Verify the bus factor in ALL areas of your startup

Bus factor for your startupYou may be familiar with the Bus Factor concept (in short, the bus factor is the number of people in your team that need to get hit by a bus before your project can’t go on).

This metric is typically applied to the development team to make sure that information gets shared among all members but we usually forget this same metric should be applied to all the other areas of your startup. Even for small startups, you should make sure that you have a bus factor of 2 in every single important aspect of the company. Some may be obvious (e.g. access to the bank accounts) while others may not but are equally important (i.e. key contacts in popular websites that could talk about your product).

Remember nobody is immune to buses. Be protected!

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A post got 20.000 visits and 1700 votes in reddit. The same post got 2 votes and 50 visits in Dzone. WTF?

A few days ago, I published this post in my software modeling and development blog. I then submitted the post to two popular social networking/sharing sites for developers (Dzone, and reddit). You can judge yourself the results I got

In Dzone ( direct link)

dzone php

In Reddit (/r/programming subreddit, direct link).

reddit php

Completely opposite results that ended up in Reddit sending me around 20.000 visits for only around 50 from Dzone. In fact, this is not the first time I see this. I’ve had similar experiences in the past with other posts (though the results had never been so extreme) and sometimes in the opposite direction (a post liked in Dzone but not so much on reddit). I have no clue why this unpredictable behaviour. Both sites target, in principle, the same developer community, but I guess they appeal to a slightly different profile of developers. Obviously, this is impossible to know for sure based solely on my few personal experiences (if you have experienced something similar, or not!, please let me know).

So, I’m sorry but I can’t help you guess when a post would work well in Reddit and when it would work well on Dzone (nobody can), I just wanted to help you

Do you have any strategy to maximize your chances when submitting to these networks? Anything you’d like to share?

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Bargain. Always. Everything

Bargaining deals does not come natural to me. Even when visiting countries where bargaining all the time is the norm I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

Nevertheless, if I look back and see how we have reacted every time a client asked to negotiate any aspect of a contract for any of our services , I can tell you that none of them left empty handed. Maybe they didn´t always get a discount in price but for sure they got something (maybe more quota, an extra feature for free, free advice,…).

Therefore, now I’m starting to do the same when I’m the customer and I’m observing the same results, this time on me. If you ask for something reasonable, people will have a hard time in saying no. First, because we don’t like to say NO without a good excuse or some alternative option, just “no” looks too direct, even aggressive, and secondly because if we don’t play the negotiation game we may risk losing that potential customer.

In today’s economy every little thing helps so, like it or not, bargain, always, everything. It works.

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RR: What your entrepreneur “dream” is more likely to look like in reality

Tired of reading news only about the big time winners of the entrepreneurial dream? Wondering how is the life of most entrepreneurs? Well, then this article on wired is for you: One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the Silicon Valley Gold Rush

Remember there are always a lot of lessons to be learnt also from the “losers”.

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Software Licenses vs Software as a Service – A customer’s perspective

As creators of the WordPress service Nelio A/B testing we get again and again the question of why we chose a service model instead of developing a standalone plugin.

We have now (partially) answered this question on this blog post:

Five reasons why WordPress services are better than commercial plugins

where we try to explain the benefits of the SaaS model from the customer’s point of view (and with emphasis on the WordPress ecosystem though what we say is generally applicable to other platforms).

We hope this helps people hesitating to take the service option do the maths with a different perspective!

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Even negative tweets hide some valuable feedback

The best way to improve your business is by getting as much feedback as possible (alwasy keep in mind “Bad feedback is good. No feedback is bad“). And this includes getting feedback from non-customers if you are somehow able to learn why they decided not to buy your product.

Unfortunately, you can’t know who does not sign up for you service unless that person decides to say so. If s/he says it in private then great! you can start a conversation and maybe, even, change her mind (though your focus should be to learn as much as possible not trying to push your service, this won’t work).

The problem is when they say it in public as recently happened to us:

Does anyone have any recommendations on good A/B testing solutions for a WordPress site? I’m looking at – not great.

The person that wrote this tweet is not one of our clients nor has he ever contacted us to discuss his opinion on our service. Our first reaction was obviously to get mad at him. Why should he tell to his several thousands followers that he does not like our service if he did not even try it?. But getting mad does not help so we reached out to see if he could learn more about the reasons behind his tweet.

He replied by saying

The pricing structure on your website is totally inconsistent. Makes it tough to trust the product!

At that point we realized he got confused because the webpage displays the price in $ but the payment page managed by FastSpring was showing the price in his local currency (Canadian dollars). So, he was wrong (the price WAS consistent) and because of his wrong perception now quite a few people may have the feeling that our serivce is “not great”. We can’t delete his tweet and he won’t do it either but at least we can use this conversation to learn that we should improve the way we display prices to avoid this problem in the future.

Negative tweets are not the best way to get feedback but make the best out of it and learn something useful for your business!

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My 20 emails rule for freelancers

EmailsOf the two services we offer (Migrating your site to WordPress and native A/B testing for WordPress sites), the first one is more a consultant-like service.

We did develop migration scripts to semi-automate the work but each migration is different so there is a “discovery and negotiation” period where we discuss with the clients about their exact needs, the complexity of the migration, proposing alternatives,….

In this phase, we obviously exchange quite a few emails with them. This exchange is for free, all the information we provide at this stage is aimed at understanding what the client wants and making sure s/he understand what she’ll get at the end and why this is the best way to proceed.

Some clients end up declining our offer, and that’s fine as well. We did some work for free but we hope they at least learnt something useful about their site and who knows we may be able to help them in the future.

What is terrible for the business is to get caught in an seemingly infinite exchange of emails that bring you nowhere. These clients do not even know what they want or have unrealistic expectations impossible to answer to, no matter how much time you put in it. The sooner you realize you should “fire” them, the better. And, after dealing with a few hundred of clients until now, my rule of thumb is the following:

In 20 emails a clear path to completion must be agreed upon, otherwise it won’t happen regardless the number of exchanged

After reaching this point, I always send them an email emphasizing the time invested (again, with no results, 20 is not the total number of emails to finish the work, is the number of emails I need to see if we have a chance to understand each other), summarizing the disucssion so far and clearly letting them know that it’s not a good idea, for neither of us, to continue the business relationship. Some become suddenly reasonable, others just get angry but I´m happier since we imposed this rule (and in the end, this is all it matters).

Sure, in your business, this number can be different but decide your limit and stick to it. It’s good for you, it’s good for your business.

If you liked this post, you should also follow my thoughts on twitter about software development or web design, WordPress and social media .

Be sociable, share!

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