What If They Steal My Idea?

I’ve come across a great number of people who have brilliant business ideas but they are afraid to share them because the ideas may be “stolen”. Do you know that feeling? When your idea is so “genius” that you have to keep it in, strategize, plan, and when the time is right, you will have it all built and then release it to the public.

Unfortunately, this is pretty naive. I find that people who have only began thinking of “business ideas” are the ones who fear that their ideas may be stolen.

Let me tell you a story. I once had what I thought as a brilliant, God-given, unique idea that would make me billions. Yes, billions. Naturally, I was very afraid that someone may steal my wonderful idea. I thus kept it to myself and just kept on building on it. Since I was not a programmer/web developer back then, when I had the idea fully fleshed out, I approached some techies seeking a partnership. What I found was astonishing.

As I started befriending programmers and web developers and began telling my idea to them, I realized that the developers I was interested in partnering with didn’t care too much about my “genius idea” but were much more interested in what I brought to the partnership. What kind of skills did I have? What kind of connections did I have? What was my reason for pursuing what I was doing? What did I know about my industry?

You are bigger than your ideas. It is always good to have “genius ideas” but you need to reach a level where YOU as a person are more valuable than your idea, a level where you are valuable independent of your idea. In other words, you need to get to the point where people realize that your “genius idea” cannot succeed unless you are part of the team.

Still, so what if they just steal the idea? The fact is, once you start marketing to the public, the whole world will know about your idea. if the idea is good enough then competitors will pop up and they will try to outdo you – and some of them will have very deep pockets. But, the thing is that anyone can try and copy you, but no one can actually be you.

They can steal your idea, but no one can steal your style, your creativity, and your drive to succeed. That is what should make your business different, and successful.

How WooThemes Quietly Built A $2+ Million Per Year Online Business

The WooThemes story is an incredible story right from here in Africa! This is the story of how a young South African built an online business that makes USD 2 million plus a year. You do not need to be in the USA or Europe and get massive amounts of funding to build a wildly successful online business. You just need to believe in yourself, and go do it!

Click here to go see the video interview with WooThemes co-founder that details how, exactly, they built their online business.

Investing in Virtual Real Estate

A little-known way of making money online is that of investing in virtual real estate i.e. buying websites.

I know you are conversant with the idea of buying land or houses so I will use that as an example to make a point. If you buy a house at Kshs 5 million and then rent it out, the monthly rent that you can charge is usually 1% of the buying price (this sometimes varies but it is the average). Therefore, the expected rent of a house worth 5 million would be Kshs 50,000 a month or Kshs 600,000 a year. To get back your 5 million investment, it would take 8.3 years. This is considered a good investment.

A better one would be to buy a small business. The average rate of return on a small business is about 20% – i.e. if you buy a business at 5 million, you should expect to make 1 million a year. This means that it would take you 5 years to get back your investment.

What about buying a website? The strange thing is that the value of a website is usually only about 12 – 24 times its money income. That is, if a website makes Kshs 10,000/- a month, the selling price should be a maximum of 240,000/-. This means that it only takes you two years to get back your initial investment.

Sounds like a good investment to you?

It is not a silver bullet though – you’d be throwing your money away if you do not know what you are doing. Before buying a website you have to invest time and energy to learn how websites work and to do due diligence on any particular website before buying it. The good news is that you can get websites at extremely low prices of $100 (Kshs 8,000) only. Therefore, you can start small and learn as you make bigger and better investments.

Daniel Scocco has a very good guide on buying websites for profit. This is the advice that Daniel gives i.e. how to do your homework before buying a website:

  1. Do you have the technical knowledge to manage it? Some websites are quite simple to run, and you’ll just need to update the content via a content management system once in a while. Others, however, are quite complex, and you’ll need some technical skills (e.g., PHP, MySQL, JavaScript). Make sure you know what is involved.
  2. Do you know how much traffic the website gets? The best way to assess this is to ask the website owner to install Google Analytics on the website and to give you a user account so you can see the numbers by yourself. If he is reluctant to do this, be skeptical.
  3. Do you know how much money the website makes? Similarly you need to be 100% sure of how much money the website makes. Ask for screenshots, and if necessary even video screencasts, and those are harder to fake.
  4. Is the website solid and established? You want to make sure that the website you’ll be buying has solid roots, else both the traffic and the revenues could vanish after a couple of months. You can verify this by checking the age of the domain name, the number of pages indexed by Google, the number of backlinks pointing to the website, and by the traffic and revenue history (e.g., ask for at least 6 months of data for those metrics).

