Workspaces and updates

Workspaces have become a growing trend in the technology and startup space. A few years ago after I started my now defunct online dry cleaning startup I didn’t even know that these even existed. Now they seem to be sprouting up everywhere along with incubators and accelerators. A workspace is slightly different as the latter two options may require an application process and a very specific startup concept and plan to be accepted in as well as likely being funded by the government or by private investors (ie. Mars).

With construction at my condo working at home was just no longer an option, so I decided to rent a desk in the lounge space at a workspace called Project: RHINO (my project name is an ode to this space). The lounge space means I don’t leave any of my belongings after I leave for home. Almost daily you get the opportunity to meet someone new working on a unique startup or project. The founders themselves are working on their own startup, Clayza, and in fact, started Rhino completely by accident as they had only rented the space to start a previous startup a couple of years ago. Now, the Rhino boasts over 70 members and growing daily.

What is truly remarkable about the place is that, exactly as they state on their site, Project: RHINO is a community. Members are always interested in discussing everyone’s projects and more importantly, everyone helps everyone else out with their problems. Many of the people I have thanked on my blog are Rhino members who have generously donated their time and knowledge to my questions. Also, breaks and socializing are often taken over heated games of foosball or hanging out on the lounge area couches. So, if you work from home and you find that you need a great place to work, give a workspace a whirl, I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Updates on Project Blackfish:

1. Authors now receive points for comments made on their articles.

2. Articles now have tagging available.

3. All articles now have a topic to be filled out by the author.

The reason I’m not going into too many details over this blog is because I’m hoping to make a fundamental change and differentiator to the site over the next couple of days. I just have to figure out the right way to design and code it. So stay tuned!

Day: 13  Budget: $?  Spend: $0

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Throwing in the Towel: The Lessons I Learned as a Failed Entrepreneur

Shutting down my business was not an easy decision. My partner and I invested a lot of time and money into trying to make our business dreams into a reality. The problem was, that reality consisted of us being very good at setting up our business, but not so great at expanding it.

I learned a thing or two about myself throughout this experience:

  1. I’m great at setting up a business.
  2. I’m terrible at selling, particularly cold sells.
  3. I love coming up with marketing solutions.
  4. I hate dealing with customer’s complaints on a retail level.
  5. I can be both detail and big-picture oriented.
  6. I can really become demotivated by working completely on my own.

There are probably a million others but I don’t want to bore you with them all. The point is, that for every victory achieved and every mistake made, I learned something very valuable about myself. Although, I came out a net loss financially, I probably learned more in this experience than in any other in my life.

That said, one of the most important lessons I learned was when to throw in the towel. If you’ve ever invested in anything you have to have an exit strategy, no matter what the investment. Having invested in the stock market, both winning and losing, I knew that there was a point in time in which we had to pack it in if it wasn’t meeting our expectations. Here are a few of the indicators:

  1. First and foremost, we weren’t profiting off of our venture.
  2. Both my partner and I had lost the enthusiasm we had when we started out.
  3. Neither of us were willing to invest further into our venture.
  4. No one else was willing to invest in our venture.

I still believe in our business model, but without the proper motivation and funding, nothing was going to happen.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to help us out, supported us, and gave us the opportunity to launch our company: Jeeves Valet Dry Cleaning. Everyone of you, and you know who you are, have been an inspiration to this humble entrepreneur: Thank you!

That being said I would like to turn the page to the future of my career in web and e-commerce analytics in the startup business world. I will be changing my blog focus to discuss topics in these areas and I would love for all of you to join me in these discussions.

Until we meet again, entrepreneurship!

Facebook Ads vs Google Ads: Why they could both be losers!

There is an abundance of online advertising to choose from but the two most well known options are Facebook Ads and Google Ads. I’m not going to tell you how I created ads that cost me $0.05 per click and how I got a click through rate of 20%. I’m not even sure that this is possible, in fact I had the opposite experience. I had very few clicks from Facebook and no return on investment from Google. Although, this is obviously not everyone else’s experience mine might help you better prepare for your own ad campaigns.

