Category Archives: Business

Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot about defining HalOtis’ Strategic Objective. In particular, I’ve been playing with the idea of creating a website to advertise real-estate rentals for Vancouver. It’s an idea that has potential in this city because of the booming construction, and relatively high occupancy rate. When I was looking for a place back in May, it was difficult because there wasn’t one good place to go, that had up to date information, and pictures.

Craigslist.org is there, but it didn’t seem ideally suited to posting apartments. The newspaper doesn’t have pictures, and all the other websites out there were either small, and just handled a single property management company, or looked ancient, and outdated.
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The Strategic Objective is all about Action. Knowing your Strategic Objective is the next step after defining the Primary Aim, which I covered in a post last week. What we want to do is create a clear statement of what has to be done to meet the personal goals from the primary aim.

This is not a business plan.

It is about deciding on a direction to move, and the actions (both short and long term) that will meet well defined benchmarks. The strategic objective is useful for marketing the business to your banker, investors, clients and business contacts. However it must be simple enough to lay out quickly for those people to understand, and buy in.

Essentially it’s just a list of standards by which to measure the success of the business. The twist is that it has to be about the specific actions that have to be done along the way.
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cross hair
The first question any budding entrepreneur may want to ask themselves is: “What is my primary aim?” Running a business will probably play a very prominent role in your life so it’s important to know your goals, and reasons for taking on such a challenge. You may want to start by taking some time to work through these questions:

  • What do I value most?
  • What do I want my life to look like?
  • What kind of life do I want?
  • Who do I wish to be?
  • What kind of lasting impression would I like to leave on my family, friends, and the world?
  • How much money do I need to accomplish my goals?

Without the answers to these questions guiding the decision process all along the way you’ll be wandering without a destination. Once you have the answers to these questions you’ll have a decision making paradigm which you can use to keep your business on track to accomplish your goals.

A decision making paradigm is a way to help make the right decision quickly, it might be as simple as saying yes to everything, though that is probably not a good way to make decisions. A better paradigm might follow these steps:

  1. Have well-defined short and long term goals
  2. Make decisions that works towards those goals
  3. Any time you find yourself getting farther away from your goals, stop, and re-evaluate

I think you’d agree that if you only made decisions like that you’d eventually get closer to your goals.

So what is the primary aim of HalOtis?

Well, I value my independence, I enjoy eating well, I like to learn new skills, I want to live comfortably and not have to worry about scrounging for money to buy small items, I value my health, and I would love to travel. In 20 years I would like to be a home owner, have a well connected circle of friends around the world and have a bunch of good stories to share. It’s important to keep myself happy, by spending time with friends and meeting new ones. When it comes time to retire, I don’t want to have to take a cut in my annual income. I want to be someone important that accomplished my goals, contributes back to the community, and I want people to remember me as such. The dollar value that I’ll need to do everything is going to be rather high.

Not all of the goals stated above can be checked off solely by starting and running a business. Entrepreneurship however does offer the chance to tackle quite a few of them, and in all the things I’ve read about getting rich, knowing how to run a business is almost a prerequisite. Having a successful business will require making connections, which I can take advantage of to make friends. It allows me to write off business trips, which makes it easier for me to see the world. I’ll be challenged to learn new things to keep up with the competition, and I’ll have the independence that comes with being my own boss.

The primary aim of HalOtis is to create something that gets noticed, and gives me the chance to live the life I’ve dreamed of.

Jack Welch
Jack Welch is a winner. In his many years as the head of General Electric he has proven himself as more than competent at leading a corporation and it’s people to great success. Mr. Welch, after working his way up the corporate ladder became CEO of GE in 1981 and held that position for 20 years. These days he shares his secrets, and personal insights to thousands of people through his books and speaking engagements.

Recently I read the book Winning by Jack Welch. It’s filled with lots of ideas about how to best manage a company. One of those ideas that will make company competitive is the importance of candor within the organization.

