Monday, October 30, 2006

Andy Andrews lived a relatively normal life until the age of 19. It was then that both his parents died—his mother from cancer, his father in an automobile accident. Within a span of several years, the young man found himself literally homeless, sleeping occasionally under a pier on the gulf coast or in someone’s garage.

It was at that time Andrews asked a profound question that would alter his own life, and ultimately affect millions of people: “Is life just a lottery ticket or are there choices one can make to direct his future?” Andrews read more than two hundred biographies of great men and women, and decided to put characteristics used by famous individuals into effect to change his life.

I'm reading his book The Traveler's Gift--Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, and finding it very helpful.

This is a reader review from Amazon:

Not a read for the shallow thinker.., July 9, 2006
Reviewer: RJ "ledog3" (snohomish WA) -

If this is one of those books that some physcology teacher "assigns" you to read for a later book report, forget it. Put the book back and drop the class. It's just doesnt fall into that kind of catagory. This book is an extension of that old saying "You make you're own bed, so sleep in it".

If you're not a deep thinker and don't consider spirituality (I don't neccessarily mean religion, so chill) anything more than a magic act, then don't bother picking Andys book up. Its not you or for you. Having said all that, I liked it. It had some solid words (the 7 decisions thing) to live by that are not anything more than you already know in your own gut. He just brings it all to the surface a bit so you can digest the meaning and perhaps try it yourself. I cant call it a self help book. I've read several of those and most of them get thrown out with last nites pizza box. This is a simple, short page turner that you could knock out in a couple of evenings. No big words or long speeches. But dont read it that quick. Do a couple of chapters then put it down for a day or two.

He uses the "time travel" vehicle as nothing more than an example for you to hold on to while the message is getting told. Yes, we all know time travel likely doesnt exist. Thanks for the reminder. So many of the early reviewers must have just got through reading The Davinci Code or something. Exactly what were you expecting, a bottle of fix-it pills with each copy?? If you're looking for a little refill of your already learned life lessons and what they should mean to you and others, this book is great. Its not about what you did wrong. Its about what happens now and later. This is not a review of YOU birth-to-presentday. Its not a textbook, or like I said, a self help book. Its not religious or anything like that. No thee's thou's or thou arts. You're not getting brainwashed and they dont ask you to send money to a P.O. Box in Florida at the end of the book... Its written for those of us living in the western world who can't seem to believe in ANYTHING without seeing it, smelling it or touching it or having an unretouched digital internet image as proof of existence. Its just a little bit of walk-around enlightenment for your every day use. So go deep. You can't lose here. The book only costs 10 bucks and I got mine on sale.
As the midterm campaign enters the homestretch, the GOP congressional juggernaut that has dominated national politics for more than a decade may be over. Polls show Democrats extending their leads in pivotal races across the country. But the man largely responsible for the Republicans' glory days — and arguably still the most powerful political operative in the United States — is far from discouraged.

Instead, (Karl) Rove is giving a virtuoso performance designed to prevent the Democrats from taking control of the House and Senate or, if that is no longer possible, to hold down the size of the Democratic victory to make it easier for the GOP to come back in 2008. His plan is three-pronged: to reenergize any conservatives who may be flagging; to make sure the GOP's carefully constructed campaign apparatus is functioning at peak efficiency; and to put the resources of the federal government to use for political gain.,0,440699.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"It wasn't courage it was stupidity. You have to be so dumb you that you say, 'let's just do it, maybe it will work out.'" Neil Simon on CBS Sunday Morning.
I've twice come close to starting startups since Viaweb, and both times I bailed because I realized that without the spur of poverty I just wasn't willing to endure the stress of a startup. Paul Graham, founder of Yahoo.
This is a week to note our solidarity with all the dead (on Thursday 2nd), the saints (on Wednesday the 1st), the uncanonised and maybe the accursed. We are one human family. St Matthew, listing the pedigree of Jesus, draws attention to the harlot Rahab and the adulterous David and Tamar. What mixture of DNA is in my makeup, linking me perhaps to farmers, poets, kings, rapists, the violent or the victims? This is the makeup in which I work out my way to God. I inherited it, I did not choose it. But like a good card-player, I can make much or little of the hand I am dealt. Lord, how am I doing? Help me to improve my play.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On this date in 1919 Congress enacted the Volstead Act, which provided for enforcement of Prohibition, over President Woodrow Wilson's veto.
New criteria for Idealab businesses:

A few weeks ago, Google announced that it planned to install a large solar energy system on the roof of its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. “Green tech” is all the rage right now in Silicon Valley, with venture money pouring into environmental start-ups, and hip technology companies falling all over themselves to show their earth-friendly bona fides.

But that’s not why the Google announcement caught my eye. No, what intrigued me was the company that was building its solar system: EI Solutions, a division of Energy Innovations. And Energy Innovations is — are you sitting down for this? — an Idealab company.

