Posted by: Mark Tayar | August 11, 2009

Grad Career or Start-Up

Today I was asked by a young entrepreneur whether I regret taking on a role in a small entrepreneurial business.  This young entrepreneur wants to know whether he should take on a role with a start-up and these are the questions I asked him. If you are tossing up between a conventional grad program versus a start-up leadership role, ask yourself:

  • Is the business idea really viable?
  • Is the business treading new ground or is the concept proven (even though innovation seems more diserable, proven concepts are much more successful)?
  • How fierce is the competition in the industry and can you avoid a price war by differentiating on more than just price?
  • Do you want a big name company behind you or is that insignificant?
  • Do you want to specialise in one small area of business or do you want broader but less specialised business experience?
  • Can you survive pay cuts and potential redundancy without much notice?
  • Do you have a contingency plan if the company goes bankrupt?
  • Will your reputation be severely harmed if this business fails?
  • Is the team the kind of people who always want to win, never procrastinate and are fun to work with?
  • Are you running the business for ego, to make money or because you love business? (guess which motivating force is most successful)
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Posted by: Mark Tayar | August 7, 2009

The Power of Shared Values

My favourite young software company Atlassian is hiring 32 new software developers despite the downturn. They have a fun recruitment video that states their very clear, very powerful and a little bit colourful values:

  • Open company, no bullshit
  • Build with heart and balance
  • Don’t fuck the customer
  • Play, as a team
  • Be the change you seek

Atlassian Recruitment Video

Posted by: Mark Tayar | August 2, 2009

The Dream: A Young Entrepreneur’s Compelling Story

Gurbaksh “G” Chahal created, managed and sold two Internet advertising companies for more than US$340 million. In his recent book, The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of  Entrepreneurship and Made Millions, G shares his incredible story of business triumph. I thoroughly enjoyed this funny, inspiring and insightful book which I recommend to all young entrepreneurs. The main lessons shared by G are as follows and I encourage you to read this 230 page gem.

Check out the Dream on Amazon

Check out The Dream

  • Listen to your heart and do what you love
  • Success comes from wanting to win, forget noble motivations
  • Adjust your attitude and believe in yourself
  • Figure out what you are good at
  • Trust your gut and listen to your inner self
  • Do your homework before you start anything
  • Be frugal except when it comes to paying good staff
  • Hire the smartest people you can find
  • Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others but never stop striving for it
  • Learn to listen, even to people you disagree with
  • Own your mistakes
  • Never compromise your morality
  • Never lose sight of the competition
  • Watch your back
  • Don’t procrastinate it’s just another word for wanting to fail
  • Mediocrity is for losers so don’t do anything by half-measures
  • “Be nice to people on the way up because you will probably never meet them on the way down” (quoting comedian Jimmy Durante)
  • Always negotiate from a position of strength
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Perception is reality, what people see is more important than reality
  • Don’t get emotional, logic and emotion don’t mix
  • Be fearless, if you are afraid to fail you won’t succeed
  • Pick your battles
  • Grow a very thick skin
  • Take chances, without risk there is no reward but take only intelligent risks
  • Over-commit, become unstoppable and never quit

It seems I have given away all the good bits here but this book teaches these lessons in an exteremly entertaining and fun tone. So get your copy of this exceptional book, at Amazon or Fishpond (for Australians)

Posted by: Mark Tayar | July 30, 2009

Stanford Entrepreneurship Videos

I was really lucky to meet Professors Tom Byers and Tina Seelig while I was visiting Stanford and again at the 2008 Round-table on Entrepreneurship Education in Sydney. These high-energy and extremely successful educators run Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner which has over 1,200 great videos to help you start your business.

Here is one of their quick clips from one of my favourite entrepreneurs Guy Kawasaki about adding meaning to your business.

These slides are a basic summary of my presentation on student-run entrepreneurship education at the Stanford Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education.

Posted by: Mark Tayar | July 29, 2009

The one number you need to grow

Buy the Harvard Article Here
Buy the Harvard Article Here

As I fill out countless market research questions in a survey today, I am reminded of a Harvard Business Review article from March 2009. In your customer surveys, the only question worth asking is:

Would you recommend us to a friend?

It is that simple. This questions finds out whether customers are truly committed to your brand. It also discovers whether you need to work on customers satisfaction and referral programs. Sure there are other questions which will help you understand how you gain improve your products and services but without enthusiastic customers your business will fail.