Candor is about open and free flowing conversation. When you’ve got candor everything operates faster and better. To most North Americans real candor is unnatural, that’s why it takes many many years to really develop the kind of candidness that will really make a business efficient. A lack of candor within an organization doesn’t mean there is malevolent dishonesty, just that people are not frank about their opinions and emotions, they don’t communicate straightforwardly and encourage productive debates. Many people prefer to keep quiet and save face when having a discussion with other people, especially superiors. That can backfire because nobody makes the best decisions all the time, and without input from everyone on the team eventually a decision will be made without some vital fact being known; then you have to deal with the consequences.

HalOtis, as a new company, has to be very mindful of it’s developing culture to make sure that candidness is encouraged both up and down the corporate ladder. Being honest about company performance lets everyone know when things are getting tight or when things are going good. The more they know the better they will understand and respect corporate decisions. It’s also important for lower level people to feel comfortable sharing their insights with their supervisors. Those are the people that can identify inefficiencies and propose better solutions.

Jack Welch won and he considers candor to be one of biggest reasons why he did.

leadership compassGreat leaders are made, not born.

Leadership is a requirement to any successful business because the nature of of good leadership is that it provides important direction to an organization. But the one thing that Leaders need in order to be Leaders is: Followers. Forcing people to be your followers will never work, but there are things that you can learn, and practice and do that will make people willing to follow you.

The US Army developed a framework for leadership in 1973 based on be, know, and do. This is how they define these as it pertains to leadership:

  • BE
    1. A professional. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. Search for ways to guide your organization to new heights. And when things go wrong, they will eventually, do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge.
    2. A professional who possesses good character traits. Develop good traits within yourself, such as honesty, competence, candor, commitment, integrity, courage, straightforward, imagination. Develop good character traits within your team that will help them carry out their professional responsibilities.
  • KNOW
    1. The four factors of leadership – follower, leader, communication, situation.
    2. Yourself. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. In order to know yourself, you have to understand your be, know, and do, attributes. Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening your attributes. This can be accomplished through reading, self-study, classes, etc.
    3. Human nature. Know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your workers.
    4. Your job. Be technically proficient. As a leader, you must know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees’ jobs. Train your people as a team. Although many supervisors call their organization, department, section, etc., a team; they are not really teams…they are just groups of people doing their jobs.
    5. Your organization. Use the full capabilities of your organization. By developing a team spirit, you will be able to employ your organization, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities.
  • DO
    1. Provide direction. Make sound and timely decisions. Use good problem solving, decision-making, and planning tools. Keep your team informed. Know how to communicate with your team, seniors, and other essential people within the organization.
    2. Implement. Develop a sense of responsibility in your team. Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished. Communication is the key to this responsibility.
    3. Motivate. Set the example. Be a good role model for you employees. They must not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see. Know your team and look out for their well being.

Good leaders define an organizations culture, the direction, and work ethic. It is their job to build trust, and engage others to get things done. Becoming a leader yourself takes a personal commitment to take the time to study, and to practice the skills and techniques. Luckily it’s a skill that is learnable.

When I’m bored strange things can happen. Today I tried to draw up a mind map. It’s a tool to think about how things react and interact. This is what I came up with for the HalOtis company. Mind MapThis gives me a list of things that I either have to do, or learn more about. It’s pretty vague about what I should do next but it should serve as a good check list to quickly assess where I am in this project.

I’ll go through all the bubbles and explain what they mean to me and why I think they’re important in building a business.

Book keeper – Having a book keeper/Accountant adds legitimacy to the finances. There are at least 2 great reasons why it’s important to hire a 3rd party to do this work. First they are a good business contact, someone that knows about money, and deals with it on a full-time basis. Their specialty should help with the success of the business, by letting me see potholes before the come up. Second, it gives the business more leverage when it comes time to get a loan from the bank, because the bank will see HalOtis as being a serious company that has it’s finances in order, they’re more likely to trust the numbers, and thus provide a bigger loan if a book keeper is on the team.

Tax Strategy – Having a tax strategy is something that interests me, mostly because it’s an interesting problem, where there is room for creative solutions. It’s important because paying 50% income tax rather than 20% is a huge difference in the amount of money that HalOtis will be able to use in the future on projects.

