A Business You Can Run On The Beach

Fewer things interest more in business than the idea of running a multi-million dollar empire from a lawn chair on the beach.  But that is exactly what excites me the most about some of my more recent business ventures.

running a business

It was year 2006 and I was in the third row of Dr. Bell’s Studies in Entrepreneurship class.  “I wanted to start a business I could run from a lawn chair on the beach”, our speaker told the class.  My mind was blown as he described how he did it.

 

For years, the idea of running a business from a lawn chair on the beach inspired me to think outside the box and challenge the current assumptions of the old school brick and mortar business approach.  This idea has been stucked in my mind as I’ve ventured into other businesses.

 

In today’s economy, the idea of running a business on the beach is more feasible than ever.  We live in a more mobile world where hard products no longer dominate the consumer market.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are some of the most successful businesses on the market at the moment and they don’t sell a physical product.

 

Building a business that you can run on the beach is a reality that can be achieved by following a few simple rules:

 

Focus on tech.  To build a successful business on the beach, your product must exist in cyberspace.  This make believe world in the cloud is the world’s most blossoming market.  Build a product that exists in cyberspace such a eBooks, mobile apps or other digital product to keep yourself away from the warehouse and out by the sand castles.

 

Work in the cloud.  All my work is stored on Dropbox and backed up to my own server.  All the data on my computer, cell phone, iPad and other business tools is stored in the cloud.  This keeps them accessible from anywhere.  Using Google Chrome and extensions like Tab Cloud means I’m in my office whether I’m at home, an office or the beach.

 

Work remotely.  Using Skype, FaceTime, cellphones and dropbox for sharing files, the modern office building is no more.  Full time employees can be replaced with freelancers from Elance, oDesk and 99Designs.  Administrative duties can be outsourced to Va’s.  Mail and incoming calls can be outsourced to virtual offices such as BusinessSuites.

 

Outsource everything you can.  In today’s marketplace, you can outsource nearly everything.  The speaker who gave me the idea had workers scattered all across the country compelling data.  This data was instantly fed to the offsite server they had outsourced and displayed on a website they had run by yet another company.  They had no offices and no desks.  Only a cell phone and a lawn chair which he’d perch fittingly on the coast.

 

Liberate yourself from the office.  Desktops can be replaced with laptops.  Office phones are replaced by cellphones.  Files are stored in the cloud.  Meetings take place over the web and your next business can be run from a lawn chair on the beach.

 

Seven years ago my mind was blown by the idea of running a company from at the beach.  Today, it is easier than running a business in a traditional brick and mortar sense.  Escape the cubical and head out for some fresh air.  It may be the next great business idea you’ve been looking for.

 

Have you ever tried working remotely?

 

 

 

How To Set Up a Business You Can Run From Anywhere in the World Part 2

Last week I wrote a post detailing how to set up a business you can run from anywhere in the world.  This is part 2, a detailing of apps and services I use for interacting with employees and customers.

business

The global marketplace has transformed the working world from a sweatshop style collection of cubicles to an open air, go anywhere, do anything market of totally free enterprise.  Unless you’re building a physical product or delivering an in person service, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t be running your business anywhere in the world and save places that lack sufficient internet service.

 

To quickly review last week’s post (Part 1) about setting up a business you can run from anywhere in the world, I explained how I use the following:

  • A virtual office
  • Google Voice
  • My Virtual Assistant (through EAhelp)
  • Freelance artists and skilled creatives
  • Payment Processor

 

Today, I will share with you how I interact with employees and freelancers I’ve hired.  We can’t always get together and in most cases, we will never meet face to face.  Instead, we rely on the latest technology and services to  collaborate and come together to grow our businesses.

 

This is not an exhaustive list but covers the apps and services we use most often.  These apps are what we use to collaborate and keep everyone in the businesses moving in the same direction.

 

Save your work to dropbox.  All my posts are saved to dropbox.  My editor reviews and my virtual assistant posts them when they’re ready.  We use dropbox daily to share files and collaborate.  It is my go to method for carrying literally thousands of documents and files with me anywhere I go.

