Killing your darlings: getting rid of products to improve profits

Enterprise Kill Your Darlings

Off with her head! That’s been the theme for this week. I’ve been watching The Tudors on DVD – and Henry VIII sure loved a good beheading when it came to getting rid of the traitors (or wives) that got in his way. I channelled Henry when I did the gardening earlier this week and got immense satisfaction from dead-heading 93 roses in the backyard (yes, I counted). Then I heard that publishing house Bauer Media axed another two magazines (Madison and UFC) after already putting Grazia on the chopping block. This inspires this week’s Enterprise post.

Earlier this week, publishing house Bauer Media announced the axing of two magazines: monthly fashion magazine Madison and martial arts magazine UFC. This comes hot on the heels of its decision to shut down weekly fashion rag Grazia.

These kinds of decisions are never easy – for management, owners, staff or readers – but sometimes, the best strategy is to clean house as swiftly as you can so you are not bogged down by under-performing products.

The same can be said for the products and services offered by small business owners.

Read more …

I like cats. I like blogging. So I can build a $37 million company right?

Ben Huh

There used to be a time (yes this is true) that I used to wake up each morning, reach for my phone and – before even checking emails or messages – I’d look up Icanhascheezburger. If you’re not familiar with this internet phenomenon, it’s simply a website full of cat photos accompanied by funny captions. These days, other animals of the non-feline variety also feature on the site.

I used to look up this site because I was guaranteed to have a giggle. And it was a great way to start the day. Such a simple idea, so effective. Since then the site has grown from one person blogging funny pictures of cats into a media empire which has garnered more then $37 million worth of investment.

Behind this empire is entrepreneur Ben Huh. And when I had the opportunity to interview the Seattle-based business owner when he was in Sydney earlier this week, I couldn’t pass it up. His story is this week’s Enterprise post.

I have cats. I like taking photos of them. I love sharing these pictures with my friends.

Read more …

Dual citizenship – what I’ve learned from living in Sydney AND Melbourne

Sydney - Melbourne

I’ve turned into someone with dual citizenship. And I have to say that navigating life with one foot placed in the sparkling city of Sydney and the other foot in the culture-and-cafe scene of Melbourne has its challenges. But I love the fact that I’m getting the best of both worlds.

Regular readers will now that I’ve been based in Sydney for most of my life. And when we decided to expand the Australian Writers’ Centre to Melbourne, I firmly believed that I could commute. You know, like all those people you see catching those early morning interstate flights, only to be home later in the evening after a full day of work in another city.

I was seriously DELUDED to think I could do this. Expanding to a new city is like starting a business from scratch. Despite the wonders of the internet and social media, you have to be there in person to: inspect new premises, deepen relationships and become a true member of the community. If you want to fast track your business growth, there’s certainly a lot that you can do online – but a lot MORE you can do in person.… Read more …

Aussies embracing Berlin as hot startup hub

Enterprise 21 March 2013 POST

It’s been a billion years (okay, 24 years) since I’ve visited Berlin. But my interest in the city has been piqued lately because so many friends come back from their holidays raving about it. As it turns out, there is a vibrant startup scene with more than a few Aussies. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

German isn’t the easiest language in the world to learn. But when you’re at high level meetings with the investors who are funding your start-up, you pick up the vocabulary pretty quickly. That’s what former Brisbane writer Joel Dullroy is facing in his new life in Berlin as a start-up founder.

Dullroy is co-founder of Deskwanted.com, a site that connects co-working spaces with those looking for a work space. He is part of a growing Australian contingent of entrepreneurs who have embraced the start-up community in Berlin.

“This city has always had a good flow of highly creative Australians,” says Dullroy, 30. “Many artists and bands have spent time here. Us entrepreneurial Australians are a relatively new cohort, but we are quickly making our mark. Australian accents are becoming more common at start-up events.”

An accidental entrepreneur
Dullroy’s journey into the world of start-ups was not planned. He left his hometown of Brisbane at 24, after working as a newspaper journalist. He then spent two years living in Estonia, before moving to Berlin in 2008. “I was instantly drawn to the creativity and energy of the city. It is a magnet for dreamers, drifters, idealists, escapists, creators and opportunists. The rent was cheap and the people inspiring, so I decided to stay.” [...]

Introducing … my new podcast: SMaC Talk

smactalk HERO

I love social media. Whether it’s blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin – or whatever social media platform is the new kid on the block – I love the way these tools can help us forge connections, build relationships and nurture communities of fans, followers and customers.

