Saturday, December 16, 2006

Writing the Business Plans

I'm currently building out my business plans out to something that can at least make them worth evaluation by the steak dinner crew I mentioned before. I've got 2 down (mostly) and I'm about to break into the 3rd and last that I'm going to evaluate this month.

While doing this process, I've noticed there is a screaming need for a business plan book that allows you to make a very small plan. This isn't something you should be running a big concern with, but it's something everyone could do (down to ebay auctioneers and non-profit animal rescues). I know the small format I've been looking for is not covered any place or in any of the several books I've looked though.

Again, the reason I'm going small format on the business plan is not laziness, or lack of thought, its that I'm not sure which of the three ideas I will be perusing come February. Getting the ideas down on paper will allows souls more objective than myself to reject or cheer on the plan.

I'm going to publish the format (and perhaps the bplan itself) when I'm done writing the actual plans.

Meanwhile, I came across these links which would be useful to this audience:


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Adsense and Amazon Associates

Some people have called the new set of web services that have sprung up since the dot-com crash "Web 2.0".

Still other people have said, that we'll know when web 2.0 crashes when Google's stock price crashes: Many web 2.0 services and sites survive on Adsense revenue.

Adsense is the blue box of ads in the upper left hand corner. This also is how A-list bloggers make their living, and google justifies the costs of services such as Gmail. There is a simple bit of text I paste into my blog. I get the set of text from google. The code that I pasted in will start showing ads there after a couple days from the time you paste it in (I put the code there on Friday, the ads showed up on Monday afternoon).

I signed up for Adsense not because I expect the normal readers of this blog to particularly be interested in the services of the ads served to them, but because if I ever get "slashdotted" (hit with thousands of viewers from a link on a popular website), the Adsense revenue from that is something worth talking about, and will pay to rebuild my (virtual) server which would most certainly (virtually) melt.

Some of my ideas involve Adsense revenue as part of their business model; getting the account and learning how to use it now on a blog will knock down that obstacle for the future. (And taught me interesting things, like the time delay between setup and first show).

What's Amazon Associates? It is an affiliate program by that makes it so third parties, such as myself can build links to their site, then get a portion of the revenue on the sale of the item linked to. I personally was an affiliate because I posted a lot about books on message boards (I'm a big reader, over 100 books a year). Other people asked for links rather than just titles. Links to amazon are a lot of work mind you (you can't always just copy the url from your browser), so this way I'd have a small incentive to go through the link rigmarole. This program has been around since 1996, and will direct deposit into your bank account every time you hit some milestone ($100?) or at the end of every quarter.

Again, one of the ideas I'm throwing around involves Amazon Associate referrals, so I figured it is time to get a Rowdy Labs LLC account in order to facilitate future action by removing impediments


Amazon Associates

Monday, December 04, 2006

How to read this site


Why should you do RSS? RSS is a system for reading as many sites as you'd like in a format that is quick to get to. RSS also allows you to see what sites have updated since you last read them, making it so you don't have to click through to get to the site. You subscribe to them (it's free to do so) by clicking on a link like I have down on the right, or by clicking the little orange icon in the URL bar that looks like concentric moons(). The sites will all show up in an application you've called a reader. Most users of RSS feeds seem to use online readers, such as Google Reader and My Yahoo.

If you're not using RSS, you're missing out. Google Reader is my reader of choice, but there are several other readers out there, which aren't at all affiliated with google.

Most sites have feeds now, from blogs, to the New York Times, to Stock tickers and web comics. It is the way to do all your browsing in a quickly digestible form. You can blow through an additional 10-25% of sites when you don't have to really navigate them.

If you make an account with any of the sites listed down on the right, that will get you going quickly. I recommend you click the "+ Add to my Google" button and join the new way to read the web. Then you don't even have to check back to see if I've updated: You'll see it in your feed reader.


Bank Account + 1099 Land

Today I opened a business bank account.

Wachovia has annoyed me in the past with a crappy fee or two stemming from their recent changes to online check writing. It changed an online check writing model that was simple to one that was overly complex. A $100 fee later, I understand the system.

Anger alone made me wish to change, but it doesn't make good business sense. The local options for banking don't seem to exceed Wachovia's integration with yodlee, the company that ties all financial accounts together for consumers. So I'm stuck with Wachovia. The fact I have been with them (or a bank they bought) since 1992, could help getting a line of credit for the business (not holding my breath, mind you).

It took approximately 40 minutes to open the account, choose checks, choose which business account I wished to sign up for, and to get a cashier's check to pay my accountant (I don't have printed checks yet, they'll come sometime next week).

Remember, bank accounts should always be free: The bank is loaning out your money. Wachovia is waiving all minimum balance fees, upgrading my personal accounts to "crown" (their premiere service) and is paying for the first couple orders of business checks.

To get the business checking account, I needed the following:
  • EIN of the business
  • Articles of Organization
  • My drivers license

They took a copy of two pages of the articles, and had me fill out two forms where I merely stated my position, my company's tax status, filled out signature cards, and filled in my EIN. Remember, I got my EIN online from when I filed for it from the IRS. It's technically a provisional EIN, but as long as I've filled out all the forms and answered all questions in good faith, I'm not worried (many of the forms state something to the effect that good faith==good enough).

After I got the bank account finished, I called the staffing company who's been paying my paychecks. He agreed to different terms for hiring my company in lieu of myself, including the increase freedom he has to allow me. He's done this several times before evidently. All I had to do to seal the deal was download and fill out a W-9 form from the IRS (it's a lot like the W-4 you fill out when you get a normal job, except much shorter) and fax it to him.

Under our former arrangement, he would have direct deposited money into my personal accounts. Now, he'll write a check to my business (weekly, he's great like that), and I'll deposit them into the business accounts. Once a month, I'll pay my self my salary (and perhaps take an owner draw on profits). If once a month seems harsh to you, I'll say its how my first job out of school paid, so I'm used to it. I really recommend the system for young people: It enforces the maintenance of a monthly budget.

I do need to still find out what forms I need to fill out on myself as an owner/employee. I may be filing a W-4 for myself with my company. I'll keep you posted.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Paying my debts to those who've helped so far

Books I've used so far in this quest towards running a business (with ratings) in this deal:
  • The One Page Proposal Wow. It shows how to put down the financial aspects of a deal along with the salient points that can by digested by anyone.
  • Anatomy of a Business Plan Goes through each and every part of a business plan (Operational, Financial and Marketing). Has sample plans as well.
  • Getting Things Done is a book by David Allen that lays out a method for tracking your commitments and getting the granularity of your to-do lists down to a level you can easily knock out like widgets through a factory.
  • Thinking Strategically is the book on how to make correct decisions in situations where people who's interests are even partially at odds. Good at showing the value of Regan's "Trust but Verify" adage.

Blogs I've used so far:

A site and podcast I've listened a lot to in all this is: