Category Archives: Business

Analogy

Like most crazy/new/different things in life this is generally the pattern:

  1. Come up with an idea or something you want to do
  2. Most people think it’s crazy, silly or just “eeh”
  3. You start doing it
  4. For a while it’s just you without much support
  5. Turns out what you’re doing is pretty cool
  6. People starting joining you
  7. More people join you
  8. Your success starts to compound on itself

Perfect and hilarious example, this video (which has been buzzing around the net after it was on front page Digg):

Vacationing and Owning A Business

For Christmas I went on vacation to Cancun with my family and friends. There were lots of relaxing and fun activities like this:

….and this:


(Notice the House Of Rave shirt)!

…but there are some definite upsides and downsides to owning a business and taking a vacation. For the most part I prepared for my absence and there was little work to be done, so it wasn’t that bad.

While I was the only one who generated any income during the trip (good), I was also the only one who had to take time out of the day to work (bad). Fortunately I don’t see this as a bad thing because I start going crazy if I don’t stay at least slightly productive several days in a row.

On two different occasions I whipped out my laptop in the lobby of the resort (working in the room isn’t as fun) and started handling business. Each session was maybe 1-2 hours, and pretty much looked like this the whole time:

Getting the work done during vacation actually makes the vacation more enjoyable in my case because I get a feeling of accomplishment out of it. However if you want a week completely void from thoughts about work, owning a business may not always be the best thing.

Hi. I’m Neville, I Own A Rave Company

Here’s a typical introductory conversation with me:

Nev: Hi, I’m Neville.
Person: Nice to meet you, what do you do?
Nev: I own the largest online rave company.
Person: Rave company!? ::eyes bug out::
Nev: Yes, rave company.
Person: So, do you…like…throw rave parties?
Nev: Nope, I’ve never been to a rave in my life.
Person: Then what do you do?
Nev: I sell light up stuff.
Person: So you sell glowsticks?
Nev: That’s part of it. The store mainly sells hard to find lightup novelties.
Person: So are raves still popular?
Nev: Not really sure. Most of my customers aren’t ravers.
Person: So do you keep all the stuff in your garage or a warehouse?
Nev: It’s all drop shipped. I rarely touch any of the products.
Person: That’s so (cool/odd/interesting).
Here’s what I imagine it’d look like if I told this to the Prime Minister of Malaysia when I met him at The WCIT 2006:
Ever since high school I’ve been running some small business or the other, but I’d always considered myself a student first. No longer a student, that response doesn’t work, so I started saying I was a “business owner” or something like that, but that elicits an avalanche of questions about every business I was involved in. Much as I enjoy talking about them, it became a cumbersome question.

So over time I’ve just started saying, “I own a rave company” which is actually pretty fitting for what I do (HouseOfRave.com). This response is interesting enough to keep the conversation going, keeps the questions fun to answer, and allows for an easy segue into another conversation.
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One trick I learned to avoid the whole “what do you do” conversation is say, “I’m unemployed.” The conversation generally stops immediately! Great for people you don’t want to speak with or when you’re in a hurry to leave.

A Word On Business Cards

I attend tons of events, networking parties and all that jazz, one thing in common is coming back with a pocket full of business cards.

Some are big, some are small, some are normal, some are fancy. By and large, it doesn’t make a single bit of difference what your business card looks like. I have never once decided to contact some someone back based solely on their business card.

In fact, most of the very successful people I meet have exceedingly simple business cards. Name, contact info and maybe a company logo. Nothing ornate because it doesn’t matter.


What my business card looks like (except a different email address, this was an old photo and I was too lazy to take a new one).

The funny thing is, usually the people with brand new companies which aren’t even making money generally have the coolest/most expensive business cards. I interpret that as a very ominous sign.

Not all cool business cards are bad though. If you’re making good money with the company, then sure, go nuts, although it’ll unlikely make any difference. I like some business card designs that tie into their industry, like some of these which would be great for tradeshows….but for most occasions, a standard personal business card would do fine.

If you’re actually of any interest to a person, it doesn’t matter if your contact info is written on a napkin, they’ll get back to you. If you’re relying on a cool business card to get you a call back, then you’ve probably got some work to do on yourself.

Just remember: You are making the impression, not the business card.

