Monthly Archives

April 2015

How to build products with Intuitive Design

Intuition plays a big part in designing products and there’s both natural and trained intuition. Natural intuition influences the addition of handles to products. We naturally feel more comfortable with a product if our five fingers can hold it well without it slipping. Sometimes the intuition is reactive. When it start raining we automatically raise our hands or try to cover our heads.

The best digital products mimic our offline instincts

Trained Intuition on the other hand is reflected in the placement of road markings and other man made directional signs. When I first attempted to drive in London it felt so unnatural because I had to retrain myself. This happens online as well. Whenever you want to Search a website or Close a page in a browser, you instinctively look where? The top right-hand corner. Designers have trained us over the years to get used to this. In my opinion, one of the best ways to build intuitive products is to do at least 90% of the work for the user. Now let’s discuss how to do this in practice with some products that I personally will work on one of these days. The solutions I am suggesting are for the 90% of people in this world who do not have complicated needs. Hard core developers can stop reading now.
1. Website builders
I have been building websites for a while and yet I sometimes don’t understand why it’s so difficult for the average person. Even for most web developers, it’s not easy to see someone’s site and just copy in 5 minutes. WordPress, WIx, Squarespace and Weebly have made a good attempt but they all intentionally or unintentionally have created apps for developers not normal people who have no experience. I speak to frustrated designers and bloggers who want to recreate something they have seen online but have seen online but need to spend hours on it. No website should take more than an hour to set up unless it for a really complicated purpose.

The best products need no Google Search, Customer Support or Manual

The solution is to treat themes like smart fashion designers do. They know most people would buy more clothing if the collection comes in a lookbook instead of individual articles of clothing. From my experience in the fashion world, many people need a fashion when matching colours and clothing.
My website builder will have themes that come with pre-designed layouts for each page. The pages can be live edited and the user can select from up to 5 alternative layouts per page. For example to change the homepage layout from a full page background image to a half page slider, all the user has to do is select that layout. There’ll be no backend, no Html, no CSS. The sequence will be Pick Theme, Pick Layout, Edit and Publish. For those wondering why I am giving away free ideas, who ever said it was free? Lol. In the next post I’ll share on how to build products that are intuitive and require little to no user education.

What would you add or take from this approach to product development?

Some of the best books I’ve read on this topic are The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded EditionThe Design of Everyday things and Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd EditionDon’t Make Me Think

How to do Real Life Product Placement On TV, Social Media and Music

Very few of people outside the United States have seen even a quarter of the ads in the States. This makes it even more impressive that you can find so many brand evangelists and fans outside the States.

Do not underestimate the power of marketing through movies, TV shows, YouTube videos and other media that can be shared with the click of a mouse.

Product placement is very effective because it shows potential customers how to fit your products into their daily lives. Show users how they can share your products with family, match it with their sneakers, and display it in their living rooms and so on. Proper product placement in the lives of popular people can also make your brand more visible. Many brands have seen great success by giving the coolest kids on campus free products.

Note that it is not enough to give your product to a celebrity or famous person unless a lot of your target will get to see it. A lot of brands give out free samples to celebrities who have little or no web or press presence. Consider using celebrities or brand evangelists as walking billboards.

We have seen brand ambassadors with no social media account and yet the target is a group who do not read newspapers or magazines. If your target is spending four hours on YouTube, everyday then a magazine ad may not be the best

KELLOGG Marketing Case Study

Another brilliant idea that employs the product placement in real life idea was executed in Sweden by Kellogg. A store offered a free box of Special K to customers who would take a photo and tag it with #nyaspecialk (Swedish for ‘new Special K’. All the customer had to do was show the cashier the pic and they would get a free box. The marketing director at Kellogg, mentioned that the Instagram app is more popular in Sweden than Twitter so it only made sense to use Instagram.

The brilliance in this campaign is that Kellogg got access to show the customer’s friends what brand of cereal they preferred. Kellogg could have done this with a million dollar advertising budget as well but they realised it was a cheaper and more remarkable way to generate brand awareness.

I would like to mention that campaigns like these may not yield immediate results but with consistency, the payout can be huge. Take car companies for example. They know if they advertise consistently enough, a ten year old who has seen the ads all his life will consider buying car brand X when he or she is 30.

Another thing to remember about advertising is that, it should be measurable now or later.

For TV, it may look attractive for most brands but many do not know how to measure the results they get from TV ads. Many more do not know if they got any results from their television campaigns. The lesson here is not to just buy ad space because you can brag to your friends and competitors that you are in this month’s issue of Forbes. Bragging rights should be birthed from results.

