May 15 2012

In Defense of Business Plans

John

(I’m cross posting this from my Blog since I think it makes sense here too)

An interesting conversation took place at DOCC (Denver Open Coffee Club) that easily could have filled that hour. It was about Business Plans. Those in favor of them were in the minority by a large margin. WHile I’m not 100% business plans are evil, I think they’re a crutch like Brain crack.

I didn’t chime in during the conversation, because as I said that topic alone could have filled that hour, and I love DOCC for it’s variety. That doesn’t mean i can’t expand here tho :)

And despite the title, I’m anti business plan. Tom and I started 360|Conferences without one. We’re not rocking millions worth of sales and such, but we’re doing ok.

My strongest (and it came up at DOCC) argument against a business plan is that it forces you into the conventional wisdom of the sector you’re looking to get into. Had we known about conferences we either wouldn’t have started the company, or would have started YAOC (Yet Another Overpriced Conference). But not knowing anything about events helped us to avoid that path. And frankly if you look at the market, we led the space on conferences that don’t cost an arm and a leg to attend.

I watched Tom try to do a business plan for another company (he fired me from it) and it went nowhere. He spent weeks, maybe months fussing about the business plan, making it just right etc. And since he wasn’t shopping the idea for funding the plan really just sat there.

Like I said I’m not 100% Plans are bad, it might make sense for you. But the argument that you can’t start without one is bunk. It was funny, we talked about white boarding and the pro plan folks threw out “That’s a business plan too” which i don’t know that I agree with.

So yeah, play it by ear on your needs, but if someone tells you that you won’t succeed without a business plan, they’re trying to sell you their services in writing business plans. Or they’re not running a business and are trying to scare you out of doing it too.


Sep 17 2009

Ups and Downs and Downs and the need for paper

John

So it’s been announced that Tom is leaving 360|Conferences after our 360|Flex Conference March 2010.

It’s definitely a sad week.

unfortunately it highlights a glaring omission in our business, a lack of written agreements and/or even mutually agreed upon definitions of things.

Sure we have the actual incorporation papers, our ownership split, but that’s it. I won’t lie and say it never occurred to me, it did, several times, and each time I either back burnered it or prioritized another expense over it (lawyers ain’t cheap). And like all things put off, it’s biting us in the butt.

I don’t foresee any Calcanis/Arrington style online bitch matches, but I’m not gonna kid myself, the next few months will be messy as Tom and I figure out what it means to work 1 partner out of the company; assets (what few there are), debts, responsibilities, etc all have to be figured out.

On my end of things I have to figure out where I’m going from here. I mean the company is going to continue to bring Flex and iPhone developers the best community conferences around, but will I do it alone? It’s no secret money is tough for Tom and I because we have 2 people to pay, and doing an event 2x a year doubles expenses, but doesn’t double income. It might make sense for 360|Conferences to be a one man show, at least for a while.

It should make for some interesting blog posts :)


Jul 8 2009

How to Fail

John

I’ve been sitting on this for a bit now, meaning to write up my thoughts. I’d never heard of Tayler Davidson prior to this post, but it SO resonated with me, I downloaded the PDF, and Kindle-ized it so I could have it all the time, with notes. I’m just gonna post my thoughts on this topic, go to Taylor’s post and read all 25 lessons yourself!

Almost all 25 topics are pretty spot on.

1. Dither, dither, dither; plan, plan, plan.
Instead: Fail fast. Fire, aim, repeat.

So, so easy to do. It’s brain crack to plan and analyze and never act.

6. Focus on the long-term.
Instead: Focus on the short-term.

By virtue of our having no startup capital beyond what we brought to the table, Tom and I are pretty good at keeping the focus on the near term. It’s often said, and 100% true that without near term planning, the long term won’t ever happen.

7. Build prototypes, mockups and samples.
Instead: Start building in a format and medium as close to the finished product as possible, and iterate, iterate, iterate.

Tom and I tend to differ on this one a bit. I’m very much a throw it out there person, he’s more a plan, review, plan type. We usually meet on the middle, which works well. I totally think that it’s not who launches with the best most solid plan that matters, but who launches, listens, and learns.

10. “New, New, New!”
Instead: F*** new. What’s different? What’s better?

Yeah totally. “New, new new” is so sexy, but is a venus fly trap. It doesn’t have to be sexy, it has to be better, add value. Tom and I have seen this in the reviews we get over other events in the same space, that cater to 5k people, have massive expo areas and SWAG galore.

13. Over-promise, over-sell, under-deliver.
Instead: Over-promise, over-sell, over-deliver.

I think we do ok at this, there’s room for improvement at least in my own mind. I think we actually do more promise, under-sell, over-deliver. LOL

14. Be stubborn in the face of failure.
Instead: Be determined in the face of disbelief.

This a tough one. Failure is hard to swallow, disbelief just as much so. Sometimes it’s disbelief internal to us, sometimes it from external sources. We still think it’s possible to have a conference company that can support more than one person Full Time, and not rape attendees and sponsors. We’ve got the value down, now we just need to find the sweet spot for attendees and sponsors. Attendees get us, sponsors don’t mostly. Some do. Some really do, and see that our attendees are the core of who they’d like to talk to. Others still can’t get past “It’s just the two of you?”

17. “I know more than anyone else.”
Instead: If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re the fool.

18. A unanimous decision means we’re all right.
Instead: If everybody agrees, you’re probably all wrong.

We’re really good at never agreeing.

23. Work under “understandings”.
Instead: Create legal agreements as soon as possible.

Possibly our biggest FAIL to date (and ongoing).

24. Everything matters.
Instead: Recognize the difference between “penny-wise” and “pound-foolish”.

This one bites us a lot. Not as much as it used to, but we still focus on things that seem huge to one of us, but once complete, no one cares. It sucks to waste time like that.