How to Create Your Own Product 2 – Setup and Marketing Approaches

MODULE 1

CHAPTER 12

How to Create Your Own Product 2

– Setup and Marketing Approaches

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Objectives

3.0 Main Content

3.1 Definition of Business Model

3.1.1. Types of Business Model

3.1.2 Email Marketing (Freemium Mixed Model)

3.2 Experts and Friends Appraisals

3.3 Payment Processor

3.4 Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

3.5 Launching Your Product

3.6 Two Important Decisions

3.7.0 Selling on Your Own Personal Website

3.7.1 Benefits

3.7.1.1 Be Your Own Boss

3.7.1.2 Cashing in on Your Virtual Authority

3.7.1.3 Ever-flowing Streams of Residual Income

3.7.1.4 More Opportunities

3.7.1.5 Top Secret Reason Why You Should Create Your Own Product

3.7.1.6 Expert-In-The-Making

3.8 Challenges

3.9 Selling Your Products on Third Party Websites

3.10 You Are In For the Long Haul

3.11 Rinse and Repeat

4.0 Conclusion

5.0 Summary

6.0 Assignment

1.0 Introduction

I covered most parts of this process in the preceding chapter. I purposely did that so I can have enough time and space to discussed other critical factors that may affect the profitability of your digital product(s).

The area so far covered include:

  • The Process
  • The Act and the Art, etc.

The following areas are to be covered here in details:

  • Your Business Model
  • Your Long-term Strategy
  • Friends and Expert Appraisals
  • Payment Processor
  • Product Launch
  • Traffic, Traffic, Traffic
  • Two Important Decisions
  • Among Others.

2.0 Objectives

At the end of this ecourse, you will be able to:

  • Know the different methods you can use to market your information product in online marketplace
  • Choose the best method to market your information product for higher profits
  • Choose the best method to market your information product for better control

3.0 Main Content

3.1 Definition of Business Model

Business model is the approach you are using to run your own business, in this case selling your own information product.

There are many definitions of the phrase ‘business model’.

It is only one of them that I am going to use here because, it is not too academic for our practical use.

That one is the definition provided by Investopedia which states inter alia:

‘A business model is the way in which a company generates revenue and makes a profit from company operations’.

3.1.1 Types of Business Model

In this case I want you to decide ab initio on which of the following models you are going to use to do your business:

  • Information Marketing (Mixed Soft/Hard Selling)
  • Email Marketing (Freemium Mixed Model)
  • Blogging (Mixed Soft/Hard Selling)
  • Guest Blogging (Mixed Soft Selling)
  • Forum Marketing (Soft Selling)
  • Niche Site Model
  • Review Site Model
  • There are many more models that could be listed…

You need to get used to one model and stick to it for a while, when you have become conversant with it then you add another one and so on and so forth.

For this reason I will only review only one model here.

3.1.2 Email Marketing (Freemium Mixed Model)

This is the best, simplest and possibly the fastest model to set up your online business and run it into 6 or even 7 figure in the shortest possible time, initially using free and later even paid resources to scale it up for higher profitability.

Running your business on this model involves 5 simple steps namely:

  1. Traffic
  2. One-page website
  3. Autoresponder
  4. Thank You Page
  5. Broadcasting (to email or phone sms)

You can find details of these steps here.

3.2 Experts and Friends Appraisals

Whichever model you choose to run your business on, do not forget to test-run it by yourself as well as using some experts and your friends, before opening it up to the public.

The experts are people with impeccable experiences in your chosen field who are willing to mentor you for success. They will later become your business associates (Joint Ventures) or provide some revered testimonials that will positively impact on your profitability.

On the other hand, you are going to sell to ordinary people like your friends and relations, thus their own side of views can give you some insights that will make your product to be readily absorbed in the market.

So give a sample copy of your own newly created product to them and request for their assessment and testimonials.

3.3 Payment Processor

The next thing to consider is how you intend to collect your money from the sales you make for your information product.

Today in most parts of the world, you can use online payment processor to sale any kind of product on the internet. This was not the case ten years ago when I first began this business.

Just Google for payment processor and you will have enough to choose from, ranging from PayPal, Shopify, WooCommerce, 2CheckOut, Stripe, AuthourizeNet, Amazon Payment, to Google Wallet.

The setting up process is getting easier by the day. Also the instructions on how to integrate them to your website are available on each site. Go there.

3.4 Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

Even when you plan to use other marketers to sell your products as affiliates, you will still need to do marketing by yourself to some extent. This is advisable so that you can get some proves to convince your affiliates on the marketability of your product.

For most beginners with little or no budget, using social media is the preferred way to go. This should be combined with other methods of free or inexpensive traffic like EzineArticles.

I will write more on this in another chapter of this ecourse.

3.5 Launching Your Product

The most important thing to do before your product launch is: planning.

Make a detailed plans of how you are going to swing the market momentum to your side to ensure the profitability from your product sales.

Such plan may include but not limited to:

a) Plan your launch date to start as early as possible, i.e. early planning

b) Get the Big Wigs of the Industry involved – possible make them joint venture partners, give certain percent of your profit.

  1. Make it easy for many people to learn about your product – Social Media
  2. Make Your Product Mobile-Friendly – today the mobile web holds the market sway, it will be foolhardy to ignore it
  3. Make it an Event
  4. Create a Suspense towards the launch date to heighten desire and expectation. This has been proven to increase sales on the launch date.
  5. Take beta pre-dated orders at a reduced price
  6. Use a Press Release
  7. Focus on your Avatar/Persona and not your product
  8. Create Your Universal Selling Point (USP)

There are other details on product launches here.

3.6 Two Important Decisions

There are 2 important decisions that you have to make after your new product is ready for sell. These are:

  1. To sale it on your own personal website or
  2. To sale it on a Third Party Website

3.7.0 Selling on Your Own Personal Website

If you are selling on 3rd party websites, most of the steps discussed above will be a walkover for you, as the company will do them on your behalf.

However there are some benefits that you will also miss for doing so.

3.7.1. Benefits

Such benefits include those listed below among others.

3.7.1.1 Be Your Own Boss

Selling on your own website controlled (managed, hosted) by yourself is the best way to become your own boss. You set your prices, you set your targets, you set your commissions, you set your own time of work, and you set and plan for the level of profits that you want to make.

Have you seen any other business that is sweeter than this?

You are really your own boss in the truest sense of the word! You are in full control and it is you that determines all of your monetization methods.

Building your information product is actually the easiest way to achieve everything that you want in life as well as helping others to realise their destinies and their dreams.

But you will miss all these and subsequent ones if you are selling on third party sites.

3.7.1.2 Cashing in on Your Virtual Authority

As a product owner you gradually build up your Goodwill over time. Of course I suppose that you and everyone else know the importance of a Goodwill. If you want to know more, ask the corporate giants and they will tell you that their Goodwill is worth Billions of Dollars.

And that is worth relying on over time as a product owner. To develop a high-value Goodwill, you need to develop a good product and not a scrap, as well as use your blog, vlog and social media skilfully.

3.7.1.3 Ever-flowing Streams of Residual Income

Residual income is type of income that you don’t regularly and actively work for it to provide a continuous cashflow. You only set up and forget, and the money keep flow ceaselessly to your bank account.

This is different from employment income that you have to work for it on a daily basis.

For your own information product, the initial work may be intensive, but subsequently, you only update it once in a while to keep up with trends in your industry.

The work is decrementally negligible while the product is incrementally profitable.

This means if you have 2 or more products, you can quickly attain a special status: unemployable.

3.7.1.4 More Opportunities

At this level of success you will be open to opportunities to joint venture with the captains of the Industry. And do not be surprise if you thenceforth experience not just success, but astronomical success: unlimited income.

Deals website like Groupon, Bloggers and other marketers with large Lists when properly targeted will open up a whole new world of internet marketing for you full of unlimited pleasant surprises.

3.7.1.5 Top Secret Reason Why You Should Create Your Own Information Product

– Affiliate Program. This is one main reason why you should own some information products online. When many people are selling your products for you, you will surely experience income explosion in your own business.

I have already noted elsewhere that affiliates bring to your business their own expertise as well as their large lists of free and targeted traffic. These are great assets that will have great impact on your business.

Setting up an affiliate program is getting easier by the day. Software like iDevAffiliate and Post Affiliate Pro are almost turning the process of selling your own products through affiliates to an all comers’ affairs.

3.7.1.6 Expert-In-The-Making

Everyone see you as an expert when you write a book. Even if you are just beginning, it is only you and your spouse that know that secret – that you are only a beginner.

