Jack

Queen & Lonsdale

Jack usually stands on the corner of Queen and Lonsdale streets outside the 711. Jack asks people for money as they walk past and appears to live on the streets and be homeless.

Every few days I hand Jack anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars as I walk past, most people ignore him. Sometimes when I walk past I don’t have any coins I apologise to Jack as he gives me a distressed look and moves on to the next person.

Jack could be an alcoholic, or have a drug problem. I don’t know and I don’t ask. I often see Jack smoking as I walk past.

According to the 2011 Census, there were over 105,000 homeless people on Census night, around 1 in every 200 Australians.

The CEO Sleepout is an annual event used to raise awareness.

Why do you give/not give money to homeless people when asked?

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Should I start a business?

It depends on who you ask.

Most will say “No! It’s too risky. You might lose money, you might lose face etc.”

If you ask an Entrepreneur like myself they’ll probably say: “Yes, go for it! Start today!”.

Entrepreneurs are biased…


When I get asked this question, I usually want to find out more about the idea. And I ask questions like:

- Have you done a basic plan of how you will make money? (Have you actually thought about it? Who will pay? How much?)
- How much will the business cost to run? (Salaries, supplies, advertising etc.)
- Is anyone doing this business? (Can it make money? Has someone else made money? Is there a reason why it doesn’t exist?)
- How easy is it to do this business? (Can someone else copy it easily?)
- Do you have money/access to cash to cover yourself while doing it? (Because you need to eat etc.)
- At what point will you stop or change if it doesn’t work? (As it’s good to know there is a finite period to see how it works.)

I’ve started three businesses myself, and have been involved in several others. I feel like at many points I didn’t ask enough questions of myself and just dived in. I’ve failed, and I’ve made money along the way which has been a fun journey.

If you want to change from being an employee to owning a business then I suggest you spend a few hours doing some planning by starting at the questions above. If after answering the questions it looks like a good idea, then start by spending 2 hours a weeknight and spend a day on the weekends working on the business. This way you don’t give up your main job or study until you’ve actually got some traction from what you’re trying to create.

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Routine

I’m currently undertaking an experiment..it makes a typical weekday look like this:

Waiting for the 9.14 am Train – The same people stand at the same places on the train platform.
The sound of the boom gates. The train arrives.

Get off at the same station, encounter the same people as the day before asking for money, be approached by charity workers. Walk to the office.

Arrive at the office, order the same coffee, see the same people outside smoking, go inside to start work.

Leave the office after 7. Be approached by the same people on the way to the station. It’s been over five hours since lunch, probably time to eat soon!

Does something like this sound familiar for you?

Typically I’ve been opposed to routine, but I’m undertaking this experiment to see if it leads to improved results in business and life. I’ll report back in 12 months on the outcome!

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The Playbook

Outfoxed_poster

I re-watched a documentary on Netflix last night called “Outfoxed”.

It’s about Fox News having a conservative bias (no surprises for many there), and shows the subtle and not so subtle tactics used by Fox News and Rupert Murdoch to influence their audience opinion over a number of years. It’s well worth spending 80 minutes watching it on Netflix or Youtube if you haven’t seen it!

Re-watching it after four or five years made me think about how the News Ltd media in Australia has used similar tactics for the last couple of years to influence public opinion, especially surrounding the last federal election. The current LNP government is using a similar tactic around debated public issues including the budget and handling of asylum seekers.

The best word I can create for this is the “Playbook”; a method to influence and shift public opinion – often by distorting the facts or published information. It works by having a narrative built around an issue that forces people to take sides. It repeats opinions often and gets a boost from large media outlets providing support through their published content.

My interest is in psychology and marketing; especially as the Playbook can be used for achieving an agenda while drowning out any rational and factual debate. The problem is that the average voter doesn’t think, hence while using tactics that have been proven to persuade and reduce issues to three word slogans might be the most efficient thing to do – it’s irresponsible and doesn’t respect other intelligent citizens that the politicians are meant to represent.

If you are concerned you might be a victim of the Playbook, then step away from the information cycle and deconstruct the tactics used by major media organisations and the government, breaking down the narrative into smaller chunks. If you do this, you realise that the facts are often replaced by 3 word slogans such as “Stop the Boats” which is easily digestible and understood by the average voter who doesn’t think much about the issues beyond bite size pieces of narrative.

Although the majority of Australians are more concerned about who’s winning Masterchef or The Voice tonight, there is fortunately a growing set of alternative media, and like-minded individuals who have decided to disconnect from the influence of the Playbook and decide to engage in rational and factual fuelled debate. If you feel this way inclined, then please join them.

We need more thinkers.

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Building A Startup

I’ve been involved in building 4 startups of my own, and involved in several others in a close consultancy context. I just wanted to write a couple of thoughts of why I love building startups and a few words to those of you who would like to, but for one reason or another have not at this stage.

To begin, every single one of these startups has been bootstrapped. None of them have received any external funding, except perhaps a few thousand in bank overdrafts. The majority of it has been financed by time, savings, and occasionally small amounts of credit card debt. All of my startups have been in the form of online products (Games), or online service business (Consulting). I’ve also been involved in startups from the early stages in online retail and various types of advertising and other web applications.

It’s fair to say that the majority of businesses can be started for little or no upfront capital that utilise your existing skill set. Consulting in something you enjoy and know more than the average person about is a great way to get a few 1000 in the bank and learn a thing or two. The only cost is your time, and some small capital for various things like materials and a website.

There are two main things that I really enjoy about building a startup:

1) Being able to create

There is something powerful about a blank canvas, especially one where you decide how everything will be. You choose your brand, your prices, your services, your followup, your level of support etc. You choose how everything flows. Ultimately you learn a great deal through this process as the market responds to your brand and offering; or doesn’t.

I personally really enjoy this space, especially testing different offers, working on materials, and reshaping what the business offers based on feedback. It’s fun when you’re small and agile and can change.

2) Creating Value

It feels great when the system and brand you’re creating begins creating value for clients and customers. It’s extremely uplifting to see clients experience positive growth and feedback as a result of your work. Forming relationships and experiencing mutual business growth is a very motivating experience.

If you create a startup in the consumer space, seeing customers take up your software or service is great. In the digital age, feedback is often instant with social media enabling you to derive value of what you’re offering instantly.

What about the downsides?

You’ll usually ditch the 9-5 for longer hours and more unpredictability. What you gain for that is control and ultimately the ability to perhaps write your own bigger paycheque one day. The journey and experiences should provide you with far more personal value than just money ever would.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, dive in and good luck!

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Business: Transactional Or Value?

One insight about business that I have had in the past six months relates to the value that the business provides and the position it occupies in the marketplace. I’m going to use a services based business as an example, specifically a Business to Business services business.

I’ve come to understand there are really two types of business: transactional and value based business. Transactional based business tend to focus on pushing a specific service that is well defined and can be fulfilled easily. There is usually a set price point, and sales people can be paid commission to make sales within the structure with less ownership of the result of the work. An example would be providing a monthly SEO optimisation service for $500 a month on a 12 month contract + a $1200 setup fee. The advantage is that if you can find a lot of customers who are comfortable at this price point. A dis-advantage is that there is less accountability to provide the service and likely less expectation of results at that price point.

The other option is a value based business. Usually this would be focused on a more customised solution. This would normally come to a higher expense as it takes more time to develop and takes more thinking so it requires a different type of team member to perform the solution. The solution determined by a value based business can potentially get a better result in some markets, and won’t be worth the time and money in other markets.

As the owner of a value based business, the reason that I want us to focus on value and not transactions is that transactional businesses can create commodities easily, and your service can easily be compared to others in the market-place. A more world-wide marketplace to platforms like Elance, ODesk and Freelancer has resulted in a “race to the bottom in cost” on many services, which makes providing a commodity not a desirable option. The disadvantage of providing a value based service is that your pool of customers is smaller, and you must rely on reputation and case studies to drive sales; not slinky sales tactics and a winning smile.

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Focus & Finding Something You Love

I posted some comments on Facebook earlier today and it got a response from some friends, so I thought I’d follow it up with a longer blog post with some thoughts.

Neil-Walter-Facebook-Posthttps://www.facebook.com/neilwalter

Some of the questions that came up were:

- How do you realise what you want to focus on?
- How do you find something that you love?
- How do you go from first-sight passionate love to committed relationship?
- How do you find business partners?
- How do you stay focused?

To begin, I certainly see what I’m doing right now with Walter Analytics as a journey, and I’m certainly still a fair way off achieving my goals for it. I’ve ticked a few things off the bucket list, but I have a long way to go.

To bring about my process of finding something I love, I might reflect a little bit on the journey that got me here. To begin, I created my own browser based online game around 12 years ago. I ran this for most of my teen years, actively until the end of High school/early Uni. This brought me some passive income, took a lot of time, and made me many friends. It also taught me a little bit about business and what it meant.

In Uni I got involved in Leadership activities, mostly AIESEC. I ended up going overseas to Malaysia to help run a conference and do an internship on the side. Here I got to apply some basic internet marketing skills. I ended up staying in Malaysia for 3 years, traveling and learning more about what I wanted to do. In this time, I ran a games consulting business focusing on marketing, addiction and helping clients make more money Random Ramble, mostly working with clients from the US and doing business through Skype calls. It paid the bills and for some travel, although it was never hugely successful, and I felt like I was in cruise mode.

Once I came back to Australia I got involved helping a client grow his business and setup his internet marketing structure. In this time period I also had discussions with a friend about partnering in a business which would later become Walter Analytics. The big change in doing this business was getting the opportunity to work with bigger clients, meet and pitch in person, and also apply some cutting edge ideas that were making a difference in online engagement. As we have worked with different clients, I’ve learnt what is most valuable in the marketplace and the ideas and systems that can make a difference to revenue growth and online positioning.

To address the questions of the post:

How do you realise what you want to focus on?

Through trial and error mostly. However I believe it is much easier to focus on things that you enjoy doing. Work for me doesn’t feel like work, it just feels like I’m adding value to others, and that feels good. The great thing about doing consulting on topics you enjoy is that you could talk about it all day long and it doesn’t get boring. See clients change their strategies and create more success makes me happy. The money received is just a side benefit.

I believe adding value to others is something we are naturally drawn to, so finding something that fits with your natural skills and motivation will give you something you will actually focus on.

How do you find something that you love?

You experiment. You deviate from the “normal” path. Hopefully you have enough resources to travel a bit. You go outside your comfort zone. I believe many people have an idea of what they love doing, but either lack the confidence to do anything about it, or have the wrong supporters. Too often we get pushed into things we don’t love due to the expectations of others. Breaking away from this pattern for some can be challenging, but doing it can bring a lot happiness.

You can also ask the question: “If there were no consequences or limitations, what would my average ideal day look like?”, or “If every job in the world paid the same, what would I do?”. Go from there =)

How do you go from first-sight passionate love to committed relationship?

I assume this is a work related question. I believe commitments to yourself are far more important to consider. For example, if you refuse to let yourself down (don’t break resolutions, deadlines etc.), then having a commitment to a business or an idea is easier to handle. There are a couple of considerations though:

- If you want to be committed to a business, then you should give yourself a time-frame and single overall goal. For example, I want to earn $100,00 in the next 12 months. To earn $100,000 in a year, you need to earn $273 a day, or $1911 a week. If you can figure out a way to charge $100 an hour for your time, you can work 3 hours a day. If your goal is monetary, work out if it is realistic to earn that amount on a daily/weekly basis and work out how to scale it.

- I believe you can maintain this commitment by tracking yourself on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. I personally do both, and I have a list of weekly benchmarks for myself and my business that I track every Sunday night. This makes it much easier to see if the ship is sailing slightly off course and make adjustments.

- Every “opportunity” that comes up, I ask myself: “Will this contribute to my primary goals?”. If the answer is no, then I say no. Even if it is shiny and the person promoting the idea is oozing with charisma, a quick objective check will prove if it is in line with goals.

- The reality is that the world is full of people who want to take your time away to push their idea. The “entrepreneur” club is full of them. It’s easy to sit around talking about ideas and making an impact on the world, it’s hard to pull the trigger and put in the hard work. This doesn’t mean the groups are not useful, but you need to moderate your participation.

- The most important point above all above is cutting something if it fails for a certain period. You cannot get your time back, so if it is obvious through your tracking or planning that it won’t work, then don’t spend more time on it. There is a certain truth to persistence being an important quality. There is a quote on my wall that reads “When riches begin to come they come so quickly, in such great abundance, that one wonders where they have been hiding during all those lean years” – Napoleon Hill. What I believe now is that if you’re not having an expected success, then it’s better to get advice and examine what is it about your method that is not working. Usually it’s something obvious to someone wise on the outside, but invisible to you because you’re in the middle of it.

How do you find business partners?

Network and become vulnerable to others. Be willing to ask for advice and take it. Find people you can provide value to and do it. Decide what you need a business partner for (time, resources, leverage, reputation) and what you’re willing to give to get it. If you are going to find partners that are working alongside you in something then make sure you have a steady set of rules of how things work and how disputes are handled. Have clear provisions that cut out people when targets are not met, avoid working with people you don’t know well.

- How do you stay focused?

I added this one in because I believe it’s very important to create anything meaningful. I’ve touched on various points in this post, so I’ll just summarise here. I believe that focus is a result of having staggered goals and rewards. It’s much easier to focus on something when you have a clear expectation of what will happen when you reach certain points of progress and reward yourself appropriately as you achieve goals along the way. Focus is also much easier when you work effectively for a time period then have a rest. Relaxation, getting enough sleep and having time to pursue hobbies is extremely important in putting your best energy into something meaningful. I stay focused by reminding myself that what I am doing daily is just a tiny part of the bigger picture, and once I’ve reached a certain milestone I’m able to relax knowing I’ve inched forward. Of course, this doesn’t always go perfectly to plan, so I’ve developed daily habits that help with it, such as ticking off each successful day.

I just want to finish by saying that I’m contributing this piece because I believe I have some experience, but I’m still extremely humbled by what I learn everyday. I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to pursue something meaningful and I’m excited where it is going. If you’ve got this far, consider that finding something you’re passionate about thats fits into your life will take some exploration and some failing. It will also force you to risk things that may otherwise be comfortable to you. I certainly believe that we should make the most of our lives and time which is why I am determined to pursue things outside of the norm. If you feel a similar way, I hope this post helps you achieve that =)

Feel free to contact me via the contact page if you would like to discuss your individual situation further.

Thank You

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The Red Marker

April CalendarIn April I had a full month practicing marking off each day depending if I deemed it to be successful or not. I spoke about this in my post Optimising Work Environment in the past.

In April I had 4 days where I deemed myself not to have a successful day. 3 of those were consecutive days where I was in a streak of not successful days and not feeling too great about things.

A day can be successful if I complete what I wanted to. In most cases it is work, but obviously I have rest days, where it’s successful if I rest.

I’ve found this exercise really quite beneficial, especially as I’m often looking at the X’s. It’s in my work environment and I see it when I wake up and sleep. I want to keep the streak going, and it also reminds me to stay on track.

I highly suggest you try something like it!

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The Five Whys

I got this tactic from Rich Schefren through his newsletter which you can subscribe to below.

http://www.strategicprofits.com/one-step-ahead-newsletter/

Rich pointed out this great little tactic. To come up with why you’re not meeting your business goals yet, come up with five to eight reasons. E.g. You’re disorganised or you don’t like selling. Write them down.

Even if you don’t have a business, this could be used for any personal goals.

Then for each of these reasons, ask why that is a problem for you. Ask Why 5 times and write down your answers.

E.G.

1) I’m disorganised

- I feel like it’s a waste of time
- I prefer to do other things
- I don’t have an organising system
- I know how things are in my mind
- My disorganisation doesn’t make anyone else feel bad

Rich says that once you make a list of 4-5 “Whys”, you’ll often see a common pattern between the 4th and 5th answer. I believe this is because we often get to the deeper level answers (and not just surface) once we dig deeper.

The other whys are also relevant and should help you identify what you can work on.

Hope this helps you! =)

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Ticking All The Boxes

I’ve found that effectiveness comes from being able to drive two distinct states of mind at the right time.

1) Creativity, Innovation, Tweaking, Thinking.
2) Executing tasks. Ticking all the boxes.

The problem is when you get stuck in one state for too long. You need a healthy balance of both to be effective.

Usually, I have a specific environment for each one (e.g. a coffee shop for creativity or thinking), (a desk, computer and good chair for executing tasks). If you’re struggling to switch from one to the other, consider switching your environment and delegating an environment to a specific type of activity whenever possible!

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