However, there is a LOT going on the social web. Every time you look, there is a new photo-sharing website, or must-read blog post or innovative strategy that the SMEGs (Social Media Gurus) are touting as the answer to all your prayers.

There’s so much happening that every time I catch up with my friends IRL (in real life), we end up talking about what’s going on online.

So in true social media style, we want to share this conversation with you – and encourage you to join in the discussion. I’m thrilled to announced the launch of SMaC Talk – a new weekly podcast that I’m doing with fellow Social Media Chicks (SMaC) Kerri Sackville and Allison Tait. [...]

My life in a minute: Candace Bushnell, new jewellery and posters of cats

Life in a minute 15 March 2013 POST

Loving: This awesome poster from PosterCandy.com.au.
This is a great new service where you can turn your Instagram photos into a poster. It’s all done online and, using the PosterCandy application, you can drag and drop the photos you want into posters of various sizes.

I chose a poster that’s 100cm x 70cms, it arrived last week and I love it! Apparently, it fits standard IKEA frames so I’m going get that next time I visit that monolith.

(And no, this is not a sponsored post. I just think this is really cool!)

Featured on:

* Social Media Knowledge did this interview with me here.

* 612 ABC Brisbane radio. I did a 10 minute segment on “The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media” this week.

Reading: The latest issue of Latte
Well, since I’m editor of Latte magazine (published by Business Chicks), I’ve obviously already know it intimately. But there’s nothing like the feeling when the printed copy finally lands in your hands. In this issue, I interview best-selling author and creator of Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell. [...]

Anatomy of a startup – the DesignCrowd story

Alec Lynch POST

I love a good entrepreneurial story. Especially when there’s high risk and high reward. So it was great to chat to Alec Lynch from DesignCrowd. Alec threw in his fancy corporate consulting job to found his own startup. He went home to live with his mother and lived on a shoestring budget in order to make his dreams come true. His story inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

These days, it seems that everyone wants to found a startup. However, it takes more than just a smart idea to become the next Facebook or Airbnb. For every Instagram success story there are thousands of failures or entrepreneurial tales that involve struggle, conflict and drama. Startup entrepreneur Alec Lynch, 29, is a typical protagonist on a journey that has all these elements.

Lynch is the founder of DesignCrowd, an online marketplace that connects businesses looking for graphic designers with a talent pool from all over the world. Business owners can crowdsource graphic design projects – ranging from logo creation to ebook design. Last month, Sydney-based Lynch announced a milestone when DesignCrowd hit over 100,000 designers using his service. Over the last year, Lynch experienced a tipping point in his business and says that the demand for crowdsourcing from small businesses has doubled since late 2012. According to Lynch, DesignCrowd has seen more than 50 per cent growth in posted projects already in 2013 and has processed more than $10 million worth of projects since it was founded in January 2008.

While these numbers may seem impressive, they are the result of sheer hard work, blind faith and the occasional lucky break thrown in. [...]

Should I feel offended, amused or guilty?

Should I feel offended amused or guilty POST

This week I got invited to an event for women over 50. Specifically, the website for this event states:

2013 is going to be your year for change!!
Discover how women over 50 escape the rat race and turn dreams into new careers and business!

At first, I wasn’t sure whether to feel:
(a) offended that the person sending me the invitation (a woman) thought I looked over 50. I’m about a decade off.
(b) bemused that the event organiser thought it would be a good idea to use this language
(c) totally guilty that I felt (a). After all, what’s wrong with being over 50 right?

It’s kind of like going up to a woman who is not pregnant, glancing at her stomach and then asking her: “How exciting! When are you due?”
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Are you an abdicator or activator?

Abdicator or activator

Timothy* is an abdicator. He has an amazing business that has a lot of potential to grow, and a service that’s in high demand. And yet, even though he’s been in business for seven years, he just can’t seem to get to the next level.

The reason? He’s an abdicator. Timothy is afraid to make decisions about his business that will move it forward. So he either delays making these decisions, or makes them the responsibility of someone else – so that he has someone to blame if it all doesn’t go to plan.

Do you recognise any of this behaviour in the people you deal with – or maybe even in yourself?

1. Abdicators find suppliers they can blame. I’m all for delegating and outsourcing. However, there is a huge difference between delegating and abdicating.