If you have a friend who is a musician, try to get him to put your brand name in one of his songs.

People will pay more for established brands because they presume the company’s brand name has more to lose if it screws up than they do. Hardly anyone compares the specifications of five different television sets when they can just pick from the top three market leaders. When you are hungry, you will buy from certain restaurants not because they are the best but because they are the most unlikely to be bad.
Any other product placement tips we have not covered?

How the words you speak do more harm to your business than you know

ghana taxi growingstartup blog business growth marketing strategy for startups and young entrepreneurs

The things that can kill a business are not all external. It is also not a secret that the words we speak affect our lives either positively or negatively. What surprises me is how often businesspeople don’t see the connection between what they say and what they experience in life.

I don’t get the chance to speak to taxi drivers often but when I do I always test them by asking about their work and personal life. Some say all is well while others see this as a perfect opportunity to complain about the economy, the president, legislation or other taxi drivers. Adam blamed Eve for his sin so man has adopted the habit of blaming others for his lot in life. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Regardless of their answer I use it as a chance to teach them about how the Bible says in Mark 11:23 that you can have what you say. If you keep speaking lack and defeat instead of success and victory, you will have exactly what you say. The taxi driver from the other day was my most negative yet. He wanted a pity party but I refused the invitation. I’ve realized that because of lack of knowledge and understanding, some people do not expect the best in life. When you hang around people of faith for a while you forget that there are many who do not know these simple truths. I always teach taxi drivers to confess the right things about their business. By the time I’m done with my personal testimonies they are more than willing to receive Christ and many actually give me their phone number. At this point I either minister healing to them or pray for a family member.

I’m sure it would be more difficult for these drivers to listen to me if they thought I was poor or sick. People like to listen to you when you have proof. Many people would never listen to a celebrity if they were poor.
Thank God for prosperity. Thank God for confessions. Thank God for the Word of God. Thank God for tangible proof.

Have you experienced any changes in life that were determined by what you said or did not say?

Important questions that could lead to answers for any entrepreneur

bill swad growingstartup business growth for startups

Answers come to those who ask the right questions.

Bill Swad Sr asked the following questions in his book, You Can Do It, TOO!” target=”_blank”>You Can Do It Too and I find they apply to young business owners as well. Please write down your answers as you read.
1. What do you plan to be doing ten years from today?

2. What would you do with the rest of your life if you suddenly inherited $1 million?

3. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

4. What is the number one goal for your business and professional life?

5. What is the number one personal goal for your future?

6. If you could add one new positive habit, what would it be?

7. What are the three most important goals you have for your family?

8. If you had to list your two most important self- improvement goals, what would they be?

9. How would you spend the next six months if the doctor told you that was all you have to live?

10. What do you consider the most important spiritual objective of your life?

Any other questions you think could be added or taken out of this list?
Which of these was your favorite question?

Get the book You Can Do It, TOO!

What metrics are you using to measure your startup? Competition or Monopoly?

bike business competition  monopoly growingstartup com

What metrics matter to your business?

When I left my last startup I started thinking about what we achieved and if we had done our best for our clients. My philosophy is that the best businesses for me are those where I can provide the most value to the largest number of people. This kind of thinking advocates that competitors are a nuisance who cannot or will not take care of your target market as well as you can. To adopt this mindset, you have to be committed to providing nothing less than the best value to your clients. If you were the best surgeon in town, would you want your family to be treated by anyone else? The standard metrics used by other startups did not seem to please me. After reading both Titan and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, I realized what we had missed. We were using the wrong metrics.

Competition versus monopoly metrics

Metrics an entrepreneur and his team to know if they are doing productive work and if they are getting closer to their goals or targets. This is on the assumption that the business has targets that matter. Depending on the kind od business you want to have in 5 years, you may either be using what I call competitive metrics or monopoly metrics. I am in favor of the latter. While reading John D. Rockefeller’s autobiography by Ron Chernow I realized what he set out to do. According to the author, Rockefeller had a sense of entitlement that drove him to think the oil business should be nurtured and preserved by him. He felt it was only right to protect consumers from all other competitors who would not give them the service they deserved. This mindset of course led him to control most of the oil production in much of the world for many years. On the other hand, he could have chosen to compete with others for customers. I’ll explain why I agree with this mindset after I explain what the difference is.

