From whoa to go in 180 days… the seed, the spark and the beginning of an idea

Most people believe that a new venture starts with the idea, however it doesn’t it starts with the seed, the thing that makes you come up with the idea.

Before you have the creative power to come up with a new business idea, you first must have the seed to spark your imagination to life.

Let me tell you the story of my seed.

When I first started REDD back in 2000 I had a very simple business plan.

  1. Build websites for people to make money
  2. Invest some of that money in building magazine style websites of my own on subjects I was interested in (local events, music, lifestyle, food)
  3. Get those websites generating money, then stop building websites for other people

That was it, like I said – very simple. The issue is we got very good at number 1 and really didn’t get to number 2 because the worst possible thing happened… we got comfortable. We made money, we had  a nice place to live, we did what we wanted when we wanted, and a good life got in the way of a great life.

So for me the ‘seed’ of publishing and telling stories was planted a very long time ago. But it was lying dormant in the soil of my mind. Just sitting there waiting for the day I would water it and watch it grow. Patient little seed…

As I said in yesterdays post, I have been heavily involved in community activities since we moved to our new home, and last year I was organising the Portland Spring Fair. As always I was in charge of marketing and PR so I contacted the local newspaper to see if they could help us promote the fair with a small piece about the event. I got through to a sales lady, who asked me if we had a budget for advertising, which we didn’t. The money we had raised in sponsorship was almost entirely spent on putting the day on to make it a great day for the community.

When I said I didn’t have a budget, I was then told they wouldn’t be able to run anything for us in the lead up, but if we sent some photos of the day in they may be able to run those after the event.

I was furious. If this was happening to me, was it happening to ALL community groups that try to get PR for their events? Most of these groups have no money and if they are holding an event it is usually to raise money to do something. How does it make sense that a community group pays to advertise a charity event. A chunk of the money they raise is already gone in marketing before they even start!

It was right there that I decided we should see if there was a way we could change that. That was October in 2013. So my seed was planted back in 2000, but the spark that ignited the seed came 13 years later.

The thing that had been lacking for over a decade was the ‘why’. The what was easy, but the why is what started the creative process, and the creative process is what leads to the idea. It would look something like this:

[blockquote source=”getting to the idea”](Seed + Spark = Creative Process) x time = idea[/blockquote]

So we knew what we wanted to do: create a platform to tell the good stories in small communities.

We knew why we wanted to do it: Because the communities achieve amazing things and no one ever finds out.

The only problem now was how. In the next post I will take you through the brainstorming process I use to determine how to solve an issue with a business.

From whoa to go in 180 days…

Startup. My favourite time in business.

Over the years I have started a number of ‘businesses’, some successful, some not so much. Every business I have started since 2000 has been in some way related to my core business in web design and development.

Designing and building businesses is something I have done for myself and for my clients for the last 15 years.

However, it is a long time since I have started a new business, not related to our core competency, in a new market, with no existing network of contacts or relationships. In fact, it was 2000 when I did that with my business REDD, and everything since has been an extension on that.

Six months ago, that all changed. I had moved, I was in a town where I had few friends let alone a black book of business contacts, and I saw an opportunity in a market I had not been involved in for a very long time, media. My only experience prior to this in media had been as a desktop publisher at my uncle’s startup paper back in the early 90s.

Coming from Metropolitan Sydney, when we made the tree change I was very surprised to learn in an area where community is so important, we did not have a free community paper. At the time we first moved here though, starting a paper of my own was the furthest thing from my mind.

Being part of the community I am in, pro bono community work has been a very rewarding way to pass the time. Getting involved with local groups, organising events and helping promote the town. I realised we had some great stories here that were not being told. And if that was true in my own town, then maybe that was true elsewhere, and so some research started. That was January 2014.
We started with an idea “give the community a platform to tell the GOOD stories that make them feel proud” a very different editorial direction than a typical metro paper.

My first idea, for obvious reasons, was a digital platform, but as I did my research and realised a lot of these small communities have limited internet connectivity, and many areas a significantly older audience, it made sense that our platform needed to be a bit more old school. And so we made a paper.