Idealab? The original “Internet incubator” founded in the mid-1990s by the charismatic, hyperkinetic Bill Gross? The one that flew so high during the Internet bubble — with companies like eToys and and — only to crash and burn once boom turned to bust? The one that was sued in 2002 by some of its most high-profile investors, including T. Rowe Price, which asserted that its money had been misused and wanted it back? Yes, that Idealab.

We haven’t heard much about Internet incubators lately — and with good reason. Many of them no longer exist. Several that went public during the boom, like CMGI, now sport anemic stock prices, and aren’t really incubators anymore. The essential business model of an incubator — that a company could exist purely to create start-up companies — is now viewed largely as bubble folly...

But Mr. Gross and Idealab, it turns out, are still very much with us. Idealab is still a company that exists to create start-ups, most of which begin life as a glimmer in Mr. Gross’s fertile brain. The companies it starts aren’t always about the Internet anymore, though some are. Mr. Gross has started a company that is making an affordable 3-D printer, which it hopes to bring to market next year. Another Idealab company sells proprietary robotics technology to supermarkets and toy companies. Yet a third,, is an Internet search engine in which advertisers pay only if customers take an action, rather than simply click to a site. (Mr. Gross is the inventor of the “paid search” idea that Google went on to perfect.)

He never lost his belief that his model of company-creation could work — if, that is, he could learn to bring his own frenetic idea-generating brain under control.

So, no longer would Idealab start a company a month. “We needed a much higher bar for the kind of companies we would create,” he said. “We needed to have protectable intellectual property. Our companies had to be in growing industries, with high margins — and protectable margins. That was something we never used to think about. EToys had great customer service, but it had no protectable intellectual property. Anybody could do it.”

And finally, Mr. Gross said, the companies he wanted to start had to be able to make a real difference in the world. You could argue, I suppose, that to make such a grandiose statement suggests that Mr. Gross and his colleagues were still afflicted with at least some of the hubris of the bubble days. But Mr. Gross argues that building a company requires so much effort, and entails heartbreak, that it just didn’t seem to be worth it unless Idealab companies were going to do something that mattered.

One of the first companies to emerge from this new focus was Energy Innovations.

From New York Times 10/28/06

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Case for Alcoholics Anonymous:
It Works Even if the Science Is Lacking
October 17, 2006; Page D1
The Wall Street Journal Online

A newly published review of addiction-treatment research delivers a verdict that is being interpreted as highly critical of the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of A.A. or (professional 12-step therapy) for reducing alcohol dependence or problems," concluded a group of Italian researchers in a July review in the prestigious Cochrane Library. The purpose of the study was to compare the efficacy of A.A. and professional treatment based on A.A. with other types of alcohol therapies and interventions. The study concluded that A.A. and A.A.-based therapies were no more or less effective than the alternatives, and that more and better studies of A.A. and 12-step therapy are needed.

News coverage was immediate. "Review Sees No Advantage to 12-Step Programs," read the headline in a national newspaper.

Could this mean that A.A., the world-wide fellowship of recovering alcoholics, doesn't work?

What it actually means is that the pursuit of evidence-based medicine sometimes produces conclusions and headlines that are misleading. That untold multitudes of problem drinkers have become abstinent after attending A.A. meetings is undisputed. Also undisputed is that anyone who follows the A.A. recommendation of abstinence will never again experience drinking problems.

The Cochrane conclusion indicates that A.A. hasn't been subjected to the gold standard of medical experiments, the double-blind randomized clinical trial. As a result, no scientific proof exists that A.A. causes its members to quit drinking, that they wouldn't quit eventually on their own or that an alternative might not work just as well.

It is hardly scandalous that A.A. hasn't undergone the most rigorous of scientific testing. Evidence-based medicine is designed to root out false marketing claims and unnecessary costs. A.A. makes no marketing claims and charges no fees. Instead of being handed scientific literature, newcomers to A.A. hear existing members tell how they used the program to get sober. Evidence-based medicine is also designed to compare treatments. An A.A. spokesman in New York says, "We're not in competition with anybody. We're not saying we're better than anybody else. We don't recruit members, and there are no dues or fees for A.A. membership."

A.A. doesn't comment on published research or public criticism, including from addiction specialists or other treatment providers who might view A.A. as competition. This no-comment policy makes A.A. an easy target. A Penn & Teller documentary, televised in 2004 and viewable on the Web, characterizes A.A. as a marketing and financial fraud -- without mentioning that A.A. charges no fees. Subsisting on the sale of literature and donations, A.A. is a nonprofit that in 2005 reported total revenue of $13.2 million and total expenses of $12.9 million.

Many problem drinkers quit with no help. And for those who fail at that, differing addiction treatments tend to succeed at similar rates.