You can buy (and sell) websites online at Flippa.

Interesting in investing in websites? If you want to get into this but have no idea how to search for, value, evaluate and manage a website, give us a call. We’ll work something out.

The First Step to Running a Business is to be a Project Manager

If you take time out to seriously consider all that is involved in running a business, you will find that the most prominent tasks and traits are multi-tasking and organization. These are the same qualities that define most Project Management jobs. You have to know what is going on in each aspect of your business from projected revenue to hiring staff to advertising and beyond. The best way to prepare yourself for this multifaceted undertaking is to take notes from Project Managers.
Like most jobs that are challenging, Project Managing is not glorious. In fact, it is seen in the corporate world as a position that consists mostly of creating busy work. Yet, in these positions you need to know the ins and outs of all aspects of the corporation that you are working for. You need more than just a peripheral knowledge of your current advertising campaign; you need to be fully entrenched in its ideology and delivery in order to manage how it is run by delegating responsibility to those best suited, and so forth.

This is the same situation when you own your own business. The exception is that you need to know more than just one aspect of your corporation; you need to have intimate knowledge of each corner of your business in order to manage its daily affairs including task delegation, future planning, and idea generation. As the owner of a business you are the head of Accounting, Marketing, Human Resources, among other sectors. You will have staff that will look after the details, but it is up to you to hire the right people who share your vision for your organization and can deliver what you expect in a timely and organized manner.

That is why it is so essential to have the right staff to follow through on the tasks that you set before them. If not, you could wind up in a situation whereby you are micromanaging all the aspects of your business down to the most finite detail. This is exactly the situation that you want to avoid; drowning in the details and micromanaging your way into disaster.

This is where the skills of Project Management come into play. Being a Project Manager is about knowing a little bit about each aspect of your business and not being a specialist in any. You find competent people to do the required tasks, whether it be controlling, marketing, or hiring staff, but you oversee the entire process and make sure that your final stamp of approval goes on each major decision that comes to your desk. You make sure that things get done as planned and make sure that none of the details are missed and fall through the cracks.

After all, this is your business, and you will want these little details to reflect your vision for your endeavours. The key is to hire staff that you can feel confident know your vision and manage them in a way that reflects open communication of the daily goings on in their respective fields.

Does University Matter?

I read a very interesting discussion on Quora on whether or not getting a university education really matters. Here’s what was said (edited):

Does a university education matter?
Darien said, “The short answer is that not having a degree is going to close certain doors, but you’re going to be the one who has to decide whether those doors matter to you. The answer may very well be ‘no’.

The debt you incur in college, taken in tandem with the opportunity cost of lost productivity, is likely never to pay off financially. This of course depends on your institution and field of study. Engineering, for example, or business from a top-tier business school probably will. A BA in an arts or humanities related subject will almost certainly not.

The importance of a college degree is pretty much directly proportional to the level of bureaucracy in a hiring organization. If you ever desire to work in government or academia, you won’t be able to do it without a degree. This is also true of many non-profits and large companies.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, not having a completed college degree has not kept any important doors closed. I landed the sales/biz dev position I wanted at the last company I worked for and my current startup is funded. (Ironically, it’s an education company.)”

Afterwards, John gives a little personal story:

I used to go to the University of Maryland, College Park in the mid-90’s, studying Mathematics and Physics. I started getting heavily involved in chess, and specifically a online chess playing site which was one of the first companies to have an online business model. Next thing I knew I got a job offer, and decided to do that instead of school. Ten years later, after a few different positions, my career had progressed, and I was making six figures for a startup, holding positions which often required an MBA, despite me not having the Bachelor’s. Then, the startup, like a lot of companies in late 2008, went away.

What happened then? Simple. In a competitive job market, employers want to hire not only the best prospects, but the “safe” hire. I kept getting interviews, second interviews, and even in two cases, third interviews. Nothing happened. Why? In short, I didn’t have the degree. I was appreciative of those who openly told me that the person I lost out to got the job because of the degree they had. In the cover-your-ass world of corporate politics, if the hire who didn’t have the degree doesn’t pan out, then there’s a red flag for you to go after the hiring manager. Additionally, most companies put “BS required” or the like, and I have heard claims that companies can be sued by other prospective job-seekers if they hire someone who doesn’t have a Bachelor’s degree.