 

Use Evernote to keep your ideas.  For one company, we have set up an Evernote folder that we all have access to.  When someone thinks of a brilliant idea, which generally happens while in the restroom or when we’re trying to fall asleep, we simply save the idea into Evernote.  In the morning, everyone can access the folder and see the new idea.  Quickly, the note is filled with additions and suggestions.  It is a great virtual tool for collaboration of ideas.

 

Get it done with Nozbe. For all my freelancers and employees, I have added the as users to my Nozbe.  Each company has a “Project” or sometimes more.  I then share these projects with the freelancers working on that project.  Nozbe creates a virtual to do list where we can all see and track our tasks.  I have to admit, I’m new to doing this but so far it has increase productivity.  In inadvertent but pleasant surprise has been competition among the freelancers in a project.  Since all the to do items are public, I see them racing to complete theirs before the others can finish their list.

 

Skype meetings are the best for international conferencing.  I’ve used and still do use FaceTime with several freelancers but have found Skype to be the all-in-one package.  I have scheduled chats with some freelancers.  For bigger items we’ll have a conference call.  When it is a really important item, we can video conference face to face.  Thanks to the app on iPhone and iPad, I can be on mobile about my Skype meetings.  This is handy when dealing with inconvenient time zone disparity.

 

Find a good web developer.  My go to is TopSpot Internet Marketers.  They’ve built several sites for me and offer turn-key service.  They can develop, optimize, and monitor my SEO, E-Mail campaign, PPC, a social media all in house.  Their corporate structure is also optimal.  I have one point of contact

 

Thanks to technology, traditional leadership has been flipped on its head.  Gone are the days of long staff meetings.  Today’s leader relies on connecting on an individual basis and allowing others the freedom to succeed.  Because of these changes, running a business from anywhere in the world has never been easier.

 

Where would you go if you could run your business from anywhere in the world?

 

 

 

How To Set Up A Business You Can Run From Anywhere In The World

Allen Gillmer first gave me the idea of setting up a business that could be run from anywhere in the world.  Tim Ferriss took it to a whole new level with his New York Times Bestseller “The 4-Hour Work Week”.  There has never been a time when this idea is more feasible than now.

bigstock-Strategic-Journey-43526110

The tech sector is booming and internet based service companies are popping up every day.  Starting a business on a few thousand dollars is the norm.  Even if you don’t have that much cash, you can look to yet another internet based business such as kickstarter, for funding.

 You’ve never had a better opportunity to launch a successful start-up that you can run from anywhere in the world than you have at the present.  Start-ups that want to know how to set up an organizational structure can be run from anywhere in the world are entering the market at just the right time. 

This is part 1 of a 2 part series.  This is exactly how you can create a business that can be run from anywhere in the world.

Contract a virtual office.  Companies like Business Suites specialize in renting out office space on a daily basis.  What a start-up should note is that they have office phone and mail service even without the need for office space.  You can have a Fifth Avenue, New York City address on your business cards for less than $100 a month.  They’ll even answer the phone using your business name and forward your mail to your home.

Use Google Voice if you plan to have multiple employees and higher call volumes.  You can set Google Voice to redirect your calls based on the time of day.  Early calls go to the east coast employees.  Later calls go to west coast employees and really late calls can go overseas.

My favorite feature is that as an executive, you can set your availability and limit when calls can come to you without worrying about missing something important.  Your calls can be directed straight to another employee or your virtual assistant.

Hire a virtual assistant.  If your work load is too much for you to handle, but not enough for another full time employee, hire a virtual assistant.  They can be purchased on an hourly basis as needed.  EA Help is my favorite service.  They can customize a package to fit your needs.  You can hire a Virtual Assistant who works only 5 hours a week checking your emails, organizing your to do items and scheduling your appointments.

Hire freelancers for everything.  I just recently launched yet another design contest on 99Designs for my latest book cover.  I wrote the book, hired a freelance editor, crowd-sourced the design and hired a freelancer to put it into an e-book format.  Inserting it into my site will be done by yet another freelancer.  My favorite service provider is Elance.

Use a payment process service that also fulfills orders.  E-Junkie is one of the easiest to install and operate.  This is essential to making money from your lawn chair on the beach.  Services like E-Junkie allow you to create a product and forget about it.  E-Junkie will process the payment and deliver the product without you having to lift a finger.

