Thursday, October 8, 2009

On Starting a Business

On Starting a Business

Thoughts from Eric J. Wilhelm, founder and CEO of Instructables:

"Starting a business is no more difficult than determining that you have the risk-tolerance and temperament for such an endeavor, and deciding to just take your idea and go for it."

I translate "risk-tolerance" to mean "don't act out of fear". John wrote that there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Fear of "what might go wrong" or "what if" usually are based on lack of trust in a God Who is in control and Who loves you.

"Never satisfied with anything, I usually feel flooded with new ideas for products, services, or other great things to build. I want to change everything around me, and everything that I use. This trait is common among the Squids and seems to also be prevalent in others running interesting, successful companies. You can tell if someone genuinely has this trait because they’ll always be happy to find one of their ideas already in existence as it gives them the ability to focus on some others."

This was a radical thought for me...I would have thought that an inventor would begrudge someone else for "stealing their idea". But Eric's thought emphasizes the idea part of inventing. Someone who is flooded with ideas NEEDS others to carry them out to reality.

"Keep your tolerance for risk high by keeping your cost of living low. For us, this meant owning few or no cars and biking everywhere, cooking our own food rather than eating out and occasionally eating from dumpsters , getting furniture and tools for free from Craigslist, making everything else we needed (i.e. much of the content of this website), and, for some of us, living in the shop."

Frugality, or at least economy, is always a good idea. Trent Hamm's website is a good place to start for more information about this:

"If you're really passionate about your work, people will notice and they'll want to talk to you, profile you, and write about you. I think it's misguided to actively seek press; instead publish your work to share it and better connect with like-minded people (this is one of the basic tenants of Instructables), and interested people (including mainstream press) will come looking for you. Obscurity is far worse than any form of intellectual property theft, and by sharing what you do, you are far more likely to attract potential partners and people wanting to help than you are to give something to a perceived competitor. Plus, you'll start to be known as someone who does cool stuff, and that will attract even more opportunities."

This hits me. More and more I've been taken away by thoughts of writing full time, and that has meant getting more readership to support more advertising to provide more money so I can write full time. But Eric's advice is to simply be passionate about your work. I'm considering now canceling the ads from Google and just concentrating on writing about things I'm interested in...if my readership remains low, at least I'm doing what I want to do. If I happen upon a subject that is more generally needed, readership will increase almost automatically, and then I'll consider how to support full time writing. At this point in my blogs I feel it's inappropriate to load up with ads...almost a mercenary feeling to it.

"Dating analogies apply: There's no single best way to find and attract someone for romance, and the same is true for investment. It may seem like non-advice, but I believe the best approach is to treat people as you'd like to be treated. Tell your story in the same way you'd like to hear it, being honest about both your optimism and your fears."

The Golden Rule will never corrode or become obsolete!

"People ask me all the time if it was hard to start a business. Only the first step of truly deciding to go for it is hard. After that, it's a whole bunch of small things that add up to something great. If you make just a little bit of progress everyday, over time you can accomplish a great deal."

"A little bit of progress everyday"...that's encouraging to me. I can't write long every day, and some days I can't write at all. My work schedule is grindingly difficult - "Dupont Schedule", 12-hour shifts, 4-nights, 3-off, 3-days, 1-off, 3-nights, 3 off, 4-days, 7-off...the seven days off each month are great, but it takes two of those days to recover from the other half of my month...switching back and forth from days to nights...12-hour shifts - but I'm able to write at least a little most days.