Thursday, August 31, 2006

Albert Einstein on PBS American Masters

I watched this program about Albert Einstein last night. At the end one of his friends reflected on Einstein's life and said, "Time was not a factor for him. Most of us will give something a certain amount of time and then decide to go on to something else. Not Albert. Once he had an idea, he stayed with it until it was finished, no matter how long it took. That was one of his major strengths." (Quote as I remember it this morning.)

In 1994 I had a TV show, started what I now call the IDEA Cafe, and wrote my little booklet on business startup (for free text file of the revised 2nd edition I'm working on see, and a couple of years later I started the first Franklin Circle here in Denver.

Amar Bhide (see below) confirmed my insights into startup. What he and I are doing goes against the conventional wisdom, what is taught at most business schools and the ideology that is propogated by the Small Business Administration.

I keep asking myself, what do I do now with the time I have left? Lesson of the Einstein special last night is that I should put that question out of my mind. Better question, what can I do today to help the grassroots capitalist? What can I do to help people see and seize opportunity?

I see the opportunity of doing this work. God grant me the grace to stay with it.
In March of 1994 I decided if I couldn't find any research to validate what I was talking about on my TV show and at the IDEA Cafe (which we then called the IDEA Association)that I would throw in the sponge. This was before the World Wide Web, but the Internet existed and there were bulletin boards. Somehow I found this article in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review indexed, I went to Newsland, bought a copy, and found validation. I've been talking about startup ever since. (Go to link, you can download or order a printed copy of the article.)

However popular comprehensive research and planning may be in some business arenas, they don't suit the fast-moving environment of start-ups. Entrepreneurs must move quickly or opportunity may no longer exist. Theirs is a world of ingenuity, spontaneity, and hustle. Profitable survival requires an edge derived from some combination of a creative idea and a superior capacity for execution. Research on more than 200 thriving ventures reveals four helpful guidelines for aspiring founders. First, effective entrepreneurs screen out unpromising ideas as early as possible, and they accomplish this through judgment and reflection, not gathering lots of data. Next, they assess realistically their financial situation, personal preferences, and goals for the venture. To conserve time and money, successful new founders also minimize the resources they devote to researching ideas. And, unlike managers in big corporations, entrepreneurs don't need all the answers to act.;jsessionid=DY0VTNNOKRNDMAKRGWDSELQBKE0YIISW?id=94202

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On this day in 1905 Ty Cobb made his first major league at bat with the Detroit Tigers, and in 1918 Ted Williams was born.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My friend KC Truby emailed me this article from today's Wall Street Journal. Libraries are great resouces for research. Problem is, this article perpetuates the myth that new businesses are started with market research and careful planning. Just not true, as documented by Amar Bhide.

Still, libraries are great resources:

Big Help for Small Businesses
At the Library

Commercial Databases,
Assistance on Research
And Classes Are Offered
August 29, 2006; Page B4

Where can entrepreneurs find office space, a research assistant, mentors and access to reams of market research -- all free of charge?

They might try the local library.

In an age where Google has become a verb and entrepreneurs have easy access to information from their home computers, libraries have been trying to evolve as well. Some have seemingly become small-business incubators in their own right: places where cash-strapped start-ups and established business owners alike can gather sophisticated information on a target market, draw up a business plan, bounce an idea off a seasoned executive, or perhaps, even find funding or build a Web site.

"When you think about Google, the term that is used in library circles, is the 'good enough' search," says David Hanson, business and specialty reference services coordinator with the Johnson County Library in Overland Park, Kan. "But when you are putting together a business plan," he says, "you need demographic information or marketing information, and it matters where you get your information. Good enough isn't good enough for you. That's where libraries can help."

Denise Upah Mills, an entrepreneur who keeps her local Johnson County Library on speed dial, camped out there for nearly eight months while crafting a business plan.

She was convinced there was a need for a rural high-speed Internet service -- it was 1999, still the early days in terms of the high-speed Web -- but didn't know the first thing about broadband. So, with the business librarians' help, she and her partners tapped databases and other resources for statistical data, demographics of Midwestern cities, and articles on trends in the telecommunications industry.

