5 Ways to Build Flexible Business Plan

You don’t need a big, thick ‘formal’ business plan as you get started. “What’s important is doing and thinking,” says Tony Chan, managing partner of Cue Ball (a VC). Build a flexible business plan instead, because things can change along the way. There’s also an alternative to a formal business plan something that is short, sweet, and to the point – it’s called the one day business plan worksheet, should you really want to get something going.

The 5 ways to build your flexible business plan, via Harvard Business Review:

1. Start with your heart.

You got to believe in your idea.

2. Think big, start small and scale fast.

Know when to let it go. At the same token, know when to scale fast.

3. Have a basic framework.

This is the most critical element of any business plan. The framework should connect people, skills, idea, market and business model. In short PIMM.

P = people and skills, see where they fit.

I = idea.

M = model or business model. If you have no clue what type of business model to shoot for, check this “The 10 new business model for this decade.”

M = market. Who are you targeting?

4. Know the trade-offs.

If PIMM is critical, people always trump idea. A team with bad idea is better than B/C team with good idea.

5. Keep it iterative.

In other words, be flexible to change.

There’s more below.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hcNpgqrHSAA%2Em4v%5D

Build a Flexible Business Plan – Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

How Focus on Certainties can help Reinvent, Redefine Your Business, Career

“We are actually within the next 5 years that I would call the great transformation,” says Daniel Burrus in this interview with Dr. Moira Gunn of IT Conversations (Tech Nation). That’s kind of in-your-face prediction. Daniel Burrus is the author of the book “Flash Foresight.” (I haven’t read the book yet. However, listening to this conversation made me want to read it!)

The interview is thought-provoking. It brings certain conditions into perspective. Conditions that can impact the livelihood of either business or individual, if you ‘really’ care about your sustainability as a business or professional. Daniel Burrus, says “the future is where we’re going to spend most of our time.” Why not spend time thinking about it now?

The sure way to predict the future

The sure way to predict the future is by focusing on certainties instead of uncertainties. Things that you know will have bigger impact. For example, what do you think of the use of social technologies, will it go up? Yes or no? Yes, for sure. How about mobility? The number of people who’s buying smart phones? Growing or stagnant? The answer is: it’s growing.

Another one: population growth. According to National Geographic, world’s population soon will reach 7 billion people. Yes, you read that right. 7 billion people living on earth! How will this impact you, your job, your business?

 

http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/sites/video/swf/ngplayer_syndicated.swf

 

The three certainties that can predict the future with accuracy, according to Daniel Burrus:  

1. Demographics

2. Technology 

3. Government regulations

That’s the big three.

Linking certainties with opportunities

There are other certainties that we can think of, i.e. people are living longer, that means we need to save more for retirement, stay healthy, etc. Figure out what this kind of certainty means to you. What are the opportunities if you are a financial professional or if you are in banking? Consumers are demanding more openness, transparency, access to better products, less toxic. If you are in the consumer products and haven’t made the move to clean products yet, this may be the time to create line of new products. Be innovative.

The same thing with access to (or scarcity of) fresh water, for human and business consumption. How does it impact you- say, if your key ingredient is water? You probably will need to start thinking about water efficiency – if you want to stay in business. Where’s the opening for your business? How do you keep the social license?

Some things are certain. The use of smart phones as replacement of a computer. Use of iPad in business. The growing number of users globally using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. More people using social networking tools will have a big impact to anyone, business-wise or career-wise. Do you see how your company might need to have social presence to stay competitive, or even for branding? Do you need to retrain yourself in social media, so you can ‘keep’ your job? Etc. Okay, you get the idea.

That’s just a start.

I’m sure you can think of other certainties in your line of business or job that can help you see the invisible future  through the lens of opportunities.

So start thinking about it…

Once you know what “certain” things are growing in your line of profession or business, you can start envisioning the future and start looking for opportunities. 

Check out the rest: Flash Foresight.

Happy Birthday, #Twitter

Happy 5th birthday, Twitter!

What’s happening?

