As you know, my company ChallengeWave is a tool for healthy challenges at work. at ChallengeWave, we've got a number of very large prospects (VLPs) in our sales pipeline. These prospects represent many millions of dollars of revenue. Each sale is complicated and requires approval at numerous levels. Each sale also requires a significant budgetary appropriation. These factors increase the sales cycle, or the length of time it take to close the deal and start receiving funds.
Dealing with complex sales is a work of art. It requires skills in information gathering, positioning and patience. Many months pass before we get to an implementation. This is not only frustrating, but it causes delay in verifying our newest capability with users. We've been looking at ways to increase our feedback loop with our customers. We've chosen to do this by finding customers with smaller sales cycles.
Now, the good things about smaller markets is the shorter line to decision makers and budget wranglers. We can get feedback on our business much quicker. We can validate our results without going through a 9-18 month sales cycle.
This presents us with an interesting problem. As we compete with companies many times our size, our nimbleness and ability to deliver customized solutions is a large asset for us. This asset isn't of great interest for smaller markets who may not even have a wellness strategy at all. Much less, have complicated systems to integrate with. We need to carve out a compelling, simplified offering to help small business.
Cupcake KingpinGetting to an understanding of this problem and defining a strategy has taken many months. When running a daily business one gets mired in details and it can be tough to see the forest for the proverbial trees. One trick I use to help me step back from details and focus on the big picture is to imagine I'm a cupcake kingpin in the cupcake business. (My years of making cupcakes for my nieces makes me an expert :) ) So I ask myself, if I ran a cupcake business, how might I handle this problem?
The first thing we must do is rephrase the issues in cupcake-ese. This helps us to over-simply the details and look at the bug picture from an outsiders perspective.
My Problem in Cupcake-eseIn cupcake-ese, the problem is we have a new, unproven recipe and we need to see if people like it enough to buy it.
How would you approach this if it was your cupcake business?
- Would you hire an army of SEO consultants to build link backs and press releases?
- Would you hire a market research firm to ascertain which part of the Gartner Magic Quadrant you fit into?
- Would you just discontinue your current offerings and just offer your new product to the public at large? ( Ha Ha, you may laugh at the absurdity of this, but that is what happened with New Coke in the '80s)
My Solution In Cupcake-eseThe way to solve this problem for the cupcake business is to just make up a few batches and hand them out on the street. If people vomit in the nearest garbage can after ingesting your newest cupcake treat, your mix needs adjusting. However, if the test subjects come back with their friends, you have a winner.
So, we at ChallengeWave have a new cupcake recipe and we are looking for
suckers a trial group. Group members will get 2 months of ChallengeWave for their use. Employees will be able to track their activities, challenge other employees, compete on teams and compete against other companies.
In exchange for the free service, ChallengeWave wants unvarnished feedback and help with case studies or press releases as appropriate. If you think your company might be interested in giving ChallengeWave a shot and your company is:
- 10-50 employees
- somewhat motivated (especially to change their lifestyle)
- somewhat competitive
- computer literate
- team oriented
If your organization is interested in applying for a trial of ChallengeWave for your organization, let us know.
Have you considered the cupcake kingpin approach to problem solving? Have you solved problems with the cupcake (or similar) method? Tell me about it in the comments....
An article showed up in my inbox today titled Startup Weekend pep talk: It ain't the code. The background of this article is a pep talk delivered by Jason Cohen, of Smart Bear Software to the audience at Startup Weekend in Austin. I happen to agree strongly with the meat of this article and want to share it with you.
Rather than paraphrase the article and add my own opinions, I'd like for you to read it and apply the points it to your own start up company.
It's pretty common for web based services to offer a free sign-up account as a trial period or self-directed demonstration. An advantage of offering free sign-ups is to give a potential customer a good look at the system in order to make a buying decision. For services with automated enrollment and simple service structures, free sign-ups can be a good idea. Converting a free sign-up customer to a paying customer helps lower sales costs. At ChallengeWave, we've decided not to offer a free sign-ups. Let's talk a little bit about why that is.
- Oh Gmail, Gmail
- How thou hath forsaken me
- Thou makest me to switch accounts where there used to be no problems
- Thou loggest me out at inopportune moments when I've emails to write
- Thou ignorest my pleas to open different accounts in multiple tabs
- I beat my breast and tear my clothes in anguish...
- I regreteth having multiple email accounts running off thine servers...
Alas, there is no answer....
( yes I know all about enabling multiple accounts. I've done that and gmail still sucketh. I want it back the way it was. Back when each tab seemed to be a sufficient separation....)
In my opinion, the worst entrepreneurial sin is building a product without a revenue stream. Sure there are strategies to build a web application, go viral and sell to GoogFaceYahooSoft.... but most of my readers live outside of the reality distortion field of Silicon Valley and must actually build a business that makes money.
A business isA business is defined as the exchange of a good or a service for a profit. If you do not know who will give you a profitable sum for your good or service, stop what you are doing right now and go figure it out.
By figure it out, I mean get some real details. For example, advertising is a choice for a revenue model. Advertising can be a successful strategy and it can also be the lazy man's version of revenue planning. If your monetization strategy is "Advertising", you should get a good understanding of your value as an advertising partner. Some things to think of:
Remember when you used to work at BigCompanyCo as an employee? Remember all the dumb stuff they did there and how you would do it differently when you get in charge? Honestly, that feeling was one of the major drivers for me to start my own company. I felt like I could do it better, cheaper and faster.
I was right, of course, (thankfully!), but I must admit I've learned a whole lot along the way. I'm a software developer/program manager by trade and I've spend the last 12 years building products and services for various companies. This means I've got a very strong technical focus and I'm able to craft and deliver very good technical strategies for lots of situations.
Like, do you need a quick and dirty reporting application to get insight in to your daily sale composition? Do you need an enterprise quality lease contract risk scoring application? Are you in need of an e-commerce infrastructure that can handle the surge of being on all 5 major television networks to raise money for cancer? I'm your guy.
Specialization at the expense of Generalization
There is an old saying, "Ideas are cheap, 'tis execution that pays the bills". It's possible to have a good idea and use poor execution. It is possible to have a poor idea and use good execution. Allow me to pontificate:
Good idea, bad execution
An example of a good idea that was executed poorly is WebVan. Founded in the late 1990's, WebVan promised to let you order groceries online and deliver them to your home. This is a good idea and one I would pay a premium on. Mostly because I'd be able to avoid maniacal coupon clipping crazies clogging up the isles with their grocery carts and coupon flip books.
The good part of the idea is in taking friction out of the grocery shopping experience. Many a good business model has been in offering convenience at a slightly increased cost.
The bad execution comes in how WebVan allocated it's funds. Since huge tranches of money was raised through Venture Capital and though an IPO, Webvan was not careful with it's funds and collapsed under it's own overbuilt, overspent and underutilized weight. WebVan was voted the #1 Dot-com flop by C-Net in 2008.
I use this blog to write about things that interest me. I've been growing ChallengeWave.com for the last few years and lately I'm interested in doing the right things to see our company grow.
ChallengeWave is a service to help employees start and stick with healthier lifestyles. Healthier employees are less expensive and more productive that less healthy employees. ChallengeWave works by giving tools to all users to build an online community providing entertainment and accountability in shared lifestyle goals.
Many people over the years have been helped by my technical writings at nodans.com and have been kind enough to share their gratitude. These days, the majority of what I'm learning has to do with founding and growing a health technology related start up and I'd like to be able to help others with entrepreneurial tendencies.
I help other small companies from time to time with their growing pains. I'm fortunate enough to have several world class business mentors to help me with the growing pains of ChallengeWave. If you have specific things you would like me to write about, please send me a message. As always, you are free to agree or disagree with my opinions and to tell me all about it in the blog comments.
If you are interested in a demonstration of ChallengeWave for your organization, let us know.
I'm posting this job opportunity for a friend. This opportunity is for a mid-level ColdFusion developer who is entrepreneurially minded and wants to be a key member of a growing and exciting team. Slackers need not apply! If you are interested, Contact Me with your resume text and contact info and I'll pass the information on to the right person.
Job DescriptionWe need a mid-level programmer to aid in the development on our Coldfusion platform. The system was developed in 2005 as a Content Management, Ecommerce, and Ticketing system. The Company has been growing very quickly over the past 2 years, with explosive growth in 2010. In order for the Company to continue to grow they must increase their efficiency and build more automated processes into the platform.
This programmer will report to the team lead and will be responsible for delivering well-written, quality software as a team member both on time and within scope.
- Function both independently as well as within a team, participating in on-going prioritization, management, development, testing and delivery of internal and external-facing web applications
- Consult with management to identify requirements and priorities for web product development, as well as opportunities to improve Paid's performance of this function. Administer, tune and troubleshoot any of the applications in our web applications portfolio
- Estimate, justify, and communicate budget requirements for projects
- Aid in post-project documentation
- Keep abreast of industry trends and developments. Research new technologies and provide recommendations
- 3+ years experience with ecommerce platforms & content management systems
- Experience dealing with large-scale order processing and manifesting systems a plus
- Direct experience in high-volume, large-scale, web-based applications
- 3+ years building web applications in a code managed, multi-tier development environment with process release management in place
- 1+ years experience with SQL Server specifically, including experience with: Relational Database design, along with creation of stored procedures and user-defined functions
- 3+ years experience with ColdFusion specifically, including experience with: Coldfusion specific development - CFCs, custom tags
- Understanding of ColdFusion Server development environment (mappings, application architecture, variable scoping, client/session management, error handling, transactions, etc.)
- Proficiency with Subversion
- Ability to handle multiple competing priorities in a fast-paced environment
- Position available in our new Westborough, MA offices. While the role will require interaction with the actual day-to-day processes and individuals performing those tasks, we are flexible and allow for day(s) of telecommuting per week.
Direct candidates only at this time. (No agencies please)
Query of Queries really helped me out this morning. The Model-Glue team is working on a ColdFusion Builder extension and we need to get a list of files to inspect. There could be many types of files in a project that aren't relevant to our purposes and I wanted to filter only the ones I need.
My Directory query contained lots of SVN specific files, which make for a good example of what we want to filter, before doing our inspection work.
Original Directory Query
What we need in this case is to filter anything that isn't a CFM, CFC or XML file. The CFDirectory tag will allow only a single filter, so what do we do?
In ColdFusion, I would use listlast( filename, ".") to look at the file extension but that would mean I'd have to unpack the query and either make a new one, or pack it in another datastructure. Waste of code, I tell ya. I ended up using Query of Queries and a LIKE statement to filter.
New Directory Query
The Code I Used for the Query of Queries
WHERE lower(NAME) LIKE '%.cfm'
OR lower(NAME) LIKE '%.cfc'
OR lower(NAME) LIKE '%.xml'
The secret sauce is the lower() function on NAME, and the LIKE conditional with a wildcard % operator. I found this through the Query of Queries documentation and I also learned about a few other wildcard operators as well.
List of Wildcard Operators Supported In Query of Query LIKE conditional
- The underscore (_) represents any single character.
- The percent sign (%) represents zero or more characters.
- Square brackets ([ ]) represents any character in the range.
- Square brackets with a caret [^] represent any character not in the range.
- All other characters represent themselves.
Simple and maintainable. Just how I like it. Thanks #ColdFusion!