Archive for October, 2005

Stress and the micro-ISV

Monday, October 31st, 2005

While I run a micro-ISV by choice and desire, I’d be lying if I said it was all revenue and happiness. Stress – recognizing it, mitigating it and finding ways to reduce it – has to be as much a part of your business plan as your product roadmap and how you do tech support.

Consider:
► Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
► Seventy-five to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
► Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
-WebMDHealth

These are ugly statistics and even uglier facts if you let stress go unmanaged while running your micro-ISV.

Building a successful micro-ISV by any means necessary means long hours and long days. But if you’re going to enjoy the fruits of your success, in my opinion, you need to absolutely make the time to do three things:
► Invest the time to find ways of getting things done more productively with less stress.
► Exercise regularly. That means nearly every day.
► Don’t let your connections to your family and friends be casualties of business.

There’s no shortage of information about what stress will do to you and what you have to do about stress. But all that information is useless if you don’t act on it.

Sales lessons for techies

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Forbes has an article titled Sales Lessons for Tongue-Tied Techies that looks at where highly technical entrepreneurs need to focus their attention when they must sell their product.

The following quote from the article will probably hit home for many of us:

Rather than get an iteration of the software up and running, Banerjee and his team of Ph.D. students kept adding more bells and whistles every time a potential customer so much as mused about them. “We love solving problems, and these were cool problems to solve,” he says. “I couldn’t say no.” All that extra tweaking delayed the project by six months and upped the development costs by 50%.

Banerjee’s lesson: “Build spaceship one before spaceship two.”

The billion person Internet

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

According to several estimates, about 1 billion people now use the Internet. You job is to interest 0.00001 of them in your Micro-ISV’s product. 1 Billion exactly? Of course not, but if you look at the stats at www.clickz.com and at www.internetworldstats.com, about a billion people, give or take a New Zealand, is a good ballpark number.

That’s a very, very big ballpark, or more precisely, global digital market one click away from your purchase button.

Your challenge as a micro-ISV is to find say 0.00001 of those users (10,000) and find a problem that they 1) have, 2) don’t want to have and most importantly, 3) will pay money not to have. Then do that a few dozen times. Narrow is good. Narrow is relevant.

When I first started selling my first Micro-ISV application, MasterList Professional, I made the mistake of trying to reach too many people. Now, I’m finding ways to make MLP relevant to very specific, very narrow little tiny markets. It’s too soon to tell what results I’ll have, but as the saying goes, a 0.00001 here, a 0.00001 there, and soon you’re talking real money!

From the forums: Back office and Shareware Survey

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Ben is looking for input on his new idea for a microISV. He’s wanting to know how you handle support contracts for your product and how you generate registration keys.

cmteng has posted a request for people to fill out a shareware developers survey to “determine the current reality of shareware registration services”. The link to the survey is available in the forum post.

SWOT early, SWOT often.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

By Bob Walsh

As I’ve been writing my book on building a micro-ISV, I’ve noticed a set of problems that seem to afflict everyone starting their own software company. Brian Plexico has very graciously offered me the opportunity to post here about these issues and whatever small insights I can offer to micro-ISVs as to how to solve them.

As a micro-ISV you have to wear a stack of hats: developer, tech support person, marketing, sales, etc. But the hat most micro-ISVs forget to wear is CEO. A very good CEO spends most of their time worrying about their organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. (A very bad CEO should be worrying if they’ll end up in a cell after the trial with Tiny, the 300-pound biker, but that’s another story.)

SWOTing your micro-ISV is something you should do even before you actually have a micro-ISV. What are the strengths you bring to the party? What are the weaknesses – technical and human – you need to remember and mitigate against? Where are the opportunities for your micro-ISV and how do you connect to them? And what are the threats you need to be mindful of from competitors, a changing society, and the world in general? Keep it bullet point short: 2 pages will do the job if you focus on the big things, and you should.

Once your micro-ISV is up and running, plan on SWOTing monthly as a way of checking your direction, your execution and identifying what’s being neglected. There will be things that are neglected because it’s in the nature of running a small business; there is never enough time to do everything. Think not? How up are you what’s happening in your industry? When’s the last time you checked Google for new competitors? When’s the last time you made time to improve your programming?

Here’s a link to a good general SWOT page, and Businessballs.com has a great page on SWOT from a business point of view.

Reviewing your last two or three SWOTs as you do your monthly SWOT is a great way to see if what you’re making progress on and what needs more attention. Finally, keep your SWOTs to yourself: you don’t want to be sharing this info with anyone, including Tiny!

Is the indie life The Life?

Monday, October 17th, 2005

John Gruber of Daring Fireball provides his comments on the recent purchase of NetNewsWire creator Rachero Software. He looks at whether life as an indie is actually what everyone striving for this lifestyle actually achieve. His comments echo a lot of what we heard from Nick Bradbury when FeedDemon was purchased, that the time required to support a popular project force you to make a choice on the direction of life as an indie. The main one being, can you even remain independent.

This story will be repeated over and over in the next few years and I think its for the best. The best innovation comes from the people who are able to create the quickest, and those with the money will be happy to pay for an up and coming but proven product.

via kottke.org

Prioritize by Revenue.

Monday, October 10th, 2005

As I’ve been writing my book on building a micro-ISV, I’ve noticed a set of problems that seem to afflict everyone starting their own software company. Brian Plexico has very graciously offered me the opportunity to post here about these issues and whatever small insights I can offer to micro-ISVs as to how to solve them.

Starting a micro-ISV means you’ve got a to-do list a mile long. I’ve long been a believer in the Getting Things Done approach David Allen has pioneered, so much so that the product my micro-ISV sells works that way.

But there’s a glaring hole in the GTD theory: what guiding light do you use to prioritize all those actionable tasks? For micro-ISVs, it has to be revenue.

Not the latest and greatest Web 2.0 technology, or refreshing your web site, or even tech support: successful micro-ISVs, like successful small businesses in general, focus on the bottom line. If you don’t, you won’t survive.

Julie Morgenstern, one of my favorite productivity authors, covers extremely well how to figure out how many steps each actionable task is away from revenue in her book (now in paperback, and renamed), Making work Work. The gest of the idea analyze those actionable tasks by the number of steps they are from either increasing revenue or decreasing costs and give priority at any given time to the tasks closest to the bottom line.

Give this approach a try the next time you have to prioritize your micro-ISV to do list.

Be where you are

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

One of my favorite sites to read as soon as I see that a new post is available is BigPictureSmallOffice.com. The author is an executive at a publicly traded company who offers a lot of insight to the inner workings of the upper echelon of a large company, usually with great humor. His writing is always eloquent and the post titled “The One Thing” is no different. One idea from this post is applicable for many of us in the microISV community:

And don’t chase new opportunities without first exacting the full measure of potential from existing ones. It is the first rule of focus: Wherever you are, be there.

Create software tutorials and presentations

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

If you’re looking for a way to create tutorials and presentations of your software then check out Wink, from DebugMode. Wink allows you to capture screenshots along with mouse movements and you can also add your own explanations. There are several output options including a Flash movie which would be perfect for showing an active demo of your software on your website. Wink is free for personal and business use.

submitted via Brendan Flaherty

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