one’s own.  Although the remedy for this worldwide dissension is seemingly simple, implementation is key.  Our responsibility to each other is to learn to accept others as they are; to implement this as a leader, you must accept what you can’t change, learn to listen, and create a solution based on all presented ideas.

The first step toward meeting this responsibility is accepting the fact that you can’t and shouldn’t change others.  Every person on this planet is incredibly and amazingly different, and these differences are part of what makes our race unique.  Instead of condemning those with different viewpoints, we need to be able to prosper and learn from one another, while still maintaining our own values.  As leaders, we work with multitudes of people who can vary in many ways in aspects such as religion, educational background, ethnicity, or age.  Instead of viewing these differences as obstacles, we must learn to treat them as further proof of the complexity of the human race; instead of arguing incessantly about qualities that we can’t change about someone, we must learn to use these characteristics to our advantage and form new, innovative solutions to problems.

As leaders, it is often difficult for us to find the ability to listen, yet this is possibly a greater skill than speaking – as the saying goes, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.  Instead of trying to get all of your ideas into the open at once, one of our greatest responsibilities is learning how to put ourselves aside at times and take the voices of others into account.  After all, if you have an abundance of ideas to share, imagine that everyone else in the room has just as much to say, if not more.  Good leaders will never become great leaders without the ability to listen to those around them and take the opinions of others into account when making decisions.

The final step in meeting this responsibility is combining the work of many into a solution for all.  We do this not by working in solitude or presenting only one set of ideas; rather, you must include every different perspective and opinion in order to form the most universally effective solution.  This includes not only listening and accepting, but also the wisdom and judgment to know how to satisfy many needs.  In the long run, true leaders don’t rise to power based on their listening skills or their open mind – leaders succeed based on their ability to present effective and useful solutions to a common problem.

by J. Hallbauer


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Needless Safety Risk In Closing Air Traffic Control Towers

My message to the politicians...


Yesterday’s announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to close 149 air traffic control towers beginning April 7, 2013 needs to be reversed.

Approximately 2 million people and 50,000 tons of cargo use our air traffic system each and every day.  And while roughly 40% of flights take off from about 10 key cities, what the sequester approach to closing 149 air traffic control towers, purportedly cutting overnight service in 60 other towers, and furloughing all 47k agency employees at a rate of 1 day per every 10 days worked, fails to take into account is how the air traffic control system is a tightly interwoven network whereby actions in one portion of the system ripple through the entire system resulting in potential safety and timeliness issues throughout.

The arbitrary nature of the cuts announced today, as well as those still pending, put travelers and all that associated business at risk; a risk that will prove measurable in both jobs, timeliness/productivity, and most importantly safety.

Closing the Whitehouse to tours by taxpaying citizens is a petty step as is Vice President Biden taking the train instead of flying on trips to Delaware; the impact of those cost saving examples are simply negligible versus the safety in our Nation’s skies which is being put at risk with the April 7th commencement of yesterday’s FAA announcement.

As a citizen, taxpayer, voter, business person, frequent flyer, and private pilot, I respectfully call on you and your staff to work to reverse today’s action, prevent the implementation of these closures beginning April 7 and fund the sequester needs in a manner that does not put safety and business at such risk.

Sincerely, Greg Gudorf


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Leadership Now Please...

Mr. President,

What in the world is going on with this "sequester" business and why, as our leader, are you not driving this to a meaningful solution?

This is clearly a situation requiring Presidential leadership. 

These cuts were never supposed to happen this way. They were supposed to be a self-imposed, Washington-developed "threat", that would pressure lawmaker's to come up with "big-time" savings versus our current spending; savings so big they are less than 3% of our total spending (but that's another story).

  • Strike one: The first failure of leadership - never make a threat unless you are prepared to follow it all the way through and make sure it's actually a meaningful threat if you do. 
Then, as January 1st rolled around and responsible adults in Washington seemed to be nowhere to be found, the self-imposed, voted upon deadline was merely kicked down the road till March 1st by yet another vote.

  • Strike two: The second failure of leadership - never put off until tomorrow, what should and can be done today. 
And now, as the March 1st deadline looms large, you and your administration are proclaiming to all of us whom you serve (the very definition of leadership, by the way) how this whole "sequester" situation is going to rain mayhem onto our daily lives:

  • thousands of teachers and educators will lose their jobs 
    • parents everywhere will have to scramble for child care arrangements and decide between taking care of their children or taking care of their job and incomes 
  • Air Traffic Controllers and airport security personnel will be cut-back causing delays in our travel systems 
    • your Transportation Secretary says it will force travelers to suffer additional delays of 90 minutes or more (beyond the typical travel hassles already inflicted on us via the TSA) 
  • your Defense Secretary says the "sequester" will harm the readiness of US fighting forces everywhere putting us all at further risk 
    • nearly a million Defense workers will be furloughed according to the Pentagon 
  • medical science will be set back nearly a generation due to the "sequester" according to the former Director of the National Institutes of Health 
  • and on, and on, and on... 
Worst of all, your explanation as to why this is happening, is that it is some other elected official's fault; republican, democrat, anyone who doesn't agree with you.

  • Strike three: The third failure of leadership - the blame game is never a winning game and making others suffer because of the way you play the blame game, is never excusable. 
Mr. President, please do your job and lead us out of this hole which you and other elected officials have dug for us. And do it before March 1st. That would show real leadership.