Founded in 1935, A.A. is a decentralized collection of nearly 53,000 groups in the U.S. alone, each autonomous and without any membership list, which would make difficult any effort to conduct a double-blind randomized clinical trial. Such a trial could raise ethical questions if, for instance, a newcomer were steered to an alternative treatment -- including possibly a control group receiving no treatment at all.

A multitude of studies show that A.A. attendance is associated with reduced drinking and higher social functioning. Addiction specialists say these benefits likely apply to newer self-help groups such as Smart Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety and Women for Sobriety.

Unlike randomized clinical trials, associative studies don't prove cause, but are often treated as powerful evidence. For example, although no studies prove that moderate drinking enhances health, a wealth of highly publicized data show that a drink or two a day is associated with reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, among other benefits.

Questions about the efficacy of A.A. arise in part because the treatment industry often immerses its patients -- at a cost -- in the same 12 steps that A.A. introduces free. If professionals are charging for what amounts to an introduction to the A.A. model, experts say, there ought to be evidence of efficacy.

Some experts say the demand for efficacy data on A.A. reflects disbelief among professional therapists that their services are no more effective than a fellowship of recovering drunks. But Marica Ferri, lead author of the Cochrane study, says, "I do not distrust A.A."

Following professional therapy of any sort, A.A. attendance is associated with better outcomes, studies have shown. A year-2000 Journal of Studies on Alcohol study of 466 problem drinkers found that for those who attended A.A. following professional treatment, the three-year abstinence rate doubled, to more than 50%.

Professional therapy is often necessary because it gives the patient a chance to speak in private, and because it allows for the diagnosis of co-existing disorders such as depression and anxiety, which are common in alcoholics, particularly women.

Write to Kevin Helliker at kevin.helliker@wsj.com1

URL for this article:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Barack Obama is a phenomena, we can all agree on that. David Brooks puts his finger on why in his insightful column today. In this election, and probably in 2008, it just doesn't make sense for politicians who want to win an election to brand themselves as a liberal or a conservative, no matter what Rush Limbaugh advises.

Jimmy Carter was elected because he held out the hope of a new way. Obama is doing the same thing; who is the Republican that can beat him?

The Era of What’s Next
New York Times
Wooster, Ohio

Sometimes liberalism is dominant and sometimes conservatism is dominant, but sometimes there is no dominant ideology.

Between 1932 and 1968, liberalism dominated American politics. The big accomplishments were liberal accomplishments — Social Security, Medicare, the civil rights movement. Even if Republicans sometimes held the White House, the general drift of things was still to the left.

Between 1980 and 2006, conservatism was dominant. The big accomplishments were conservative accomplishments — the defeat of communism, the reinvigoration of the economy through deregulation, tax reform and monetarism, the rebalancing of the culture to emphasize family, work and individual responsibility. Even if Democrats sometimes held the White House, the general drift of things was to the right.

But in some eras there is no dominant political tendency. The 1970’s were such a period. That decade was marked not by a change in political winds so much as by disillusionment and a scrambling of political categories. People who once had been liberals drifted away. Voters became cynical about politics itself. The pendulum swung not only from left to right but from politics to antipolitics. Jimmy Carter promised a break from the normal methods of political life.

We’re about to enter another of those periods without a dominant ideology. It’s clear that this election will mark the end of conservative dominance. This election is a period, not a comma in political history.

That’s clear not only because Republicans could lose their majorities, but for several other reasons. First, conservatives have exhausted their agenda. They have little new left to propose and have lost their edge on issues like fiscal discipline and foreign policy. Second, conservatives are beset by scandals, the kind of institutional decay that afflicts movements at the end of their political lives. Third, the Reagan coalition is splintering, with the factions going off in wildly different directions.

Fourth, there is no viable orthodox conservative candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Orthodox conservatives like Allen, Frist and Santorum are fading, and only heterodox figures like McCain, Giuliani and Romney are rising.

If you look at the political landscape, identification with the Republican Party is falling but identification with the Democratic Party is not rising. Instead, there is a spike in the number of people who do not identify with either. People correctly perceive that neither party has a coherent agenda this year.

In the near term, the candidates who thrive will be those who offer a new way of politics. This might be the maverick independence of McCain, or the ostentatiously deliberative style of Obama, or it could be the manner of somebody whom none of us are even thinking about. Candidates who seem conventional will have a tough time. This includes Hillary Clinton.

Process issues will come to the fore, issues that have to do with the way politics is conducted. So will issues of character and decision-making style. George Bush’s secretive and declarative method will soon seem archaic — like the silent picture acting style in the age of sound. Instead, voters will look for candidates as interactive as the technology around them.

The center of political gravity will shift. In the liberal era, the urban Northeast dominated the landscape. In the conservative era, it was in the South and in bedroom communities like those in Southern California. In the coming era, the center of gravity will move to the West and the Midwestern plains, and to the pragmatic, untethered office park suburbs sprouting up there.

