Thursday, May 22, 2008
The creation of a social venture concept:
Actionfish.com sells kayak kits. High end, beautiful, wooden, do-it-yourself kayak kits. Buyers have to put the kits together or pay someone else to do it. Kits cost in the range of $1500. Labor runs $3000-$4000. Actionfish.com only make a few hundred dollars selling kits, and the kit kayak business isn't necessarily booming.
Sell the complete Kayak finished for a higher price and margin - $9500 with $4000 respectively. There is a small high end market for these kayaks. Incorporate a social component into the business plan to give back to the community and create reason for a Cause Marketing campaign.
Outsource the labor to the Boys and Girls Club of America. Pay the club for putting a kayak kit together the same 3000-4000 that would have been paid to anyone. Create a nice team project for the Boys and Girls Club to work with their youth. Put some money back in the kids hands (up to the local Boys and Girls Club). Make a difference in the community by having the kayak built by kids that need a little extra help. Also, these kids may now be introduced to kayaking as a sport or hobby. Work with local boat dealers to put the Kayak on consignment with large photos of the Boys and Girls Club working as a team on the kits. Pay the local boat dealer a 10-20% commission for selling the kayak's. Prove up the concept and then take to other markets.
The Carter Lake chapter of the Boys and Girls Club in Omaha, NE has agreed to participate. Actionfish.com is developing the Cause Marketing components for marketing (kayaks for kids, kits for kids, buy a kayak save a kid, built for kids by kids, etc.). The owner of a marine center is being contacted for display of the kayak and marketing materials for test marketing. Actionfish.com is inspiring all involved in this project on the GivingReturns model.
Contact Dan at Actionfish.com for more information.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
It's good to be home. I arrived late last night from a 1 week trip; yet, am refreshed and re-energized from my experiences away. I met some great EO and YPO members in California doing some amazing things. I can't wait to explore the relationships further. With inspiration from Mark Moses, I came up with an amazing idea to drive awareness of Social Entrepreneurship and perhaps create 20 new social ventures in 1 weekend. Here's the plan:
Invite 20 EO and YPO forums from around the world to visit Omaha, NE for a weekend of networking, learning, and once in a lifetime experiences. The event would be focused around the web 2.0 phenomenon and how it can affect your businesses and your life. Top speakers on the subject will be brought in to speak and facilitate break out workshops. Top speakers from the EO and YPO circuits will be brought in to compliment as well. The entire weekend would integrate, web 2.0 discussions, forum building opportunities, and top notch social events. So, what's the social entrepreneurial catch?
At the beginning of the weekend, each forum would choose 1 social problem that they will use throughout the weekend. Rather than each forum working on their business, the lessons learned will be explored while generating a social venture model using Verne Harnish's One Page Strategic Plan template. Throughout the weekend each forum will be builidng their One Page Strategic Plan for a Social Venture of their choice. All 20 of the plans will be developed in an open source, collaborative, wiki (yes all web2.0 stuff) environment. At the end of the weekend, 20 plans will be submitted to a Super Panel for determining the top 3 plans and ultimate winner. The winning plan will receive a Large cash price to invest in starting their Social Venture.
Now, this is just an idea, but here's how I think it can take off. First, the prize has to be at least $50,000. Second, the judges have to be highly sought after - I'm going for Warren Buffett first! Third, the event needs to be top notch from start to finish with great venues, great food, and great experiences. And finally, we just need great people to show up, that's where EO and YPO comes in!
More to come. Post any ideas you have on the event as well.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I made this girl cry today.
She is my oldest daughter. She called me 3 times from home when I was in a meeting in Walnut Creek (just outside San Francisco) and I didn't pick up. I figured it was just home and I'd call back after the meeting. When I called back, it wasn't just home, it was my daughter missing Daddy. She said, "Daddy, I miss you. When are you coming home." I said, "I'll be home in a couple days, sweetheart. I miss you too." Does this sound familiar to any entrepreneurs out there?
So, what did I do? I asked her if she wanted me to send her a picture of me out of town via email that her Mommy could show her tomorrow. I asked her to dream about me and I told her I'd dream about her. The good news is she sounded pretty good after we talked. But to think I have to email pictures and request dream time to be with my daughter is a little depressing. I miss home.
It's times like these where I'm reminded of the story of the fisherman that would wake up late and start his fishing after everyone else had left early in the morning. Then he'd go out to his usual spots and catch a small catch and get in early. Than he'd sell just enough fish to get by for the day and give some of it away to the local kids that didn't have much. One day he ran into a stranger in town that was looking to buy a fishing business. The stranger told him he was looking for a small fishing company that he could grow. If they partnered, he'd have to wake up earlier, get out before all the other fisherman to catch more fish than the others. They'd take their proceeds and buy more fishing boats, and higher more fisherman, and grow to be a much larger company. The fisherman asked why they would do all this. The stranger said, so we could retire, sleep in, fish when we want to, share our catch with those that needed help, and live a nice easy life. The fisherman replied, I already have that nice easy life.
