Hacking Life

Be Present, everything is exactly where it is meant to be.

The past cannot be changed and the future will unfold as the most extraordinary experience of your life.

Have faith that something incredible is happening and we are all a part of it.

Get healthy, sleep well, drink water and walk as much as you can.

Challenge yourself and run, swim, play sports, go hiking, do something, anything!

Go places and listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, or call someone.

Understand addictions like sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, painkillers, gambling, games, sex, and recreational drugs.

Get expert advice and knowledge on biological, mental and social matters.

Keep clean personally and all the spaces you inhabit.

Adventure safely and wear good shoes, proper clothing, hats, sun protection and contraceptives.

Be organised and use a calendar for everything. Generate a future and always turn up 15 minutes early. Plan to spend time with family, friends, or someone you haven’t met yet.

Go places, see things, experience culture, live frugally and travel continuously.

Have fun, do nothing and develop yourself.

Be creative and make things, write things, sing songs, play music, dance and express yourself.

Connect with your partner, family, friends, and community. Everyone is dealing with something or has something to offer or both. Be interested in their stories, they will be interesting.

Develop skills for feeding, housing and generating an income for yourself and maybe others.

Solve Problems. Get help and help others. Lead by example and be a good role model for other members of your family, friends and community.

Take responsibility for your life, own your mistakes and clean up your mess.

Get educated as often as you can and enjoy it. Find mentors and listen to them.

Learn first aid, nobody will regret you saving their lives. Study languages, history, philosophy, accounting or law. Anything you want.

Understand money and developing cash flow.

Learn a trade and do something you enjoy to generate an income. Spend less than you earn and avoid debt.

Think big as there is no limit to your imagination and life will give you what you play for.

If you are not failing then you are not doing enough. If you are not dealing with big problems then you are not aiming high enough.

You will make a difference.

Generating cash

At some point during a company’s growth there may be an opportunity to improve its position and/or valuation with a cash injection.  Examples of this could be:

  1. Selling more products or services
  2. Developing new products or services to sell
  3. Changing company ownership structure
  4. All or some of the above

There are three main ways to generate cash.

  1. Profit
  2. Debt
  3. Investment

This is what we will explore in this blog.

Profit results from successfully solving customer’s problems with your product or service for less money than they paid you to do it.  Every time you successfully sell a product or service you add to your cash balance, which grows on your balance sheet as an asset.

Debt is money you get now to be paid back with future profits or investment.  This works well as long as you can accurately project future profits.  Inexperienced business owners often overestimate sales and underestimate the cost of those sales.   This leads to decreased profit and a potential inability to pay back debt or attract investment.

Debt can also be in the form of sweat, which means people can contribute their time and effort anticipating being paid in the future when the company starts making a profit or attracts investment.

If the company succeeds, it may pay back people’s contributed effort with cash or it may convert that contribution into an investment into the company.  This depends on what was agreed to by the two parties before the contribution was made.

Investment comes either from selling a slice of all your future profit and/or securing a grant.  These things can be pursued together making each other more attractive.  This works best when your business plan aligns the grant with cash investment.

To sell a slice of your business, you need to create a present day value for your future profits and then decide how much you are prepared to sell a fraction of it for.  There are a bunch of ways to value your business and you should get advice from your accountant at a minimum on this.

If you are going to sell a slice of all your future profits you need to consider who is going get it and what will they do with it.  I once sold a percentage of a business to its largest customer, which mostly worked out.

If your business hasn’t proved itself to gain a sufficient valuation, you may be able to get people you know — typically friends and family — to invest in your business.  These investors are usually backing you because they know and trust you.

Don’t break the trust and be really straight with them about the probability of them losing their money.

Don’t ask anyone close to you to invest in your business if you haven’t put everything of your own in first.  You are pitching for people to take a leap of faith in you.  You may only get to do that once in a lifetime with some people.

Be aware that this can go horribly wrong and I have seen many families and friends fall out over ideas that didn’t work out.   Then again, Jeff Bezos borrowed money from his parents and created Amazon, but nothing is certain.