"The librarians there became our market-research department," says Ms. Upah Mills. "They became part of our unpaid staff and truly were invaluable. We wrote a business plan that was so complete and detailed that it impressed people that look at business plans all day long. That data was [all culled at] the library. And we paid zero for it."

A small investment-banking firm found investors for them, and, in 2001, they sold the company, Invisiband, for a "comfortable sum," she says. After closing the deal, she and her partners met in the library parking lot to celebrate.

While resources will vary across institutions, most libraries subscribe to a number of commercial databases, which can cost thousands of dollars a year. For instance, ReferenceUSA, a database with information on millions of businesses and households, coupled with census data and a lifestyle database, can make a powerful market-research tool. Entrepreneurs can find, for example, how many pet stores are in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they're located, residents' income levels, and whether they tend to own dogs.

One entrepreneur, who created a motorcycle-detailing kit, used a database of manufacturers to find motorcycle dealerships he wanted to target; then, he looked up their credit ratings, and created a mailing list targeting only those with the best scores.

"Putting that kind of information together can help people make more knowledgeable decisions," says Susan Phillis, director of the Brooklyn Public Library's Business Library.

Library patrons also have remote access to materials -- including a limited number of databases -- from their library Web sites. In fact, many list links to other sites and directories they have vetted and found particularly useful.

Many libraries are trying to attract entrepreneurs by adding classes and networking opportunities geared to the small-business person, as well as partnering with more local economic-development agencies and organizations like Score, a volunteer group of retired executives that meet with and counsel entrepreneurs. In fact, some Score executives also offer seminars, such as how to use QuickBooks, or the basics on franchising, adds Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association.

A few years back, George Constantinou, then an aspiring restaurateur, attended the Brooklyn Business Library's entrepreneurial fair and learned about the library's annual business-plan competition. Sponsored by Citigroup Foundation, entrants attend classes on topics like creating a business plan, budgeting and marketing and then submit a plan. In late 2003, Mr. Constantinou and his partner, Farid Ali, who spent hours at the library mining databases, took home the top prize: $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in services.

"It was a great experience for us,'' says Mr. Constantinou, whose Brooklyn restaurant, Bogota Latin Bistro, is flourishing. "The library was really a one-stop shop for me to do research and write my business plan."

Since opening its doors 10 years ago, the Science, Industry and Business Library, or SIBL, part of the New York Public Library in Manhattan (nypl.org1), says it has trained 64,000 people through its 20 free classes, where topics range from patents and trademarks to creating customized lists.

"Increasingly, what [libraries are] not only putting people in touch with information on the Web or information that is in books, but they're bringing experts to talk face-to-face with people," says Kristin McDonough, director of SIBL.
Is there a dark side to optimism? Yes, according to the new book "Pessimism" from Princeton University Press:

"Optimism is to time what metaphysics is to space. It projects perfection elsewhere or, more properly, elsewhen. It teaches one to despise the here and now, which ultimately means to despise oneself. Most philosophy today, on the Left and the Right, considers itself to be postmetaphysical— that is, it abstains from condemning what exists from the standpoint of a transcendental realm of perfection. But if Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the origin of metaphysics in ressentiment is correct, optimism must be understood as one more refuge for the tendency to revenge and self-hatred that authorized metaphysics. “The future,” Camus wrote, “is the only transcendental value for men without God” (R 166). Finally it is optimism, rather than pessimism, which is best understood as a negative emotion or disposition (resentment of the present or of time itself). The realm of perfection metaphysical philosophies projected onto a transcendent plane is projected by optimistic philosophies onto an ever-receding future. If we understand the move to postmetaphysical philosophy as a reflection of our growing humanism, we cannot consider this humanism complete until our thinking is postoptimistic as well—beyond the “idolatry of tomorrow,” as Cioran called it (FT 47). This is the path the pessimistic tradition has quietly explored for the last 250 years."

Monday, August 28, 2006

The best & brightest will converge at Bixpo.

Will you join us for this?

From business pioneers to stately leaders, this year's elite lineup will inspire & energize you. Not only are the speakers great business developers, they’re leaders who bring about change in themselves and others. Get a first-hand lesson on what it takes to be successful in your own business and life.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2006
Ralph Trombetta
Ralph G. Trombetta is a senior blue ocean strategy expert in Professors Kim and Mauborgne’s Value Innovation Network, a management educator, and the Founder and Managing Partner of Value Innovation Associates. He is an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University (NYC) and Fellow at Baldwin-Wallace College’s Growth and Innovation Center (Cleveland).