Timothy wants to hand over important functions of his business to suppliers and then expects them to work miracles, with little support or input from himself. The reality is that while he can delegate the role to them, he still needs to take responsibility for this decision. He might need to:
* ensure they are fully briefed on the overall business and how their roles fits within that
* be clear on his expectations of them, and query their expectations from him
* consider a regular monitoring or “catch up” meeting to see that everything is on track
* most importantly, gain a minimum level of understanding of their skill or at least their KPIs to be clear on whether they are doing a good job. [...]

The five steps to successful content marketing

The five steps to successful content marketing POST

I’m a big fan of content marketing. In fact, it’s been the cornerstone of how I’ve built my business. So it was great to be able to attend the Content Marketing World Conference in Sydney this week. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

One more thing. It’s just one more item for your “to do” list. But it’s one you have to pay attention to. As a small business owner, it’s a list that’s already full of tasks like sales, recruitment, staff management, operations, customer service, administration, you name it. But now there’s another essential item if you want to succeed and grow: content marketing.

At least that’s the concept that hundreds of keen delegates embraced at this week’s Content Marketing World in Sydney (4–6 March, 2013). A conference for … you guessed it … those interested in “content marketing”, it’s an initiative of the US-based Content Marketing Institute. [Aside: I go to a lot of business conferences and this is definitely one of the better ones on the calendar.]

For those of you who are still wondering “content what?”, let me explain. According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) founder Joe Pulizzi: “Content Marketing is owning, as opposed to renting media. It’s a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance consumer behaviour.” [...]

My life in a minute: Chocolate, foot therapy and a brand new office

Life in a Minute 6 March POST

Excited: That we have got the keys to our new premises in Melbourne. I’m so thrilled that we’re now one of the arts and culture organisations at The Abbotsford Convent. This precinct is a thriving creative and artistic community and our new neighbours include Drama Victoria, Illustrators Australia, Complete Works Theatre, The Creativity Institute and more.

The Abbotsford Convent is located right in the heart of inner city Melbourne (the nearest station is Collingwood). The grounds are beautiful, there are two bars, gallery spaces, a bakery, restaurants, 3MBSFM, stunning gardens and lots of training rooms where we’ll be holding our courses.

Loving: Best. Invitation. Ever.
I love this clever invitation from Dell. It’s the size of a computer, my photo is included on the top right, and the whole thing is MADE OUT OF CHOCOLATE. Did I mention that it’s the size of a computer … that’s a lot of eating …

Welcoming: Phoebe is the newest member to join our team. It’s her first week at the Australian Writers’ Centre and it’s as if she’s already been here for ages. Welcome Phoebe!

Honoured: To be included in Shopify’s list of “30 books that will help you increase sales”.

I’m so honoured that my book “Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business” is in the same company as books that I’ve admired for ages. These include Robert Cialdini’s “Influence”; Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”; and Anthony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power”.

Catching up with: I love catching up with my writerly buddies Kerri Sackville and Allison Tait. There’s nothing quite like a lunchtime discussion on agents, readers, and the writing process that’s guaranteed to be full of everything from angst to inspiration. These talented women are a wonderful support and are full of sage advice. [...]

Seven deadly sins of social media

Seven sins of social media POST

I’m often amazed at the comments I hear from small business owners who seem more afraid of social media than the plague. When social media was still relatively new, I completely understood this trepidation. But now that it’s simpler and quicker to use than ever before, it’s perplexing that some business owners stick their heads in the sand when it comes to learning about it. It’s not rocket science. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

Social media is either too hard, too scary or too ridiculous to waste time on. I hear these sentiments constantly from business owners of all ages. Of course, prolific users of social media probably find these attitudes archaic. But they are real – and more common that you’d expect.

For example, I recently met a business owner who runs a small nutrition practice. He told me that he studied Facebook for six months – researching what it does and how it works – before finally registering for an account. Six months! Seriously, Facebook is not akin to nuclear physics. It doesn’t require this level of study.

Similarly, I recently did a video interview with a business owner, profiling her work and products. At the end of the interview, she told me that she didn’t want it on YouTube. I was perplexed. She was happy for us to film, she saw us set up the cameras. I wondered if I had unwittingly offended her or if she was unhappy with the interview. It turns out that she thought the interview was just fine. “I just don’t want it on YouTube.” [...]

Travelling with pets: flying in Australia

Travelling with pets: flying in Australia POST

Little doggie Rambo is somewhat of a frequent flyer. I only wish that he could earn points for all his travelling. I know that many people think it’s a hassle to travel with pets but it can be a pretty seamless experience. A bit of planning means that your furry friend can enjoy your destination with you.