Bloomberg Game Changers did a segment on the three Twitter founders – Jack Dorsey (the earlier inventor), Biz Stone, and Evan Williams this month. It’s pretty fascinating story and has some true-tried lessons for entrepreneurs. Yeah, they’re big company now, but “the flight is not always smooth.” If you need a pick-me-up, check out the video

There are 4 big lessons for wannabe entrepreneurs (that you can learn from them): 

#1. Never never give up.

Great entrepreneurs never give up. Evan Williams never gives up in his dream, even when the company he co-founded with Meg Hourihan ran out of money. The company was struggling. He had: NOTHING. And he was the last employee on Blogger, but he carried on. Until Google came calling.

#2. Believe (and keep your dreams alive).

The three founders didn’t started Twitter not because “they knew where it’s gonna go.” But because they believe that this is a good thing. They’re driven by that belief. Update: Brian Solis (in his Facebook) writes a comment “..we cannot undervalue Jack Dorsey’s original idea.” Yes, indeed, he is the original/ earlier inventor. And how he keeps his dream alive until he met the other two founders, with whom together they founded Twitter.

#3. Be nice. Even if you’re a competitor.

Evan Williams and Biz Stone worked at competing businesses. Blogger vs. Xanga. Who knew that one day, they’d be working together as founders of the company?

#4. Failure is part of success.

If you never fail, you never learn. That’s just come with it. It’s part of the process. So expect detour.

Eventually, when you keep plugging away (and focus on ) in light of failures and challenges, through life’s twist-and-turn “opportunity will find you.” Detour means, that it’s not your time.. yet. You’ll need to practice a little bit more. Because “practice makes perfect.” 

How to Attract Different Shades of Green Customers

Last week I interviewed Jason Holstine, who is the founder and owner of a local one-stop green hardware and design store here in Kensington, suburb of Maryland, called “Amicus Green.” Amicus Green is a triple-bottom line company. 

Because Jason has more than 14 years of helping consumers, businesses, governments, NGOs implement sustainability goals and projects. Jason currently sits on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and the board of directors for the Metropolitan Washington Council Of Governments Clean Air Partners program. We asked Jason the things that can help people and businesses to go green.

What Does it Take to Go Green?” conversation, touches not only on greening houses and offices, but also building the business itself. By combining his depth of knowledge in green building, figuring out the supply and demand, and offering a mix of products and services that meet customers’ expectations, Amicus Green have created “a space” for the business. They’ve attracted and grown its customer base from the moment they opened their door for business!

One of the things he mentioned is, that it is very important to provide on-going support for companies’ green teams that can help them set meaningful goals and achieved them. He also talk briefly about the challenges for consumers to pick the right green products.

TRANSCRIPT from randomly selected topics. (to listen for full episode, visit Ecotwist here, or scroll all the way down).

Dewita: It seems that you’ve been trekking the sustainability world or green world for sometime now. Share with us a little bit about your background, and how did you get started a green hardware store?

Jason: Well, my background way back is at college I’ve got a business degree but I majored in environmental science as a program that I put together. 15 years later you started to see programs actually off-the-shelves at a lot of leading schools. So I figured I should’ve patented the concept.. I missed that boat. But, 20 years later it was just kind of one of these things that one thing went to another, I started getting into various levels or types of environmental consulting for various audiences and started to working with folks more and more on green building efforts. And people come to me and asked me to help them work on various little project or remodeling project here and there to try to make it green. Whether necessary called green back in the late ’90s, it might have been just make it healthier or more environmentally sustainable or cutting energy use or something. Around that time, the term green haven’t started to pick up. But one of the things that we found is “hey, here’s that great product, this is neat, people said it’s fantastic.. where can I get it? Well, you can’t.” You have to ordered it from Seattle or from very far away and you can’t see any samples, and you can’t color matching, just do the general stuff you’d need to do when making getting a product into a project and putting projects together. So it’s pretty clear to us that there was certainly need for a resource where people could go and shop, research and do what you want to do for any kind of project. And having another one source having a lot expertise on the right products and providing the wrong products and understanding the background of sustainability as such was important. The main thing there is to find out that whether – because we knew there’s a need – was there be a demand then? Through some research found out we thought it would be with our demographic in the area. It took about a year and a half doing a business plan to plan the whole business and such. It took us almost a year to find a reasonably good space to locate the business. Found a place, fired it up and we’re on our six year now.