If you can demonstrate in a clear plan how money can be made from investing in your business, you could be ready to pitch to real investors.  No warm and fuzzies here.  These people will like you as long as you are doing what you said you would and your company is delivering what you stated in your business plan.

It’s not likely they’re going to be the same type of person who will invest in your early stages.

Real fundraising is much harder than it looks.  Well it’s easy to do badly and hard to do successfully.

I’ve done both and this is what I learnt.

Don’t do it too early.

It’s too hard to really know maybe even in the first year whether people should be investing in this company.

You’ve got to prove your idea at some level; you need some evidence enabling you with good conscience to ask people to put money into your company.

It’s not hard to get a bit of evidence like an anchor sale, which demonstrates if you think you’re going to be able to sell a hundred of them, show me how you can sell one.

Study your first sale, see what the real cost was and then show me how you can sell a second and a third.  Hopefully by the time you’re at a hundredth sale you’re actually making more profit, which is usually what you promised was going to happen.

Create your investment pitch with a process in a defined time.

My advice is have an absolute clear business plan — clear, clear, clear, clear, clear. The narrative’s clear, the logic’s clear, and the numbers are accurate.  It may be describing something out there!  But at least it adds up.

Create the narrative, logic and model of numbers that join the dots to a path of a valuation.

Know all your multipliers driving the numbers supporting valuation and make certain anybody considering buying in understands what you are trying to do mathematically.

Investors

The difference between friends and family, angel and professional investors is huge.  It moves on a spectrum of deep investment in people at one end and strictly business at the other.

The rigor required to move along the investor spectrum from family to professional increases significantly at each stage.  The due diligence your plan will be subjected to is designed to stress test everything, including strategy, performance and people.

About this picture

When you visit the United Emirates you know you have landed in a cash creating region.  Building a Ferrari theme park in the desert is a sign that there could be way too much cash around.

You know you have a good travel buddy when you inevitably start fighting with each other on a travel adventure and not let that interrupt your hectic schedule.   This day was one of those days.  An argument had been brewing and we were going to have it out and I am sure we became one of the attractions at the theme park.

We laughed about this later recalling the looks on peoples faces.  I am grateful to have had such a great companion who could stop mid argument and say stand there, I think this would make a great pic.

 

 

Selling and negotiating

When somebody tells me they are starting a business, I have a bunch of reactions at the same time.

It’s usually a mixture of excitement and concern.  I love the enthusiasm people have when they are beginning a business adventure.  I get a little anxious knowing some of the challenges they will face and that their base probability of success is not high.

There is no exact formula to being successful or even repeating successful strategies. Whenever you start a new company, it is a little like starting a new game.  You only get to bring what you learnt so far and you should be getting better the more you do it.

There are some things you can do or learn anytime from any starting point that will give you advantages in this game.  I will be exploring that idea in this blog.

The game looks like this:

  1. Find a problem worth solving.
  2. Produce a unique and profitable solution and supply it effectively.

There are many ways to prepare for this game and, especially if you have limited resources, this is a good start.

  1. Learn sales.
  2. Learn to negotiate.
  3. Model, plan and execute.

Sales teaches you how to build a business inside another business, which is a very useful skill.

If you have never sold before or had limited bad experiences, give up that you know what good selling is and be prepared to learn from the ground up.

Get some good coaching, learn the basics and become a master of pipeline development.  Get an understanding that marketing generates leads that become customers with good selling.

Don’t try to teach yourself sales; your preconceptions and opinions will get in your way.

Get a sales job if you can and learn how it relates to the rest of the business.  It can be part time or full time and can be selling anything.

Learn that selling has nothing to do with convincing everyone you meet to buy anything.

Discover that it has more to do with finding and collecting customers who have  problems you can solve.  If you are fair, reliable and hardworking, you will be good at this and it will be something worth experiencing.

