Three Things Every Entrepreneur Should Consider Before Starting a Business

Although the Great Love Debate (GLD) bills itself as the answer to your dating problems. I left this interactive event thinking GLDimageyou can turn almost anything into a money-making venture. All you need is a robust market, a problem that needs fixing, and a solution people will pay for. It’s the same formula as any other business, but some entrepreneurs don’t get all the parts right and miss out on lucrative opportunities because of it.

What follows is an incredibly high-level look at business. It takes more than these three components to create and grow an enterprise, but until you identify your market, problem and solution, you can’t determine whether or not your business idea is viable.

While you think about that, let’s take a closer look at the three components to see why the Great Love Debate makes money and how you might too.

Market: single people

I’d say this niche is too broad, except that its brilliant for their purposes. There are millions of single people, and the divorce courts make more everyday. This means GLD can tour regularly and still attract fresh audiences.

Host Kim Seltzer, funny, caring, insightful.

Host Kimberly Seltzer, funny, caring, insightful.

For most people I would suggest defining your market more narrowly. The more specific the niche, the more likely you are to hone in on a problem and a creative solution. For example: GLD could narrow their focus to divorced women between 28-45, then build the program around getting back into the dating pool after a long absence. Everyone else would still be welcome to buy a ticket.

Problem: people don’t know how to make dating work for them

No matter your age, you sometimes get stymied by dating. What are the rules? Where are all the single people? Why don’t I get second dates? It can be confusing. This particular problem, or set of problems, has lots of possible solutions.

Solution: the Great Love Debate tour 

A town hall style meeting where men and woman get to hear one anothers’ beliefs. To help keep things civil and offer advice, the debate has a moderator and a panel of dating experts, relationship coaches and matchmakers. These people have the knowledge to actually help singles in their quest for love.

GLD panel of experts.

The Great Love Debate’s panel of experts dispensing advice in Austin.

The coed crowd, moderator and panel of experts are not only the solution, they are also the unique selling proposition for GLD. There are probably thousands of dating sites, matchmakers and books to help you find love. GLD gives you a relatively low-cost sample of how experts might help you, and does so in a humorous way.  Moderator Kimberly Setlzer was hilarious on the tour’s recent stop in Austin. She had some of the best advice, worked the crowd like a pro, and displayed great comedic timing. Her humor helped diffuse discussions that sometime became heated, and made the show entertaining as well as educational. As an added bonus, being in the audience puts you in close proximity to possible matches.

None of what I observed guarantees the GLD will be successful in the long run, but at $40 per ticket ($20 if you had the promotion code) it’s a good start.

If you are thinking about starting a business, figure out your target market, identify a problem to solve, and come up with a solution that people will pay for. You can assess the viability of your idea before you make a big investment in product development by developing a simple low-cost prototype of your solution. Present it to people who are in your target market, get feedback and ask how much they might be willing to pay. Testing the prototype will save you time, money and frustration, it might even improve your idea.

Question: 

What problem does your business idea solve?

Getting Organized Can Help You Find Your Path

When you reach your goal, you'll be this happy. If not, you picked the wrong goal. And that's okay. You can pick again!

When you reach your goal, you’ll be this happy. If not, you picked the wrong goal. And that’s okay. You can pick again!

Now is the time act on the fun, exciting, intriguing things you hope to do “one of these days.” These someday aspirations may hold the key to your fulfillment.

For months, I’ve been struggling with whether or not to turn my blog into a business, like the bloggers I admire did. Many of them generate six- or seven- figure revenues. They’ve quit their day jobs, hired employees, and now help other people do the same.

I hear their stories at conferences, and come home eager to follow in their footsteps. They provide guides, tools, even offer consulting services, yet I can’t sustain enthusiasm for the business side of things.

New ideas pop into my head all the time, but they aren’t about business or blogging. I am more intrigued by thoughts of writing a play, figuring out song lyrics, possibly becoming a speaker, or plotting a mystery. In spite of all that, I told myself that the blogging business was where I should focus my attention. It took getting organized to let me see why I couldn’t move forward with that notion.

513J9yWQAzL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done as a methodology to get my many ideas and my life in order. One of the steps is to make a list of projects. I had about 70 on my list, so I separated them into categories. When I looked at the “business/blog” category, it just made me tired. When I looked at the “writing/theater” category, I got excited and scared.

That was enough to tell me where I need to focus my energy. For the first time in months, I feel like I have clarity. I know what I want to achieve and now I can build the path to make it happen.

When you get organized with a system as comprehensive as Getting Things Done, you transform the “stuff” from all parts of your life into lists, projects and next actions. You end up with a visual representation of what you have going on, what you think you want, and the steps to take. With this information, you can assess where you are and where you want to be.

You may find your life and your desires are perfectly aligned, or you may discover what makes you feel scared, excited, renewed. When you see the right path, take it.

Final Thought:  As long as you are on this side of the sod, it’s not too late to go after your true desire.

Question of the day: How do you know if you are on the right path?

Related Links:

Stop Saying “One Day ” and Just Do it Already

Stop Growing Regrets

 

Confession: I Eat Poorly When I Travel

What is it about traveling that makes you want to throw your nutrition plan out the window and indulge in rich, unhealthy foods? Is that only me?

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Not on nutrition plan: cupcakes

I was on an Alaskan cruise last month. All the meals were included and there were multiple places to eat and  room service. There were no organic meal options, but I loaded up on raw and cooked vegetables, stayed away from fruit, pasta and desert. The only healthy fat available was butter, so I allowed myself a small portion of bread at each meal to get the butter down. This strategy worked pretty well for a few days.

On the cruise ship, temptation was abundant. A made-to-order Belgium waffle station, with three kinds of fruit topping, was one of the more aromatic morning offerings. There was an array of deserts, including real ice cream, only a few yards from the salad bar. Every meal included a large selection of breads from baguettes, to croissants to Wonder®.

When I’m at home, I understand that food is fuel, and to run like a high performance machine, I must ingest premium fuel – vegetables, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, etc. When I follow these guidelines, I don’t have cravings, I have energy, I feel good.

The first steaks I ever grilled.

On nutrition plan: grass-fed beef

Food laden with salt, sugar and unhealthy fats are like drugs to me, but as long as I don’t have them, I don’t want them. I know this about myself.

Yet, when I am traveling the black forest cake on the desert cart calls my name. If I’m driving around Texas, it only seems right that I stop for a patty melt. After all, Whataburger went to a lot of trouble to put their restaurants within spitting distance of the highway.

I have what seem like good reasons to yield to the junk food gods at the time. One little delectable morsel can’t hurt. It’s the best of a few bad options. I’ve got to eat something. All seemingly rational thoughts, even though I know once I start, it’s hard to stop. One  harsh night, I may find myself unable to sleep, dripping with sweat and frustrated as I try to lick the frosting from beneath my fingernails. It could happen.

On nutrition plan: spinach, mushroom omelet

On nutrition plan: spinach, mushroom omelet

I know what these non-nutritious foods do to me. I know that I don’t like their effect. What I don’t know is why I can’t remember that when I’m on the road.

Question:

How do you stick to your nutrition plan when you travel? (I’m looking for help).

Ellen Elmore: From Physician to Auteur

Elmore shooting the cooking class at Onion Creek Kitchen at Juniper Hills Farm

Elmore (right) shooting the cooking class at Onion Creek Kitchen at Juniper Hills Farm.

Ellen Elmore started making movies as a child in South Carolina. “I don’t know how I knew how to make the films,” she said, “except that my parents seemed to always have the Super 8 out, so I was used to cameras and watching home movies.”

Elmore was the type of child who made notations about camera angles and directing in the margins of her book as she read The Little Witch. She wrote titles and credits on notebook paper and captured them as part of her footage for each of her films. In a movie she called “Time Machine,” Elmore incorporated her Barbie Dream House and used quick cuts to heighten the tension.

All this dedication to craft could make one assume that Elmore intended to be a filmmaker, but that was not in her plans. Like many of us, Elmore wanted a reliable career and she wasn’t sure that was possible in the visual arts. Science was another of her interests, so she decided to go to medical school and became a family medicine physician.

The high demand for medical personnel allowed Elmore to indulge her love of travel and culture. She worked on cruise ships, Hawaii for a while and even practiced in Alaska, a place she still talks excitedly about. Elmore has visited all seven continents. She has also worked with Native American communities, like the Havasupai in the Grand Canyon.

Elmore making macaroons at a class in Paris, where she hopes to one day film an episode of her TV show.

Elmore making macaroons at a class in Paris, where she hopes to one day film an episode of her TV show.

Still, Elmore wanted to make movies. In 2003 she took time off from practicing medicine so she could attend film school in Australia, an option she chose because it was reasonably priced and gave her the opportunity to live abroad.

“Even then I didn’t think I could do it as a career, but I thought maybe I could make both careers work together.” Her idea was to create films that helped patients maneuver through the health care system, or inform people about health topics that needed more attention. She never did either of those things, but she said, “I have a 1,000 projects in my head.”

Last year Elmore launched one of those projects, Off the Menu TV, a television program about cooking vacations. “The idea is to show people how they can take a vacation centered around a cooking class, and then explore the area through its food and culture.”

Although she’s found her way back to her first love, Elmore has no plans to give up medicine. She’d like to find a way to be both a doctor and an auteur.

Elmore filmed her first episode of Off the Menu TV in Dripping Springs, a town just west of Austin, Texas. She would love to find sponsors to help finance the next few episodes. Her hope is that one day her show will be broadcast on PBS or The Travel Channel. With her perseverance, that’s probably what will happen. For now, you can watch it on YouTube or Vimeo.

Final Thought: Not everyone gets their dream career right off the bat, but as Elmore shows us, that’s no reason to give up on it.

Three Steps to Make Your Desire Greater Than Your Fear

3-top-tipsI longed to dive into the depths of the sea, kick my way to the surface, then be able to take a minute to enjoy the view, but I was afraid. The problem was I didn’t have the ability to ever frolic in deep water. I couldn’t even swim toward the deep end of the pool without panicking.

You can’t build confidence around something that scares you until you start to do it, but the lack of confidence prevents you from starting. It’s a catch-22 that holds true whether you aspire to a career as a speaker, or want to try scuba diving.

Yet everyday, millions of people do the things that we believe we aren’t prepared for, are too old to start, or fear will draw ridicule, because they made their desires  greater than their fears. Here are three ways to help you get to that point in your life.

1. Know your reasons

One of my reasons is pure pleasure, swimming looks like joy to me. The other two came out of my fears. I don’t want to drown and I don’t want to continue to prove the stereotype that black people can’t swim. I try to turn those apprehensions into positives. When I don’t feel like practicing my stroke, I imagine diving into the water free of a life jacket, and that’s enough to make me put on my suit, grab my gym bag and head for the pool.

Activity: To help you get clarity, sit down and write out all the reasons you want to take on this challenge or reach an objective. Try for 30. Go deep. Ask yourself why for some of your whys. The goals is to discover what motivates you.

2. Be clear about what you want

It’s hard to set out in a direction when you aren’t really sure about what you want. For swimming my vision is clear. I can almost feel the beads of water run down my face as I emerge from the sea. What does your future look like?

Steve, my director sent me this after convincing me to sing and dance in his play.

Steve, my director sent me this after convincing me to sing and dance in his play.

Activity: Find someone who is doing what you think you want to do. Ask friends colleagues or search LinkedIn. Schedule an informational interview. Ask to shadow them. See what their life  is really like. You might also try writing how the new skill, adventure, life change impacts you as though it has already happened.

3. Decide on a next step

That first step is usually the hardest, but after you take it, you’ll be in a better position to see the next step and the one after that. For me it was asking about the master’s swim program at my gym. There was a prerequisite that I be able to swim one lap without stopping. Building up the stamina to do that was my first challenge. The first step was getting into the pool by myself.

Activity: Brainstorm the steps it will take to achieve your reality. Set aside 10 minutes, write as fast as you can. Don’t edit. Figure out step one. Take it. Then figure out step two.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu.

FINAL NOTE: Sometimes you have to say, “What the hell,” and get on with it. It’s better to try and fail than live with regret.

Health Redux Part 4: When TRX Isn’t Enough

 

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My doctor instructed me to limit my exercise program while we worked to get my system back in balance. She advised strength training no more than twice a week, and no more than 25 minutes a session. Cardio should be low to moderate intensity for 30 minutes a session, also limited to twice per week.

To develop a strength training routine that fit my doctor’s criteria, I worked with Lateef Johnson, owner of Fit Austin. In six sessions he taught me how to use the TRX.

For my redux, I’ve augmented that original workout with body weight exercise: squats, lunges,  pushups, assisted pull-ups and ab work. It’s still a challenge to get my strength training done in 25 minutes, but the additional movements TRX3help me exercise all my major muscles. I still have the desire to do more.

Walking up and down hills makes the cardio more strenuous and helps work my gluteals and hamstrings (butt and thighs). Although I’m not supposed to run right now, I’d like to run short sprints periodically and sign up for the master swim program to make cardio more meaningful. I don’t actually miss the distance running, but I miss knowing I have the physical capacity to do it.

The next thing I want to try is Tai Chi. When I went to Vietnam, my tour guide showed me a few things. It looks harmless but then he showed me how the movements were really for self defense, strength and control. That sounds like my kind of workout.

Question of the day:

What’s your workout routine?

Cyber Dating: Are You Looking for A Unicorn?

In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, authors Baumeister and Tierney use online dating as an example of how we avoid making MysteryDatedecisions.

The way they see it, Rather than start a relationship with someone who is attractive and compatible, but may not fulfill our entire list of perceived wants, we cyber-daters stay alone and continue trolling the internet. We believe our options are infinite and that our “ideal person” is out there waiting for us. We’ll eventually find him/her if we looking just a little longer.

It sounds ridiculous that mature people would behave this way. We’ve been around the blog a few times. We know how hard it is to meet someone who shares our interests and whets our appetite, so when we meet somebody like that, why wouldn’t we jump in with both feet?

Fellow cyber daters, it’s time for the proverbial, yet too little used, come-to-Jesus meeting. I have to ask myself and all you other vintage single people, are we guilty of this?

Maybe we’ve been looking at the world all wrong. Meeting your one true soul mate sounds good in theory, but might the search be costing us opportunities for growth or happiness? Have we actually become too picky? Do we focus on the wrong things? Have we put the most weight on the criteria that would bring the least happiness?

These are questions each of us has to answer for ourselves, but if you are dating less than you want to or your love connection is as elusive as a unicorn, maybe you need to broaden your horizons.

He looks real, but he could be a unicorn.

He looks real, but he could be a unicorn.

Let me know how it goes.

Question of the day:

What dating criteria can you discard?

Apps I Wish Existed

I wanted to watch television while I ate my lunch. About two minutes into the program, the lead character vomited a thick, yellow oral explosion that someone took great pains to make look real. Personally, I don’t like to see people wretch in a movie anymore than I want to see it in real life, but my disgust got me to thinking: Why isn’t there an app to warn me of such things?

Techies, if you are out there, feel free to steal my idea about the UpChuck app. Here are few more situations I wouldn’t mind your working on.

UpChuck

UpChuckAppA way to alert a filmgoer or TV viewer when there is a vomit scene in a movie and at what point it comes. The need becomes more urgent as theatres that serve food proliferate. This would be a great feature to add to the Alamo Drafthouse app.

HappyToes

I have C width feet. For casual shoes this isn’t usually a problem, but with dressy shoes I sometimes have to buy a half size bigger because of the pointy toes. Like most of women’s apparel, sizing isn’t consistent. It would be nice to have an app that listed manufacturers who make shoes in wider widths and where they can be purchased. Zappos should get on that.

FarmVilleForReals

In Austin there are multiple famers markets and they aren’t all on the weekends. It would be great to have a way to track where the markets are, what products they sell and when. This could be done with a map option or a calendar. Maybe your favorite farmers can send you alerts about frequently purchased items. I don’t suppose Whole Foods would be a sponsor.

InkLink

This app would tell me what ink cartridges work on which printers. I have a 6-year-old printer that I want to replace, but I don’t want to buy a new one until I use up all my ink. As you know, printers are cheap, it’s the ink that’s pricy. My current printer uses six different cartridges and they don’t run out at the same time. I’d replace the machine today, if I knew of another printer that used at least some of the same ink cartridges. Canon, Lexmark, HP any of you working on this?

Question of the day:

What apps do you want?

Is Your Mindset Getting in the Way of Your Health?

TRX3Sometimes the thing that gets in the way of getting into shape is what’s going on inside your head. We make excuses to get out of working out, eating right, and taking responsibility for our health. That’s “stinking thinking.” Substitute some new mindsets for these common excuses and make your health the priority it should be.

Old mindset: I can’t go to the gym until I lose a few pounds/get in better shape

Not everyone at the gym looks like they should be in a fitness video. For those who do, you don’t know what their before picture looks like or how hard they worked to earn their current physique. There is no need to compare yourself to anyone. Focus on your fitness.

New mindset: I won’t wait to optimize my health 

Old mindset: Gym memberships are too expensive
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I pay about $80 a month for my gym, and that’s only because I’ve been a member for 7 years, new members pay more. Working out 5 days week, means it costs me an average of $4/visit. Your routine, and your gym fees may be different, but even if your cost is $10/visit, that isn’t very much. What else can you do for $10? Probably nothing that would be as good for you. FYI: there’s no rule that says you have to work out in a gym.

New mindset: My health is priceless!

Old mindset: I don’t have time to take care of myself

Everybody is busy. We run corporations, take care of kids, and maintain households. Yet, we find time to put gas in the car, change the oil, and rotate the tires. We do all these things because we don’t want to end up on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. Doesn’t your body deserve as much consideration as your car? If you don’t have time to strengthen your bones and muscles now, does that mean you have time to get sidelined by a torn muscle or strained back later? Which is more efficient a routine screening or chemotherapy? Aren’t you working for longevity?

New mindset: Time devoted to my health now is an investment in a happier future

Old mindset: I don’t know what I’m doing

745191-1007-0013sLearning to exercise is like learning to have sex. To get better you need practice. Find out how other people do it. You can enlist a partner, friend or fitness professional to help you. Videos, classes, trainers and other exercisers are all sources of information about proper form, routines and equipment. These same resources are available to help with cooking and nutrition. You are never to old to find a fitness role model.

New mindset: There are abundant resources to help me achieve my goals 

Question of the day:

What’s stopping you from improving your health?

Top Tips: Take Projects Off Your To-Do Lists

There are days when my to-do list stands as proof that I am a No Account Procrastinator (NAP). Simple things like, “buy garlic” get taken care of quickly, usually on the way back from completing “deposit check,” “mail package,” and “return dress.” Weightier objectives like “organize supply closet” may be marked highest priority, but get shuffled to the next day’s list, then the next, then the next, then the next.

Although we write each to-do item as though it’s a single action, many of them are really projects we haven’t yet figured out how to execute. When you mis-identify one of these little projects as a to-do, your mind isn’t sure what steps to take. That’s why things like “buy salt” get done but “write a novel” gets transferred from one list to the next.

For example, a month before I left for a two-week vacation, I added “write 9 posts” to my to-do list. Although I had good intentions, I wasted three weeks, surfing the Internet (supposedly to get ideas), shopping (Dillard’s had a killer sale), and reading (finished 4 books). With only 7 days before my trip, I felt desperate, so I focused and broke the job down into more manageable chunks.

  1. Brainstorm topic ideas
  2. Write a nut graph for each
  3. Determine what research is needed
  4. Write first drafts
  5. Edit/polish
  6. Add to WordPress
  7. Find/edit graphics/photos
  8. Schedule posts through Aug. 31

Even that bare semblance of a plan gave my brain something concrete to work with and I cranked out first-drafts of 13 posts in three days. I took the nine best and added them to my content management system (WordPress) and had the last three days to polish, add graphics and schedule each article. 513J9yWQAzL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

When a hard deadline draws near, we have no choice but to figure out how to get things done. How much time and anguish might we have saved if we treated the project as a project in the first place, and started out by developing a plan with action items?

This is one of the things I’m learning from David Allen’s Getting Things Done and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s in this book. Allen explains how to organize time and tasks so you don’t end up with a backlog of paper on your desk, a stack of to-do lists that you avoid, and a feeling of dread when you contemplate your next move.

Remember: A “to-do” is one step you can complete. A project is the objective you meet after taking many steps. On your list of tasks, a “to-do” should be “the next actionable step.”

 

Objective/project Next actionable step/to-do
Train for marathon Buy Gel Asics running shoes
Write novel Order scrivener®
Get married Complete E-harmony profile
Become next CFO Enroll in finance class

Question of the day:

How do you approach a project?