Competitive metrics versus Monopoly metrics

Competitive metrics is when you measure your success according to stuff like sales, number of registered users, foot traffic, visitors to your website, revenue per month or whatever targets your sales people have been assigned.
Monopoly metrics are when you measure your business’ success by what percentage of your market you are providing value. In contrast to purely competitive metrics, you are focusing of how big of the pie you are serving not just how many sales were made this quarter. For example, a restaurant can boast of $10,000 in monthly sales from 1000 customers but is that business a success if the gross monthly sales of their market is $100000 from 10,000 customers? This would mean that they only provided value to ten percent of the market. They allowed 90% of their family to be treated by another surgeon.

Not everyone agrees with me when I say this.

For some, this is being overly ambitious and I was told by one entrepreneur that too many customers would give you headaches. lol. Facebook decided to track active users when everyone else was tracking registered users. The latter is vanity while the former has made them the dominant force in social media globally. Focusing on registered users is like having a 100 vegetarians at your grilled pork soiree. The room may be packed but if no one is eating then it doesn’t really matter.

Check out the books here. I particularly recommend Titan since it has a lot of insights from America’s first billionaire. You can also purchase Peter Thiel’s Zero to One here.

What I learnt about dressing well and making money.

dressing well making money growing startup blog com
In college many of my mates were overly concerned about getting the right connections, references and investing in their appearance in order to get the right jobs and to get into the right meetings. Some people even dated certain girls because it would get them closer to the daddy or his world. After starting my first business I was invited to the home of a millionaire. I was obviously impressed and made him a customized tshirt because that is what my connection to him advised. Secondly I was running a tshirt company so I brought the fruit of my labour. That meeting was of no benefit to either myself or the millionaire at the time. I had no big plan that would merit his time or investment and my business was not providing enough value to be worth his time.

Is there any way to dress well and increase your income at the same time?

Truly successful people who say their clothes have made them more money usually do not tell the whole story. They forget to mention that they have some value underneath the clothes. Many of these people are either really good at some skill or are running a business that creates value. We should always remember to focus more on what value you can provide than what you can wear. It seems simple enough but many are busy looking for connections instead of increasing their knowledge and skill so even after they meet the “right” person.
Looking back I would say that I was even better dressed than that millionaire that day but he had more value to provide than I did.

Are there any other insights to dressing well?

How and Where do I Find a New Business Idea?

Let us look at 4 questions to ask when looking for a new business idea to start a business.
1. What vision or instruction has God given me?
2. In what are do I have domain expertise or unique insight?
3. What problems do I want to solve?
4. What passion burns inside me so much that I have to make a business out of it
Let’s start by explaining each one.

1. Vision
Some people will get a vision or instruction from God as to what they are supposed to do. An example of this is someone is Moses from the book of Exodus.

2. Domain expertise or Unique insight
There are areas where you have a very deep or unique insight that others do not see. You can start a business with this idea. I particularly ask every entrepreneur who either comes for advice or funding this question since domain expertise couple with unique insight is a good sign that the business is starting off well. There are many businesses which will fail by the end of writing this post because the founders just saw an opportunity and started a business without getting any deep insight or domain expertise. A common example is people who start restaurants just because a family member said they were a good cook. They start only to realize good food doesn’t automatically bring people. There is marketing, sales, pricing and many other things that should go along with the food.
The good news is that domain expertise can be achieved via getting internships, working as a freelancer, studying books or taking courses. Unique insight usually comes from working or being close to someone in that specific field. If you want to run an airline, it’s better to start with a cleaning job at the airport than to work as an investment banker. If you are a designer, then spend time around artists and other creative people. There are many unique insights hidden in plain view but only those who see it can access it.

3. Problem solving
You may have noticed a problem that you have solutions for. This is another good place to start. Find out who else is attempting to solve the problem and what they are either doing wrong or right. Make a list of your top 10 competitors and find out how they started, how many people work there, what their expenses are, how they make money and anything else that will make it easier for you to start this business. Read every relevant book and blog post you can find. Ignorance of an industry is one of the major causes of business failure. Startups founded by entrepreneurs who think they know enough usually never last for more than a few years.

4. Passion
There may be an opportunity or business idea that is burning so much on your insides that it affects your sleep. Maybe every time you see homeless people or a particular news story, you feel like it’s your calling to do something about it. You may even feel anger or heightened emotion. This may be a sign that it is something you should at least start nurturing by researching solutions for.
The most important thing in all the ways to get business ideas is to study enough to get some domain expertise before starting. I personally will not invest in a founder who does not have some form of domain expertise since backing ignorance is very costly.

How did you find your business idea?