So, what did I do? Started applying to schools, figuring that if I was not going to work, I might as well proceed in schooling. I was forutnate enough to get into NYU’s Management and Leadership Program at McGhee, and also fortunate enough to get another great job (within the same week!), and have done both for the past 1 1/2 years. While it may not matter for most, the college degree is a checkbox that is very often required in corporate America. Note, I am going to continue in my education get my Master’s afterwards, and possibly Doctorate, but haven’t fully decided yet.

So does university matter? I personally believe university is less important than what we think, especially in this country where the quality (versus the cost) is something debatable. You can get a good life without going to university. Sadly, it is nearly impossible to get a good job if you have not been to university.

It seems to me, therefore, that if you can get a good education elsewhere (books!) then university does not really matter unless you want to work for some big company.

What do you think?

2011 Should Be “The Year” For You

Do you remember a time when a concept known as ‘job security’ actually existed? I’m not sure anyone even uses that term anymore.

Then there’s the reality that a vast number of our politicians appear to believe the public is a horde of mindless cattle whose only function is to be made empty promises and milked for everything they’re worth until their dried-out carcasses are ground into fertilizer. There’s also the fact that in a democracy the public elects precisely the politicians that it deserves. And if the public appoints a parade of idiots and flimflam men to mind the cash register, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

If 2010 was bad for you, then I humbly suggest that 2011 will be worse. Unless you do something about it. I recommend that whatever new years plans you are making, they better be plans of how you will fight tooth and nail to ensure that 2011 is a good year for you. It has to be the year that ou achieve something you can show the world and be proud of. Get busy and start planning on how to do this – if you’ve got a list of skills you need to acquire, you better get busy acquiring them.

If you do nothing else make sure that you learn how to MAKE ONE SHILLING. Make sure you know how to PROVE it. And make sure you discipline yourself to reinvest that shilling. Most people think that having a job working for a big company is proof of the ability to make one shilling. Actually it’s only proof of having wrenched one shilling from the corporate udder.

Right now unemployment is probably ~40%. Let’s say it goes up to 50%. This means that people will get more desperate. It means that if you have the ability to make one shilling and prove it, you’ll have 600 people lined up eager to work for/with you.

Will you be the one looking for a job, or the one looking at job applications and hiring the cream of the land?

It is up to you. May you have a prosperous 2011.

Research an Industry – Starting Your Business

Many people often have an idea of a business that they may be interested in starting. The next step should be to then do some initial research on that business and find out whether it is worth doing. If you have picked a good niche market or industry, it should have the following characteristics already:

  • A Market that Can Pay for Your Product
  • The Product You Offer is Valuable to Them
  • There are opportunities for recurring revenue
  • The Market is Big Enough to Support Your Product

Steps to Research Your Niche Industry

  1. Do some competitive research – What are your competitors doing for this niche industry. Hopefully there aren’t many in your niche industry yet but if they are there, try to find out what works for them. If no one is offerring the same product or service, try to find out what other companies who sell to the same niche are doing for their product or service. (Note: Keep note of these companies as they may be able to help resell your your product.)
  2. Find Out What Marketing Works Best for Them – Some niche industries are most effectively marketed to through referrals, while others can be reached most effectively through direct response in related publications, and still others might respond to more mass media like TV or radio. Once you know this, you can start researching those media for ads that have worked well for other companies. Ads that have run for long periods of times are often ones that are the most successful.
  3. Understand the Economics of the Industry – In an industry like dentistry, there are some interesting economics going on. Preventive dentistry is far less profitable than elective procedures like cosmetic dentistry. Therefore, most dental practices are more interested in increasing their cosmetic cases. If you know this, you can focus your product and advertising more on cosmetic dentistry and get a higher response on your marketing, provide more value for your clients, and gain more profit per unit sold.
  4. Is Your Product a Good Fit? – Play devil’s advocate here. If your product doesn’t exist yet, is there a reason why? Have other’s tried it and failed already? Maybe you have a great idea of how to reach potential new car buyers through the newspaper but your target market (high end car dealers) prefers for a little more high-end marketing?

Doing the Research of your Niche Industry is one of the more “abstract” steps in starting a business. There is not as much of an end goal like creating a piece of advertising or testing out your product. It’s tough to know what to look for when doing your research but the more you know about the industry that you’re targeting and the state of your potential competitors, the more successful you will be in targeting that niche market.