The difference between these two forms of advertising is not technical but rather who  the audience is. You might tell yourself: “How can they be different? Everyone uses Facebook and Google!” The difference is that most of the audience on Facebook doesn’t yet know that they want your product or service, whereas on Google they do (at least you hope they do when they punch in those search terms).

Facebook ads are similar to that of a billboard, potential customers are going about their daily life when they notice your ad on their Facebook page. They weren’t looking for it but you posted it up in the hopes that you reached your target audience. The more defined that target is the more likely you are to get the right person clicking on your ad (the same goes for Google ads in this case). The point to remember here is that on Facebook viewers do not know they want your product until they view it. You are letting them know, or reminding them, that it exists. The Google ads audience, on the other hand, does know that your product exists and are trying to find it by searching for it. This is something similar to looking in a Yellow Pages book.

The problem with Facebook ads is that you have very little control over who your ad is placed next to or going up against. Although there are implications on the bid price you are paying for, there is a much greater threat to your business here: your ad could be right in-between two ads for scams. Yes, scams! If you’ve worked hard to build an image for your company and you are offering a legitimate service or product how do you think this looks to your potential customers? Well, the answer is not good if you’re not a well known brand with an existing reputation.

An example of advertised scams are the penny auction ads. These literally link you to a phony news site, which is covered in news and links for the auction site (I even tried clicking the links at the top of this site, it was just an image!). I’m not going to go into how these sites are scams, a small amount of research will prove this.

Google ads can also have a stigma attached to them. Often searchers avoid them, I know I often do. I’ve noticed the color of the background behind these ads has become lighter and lighter to blend in, now it doesn’t even seem like there is a different shade behind them at all.

Although, neither of these methods worked for us they may still work for you. We had significantly more clicks on google ads but we didn’t generate any new business from them. This may have a lot to do with our industry, most people just don’t search for dry cleaners they just go to them nearby. Ultimately, if you don’t have increased business from these ads it doesn’t matter what your click through rate (CTR) is. As both are very cheap to try out (Google often hands out $100 start up coupons for new customers and there is a $20 activation fee whereas Facebook has no promotions I know about and no activation fees) I would highly recommend giving them both a try regardless of my experience because they are so cheap and I have heard of success stories. Who knows, with the right campaign and service/product, your ad could be a huge success and for such a low start up cost it’s worth the try.

Got an idea? Share it!

You’ve got an idea. In fact, you probably have tons of them, and you want to start a business but your not really sure whether it will work or not.

Does this sound like you? I know it was me before I started my business and it sounds a lot like plenty of other people I know. So how do you get it going? How do you know that it’s a good idea? How do you get feedback?

Here’s a thought: SHARE IT! Talk to people about it. Start with close friends or family that you trust and get opinions and more ideas.

You’re probably thinking right now, “Why is he blogging about this and why is this an issue?” Well, I am constantly meeting people who want to be entrepreneurs, they have ideas and they want to start something new but I always hear, “Ya, I’ve got a few ideas but I’m not really sure yet,” and then end it there.

What I notice is that people are afraid. They’re afraid they’ll hear something negative about their idea or they’re afraid someone will steal it. For one, negative feedback is great feedback because you now know why your idea might not work. This can add fuel to your fire, get you thinking about why this person doesn’t think it will work and prove them wrong. But don’t just stop at one opinion, get lots. The more opinions you have the better you can formulate your idea and consider whether it actually is worth spending time and resources developing.

If you’re afraid that someone might steal your idea don’t talk to them about it. If your idea is that easy to steal in the first place maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to undertake. Most people aren’t going to be interested in taking your idea anyways, they’re too busy thinking about their own. And remember, an idea is just an idea until you do something with it and put it into practice.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s different if you are already in business and you tell a direct competitor your idea for putting them out of business, but that would be just plain stupid! For now, you’ve got an idea, you think it might work but you’re not sure. So get out there, start talking to people, get feedback, and SHARE IT!

Customer service is a tricky business.

