What do Entrepreneurs have in common with the England football manager?

ANSWER : We have to put up with ‘D.O.G’ – Dysfunctional Opinion Giving

Roy

(This article appeared in THE WALL – in November 2013)

E-commerce Entrepreneurs are no different from all the others – we tend to be Jack and Jane’s of all trades.

That said we do recognize that sometimes we really do need to rely on expert advice to help ‘professionalize’ our thought processes and decision-making.

So for instance, when our Bank Manager or Accountant talks about cash flow or tax – we tend to switch onto receive-mode and give their words due respect, weight and attention.

But how do we Entrepreneurs judge and manage the reams of well-intentioned advice that stream unabated from friends, relatives and even mere acquaintances – given that most of this advice was learned at that well-known business school of ‘dilettantism’?

Manage this badly and it can quickly become a D.O.G’ situation (Dysfunctional Opinion Giving), which can then manifest itself in flashes of self-doubt, demotivation and drive reduction, for the recipient Entrepreneur.

That’s the dysfunctional part – if this happens, one key component for achieving business ‘success’, a strong support network, will be now acting to undermine the crucial other – the vital self-belief and confidence needed to make us function effectively as Entrepreneurs.

I am about to launch my e-commerce business in Q1 2104 (in parallel to my Non-Exec/Consultancy business)

In brief I am on a mission to rid the planet of dirty tongues – with a premium range of stylish long lasting tongue cleansers, sold via e-commerce.

I have thus experienced D.O.G in action – and I can vouch that it can be disrupting to my entrepreneurial focus and drive.

The Top 3 pieces of recent unsolicited, but well intentioned, ‘D.O.G’ advice proffered by friends, relatives and mere acquaintances have been:

1. Why not work from home – rather than rent an office?

2. No patent? (What stops others doing this then)

3. Remember to register domain names (fully 18 months into my start-up…)

I won’t labour you with my patient and composed (almost Buddhist) responses – but each question usually betrays the advice-givers ‘dilettantism’ – in regard to actually running an SME start-up business.

Over the years I think I have become quite adept at shifting the ‘wheat from the chaff’ advice swiftly and tactfully.

Whenever I detect that look in some-ones eyes, that warns me I am about to receive some unsolicited opinion – I shield myself by applying these 3 rules:

1. Have you first passed the 2-question test?

Fail this and I can safely ignore anything you might say. Advice from anyone who has not even bothered to first enquire as to what I am trying to do, business wise, is worthless – full stop.

However, if you first ask me at least 2 questions about my business, this at least denotes you have an enquiring mind, which thus gives you some foundation to then offer up some possible pearls of wisdom.

2. Are you qualified to speak?

Just because you have used Amazon and once heard the term ‘SEO’ – doesn’t qualify you to give me endless tips on the pitfalls of my e-commerce strategy.

I’ll have you know, my next-door neighbor runs a leading mobile communication agency, so I have already been briefed by an Expert, over several cheeky beers – as he likes to put it.

Similarly telling me my pricing strategy is “completely wrong” – when you have no business experience at all and your last job was as a Feng Shui Gardener (a noble endeavor don’t get me wrong) – is simply bizarre.

So please preface any blunt business opinion with WHY you are qualified to give it in the first place.

3. Is this practical advice – or complexly theoretical?

If you have taken a little effort to understand my business and are qualified to speak – please don’t blow it by now giving me completely impractical advice.

The big difference between blue chip and SME business cultures is their tolerance for ‘blue sky thinking’.

As every SME Entrepreneur knows, their business will fail if they had to indulge the constant time-consuming flow of un-pragmatic thought that blue chips positively seem to indulge.

So whilst listening intently I am asking myself – is what you are telling me doable – both in time and money terms?

 

So having established that you are the recipient of advice from the school of ‘dilettantism’ – how do you now tactfully deal with it?

(Most Entrepreneurs probably would love to do a parody of Marshall McLuhan in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and just say; “You know nothing about my business” and cut them dead).

But realistically, popular lines that work for me are:

“Thank you but it’s the weekend and I’m trying to have some business down-time…”

OR

“The points you raise have certainly made me think – but you missed the turn into my road cab driver…”

So – hard-pressed Entrepreneurs do share something with England football Manager Roy Hodgson, because everyone believes they could do our job – only far better.

The solution to dealing with this is not meant to be rocket science (geddit?)