Minimum Viable Product for Young Startups

Steve Blank teaches a concept called MVP; Minimum Viable Product. One way to define this concept is to start by creating a product with enough features to make it deployable and nothing more. In a nutshell, it involves creating a basic product that works well enough to ship and not worrying about the bells and whistles. Waiting to have the perfect product has prevented many ideas from coming to life.
The following steps will help you get your products market-ready.

1. Define the product or service
Make sure you understand your idea and search out the facts necessary to start it. Read material on people who are in the same industry and find out how the market leader got to his current position.

2. Plan
Create a step-by-step execution of your plan with the facts you currently have. Break the idea into little chunks that you can execute as soon as possible. It does not have to be overly elaborate, but a plan will serve as the target that you will aim for. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

3. Set a timeframe for the execution of the plan
Give yourself deadlines for every step in the plan. This will help you to avoid spending time on things that don’t matter. I’ve seen people obsess over website development when their product has not even been properly developed.

4. Start implementing.
Create the minimum viable product or start the service. Do it now. Perhaps you don’t have enough to start your school, but you can rent a room and start with a summer program. Starting will help you gain traction.

There is another extreme category of people who don’t believe in planning at all. They therefore go ahead and make mistakes that could have been avoided if they had taken the time to write down their plans. This is one reason why research is so important. With adequate knowledge and planning, many successful businesses today could have gotten to their goals in at least half the time it took them to get there.

Important steps in starting a business

We have seen it time and again where a business moves from 3 employees with $1000 a month in revenues to $10000 a month. What happens next is that, they start hiring people to do jobs that they could have assigned to one of the current staff members with a pay raise. They move into more plush offices and maybe even decide they need more ‘company cars’. Before they know it, there are too many people in the company whose work does not necessarily impact the bottom-line or sync with the brand’s vision. Very soon they are praying for money to pay salaries and looking for loans and investors.

Bootstrap your business if you have to. If you want to be an internationally known photographer, start with your town. There are events happening everyday that need good photography. Talk to event management companies or friends and find out who is about to have a baby shower, a wedding or a party. Speak to your local church and find out which couples are getting ready for marriage and offer your services. This will help you gain enough traction and also spread word about your services. My mother once saw a company she wanted to supply automobile parts for, but didn’t know which parts they would need so she devised a plan. She followed their trucks to their loading stations and asked the drivers for the names of their mechanics. She then approached the mechanics and they told her which parts were usually faulty. This information helped her to tailor her pitch for the company. The alternative was to sit in her office and wait for business to come knocking on her door.

There is nothing wrong with starting with what you can manage for a while. A big company can either be big in terms of profits or in terms of staff size.

These do not always come together. What you must consider is what works for you. If you want to build a global coffee shop franchise with 5000 locations then build one. On the other hand you could also build like Sukiyabashi Jiro, a world-renowned sushi restaurant, with only two locations. The most popular location is said to have only ten seats in the building.
Ask yourself what you can manage effectively before taking on more than you can chew. Can you efficiently handle ten more full-time employees? They may only be interns but consider the cost of resources, time and energy before adding people to your team.

There are very few brands that started by creating 20 products and 30 brand extensions. There are countless examples of successful companies that started with one product. When we created the MiG Shuffle app for the iPhone in 2009, we could only afford to have a few images on it but we launched it anyway. At the time, our developer was living in the States. I had just graduated from university and two of our illustrators were freelancers whom I had to convince to come to my home before we could get any work done. We could have waited for an extra programmer and five more images but we shipped anyway and that has led to more projects in later years. Interestingly, with the exception of our programmer, I was the only one who owned an iOS device (first generation iPod touch). The recommended approach here is to make one product that is good enough to sell and ship it ASAP.

If you bake delicious cupcakes and have dreams of raising money for a TV show, I recommend you starting a home delivery service until you gain enough traction or save a substantial amount of money. The website says “All FEIT products are made by hand. Numbers are sustainably limited – we will only produce what the available materials allow. Members will be given first opportunity to pre order FEIT products. “

Many of us have dreams that are bigger than our imagination or resources at the moment.

The best way to start is to take a few productive actions every day. For example, this book started out as a blog. Every day I would read and write, read and write, read and write and then I would do some more reading and writing. To chop down a big tree, you can start by chopping at the trunk a little every single day. After a while, the tree will come down.

Some businesses that were bootstrapped

“Look at what the top stories are, and they’re all about raising money, how many employees they have, and these are metrics that don’t matter,” 37Signals founder Jason Fried says. “What matters is: are you profitable? Are you building something great? Are you taking care of your people? Are you treating your customers well?

