Every Saturday I salute someone or a group that deserves a little extra attention for his or her good deeds, achievements, creative solutions, witty comments or meaningful acts of customer love.
This week my hat goes off to Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon.
I’ve admired Jeff for many years, but tonight after reading the WSJ and an essay by Richard l. Brandt about his new book, “One Click: Jeff and the Rise of Amazon.com” I was reminded of what an amazing journey Jeff Bazos has had as an entrepreneur and the incredible success his company has earned.
Wearing cowboy boots as I write this blog post, I do have an extra soft spot for Texas-breed business heroes like Jeff. Jeff spent many of his summers in Cotulla, TX at his grand daddy’s Lazy G Ranch. The Journal article recounts Jeff’s early inspiration from rural living and his grandfather. Citing that self-reliance was an important value. “People do everything themselves and when something is broke you fix it.” This upbringing turned out to be a valuable entrepreneurial trait for Bazos as he built his global empire.
A great American success story for all start-ups and entrepreneurs with big dreams
From the early years of working from a garage office, to a diet of Pizza on most days, to answering customer emails himself, Bazo’s passion, vision, quirkiness and micromanaging have paid off quite well.
I admire so much about Jeff’s leadership and the company including:
Great brand name and branding.
It is cool, smart and simple (the original name was Cadabra, it was nixed after being mispronounced as Cadaver).
I enjoy and use often all the site features and intelligent marketing from their patents from “One Click” to many rumored others.
The ease of the shopping experience and thoughtful customer service.
Being an advocate and channel for other entrepreneurs.
I’m so thrilled and grateful that Amazon is such a dominant book channel for affiliate marketing and for promoting and selling books like: Brain Tattoos and my new title Brand Turnaround, my new baby that is about to be born in December.
Thank you Jeff. You inspire us!
I highly recommend this book, Get Rich Click, The Ultimate Guide to Making Money on the Internet by Marc Ostrofsky to every businessperson and entrepreneur.
There are gobs of great books available on Internet marketing and I’ve read many. But this one is worth adding to your library of valuable references and tools. Not only is the author, Marc Ostrofsky a real-life success story (he had made millions with the Internet) which for me gives the book extra credibility, it’s also organized in a way that makes it easy to understand, access the learning gems and apply to your business.
The book covers just about every aspect of the Internet and how anyone can profit from it. Some of the more interesting sections for me were on URLs, keywords, and new vendors to help get things done. In addition to the book content, Marc does a nice job of making updates available on his website via his blog.
This book took me a bit to get through, not because it’s long, but I found myself stopping to try things and look up examples that he cites that made the content not only hit my brain, but really stick to it and become my new walking knowledge that I’m now using with my businesses.
Just a couple of my top take-a-ways:
1) Having a key word in your URL is golden.
My brand name and URL are proof of this. Many of you know I earned the #1 spot on Google last year for the term “Branding Speaker”. I’m now convinced that in addition to my voluminous writing, the noun in my name www.brandingdiva.com has paid off too.
2) Buying smart URLs can add to your wealth just like buying a prime piece of real estate.
They can be low cost, high return investments. Since reading Get Rich Click I’ve purchased over 50 new URLs that I’m going to start monetizing with parking pages and landing pages.
If you need one comprehensive book that helps you understand and profit from the Internet this one should be considered. It gets a thumbs-up from me.
I’m looking forward to his next book too that will be called Word of Mouse.
Raising money, being a profitable venture from the get go and finding a golden opportunity is no easy drill for any entrepreneur.
Ben Huh, a former journalist, says it can be done and he just did it.
His holding company Pet Holdings, which run a slew of comedy-heavy, user-generated stuff, sites that the curate topics are based on user votes and interest in the content. Some of their wacky properties are: I Can Has Cheezburger, also known as LOL Cats, FAIL Blog, which shows user-submitted photos of all manner of things and people that are, well, failing at something and Memebase, that tracks Internet memes. Check all of them out. They are amazingly entertaining.
Under Ben’s leadership the company just raised a $30 million round of Series A financing for expansion. The funding round was sponsored by Foundry Group’s Brad Feld. The two met about one and a half years ago and developed a strong relationship. Feld said, “It’s a combination of a great team, a great leader and an ability to create something that can become a very large media property”. See full story from VentureWire.
In 2007 Ben bought the main Cheezburger site, also known as LOLcats, from two entrepreneurs in Hawaii and built it into an online collection of the funnest pictures of animals with the site’s signature misspelled captions plastered over them.
The company has grown to become the largest humor network in the world with growth to 16 million monthly unique visitors and 375 million monthly page views.
Holy feline!! With traffic like that, it’s no surprise that they earn lots of income from ad revenues and merchandise.
Congrats Ben! and all the cats and folks that helped him build his empire. And thanks for the inspiration.