The people who will be most important are those who can most precisely identify the new era’s defining problems. The first is the continuing rise of Islamic fundamentalism. It’s clear the categories of the nation-state era — rollback and containment — are not working to reverse extremism, but what will? The second big problem is entitlement spending and the stultification of government.

The third challenge is the emergence of China and India — seizing the opportunities afforded by those new workers, mitigating the pain associated with tougher competition and managing the fiscal imbalances. The fourth is the growing importance of cognitive skills and cultural capital, the need to surround people, especially children, with stable relationships if they are to flourish.

One party will become distracted by passing squalls, but the other will focus on those issues. Then, a new period of dominance will begin.

Motto for IDEA Cafe/ Franklin Circles:
"Rooted in Christ, Accomplish" from today's
lectionary reading, Eph 3:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Barack Obama

Coming from my own perspective, I should note that I disagree with many of Obama’s notions and could well end up agreeing more with one of his opponents. But anyone who’s observed him closely can see that Obama is a new kind of politician. As Klein once observed, he’s that rarest of creatures: a megahyped phenomenon that lives up to the hype.

It may not be personally convenient for him, but the times will never again so completely require the gifts that he possesses. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, you should hope Barack Obama runs for president.

David Brooks in today's New York Times

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Need money? Need contacts?

For information about the Rockies Venture Club's
Fall Finance Forum, see
It is being held 1 p.m. Tuesday, November 14 here in Denver.

Four entrepreneurs will have their business plans critiqued
by venture capitalists; learn how to get money to take your
business to the next level.

I'll have a booth, looking for people who would like to be in our
next Franklin Circle. RVC's Forums are the best networking events
in Denver, in my opinion. Stop by and say hi.

Also, we still have a couple of seats open for the next Denver
IDEA Cafe Meetup. Please come if you want to learn more about
the startup process as you start a new project, a new business,
or a new career. Please don't come just to network.

Please let me know if you'd be interested in being part of the
new Franklin Circles that are now forming for entrepreneurs,
small business owners, and managers.

Please forward this page along to your friends or associates
who are starting a project, a new career, or a new business. They will
thank you, and so will I if you copy me when you forward to them.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

How I'm voting on the issues being put before we
voters in this election:

State Questions
No on Amendment 38: Petitions.
No on Amendment 39: School District Spending Requirements.
Yes on Amendment 40: Term Limits for Judges.
No on Amendment 41: New "ethics in government" bureaucracy. Just enforce existing laws.
No on Amendment 42: Colorado Minimum Wage.
Yes on Amendment 43: Marriage.
No on Amendment 44: Marijuana Possession.
Yes on Referendum E: Property Tax Deduction for Disabled Vets.
Yes on Referendum F: Recall Deadlines.
Yes on Referendum G: Obsolete Constitutional Provisions.
Yes on Referendum H: Limiting a State Business Income Tax Deduction.
No on Referendum I: Domestic Partnerships.
No on Referendum J: School District Spending Requirements.
No on Referendum K: Immigration Lawsuit Against Federal Government.

Denver Questions
No on 1A: New Preschool Bureaucracy (just make the Denver School Board P-12.)
No on 2A: New Financial Bureaucracy (only makes sense if we get rid of the City Auditor & all of his staff and office overhead.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Whenever guilt is used as a tool to get people to do anything—good, bad, indifferent—it's bullying. And then there's manipulative language—to talk people into programs, to get them involved, usually by promising them something.

I have a friend who is an expert at this sort of thing. He's always saying, "You've got to identify people's felt needs. Then you construct a program to meet the felt needs." It's pretty easy to manipulate people. We're so used to being manipulated by the image industry, the publicity industry, and the politicians that we hardly know we're being manipulated.

This impatience to leave the methods of Jesus in order to get the work of Jesus done is what destroys spirituality, because we're using a non-biblical, non-Jesus way to do what Jesus did. That's why spirituality is in such a mess as it is today...

Something backfires on you when you're impatient. How do we meet the need? Do we do it in Jesus' way or do we do it the Wal-Mart way?

Spirituality is not about ends or benefits or things; it's about means. It's about how you do this. How do you live in reality?

So, how do you help all these people? The needs are huge. Well, you do it the way Jesus did it. You do it one at a time. You can't do gospel work, kingdom work in an impersonal way.

We live in the Trinity. Everything we do has to be in the context of the Trinity, which means personally, relationally. The minute you start doing things impersonally, functionally, mass oriented, you deny the gospel. Yet that's all we do.

Jesus is the Truth and the Life, but first he's the Way. We can't do Jesus' work in the Devil's way.