Corporate Entities – Knowing about how best to structure a business is important for both the tax reasons stated above and also to limit the liability of myself, or my other ventures. If my Web services business gets sued, I don’t want to loose my home, or any of the real-estate investments. Having things correctly structured avoids one failure from wiping out my other successes.

Real-estate – Real-estate is an investment vehicle that I’m interesting in getting into. It’s easy to see how real-estate can provide a nice passive income, through rental properties, and that appeals to me. The other thing about real-estate is that even a small profit margin equals a large amount of dollars. In my research it seems like every wealthy person realizes the importance of real-estate in their investment portfolio, so it’s definitely something that I want to explore.

Business Contacts – It’s who you know that’s important. Business is such a complex game that going it alone will almost never work. There are too many issues that come up that where having someone to bounce ideas off of, or connect you to someone interested in buying products. People at the top of other companies can wield so much power that landing one contract could make the company. It’s extremely difficult to get a meeting with these busy people without knowing someone to give me an in. The more business contacts the more advice I can get and the more potential I have of landing deals.

Building Assets – Assets are things that put money in the pocket of the company. The more assets the company controls the more money it has the potential to make. Assets include hard assets like real-estate, and softer ones like patents, and market presence.

Business Ideas

  • Blogging – Blogging for me is a way to not only document the process, but also to connect to people that have ideas, and similar visions. It’s also an experiment in how to generate traffic and money from a website. Lessons learned from blogging will help to develop other websites, and create a community of people interested in following what happens.
  • Web Services – This is a business idea that leverages my knowledge of programming. This is an area that I understand how to develop, and should be able to physically accomplish. It therefore seems like a good place for me to start in developing my chops for business success. Where as starting a restaurant would make no sense for me because I know nothing about restaurants, doing something that I know gives me the least barrier to entry.

Today HalOtis is involved in a small project to increase the traffic to several websites.  I will be promoting this blog and my personal blog www.halotis.com/otis as well as the main company site www.halotis.com by posting links back to the sites on various forums, and submitting the sites to search engines and social networking sites.  Hopefully this work will pay off, and I will see a substantial increase in my web traffic.

With an ad supported website getting and maintaining an audience is key.  I’ll keep track of everything I do to promote the site, and post a list in the future, as well as the results I got.

Yesterday I signed up for the Pay Per Post website. I was able to register my personal blog at www.halotis.com/otis in their system which means that I can now get paid about $5 USD to post reviews. Some of the people on the site have made in excess of $4000 USD through the system and I think it is probably one of the best ways to monetize a low traffic website.

Supplementing my income is the first step to making it big. Many experts will agree that having several income streams is a key part of becoming rich. It’s amazing how much they all add up.

What do you think about getting paid $5 for 15 minutes of writing in the evening when there’s not much to do other than watch TV?

With the hype this summer about the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?” I thought I might explain why I think there’s a problem with them.

What it comes down to is that there are not enough parts on an electric car that can break. An electric car as compared to a conventional gas car has no gas tank, and fuel lines, no oil pan, or alternator, no fuel injection system, air filters, spark plugs, muffler, or radiator. The engine in an electric car contains 3 moving parts, compared to the immense complexity of modern gas engines. Because the power band on an electric motor is so consistant the gear box might only require 1 or 2 gears.

That means that there is very little that can break on an electric car. There’s no need to bring it to the service station for servicing, or oil changes. That little light to indicate engine trouble probably isn’t even necessary on an electric car. All that infrastructure built up over the years to supply the millions of cars with the replacement parts they need becomes useless, the entire servicing industry downsizes. Factories that built engine parts will go out of business and many many people will lose their jobs.So I guess the real problem with electric cars is that they doom the replacement part and maintenance industry. They leave consumers with more of their money to spend elsewhere rather than with the car companies.

terk robot recipeThe TElepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) is part of the Toy Robots Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University‘s Robotics Institute. They have a goal of lowering the barrier to entry for Robot designing and attracting more people into the technology fields of Computer Science and Engineering. The first edition of their kit is yet to be released but all indications are that it will be an extremely affordable and easy to use way of building real robots with all the bells and whistles like webcams and wi-fi.

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