Is there more room in this market space of completely goofy, user-generated content, weird named ventures? What niches have not been tapped yet and can they dance more than one song?
Top photo credit from I Can Has Cheezburger, author unknown.
Also, check out: 5 tips to manage the painful side effects of progress and change.
2010 was an amazing year for me. I had a killer year – revenues rocked, I grew my mental capacity, along with my waistline, and I learned a bunch of new skills.
All were positive as they added and challenged my adventure, bottom line and awareness journey. Here’s my recap and what I took away.
Most meaningful moments
1) When I witnessed the BP explosion flying to Baton Rouge, LA for a meeting.
Takeaway-Life is short and at any given moment it can change.
2) When my mom watched me play tennis for the first time and I won. I’ve been playing for ten years.
Takeaway-Even when you are 50, parent’s involvement still matter.
1) When I discovered I was the #1 Google search for branding speaker.
Takeaway- Content writing has value.
2) When I lead the launch of a global green brand called Earthwise.
Takeaway-Branding, Twitter and hard work payoff.
3) The progress we made on Oddpodz.
Takeaway-If something is a long tail venture, do the best you can, keep pushing, keep learning and don’t give up.
4) I scored over 25 major media new stories (FOX over 10 times, NY Times, Forbes, Miami Herald).
Takeaway-You must be assertive, reach out to the media often, with newsworthy ideas, and then do an awesome job adding to their show, whether it’s print, TV, radio or online.
Best business changes
1) Hired my sister to manage my books.
Takeaway- How did I ever do it without her? This business relationship has strengthened our bond and drastically reduced my tax challenges.
2) Invested in expert coaching.
Takeaway-When you fly a company with a small, virtual team, you need professional, high-level paid sounding boards. Asking friends and business colleagues who like you will slow down your progress.
3) Getting rid of my big office.
Takeaway-I’m not an office girl. I’m most productive when I work in my cave, on the street and by my rules.
1) Email is not the best way to communicate.
Takeaway- If you put it in writing it can live on and bit you back.
2) Hiring great people takes time, testing and more testing.
Takeaway-Hiring great people takes time, testing and more testing.
Things I still don’t understand
1) How the Gap could have launched such as ugly, new logo.
Takeaway- Even big companies do really stupid things.
2) Why Brett Farve took so long to retire and is such a public cry baby.
Takeaway-There’s a lot I don’t know, especially about guys.
2) Why Tony Robbin’s Show got canceled and The Jersey Shore is breaking rating records.
Takeaway-A lot of people will buy things I would not.
1) Toking oxygen and drinking champagne at the St Regis Spa in Aspen.
Takeaway- Money is not the end all, but sure pays for some crazy fun.
2) Going to see Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in NYC and Second City in Chicago.
Takeaway-Comedy is as important as food, my bed and black shoes.
3) Hanging out with a hot former Russian hockey player & slamming shots of horseradish-infused vodka while enjoying crepes and caviar was quite the fun night. And best part of it is – I’m here and he’s way over there.
Takeaway-Simple, random and kind of crazy encounters with no expectations are pretty amazing moments in life. I’m keeping my eyes open for more.
NEXT YEAR I’ve got my eyes on a few new adventures too.
I’d like to attend the American Music Awards, Saturday Night Live or Fashion Week in NY.
I like to have a major new book under my belt.
And meet any of these inspiring folks and have a coffee, like Lady GaGA, Tony Robbins, Michael Phelps or Richard Branson.
I’d also like to be featured in the Wall Street Journal.
How was your year? And what’s next for you to step up your success?!
Don’t forget to check out: Leadership = the quality of your presence.
Call me crazy, the anti-saving queen, the discount defector, the over spending psycho shopper – I don’t like coupons!
I do like being rewarded with gifts for my loyalty, finding items with extreme value for a fair price and being a recipient of a bonus tied to a purchase. To me that’s all cool. However, you will never see me packing a coupon at a nice restaurant or signing up at Groupon. See end of story of their story.
So what’s the difference?
The difference is: How it’s packaged and the psychological message that accompanies it.
My aversion to discounting started as a child. My mother and grandmother were coupon addicts, my mother still is. So from the get-go it was part of my rebel nature. If my mom did it, I was not going there. (Sorry mom)
Later in life, when I started selling things that I created and built with lots of sweat and investment, a client wanted a fire sale price or discount. I processed that request as if the buyer didn’t see the value in what I delivered; they were uneducated or maybe just cheap, either way my ego was insulted.
As I matured as a business person and understood the costs of goods/services, overhead and profit, paying full price for things was tied to my value system. As an entrepreneur supporting other entrepreneurs and economies I felt it was my duty to pay a business, that provided a quality/valuable product, a fair, and many times full price, so they could be around next year.
I also have been around many whiny people who do not value themselves, always feel like they are a victim and don’t run a business. Their affinity to discounts, and their chest pounding with feelings of triumphant, when a business has to discount—annoys me.
