Starting to Network Again

I’m trying to get out more to socialize with the local business community. After close to a year of being layed up and out of the loop, I’m finding it harder to catch up and keep up with what’s going on.

At an Surrey Board of Trade (SBoT) Business to Business networking event on Thursday night, some people I met suggested I come to their morning networking breakfast at the Kalmar Restaurant on King George Boulevard in Surrey. There was no commitment expected, other that to see how it went.

About 20 people made it out to that event on Friday morning, some of whom I’ve known from SBoT and others from different times, or from other events around town. It was good to catch up over a nice breakfast and learn more about what all those people are, and have been up to.

According to the Meetup page for the group, the Surrey Langley Business Support Network, there are a lot more than 20 members, so I guess, like with other organizations, the number that attends individual events can vary a lot.

That’s good. More people means more stories over time, and that keeps things interesting. Also, if too many people show up, the organization might have to move from the intimacy of a restaurant to some bigger venue at a lot more cost.

It was nice to get out and socialize on a Friday morning. It was also a good excuse to pack up some camera gear and get out to take some pictures after the event.

Going to have to do more of that.

Please Stop

Media sites have really jumped the shark.

This morning, I followed a tweet to an article on Inc. Magazine’s website. What do you think met me when I got there?

1. A popup came up asking me to join/like/subscribe to their FaceBook, Twitter and other pages. I had to figure out how to close that off. Then, below that,

2. an ad sat there that said it would disappear after 4 more seconds.

So, we had a popup invitation appearing over an ad, before I even got to the site.

Despite the recommendation via the tweet, the article turned out to be another generic article about I can’t remember what. So I closed the tab I had open and…

A popup survey questionnaire appeared on my desktop, wondering if I would comment on how much I liked the site.

Really! Do we need all that sh*t?

I have fond memories of Inc magazine from its print version, so I thought I’d click through and see how the web version was. That will be my last visit to Inc, I’m afraid.

What a horrible experience.

To License or Not

A few days ago, a photographer by the name of Trey Ratcliff (of HDR, and fame) posted his reasons for making his work available via the Creative Commons license. If you missed that post, it’s worth a read. You can find it here on Google+.

I have to agree with a lot of what he says. By sharing, you avoid a lot of headache, and you get your work seen more than if you have it squirrelled away under pay walls. Sort of like news these days, people will just go elsewhere for their fix.

Pretty much everything I’ve learned about computing, photography and technology has been via the commons. Sure, I’ve bought books and paid for seminars and workshops, but the day to day information has come from people sharing and me soaking that up. The way I look at it, sharing my photos for personal use is one way I can give back.

I share for personal use, but if you want to use it commercially, I hope you’d contact me about payment of one form or another. That’s much like me reading someone’s blog and then purchasing his ebook or donating to the site when I can.¬†People can also access my photography by hiring me to do some specific work, so yes, payment is part of the model.

I guess it’s like a sales funnel. People can share to start, pay when they want to do more with the work I offer, and when they want something special, they hire me to get it done.

At some point, I may even create a storefront for what I consider the very best of my work. I’m not there yet, but I can’t rule it out.

There are lots of new business models floating around now. Different strokes work for different folks, so what works for me today, may not work for others. That’s what makes it so exciting these days – there is lots of room to experiment and try new things. Having been a scientist in another life, I like that.

The Best Kind of Bootstrapping

Starting a business takes money; there’s no way around that. You need money for licenses, a website, marketing materials, office supplies and just plain living expenses, as you build up your clientele. That’s why most coaches suggest that while you are working, you should build up a reserve of 6 months to a year of cash to live on. When you leave your job, you can then use those funds to get things up and running.

That’s good advice.

Sometimes though, you get a little boost from an unexpected source. Over the last couple of days, I spent some time catching up with the pocket change I toss in a jar at the end of the day. I usually wrap it up once a year and take it to the bank, and it often adds up to a couple of hundred bucks. That comes in handy around Xmas.

This time though, I found quite a stash. I guess I’ve been remiss for the last couple of years or so. I actually found a couple of extra jars that I totally forgot I had. Seems at some point, I’d moved a jar or two off the top of the dresser and into a chest beside the dresser. Guess I wanted to make them less conspicuous for some reason or other and forgot they were there.

Anyway, after wrapping coins for a couple of hours a day over a couple of days, I ended up with a lot of rolls of change. So much in fact, that they were too heavy for me to get them all to the bank at once.

After two trips, turns out there was over $1200 total, and that’s now deposited in the bank earning (minuscule) interest.

What’s not to like about that? I can use most of it to bootstrap my business.

There should be a little bit for my Xmas present too. Don’t ya think?

A Forgotten Resource

A few years ago I discovered Pam Slim and her site Escape From Cubicle Nation. I followed her devotedly for a while, and then for some reason, I gradually faded off to other things.