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Random:
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  • In 2007 I bought several hundred business cards with a 2007 yearly calendar on the back thinking it would be a good idea. It wasn’t. Now in 2008 I still hand out those business cards and mention, “…and on the back you have a nice 2007 calendar!” which always gets a laugh! However a more timeless card would’ve been preferable.
  • VistaPrint.com has really cheap and easily designable business cards.
  • I keep about 3 business cards in my wallet at all times, it really comes in handy.
  • Sometimes at events I get a person who introduces themselves and nearly immediately hands me a business card *cough* real estate agents *cough* …these generally go immediately into the garbage. Only trade cards if there’s at least a small possibility of you two connecting again.
  • Even if you don’t have a business, a personal business card with your name, email and phone number would be nice to carry.
  • I don’t like glossy business cards, you can’t write on them.
  • It’s helpful when you get home to write interesting information about the person directly on the business card in case you forget. This has helped me several times.
  • Generally when I get home, I checkout the websites listed on the business cards I get.

My Trip to The GooglePlex

You know, I wasn’t quite sure how to write this particular post. Originally I wanted to do a post called “What Would I Do If Google Disappeared?” in which I would describe the various facets of life that Google directly affects my life.

Then recently I wanted to write a post about my trip to the GooglePlex in Mountain View, CA. I just had to see it since I’ve heard so much about it…almost built up to mythical status in my head.

Both ideas seemed good, so I think I’ll just roll them both into one big Google-y posting:

WHAT WOULD I DO IF GOOGLE DISAPPEARED?
All the ways I use Google in life.

Boom. Something big happens and every Google service I currently use is gone. The best way for me to think of every Google service I use it by taking it step by step.

DAY TO DAY:
I wake up every day, and the first thing I do now is NOT go into the home office like I used to, but stay in bed and grab my iPhone. Almost immediately all my email from several different accounts are downloaded. Two of them utilizing Gmail.

So my day starts off without any spam mail whatsoever, thanks to Google Gmail. I later get up, then start my desktop and laptop…both of them have Google Desktop installed (which I use constantly), and then I soon after load up my internet browser, which is 50% of the time Google Chrome. The other 50% of my surfing is done on Internet Explorer since Chrome is so new and still has a few tiny bugs, but even my Internet Explorer has the lovely Google Toolbar installed on it.

BUSINESS RELATED:
I update invoices and many documents through Google Docs which is great. Many times a day I search the internet for something. The search engine I use? Take a guess…

Even though my business email addresses all have their own domains, all the mail is relayed through Gmail servers to filter out the spam.

When I look up videos or host my own product demonstration videos, of course I use YouTube which is owned by Google.

When I look at the analytics for my businesses, guess which service I use? Google Analytics. It’s by far the best website analytics service around, and it’s free.

For making money off websites I use Google Adsense.

For advertising my own products I use Google Adwords.

For accepting money on websites I use Google Checkout in addition to my merchant account.

For HouseOfRave searching, the site uses Google Sitesearch.

…and finally, as I type these very words into my internet browser, I’m using Blogger….ALSO owned by Google!

I’m sure there’s lots of different ways that Google affects my personal and business life that I forgot to mention, but I digress to continue to my next subject:

MY TRIP TO THE GOOGLEPLEX:
WOW, so Google plays a hand in almost everything I do. There’s many other companies that do this: Microsoft, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and the list of big companies goes on…but Google is the most visible character I play with.

Myself and many others continue welcoming Google into our lives because they keep simplifying things for us, making things better and providing great tools.

Now where is all this stuff made, and how do they continue banging out such cool stuff at such breakneck speed? Well, I’m pretty sure my visit to the GooglePlex shed some light on that.

QUICK DISCLAIMER: Google, if I offend you in any way I apologize in advance. I don’t think anything I’m posting here is confidential or intrusive to Google. I might have gotten a few security gaurds on my case telling me to put the camera away, and I always obeyed, but here are the pics I have. Considering the above list of ways I use your services, you probably know EVERYTHING about me, which makes you sort of like God. Please don’t smite me.

Now keep in mind I have pretty much zero experience working for a big company, so I’m not too familiar with how workspaces are setup, but from what I know, Google seems to be on the cooler end.

I quickly realized why they call it the GooglePlex. It’s BIG. Each building isn’t particularly massive, but it’s definitely a large network of separate buildings (hence the ‘plex’). In the relatively small city of Mountain View, CA., Google’s offices hold roughly 15,000+ people and is still growing. It occupies 47 buildings.

At first I thought I was driving through a large business park, but quickly realized that every building I was passing had a Google sign. Some are buildings that existed previously, some were just recently built for Google, and more are in construction, but they’re all Google’s.

