Thursday, February 21, 2008

Next talk. Feb. 27th in Baraboo

I've been invited to give the next presentation to the Entrepreneurs and Inventors' Clubs of Columbia and Sauk Counties (WI). If you're in the area, please drop by. I'd like to meet you.

The title is Startups: What are the Minimum System Requirements? This will be a presentation exploring just what are the minimum number of things necessary to get in place to launch your own startup. It's a surprisingly short list, when you strip away all the hype and false expectations.

The date is next Wednesday, February 27th, '08. The location is The Sauk County West Square Building, 505 Broadway (B-30), Baraboo, WI 53913. The meeting will run from 6 to 9 PM. The meeting is open to the public and refreshments will be served.

I've used the picture above because I celebrated our New Year's Day in the Baraboo bluffs with great friends from China this year.

That's me on the right with my friend Yongchao from Jilin, China. Yongchao works in economic development in his home city. We were visiting Devil's Lake State Park near beautiful Baraboo, WI to celebrate our New Year's 2008.

Come to next week's talk early and take some time to look around beautiful Sauk and Columbia Counties, some of the most very beautiful in all of Wisconsin. Then you can start your own business and call the area your home!

Sauk County Development Corp.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What gets measured gets managed

That headline is a quote from Medal of Freedom winner Dr. Peter Drucker.

I believe his statement is life-and-death true for startups and emerging enterprises, as well as the rest of the economy.

And it sounds so simple to execute. Measure the important stuff, then manage the important stuff.

However, for people I call independent entrepreneurs - venture capital folks often call them solo entrepreneurs - this can be painful to hear.

It's not so much as a 'Duh!' moment, as it is a Homer Simpson, 'Doh!' moment.

How can you measure anything when you can't find it? How can you ever trust your conclusions when you're not sure you've found it all? That's not management, that's sleepless nights stuff.

I have self-interest in this post.

I released the very first beta copy of Diligence™ last night. This is my new tool for organizing enterprise workflow I wrote about several posts back. Yikes, am I excited.

Here is the premise behind this tool…

Small enterprises of all kinds need to measure and manage their business accurately.

There is contact management software to add people to your digital rolodex.

There is accounting software to take care of your financials.

There are many, many details in between. All of it is critical to your being able to survive and grow as an enterprise.

And where do we, as startups and small businesses keep all of those details?

We all have our systems. This is good. But as we grow, we begin to patch our systems. Then we patch some more. Pretty soon our system is nothing but patches.

I've personally done this. To epic proportions. It's just what you do.

Some of our information is in text files, some is in eMail, some in spreadsheets, some in piles on the desk, some in file drawers, some in our notebooks, some in our contacts files, and on and on. As our businesses grow, the real number of storage locations is typically many more than these. It just happens over time.

Pretty soon, nothing is connecting to anything, and what is connecting is wrong and giving you fits.

That's why I'm calling this new tool 'enterprise workflow software'.

I've carried a story around with me about a certain class of very successful retail businesses that would first buy their software, then build the business around that. The idea was that you put the tools in place as soon as possible so that your enterprise has the capability of growing without crashing. You want to avoid dieing in the details of a patched up mess. Yet, that's an all-to-common path.

Doing your own business should be a lot easier.

That's why I've written this new tool I'm calling Diligence™

Whenever you're ready you can put your enterprise into this tool. Then, as Peter Drucker sorta says, you measure and you manage. Then repeat.

Diligence™ lets you capture all that random workflow data and organize it easily. The purpose of the tool is to make it efficient to store, search, use and measure your business information on demand.

This is intentionally NOT accounting software. There are many good options we all use for that.

I've built this tool for everything that comes before the accounting software kicks in.

Diligence™ is a powerful contacts manager (that's not nearly enough). It can also create and track orders and all the many associated details. Create quotes and bids and efficiently store critical business details. It manages your vendors and all their specific information. It gives you a place to efficiently organize all those small details that always end up being critical when you can't find them.

Most important of all, with a bow to Peter Drucker, the new tool lets you measure this stuff.

Organize. Measure. Learn. Manage better. Repeat.

I've had my biz running in this new tool for about 2 months now. Shaving off burrs, looking for breaks, making it simple, etc. It's certainly an early iteration, but I'm really loving it. This is the first embodiment of what I've learned building new businesses over the last 35 years.

It's in a tool that's as simple and easy-to-use as a big-button calculator.

So, I've been the alpha test and I'm a tough judge. The beta test started last night Feb. 1, '08.

I chose my beta very specifically because (1) she is doing her own independent entrepreneur startup and (2) she is an expert in business database software.

I'd love to tell you some early results, but this post would be too long. It's a great story. My favorite piece of the tool wasn't working, of course. But we didn't care because we were both so happy with the first results. I fixed my favorite part and got some great feedback.

I don't think I'm going to write much about this new tool any longer on this blog. I'd like to keep SustainableWork as focused on entrepreneurship support as much as possible.

I'm going to start writing specifically about Diligence™ on a blog linked to my day job, Business Diligence. I'll link below, and put a permanent link into the settings on the top right.

Whew. The beta is underway.

Wikipedia for Dr. Peter Drucker