If your info product is professionally written (even by a Ghostwriter or Ghostworker as they are often referred to) it opens up several windows of opportunities for you. These include but not limited to Conference Speaking, Guest Blogging, Joint Venturing, etc.

Purse for a while and think on these avenues, it is only expert that are invited to participate at such meetings. But even one product owned by you can open up those opportunities for you. As a newbie when they begin to come, do not be afraid to accept those invitations and confidently perform your work.

The basic truth is that even with this ecourse alone, you know more that 95% of your audience, you are already an expert (at least in the making).

3.8 Challenges

But there are some challenge along the way such as:

– having to deal with Customer Service and

– the Learning Curve involved, etc.

It is for these very reasons that some people prefer using third party websites.

3.9 Selling Your Products on Third Party Websites

There are so many third party websites that are waiting and ready to sell your own product for you. They include but not limited to ClickBank, Send Owl, JVZoo, Payspree, Commission Junction, DPD, Post Affiliate Pro, iDevAffiliate, and others.

You can also sell at Amazon by creating your product in their special format known as Kindle Book to be downloadable and readable in their special device known as the Amazon Kindle Device.

The main advantage all of them have are:

  • the setup speed (some are free, others one-time payment)
  • their wide array of experienced affiliate marketers,
  • payment processor
  • professional customer service and
  • free promo

But they will take the control of most aspect of your business from you. They can also de-list you at will and without any specified reason(s).

I want to state here that for obvious reason, it is better to learn and use both systems to maximize your profits over time.

3.10 You Are In For the Long Haul

When you have a product in the market, you are in this business for the long-term benefits.

What you do now will surely hunt you in the future for good or bad. So be a man of your own word, deliver on your promises and when not possible give cogent reason(s) as soon as possible and make refunds where applicable.

That is: – Transparency.

Over time this will result in positive reputation and a good public image for your business. These are the souls of Internet business.

Notice that most people that you deal with in this business do not know you in person. They only act on trust, please do everything possible on your side to preserve that trust.

Once beaten, twice ashamed, I think that’s a valid saying here.

As you might have suspected this is not a get-rich-quick kind of business. So if you were looking for such type of business, please dumb this one and look elsewhere.

However if you can pull yourself through the learning curve, I can assure you that there is no other business that can pay you returns on your investment that is as high as this one.

You will be unemployable!

3.11 Rinse and Repeat

The process of creating a digital product is as simple as that. Well, as you become more experienced, you can go on to add the fancies and jingles, but for someone who wants to make money as soon as possible, this is all that you will need to set up a successful business.

As the profits roll in, you can then think of other ways to upgrade your product for greater profits. You can also expand to create products in others niches with the sound reputation you built from your initial market niche.

Never be discouraged if you don’t make much money with your first info product. You only need to make sure that it is as solid as gold in terms of quality.

Down the road you will discover that it was the launchpad to your newfound success, a major milestone that shot you to limelight.

4.0 Conclusion

With a good product to sell, you need a little knowledge of market research, SEO and copywriting to launch out profitably. Some of them have been covered while others will soon be covered in other parts of this ecourse.

5.0 Summary

This is the concluding part of what you need to do to set up the information product you created and sell profitably.

Two powerful software (websites shown as images) were also introduced to simplify the process for you.

Next, you will need to create and set up a salespage and that is what we will discuss in the immediate chapter of this ecourse

6.0 Assignment

By now you might have started this business using Affiliate Product. This is important so that you can be making money along the way while working on your new product.

Please go over the last two chapters again and start experimenting on those ideas in your mind.

Yes, you can!

The Entrepreneurial Code – Lessons Learned from a Failed Ivy League Entrepreneur

As a 21-year old college student at Wharton, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania, I embraced the ideals of entrepreneurship so whole-heartedly I started my own company. My classmates and I managed the company for two and a half years and it became our full time job after graduation. We wrote a business plan and believed we had a unique concept, a strong management team, and a viable “business model.”

Unfortunately, despite some initial success, my business eventually shut down. Our fate isn’t surprising when you consider the challenges faced by entrepreneurs starting new companies. Like many entrepreneurs, we lost a lot of money invested by friends and family. For two years, we lived in our offices, sleeping on the floors, working day and night with no personal lives. In the end it seemed as if those sacrifices had been for nothing.