Sometimes, I just need to be reminded that the entrepreneurial pursuit needs to be balanced with living the easy life too.
I love you, Jossy. Thanks for the reminder.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
If you ever get the chance to hear Simon Sinek speak about The Golden Circle, I highly recommend it. I was fortunate enough to listen to him during the EO Global Leadership Conference in San Francisco this weekend, and his message was my top take away. Also present was Ken Blanchard, author of the newly released One Minute Entrepreneur, Craig Newmark from Craig's List, and me :).
The Golden Circle is simply a 3 ring circle with the words Why in the center circle, How in the middle circle, and What in the outside circle. The message was that great companies know their Why and focus their businesses around protecting and promoting their why. They operate from the inside out. Other companies tend to focus on what they do and operate from the outside in, and are less successful and sustainable. This theory is grounded in biology. The human brain at its core is Why based, not what. People buy because of Why not What. Simon explains it better, trust me.
So, I've been asking my self iteratively over the last few days, what is my why and my business why. Here's some of the answers. It's been quite powerful to me to be able to communicate it clearly in writing and to be able to share it with others. I'm sure it will drive business and I recommend you ask yourself the same questions - what is your why?.
I believe Good Greed is Great.
Ayn Rand championed the philosophy that Greed is Good in her book, Atlas Shrugged 50 years ago. Alan Greenspan also believes that Greed is Good. Gordon Gecko, the character in Wall Street played by Michael Douglas summarized this concept best:
"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."
Economist Walter Williams said on the subject:
"In a free market, you get more for yourself by serving your fellow man," said economist Walter Williams. "You don't have to care about him, just serve him. Greed gets people to cooperate. If you want to benefit from other greedy people, you have to make sure they benefit from you."
Political philospher and Ayn Rand expert, Dr. Edward Hudgins notes on the subject:
“Rand was virtually alone in celebrating the virtues of productive, innovative individuals and the wealth they create. She emphasized that businessmen at their best will first and foremost love their work and the challenge of creating products and services that earn them profits. If that’s greed, it’s to be praised! Rand also singled out for condemnation businessmen who seek money by any means, including fraud, or government handouts and special favors. If that’s greed, it’s to be damned!"
This last quote by Dr. Hudgins helps illustrate the difference between Good Greed and Bad Greed which is representative of my philosophy that Good Greed is Great.
So, now that I know my why - Good Greed is Great, I still need to determine my How and my What in order to be in business. You can't just have a why. Consumers and Client interface with your what and your how, even though they buy the why. So, my How is Creating Sustainable Giving Streams and my first What is MortgagePledge. I will be developing my Creating Sustainable Giving Streams process further in future posts.
To summarize, Simon gave his version of an elevator pitch. As many of us know an elevator pitch is that 30 second pitch you want to be able to give when you meet that key person that could be critical to your business. The question is normally, "what do you do". And then you're to give some dazzling answer that leaves the person asking the question eating out of the palm of your hand and never being able to forget about you (or at lease insure a follow up meeting). Simon, said that he's been using the Why answer to make his elevator pitch more memorable. When someone asks you what you do, answer with why you do it first, then finish with the what. For example:
Joe, what do you do?
I have this big Idea.
I believe in the philosophy that Greed is Good, championed by Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan, and Gordon Gecko in the film, Wall Street. However, I believe there is Good Greed and there is Bad Greed. I believe that if one focuses on the Good Greed, Great things will happen. Therefore, my philosophy is Good Greed is Great. To illustrate this, I am Creating Sustainable Giving Streams by collaborating with entrepreneurs with nonprofits. My first social venture, is Mortgage Pledge. My join the cause blog is Giving Returns. And, I'm working on developing an open source model for others to use to create their own Sustainable Income Streams, called Good Greed is Great!
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Rember Baskin Robbins 31 flavors?
I have the opportunity to interact with many different entrepreneurs. And, one thing I've noticed is no two are alike, but some fall in similar categories as they approach their business.
I've started to put together some ideas below of the different types of entrepreneurs or flavors if you will. Remember, like icecream, these flavors can be mixed together in many different ways. Please feel free to share your comments on these definitions and share your experiences.
Ideapreneur - the person that can't stop generating great business ideas, but sometimes lack execution or follow through - that's me.
Entrepredoer - the person that just likes running a business, any business - often a franchisee
Oopspreneur - the entrepreneur that is tinkering all the time with the business making a few mistakes here and there but learning from them
Maneurpreneur - that person whose business just failed - the good ones are back again
Delegeneur - the person that doesn't do anything in business but delegate to better people and stays in charge
Developerneur - the person that takes a small company and grows it for great profit
Manicpreneur - every entrepreneur I know is a little manic, some more than others
Passionpreneur - the person that is so passionate about his company that he wears it on his sleeve, his forehead, everywhere and thats what drives the company
If you are one of the types above, share your story. If you have an additional type, share it as well. Let's have fun with this one!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
This is a very cool tool I received from my EO Forum mate, John Lund, owner of Offwire. John "borrowed" this message stack format from EO Global. He uses it to simply state the key messages of his company to his clients, his employees, his vendors, and any other stakeholder. I'm planning to use it to help me with my outsourced vendors so I can create a sense of culture amongst different companies servicing Mortgage Pledge.
