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TECH TALK: The Art of the Start: Getting Back to Basics

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When I get deep into the day to day of my business operations, it becomes easy to lose focus of the big picture. I had a great conversation with a seasoned veteran of the dot com days and he shared with me the basic concept of Chaos Theory. The basic idea is that if you extract yourself away from the details, you begin to see patterns not previously apparent. This prompted me to revisit a book that helped me understand the basic elements of starting anything: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Here, I will revisit the essentials:

1. Make Meaning

In our case, we saw meaning when the creator of ThemBid.com, Isaac Saldana, pondered the problem of finding someone to repair his washing machine. He asked, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could just go online and post my request and have businesses bid? Then use a community rating to make a value based decision." From this, our team saw the vision of creating a situation where consumers could find the best value without wasting valuable time searching, while simultaneously allowing businesses to have an easy means of connecting to their customers without the need for big advertising expenditures.

Remember, anything you do must have a powerful meaning to back it up.

2. Make Mantra

Instead of using a drawn out mission statement that nobody will read, a small memorable statement is needed that will keep everyone in the organization focused on the meaning. In our case we chose: "Stop Searching, Make Them Bid." Admittedly, this is actually too long... but its a start.

3. Get Going

It's easy to get stuck in the specification phase. You can spend months, if not years defining all the details. Instead, adopt a fast, iterative process and get the product or service out to the stakeholders as soon as you can. The folks at 37 Signals have some good thoughts on that process. You can read their book online free. It is focused more on technology oriented companies, but the ideas are applicable to any modern business.

With ThemBid.com, we iterate quickly and often while engaging both our internal team and our users. As a result, our service continues to evolve around our users needs; however, we always keep our meaning and mantra in mind. Sometimes, this means saying no to certain features. That may well be the most difficult discipline to master, the art of no.

4. Define Your Business Model

It is essential to figure out early on how you will generate revenue. You must understand your market and competitors in order to provide a compelling reason on how your service and/or product will create a sustainable business model.

ThemBid.com has several business models that change as we continue to understand our market. We have commissioned University and professional help to assist in discovering and understanding our market. Through our own research, we found a significant market, and based on that fact we continued with the project. Sometimes, that investigation reveals that it may be time to start something else.

5. Weave a MAT (Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks)


We all know the importance of goal setting. A goal is a vision with a deadline. Make sure each milestone has a deadline and people responsible. We use a system called Trac to help manage our milestones.


It is important to define and review the assumptions that go into your business model. When the assumptions change you must quickly adjust. This is another advantage to the agile business, the ability to maneuver quickly when needed.


There will be in most cases an overwhelming amount of things to get done. Instead of keeping all of that information in your head, be sure to make a list of all of the required tasks to get your organization going. Then prioritize, add deadlines and delegate. Remember to apply the Pareto Principle. You may want to also review a system called Getting Things Done.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get started...

Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com.  Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com 

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Founder of Above the Limit, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at http://www.AboveTheLimit.com. .

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