Trombetta lectures and conducts workshops on the Blue Ocean Strategy. Blue Ocean Strategy was created by Professors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne from the business school INSEAD. Blue Ocean Strategy is based on their study of 150 strategic marketing moves spanning more than 100 years and 30 industries.

Lucinda Yates
In the early 1980s, due to the pain of divorce and financial setbacks, Lucinda and her young daughter found themselves homeless, living day to day. Lucinda changed these conditions by digging deep into her spirit and was able to find a home and rebuild a life. These experiences made her who she is today and brought her to a business model beyond what anyone would ever dream. Lucinda, a jewelry designer, created a pin that was a simple, geometric representation of a house. She decided the pin would be a fund raiser for The Preble Street Resource Center, a community Breakfast Program in Portland, Maine. The pin was a success she established a company with a conscience, Designs By Lucinda – the company now has a line of 11 theme-based fund raising pins, international distribution and a growing workforce of more than 50 people.

Lisa Ford
Lisa Ford is the author of How to Give Exceptional Customer Service, the #1 selling business videotape series for the last three years in the U.S. She is also the author of Developing A Customer Retention Program and the co-author of Building a Customer- Driven Organization: The Manager’s Role video and audiotapes. Ford specializes in the field of customer service, including customer retention and managing, hiring, and training for service excellence. Audiences love her energy, enthusiasm, humor, practical techniques, and common sense message. Lisa designs content personalized to the audience and issues they face. She has also customized numerous videos for clients to use in their ongoing education efforts. Lisa’s experience includes working with Pfizer, Viacom, Edward Jones, CSX, Kaiser Permanente, Morton’s of Chicago, Citgo, American Gas Association, American Diabetes Association and American Veterinary Medical Association.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2006
Terry ”Moose” Millard
Exploring the edge of the performance envelope has been part of Terry “Moose” Millard’s life since he earned his pilot license at age 15. That is when he discovered that if you love what you do, hard work can be fun—and fun fuels productivity. “Moose” believes that just as professional pilots must understand the performance envelope of their aircraft and crew, great leaders must understand the performance envelope of their organization and people. That understanding is crucial to achieving maximum performance without running out of fuel. After 40 years of study and experience as a leadership and service practitioner, “Moose” knows how it feels to “be there,” and “what works” to get you there.
Moose” uses his personal experience at Southwest Airlines and his inside knowledge of the company and its leaders to illustrate how Southwest created a customer-crazed culture that continually WOWS consumers by encouraging employees to “do the right thing.” Through his own humor and passion for excellence, “Moose” will share the story of what has made this company so successful for so long in such a competitive industry.

Stephen Levitt
Author of “Freakonomics”
When mild-mannered economist Steven D. Levitt published a paper linking a rise in abortion to a drop in crime, it set off a firestorm of controversy and had both the conservatives and liberals up in arms. But Levitt has no political agenda and is the last person to be called a moralist. What he is, is a brilliant but uncomplicated man who uses simple questions to reach startling conclusions.

A 37-year old self-effacing Midwestern father of four, Levitt has an enormous curiosity and is set on course by personal experiences and the incongruities he sees in everyday life. He is an intuitionist. He sifts through a pile of data to find an unknown story and devises ways to measure an effect that veteran economists have declared immeasurable. He has shown other economists just how well their tools can make sense of the real world.

Plus many many businesses will be exhibiting, including the IDEA Cafe/ Franklin Circles. Don't miss this event. It's a bit of a drive from Denver, but well worth it. For more info and to register, go to I hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers
The Pew Internet & American Life Project
July 2006

A telephone survey of a nationally-representative sample of bloggers, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, has found that blogging is inspiring a new group of writers and creators to share their voices with the world. Some 54 percent of bloggers say that they have never published their writing or media creations anywhere else; 44 percent say they have published elsewhere. While generally youthful, these writers otherwise represent a broad demographic spectrum of people who cite a variety of topics and motives for their blogging.

Eight percent of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog. Thirty-nine percent of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs – a significant increase since the fall of 2005.