Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff

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Jul
15

Apparently, You’re Not Responsible for Driving Responsibly

Last week, my daughter’s 31 year old high school math teacher, Carolyn Girod, was struck and killed by a car while cycling in Washington.  At the time, Girod was riding with her boyfriend on what is reported to be a fairly rural and straight stretch of road.  According to the Washington State Patrol, the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident “was not paying attention and drifted onto the shoulder where the couple was biking.”  The car hit the boyfriend, pushing him into Girod and pushing her into the active roadway.  The boyfriend, who survived with minor injuries, was thrown into the embankment beside the road.

Needless to say, this is a tragedy and of a type that happens all too often.  Cyclists are hit by cars frequently in the US.  Many motorists refuse to recognize that in most states bicycles have the same rights on most roads that cars do.  While cyclists certainly aren’t faultless in some instances, it’s the casual (or inebriated) tossing around of two tons of vehicle that’s usually found to be at fault.

Furthermore, it seems like there is little other than lip service being paid to fixing the problem.  Signs posted here and there, rhetoric now and again (especially when an accident like this happens) and a new law passed, but not enforced, once in a while.  This case is a perfect example, as reported in the article about accident:

“. . . the State Patrol rarely arrests drivers who are merely “inattentive” in their driving, “even if they kill someone” through their inattention.”

What?  I’m not responsible for my lack of attention to my driving even if I kill someone?  As a licensed driver of a vehicle, am I not responsible for all my actions behind the wheel?  Isn’t attentiveness the responsibility of a driver?  Geez, I don’t get it.  As long as we don’t hold people responsible for their actions, we just condone their behavior.

The comments to the article even better represent the problem.  Some comments predictably and incorrectly blame the cyclists.  But more disturbingly, one woman sympathized with the driver saying something to the effect, “we all have fished around on the floor of our car searching for a flashlight or CD player.”  Really?  While moving?  Once again, we show how a driver’s license is a right instead of a privilege in the US.

 July 15th, 2009  
 Will  
 Cycling  
   
 13 Comments
Jul
06

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Business Plans?

Reading Don Dodge’s post titled, “Business plans, business models, who needs them?” this weekend made me rehash many of the discussions I’ve had with VCs and entrepreneurs about the need for business plans over the years.  In the post, Dodge makes the claim that investors don’t read business plans and, in fact, they “invest in people, not business plans.”  While I mostly agree with this – I actually believe that there is a confluence of people, time and place that drive most investments – I think the argument against business plans misses a key and fundamental point: business plans aren’t for the investor, they’re for the entrepreneur or team developing the idea into a business.

In my opinion, it’s the process of business planning (which generally involves writing stuff down thus, creating a business plan) which has all the value and it’s value is huge.  Understanding, researching and testing the product/service, market (customer), differentiation, channel and competition (see my post titled Business Planning – The Big 5), is critical and, shockingly, overlooked frequently.  People tend to fall in love with their ideas and don’t bother thinking through what problem they are really solving for their target customer.  Even when they do, they often don’t spend the time to test their hypothesis with potential customers prior to looking for funding.  To me, this is what business planning is all about.  How can a team even create a slide deck or answer questions from investors if they haven’t done this level of business planning?

In his post, Dodge uses the example of Twitter getting funding without a business plan or even a business model, for that matter, as an example.  While I don’t think Twitter is representative of most (any?) investment cases, it does offer up a reasonable counter-argument to my point above.  If you build something massive and pervasive on your own dime prior to seeking funding, you can do just about anything you want and still land investors.  Generally speaking, though, it’s a bad idea to plan on this route.  It doesn’t happen very often.

So, while I fully support the concept that business plans as written documents may not get you far with investors, the process of business planning, that yes, will likely include written material (documents, spreadsheets, drawings on backs of napkins), will.  A business is way more than an idea.  Successful businesses are about execution and you can’t execute effectively if you don’t know where you’re going.  The argument against business plans is more about with what and how you present your idea to investors than it is about how you develop your business in the first place.  A well thought through business is simply more likely to get funded than one which is not.  That takes business planning.

Make sure you read Paul Kedrosky’s post on this subject, The Twitter Lesson: No Business Plans Please, which Don Dodge references in his post.  He makes some very interesting points on the downside of sharing too much data with potential investors.  Very interesting.  He does not, however, make the point that you shouldn’t have the data, just that you might not want to expose it too early.

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 July 6th, 2009  
 Will  
 General Business  
   
 8 Comments
Jul
06

I’m Likin’ Bing

While I’m addicted to search like most people, I’m not married to a particular provider.  I have a load of search engines in my Firefox search drop-down list which, conceptually, lets me choose the most appropriate one to get the fastest access to the best results.  That said, Google has been my default search engine for as long as I can remember and I’ll usually hack through what Google feeds back to me before I bother with others.  Just lazy.

Since I’m never happy with anything and feel the need to tinker with everything, I changed my default search engine to Bing a few weeks ago.  I like it.  It’s not life-changing or anything, but I’m impressed with the results and the flexibility it provides.  There are three things in particular I like. 

  • Each returned entry has more follow-on links than Google provides.  If I’m really just looking for the “Downloads” link, for example, I don’t have to navigate to the home page of the searched site and click on that link.  It’s in the Bing entry.  Yeah, Google does this sometimes, but it’s much more frequently done with Bing.  For some sites there is even a search box for the found site inside the the Bing entry (see below).

bing

  • I like the “Related Searches” list in the sidebar.  In search, sometimes it’s all about how you enter what you’re looking for.  When I don’t get what I want, I often find that clicking on one of the related searches gets me there fast just because other keywords were better than those I entered.
  • Images.  I can’t imagine why, but Bing returns a much better list of images than Google.  They’re organized better, too.  When you see an image close to what you’re looking for, you simply click on “show similar images” and you get more sizes and varieties of similar images.  Nicely done.
  • Sports results.  I search for sports scores and standings frequently.  See below, Bing just does a better job.

Bing - Red Sox Google - Red Sox

Note here that I didn’t include the results themselves as a differentiator.  I think that the Bing results are slightly better, but it’s not yet clear to me that this is so.  The presentation of search results, though, is much nicer in Bing, IMO.  For now, I’m a convert.

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 July 6th, 2009  
 Will  
 Misc Thoughts  
   
 10 Comments