Lessons Learned

I think the failure of my company can be attributed to inadequate leadership among its founders. After years of reflection, I’ve asked myself to define what being a “leader” means to me. My definition follows:

A Leader is someone with sound judgment, integrity, and a sense of responsibility for others. A leader motivates others towards common goals, provides hope and inspiration in times of uncertainty, and helps the organization to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

While some degree of technical competence is necessary, these attributes mostly stem from increased self-awareness. It was Sun Tzu who said, “Know your enemy and yourself and you will win 100 battles; know the enemy and not yourself and you will lose every time.” Unfortunately, as a first time entrepreneur, there was a lot about myself I didn’t know. While a lack of self-knowledge isn’t so unusual for someone in his early twenties, it’s a huge problem for an entrepreneur.

I have always found that a good acronym helps me to remember things. For example, “ROYGBIV” and “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” have locked the colors of the rainbow and the mathematical orders of operation into my brain since I was a high school student. As I was writing this manuscript, I wanted to create another mnemonic to help me remember the mistakes I made so I don’t repeat them in the future.

I have categorized these entrepreneurial mistakes into five elements (the “E CODE”). These five areas are as follows:

Egomania

Corporate Governance

Outlook (or Attitude)

Deeper Meaning

Emptiness

1. Egomania

As a college student, I heard stories how Michael Dell started his company from his college dorm room, and how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, and how many of the wealthy benefactors of my university had been entrepreneurs. While I couldn’t possibly know the hardships and brushes with failure these men had, I latched on to their larger than life images of “success.” After all, I wanted to believe I could accomplish anything with my future. I wanted to believe in the unlimited potential of entrepreneurship.

In my mind’s eye, these tales were all that came close to meeting the “extraordinary expectations” I had of life. I was convinced that entrepreneurship was the single greatest wealth-building opportunity. At 21 years of age, I wanted to make my own decisions, to be my own boss, and to have a financial stake in the outcome of my work. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend 10 or 20 years slowly climbing the corporate ladder. By starting my business, growing it quickly, and selling it, I believed I could have my cake and eat it too.

It was Bill Walsh, former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, who remarked that “ego” is a misused word in the United States. He said, “We Americans throw that around, using that one word to cover a broad spectrum of meanings: self-confidence, self-assurance, and assertiveness… But there is another side that can wreck a team…That is being distracted by your own importance… [It] ends up interfering with the real goal of any group .”

As a young entrepreneur, I considered it my right to serve my own self-interest. Since I was “taking the risk,” I believed I was entitled to the rewards. Therefore, I was very controlling about who I allowed to get involved in my business. Even if recruiting a larger team added benefits, I sometimes hesitated. After all, I viewed it as “my company,” so I didn’t want to share the upside with others unless it was absolutely necessary. If I had checked my ego, I would have been more likely to recognize my limitations and concentrate on assembling the right team of people, even if it meant slowing things down.

Unfortunately, my exorbitant expectations of entrepreneurship were difficult to meet. Soon, I became embarrassed to show people I worked in a small office with only a handful of employees. I wanted to live up to my lofty ideal of a “real entrepreneur.” So, I rushed to rent larger office space and expand my business prematurely. When the image I had in my head failed to live up to reality, I panicked. Why? Because I was far more excited to chase a “rags to riches” fairy tale than I was to hunker down and slowly build a business over a long period of time. I wanted results in a hurry, but it wasn’t going to happen that way. It was time for Peter Pan to grow up.

At the end of the day, an entrepreneur has the responsibility of stewarding his company and its many stakeholders, not just himself. There’s no room for large egos, because they lead to bad decisions. Entrepreneurship is not so different from other career paths as many of us would like to believe. It still takes many years to build a reputation and a strong client base. It still requires the founder to start at the bottom. If anything, it’s less glamorous, because there are fewer people around to help and a lot less resources at our disposal.

2. Corporate Governance

My partners and I had little corporate governance and no written policies or procedures. Oftentimes, we lacked the independent perspective necessary to critically evaluate our thinking. “GroupThink” was rampant, whereby everyone was entranced by the same views, so no one was thinking independently.

Although we didn’t think we needed advice, my company would have benefited from including independent directors on our Board. It would’ve forced us to share our assumptions with outside professionals. Inevitably, we would’ve had to test our theories, identify potential risks, and slow down our growth plans. At the very least, independent directors would have forced a system of checks and balances.