I’ve received so many emails and messages asking for tips on travelling with pets I figured it was high time I wrote them all down. Regular readers will know that I travel a lot between Sydney and Melbourne – and I usually bring some of all of my menagerie with me. So when it comes to flying with pets, what’s the deal?

1. Booking your pets on the plane

While my furballs would dearly love their own Learjet, this is not going to happen any time soon. So we have to fly regular airlines like Qantas and Virgin. Fortunately, this is pretty easy (and a lot less expensive).

In fact, in some cases, it’s free. For example, with Qantas, your pet carrier is considered a piece of luggage so it’s just part of your regular luggage allowance. If you have an extra bag, you pay for the extra piece. On my most recent flight (yesterday), this extra piece was only $20.

You can’t front up with your pet unannounced. When you book, you need to let the airline know. And unless you have a guide dog, your furry friend doesn’t get to travel with you in the cabin. They go downstairs in the cargo. (This is unlike some airlines in the US which are more pet-friendly.) [...]

A Silicon Valley state of mind

A Silicon Valley state of mind POST

This week I chatted to Tony Perkins, the founder and former editor-in-chief of Red Herring. I remember buying my first copy of Red Herring back in the nineties. I was mesmerised by the stories of these innovative companies in Silicon Valley and all the talk about this new-fangled thing called the information superhighway and the internet.

Tony grew up in Silicon Valley and is now focused on globalising the Valley culture by connecting key players with Australian startups. It was great to talk to him this week on Enterprise.

While the startup community in Australia is growing, it’s still a far cry from the dynamic eco-system that is driving the tech epicentre of Silicon Valley. However, entrepreneur and Silicon Valley native Tony Perkins wants to change all that.

Perkins is the founder of AlwaysOn, a US-based media company that has its sights set on the Australian startup scene.

Connecting the players

This week, Perkins is in Sydney to promote what he hopes will be a leading event for startups in Australia, AlwaysOn Australia, which will be held on 11-12 April 2013. While tech events are not new in Australia, Perkins plans to combine this event with a trade mission where he plans to bring 30 CEOs of US tech companies and representatives of US-based venture capital firms to Australia to explore the startup scene.

Perkins hopes that his trade mission will create awareness among US firms about the opportunities available in Australia. “This way they can get the lay of the land and move into this 21 million-person market more rapidly,” he says. “In addition, a lot of these folks are looking at the possibility of establishing in Australia to use it as an outpost to the Asia-Pacific region.”
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My life in a minute: Writing, dining, stage-mothering and lots of driving

My Life in a Minute 15 Feb 2013 POST

Melbourne Writers’ Club: It was great to connect with fabulous people in the writing community at Melbourne Writers’ Club last week, which is a monthly networking event organised by Sandi Sieger, editor-in-chief on Onya Magazine. I was honoured to speak at the event at the The Honey Bar in South Melbourne.

Oscar’s Table: While we’re on all things writing, I do love restaurants with a literary theme. I had dinner at Oscar’s Table at Docklands in Melbourne. It is full of Oscar Wilde quotes, lampshades are made from pages from books and there’s a giant original painting of the man himself adorning the walls.

Getting ready for his closeup
My little doggie Rambo had a photo session with celebrity photographer Gina Milicia last week. He also stars in Gina’s latest book “Making the Shot” which is full of her pro tips on taking portraits.

A very pretty high tea
It was great to check out high tea at Christine Re Tea Rooms in Collingwood in Melbourne. This was the venue of Rhiannon Colarossi’s WellbeingWeb event. Check out how gorgeous it is! [...]

Are you still in love with your business?

Are you still in love with your business

It’s Valentine’s Day! While you are busy making goo goo eyes at your beloved, consider whether you need to stoke the fires of passion for your business. This auspicious day inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

Happy Valentine’s Day! As couples all over the country celebrate with romantic dinners, bouquets of roses and the odd proposal, it might be a good time to consider if you’re actually still in love with your business.

Whether you’re a new business owner still flush with the excitement of first love, or a seasoned veteran in a long-term relationship, it can be worthwhile to think about whether you’re doing enough to stoke the fires of passion in your business.

This depends on what stage you’re at in your relationship.

Stage 1: Flirting and courting

Before you even start your business, you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while. You might do some research, check out the competition and determine if your potential new love could be the right fit for you.