Eugene H. Peterson in Christianity Today

The Lord's Prayer in Peterson's The Message-- The Bible in Contemporary Language

Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

Ask and you'll get;
Seek and you'll find;
Knock and the door will open.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Starting a business: What it takes
Updated 8/1/2006 11:55 AM ET
What attributes suggest someone's a good candidate to start their own business?
A college degree doesn't hurt — though dropping out didn't stop Bill Gates from launching the world's biggest software maker. Being rich would solve the problem of start-up financing — yet Sam Walton got his start in business on not much more than a wing and a prayer.

There are no definitive answers, but the entrepreneurs, private investors and academics USA TODAY's Jim Hopkins talked with suggested these experiences, traits and skills.

Childhood experience

You didn't rely on allowances and other handouts from your parents for spending money when you were young. You set up a weekend lawn-mowing business — and hired friends to work for you. Or you franchised your lawn-mowing service idea to other kids in the neighborhood. "It's very common for adult entrepreneurs to be those who started lemonade stands or went house-to-house trying to make money when they were children," says Leann Mischel, a management professor and entrepreneur at Susquehanna University's Sigmund Weis School of Business.

Entrepreneurial genes

SMALL BUSINESS CONECTION: Tips and tricks for the entrepreneurial mind

In the nurture vs. nature debate, there's new research showing that the drive to start companies may be genetic. Researchers compared self-employment among 609 pairs of identical twins and 657 pairs of fraternal twins in the United Kingdom. They found that nearly half — 48% — of an individual's tendency to be self-employed is genetic. For example, genes leading someone to be extroverted are key to salesmanship — a vital trait among entrepreneurs, says Scott Shane, an entrepreneurship professor at Case Western Reserve University and one of the study's authors. There's also evidence people with dyslexia are more likely to become entrepreneurs. London's Cass Business School says entrepreneurs in a study of 215 managers were five times as likely as corporate managers to have dyslexia. Why? Dyslexia forces people to hunt for creative ways to steer through life. Famous entrepreneurs with dyslexia include discount stockbroker Charles Schwab and Virgin's Richard Branson.

Family support

Prepare for crazy-long hours, including weekends, during a company's start-up phase — a work load that's also taxing for an entrepreneur's family. And vacations? What are those? About two-thirds of small-business owners said they planned to take a vacation of a week or more this summer, but more than half planned to check in with their companies at least once daily, American Express found in a survey. "Starting a business can require 80-to-100-hour weeks," Mark Ciavarella, an assistant management professor at Bucknell University, said in an e-mail. "Many spouses/partners don't understand this and won't tolerate it." As start-up adviser Ralph Sherman of Createabank near Detroit said, you know you're an entrepreneur when "your family has been looking for your picture on a milk carton."

Money doesn't motivate

Two of the USA's most famous entrepreneurs — Bill Gates at Microsoft and Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway — are also the two richest Americans. But they were driven to create great companies, not just huge fortunes. Indeed, Gates and Buffett are combining their riches to create a $60 billion philanthropic powerhouse in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Entrepreneurs are much more interested in 'wealth' rather than 'riches,' " says Scott Laughlin, director of the University of Maryland's tech entrepreneurship program. Riches are piles of money, he says; wealth is broader, encompassing less-tangible rewards such as respect and independence. So, would-be entrepreneurs need to examine how they expect to be rewarded. "If the compensation is just cash," Laughlin says, "then the practice of entrepreneurship will not be very rewarding."


You don't just think you've built a better mousetrap — you feel it in your gut, and know the world will be much better if only you can get your idea to market. "When something is important to you, then you know it with your heart as well as your brain," says Bob Barbato, a management and entrepreneurship professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. "You infect others with your passion, and they believe in you."

The flip side of passion is impatience with other people's ideas, says Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises, which helps start-ups led by women find investors. The would-be entrepreneur's attitude, Millman says: "I know what I want to do, and I know how to do it." Conventional wisdom 20 years ago said a black woman from rural Mississippi would have a tough time launching a career as a TV host on even the lowest-rated show. But one such woman went to launch her own company, Harpo Productions. And now, Oprah Winfrey is one of TV's biggest stars, ruling over an estimated $1.4 billion fortune.


As passionate as entrepreneurs must be to drive start-ups forward, they also know when to cut losses. "Know when to give up on an idea," says Lou Marino, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. "Not every idea an entrepreneur has is going to be a home run." Giving up doesn't necessarily mean the business idea was bad. Instead, it might be the right idea at the wrong time — as was the case with thousands of dot-coms launched in the late 1990s before household high-speed Internet access became widespread, making viable all the offerings those dot-coms hoped to sell.


