Sunday, 20 February 2011

Frightened of a good idea?

So you have what you believe is the next great idea for a web site (please feel free to substitute "web site" for any idea you may have). I have been faced with this situation on a number of occasion and to date, I am not at all sure that I have got it right.

Back in the mid-eighties I had the idea for a franchise business. I won't bother naming names as there is little point, other than to say it was a service targeted at any householder. The problem was that no one else within my immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues thought it was a good idea. So I didn't have the confidence to pursue it, despite going to talk to my bank and getting a loan agreed in principle. That business now has 100s of franchisees. The next opportunity was my first venture with regard to the Internet. This time, while by no means a unique idea, it was one that many people would subsequently develop into hugely successful ventures. I did not have the courage of my convictions. There was a chance that it might fail and I took the easier option of staying in fulltime employment. If I thought about it, I could probably come up with at least two or three other examples of good business opportunities that I did not see through to the end.

So what have I learnt from these experiences? Interestingly, lots of people will tell you the answer is "just do it", and they are correct - partially.

Yes - "just do it" in as much as commit to do it, tell people as soon as you can about your idea and throw yourself into it. My point is be brave, but don't be reckless. Be fully committed to your idea, while still having other parallel track activities taking place. Most businesses are built while their founders are also doing something else - and most of the time that "something else" is paying the mortgage.

So my advice (for what it is worth) - do a number of different business activities at the same time, until you find the winner. There is no rule against backing more than one horse in a race.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Remember when trying to find a new Domain Name was fun?

Anyone who has set-up a business will recall the exciting moment when they came up with a name. I often remind people that there are other things in setting-up a business that are a lot more important to get done before coming up with the perfect name, but I am a bit of a spoilsport! And I can't deny that sitting in the pub debating a list of different words (both actual and made up) holds some very fond memories.

With the arrival of the Internet, this 'fun' had a new level of complication, as we try to not only come up with a unique name that matches what our new business does, but then an equally relevant and if possible, matching domain name. I clearly remember our innocent belief that we would easily locate really good and relevant domain names back in the late 1990s. I mean who else would want web sites with names like yourfriends.com, websales.com and even greenfrog.com? How wrong we were! And that was over 10 years ago - so what are the chances of finding a good name these days?

Well it is not quite as bad as you might think. We recently registered names such as memoryshake.com, emotionaldays.com and salesmole.com for some of our new business ventures. Not bad names at all and ones that I think a lot of people might believe would not be available. So what's the trick?

1) Don't be off put by quite long names, its not like 10 years ago, people don't expect every business to have a five or six letter url.
2) Don't think your name must reflects what you do as a business (just think of Amazon)
3) Check out sites selling domain names - it used to be that prices were ridiculous, but for less obvious names the cost has really dropped.
4) If there is a name you really want, it’s worth regularly checking its availability - you never know.
5) Maybe you don't need a .com or. co.uk extension, perhaps another extension would work for you?
6) Be prepared to keep at it, you may spend hours trying hundreds of different names, but you may well be pleasantly surprised.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

There is no substitute for being there

With the explosion of online communication and social networking, it almost seems that other ‘conventional’ ways of engaging with loved-ones, friends, colleagues and strangers are being forgotten. How often do we choose to send a text message, when it might be more thoughtful to pick up the phone? An e-card, when it would be much nicer to take the time to write a real card? Or the ultimate copout, when we compose a lengthy email instead of walking across the office to talk to a colleague or probably even worse, substitute a visit to friends and family with a ‘loving email’!

Social networking sites can also add to the problem by creating an impression of closeness to family and friends, because we appear to have an insight into what everyone is doing – but does that really substitute for quality time together?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of both social and professional networks, I send my share of texts and am often accused of being an email junky. But I am sure we have to get the balance right. And maybe it is incumbent on our networks to do more to remind us of the importance of face-to-face time with family and friends? Perhaps in the same way that FourSquare promotes and rewards users for visiting places, someone should be rewarding people for meeting?

These thoughts were prompted by a recent radio programme. A woman was discussing how important her online life was to her, but when her sister went into labour there was only one way to really support her – by being there.