Although no entrepreneur wants to create bureaucracy, having some structure in place is essential to a healthy organization. Unfortunately, my partners and I thought the primary value of having independent directors was to tap into their business contacts. We weren’t concerned about corporate governance. Instead, we wanted directors to help us get financing or drum up new business. When it became difficult for us to recruit these “well-connected” people, we gave up looking.

As founders, we couldn’t afford to pay ourselves high salaries, so we were financially dependent on the value of our stock. While our ownership stakes were nearly worthless at the time, we assured ourselves that “equity” was the best motivational tool. Unfortunately, being solely dependent on the value of our shares made us more inclined to embrace riskier strategies. After all, our stock could never be worth less than zero. In that sense, it resembled a “call option,” so adding volatility to our business was a way to boost our equity value.

Ultimately, I grew so concerned with protecting my ownership that I turned away venture capital. Rather than selling a large chunk of my equity, I preferred to embrace a highly leveraged operating strategy. Now, I realize that anyone can bet his entire company on a risky financing strategy. The real whiz can capitalize his business in a way that doesn’t “sink the boat” if things take an unexpected turn for the worst.

I also realize that my company’s corporate culture lacked discipline. My partners and I were generally unkempt – we showered everyday at the gym and we slept on the floor of our office. We didn’t keep regular business hours and we had no planned schedules. As a result, the environment we created lacked professionalism. Unfortunately, our lack of discipline manifested itself in a negative way whenever we faced stressful situations.

Tense arguments between founders would turn into screaming matches. We became hotheaded and it spread into the way we managed our business. We were prone to knee-jerk reactions and quick changes of strategy. Although we viewed our nimbleness as a competitive advantage, we lacked the emotional intelligence to realize when we were behaving irrationally. Unfortunately, we lacked the balance in our culture to keep us grounded.

As founders, it was our job to mold the company’s values after our own beliefs. Unfortunately, we listed corporate values in our business plan, but they were just words on paper. Now I realize that corporate values are not pieces of PR fluff that companies put on their websites to appease investors. When these values are held deeply by managers, they help in making difficult decisions.

I think of the nationwide Tylenol recall by Johnson & Johnson whereby 7 people in the Chicago area died in 1982 because their Extra-Strength Tylenol had been laced with cyanide. J&J made a $100 million decision to do a nationwide recall and take its products off the shelves. J&J wanted to send a strong message to its stakeholders that customer safety came before profits. No doubt, it was a difficult decision, but senior management relied on the company’s corporate values to guide them through the crisis. At the end of the day, shared values are a much more reliable way to control behavior in unpredictable situations than are extrinsic controls.

Undoubtedly, part of the allure of self-employment had been the feeling of freedom from not having a boss to which I was accountable. However, the reality was that such freedom didn’t exist, because I was still accountable to my stakeholders. I couldn’t just behave however I wanted. Therefore, I needed to be willing to put checks and balances on my activities for the good of my company. That meant being clear about my company’s values, creating more structure in my organization, and including independent directors on our Board. In short, I needed to take corporate governance a lot more seriously and make it just as important of a goal as my quest for profits.

3. Outlook (or Attitude)

After becoming an entrepreneur, I often compared my life with those of friends who accepted the types of jobs I turned away. While I slept on the floor of my office, ate the cheapest thing on the menu, and was buried beneath a mountain of credit card debt, my peers had apartments in the city, corporate expense accounts, and were improving their credentials in the job market. I began to fear my friends were developing better resumes than I was, while I worked twice as hard for a fraction of the pay.

Comparing myself to others created a lot of unrest, because I was a competitive person and I didn’t want to feel like I was “falling behind.” Although I think it’s natural for entrepreneurs to contend with self-doubt, these emotions only impaired my judgment. They made me impatient, because I was scared of “wasting” years of my life as an entrepreneur, but never becoming “successful.”

After the initial excitement of writing a business plan and setting up my company, I was almost depressed to be sitting in my small office handing out debit cards to college students. I didn’t really have an appreciation for the work. In my mind, I had earned my degree from Wharton to become the manager of a tiny debit card office, but I probably didn’t need to go to college to do that. It made me feel as if I wasn’t living up to my “potential.” Therefore, I wanted to put my head down and focus on growing my business faster.

It sounds ridiculous, but a founder must train himself to find meaning in his daily toils, not just in the dream of his future victory. Otherwise, he’ll feel powerless every time the business takes an unexpected turn and leaves his prospects worse off than before. If a founder feels that he is powerless and at the whim of fate, his psyche can easily become easily damaged by the emotional roller coaster of potential failure and success. The stress can lead him to make bad decisions.