You know start-up success isn't guaranteed. Still, you don't flinch at the thought of betting your severance pay or retirement savings on self-employment. Would-be entrepreneurs are calculated risk-takers — like world-class mountaineers, says Vineet Buch, a principal at venture-capital firm BlueRun Ventures in Silicon Valley's Menlo Park. "They hammer in protection on the way to the top, but don't let the thought of falling slow their steps as the slope gets steeper and narrower," he says. "True entrepreneurs strive to control risk while still thriving on it." Martha Stewart risked leaving the safety net of publishing giant Time in 1996 to launch her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She successfully took that company public, becoming one of the world's most famous entrepreneurs.

Strong ethics

Start-ups depend heavily on good first impressions when entrepreneurs hire employees, court investors and line up customers. In a hyper-competitive economy, any whiff of dishonesty can deep-six a new enterprise. Penn State University's Anthony Warren, who advises venture capitalists, says honesty and trustworthiness are high on the list of attributes he looks for when he considers recommending a venture to potential investors. "Who wants to be in business with someone you cannot fully trust, especially in the start-up phase where the stress levels are high?" says Warren, director of the school's Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, famously created a "don't be evil" mantra when they took their online search giant public.

Tech ease

Feeling comfortable with technology is crucial, because computers, software and other gadgets are key to launching a business in the fastest-growing economy, the service sector. Start-up costs there have plummeted as prices fell for powerful computers and software. Those lower prices came as the Internet let entrepreneurs tap global markets for engineering, accounting and other services. Setting up a small office with a laptop, fax machine, cellphone and other gizmos costs as little as $5,000. Add a professional-looking website for $500 or so, and you can compete with bigger, more established companies. But you can't take advantage of those lower costs if you aren't comfortable using popular word-processing, database, spreadsheet and presentation programs.


Sometimes the best business ideas fail to take hold — not because there isn't demand, but because the start-up was undercapitalized, or the entrepreneur lacked management know-how or simply gave up too soon. "If you really believe in it, you keep fighting for it," says Earl "Butch" Graves, president and CEO of Black Enterprise, the magazine founded by his father, Earl Sr. One-third of new small employers fail within two years; and 56% are toast after four years, says the Small Business Administration. About 672,000 small employers launched last year — but 545,000 others closed, the SBA says. A nobody entrepreneur who started a variety store in Arkansas in 1945 eventually lost the business when his landlord wouldn't renew his lease. But he didn't give up. "I've never been one to dwell on reverses," Sam Walton recalled in his autobiography, "and I didn't do so then." The company he fought to start, Wal-Mart, is now the USA's biggest private employer, with more than 1.3 million workers.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Big Ideas and No Boundaries
New York Times

My rabbi told this joke on Yom Kippur: At the front of the lunch line at a parochial school was a bowl of apples with a sign that read: “Take only one. God is watching.” At the end of the lunch line, after the entrees, was a bowl of cookies, where a student had put up a sign: “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”

Somehow that joke reminds me of the debate about free trade in America today. Right now, with the Republicans in charge, free trade is secure. Yet, while everyone is watching the front of the line, out back in the country, an erosion of support for free trade is under way. The “Doha” trade talks have stalled, because of opposition by U.S. farmers, and the White House’s “fast-track” authority to negotiate free trade agreements expires soon. With protectionist-leaning Democrats likely to take the House or Senate, any new free-trade accords will probably be stalled.

I hope Democrats won’t go this route. I’ve always believed in free trade, accompanied by better pension and health care safety nets. But I’m not a free trader anymore. I’m now a radical free trader. Why? Because in this new era of globalization, so many people now have the communication and innovation tools to compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. As a result, business rule No. 1 today is: Whatever can be done will be done by someone, somewhere. The only question is whether it will be done by you or to you. In such a world, the way our society flourishes is by being as educated, open and flexible as possible, so more of our people can do whatever can be done first. It matters that Google was invented here.

“That society which has the least resistance to the uninterrupted flow of ideas, diversity, concepts and competitive signals wins,” says Nandan Nilekani, C.E.O. of the Indian tech giant Infosys. “And the society that has the efficiencies to translate whatever can be done quickly — from idea to market — also wins.”

The old left thinks free trade is something that benefits only multinationals. In fact, it is now critical for small businesses and individuals, who can now act multinationally. They are the ones who create good jobs.

Last week, I was in Nebraska, where I met Doug Palmer. He and his partner, Pat Boeshart, make insulated concrete forms for buildings. The traditional way to insulate concrete with foam is to make the foam and then truck it around the country to building sites to be attached to concrete. Mr. Palmer’s company, Lite-Form, found a Korean machine that, when combined with devices added by his firm, can make the foam and concrete together on site, saving big dollars in trucking. Today, Mr. Palmer’s South Sioux City company imports these machines from Korea, attaches its devices and exports them to Kuwait. His company has an Arabic brochure that tells Kuwaitis how to use the device. The brochure was produced by a local ad agency owned by the Winnebago Indian tribe of Nebraska. The agency was started by the tribe’s economic development corporation. Midwest Indians publishing Arabic brochures for Nebraskans importing from Koreans for customers in Kuwait ...