By applying my simple 3-rule test we Entrepreneurs can at least gain some respite from the constant flow of D.O.G – and thus maintain our entrepreneurial spirit, business focus and sanity.

 

See the AMANO Tongue Cleanser website:  launched June 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does a Digital Googly look like?

 

                               

ball

 

(This article appeared in THE WALL – the digital marketing publication)

It has been 4 weeks since my crowdfunding activity on Seedrs, the UKs fastest growing crowdfunding portal, began.

This is what I know:

I’ve reached over 30% of my target with nearly 40 Investors backing The Amano Tongue Cleanser so far – and I still have 2 months to go to reach my £100,000 funding target.

Plus the US based crowdfunding journal Crowdfund Insider lavishly featured my “2000 year tongue cleanser design” – well it is based on an AD100 Roman design.

And what I don’t quite know:

Is this a ‘good’, ‘poor’ or ‘just OK’ performance?  As you all know I am a crowdfunding virgin.

Interestingly:

The profile sets of Investors and ‘interested parties’ have surprised me – a healthy mix of Lawyers, Accountants and Businesspeople from Oxbridge (really, I’m not kidding) plus London based marketing services professionals.

These ‘Interested parties’ have been able to ask me any question they wish on my pitch, which I then have to answer publically on the open forum.

I’ve had 3 types of questions thus far:

1. The slow straight easy delivery (“Can I have your business plan?”)

2. Several fast deliveries with turn

3. And one Googly

The 2nd most challenging question has been this (and I paraphrase):

“The product looks great, I can see the potential – so why choose an e-commerce strategy rather than selling in a retail environment”?

Now I have to admit I struggle to respond to this in a FRESH way each time it is asked.

So I am going to road test a new answer right here…

Yes e-commerce is about:

  • Ease of shopping – armchair (who actually has one of these by the way?) versus having to traipse out to the shops
  • Better gross margins – 70% rather than a derisory 25%
  • The ‘product’ is always ‘in stock’ (or ‘in-transit’). If the ‘buy’ decision has been made, ‘closing a deal’ with a purchase has a 100% chance of actually happening on-line, compared to the chance of it actually being on shelf in the retail shop you happen to pop into.

BUT the crucial factor, that places e-commerce head and shoulders above retail bricks and mortar, is the scope of the target market I can potentially connect with – rather than just hope to.

Place your product in a retail store environment and you are really dependent on the footfall into that shop.

Place it on your web site, sprinkle some SEO and targeted new media advertising magic dust – and you have gained cost effective CONTROL over who enters your on-line store – across a global scale.

Check out the dizzying numbers that can be applied to the so-called ‘niche market’ for tongue cleansing:

 

infographic target market

 

Now try to imagine 50 million consumers walking through your local Pharmacy, Supermarket or Department store – looking for the Amano Tongue Cleanser…

IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

So via e-commerce I have 50 million potential interested consumers to target – rather than a miniscule proportion of that – if I had chosen the retail store option in the UK alone.

It doesn’t need a Rocket Scientist to see the compelling logic of opting for an e-commerce biased strategy.

And if it’s real proven numbers you crave, check this out.

These are the unique visitors to the top US retail websites in the second quarter of 2013. Mind inspiring ‘footfall’ numbers without doubt.

unique visitors Q2 2013

 

So – what was the Googly I had delivered at me, I hear you ask?

Well you will need to go onto the Seedrs site to this that particular question.

But as I said in my response to the bowler of said Googly, Gregory;

“I didn’t see that coming”.

See the AMANO Tongue Cleanser website:  launched June 2014

Brand is still King’ – patents can be a distraction

The ‘NOT SO SECRET DIARY OF AN E-COMMERCE ENTREPRENEUR’ continues in THE WALL

Angry Birds

I do not know if Angry Birds, Moshi Monsters and The Sims have patents attached to them or not.

Either way I bet their rip roaring success is down more to the ‘traditional virtues’ of brand building – rather than a complex set of inventive digital coding steps.

I say this because from time to time I get asked if I have any patents attached to the design of the AMANO Tongue Cleanser.

The precise answer I give (after a slow intake of breathe) depends on how much I believe the questioner’s mind is set to ‘receive mode’.

This is the gist of my ‘lift response’:

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE WALL ARTICLE

 

See the AMANO Tongue Cleanser website:  launched June 2014