Seeking funding and/or taking out loans aren’t the only ways to guarantee success in start-up companies. Many successful small businesses have bootstrapped themselves to success, without being dependent on venture capitalists, angel investors or banks.
Here are some companies that have been successful with this approach. You will find many others as well.

37 Signals decided to stay lean and bootstrap the company they started over ten years ago. Today, their products are being used by over 3 million people worldwide.

In June 2006, PlentyOfFish was earning $10,000 per day from Google Adsense (around $3.5 M per annum).

In 2007, ReadWriteWeb wrote that the one-person company might be worth $1 billion. After that, Frind began hiring a team, but he grew his site to hundreds of million in revenues, investor-free.

Gawker bootstrapped and is worth an estimated $150 million.

Techcrunch, Coudal, Sparkfun, Goldstar, Github all bootstrapped their way to multi-million dollar successes.

We highly recommend bootstrapping if you are planning on starting a business. It gives you control over your idea and help you to think of ways to make money, without having to rely on inconsistent financial sources. I’m not sure where the philosophy of not using your own money to start a business came from, but very few people I know who think like this have been any good at growing their profits. They are too busy looking for someone else’s money. Debt can be an abusive companion.

Business has some very good posts on the topic.

Starting small before launching into your own business

Maybe your chosen path in life is to go into a professional field such as law, medicine or finance. You may need to work for an established firm to build up experience and knowledge, before you set out on your own. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as you don’t get too comfortable. Before we started Lightcreative, I offered my services to an advertising agency. I even told the boss that I was willing to work for free. Those few months taught me a lot. I am very grateful for that opportunity but after a few months, I decided it was time to go out on my own. I ended up leaving after six months, but working with others in the industry and learning the ropes was a useful experience.
If you are reading this and you have enough capital to start a business in a professional field but lack the experience, consider hiring a team of seasoned professionals to partner in this venture. You can start a law firm and handle administration while the others run the core of the business. The same goes for hospitals. You don’t need to be a doctor to build a hospital. You can even hire others to run the enterprise while you focus on generating leads.

Pick a piece of paper(digital or physical) write how much you want to earn, where you want your products to be, and draw a prototype of your design.

The Bible has a beautiful verse on this – “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you saying, ‘this person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:28-33

Simple goal setting for entrepreneurs

Whether you are saving to start a business, piling up cash to buy a home or funding a project, it is imperative to have a goal. What many call their savings account is usually just a current account with a different name! When you decide to save, you must set a goal for yourself.

You could, for example, start by saving x amount every week till you hit $1000 at the end of two months. After you hit this goal, set another goal to help reach your target of $8000, or whatever amount, in six months. This will work for your business as well as your personal life. Having a specific target sets your destination. Without a destination, how will you know when you get there? Let’s talk about goal setting for entrepreneurs.

As I stated above, this applies to personal goals. See the end from the beginning. Do you want to have 100 stores in the next four years? Do you want 4 billion dollars in profits in three months? It is important to set these targets because it will make it easier for you to achieve them. Think of goals like a bulls eye. If you can set your mind on those goals without wavering, your body will eventually get there. Do not permit any contrary pictures into your mind. Stand your ground and soon, you’ll achieve that which you planned. If you are tempted to get discouraged, look at Jesus – the author and finisher of your faith. If you continuously consider Jesus over the challenges, the circumstances will not be able to stop you.

A goal has a time set for its accomplishment. My recommendation is that you set smaller sub-goals and hit those targets. Every step forward counts to winning a race.
Your goals may range from losing 20 pounds in the next 2 months to learning how to play the xylophone. Divide these goals into little bits. You can plan to lose 5 pounds every week. Can you practice playing the xylophone for 30 minutes every evening when you get home from work?

There are several formulas on goal-setting but and this method is another suggestion that works. Imagine an old acquaintance sees you on TV or on the cover of some important magazine. What will the article say?
Will it say you that in the last 5 years:
1. You built a billion dollar software engineering company with 30,000 employees across the world?
2. You bought a black and red Audi R8 V10?
3. You got married with four kids and now live in a 6-bedroom house with a mini zoo?
4. Would it be that you just built and fully furnished 10 churches and schools in Ghana, created employment for 30000 Africans, bought a jet, Audi r8 and a few properties in Dallas and Cape Town?
Set a cap on how much money you want to put into your business over the next three months. You will know when you are spending too much on the project if you have a goal. Define specific and measurable goals as well as a plan to reach each one. An idea without a plan is an arrow without a target.