Whether you plan to visit the beach or just spend more time working in an environment you like, setting up a business you can run from anywhere in the world just makes sense.  Today’s mobile environment has transformed the work environment from stuffy cubicles to free and open space.

Part 2 will run next week and will feature how I use Dropbox, Evernote, Nozbe, Skype and TopSpot IMS to run my business from anywhere in the world.

 

Enter you email address in the form on the top right of this scene to receive Part 2 directly to you inbox so you won’t miss it.

5 Keys to a Successful Crowdsourcing Designs Contest

The logo on this site came from crowdsourcing designs in a global competition for less than $200.  My experience was so great that I’ve used crowdsourcing for all my designs since.  Every logo, brochure, and even my next book cover were all obtained via crowdsourcing designs.

Crowdsourcing Designs

My most recent crowdsourcing design project cost far less than traditional design methods and netted more than 400 unique designs.  To get the most out of your next design project look no further than 99Designs.com, my go to site for crowdsourcing designs.

My first experience purchasing a design happened many years ago before crowdsourcing designs was popular and accessible.  My company needed a brochure created so we called the only company we knew who could do it – a printing company!

The design options we received were few.  None of them met our expectations.  Thankfully, you don’t have to ever experience the horror or showing your customer an awful brochure thanks to crowdsourcing design sites.

My most recent project is the design of my new book cover.  This is my first experience with crowdsourcing a book design but it has been a pleasant one.   Only two days into my contest and there have already have been more than 150 designs.

To achieve the most from your next crowdsourcing designs competition you’ll need to know what it takes to get the best designs possible.  This is the method I’ve used for my last five competitions.

Be Descriptive.  For my new book cover design, I described not only what I wanted in a design but also my target market and what they’d expect in a book cover.  The more descriptive you can be the easier it is for creative designers to envision a design you’ll be happy with.

Provide Examples.  For my book cover, I attached 5 images of other books I like.  This is a great way to get your designers started quickly.  Be sure to describe what you like most about each design.

Give Context.  To help your designers select the best colors give them the context in which your design will be used.  For example, my book will be displayed on this blog.  The smart designers have incorporated the colors and feel of this site so that there will be continuity between the site and the book.

Have a Rating Period.  Most crowdsourcing design contests last 7 days.  If you’ve given enough description, you’ll likely start receiving designs your fist day.  Be careful not to eliminate designs at this stage.  Instead, rate every design so other designers can see what designs you like, and what designs you do not find appealing.

Leave Constructive Feedback.  When rating a design, leave the designer public feedback about what you like or dislike.  This will serve other designers well.  When others see what you like and dislike about other designs, you’ll begin receiving real contenders and find yourself with many top choices.

Reward Creative Designs.  To truly find an amazing design you must have good competition to compare it to.  Reward creativity by acknowledging creative designs.  This will spur more alternatives and many unique designs so you can honestly compare many options.

Crowdsourcing designs is the most cost effective and efficient way to purchase designs.  A good design can give you that professional and polished look your brand needs.

How do you feel about crowdsourcing designs?

 

My life sucks – Even Tim Ferriss Has Off Days

“Everyone’s Life sucks, your life sucks, my life sucks too.  I’m sure mine doesn’t suck quite as much as yours.” This is one of my favorite Jerry Seinfeld jokes, mostly because it’s true.

My Life Sucks

Everyone’s life sucks and you can’t change that.  But as Jerry reminds us later in the joke, “sucks and great are pretty close.”  Sometimes my life sucks, but most of the time it doesn’t, and those are the times that make the bad times bearable.

The truth is, we all have this illusion that it’s possible to live your life to the fullest and never worry about anything.  We’re all chasing the idea that one day we could possibly have everything we ever wanted, all of the joy, and none of the pain.

The sad truth is, my life sucks and so does yours.  Now let’s do something about that!

Tim Ferriss recently released a post about how bad his life is and that made me happy.  Not happy because Tim’s life sucks (it really doesn’t) but because I’m not alone, and neither are you.

Tim’s post actually shared many highlights of his life, all things that outweighed the bad 10 to 1.  Tim could have shared only the good news and we’d all go on continuing to think he was a superhero whose life was better than ours.  Luckily, he shared the ugly as well, and this gives us hope.