So walking through a typical building might look something like this:

Very nice, serene landscaping coupled with the beautiful year-round weather of Mountain View makes a nice combination.

But for the most part, the main attraction at Google is the food. From what I’ve read, I had this weird impression the Google cafeteria would be some crazy Willy Wonka-like wonderland with chefs sliding down poles and food being tossed into your plate by Oompa Loompas, but it was a little different.

Have you ever been to Las Vegas and eaten at one of those expensive buffets at a nice casino? It was kind of like that.

So the entrance to the main cafeteria building looked like this, with lots of people opting to eat outside:

I personally don’t like buffets too much because there’s just WAY too much stuff to eat. However there’s something to please EVERYONE at Google!

Google provides free breakfast, free lunch, free dinner and free snacks to all their employees…and they’re welcome to bring guests and family often as they wish. Many Googlers feel absolutely no need to eat anywhere else.

They have every type of cuisine you can imagine, and hire some of the best chefs around. From the main buffet area here’s what I chose:

I eat weird things at buffets, and wasn’t particularly hungry, so don’t judge the quality of the food by my diet.

What’s also cool is they have 19 other cafeteria locations, each with a theme. One of them is called ‘Seven’ or something like that….and it serves only foods made from the 7 original food groups. Near the main cafeteria there’s also a fruit smoothie bar that makes smoothies only from fresh fruits, vegetables and other stuff that was harvested practically yesterday.

There was a woman in one of the ancillary cafeterias I saw whose sole job was to grind wheatgrass into juice. It takes a huge amount of wheatgrass to make a little juice, and she puts this concentrated juice (which is supposedly full of stuff that’ll make you healthy) into a shot glass, then puts the shotglass in crushed ice. There’s roughly 20-30 shotglasses on ice full of ice-chilled wheatgrass juice which you can just walk by and drink. As for drinking pure, crushed wheatgrass….it honestly didn’t taste that bad.

Here’s me chillin’ with my Gmeal:

Another cool thing is many of the herbs, fruits and veggies used to make the food are grown on site at Google. In the same outdoor area where people sit to eat, the food is being grown. Fresh food AND locally grown…hard to complain.

Walking along one of the main buildings there was a full scale tyrannosaurus rex, one of the many pieces of funky art dotting the landscape:

Right alongside this garden were meeting rooms. Here’s an actual Google meeting taking place (with the T-Rex in the reflection):

So after taking pictures of a meeting room, I think I got a few uneasy stares and had to chill out with the camera action. In fact while indoors I wasn’t supposed to be taking any pictures at all (hence the lack of the cafeteria pictures).

This was one of the outdoor concourses of the main building. Pretty funky architecture:

Now you see that bike the guy is riding in the above picture? Well there’s hundreds of those around the GooglePlex that anyone can use. Lets say you need to go from building 25 to the building 40…well that’s a long walk. However simply walk outside the building, and you’re bound to see a fleet of these bikes just randomly parked around. Grab one and go!

I thought it was pretty fun just grabbing a bike and going, then not having to worry about securing it to a bike rack…just leave it and go, ready for the next person. By the way, I actually got in trouble for taking the above picture on the bike.

Here’s a bad picture of the visitors center:

On the walls they have several monitors projecting live Google searches from around the world. The monitors quickly scrolled keywords, maybe 1 or 2 per second. From what I understand, they’re filtered for profanity, or else it’d be a very offensive visitors center!

And finally here’s the picture I call my “SEO Picture.” Search optimization at its best, literally on top of Google!

So that was my Google trip. This was one of the first corporate environments I’ve ever stepped in (besides Take Your Kid To Work Day), and I must say one thing:

It reminded me of college.

It was a bunch of smart, young people working hard on projects, riding bikes around, working and playing in the same area and everyone lives close by and you don’t necessarily have to show up every day.

There are however some subtle differences such as you get PAID to be here, they provide everything for you completey free (gym, personal trainers, haircuts, car washing, dry cleaning, good food etc) and everyone is slightly older (but not by much).

From what I understand, this single Google location blows through $1,000,000/week on food alone. That number doesn’t include all the other amenities they provide. But considering the company brings in a billion and half dollars per month, that figure isn’t so crazy.

I definitely see why people would want to work here, and how they attract some of the best talent around. So I guess attracting top talent and keeping them very happy has definitely helped Google become such a strong, global force so quickly.


