Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Biz Thoughts

Mostly Random Ad Hoc Wobblings About Books

(Originally posted to Nicaragua Living)

About 2002 I joined ALDHA-West, a long-distance backpacking
organization. I don't have chops like that, really, but it was fun to
be around those who did. One of the first people I met at their annual
Gathering was Amity Ludders, a young college graduate who had just
finished an "impromptu" 1000-mile hike. Cuz she had some free time.

And I also met Roan Moak, who was then doing something with computer
networks but wanted to make stuff. Like backpacks and tents and such.
Kinda fringie, I thought. Lame old guy. Good luck, Bub.

Duh.

Turns out he's astute. Organized. Great at planning. Meticulous.

I've seen him several times since. He now has a business that he built
from the ground up that mostly runs itself, or so he's said. It costs
him around $10,000 to develop a new line and get it to manufacturing,
and then the finished products roll back to his place in Portland, and
ship from there. Highly regarded. Successful. Innovative. No-nonsense.
Six Moon Designs. (http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/)

Henry Shires, who I also met at ALDHA-West, developed a sort of skimpy
tent out of a flat tarp and some bug netting, hiked the Pacific Crest
Trail in 1999 with it, and shared his design on line.

A couple of years later he expanded the design and shared that too.
Then he lost his job in the Great Dot-Com Debacle. A bit later he
started Tarptent.com (http://www.tarptent.com/) I saw his first
production models around 2005. They were good. Half a decade later
they are much better and he's selling worldwide. People in Norway,
Germany, Finland are nuts about his tents. And everywhere else too.
Last I heard he had an employee who spent at least half a year
supervising production in China.

Seems like that's working.

I don't think I'm this bright. As these guys. After all. But have had
a few thoughts about making things and selling from Nicaragua. I've
never been there, and have never run a business, and might not be that
bright, or did I say that already? But it can be done.

I make a lot of my own backpacking clothing, and have made shelters,
and make my own packs, and if this was 1998 I'd go for it. Given that
someone in Nicaragua could pay $5 an hour for the best sewing machine
drivers and still come out ahead of Ron Moak's manufacturer in
Seattle, it could still be done. And if not for backpacking goods,
then for some other niche gear.

The relevance of all this? I'm just a little buzzed at the moment. A
little inspired. Last night I was reading, wading through the backlog
of things-to-read I've been accumulating for a while.

I skimmed through "279 Days to Overnight Success" by Chris Guillebeau.
This gave me a little tingle and set me off. Maybe this is not for me,
not to try copying him, but someone else might benefit from it. It's
about creating a unique small business. Eden Journal
(http://3.ly/M8cP) has a review. Sorry I couldn't find a better
review, but.

You can go directly to "279 Days to Overnight Success"
(http://3.ly/rUfp) and download the free PDF.

My impression?

Is OK. This was what started me thinking about Roan Moak, and his
business that "mostly runs itself", and Henry Shires. Basically, "279
Days" is about how to support yourself blogging, which can be like a
high-maintenance marriage in a low-freedom environment. I.e., can't
make it work, can't get out. But it might help someone. It works for
Chris Guillebeau, who is obviously brighter than I am, supporting
himself and all. By writing.

Which brings me to Rob Walling, whose blog
(http://www.softwarebyrob.com/) I followed for a goodly while. The
last couple of years he's gotten out of contracting and gone into,
first, setting up a few small businesses, and more recently into
selling expertise about how to do it.

I can't say that he's the world expert but he's brighter than I am
(there's a bunch of that going around), and yesterday I ordered his
book "Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a
Startup". (http://3.ly/RDFy)

Since I haven't read the book and (did I mention this yet?) I'm not
the brightest bulb in the box, I can't speak directly to it, or tell
you what's in it exactly, yet, but expect it to be a useful tool, at
least for getting perspective.

On the other hand, I do have another book, one I'm halfway through,
one that has sold something like 6 million copies, and can say that it
definitely has good ideas. This is "The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most
Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It". The "E" here is
for "entrepreneur", not some new-agey electro-tekishness across the
intertubes.

Today everything is all "iThis" and "eThat".

Not for this guy.

He is old school. Which means that he thinks if you start a business
you want it to work, and to make money, and don't want to spend years
agonizing about which font to use in the logo so you can look trendy.
The book is basically about franchising but even if you're not
interested in that you can pull out the underlying concepts. See
E-myth.com (http://3.ly/e7yk) or Amazon (http://3.ly/P7ud).

And then, a book I skimmed at the library, went home, and ordered:
"First, Break All the Rules" (http://3.ly/2bnD). This is based on
research. It is not an ordinary "how-to" rah-rah biz book. I haven't
gone back yet to actually read it slowly but recall that most of it is
about management. It generally deals with larger companies, and might
seem to be of little value for anyone wanting to set up a smallish
business in a place like Nicaragua, but it is acute. This is a gem.

I spent nearly 20 years inside state government, which is really just
another big business, with all the same challenges and benefits of any
other business, and during the course of years I developed a lot of
the concepts I see in this book. And I'm not that bright, remember?
You just have to pay close attention.

Like what, sir, did youse come up with?

Like, for instance, blowing off that whole idea of working on your
weaknesses so's to be an all-round, well-adjusted champ.

Right. Turns out it's crap. And they have the research to prove it.

What you should do is work on your strengths, even if you have only
one. And if you are a manager, you should see that your people can use
their skills and natural tendencies to maximum advantage, rather than
annoying them by trying to make them what they are not, and then
ginning up nasty performance evaluations to cover your lameness when
that doesn't work. And it don't.

Can you tell I've been there?

The whole book is full of this stuff. No-nonsense, often
counter-trendy approaches that successful people have used to make
successful businesses successful. It should work in any country, on
any scale. At Amazon: http://3.ly/mDN6

So what's the point? Just sharing. I tested all the links and they
should work. If not, use the Google.

If this can help someone, goodonya.

Posted via email from Dave's posterous

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