Get the full 12 page electronic article from Amazon here (for US$6.50)

Posted by: Mark Tayar | July 28, 2009

The Essential Business Framework

Plans, proposals, and brainstorms are all about planning and implementing a change. Whether it is changing the way you do business, changing how customers see your products or changing the world, all of these documents can be communicated with a single framework. The simple framework I use is called SOTSAM which is a mnemonic for:

Situational Analysis – why is change necessary?
Objectives – what needs to be changed and to what extent?
Target Audience – who must be involved in the change?
Strategies – how is the change going to achieve your objectives?
Action Plan – what are the exact steps required to make the change?
Monitoring – how are you going to monitor the change and measure its success?

This framework is the essence of productive planning, purposeful meetings and faster project implementation. You will see it in many forms but this is one of the simplest.

Posted by: Mark Tayar | July 26, 2009

The seven sins of young entrepreneurs

Recently SmartCompany posted a great article highlighting the top finance-related mistakes of young entrepreneurs. I have summarised these 7 sins here:

1.    Debt – try to balance your loans with equity funding which exchanges investments for part ownership of your company (look at your gearing ratio)
2.    Too much, too fast – growing too quickly can create too much financial risk and create an enterprise too complex to manage.
3.   Living large – Celebrate your success with nice things, but never let bling get in the way of business.
4.    Margin lending – Big margin loans have proven to be deadly in this market and banks are nervous.
5.    Getting out of your comfort zone – focus your business on your core competencies.
6.   Financial reporting – Failure to keep accurate financial records will make your business very difficult to manage and will sooner or later lead to litigation.
7.    Personal guarantees – You may not be able to avoid giving guarantees of your own personal assets on loans, but there still asset protection strategies to avoid crippling losses.

Access the full article here.

Posted by: Mark Tayar | July 1, 2009

Purposeful Websites

Everyone needs a website right? What for? There are a lot of websites out there which are just electronic brochures. For some businesses this works out fine, but if you want your website to be a powerful lead generation tool, follow these steps.

  1. Define your website’s purpose – what is the end-goal of your website? Is it to make the sale or is it to get someone’s permission to contact them?
  2. Understand your audience – what types of information does your audience want? What could you say to develop credibility with this audience?
  3. Prepare something to give away – a white paper, checklist, template, free trial, article, value calculator or anything else your audience wants badly enough to give you permission to contact them.
  4. Engage a marketer – DO NOT get a web designer to manage the development of your website. This is a commercial venture and your website is just one of media which must portray a consistent message about your business and your products or services. Creatives must not run this process!
  5. Brief your team well – share your website’s purpose, your research about your audience and your broader communications plan with everyone involved in the project. This may include your designers, web developers, search engine optimisers, copy writers, web advertising managers and of course, your internal team. For most websites, you won’t need a team this large but you will still need to make sure everyone involved knows where to focus their efforts.
  6. Add Google Analytics – it takes most web-savvy people under ten minutes to install this system which will help you track your traffic and understand what content most effectively generates leads.
  7. Test, Test and Test again – free automated tools such as Google Webmaster Central can help you test but you should also get a few pedants to check grammar, spelling, punctuation and formatting. You should then get members of your target audience to check your site usability and the relevance of your content to their needs.
  8. Launch and then relaunch weekly- a good content management system (CMS) will make it easier to refresh your web content. This site is made with WordPress which is very easy-to-use and it’s free, as is Joomla. If you can never find time to refresh your website you can do what I do and set aside a block each month. WordPress and most other CMS will also let you schedule a pre-prepared post to be published at a set time and date.
  9. Promote the site – tell the world about your site via any media channel followed by your audience: Google AdWords, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, direct mail, email, blogs, telephone, Skype, advertising, press, events, etc.
Posted by: Mark Tayar | June 30, 2009

The ugly side of converting online prospects

Do you have a shopping cart available for customers to purchase your products or services online? Are you testing how well each of your pages converts prospects into customers? Believe it or not, ugly graphics with cheesy copy can be more effective than anything your creative graphic designers or web developers.

The “Belcher Button” is one of the best of examples of why creatives should have only minimal input in the development of your website. It is one of the ugliest-looking graphics I have seen on the web, but after rigorous split testing it has been found to convert more prospects to customers than any other online call-to-action. Check out this video from Perry Belcher who created and tested this ugly thing.

Belcher Button

Posted by: Mark Tayar | June 27, 2009

Young Aussies not afraid of business risk

Young Australian business leaders apparently take more risks than our Asian counterparts. According to a recent study by re-insurer Swiss Re, Australia had the highest proportion of young business people willing to market new products. The research, which was also picked up in this week’s BRW Fast Starters, also revealed that 50% of Australian respondents would be happy working for smaller higher-risk companies.

This is great news for those organisations engaging young entrepreneurs and creates some interesting challenges for Gen Y employers.

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