Customer service is tricky. What is good customer service? What is bad customer service? As a business, how far do you have to go to please a customer?

The not so surprising answer to these questions is that there is no right answer. It depends on a lot of factors but a few are: your type of business, how many customers you have, the value of each customer the costs involved to please them, and what type of reputation you want.

I am in the service industry and my customer types vary greatly. Some use the service every week, others every month. I obviously want to keep those frequent high volume customers happy and I would rather spend more resources on pleasing them. But what if that low volume customer is a connector, meaning they talk a lot to other people and those people listen. Maybe they write a blog about great service with 1000’s of subscribers. But even worse, we don’t know who they are because we have far too many customers to keep track. This customer has a certain value that we can’t quantify through our sales data. Unless they are referring customers constantly how will we know just how valuable this customer is beyond how much they spend. It is therefore so important for us to keep a high level of service for all of our customers. Sure, we will monetarily reward our customers who spend more (ie. our Executive Club) but there is no way that we can differentiate which customer is a connector and will say great things about us (or worse yet, who will say something bad about us).

By offering a high standard of service you our bound to get that reputation on peoples lips eventually. Although, this doesn’t mean that you throw the bank at every customer no matter what the problem is. It is so important to stick by your standards and set customers expectations because for everyone of them that is a connector (let’s say 1 in 10) there is another one who will abuse good service because they can. And knowing when to say enough is enough is just as important as giving great service.

Lastly, never offer an unhappy customer everything at once. First try explaining to them the problem and if they are still not pleased offer a monetary incentive. They may or may not be happy with that first bone but at least if you don’t offer them everything at once you’ll at least have some more ammunition for round two!

Amazing! Meetups are a great place to meet people!

Just got out of my third meetup. For all of those who don’t know, Meetup.com is a site that allows users to organize groups meetings based on interests. It’s a great way to meet like minded individuals and chat about a common interest. So far I have never seen any cost associated with any group meetup or any pressure to buy any products or services related to the organizers. In fact, all of them have offered free coffee or refreshments! But most importantly, everyone is there for friendly discussions. It’s about networking and exchanging ideas with like minded people.

My first group was the Job Seeker & Career Transition Group. The organizer, Heather, did a phenomenal job of facilitating the conversation and keeping it on track. New strategies on how to go about your career search and what has and hasn’t worked for everyone were huge takeaways. Hearing other people’s perspectives can really change your focus and maybe shed some light on what you were doing wrong. And most importantly, meeting new people could be that connection to the new career you were looking for!

I also spent some time at a  Toronto Business Leaders meeting and the Lean Coffee Toronto meetup. The former was a good place to interact with people afterwards but as an entrepreneur, I believe I was looking for something different in this group. Still, that doesn’t mean I didn’t meet some fascinating people afterwards.

The Lean Coffee meetup is a group of entrepreneurs and startup founders getting together to discuss topics related to the growing pains of starting your own business. This consisted of a much younger audience base (20s and 30s) than the Toronto Business Leaders (mostly 40s). This actually worked out far better for me because I fit into that younger age group, which may make the average member age something that Meetups should mention.

All-in-all, these are three great experiences where I have been able to get into some quality discussions and meet some interesting people. So stop sitting on your couch or your office chair and go Meetup!

Just signed up for Twitter and all my followers are spammers! What gives?

I just signed up for a personal twitter account last night  (take a look at my side widget) and through the night I gained 10 followers without doing anything. At first I thought: “Cool! I’ll return the favor and follow them, too!” But once I started checking out their posts I started to notice a disturbing trend, SPAM!

Some examples:

Bill441 says:  i find a new site which we can buy WOW gold,if you input ‘seo’ in coupon, you will enjoy 10% gift,the site is…
SebastianSoul63 says: Generate as much income as you want to… Get started with Zero Cost and Experience: link
Great! Thanks Bill and Sebastian! By the way, Bill is apparently an Asian girl, at least that’s what his pic resembles.
Let’s just hope my future followers have more interesting things to say.