Discounts, two for one, buy one, get one free—all scream desperate, needs sales badly or worse – sneaky marketing.
Maybe my knowledge of business gives me an unfair advantage or my knowledge of life cuts through any faux coupon cloud.
My opinion on coupons and discounts is not universal, I am a market segment (professional, educated, not poor, supports capitalism, high level of quality standards, values principles of business) that certain sellers need to understand and speak to. To get me to buy one needs to package a quality offering, price it in a fair manner and stand behind it with enough resources (that hopefully you’ve earned).
There are many consumers who are not like me (my mother, a college student, a single mom with 4 kids etc.) and successfully selling to them may look different. The recent recession has had an impact on pricing strategies. The key, to discounting or not, needs to align to the values of your buyers.
I’ve witnessed many a brand demise when quality companies resort to deep discounting. Instead they should focus on better communications on their value offering, product experience and performance. Apple , Rolex, Mont Blanc or BMW don’t discount.
Another story, three more important points.
Even though I’ve hammered against the concept of discounts and coupons, today in The Wall Street Journal there is an excellent story on Groupon, an online company that was offered $6 billion from Google and they passed. Groupon offers local, online visitors, daily deals with significant discounts. I applaud their confidence in themselves, the intriguing business model and their success. The story is worth reading. Three messages that stuck with me were, 1.) the founder first started the company on a different path and lost over $1,000,000, Don’t give up! 2.) The founder believes the success of Groupon is credited to the simpleness of the idea vs. the first company concept was complex. Simple is good. 3.) Livingsocial.com is another similar local/discount model and Amazon just pumped $175 million into it. Isn’t business fun!
For more on coupons, view: Are you as consumer savvy with your advertising as you are with your groceries?
This week, our team has produced 7 articles for your success. For those of you who might have missed them – some of us are busy as hell during the week! – here is your weekly OWW-UP:
1 – In Liar Liar is your brand on fire, Joe Melle digs into the evolution of advertising over the past 50 years, focusing on infomercials. Joe wonders how marketing professionals look at their peers’ work. He also questions the extent to which Ethic impacts infomercials messages and he challenges every one of us to think twice about the way we communicate about our products? See Joe’s post here.
2 – In Leadership: the quality of your presence, Thomson Dawson highlights how leadership is an effect of a quality presence. He tells us why determined people are time-oriented and how they get to the next step. See Thomson’s post here.
3 – In Business Requirements Doc & Website Dev RFP Example, Karen Post follows up her last week article How Two Websites Almost Killed a Baby. Our CEO tells us what Oddpodz has learnt in IT adding some insights from Allen Clary and Brian Burridge
See Karen’s post here and download Business Requirements and Oddpodz Request for Proposal as examples.
4 – In Why you should master the art of “downloading people”?, Kenji Crosland develops the concept of “downloading people” – or how to get as many pieces of information from anyone as you can. Among the tips Kenji gives us: don’t focus on narrow objectives and remember that everyone has valuable information. See Kenji’s post here.
5 – In If it ain’t broke, break it…, Jocelyn Rings gives us 7 lessons she implements while brainstorming. Through the story of the successful startup SeamlessWeb, Jocelyn’s advices make a lot of sense for those of us who live through a continuous brainstorming mode! See Jocelyn’s post here.
6 – In How QR barcodes make it easy to attract & keep new online friends, Lauren Angrick shows us a Japanese way to communicate through mobile devices which is going worldwide at the speed of light! See Lauren’s post here
7 – Lauren brings it back in A little known way to spruce up your Facebook page for free. In this post, she adds up a great tool to the Oddpodz FREE biz findz blog with Facebook TabSite. A website that allows you to create for free a tab within your Facebook pages. See Lauren’s second post of the week here
Seven days, seven posts! The O-team has given its best for your success. Which insight has been the most helpful for you this week?
Last week I wrote about Oddpodz IT learning in our early days. If you missed the post, See How Two Websites Almost Killed a Baby.
I promised a follow up after the panel discussion.
It was a great night, a full house and lots of solid conversation on how to build a site with the help of the right professions.
And from event sponsor: Ian Ippolito of Vworker
- Karen’s nightmare is not unique in the IT industry, when you don’t know, what you don’t know
- Call references, not that the vendor gives you, but that they list as clients or that you uncover
- Get referrals from your network, your CPA, your law firm
- Always have someone leading your IT efforts (who really cares about your success or has a vested interest), especially if you don’t come from technology
- Don’t just sign a 20-page contract, especially on projects over $10,000. The devil is in the small print
- Companies like Vworker provide project based IT support and programming and guarantee their work Contractors from around the globe bid on project specs, provide transparent reference checking, thus reducing nightmare like Karen experienced.