Your life doesn’t have to suck and here is why:

My life sucks. It’s true; we all have hard days.  The day I wrote this post, my blog had just set a record for unique visitors.  This, of course, was great news.  But at least once in the day I thought to myself “my life sucks.”  Bad things will happen even on your best days.

Tim’s life sucks. In a world where everyone on the Internet is talking about how great they are (just look at your Facebook News Feed) we begin to develop a warped sense of ourselves.  The truth is, even our heroes are human and sleep in until 11:30am or consider selling everything and moving far away.

It’s all about perspective.  My favorite scene in “The Noticer”, by Andy Andrews, shows Andy and Jones sitting on the beach eating Vienna sausages and sardines.  Doesn’t sound that great, does it?  But to Jones, he’s dining al fresco and enjoying a delicious surf and turf meal.  It’s all about perspective.

You still have a purpose.  The simple fact that you’re still here on earth tells you that you still have a purpose to fulfill.  Fulfilling a purpose brings the greatest joy.  Therefore, you’ve got something to look forward to.

When I find my self thinking “my life sucks,” I pick myself up and follow this routine that gets me out of the funk instantly:

  1. Stand up
  2. Turn on Music
  3. Open the blinds, or turn on a light
  4. Turn on my Focus Time App
  5. Spend 20 minutes writing down everything I should be doing
  6. Circle the top 3
  7. Write down the next action for each
  8. Get some water
  9. Reset my Focus Time App for 55 minutes
  10. Start on Item 1

Being productive is the best way to defeat the “my life sucks” attitude.  Productivity helps you find your passion and your purpose.  Your life doesn’t suck; it only sucks until you get up and do something about it.

How many times in the last week have you thought, “my life sucks?”

Proven Methods to Quickly Gain Market Share in Any Industry

When I first began running Allied Equipment’s CNG Storage Sphere line I knew instantly that my first goal would be to quickly gain market share.  It turns out that it’s not as hard as you’d think.  It’s quite easy in fact.

quickly gain market share

Headlines like “Natural Gas: a 50 Trillion Dollar Industry” will quickly make any entrepreneur start thinking how successful they’d be if they could just carve out 2% of that market.  And they’re right!  They don’t have to become the next big company to make good money.

If most start-ups can just gain a small fraction of the market share, they’ll be off to a great start.  But how does a start-up quickly gain market share once they’ve gotten their product to market?

More often than not, quickly gaining market share is not as difficult as you’d assume.  Just a small piece of the pie is often all it takes for a start-up to become legit and begin gaining momentum.

When I started running the CNG Storage Sphere product line at Allied Equipment back in 2007, I found a sure fire way to quickly gain market share in an industry that was dominated by a few BIG players.  The strategy paid off big time as we grew to become the nation’s largest manufacturer of CNG Storage Spheres.

Aim for the low hanging fruit.  In every industry, there are always a few opportunities that a start-up can quickly snag.  These are usually smaller customers whom the major suppliers do not have time for.  Customer service will help you quickly gain market share among this group.

Find the gatekeeper. In my industry, the gatekeeper ended up being engineers.  If I could get them to spec my product into a station design, the winner bidder would be forced to buy from me.  Gatekeepers are in every industry and a smart salesman will find them.  In fashion, these are celebrities.  In writing, these are followers.  Followers will force a publisher to sign you book simply because they know there are sales amongst your tribe.

Inform the industry.  Quickly gain market share by getting the word out about your product.  Attending conference, expos, writing on blogs, in magazines, anywhere you can, is the only way to inform the industry.  CNG Spheres were a new product when I started and most people didn’t even know what they were.  That played well at trade shows.  People stop and ask “what is that thing?”

Go around your customer.  This tactic works well in all industries.  For me, I would convince the school district who was buying a CNG station that spheres were the way to go.  They in turn, would demand that their supplier buy my spheres.  The same goes for children’s toys.  Your customer is really the parents, but the kids will force the parents to buy your product.

These proven methods to quickly gain market share will help your start-up find its legs and begin generating positive cash flow.  I used these exact methods to take my product from start-up to seven figures in less than a year.

 

What industry would you most like to quickly gain market share in?