Tuesday, May 16, 2006
It's a bit late for me to learn from your sage advice 'think twice before launching a business on the web', but two years ago I allowed a hobby to take over the day job, and here I am, nearly 50, with many eggs in one online basket.
But has been, is and doubtless will be quite a ride.
Like you, I find many programs wonderful mysteries, often to remain unsolved after a few hours with the immortal words onscreen: '[PowerPoint, Excel, etc..] has quit for no good reason - shame you forgot to enable the regular save function'. But I persevere, and often commit my pencil and paper doodles to an odd kind of layout using the pretty pictures function on Word, which in turn a munchkin with a graphics package to make da Vinci weep converts into something pretty. Note at this point where the idea has originated. I’ve often knocked out a campaign whilst the designers are still warming up the border function of their Macs.
So of course I have a pretty good grasp of what a computer can do, and can often do it. But here I must diverge from Mr. Thomson. The details can be distractions that lead you down very expensive and time-consuming paths. The secret (and for sure not one easily solved, in terms of personpower or finance - ie: paying for the person with the power) is applying your wealth of experience in the grey matter, and not getting hung up with the demands of that big grey box.
Actually my problems come precisely because I could care less about the manual or obsessing how the program does whatever it does. I just need to get to what it can do and figure out applying the end-benefits (to my clients, readers, etc ) in short order.
Maybe that's the issue with people over 40: they remember the taste and sizzle is worth more than the sausage and the packaging. I am perfectly at ease with a computer; they just a boring tool between me and doing useful stuff.
Which is odd, as I use one 18/24 of 24/7 of 365 (minus a few).
And if I can avoid a meeting by using a PC and do it all by email, blog, vlog or any other way not to budge from my comfy chair rather than do battle with a conference call or a few hours on the M4, then way-hey!!! What I’m not so keen on is hitting the bars post-working hours to bond with fellow workers or clients, and that is a failing on the whole networking front (see last para) that really powers careers, new business or pr.
As you say, '...getting a website going is a lot cheaper and simpler than setting up a business with office premises, equipment, stock and all the other start-up expenses, and it’s a good way of reaching customers and building a reputation'.
I am more in the mould of Greg Paine, though Junkk.com became a full-time job more by accident as I let the hobby take over... 'after a long and successful career in advertising'. Maybe I should get in touch with him!
Whether letting the day job slide was a good idea is another matter, but time will tell. And you have kindly posted some very useful resources to help if not.
My start-up costs and marketing cost were/are considerably more, but then I am being a bit more ambitious with what I am trying to do (and IT does not come cheap, especially if your understanding is this side of the screen/CPU), and I wish the site was paying for itself by now, let alone turning a profit. For me it's a long term thing. But you are right to be a cynic, and the pitfalls you mention are very real (I am writing this from the bottom of a few you mention.).
It rather depends on the business you are in, so it’s missing a trick or two to think only in terms of 'widgets' you 'sell'. Often a website can sell experience and information,,. which are not so tangible. Mr. Thomson's 'product' is surely his advice after all, and he is using his success in people seeking it to create opportunities for him to profit from this.
What I think he has touched on, is that most elusive of all things beyond the quality of the product or where it exists; and that is getting your audience (purchasing or otherwise) to know about it, love it and want it.And that, though it can be helped in so many ways by using it skillfully, need not have anything to do with IT. Maybe I should be hitting the bars more often."
I was reading a Sunday Times Special insert entitled 'Companies that count' (I've popped the link in, but good luck if you can get anywhere with it being an online version of what I read - why do B2B types assume we all live in their complicated, jargon-laden worlds) along with a piece It's cool for business to be green, when ironically enough along came this from the Guardian: Five biggest polluters in UK produce more CO2 than all motorists combined .