So, if you are like me and enjoy reading about the super successful million or billionaire entrepreneurs that created something during the dot com boom and have now decided to write about their rise to the top. This isn’t going to be one of those. This is about the small stuff. The Start Up Stuff.
What I Think Makes a Good Business Book
The kind of business books that always have me hooked are the ones that go into the minute details with what they had to do right at the beginning.
Always, at some point the authors of these books tend to skip a bunch of months or years. But, personally, I want to know about those boring months. The months they had to struggle with no customers, or when they felt like giving up, or couldn’t afford the rent or a gift a Christmas for their significant other.
I have recently read Delivering Happiness by Zappos investor and CEO Tony Hsieh (Audible) and reading Call Me Ted by Ted Turner (Paperback). Tony goes into good details of when he was younger and where he inspirations for business came from. This book does skip ahead a bit, from a kids button business to pizza shops, then to a $265M Link Exchange business sale. Would love to have know about the couple of years this took to build, and what exactly they all went through.
Ted, tells a lot about his childhood and goes into good details about his fathers early business. But again, skips ahead some times. Says things like, ‘it took a few more years to get to 2 million subscribers’. I want to know what they were doing to get those subscribers!. Where did they start? what marketing did they use? How did they price it? How many people were working for them at the time?
So many questions, perhaps not enough pages.
Side note: I have several books queued up on audible and paperback versions, you may want to have a look at. including…
Hooked – Creating products that form habits.
The E-Myth Revisited – I know I am a little late to getting to this one. ‘If your business relies on you, you don’t have a business. You have a job’. Awesome point.
Creativity Inc – Reading this now.
Blitzscaling – Scale up your business. Yes please!
Our Start Up Stuff
We have so many things going on right now.
The start of a new year and the start of some very big challenges for the business. We recently cleared $1000 in a month for the first time and look to be heading in the right direction for a sustainable business. Overheads are low and we only have two working wages right now. I, myself don’t take any money from the business, and won’t do until we feel it will make a great deal more.
We are currently spending $5 a day on advertising on Facebook and trying to drive traffic to our website. This is helping and has driven probably double the normal about of website visitors to our site.
All our calls to action are right there on the front page as they should be. The first thing you see is something you can buy. Admittedly, I’m sure this could again be re-focused and made even more efficient as per psychology.
But we have other things to attend to. Namely making more sellable products.
We do have a sellable service product in the way of Private and group lessons. They sell well for those brave enough to jump in, and so far have a very good retention rate.
In the works we have a physical product we are slowly trying to source help in the production of. Particularly manufacturers and suppliers.
A digital asset in the form of an iOS App being coded by a now business partner Darian in the States. An extremely exciting process which means we all have learn new skills and find new ways to bring value to those who wish to benefit.
We also are creating an online course which will know Mandarin learners socks off. But its all taking a lot of time as we are split between admin tasks, private lessons, Podcast production, video editing, planning, our part time jobs (teaching) and being parents.
The income we do get we have to save, both for equipment upgrades to improve the quality of our output and for potential other investments (including advertising).
Lessons We Have Learned So Far
In business, there is a great deal of luck involved. We just believe that if you do good shit, good shit happens. Provide value enough for people to value your work and it will spread organically.
The luck that you experience can be just that, luck. But it can be easier to find if you put yourself in the right places to find it. If you want to find more customers, put yourself out there, get involved in the communities, offer your advice. For free. Contribute to it.
We have learned that building an email list by offering something useful in exchange works. In our case a phrase and grammar book. Aptly named the ‘free book’. Created a pop up form a landing page and then pasted the link in several videos and descriptions.
Going above and beyond expectations is also a great place to start, with every transaction. The plumber who comes to fix a boiler but on the way out he also repairs a leak under the sink for free, will probably get a call back for the next leaky faucet.
Always be growing, always be learning and never think you know it all. I have found reading as a great source of this, but Youtube is just as good for absorbing as much information as you can. You can get book summaries on YouTube which will give you an overview of any book you might find suggested and in a tenth of the time.
As mentioned we have several products on the way and several others in different stages of development.
One way we have looked at this is to concentrate on one product, reiterate and improve. The private and group lesson service is already in the stage of continuous improvement. We have researched and selected modern Mandarin text and course books, bought, read through and studied them to find the best (we think) possible fit for people who want to learn Chinese and now regularly send them out. Every time we host a lesson we try and improve delivery, we record sessions and review and get feedback, making sure that every students experience gets better.
But there are three of us, so why not 3 products? Courses, Apps and an online school. Well, that and the physical product we are trying to put together. Ok so that makes 4. But I am still hopeful we can make all these dreams come true.
Now, I am sure some might say that if you have a working service/product that is making profit, you should try and stick to that. And while that may be true, it doesn’t sit well with me to just sit well.
So in this arena, we produce about 2 podcast episodes a week, trying to provide entertainment and listening practice to Chinese learners. We don’t make any direct money from making the podcast nor have we ever been sponsored for it. That would be something we could look to do in the future should it continue to grow, and at the moment those figures are on an upward curve.
We write an article every month on either learning or on the business elements of our journey. We/I would love to vlog our experiences as we grow but just cannot find the time between everything else.
One thing I have learned from Ted Turner is I don’t want to sacrifice watching my children growing up for the businesses. Although he is very successful in business he was an absentee father and this is something I am not willing to sacrifice.
Ok, back to branding. We also post semi-regularly on Instagram and twitter, but could absolutely be more attentive to these things. This plus Facebook are something that we are not great at. Not through lack of skill but through lack of time. Which would suggest we should be looking for someone to help with these things.
We have found that brand building takes a long time and isn’t something you can simply accomplish with a good logo. It take a while for a community of people to build up behind you and even longer for them to trust and then buy your products. I think that with everything we have done with our business so far, perseverance has been the biggest factor in current success.
Finding people you can work with is a super key to getting your business to work. At least it is with us. I haven’t yet read or talk to a business owner that made it 100% by themselves. I just don’t think this happens. You are never going to be a master at everything and excepting this and getting help is a big step forwards to seeing your vision come to life.
Through our group classes, YouTube channel and podcast we have not only gained paying customers but also some good friends, from all walks of life. It’s an exciting thing to find out what people do and what adventures they have had. Makes friends and allies everywhere and anywhere you can then HELP THEM. Don’t expect anything back. Just help. Karma has a funny way of going full circle.
Will be writing again soon.