In just 6 short months we have established ourselves as a real alternative to the other publication in the area. We have built a massive loyal audience that reads pour paper each week, and we have built a solid support network with local businesses who have found advertising in our paper is a cost effective means of promoting their own business, and have businesses committing to 12 month marketing plans each and every day. Most importantly, we have arrived at a point where we are profitable and sustainable for the long term in just 6 months. This is not the story of selling 1 million ebooks in one afternoon, or having a massive membership program or event.

This is the story of a traditional business, bootstrapped by passionate people from obscurity to market dominance in 180 days.

Over the coming weeks, I am going to be releasing my journals from during the process. What we went through to create a sustainable traditional business in just 6 months with almost 0 startup capital, no list and nothing more than a belief that we could.

I hope you enjoy it if you choose to play along at home, it has been one of the most rewarding periods in my career because I know I am doing something important.

Here is a link to the digital versions of the paper: http://issuu.com/villagevoice.net.au

Here is a link to the website for the paper: http://villagevoice.net.au

Here is a link to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thevillagevoicelithgow

Why Life is like a video game

Fear. It can be a powerful enemy.

I’m not certain if it is the fear of change, the fear of success, but I do know one thing – it is NOT the fear of failure.

I am willing to try anything, not scared of hard work, and the idea of a comfort zone is foreign to me, or so I thought.

Let me explain…

I have lived my entire adult life on the edge as a business owner, constantly experience the roller coaster road of successful highs and devastating lows, and enjoying every minute. We have found a relatively happy medium, and I now realise… I have developed a new comfort zone.

It doesn’t look like a safe, warm place like most peoples comfort zones, it kind of looks like a dangerous mine field that I know the path through, and I have become comfortable with that.

What has challenged me over the last week is the new business I am working on and the growth our company needs to go through to enable us to make this new venture a success, I keep checking I have my spreadsheets right as the numbers are big… Very big.

Then it happens. Fear. Self doubt, how could little old me possibly build this business. I’m just a web designer from Penrith!!

All the achievements matter for nothing when the black demon of fear arrives, it’s all I can see.

But I have a weapon. A secret amulet that gives me power to overcome.

I get to see my fear through my son’s eyes. To him, nothing is impossible. His dream is to build his game company so big he can employ his best friends and spend all day doing what he loves.

He has no limitations yet, I asked him to set a goal for his game company, he chose having a skyscraper in Sydney – to him, anything is possible.

So I look at my demon of fear as I would have in my youth, a boss character in a game stopping me from getting to the next level. Beat him, I get to level up, and whilst the game may get harder, I am getting closer to finishing it.

Are we really proud to be Australian

What does it mean to  you to be Australian? 

This is just a random rambling rant on some thoughts stirred up by Anzac day….

Yesterday at the Anzac day dawn service, i cried. Like I do every year. I didn’t lose any of my family in war, they all returned, however I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the countless thousands that have given their lives in the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the Australian way of life.

Our country is floundering at the moment wanting to be in with the cool kids but not knowing who the cool kids really are. Our children watch amercian tv shows, and develop american accents, and call things by there american names, why because our country imports its culture from overseas. 

We are in a unique position to show the world that as a nation we are growing up and becoming someone who can be turned to in times of need, butu all the rest of the world sees is the infighting within our leadership and government, we may have not fired a single bullet, but our leaders portray us as volatile as other regimes around the world.

It makes me worried what would happen if there was a war now? Would you answer the call to arms, or are we that ME focussed in this day and age we would think it was someone elses problem and only worry about protecting ourselves. I would answer the call, but it scares me that if they do make that call one day in the future it will be my children they want, not me.

Australia is the lucky country. We are rich in resources. We are rich in open spaces, we can accommodate many many more immigrants, and instead of treating them like invaders if we gave them a fair go when they arrived like we did back in the good old days, then they will open shops, and restaurants and be some of the best commercial success stories we could read. Give them a patch of dirt, let them have a go, we can’t think of this country as ours! We need people more than we need anything else as our economy has to grow if we want to take our place amongst the great nations of the world.

When I explain to my 8 year old son why I cry at the Anzac ceremony, I tell him it is because of all the people who gave so much, and I am concerned we are not making the most of what they gave us. 

Being australian is not about having the very best european sports car and the biggest house in right suburb, it isn’t about having more than your neighbour or the bloke down the road, it is about being there for your mate when he needs you. It is about living in a country and doing YOUR BIT not relying on the government to fix all the problems.