Experiencing failure is an inevitable part of success. Therefore, an entrepreneur has to view adversity as a necessary step that helps him to learn, to grow, and to become a stronger leader. In that regard, challenges and struggles can be hidden blessings, not curses. Entrepreneurs need to observe someone like Nelson Mandella, who survived many years of abuse and imprisonment, but never allowed the situation or his captors to break him. Rather, he used adversity as a tool to transform himself and grow stronger.

There are lots of stories of prisoners of war and concentration camp victims who use their experiences to their advantage. As Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas noted in their book, Geeks & Geezers, leaders often use periods of difficulty as opportunities for reflection that allow them to look deeper into themselves and make discoveries about their own character. It’s ironic, but without moments of desperation, many leaders would never have the opportunity to find their inner strength.

By looking at hardships as opportunities to conquer ego, an entrepreneur can mitigate the emotional swings. As Carlos Castaneda observed with his concept of the “petty tyrant,” life is filled with lots of petty obstacles and challenges, so we might as well learn to use them to our advantage and not allow them to drag us down. In fact, obstacles and hardship can teach entrepreneurs to keep a sense of humor about their plight. It can teach founders to laugh at life’s surprises, both good and bad.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes how life demands things from us, not the other way around. Therefore, we should condition ourselves to find meaning in answering life’s daily callings and use them as opportunities to live with dignity and find meaning in every moment. Learning to enjoy the unpredictability of life can enable an entrepreneur to appreciate the path chosen rather than stress about the uncertainties of future outcomes.

It was John Keats who said the most important attribute of a leader is the ability to be in “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” I wish I had a better sense of humor when I was an entrepreneur. Not only would I have had more fun, but I would have been less likely to feel sorry for myself when my company faced challenges. Instead of wasting my energy worrying, I would have been poking fun at my anxieties, strengthening my character, and living in the present. This outlook would have kept me more even keeled and better able to make good decisions.

4. Deeper Meaning

It was Benjamin Disraeli who said, “The secret of success is a constancy of purpose.” I believe an entrepreneur must choose a “cause” to which he’s willing to devote himself, even in the face of failure. It should be a broader purpose that’s worth the fight regardless of the outcome. After all, of the approximately 1.8 million new businesses incorporated every year in the United States, less than a few thousand receive venture funding and a fraction of those ever go public. Clearly, there are no guarantees of success, so a founder’s reasons for choosing his journey have to be about more than the allure of financial gains.

In fact, there is so much volatility embedded in entrepreneurship that it can be difficult for founders to stay motivated by the prospects of riches. Too often the company will be in peril and the founder will be forced to reinvent aspects of the business. If the entrepreneur is only motivated by financial success, then he’ll probably lack the necessary staying power. In fact, most new ventures would probably never get started if a founder’s motivations were based purely on the risk-adjusted economic merits of the project.

At the end of the day, I believe the motivation to pursue a business has to come from a genuine commitment to serving a cause that’s bigger than ourselves. There has to be a responsibility we feel to serve others in a certain way. From my experiences I learned that even the best business plan can become a burden if you don’t believe in what you are doing. Our motivation can’t just be about benefiting ourselves, because when the company’s prospects diminish, most of us will be inclined to quit and do something else.

History is filled with tales of people risking their lives for causes in which they believe. By comparison, very little is written about mercenaries performing such acts of courage. Those who perform the greatest feats do it for reasons which hold deeper meaning to them, not just for money and accolades. Therefore, an entrepreneur should choose a purpose for his business that comes from someplace deep inside of him. Unfortunately, that was not something I did. Rather, I was simply trying to make money, so I could “cash out” and move on to something else.

That’s why I believe an entrepreneur with a long-term dedication will ultimately reap the benefits of his commitment. The right opportunity will eventually present itself. The long-term players will weather the storms and be in better positions to take advantage of the new opportunities when the clouds finally part.

5. Emptiness

There is an interesting poem from the Tao Te Ching that I have come to appreciate since my experiences as an entrepreneur. It follows:

“With a wall all around

A clay bowl is molded;

But the use of the bowl

Will depend on the part

Of the bowl that is void.

Cut out windows and doors

In the house as you build;

But the use of the house

Will depend on the space

In the walls that is void.

So advantage is had

From whatever is there;

But usefulness arises

From whatever is not.

