Monday, September 29, 2008

The Battle for Time

I was talking with my partner, Andy, today from End to End Training and he mentioned that he didn't want to be wasting time on small projects, like short term consulting. Our other partner, Brian, has a separate consulting business (Pragmatic Works) and has been doing some remote consulting. He's done with with conference calls and Webex, primarily because a customer couldn't afford his rate. So he went with a good rate remotely.

I thought that wasn't necessarily a bad idea, but Andy said that if you couldn't sustain the customers, you wouldn't really be doing well. If you could only book 1 or 2 hours a day, it wasn't great money and it meant that you weren't focusing on your business. Andy said it was like hitting singles all day, and he wanted to hit home runs.

While a home run would be nice, singles are what this blog is about.

We talked a bit about it and I agree with Andy that you don't want to get too distracted with other projects. We can't afford to hire someone else, but we're getting close. In the meantime, every project that Andy or Chris (our employee) do must provide some amount of payback. Either immediately, or in the short term (< href="">JumpstartTV is our primary goal right now. We bought it really with the intention of helping Brian out and getting a few names. That was earlier this year, but now it seems that property might be the best one for growing revenue and building a good business in the next year.

In any case, it's not hitting a home run, though it could be. Instead we're focusing on the things that make the most sense for us to grow the business and revenue in the short term. Not next month, but the next six. To me it's a contact hit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Facebook - I'm on it

I've never really gotten the social site thing. I don't get the appeal of Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace, etc., beyond the ability to set up your own web site easily. Since I can do that on my own, I wasn't really sure why I should mess with something like the social sites, but I wonder if I'm missing something.

My wife mentioned she was on Facebook, with like 300 friends, which seems like a lot to me, so I decided to give it a try. It's something of a business experiment, and it's something of a trial for me as well. I signed up today and you can find me as sjones at sqlservercentral dot com.

I did find a couple friends from high school on there, which was interesting, mildly. Not sure if I'll ping them, or if they'll ping me, but we'll see.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Daily Discussions

I don't always feel like it, and I've even tried to avoid them, but I know there's a value in having daily discussions with the management team. In our case that's Andy, with me and Brian more as consultants to the business. With 1 full-time employee (plus Andy), there's not a lot of people stuff, but we have a lot of business to manage.

I find that I tend to get in a routine, used to hearing from him on a regular basis, touching base with how things are going, brainstorming, talking over the things working and not working, and making plans for the future. It's typically a meeting, and we try to not waste too much time, though I'm sure we've blown a few hours talking about wood, politics, or many other things.

Most of the time I find that 3 times a week is good, allowing us to touch base and chat about what's working and not working. It gives Andy a break from his normal work and it's "thinking time," which I don't get enough of at my day job and is invaluable for making the business grow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's a Contact Hitter

I've always loved the game of baseball: watching it, playing, all aspects of it. A few years ago I decided to start playing again as an adult. I hadn't played since I was in high school and was a little nervous about getting out there. It didn't help that I got drafted to play on one of the top teams in the 38&over league.

My first year in the league I wanted to hit the ball hard. I mean I really wanted to hit well and show the rest of the guys in my league I could play. As the games went by over the first month or so of the season, I racked up walks, ground outs, fly outs, and quite a few strike outs, but no hits. Eventually I started thinking this wasn't really my talent and just swung hard.

In our 9th or 10th game, I finally swung through a pitch and knocked a home run over the fence. I was thrilled since I'd not even seen anyone hit one. My first hit was one to remember. The next time up I swung through another pitch and hit a second one. As expected, the third time up I popped one way up in the air, but another out.

Still I was thrilled. It seemed my season was saved. I kept thinking about that day every time I went up to bat and kept swinging. I never hit another home run, but I did start to get some hits. Those built confidence and I enjoyed the rest of the season.

The next winter I started practicing at home, putting a practice machine in my basement and going down there 4-5 times a week to hit little whiffle balls. That practice paid off through the season and I ended up hitting over .300 that season, making lots of contact. No home runs, but I had a productive, and enjoyable, year.

The next winter I didn't practice as much, but I swung hard in the games that summer. I hit some deep balls, no home runs, but I had some impressive shots. It got to the point that some people would slip the shortstop over to right field and overplay me. I didn't get many hits, and it wasn't a great year. Toward the end of the year I joined a softball team as well and not wanting to hurt myself, learned to place my hits where I could get on base, rather than swinging for the fences.

I learned something from that.

The home run hitters look good. They are flashy, sexy, and impressive. However they don't win games and it's not much fun to go up there and fly out or strike out. And it's not something that I liked. I learned that I would much rather hit more often, with less power, but more accuracy or results than be flashy.

A contact hitter is one that focuses on not striking out. Instead they want to get the ball in play, increasing the odds that they'll get on base every trip to the plate. Some of the most productive baseball players ever have been contact hitters, who aren't as flashy as a Hank Aaron or a Barry Bonds, but they are some of the most respected players by their peers.

And they are successful in their field. They get the paycheck and tend to have long careers.

I think you can do the same thing in business, and I think many people would like to have a long, productive business career and work in relative anonymity or obscurity than be the flashy CEO of a company that fails. Or have a business or two fail before they succeed with another one.

Most people I know are scared to start a business, but they need not be. They can start a business, be conservative, and make those smart decisions, never "swinging for the fences", but "looking to make contact, " each and every day. They can build something that might not make them rich, but will make them proud each day they go to work.

I'm starting this blog to talk about business. Reasonable businesses that can survive, and thrive, and sustain the owner and employees for a long, long time.