I promised to share a good template for A Business Requirement (I found this on DocStoc, a great resource for documents, some free, some for a fee) and the outline of the RFP Oddpodz used in our second site build. If you any any questions, please post them in our Oddpodz Linkedin Group so everyone can learn from the discussion.
Monday September 20, I’m participating on a panel discussion “Avoiding Pitfalls in Website Development— Lessons for Entrepreneurs.”
If you are in Tampa you’re invited to join fellow high-tech entrepreneurs the Emerging Companies Network Event (Part of TBTF), which will be co-hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE, a member-based not-for-profit organization of web tech entrepreneurs dedicated to generating and supporting successful home-grown web ventures. The panel will be moderated by Curt P. Creely of Foley & Lardner LLP and was coordinated Linda Olson of WOMbeat.
The panel of Tampa Bay WaVE members (Allen Clary of www.Jibidee.com, Yours truly–Karen Post of Oddpodz.com, and Brian Burridge of Agile Nomads) will talk about experiences, challenges, and war stories in developing their websites, including selecting and managing developers and getting their sites live, and you’ll also get helpful hints on such topics from a website developer.
If you can’t make the event, please check out my follow up blog on Tues. 9.21.10 for more insight from the other presenters.
As entrepreneurs it’s not uncommon that we refer to our companies as babies. After all, many took over 9 months to create, sometimes the challenges are so great, you want to trade the kid in for a better, smarter model, but in the end, it’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to give this living thing a happy, healthy future. So when their life, your company is threatened, it’s serious stuff.
Oddpodz, my baby has had three near death experiences. all evolved around technology and web site development. I’ve written about these experiences in the past. Which I suggest you check out the last post. I cover the biggest lessons learned.
The good new is, since then, we’ve actually turned a big corner. And that’s what I will cover today and talk about Monday at the “Avoiding Pitfalls in Website Development— Lessons for Entrepreneurs.”
More of gory details are in the past post. Here’s the condensed version.
2006 had an idea and business plan.
Raised over $750,00
We (company leadership) didn’t know poop from apple butter concerning technology
Social media was like wild west in the 1800s, open source solutions were like the pioneers, just a handful
Site 1 – built in .net (cost $400,000, hosting costs $2,000 a month)
Hired a big company to lead us through the journey, they over sold
Should have hired an in house dedicated IT leader
We did not have a business requirements document for site
We did not have a clear financial model
Our balance of design and functionality in the site dev was out of whack
Should have had a fixed price, scope creep killed us
Should have started in a simpler plan, we had too many ideas
Should have had a penalty for missing deadline, time to market was a defeat
Developer contract left no protection for us, we did not figure this out until it was too late, at the end, should have been at beginning
Bad decisions are a lot worse than the price you pay for them, they cost the new time needed to fix up the mess, plus the cost in professionals and related costs (hosting, ad server)
Once we realized our site really sucked, it took another 7 months to improve
Site 2 – built in .joomla 1.0 (bartered $30,000, hard costs $15,000)
Hired an experienced IT person to write our Business Requirement Documents ($5,000)
Planning and BRD took 60 days
Procurement of new firm took another 60 days
We engaged a smaller firm to built site 2, they needed us and we needed them
The site was much better, but still very dependent on the web dev company
Many solutions were cobbled, combinations of off the shelf and custom apps
There were data migration issues from changing platforms
After the new site was up, the smaller company had staff turnover, our design team vanished
Our low spending with this dev company was impacting the ratio of attention we were getting
Traffic is much harder to get than you think
Still were not generating income from the site
Cost to maintain site 1500-2000 a month, just to keep up with industry
Joomla was not longer supporting Joomla 1.0 and to upgrade was going to cost time and money
I attended a Joomla class and got some names of smaller Joomla specialist
Interviewed many, selected 1 that said they fully examined our site and to make the Joomla upgrade $3,000 and a couple months
BIG FAT LIE – they didn’t look under the hood and when we switched servers most of our apps did not work
They submitted a real bid for $20,000 to make the upgrade and it would take another 3 months
After much thought and RIO on upgrade investment, I could not convince myself that we could earn this back in the short term
Site 3 – built in WORDPRESS MU (Programming $2,500, design $2,000, hosting 20.00 month)
Hired two flaky programmers that went MIA
All my hair turned gray
After 3 months, via someone I met on Linkedin, ProTech Assist a veterans and small business IT support company jumped in, built our new site, three blogs, an e commerce store. They also provide monthly support for a nominal fee.
85% of the site updates can be managed by me and my team
We have started generating income from our learning products and coaching
Our burn rate is low
Social media has matured and it is embraced by the world
Open source is wonderful thing
50% of our raised equity was forgiven, due to an aging investor
Our traffic is up 200%
We have a clear business model
We are leveraging our core assets
My other businesses are having record breaking years
This is fun again and we are confident we have a bright future
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