Archive for category Entrepreneurship

Embrace Chaos

Embrace Chaos

As an Engineer and an Entrepreneur chaos is not my friend.  When executing on a business plan chaos is the last thing that I want.  It scares your two most valuable resources, capital and people.  Investors want surety and employees want stability.  When designing a warehouse space chaos only gets in the way.  The whole idea behind any facility design is order and predictability so things move smoothly from manufacturing to the customer.

 

But I have learned to embrace chaos.  Driving along Rte 128 around Boston during rush hour or walking through Rockefeller Center in NY at 2:00 in the afternoon you see chaos all around you.  People moving through close proximity but with wildly varying starting points and destinations.  To add to the lack of order, the variation amongst what they are driving or what they are wearing would drive any central planner to drink.

 

But that’s the point.  Each person driving on that highway got there based on decisions that they made.  They decided what type of car they wanted to drive based on their budget, tastes, driving style and experiences.  They decided what time to leave based on when they needed to be at their destination, the weather and their knowledge of local traffic patterns.  No one told them what to do, they got to decide for themselves and that’s what makes it work.  That’s what makes Chaos beautiful.

 

We all have defining moments in our lives.  As strange as it sounds for me one of mine was when I was 27.  I was a consultant working for Kmart (back when they mattered) and I was tasked with fixing their distribution network.  One day I was standing alone in a 1,500,000 sq ft warehouse (almost 40 acres) looking around at TV’s, housewares, clothes and various other products stacked 40’ tall.  People were moving all around me, the din of the conveyors made it hard to hear myself but I was in awe of the beauty of it all.  Totally chaotic but it was the embodiment of the free market system at work.  There were no central planners deciding what to produce, no government agents setting prices.  Just products flowing based on consumers in 100’s of stores sending signals by buying things.  Those signals flowed up the supply chain via orders for restocking and new purchase orders.  An economy working.  To me it was more beautiful then the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

 

Politicians abhor chaos.  They want order.  They believe order allows for knowledge and control.  Anytime a new regulation is enacted or a law is passed chaos is reined in and the free market dies a little.  Yes it would be much more efficient is we all drove a Ford Fusion.  Just think of the economies of scale that could be achieved.  But where is the fun in that.

As you go through this holiday season, I encourage you to observe the chaos all around you.  In the grocery store with tens of thousands of products all begging for you to put them in your cart.   In the mall with 100’s of options (styles, colors, fabrics) of where to shop and what to buy your mom for Christmas.  On the streets with people going here and there, running errands, picking up kids or just enjoying a cup of coffee.  Every where you look people are making literally thousands of little decisions everyday.  All of these tiny unorganized chaotic decisions when added up create our economy.

 

Merry Christmas and embrace the chaos.

 

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ECommerce Success Story

Andrew Warner of Mi just interview the most amazing e-commerce entrepreneur that you have never heard of…

http://mixergy.com/anthony-bucci-revzilla-interview/

Anthony Bucci is one of the founders of RevZilla and Andrew gets him to tell the story of how he and his cofounders built the most successful e-commerce company that you have never heard of.  RevZilla is a $50 million company that was built over the last 4 years with no outside money.

There are too many lessons to take away from this interview to list them all here so I will just mention one.  Anthony talked about all the ways that they listened to their customers to learn why they came to the site, what got them to buy and in some cases why they didn’t buy.

A great interview for anyone hoping to start an e-commerce company.

http://www.revzilla.com

RevZilla

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Learning Anywhere

Midas

This morning I was at the local Midas listening to the manager talk to a frequent customer.  He mentioned that sales go up by 30% over the summer.  This happens because people open up their windows while they drive and they hear lots of new noises.

Why is this important?  I don’t know… now.  But somewhere down the road it might be an important little tidbit that leads to a new business idea.  Good entrepreneurs are always talking little facts like this, combining them together and coming up with new business opportunities.  You never know where these facts will come from so you have to always be listening.

The other value that little non obvious facts like this have is that when you weave them into your assumptions and drop them on your investors they can give you tremendous credibility.

What are the little facts for your business?

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Entrepreneurial Communities

A Kauffman Sketchbook that describes the Entrepreneurial Community.
It gives a great overview of what it takes to nurture entrepreneurs and it only takes 4 minutes.

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Thoughts on Entrepreneurship Education

Thoughts on Entrepreneurship Education

Interesting blog post from Doan Winkel.  Doan is an outside the box thinker who inspires everyone that he meets.

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The Birth of Redbox

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Yesterday, I found out that an old colleague of mine is leaving Redbox.  He wasn’t just any old person at Redbox, he was the founder.  He saw the company that he created change an industry.

The way that he built Redbox was inspiring, he started out with one idea, listened to the customer and pivoted based on customer feedback.  Over the last 11 years he has created what is arguably one of the two most important companies in the movie business (Netflix being the other). No they don’t make movies but they can MAKE a movie.  If you can get into their machine your movie is made.  Any where that he goes across America he is bound to run into one of his machines.  I wonder how he feels when he sees that ubiquitous red box.  

Now as he leaves the company I can’t imagine the emotion that he is feeling not only leaving the scores of people that he has worked with, but leaving his “baby”, the idea that became the industry.

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Market Research

Great Quote from Rene Lacerte founder of Bill.com on Mixergy.com.  “You can’t do market research to find out what customers want.  Customers don’t know what they want”

http://mixergy.com/rene-lacerte-bill-interview/

The interview captures the iterative process for a start up.  Rene speaks very clearly about creating a “Push Cart” in a very challenging industry (software) where you wouldn’t think it was possible.

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