I rediscovered her again today and ran across a couple of her newer blog posts on planning. What was great was that she supported the posts with a video. Actually, I ran across her video on youtube first and then found the posts ūüėČ

The first post I ran across was on using agile development techniques to do your planning. Selecting 2-3 months at a time, decide what you want to focus on most: cash flow, visibility or opportunity.

Once you’ve decided what you want to accomplish in, say the first quarter, set up your projects with milestones and give them a ‘ship’ date.

Her blog is worth a look if you’re starting a planning process for 2012. The site is also good for those leaving the cubicle for a more entrepreneurial type of work. She’s definitely back on my RSS feed for now.

Working River

Working River

The Fraser River is a working river. Tugs, logs, freighters, containers and even fishermen are on the river pretty much all year round. I think I’ve only seen the lower Fraser Valley portion freeze over twice in my lifetime, and even then it didn’t freeze hard enough to stop traffic. It’s pretty much an open port all year.

I tried to catch a bit of that here, with the train going over the bridge and the tug churning along with it’s log boom, just on the other side. It would have been nice to catch some containers on the train, but you deal with what you have, right?

Further west on the river there are container ships and car freighters that dock at Fraser Port and Annasis Island respectively.¬†Pretty much every car that comes to Canada from Asia, comes through the port on Annaisis Island.¬†Fraser Port distributes containers across Canada and into the United States. It’s a busy port on a busy river.

SBofT Sizzles for Food Bank

The Surrey Board of Trade (SBofT) gathered up over 700 lbs of food and raised $2876 for the Surrey Food Bank on Wednesday night, during their annual Seasonal Sizzle event at EagleQuest Golf Course in Surrey.

Over 450 people attended what is one of the Board’s most popular events of the year, and the place was packed all night. People networked with new and old friends, and enjoyed a trade show put on by various services and suppliers as well.

It’s amazing what a few peeps can do when they get together to have fun and help out a good cause.

Unfortunately the need never ends, so the Surrey Food Bank is open for donations all year. Fortunately, there are also lots of other community events where we can help at this time of year. Keep an eye on the Food Bank website for more info.

Pimp the work

I watched a live stream interview today from photographer Chase Jarvis, where he had some discussion with Creative Coach Allegra Wilde about photography portfolios, or The Book that photographers present to potential clients. The conversation was about photography, but some of the ideas have to do with other businesses too.

3 short takeways:

1. The subject of a photo is less important than the emotion or story that the photo provides the viewer.

We also hear this about other products and services; people don’t want to read a book so much as they want to be entertained; many people buy Apple products for the ‘cool factor’, not the tech specs. The bottom line is that we want people to react in a positive way to what we do, and a good story helps them do that.

2. If you are trying to shoot the kind of photos that are selling, how are you going to differentiate yourself from all the hundreds or thousands of others doing the same?

So true, especially when your product is approaching commodity status. These days we differentiate our products and services through our voice, or the personal touch we put on them. Shoot (or do) what you love and the money will follow (or so they say ;-).

3. Wilde suggests: How can creative work have a target market? Creative work is pretty much subjective work and you never know just who is going to like it. Better to shoot or write what you love and market the hell out of it. The right clients will find you.

This is an interesting contradiction to the usual marketing wisdom, but it could very well be true. Everyone won’t want, need or even like what you create, so your job is to find those that do and pamper them as much as you can. As Jarvis says: Shoot what you love; pimp the work; repeat.

Jarvis does some amazing things, and it’s worth following his work. Just a warning‚Ķyou’ll wonder where he finds the energy to do all the stuff he does. Good stuff.

Time for a Change?

I’ve been humming and hawing about what to do next with this blog (physically, that is). It’s not that I don’t like where it’s hosted, it just seems some other options may have more flexibility or be easier to set things up. You might say I’m reassessing.

I’ve spent the morning looking at WordPress (both .com and .org) and Squarespace as alternative ways to host it. Some options are more expensive and some are definitely cheaper, so that brings me back to the question of just what I want to do with it and how much I want to spend. The trouble is, that all seems to keep changing right now.

On one hand, I’d like to have a photography portfolio that shows off some of my best work. I also want a blog and a few pages that highlight the business and the relationships that business might build over time.

As time goes on and more income starts to flow, I expect I’d move the photography portfolio over to one of the commercial sites dedicated to that and keep the main site as a blog and information pages – all integrated, of course.

I know most bloggers swear by a self-hosted WordPress site. I just don’t know if I want to spend my time keeping it and all the plugins up to date and secure.

Time will tell, I guess. I might explore a bit more with Typepad and then use up some free trial time at Squarespace and That might answer my questions about what I actually need and how the backends of those sites facilitate that.

We’ll see how it all goes. Lots to think about over the next while.

What do you do?

Asking “What do you do?” seems like an odd first question in a networking session.

For extreme networking, I guess it’s appropriate. But if we’re trying to get to know, like and trust others before we do business with them, why do we ask for the sales pitch first?

Just sayin.