The only problem I found with Google:
was parking. I find it ironic that I can find the entire text of Moby Dick using Google in half a second, but it takes me 15 minutes to search for a parking spot. Ha! Perhaps they’ll find a solution for that too (update: I’ve been informed they offer free valet parking at buildings 40, 41, 42 and 43)!

House Of Rave on a new Supplier

HouseOfRave will be going through some big inventory changes over the next few days as I switch suppliers. Changing suppliers is no small task because it will essentially be a whole new business. I will probably end up LOSING money on HouseOfRave this month, but it’s in the name of future expansion which can’t happen with the current supplier.

There are tons of different changes I will have to deal with:

ORDER PROCESS
I still will essentially get orders then forward them to the new supplier, but for now it must be done the ghetto way of manually entering each order into their website. This takes lots of time, but will be worked on as the relationship builds.

PAYMENT TO NEW SUPPLIER
I used to send money at the end of the month for products I ordered. Since I don’t have an established relationship with the new vendor, I must make sure to pay them soon afterwards. This has actually worked out quite nice, because I simple pay them each day for the products I ordered. I know right then and there how much profit has been made per day, the supplier gets his money right away, and at the end of the day I don’t owe anyone anything.

MAKING MONEY
This one will be hard, as with the new supplier I currently have a straight percentage discount for products which isn’t very high right now. Topping that off, the supplier has higher shipping prices than the previous which really bites into my profit. However with this system I know that if I bring in $1,000 I just made approximately (percentage of that) in profit.

TRACKING SALES
I used to track sales in a specifically designed Excel sheet so I could compare it to the actually invoice at the end of the month to check for billing errors. Luckily the shopping cart system I’m using (Yahoo) has more statistics features than Shopsite (which I use for HouseOfRave), so this will actually be an easier job. Also with the current payment system I have going with the supplier, I can easily see my per-day profits at the end of the day.

DIFFERENT INVENTORY
This is the biggest pain of all. Since HouseOfRave sells such niche rave/club stuff, I have to scour the new supplier’s inventory for stuff that would do well in that area, and their selection of those kinds of products is relatively limited. This might be a bad thing, but it also might be a good thing. Perhaps I may stumble upon a new genre of products that sells very well on HouseOfRave? I’ve learned you can NEVER quite predict which items are a big hit. I’ll just have to continually change things up on HouseOfRave to see what sells or doesn’t.

INVENTORY PICTURES / DESCRIPTIONS
This is a big change as pics and descriptions take the longest amount of editing and creating time. Because HouseOfRave was a very rave/club niche site, so it had a lot of blinky stuff with blinky images to compliment. Some of the pages would be filled with product images that looked like this:


Now for the most part the pictures will be stationary and the products will not be as “Blinky” which may or may not be a good thing. I always thought the animated .gif images the previous supplier always used were cheesy, but after removing a lot of the current products, I quickly realized that all the cheesy blinky product pictures were a big part of the site.

They just plain demonstrated the product effects very well. It’s funny how AJAX, Flash and other in vogue technologies can help a website sell more and look better, but sometimes a simple .gif image (which has been around since 1985) can be much more effective.

I started going ahead and making .gif images for some of the products the new supplier offers and also for BodyMonkey.com because I realized how much more interesting they make the site look. With a simple .gif you can convey a lot more information in one image….like how my studying is going

Curb Painting Part 2

(See Curb Painting Part 1 if you haven’t already)….

…$15!  Checkout the screenshot of the self-checkout line I went through:

The stencils I bought were the bendable cardboard kind, which are good for when the curb you’re painting is curved.  However I wanted the inter-locking brass stencils for flat curbs.  I also wanted these because they inter-lock and stay in place, rather than having to tape each number together (see how they snap together?):

Next I tried a practice run on some more newspaper using the new materials I bought and the new brass stencils.  It came out pretty descent:

If the police, fire department or ambulance service was looking for this house at night, it’d be VERY hard to see this address label.  So next, I wanted to prove how much better a raggedy old curb address looks when painted over. I purposely used a smaller border to show this was the same curb, just painted over it for dramatic effect:

Look at the difference!  You can still see the original outline I left as a comparison.  THIS is why people will buy this service.  Over the years I’ve also refined some secret tricks I use to sell more.  I’ve also learned what NOT to do that will leave you struggling to find jobs.

To see the video I made about this (and where I pretty much hold someone’s hand step-by-step to show them how to do this), enter your name and email below: