The Value of an Idea

Idea - Foster

Every business out there started with an idea.  Initially it was just a thought in someone’s mind.  Somewhere along the line, someone (might not be the same person) decided to take that thought and turn it into a business idea.  That idea was then launched as an actual business.  After that, it would have to be priced, marketed, maintained and tweaked before it ever became a success.

Each of these steps required key people to execute them properly.  If any of the steps or people were missing along the way, then the idea would never have succeeded.

We have seen this play out several times with ideas that sound great on paper, but don’t work out so well in the real world.  Then there have been others that may not have sounded so good on paper but ended up doing really well.

Many people focus the majority of their time on finding the next big idea, and then work hard to protect it from being stolen by others.  Ideas are plentiful.  Here are 999 great ideas to get you started.  Take that energy and instead divert it towards developing the idea and finding great people to help you launch it.

“I was an overnight success all right, but 30 years is a long, long night.”  (Ray Krok, McDonald’s Corporation)

Save that Marshmallow, and Reap the Benefits!

Marshmallow © by Brief Gasp

Would you pass the Marshmallow Test?  In this test, first conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel in Stanford University in 1972, kids were left alone in a room with a marshmallow on the table.  Those who could hold out for 15 minutes without eating the marshmallow were promised a second one as a reward.  This tested the concept of delayed gratification.  It turns out that those who could succeed in this test as a kid, were also most likely to succeed as adults later in life.  (Read the book Don’t Eat The Marshmallow Yet!: The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life (affiliate link) or watch this video to learn more about the test and its results).

This concept plays out in many aspects of life.  In school we are encouraged to study hard at home, while our friends are out partying or playing video games, in order to get good grades that will lead to better career options in the future.  Doctors encourage us to watch what we eat and exercise now, in order to lead healthier lives in the future.

How does this apply to business?  The decisions you make today will affect the future of your business years from now.  Life will tempt you with “treats” at all stages in order to knock you off your end game.  The people who succeed are the ones who can stay focused, put things in perspective, and maintain a long term focus.

All the revenue I earn from my businesses today, are a result of the actions and decisions I made years ago.  If I hadn’t taken all the small steps along the way back then, people wouldn’t be purchasing my products today.  Thanks to that work, I’m now reaping the rewards over and over again today.

Take the time now to find ways to keep improving your business.  That time you spend now will pay off handsomely years from now.  You can thank me then.

How to Create a Budget for your Outsourced Project

Creating a Budget
Creating a Budget

You have a project you want to outsource. What is your budget for it?  Should you get it done cheap?  Or should you spend more to get it done properly the first time around?  The answer is (drum roll, please)… it depends.  First answer the following questions:

1. Do you already have an established brand presence?

If you already have a brand and an existing user base, then you have already set guidelines and expectations for the quality of your brand.  Any new projects you release under the same brand need to maintain the same quality, or your brand image will suffer. You cannot afford any bugs or slip-ups that may arise from poor workmanship.  Can the project maintain this same quality if done cheaply?

2. Do you have very clear and specific guidelines on what you are looking for?

The more clear and specific you are in your original proposal, the cheaper your project can be done for.  If you’re not too sure what you’re looking for, or expect to make several changes, then prepare to add to the final budget.

3. Can you benefit from expert advice?

If you have all the design work done already, and are just looking for someone to put it together, then that can be done for a cheaper budget.  If you are looking for someone creative to take your guidelines and turn it into something appealing, then it is worth paying for better talent.

I have two outsourcing partners that I’ve used in the past, and continue to use today.  A low cost provider in Russia and a higher priced provider in Canada.  Both can handle the same types of projects.  I use the low cost provider, when I know exactly what I want – eg. I can provide the logos, color scheme or design I’m looking for and just need them to implement it.  I use the higher cost provider when I’m not sure what the best approach for my needs would be and need advice.  I provide him with the concept I’m looking for, and he sends me mockups that I can choose from.

4. Can you start with a simpler design, then build off that?

If your project is complicated, see if you can simplify it somewhat for the first version. Then use revenue from early initial sales to reinvest back into further improvement and additional features.  I have used this approach for pretty much all my projects.  The key here is to make sure that the initial version is fully functional, and doesn’t make any promises that it can’t keep.  I.e. if you plan additional features, don’t mention them until they are functional.

Following the above guidelines should help you decide when it is worth investing more in a project, and when you can save money by getting it done cheaper.  After you have made this decision, you can then decide which company you want to outsource to.

If you have any additional advice that has worked for you in the past, do let me know.


Make Your Weakness Your Biggest Strength

Teaching Chinese
Teaching Chinese

When I started teaching Chinese, I was immediately different from competing products, because (spoiler alert) I’m not Chinese!  Who would want to learn Chinese from a non native Chinese speaker?

Instead of focusing on that as my weakness, I made it my strength.  I told potential students (truthfully) that I was just like them.  I had struggled like them to learn Chinese.  I had tried all the ways that didn’t work.  Then, since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I created my own teaching system.  I designed it to overcome the battle that other students like me had to go through.  How would those experts out there know what we were going through?

Now of course I did have real experts to back me up.  I was in Taiwan, enrolled at a university, so I had access to native Chinese teachers.  The content was good.  But I was the one who was teaching it.  And instead of shying away from the fact that I wasn’t a native Chinese speaker, I actively promoted that as being my strength.

Is there a perceived weakness you have, that could be turned into a strength?  Is there a way to turn the tables on others, so that suddenly you’re the one on top?

Think Different. Be Different.

stand out © by zaps06

Be a contrarian.  Sometimes, the best advice is to not be like everyone else, or do what everyone else is doing.  A great line I heard once is that during a gold rush, you should be the one selling shovels, rather than digging dirt with the rest of them.

Take a look at the world’s biggest tech company – Apple.  Other companies like to cram as many features as they can into their products.  Apple prefers to keep their products simple.  Other companies compete on price point.  Apple focuses on quality, maintaining a higher price point.  The list goes on.  Apple prefers to march to the beat of their own drum, and last I checked, it hasn’t hurt them one bit.

When I built my STL Contacts app, I took a different approach to apps than other companies.  Instead of building an app that did one simple thing really well, I attempted to combine features from several apps into one.  Is this the best approach?  Time will tell.  But it’s one way to stand out.

You’re right.  I’m not like those other guys.  And here’s why that’s a good thing.

Is there anything in your industry that you can do differently from everyone else?  A different solution to a problem that people have?

How Your Site Can Transform Browsers Into Buyers

© by avlxyz

Whenever I visit a Best Buy and a salesman asks if I need help, I instinctively respond “Just looking!”.  This happens even when I could use a hand.  I then end up taking a look around on my own, picking up a few brochures, then leaving to “go home and think about it.”  I might come back.  Or I might not.

The same thing happens online day in and day out.

Websites can be passive or engaging.

  1. Passive sites (which are most sites):  You visit the site, which talks about all the great services they offer.  You are then shown pricing plans and asked to choose one.  There is a free version, but it seems quite limited.  After reading some testimonials about how great the product or service is, you decide to think about it and wander off.
  2. Engaging sites: You are drawn to the site by some great content that is being given to you for free.  You are encouraged to subscribe to get more of this content (still free).  At this point, you are not sure whether you trust the site or not, but hey, you like what you’ve seen of the content so far.  And it’s free, so what could go wrong? You sign up.  During the trial, you enjoy the content you’re receiving.  You comment on some of the material, and hear back from others in the community.  You decide that if so many others like it, then it can’t be all that bad.  So you end up signing up for it.

Is your website more like the first website or the second?  If it’s more like the first, is there anything you can do to make it more like the second?