–The Tao Te Ching

Like the poem from the Tao Te Ching, entrepreneurs must see the importance of emptiness, which requires a different way of looking at the world. While emptiness can be uncertainty, it can also represent opportunity.

As an entrepreneur assembles the pieces of his business into place, there will inevitably come a time when the viability of his company is in doubt. New markets are difficult to break into, customer needs are always changing, and the threat of new competition always seems to be lurking about. Sometimes, it’s hard to look into the unknown and see opportunity. It’s easy to doubt ourselves and be scared.

As a 22-year old entrepreneur, I looked into the unknown and I saw only two possibilities. I saw the possibility for personal success or failure. Working at my desk until the early hours of the morning, my mind’s eye was able to craft detailed scenarios for each. Either sleeping on the office floor was going to be part of a story I would tell guests on my yacht one day or I was wasting my potential with a business that would never succeed.

Unfortunately, I didn’t understand there was more an entrepreneur could see in his unknown future if he focused on something other than his “personal success.” He might also see the opportunity to fight for a cause that inspires him, regardless if he wins or loses. Whether he becomes rich or not, the future represents an opportunity to make a difference in the world.

That’s why the true “fire in the belly” of an entrepreneur should come from a vision that the future, while uncertain, holds possibilities for each of us to make an impact on the lives of others. To have maximum power, our vision shouldn’t be just about our own success or failure. It’s not about personal greed. To be truly inspirational, we need to see how our efforts will benefit the lives of others. By sharing that vision, we’ll be able to influence those around us to join our cause.

How Is the Automotive Industry Handling the New Industrial Revolution?

Bill Gates is alleged to have once quipped that “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 MPG.” Even though the authenticity of this quote is questionable, it has been circulated throughout the internet for years because there is something about the sentiment that rings true to us. It certainly does not seem that the automotive industry has kept up with advancing technology the way that the computer industry has.

This may be due in part to the manufacturing infrastructure that has evolved over the years. Making sweeping upgrades to equipment and/or processes seems a very expensive and risky proposition. When you couple this with the fact that many automobile manufacturers today struggle to find enough demand for their current supply, it is easy to understand why keeping up with the latest technology isn’t always a top priority.

The problem with this reluctance, though, is that automobiles are not inexpensive consumables that people buy casually. Customers expect vehicles to come with the highest standards of safety and efficiency. Customers expect the latest technology possible. How can manufacturers keep up with this demand for innovation without changing their processes?

It seems that some manufacturers are beginning to embrace the ways of the modern industrial world, and are finding ways to align their business models with the current wave of interconnectivity and streamlined automation.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama

Honda’s largest light truck production facility in the world – a 3.7 million square foot plant – was faced with a problem all too common to large manufacturing facilities. Over the years, a number of different automation systems were introduced to help streamline production. With operations including blanking, stamping, welding, painting, injection molding, and many other processes involved in producing up to 360,000 vehicles and engines per year, it is not surprising that they found themselves struggling to integrate PLCs from multiple manufacturers, multiple MES systems, analytic systems, and database software from different vendors.

Of course, on top of these legacy systems, Honda continued to layer an array of smart devices on the plant floor and embed IT devices in plant equipment. The complexity introduced by this array of automation systems turned out to be slowing down the operations they were intended to streamline.

After reorganizing their business structure to merge IT and plant floor operations into a single department, Honda proceeded to deploy a new automation software platform that enabled them to bring together PLC data with the data coming from MES and ERP systems into a common interface that allowed the entire enterprise to be managed through a single system. This also allowed Honda to manage and analyze much larger data sets that revealed new opportunities for further optimization. While this reorganization required a significant investment of resources, they were able realize benefits immediately, and ultimately positioned themselves to maintain a competitive edge through the next decade or more.

Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company operates a global network of manufacturing operations, and have had difficulty when trying to promote collaboration and share best practices between their various plants. They found a solution using technology based on the Google Earth infrastructure.

Ford was able to develop a cloud-based application that stores 2D and 3D representations of Ford’s global manufacturing facilities, and allows users to navigate through these virtual environments, place pins, and upload video, images and documents to these pins that are shared throughout Ford’s global operations. Engineers and operators can share information about current plant conditions and procedures, which can be accessed in real time from anywhere in the world. The accumulated data can be used for training or to update standard procedures. By creating a global collaborative tool, Ford has created a means of ensuring that each and every one of their employees has the latest, most accurate information on how to best perform a particular task or how to avoid a problem that was encountered elsewhere.