Dewita: You’ve been in business for 6 years, but you’ve been around in that industry for a long time. From the time you opened the door at Amicus – by the way why did you choose the name, Amicus, it’s hard to pronounce – what do you see changed in consumer behavior, especially from your customers.

>> First he explained the meaning of Amicus and why he chose the name. Then followed with this conversation..

Jason: From our perspective, it’s probably more skewed. I meant from day one, we’ve had customers. Our customers have been those who’s very interested in being green and we have more and more customers trying to do that now. So we’re saying from a little bit of that early adopter’s stage to more of the mainstream or maturing of the audience as any marketing person would tell you as a product matures as it goes along. What is constantly has always been and – still very much – one tug of war is that people have different definition to what they mean by green. For some people is about health and avoiding chemicals to protect themselves or their kids. Other people it’s about Al Gore, climate change, protecting the polar bears or rain forest. Other people about energy independence, getting ourselves out of fossil fuels or of Middle East issues. We take very much a holistic point of view. We very strongly argue that it’s all the above. Getting people to understand that being green is a matter of several different features and it’s very not particularly appropriate analogy but, basically killing a lot of birds with one stone. And being able to achieve a lot of different goals of a healthier place, more energy responsive place, more environmentally appropriate place, and it will make a lot people happier that way. Also in the long term and in some cases in the short term, too. These are absolutely things that pay off that financially they are very beneficial for the occupants. You just have to configure the numbers and the math from where people used to.

Dewita: I read something in your website about LINX, is that a software? What is it?

Jason: SWEET LINX is an umbrella program that we have. It’s got a number of different programs underneath it that basically help different people to learn and to incentivize them to be as green as possible. For example, we have a program called “Sweet Benefits,” that we work with employers, companies, NGOs, whatever. It’s almost like a wellness program. Like a wellness benefits package. We give them some education, tools, help their green teams out. Just count another incentive internally to help their employees be sustainable as possible. It’s very much a lot of companies now will have like green teams to help teach each other about things to green both internally and at home. Just kind of encourage good behaviour. That’s a program we have to help people along with that and to make it more interesting, more lively. You know one of the things that happens a lot is people talk about green, they learn about this great tips as such. But if they can’t figure out the right products, the right tools to use for on-going kind of more detailed advice for their case. If they really can’t get that kind of on-going kind of support. Then, the efforts may be well-meaning but they probably won’t go very far. And so that’s the kind of idea that people can really get things, schemes rolling personally and across an organization to really get set some meaningful goals to actually achieve them. We have another program for schools. With schools, which help let say, schools fundraising or in creating their own operations or doing curriculum or efforts about green, or ecological or climate change issues. And we have a program for real estate agents to help them with their clients with both selling and buying. So things like that. That’s what the SWEET LINX program is.

Dewita: Your company is a triple-bottom line company (the three pillars of sustainable business: people, planet, profit for measuring success from economical, ecological and social values). What are some of the challenges that you have to overcome to become a triple-bottom line company?

Jason: I don’t know that I have necessarily any specific extra challenges. It’s kind of native and embedded in what we do and how we operate it that I don’t know if there’s any specific isolated challenges that I can think of off the top of my head. There will be just the natural stuff that certain things, where some of our costs or overhead, are not as low as they could be. And we just have to kinda implement that in our management. But I don’t at all consider to be extraordinarily high costs. It’s just a matter of cost of doing business, anyway. So if anything the additional elements, just limiting ourselves into products choice. And in terms of going extra miles to make sure that things are done right. To say “no” to products because we didn’t get the right information or enough information. It just make more administrative efforts on our part. A lot of it, is more time than it is cost.

There’s more to the conversation. Including tips for wannabe green business owners.

Check it out

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf

The Business of Energy, Research and Innovation

I wanted to share some of the conversations that took place on another platform, Ecotwist. Last week, I had an opportunity to interview Dr. Gary Dirks (bio, PDF), who is the Director of Arizona State University’s initiative for light-inspired research, called Lightworks.