The true luckiness of living in AUstralia is a freedom to have your say. No where else in the world are the leaders of a government so accessible, talk to your local member and tell them what worries you, get them to understand. It may or may not make a difference, but don’t give up. That’s not the Australian way.

To me, having recently moved to a rural community was the best thing I could have ever done for my family. The australian spirit is alive and well in our community. People pitch in, they do their bit. in a town of 2000 residents over 500 turned up for the anzac day ceremony, that’s the Australian Spirit.

My wish for my children is that Australia does find an identity that is all it’s own, one with influences from all those that come and join our communities. I pray that I never see any of them called to go to war, but I hope that if that day comes, they are proud Australians and they answer the call with honour in their hearts.

The Museum of Me

I am totally in love with this concept, being able to visualise your social interactions like this gives a weighty meaning to all those posts about coffee you see on Facebook.

Here is my theory, the more I learn about people one grain of information at a time, the better I get to know them. Honestly I would find it easier to buy a present for a facebook friend I have never met than someone in my own family. I know who people are, i know what they like, what music they listen to, what food they eat, how they spend their leisure time, and what they do in the face of adversity. I actively unfollow people who are negative or poor me, but I actively follow people who are taking life by the horns and say lets ride this sucker!

check it out for yourself and see what digital footprint you are leaving.

http://www.intel.com/museumofme/r/index.htm?utm_source=hatena_bot_it&utm_medium=twitter

Movie: Ctrl+Alt+Compete

I love watching these types of docks. They really get me inspired seeing what amazing people are doing with their time to change the world. At the beginning of the year when i still feel pumped and anything is possible, it’s a great movie to watch. Check it out.

Ctrl+Alt+Compete is a new documentary that takes a revealing look at the startup and emerging business scene through the eyes of 5 founders and their teams and tells a story of the passion, fortitude and insanity that is bringing a startup to life. We’ll follow these visionaries as they face the challenges and obstacles of making their vision a reality alongside the insights and analysis of seasoned, industry watchers and tech sector pioneers.

Book Review: George Lois

I am loving this book by the original Mad Man George Lois. The man behind Iconic branding and ads throughout many decades (think “I want my MTV” he created the brand that defined a generation).

The part I identify with unwaveringly is this:
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Here is a link to an article that gives you his top 10 tips. It’s very inspiring for any designer, but also for entrepreneurs so you get where we are coming from 😉

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1670603/10-tips-for-success-from-george-lois-the-original-mad-man#1

Donate your bet!

DONATE YOUR BET.

This is a simple concept. Take what you would normally bet on the Melbourne Cup, and donate it to a charity.

Let’s face of it, most of us aren’t serious gamblers, have no idea what we are betting on and does the thrill of maybe winning the trifecta really improve the experience that much at what ever festivities you are attending today… I think not.

Each year the amount of money bet by Australian’s on the race that stops the nation is astronomical. This year it is tipped to be over 700 million. That’s dollars.

This year I’m giving $100 to Cancer Council… seeing as how I have been personally affected by this in the last week.

There are many worthy charities out there that could do with your money more than some random booky or the TAB. Still go out, still have fun, but at race time, put your money into a charity instead and you will be a real winner.

My definition of success

Today I am in Nambucca Heads, on my way to see a client in Coffs Harbour, I decided to stay here so I could visit a place from my childhood, and I am overwhelmed with feelings… Let me tell you the story of my Nanny & Poppy Joe.

Sadly my nan passed away a couple of years ago, she was one of the most relaxed life loving women I had ever had the joy of knowing. As the oldest male grandchild, I was elected to give the eulogy at her funeral service.

Normally when I make a speech, I would never prepare or rehearse too much, but I felt I owed it to her memory to give the very best representation of her life that I could. I had only known one aspect of her, that of a caring, loving grandmother, however she was also someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, someone’s mother…

So I began the task of learning more. This started with a photograph we found of my nan & pop at the 1948 (I think) Royal Easter show, arm in arm they were the quintessential aussie couple, he tough and chiselled, her carefree and beautiful.

