Thursday, 20 August 2015

What Are You Willing to Do For a Buck?

After a two year search and having successfully tested a few ideas, I'm starting to think that I might be iterating my way to "Product Market Fit," so have started to develop a website and began work on a business plan. This post looks at an extremely important question that will set the tone for any company that get established for a very long time: 

What will Tech Stories be willing to do for a buck?

I met with Business Gateway and Matt Stewart from EntrepreneurMe yesterday. Both meetings were instrumental in helping me to develop my ideas and to confirm that there is the potential in my business idea for Tech Stories. My website which has displayed "Coming Soon" for quite some time now because;

1) I was struggling to achieve product market fit with some of my ideas, and 
2) I didn't have the funds to hire a developer.

Through my discussion with Matt I can see how product market fit isn't too far away now... Yay!
Regarding the web development, I recall reading the reason for Google's clean page with a logo and single text box was because they only had $50 for design work... So maybe I've had the best possible start. Lol.

Necessity: The reason for a clutter free site - a $50 web design budget 
Thanks to free applications like WordPress and organisations like Business Gateway I've managed to create a little more content. Here's my website:

A HUGE THANK YOU To Paul Hunter at Business Gateway and Jeffrey Mattingley and his support team at Just Host Me for all their help. Next stop on the bus to startupland:

The Business Plan
One of the other tasks on the list is "Finish Business Plan" and the first section is a summary of the business where you are asked to consider things like;

·           What do you plan to do? Provide a description of your product or service          
·           Who are you customers (in brief)?
·           What are the estimated start up costs and turnover/profit in the first year?

How will your business make money? This question reminds me of Philip Delves Broughton's book "Life's a Pitch.

"Not only should colleges, universities and companies teach more sales, but it should be the starting point of a business education. It is from sales that everything follows: How you make money, how you treat people, how you wish to grow. Every ethical question a business person could face comes down to a question you confront in your very first sale: What are you willing to do for a buck" Philip Delves Broughton, Life’s a Pitch

This comment, in turn, leads me to the work of Dave Logan and David Robertson who both highlight why the core values of an organisation matter, even at an early stage;

"Every venture, at it's inception, is imbued with a core purpose and set of values that emanate from the founder and shapes the organisation" David Robertson, Brick by Brick 
"Identify core values and align them with a noble cause" Dave Logan, Tribal Leadership

As I am looking to generate an income from my ideas I am all too aware of how educators view for-profit organisations, and am keen to avoid some of the negative stereotypes. 

However, as I consider this question for any potential business I wonder what happens if we turn this question on it's head a little? What if we ask "What are educators willing to do for a buck?" 

The idea for my tech report came as a result of watching the BBC's "Reading, Writing and Rip Offs" which exposed the practices of technology companies in schools. It would appear education can be subject to similar questionable practices.
  • As I work on my business plan we have Making the Grade which looks at the extent teachers are willing to go for a buck by falsifying exam results and a "Money for Marks" culture
  • Do schools and colleges admit students to their college because they need the revenue admitting them provides, more than based on what's right for the student?
    According to the program some heads encourage certain practices because there is more funding depending on league tables and Ofsted results. 
    Or teachers who won't speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
  • Universities are happy to go along with the government proposals and hike education fees up from £6,000 to £9,000. 
    If people want to argue that this is 
    unavoidable we could question why universities welcome banks to freshers events with the full knowledge that the student loans and overdrafts will see students enter into adulthood saddled with debt.
  • What if we looked at education conferences? Are organisers willing to accept a booking for exhibitions stands even if they know the product has a poor reputation within education?
    How many exhibitors would there be if it was based on whether or not delegates wanted each supplier there?
  • Given the expenses scandal, cash for questions and the amount peers charge for not ever turning up, I won't even bother looking at what the politicians who are responsible for education policy will do for money.

What is Tech Stories Willing to do for a Buck? 
So what about me? What am I willing to do for a buck?

I am hoping to help startups and suppliers who are new to education (as well as educators and students) to help them find the early adopters and establish some case studies.

Question: What's my criteria for which organisations I'll be looking to work with? 
Answer: If I like the sound of the product or can see the potential in the idea, I'll work with them.

Question: How do I go about assessing the merit of an idea if it's not been tested? Answer: I have a few things that help with this, including Kipp Co-Founder's criteria 

"Great Teaching and More of It"

Whether the idea is from an education supplier, educator, student or anywhere else... if I can see how the solution facilitates great teaching, I'll be keen to find ways to help out.

As part of my business model revolves around having explored the world of sales there are all kinds of sources of inspiration that are inescapable as I ponder this question, some of which are included above and many others besides.

I'm still working on ideas around core values and am considering what Tech Stories "Noble Cause" might look like, but what I do know is that I am committed to seeing what role I can play in;

1) Using my skills and experience to facilitate better products and services in education, while

2) Reducing the overheads for both suppliers and educators.

3) Delivering Value, which I hope will help build strong relationships

“Some salespeople put a high value on the friendships they develop in sales and the opportunity to work in a field they enjoy” Philip Delves Broughton, Life's a Pitch

This comment resonates with me a lot! You are unlikely to develop these relationships and friendships with people by cold calling and spamming them with corporate mailshots.

I'll leave you with a comment and core values from one of Bo Burlingham's "Small Giants" and the next chapter of something that started out as a quirky, fun little article. 
"We will always do what is right, even if it is not always profitable"

Tech Stories: The Next Chapter? 
While there is a proof of concept in most of what I am trying to do, one way or another, some of the things I am trying are new...They are either new to me, new to educators or entirely new ideas and models.

Not all the ideas will work out which is why they'll be tested on a small scale and either rolled out or dropped, depending on the success of the pilot. With the ones that scale the benefits to educators, suppliers and, most importantly, students will be so obvious that roll out will hopefully be through word of mouth referrals.

If you are an educator or a supplier that is working in educator or would like to be, I would be grateful if you could take a moment to check these links out and let me know what you think; 

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