You toy with the idea, flirt with the concept of whether this business could be The One and daydream about the possibilities.
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Live your entrepreneurial dream

In Style Audi scholarship POST

I have been following my entrepreneurial dreams for quite some time now, first with the Australian Writers’ Centre, and lately with socialcallout.com, but I haven’t forgotten what the hunger to further your career aspirations feels like.

But I also remember how tough it can be starting out, and how you are grateful for any assistance, material or otherwise, that helps get you on your way.

Which is why I am excited by Instyle and Audi’s launch of the 2013 Style Scholarship, which is focused, in their words, on “celebrating innovative ideas and helping to foster the talent of future Women of Style”.

They’re offering a $10,000 bursary to help one woman take another step towards her career goals – it doesn’t matter whether you’re starting out or already on your way – and all you have to do is tell them in 150 words or less you should be awarded the business scholarship. [...]

Does your small business give back?

Does your small business give back

Recently, I was thrilled to hear that Suzi Dafnis, Community Director of the Australian Businesswomen’s Network had partnered with Australian Scholarships Foundation to provide $20,000 worth of online training and mentoring to not-for-profits and charities. I think it’s great when small businesses integrate structured giving programs into their operations. This in fact inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

You don’t have to be a billionaire like Bill Gates to play a part in alleviating poverty. You don’t need to wait till you’re rich to set up a foundation like Richard Branson.

Some small business owners are making a difference to charities and not-for-profit organisations with “giving” initiatives that range from one-off donations to structured programs. In many cases, the “donation” is the provision of pro bono services, which can sometimes be out of reach for cash-strapped charities.

Suzi Dafnis, community director at the Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN) recently announced a partnership with the Australian Scholarships Foundation (ASF) to contribute $20,000 in online training workshops and courses over the next 12 months. The ABN has become known for its accessible online training focusing on business skills and strategy, marketing and social media. It also runs a popular mentoring program for business owners and is a previous winner in the “education and training” category of the City of Sydney Business Awards.

Dafnis says: “I realised that like small businesses, many not-for-profits struggle to master business skills – like marketing, accounting, social media and so on – and that there was an opportunity for ABN to become a part of the great work that ASF does to provide scholarships to not-for-profits. We approached ASF and offered to make a contribution through our courses.”
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What happens when someone copies your business?

What happens when someone copies your business

I’ve recently come across some horror stories about businesses copying other businesses. If you’ve built a strong reputation in your industry, you want to protect this very important asset. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but what happens when another business starts copying your name, products or processes?

This happened to Nicole Kersh, founder of 4Cabling.com.au, a wholesaler, manufacturer and distributor of cables. She founded the business seven years ago and says it is now turning over about $8 million a year. At only 28, she’s built the business is a male-dominated industry and says she has developed her reputation in the industry.

Cashing in on your name
“It’s something we’ve worked hard to grow and we’re very proud of it,” she says. “Like most entrepreneurs, my company’s brand is intimately tied to my own personal brand. People know Virgin for Richard Branson, they know Aussie Home Loans for John Symond, Janine Allis for Boost Juice. And in my industry, my customers know me as the young female founder of 4Cabling.

“That’s why we stood up and took notice when, a few years ago, a guy started up a competing business, using a company name that made it sound like he was a woman. It seemed a little strange at the time but it wasn’t until he started using our trademarked name 4Cabling as a Google AdWord, in what seemed like an obvious attempt to direct traffic to his website, that we began to guess at his motivations. The company appeared to be using our good name and my own hard-fought reputation in order to steal our customers.” [...]

Where in the world is Valerie Khoo?

acagamic (Lennart Nacke) via photopin cc

When I was little, I used to play a game called “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” (Did anyone else used to play this?). You had to follow Carmen around the world as she pulled off clever heists and other crimes in exotic locations. It was a great way to learn geography!

These days, I feel a little bit like Carmen (minus the crime). I’ve been away from Sydney so much that it’s a case of “Where in the world is Valerie Khoo?”

Regular readers will know that I’ve been doing a lot of work in Melbourne as the Australian Writers’ Centre has launched there. I’ve been loving every minute of it and I can’t wait to meet everyone who has enrolled in our upcoming February courses.

So here’s a peek into what’s coming up. If you’re going to the same events, come say HI and connect.

MELBOURNE WellbeingWeb event – Sunday 3 February

WelbeingWeb is the brainchild of the talented Rhiannon Colarossi. When I first met Rhiannon, her business hadn’t even started yet. So I’m thrilled that her passion for empowering women has become a reality. One of her first events is detailed below and features bespoke stationery creator Christina Re. (And you know that I’m a sucker for stationery!)
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