Learn how to negotiate.  I listen to a lot of people complaining about a deal or arrangement they are in.  When I ask them what they would rather have, they aren’t usually that clear.

If you don’t think you are getting what you are worth, consider that you never asked for anything specific and therefore should be grateful for whatever you got.

Learn to explain to people what is ideal for you.  It doesn’t mean that is your final position.

Sometimes when people request something from me and tell me how it would be ideal for them if it were done a certain way or for a set price, I think, yeah, that’s fair enough.  Sometimes I think, how about this instead?  It is always great when both parties are clear what looks good to each other.

Neither party should walk away from any negotiation having left something on the table.

Compromise is fine; being bitter about something you didn’t mention doesn’t help anyone.

Speak up.  People can accept or reject your offer.  Nobody is ever going to give an ideal outcome unless you ask for it.

If you have a story you like to tell everyone that you are an introvert, or shy, or a conflict avoider, or something that forces you not to present your view, then stop doing that.  Your future company is relying on you speaking on its behalf.

Get used to being in uncomfortable conversations because they can be the most interesting of all.

Notice yourself when you are reacting to words being spoken by people and just be with it.  Tune in to what they are saying and interrupt if you missed something or want clarity.  It is fun being exactly on the same page.

Model, plan and execute as a mode of operation.  In that order.  On everything you want to develop.

I always ask people to send me their current business plan.  I tell them not to prepare anything, just send me what they are working to right now.  Mostly what I get is insufficient.  Often it is nothing or just a set of accounts, or a slide deck, which is useful but not enough.

When I committed to coach ten thousand entrepreneurs I took on a responsibility to ensure I was heard when I said something important and that I was listened to as an expert.

The things I discussed above are not things I think are just a good idea.  I reckon they are fundamental to increasing your probability of success.  If you aren’t getting the results you expected, try some of this.  It works.

About this picture

Circa March 2016

Back seat of a London bus with my cuz.  I was born in the UK and this was my first time back since my parents immigrated to Australia in the seventies.  One of my goals when I went to the UK was to spend a couple of days with each of my cousins and have some fun.

We had a great time.

Training to be a tourist and producing a blog

I’ve always loved the idea of working on what I want and exercising the way I want at the same time.

So a few weeks ago I started testing out the idea of going for a walk and creating content for my blog on my iPhone using Voice Record Pro.  I wanted to produce more results without doing more work.

My hope was that by doing two really important things at once, those two activities will enhance each other and be better as a result.  That’s the theory anyway.

Fortunately, technology is on my side.  My smartphone can do a lot of things at once.  I am  using it in conjunction with a Fitbit, the Flex 2, which I wear on my left wrist.  I can record my activity in real time and it lets me know my phone is ringing.  These seem like very small functions but for me they are worth the inconvenience of having something on my arm all the time.

I like the fitbit flex because it’s light and reminds me a lot of the sort of bracelets you pick up on your travels around the world, the kind that are made by local villagers or that priests and monks offer with blessings.  So it’s kind of a modern high-tech version of that.

And that brings me to why I’m doing all this exercise—training, in effect, to be a tourist.

I live roughly 1.5 kilometres from a community pool, so my aim is to walk there, swim 300-500 metres and then walk home most days, a level of activity that I would consider fit enough to enjoy traveling and exploring the world.  As a tourist, I’m committed to seeing as much of any place on foot as I can.  And I’m always interested in things that are built locally and have a good story.  I buy and own so little that if I’m going to purchase anything, it better have a pretty good yarn connected to it.

This was my first recorded blog and I didn’t know what the outcome would be.  My plan was to email it to someone from freelancer.com, where I have had good success, get somebody to transcribe it and then I would edit the final release.

I ended up partnering with a friend who is a real editor with skills way beyond what I need to get the job done, and if you are still with me, this is what you have just read. Cheers.

 

About the photo

Circa 2013, ticking off my bucket list and visiting Egypt with one of my all time favorite travel buddies. I have walked hundreds of miles with this amazing friend of mine, and I even taught her to swim.