We will have to see in coming years whether or not these innovations will lead to improved market performance for either of these manufacturers, but in the meantime it is probably safe to expect other companies to follow suit. With the advances in manufacturing technologies and machine-to-machine communication, it is becoming very difficult to remain competitive without playing by the same rules as everyone else. Industrial technology has advanced to the point that we are experiencing what people refer to as a new industrial era – or Industry 4.0. Reluctance is no longer a viable option.

Entrepreneurship and Michael Dell’s Content, Commerce, & Community

If you want to be an entrepreneur, who better to study than Michael Dell? He is an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. Starting in his college dorm room building computers, his understanding of business has made him an icon of success in the arena of technology businesses.

In two keynote addresses given almost a decade ago, Michael Dell defined three principles or concepts for successful internet businesses. Much of what he suggested is now standard practice and in some cases has been taken further than he probably imagined.

Theses principles are sometimes referred to as the 3 C’s. They are content, commerce and community. Careful study of these three principles can help entrepreneurs, those with home based businesses, and network marketers.

The first of the 3 C’s is content.

How did Michael Dell define content? Listen to the words he uses to define it for the Detroit Economic Club on November 1, 1999, “The first stage of content means providing compelling information. This is how we started our online operations in 1993, when we put our technical databases online for customers to access. It was a relatively simple start, but it showed us the tremendous interest from our customers.”

At the keynote address at the Southwest Government Technology Conference in 2000, he made similar suggestions to the ones he made earlier in that Detroit meeting.

He suggested this: “By content, we mean bringing information online. Anytime you have a form, a manual, or a document, put it online. This is the foundation of any Internet strategy. Once we brought information online, it became clear to us where the opportunities were in the transaction world: simple things like order status and commerce, and we have added more complex things over time. The key, again, is that it is experiential and you learn by doing.”

If you want to be an entrepreneur, what is the content you already have, what content do you need to develop?

Look at your present or future business from the content perspective? Define your content. Learn from those who have created that kind of content. Do what they did to create it.

You need products or services to provide to customers. Make a list of the content they will need to explain, troubleshoot, access, or know about your goods and services. A viable business start-up needs content tied to real-world products or services.

The second of the 3 C’s is commerce.

Read how Mr. Dell defined it in Detroit, “The next stage is commerce, which should be thought of as all transactions, not just buying things over the web. In fact, our first activity in this area had nothing to do with purchasing. It was simply order status.”

A few months later at the conference in the Southwest he reiterated, “The second stage is commerce. You should think of this as any kind of transactions. Our first experiment with transactions really had nothing to do with “commerce.” It was an online order status tool. We knew we were on to something when, in the first week, five thousand customers used this tool — and we didn’t even advertise that it was out there. This formed the foundation of our online sales effort.”

He continued, “Our ultimate goal is to deepen relationships with customers by providing added convenience, efficiency, and cost savings, and a wider array of services. The Internet creates an opportunity to move these key transactions online and drive transaction cost to almost zero.”

Does your commerce process resonate with Michael Dell’s suggestion? Think about the last quote. “The ultimate goal is to deepen relationships.” Commerce aspects may reduce costs and increase efficiency, but with a purpose. The ultimate goal is C # 3 which is community.

How important is community, the third C?

According to Mr. Dell, “The final stage is developing an online community. We are building two-way relationships over the web with both our customers and our suppliers.” – Detroit Economic Club.

He went on to express the goal of “establishing communities of suppliers and end users that share common interests”.

At the later conference in the Southwest he ended by observing, “In summary, the Internet is changing the face of the entire economic and social structure of not only this country but the entire world, and governments have a great opportunity to embrace it. We are seeing a transition from a brick-and-mortar government to an online government. The advantages will include things like velocity, efficiency, and a better customer experience.”

The internet has matured since Michael Dell first talked about the 3 C’s, but as a model they still make sense. If anything, community has become even more important. They are not a grocery list to pick one to keep and one to leave.

Today community is so important that it has ushered in a rebirth of web marketing, often called Web 2.0. It depends on social marketing, blogs, myspace and other elements to build that community. Content and commerce both serve the final C of community. It is in community where loyalities, relationships, and trust are built.

Where there is community there are repeat customers. Community-building is a vital skill to have if you want to be an entrepreneur.