We talk about a whole range of issues from his work at ASU Lightworks, clean energy, research and innovation, to what he saw happening in Asia, where he spent 14 years as the head of BP Asia Pacific and China.

 

From the conversation, here is (transcript) of few topics that we touched:

 

Dewita: For our listeners give us the scope of the work at Lightworks?

 

Gary: I’d be happy to. LW is a university-wide initiatives that the President of the University asked me to lead when I retire from my position at BP. The idea that the President have in mind is that light being a very versatile phenomena of nature, would be important in many and the solutions to the many big problems the society faces going forward. Everything from telecommunications, and medicine through to the field that I’m most familiar with, and that is energy. And as you’re saying in your introduction, ASU been involved in light-related research across the broad range of field for many decades. So the idea behind LW is to draw together group of researchers in a very intradisciplinary way so we could take on some of the bigger challenges the society faces. In that regard we have on the technical side research going on in photovoltaics, concentrated solar thermal power. We do work on micro organism meaning photosythetic algae and photosythetic science of bacteria. We have research on artificial photosynthesis aimed at direct conversion of carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to fuel. And then we have a very active group of research that is also look at the business side of renewable energy and also policy and the social implications of renewable energy. So it’s a very broad portfolio.

 

Dewita: How many initiatives right now.. because you have so many things going on your Lightworks, how many initiatives Lightworks is focusing right now?

 

Gary: On the technical research side we focused on the next-generation photovoltaics. So devices get very high efficiency more than 30% of conversion efficiency. We also do work on algae, and algae is a photosynthetic micro-organism that is very efficient in converting sunlight into fuels, and we’re doing a lot of work on direct conversions of sunlight, meaning artificial photosynthetic. So on the technical side, we’re working on all of those areas. And it’s multiple teams in each case. So if you actually break it down we have several hundred researchers working on those areas.

 

Dewita: What stage are they in right now? I meant, how many years before become commercially available?

 

Gary: Well, it’s a very good question. Some of the researches is very basic, studying genes and how the genes end up affecting the way micro-organisms use sunlight to produce energy. Some of it is very practical. In fact, we have a spinoff company from our algae research, that is working on industrial scale system literally as we speak. They’re aiming to be a commercial producing commercial fuel in a couple of years. We have another spinoff company working on advance batteries and they’re in commercial production now. So it ranges from very basic research to things that are aiming to be on commercialization the next few years or so.

 

Dewita: You wrote something about “in America’s efforts to go green our Achilles’ Heel is transportation as cars, trucks, and buses represent 29% of U.S. Energy use.” How do you see the energy system in the U.S. and to change the habit going into renewable? There’s so much fighting moving into renewable energy..

 

Gary: It is complicated. There’s no question about that. And I would begin by saying that we have to view a transition into a more sustainable fuel as a journey. And the reason I say that is the current energy system is so large that it will take time for it to change. The fact that it is a journey does not mean we should wait to get started. In fact, we should start sooner rather than later, and I think there’s a number of things people can do now that will accelerate the pace for movement to more sustainable energy. The simplest thing that we can all do is use less. Look at the way we use our energy and ask the question.. ‘do I really need the lights on?’ ‘do I need that many lights?’ ‘could I combined trips in using my car?’ ‘am I using the most energy efficient car that can beat my lifestyle requirement?’ So I think the starting point is use less. Then with respect to newer form of energy, I really think public needs to say they want this. They need to say to their utility companies, “we like more electricity that comes from renewable resources.” They need to be saying to their elected representatives ‘support alternative to imported oil.’ Find ways for us to have options that we can use now. And options that will grow for us in the future. And the reason I put the emphasis on us, is because there are many things that we can do now, “if there was a political will to do it.” Now having said that I also believe that it’s important to continue the kind of research that we’ve been describing earlier so that technologies do improve…

 

Oh, there’s more to our conversation (than what you read here!). Check it out. You can listen to the full episode of “Solar Energy, Innovation and Research,” below (or you can download it, here).

 


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