Our tour guide asked us if we wanted to do something off the normal itinerary, of course we said yes.

So we met him in Cairo, and sure enough he turns up with his mate and a couple of camels.  Cairo after dark was chaos; there was every type of transport imaginable, including horses, donkeys, motor bikes and camels.

So we rode off on our camels into the Sahara desert moonlight to find a Bedouin tent.  Halfway there, I was drifting off into the magnificence of the scene, the pyramids in the background lit up by the moon, when suddenly things felt kinda weird.

Next thing I am flat on my back on the sand.  The saddle had slipped off the back of my faithful ride and I definitely had a moment of shit this is the end.  I got my wind back and started to breathe.

I figured nothing was broke and knew that I had to get back on the Camel no matter what.  I did, we found the tent, where we smoked Shisha and partied with some locals.  We rode back without incident and now I have a story about falling off a camel in the Sahara Desert.

AirBnB + Sydney

Post number 4,

I flew into Sydney from Melbourne yesterday for a couple of days.  As I finish this post, I am in a little coffee shop in Sydney, dressed casually in a pair of shorts and a shirt, sipping coffee and enjoying every moment of this morning.

Last night, I caught up with a fellow entrepreneur and business owner for dinner.  It is always inspirational to share a meal and talk business strategy and execution with people who back themselves and go after what they want in life.

Later today I get to celebrate my exit from my previous company with my old team with drinks near the Sydney Opera House.

Later I am attending a white party in Sydney with an awesome husband and wife team who are also joint business owners and amazing entrepreneurs.  So far, I have a white pair of sneakers and a white hat.   I need to find some white pants and a shirt this morning.

The main subject of this post is Air BnB.

For the next couple of days I will be a high rise apartment in Sydney CBD hosted by a bright young lady I met via the Airbnb App.  I had a couple of timing arrangements I needed to be clear on and we were able to chat via the app.  When she responded almost instantly I knew we would get along fine.

She is a natural entrepreneur. Originally from Shanghai, she regularly rents out her spare room and has got it down to a fine art.  She also owns and operates a small business as part of her mission to gain citizenship in Australia.

The room is perfect.  Everything set up for a guest and I wrote a draft of this post at my new temp desk on her wifi on my #chromebook. I cannot help be moved by people who will fight everyday for what they really want in life

The room is costing about $US90 per night including cleaning fees.  Incredible value in Sydney.

I have also used this service in Austin Texas, Perth Western Australia and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

I am a fan.  I can only talk about my experiences so far and they have all been good.  The first time I used this service was in Austin Texas.  I was at a conference and I had a week off beforehand to have a look around.

Two friends also attending the conference agreed to share the cost.  We secured this amazing apartment with a balcony overlooking sixth street.

It had everything you could ever want.  By the time you put in cleaning fees it was about US$350 per night.

My next AirBnB adventure was in Perth, a beautiful apartment in the city, opposite Fast Eddies for those who know Perth.   It was such a fantastic place and I got to host some great friends for some good fun.  It cost me about $US 90 per night. Incredible value.

Recently I attended a conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia, again I took a couple of days leave before hand to check out Phnom Penh.   My friend and I secured a two bedroom apartment for about US $100 per night. Walking distance from all the attractions!

I am a big fan of the shared economy.  It is absolutely the future of things.  Owning lazy assets is a recipe for failure anyway. Reality is evolving into a faster and more ruthless environment everyday.  Only the fittest and leanest will survive.

As I set out on my global adventure, I intend to use Airbnb as one of my resources.  I have a couple more and will discuss them on another day.

About this picture

This photo is was taken in San Antonio Texas.  It features my two companions from my Austin Airbnb adventure.

My friend on the left had a bucket list item to to go see an NBA game live.  We got to see one of the finals and afterwards we walked into an amazing festival of live music and lots of fun.

For me there is nothing sweeter in life than traveling the world with great friends to amazing places and soaking up every moment you can.