Feel free to adopt for your own use and tell me how it works.
Mission Profitably Seed and Sustain Giving by Driving Real Estate Referrals
I have this idea for creating a collaborative business plan online using a wiki. I'm testing wetpaint.com (free) and pbwiki.com (pay to play) right now for functionality and ease of use.
How cool would it be if entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs could post their business plans online and get help from fellow entrepreneurs on their business plan? Imagine if you were building a business to help the homeless in North America, you could be getting help from a European counterpart that has already been down the same path. The site could link social entrepreneurs that want to create open source business plans for the greater good. Other entrepreneurs that weren't afraid of the open source approach could share as well. Each business plan/business would have its own wiki and be continually improved through collaboration.
I'd love comments on experiences about using wikis for business, along with any ideas that come to mind. In addition, please visit my wikid business beta sites above to help me design and test the idea.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Tim Ferriss, best selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, is a genuinely cool dude (that's me with Tim and two performers from Saturday's EOBerkshire party). I had the pleasure of hosting him for a weekend visit of Omaha, NE surrounding the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. I invited Tim in for the weekend to speak to an entrepreneurs group I'm involved with, EO. The concepts he teaches in his book are easily embraced by entrepreneurs, but can be applicable to anyone in any position anywhere. Read the book or Listen to it as I did!
As I sit recovering from 3 nights of less than 4 hours of sleep each, I wanted to capture some of the lessons I learned from Tim over the weekend.
Lesson 1 - True Friends vs False Friends
A guy like Tim has guys like me attempting to befriend him all the time. Tim remarked in our Q&A event on Friday that he has to be very careful now that the book has been out to avoid what he called "False Friends". People that go out of there way to be nice, offering him their hospitality, etc. only to get a request days, weeks, or months later that showed the true intent of their affection was to get something from him. I had to ask myself, was I being a True Friend to Tim or a False Friend. Did I have an underlying agenda, or did I simply want an opportunity to share a weekend without expectations in return. My Answer - I knew from reading his recent blogs that we shared a desire to give back to the community in unique ways. Thus, I wanted him to know about Mortgage Pledge, a new Social Entrepreneurship company (shameless plug) I was launching; in hopes, when the time was right, I'd be able to get a post on his blog or something like that. But, after hearing his discussion about False Friends, I told myself to be very sensitive to that issue and make the weekend about Tim and not about me. In retrospect, this lesson is one I will continue to remind myself about. It's not wrong to want to be friends with people that can help you, just as long as your a True Friend.
Lesson 2 - Be Aware of the Roller Coaster Curves
On Friday night, we had the pleasure of having Cameron Herold speak to our EO group at Frost Acres (shameless plug). He spoke of the roller coaster of emotions an entrepreneur goes through. From the top, to the bottom, back up to the top again. This is a concept Cameron has shared with 1000s of 800-Got-Junk franchisees around the world. What I took away from Cameron's talk was a reminder of how important Awareness of your emotional state is in all aspects of your life, not just business. Awareness of whether you're up or down is more important many times than the emotional state itself. Why, because you have a hard time controlling the ups and downs that life throws at you, but you can control your activities during those times. Tim mentioned during this Q&A that when he finds himself stressed or getting down, he tends to write out everything that's contributing to the emotions at the time. Then he asks himself what he can eliminate completely from his life that is on this list. He then takes action to eliminate these things as long as the actions are reversible. He doesn't want to eliminate anything without the ability to replace it if it wasn't the cause of the problem. The earlier the awareness of the change of emotions, the more quickly and effective the identification and elimination can occur.
Lesson 3 - Simplicity is Complex and a Life of Leisure is Hard Work
So, the contradictions in the title are obvious, but true nonetheless. Watching Tim Ferriss operate over the weekend, interacting with different people, and listening to him intently, I am reminded of the above contradictions. He lives a seamingly simple life. During the entire weekend I saw him answer his cell phone once and that was a call he was expecting from his editor. Meanwhile, I'm answering call after call, checking voicemail, trading texts, and running errands with him at my side. Did he have any less going on with his business, his weekend, his upcoming events, than me? NO, he just has put in a ton of complex and elaborate systems to take care of all the behind the scenes details for him. And, he doesn't just hire out the tasks and be done with them like you might think. Rather, he puts in the hard work up front, testing and retesting his complex systems, until they work together to allow him the Life of Leisure of the New Rich he talks about in his book. At one point he told me over the weekend that he really likes to work hard. He gets excited about new projects and dives in and gets juiced up. Simply put, his hard work to create complex and elaborate systems affords him his simple life of leisure.
Key Take Aways - Be a True Friend, Focus on Emotional Awareness and Elimination, and Work Hard to Simplify.