“Protectionism scares me,” said Mr. Palmer, who has 28 employees. “If we put up a moat and keep doing what we’re doing, thinking we’re the smartest in the world, we’re going to die. We have to have that flexibility to barter and trade.”

A few days later, in Silicon Valley, I met Arijit Sengupta, a young Indian-American educated at Stanford, whose company, “BeyondCore,” developed a software algorithm able to detect and reduce errors in outsourced back-office work. When I met Mr. Sengupta, he handed me a card with his logo, which, he explained, was designed by a graphic artist he found online in Romania. His database and Web server are freeware, and he has outsourced his marketing, sales support and patent filings to Indian firms. When I asked, “Where’s your office?” he held up his BlackBerry, which takes calls forwarded from numbers in India, Boston and Palo Alto. He and his seven workers already have one Fortune 500 client.

“When I started this company I never had to think about geography,” he said. “All I had to think about was: Where was the best resource to get something done. ... What you need are the big ideas. That is the tough thing to come up with.”

The way you keep good jobs in this country is not by building big walls, but by attracting people with big ideas — and then giving them the freedom to do whatever can be done with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Ten Good Reasons Not To Buy A Franchise
Nolo 10.02.06, Forbes Online

1. Questionable profitability. Most franchisers do not provide much information to potential franchisees regarding earnings possibilities, making it difficult to assess how lucrative investment in the company could be. Even the franchisers who do supply this information usually give only average sales figures and profits before expenses are deducted, numbers that aren’t very helpful when trying to determine if your individual franchise will be successful.

2. High startup costs. Before opening your franchise, you may be required to pay a nonrefundable initial franchise fee, which can cost from several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars. In addition to the initial fee, there are also usually high startup costs associated with furnishing your franchise with the necessary inventory and equipment. It can easily take several years to recoup the expenses connected with getting your franchise off the ground.

3. Encroachment. Imagine the following scenario: You have just spent thousands of dollars opening your own GasMart station when another GasMart station opens across the street, essentially cutting your customer base in half. This type of thing happens to franchisees all the time, as nearly every franchiser reserves the right to operate anywhere he or she wants.

4. Lack of legal recourse. As a franchisee, there is little legal recourse that you can take if you are wronged by the franchiser. Most franchisers make franchisees sign agreements waiving his or her rights under applicable federal and state law, and some agreements contain provisions allowing the franchiser to choose the venue and the law under which any dispute would be litigated. Shamefully, the Federal Trade Commission, which is supposed to regulate fairness in franchising, investigates less than 6% of the franchise-related complaints it receives.

5. Limited independence. When you buy a franchise, you are not just buying the right to use the franchiser’s name. You are buying its business plan as well. As a result, most franchisers impose price, appearance and design standards on franchisees, limiting the ways you can operate the franchise. While these regulations can help promote uniformity, they can also be stifling to franchisees who feel they could run the business more effectively their own way.

6. Royalty payments. Franchisees are generally required to make continuing royalty payments to the franchiser each month based on a percentage of his or her franchise’s sales, eating into the franchisee’s net profits.

7. Inflated pricing on supplies. In many cases, the franchiser can designate your franchise’s supplier of goods and services. Franchisers argue that this is done to maintain quality control, but almost all franchisers receive kickbacks from the vendors. By not allowing you to shop around and subsequently limiting competition, you are forced to pay higher prices on supplies.

8. Restrictions on post-term competition. Let’s say that you decide to purchase a McDonald’s, but after a couple of years you determine that you could run a higher-quality, more profitable burger joint on your own. Unfortunately, due to noncompetition clauses built into almost every franchise agreement, franchisees are not allowed to become independent business owners in a similar business after termination of the franchise agreement. By purchasing a franchise, you may be unwittingly limiting your business opportunities for years after the expiration of your contract.

9. Advertising fees. Many franchisees are obligated to make regular contributions to the franchiser’s advertising fund. Franchisers maintain broad discretion over how to administer the advertising fund, and the money you contribute does not necessarily need to be used to target your specific franchise. In a case against Meineke Discount Muffler Shops, for example, it was discovered that Meineke was using the advertising fund for costs wholly separate from advertising, yet the case was ruled in Meineke’s favor under a verdict that stated that the franchiser has no fiduciary duty to its franchisees!

10. Unfair termination. Even the slightest impropriety on your part, such as being late on a royalty payment or violating the franchise’s standard operating procedure, can be cause for the franchiser to terminate your agreement. While most franchisers are not this strict, the possibility of losing your entire investment for being late on a payment is a scary thought.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Denver IDEA Cafe Meetup in News:

Freelance writer Sonya Simpkins visited our last
Denver IDEA Cafe Meetup. Her article about her
experience is in today's (Tuesday, Oct 3) DDN:"

Please RSVP today if you want to join us for our
next meeting, and/or forward this along to your
friends and associates who might find it helpful.