As I got to learn more about her life, I got a sense that she was someone that had her own rules and values when it came to life. She had raised 3 beautiful children, had a man go off to war and return, and had been blessed with both grandchildren and great grandchildren. She loved a beer, bowls and dancing. My friends used to love going to her place because we could literally have a prty every night we were there, and she was leading the shenanigans, in a most refined lady like manner of course!

But what was the stand out for me was a decision they made in the early 80’s.

They had their property in Rooty Hill, they had a happy life and enjoyed holidays, their kids growing up, all the typical things that the average aussie family aimed for in that time.

But then they decided that they would leave the rat race. Not necessarily because they were financially independent and could afford to retire to the family estate. They decided to live life on their terms and took up residence in the White Albatross caravan Park in Nambucca Heads, NSW.

It was there that they would work odd jobs when necessary, but the rest of the time, they spent their time together doing whatever they pleased. They lived life on their terms, they said no to the norm and decided to be with each other whatever the cost. The ‘cost’ was to not live in a big fancy house with a big shiny car, with the big plasma. The benefit was spending every day with the person you loved more than any other and doing whatever you wanted.

If living your life on your own terms and enjoying to your very last breath is a definition of success then my Nan & Pop were the most successful people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Sometimes it takes a while for things to sink in, but I get it now.

So as I sit here with a small tear in my eye after remembering that day, and look over the lake, peaceful as it may be, I dedicate this song to my wife…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV7zW6GtDG0

R

PS: I miss you guys nan & pop

Think Different

So it turns out I am a lunatic. Many of you who know me are right now nodding your heads, saying, Yep we knew that. When I saw the front page of this fine newspaper last week, my initial pride at being on the front page, was instantly replaced by horror when I read the headline.

Lunatic, it screamed at me from the page. My mother rang me, my friends rang me, everyone rang me, my nearly 800 Facebook friends, 1200 twitter followers and countless other contacts across linked in and google+ all said the same thing – that is a bit harsh.

Fanatic? Yes. Fanboy? Yes. One eyed passionate brand ambassador (unofficial of course) you bet, however the word lunatic tends to lend an air of crazy blind devotion with no thought or logic used in the decision. An animal instinct. The truth is far different.

My relationship with Apple began back in the fifth grade at school when my teacher let me have computer time on the old Apple II as a reward for getting my work done, and as a motivated youngster that wanted to play the cool games, it actually made me excel at school far more than I had previously (thank you Mr Wort).

In highschool, my dad bought me an Apple Mac 512k. It was awesome, when we first took it out of the box it was friendly. It was easy to setup, it was easy to use, and most of all, it was fun.

Fast forward a few more years and I got my first High School job. Whilst my friends worked at Maccas or Kmart, I was working in a Apple computer shop, learning everything from how to fix a mouse cable, to how to setup the latest software, it was all good training.

My early career pushed me to the dark side and I was forced to use PCs and when I first started my business, I outfitted the office with PCs because at the time, I couldn’t afford Mac computers. When we had a PC network, we had an IT company to look after it for us. However, when we replaced everything with Macs 4 years ago… we no longer needed our IT support company. Why? Because Macs just work.

So that is the historical part of the story, however let me now give you  my non-nostalgic, formed through scrutiny current point of view.

These days, I am a technology business owner, author and speaker. It is my job to understand how technology is used by consumers and help business owners engage with their customers easier.

Technology has reached a point where it is an invisible layer in our daily life. We expect it to work all the time, we expect it to be easy to use, and we expect it to do what we need it to do. Apple has succeeded where others have failed because they have gotten technology into the hands of people who would not have normally been high technology users.

The iPhone now has over 60% share of the smartphone market and has enabled the growth of mobile web browsing and social networking. Two of the biggest shifts in consumer behaviour in the past decade.

Apple are a user centered company. They understand what consumers need long before they realise they want it.

But why do they drive the loyalty of their fans? What makes people travel out from Sydney to arrive in Penrith at 1am? Or from as far away as Newcastle? They make us feel special. Anyone who has bought a new iMac, started it up for the first time and watched the welcome movie, knows what I mean. It is a once per machine experience, a bond between the computer and the user and it is something that makes that computer, somehow more than a piece of technology, it makes it a friend.

Here is what Apple said when they launched their think different campaign….

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.

So am I a lunatic? You Bet!!