New Book about Business Creativity:

MAVERICKS AT WORK--WHY THE MOST ORIGINAL MINDS IN BUSINESS WIN has just been published. Author William C. Taylor will be at the new Colfax Tattered Cover this Wednesday at noon. "We will consider 'Mavericks at Work' a success if it opens your eyes, engages your imagination, and encourages you to think bigger and aim higher...We will measure our success by how much we contribute to yours."

I'll give a free copy of the book to the first person to email me at agreeing to attend Wednesday and get my copy signed (I can't make it, being installed as the new President of the Denver South Optimist Club.)

New Franklin Circle Now Forming:

A new Franklin Circle is starting for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and creative managers. It will meet the 4th Friday of each month from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m., let me know if you might be interested in joining us.

Bloggers Block

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on my blog I'm going to keep posting from time to time because of all of your positive remarks, and because I find writing it helpful to myself--sometimes I don't know what I'm thinking until I write it down.

My intention is to do a regular, weekly or monthly summary that is funny and insightful, something that everyone really looks forward to reading each week. As a result, I have a major case of writers block. Maybe next week...

This column is in today's Denver Post:

Start your own local rag

By Jonathan Thompson

My fingers pounded on the sticky keyboard. It was 2 a.m.; I'd given up drinking coffee a few hours earlier and was now chewing coffee beans chased with chocolate chips. In less than five hours, I'd make the 50-mile drive over two high mountain passes to the printer's in Durango, fretting the whole way about what I'd left out, the mistakes I'd made and who I'd probably libeled.

It was hour 18 of yet another 20- hour preprint-day haul on the Silverton Mountain Journal, the newspaper I'd started nine months earlier. I covered San Juan County's 387 square miles, one incorporated town, fewer than 600 people and, during the six months of winter, approximately 15 potential advertisers. That's not enough to sustain one newspaper. Yet the Journal was the second paper in town, the upstart next to the Silverton Standard & the Miner, which had fought off a half-dozen other competitors during its lifetime and had survived bust after bust as gold and other hard rock mines closed.

Launching a second newspaper in Silverton was irresponsible, insane and idealistic. Why did I do it? Part of it probably had to do with romantic notions associated with being a small-town newspaper editor. Deeper down, I felt that my community, small though it was, deserved more than it was getting from the existing news outlet.

And there you have the spark behind most grassroots media startups: Someone sees a need in the community - for information, or creativity, or inspiration, or journalistic energy, or just basic truth-telling - and he or she steps in and does his best to fill it.

This happened as the West was settled, and seems to keep on happening as newer people arrive. The same month that I set up a used computer and printer in a grungy office in the former Miners Union Hospital in Silverton, four employees of the Crested Butte News walked off the job in that Colorado mountain town. Then they started a competing publication. In just about every region in the West there's at least one alternative publication available; in cyberspace, ranters and journalists are starting blogs and websites to cover left out aspects of the West's news.

These days, all it takes to launch a publication is a computer and enough cash to foot the first issue's printing bill, and even that's not necessary for a blog or website. That, and something important to say, and, of course, enough coffee to get you through saying it. Silverton had as many as three competing newspapers at a time during its mining heyday, each with its own viewpoint, printing press and printing "devils" to set lead type.

Most of these grassroots publishing efforts died early deaths. Economic capital dwindles fast when reporting comes before business interests, and creative resources peter out under the workload required to put out a weekly or even a monthly. But in a world where giant media conglomerates continually gobble up the little guys in the name of profit, even the briefest lives of grassroots media are important. If nothing else, they keep the big guys on edge: No one knows who's going to come along next ready to start a new paper. That threat, no matter how small, keeps the established press on edge, hopefully resulting in a better product.

Three years after starting the Mountain Journal, I bought the 127-year-old "mainstream" paper. But after a few more years of single-handedly producing a weekly newspaper for minuscule wages, I'd had enough. I searched in vain for someone like me to take over. Eventually, I sold my paper to a national chain that owns hundreds of other papers across the country.

"You've done this community a great injustice," a woman told me when I returned to Silverton recently. I can't blame her: Who wants the voice of their community to be controlled by outsiders who live far away? But it's not enough to just sing a dirge for the loss of independent, community-based media. People who want a local voice need to stand up and do something crazy - like starting up a newspaper of their own.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He is the paper's associate editor in Paonia.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Call them silver entrepreneurs or senior entrepreneurs or third-age entrepreneurs. They are people who do not want — or are not financially able — to idle away their retirement years and, instead, opt to start a business.

More people 55 and older seem to be rejecting the traditional model of puttering around the garden or the golf course. Many, however, have not simply hoped for a great second act, but have carefully planned their transition from lifelong careers...