Start From Nothing 2011

Start Line

In November, 2008, I wrote if I started today. This post is partially an update to that, and partially a new view based on what I’ve learned over the last few years. It presumes that you have control of most of the elements. (And you do).

My Goal – Build a Sustainable, Relationship-Minded Business Platform With Growth/Reach In Mind

If you don’t start with a goal, you have nothing. If I started from nothing, goal is always first. No matter what business I wanted to start, this would be the model: sustainable (I make money), relationship-minded (I grow partnerships and empower those who touch my business), platform (it’s never going to be a one-trick pony), with growth/reach in mind (media and networking matters).

With me?

The Base of My Platform

No matter what business I’d start, there would be three baseline elements:

  • Site
  • List
  • Media

My site could be a blog, could be an ecommerce site, could be whatever, but if I have no web presence, I have no business. If the business is local, then I’d enact all the local technologies to put my site on Google Local and Facebook Places and into the geoweb. The site is first on my mind and it has to be useful to my community, full of ideas with handles (ideas that people can use for themselves with or without a purchase), and something that others will want to reference.

My list is simply a database and email reach so that I can keep specific relationships in mind. I can touch people and deliver to them that which is of value to both of us. I can be as specific as social client relationship management (SCRM) tools can inform me. The list is everything. Jeff Pulver told me in September 2006, “You live or die by your database.” I wrote about it in Trust Agents. I talk about it as often as people will let me. Without a list, there’s no business for me, no matter what the end goal of the business ends up being.

Media is a fancy way of saying stories and connections. I want networking. I want coverage. I want stories. If I were building something to sell products into a lakefront community, then I’d have a news source that gave those people useful information, that shared each others’ stories, and that promoted the community who would use those products. I build media in lots of ways, from direct human connections, from telling stories digitally, from video and what-not. You’ve caught on that the technology specifics don’t matter as much, right? In fact, I’d want a mix no matter what. I’d want print sometimes, or geo-media sometimes, or heavy video other times. That’s not the point. It just has to be part of the mix.

Homebases and Outposts

This hasn’t changed from my earlier planning. My site and my list are my home base. Things like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn are outposts online. Things like local associations are outposts offline. Outposts are where you go to stimulate communications and to promote growth/reach. Outposts are “fishing where the fish are” instead of putting the line in the water where you happen to be. I want people to have my home base in their mind but I will do my first few transactions out in the outposts.

Does that make sense? I don’t “live” on these social networks, but I also don’t “live” on my home bases. I put the VALUE at the home base, and I put the INTERACTION on the outposts.

Value Feeding

If I want a relationship-minded network to work for my community, I have to deliver all the constituents of this community some kind of value. If you’re not finding reasons to show up, then why would you stay a part of my community? That’s the big goal behind value feeding.

Another way of thinking of this is as business karma. Every business I create from here on out has some version of “business karma” built into it. I started Escape Velocity because I wanted a place where I could showcase some brilliant minds doing excellent stuff (and I wanted to pretend I was one of them). My goal is to help develop those people’s business all while growing everything else that I’m doing.

Other ways I feed value are to throw events and projects that will help others. I did a job search webinar that people who subscribe to my free newsletter were invited to attend. The more I think of ways to feed value into my network, the more yield that network will have overall. The health of one’s network ties back to how much value you feed it.


In this case, I’m not talking about replantable crops when I talk about sustainability. I want business practices that sustain everyone involved. I want to put money in people’s pockets. I want to deliver value for the money I take from your pockets. I want the model not to be a transaction-and-leave, but a transaction-and-relationship. Every project I work on has an element of sustainability.

For your own projects, I implore you to think about those elements before you launch. Sometimes, just doing something for fun is a great thing. It’s always more creative to launch from a “we don’t really know what’s going to come of this” mindset. But if you have absolutely no view towards what the project is going to do to grow your efforts, then in my opinion, it’s a hobby. That’s not a bad thing, but you just have to accept that hobbies don’t pay the mortgage and go from there. (I have a few hobby projects.)

Network Extension

I grow projects by leveraging my awareness and ability in one aspect and shine what light I’ve collected to the new project. I extend the platform and the growth potential of my projects that way. This network extension is tricky, but is the core of any successful effort I’ve made. Any time I fail, it’s when I don’t do that part right.

That’s the Basics

If I started from nothing (and I start from nothing every few weeks), that’s what I do. You might have different goals. Some of this might not apply. That’s all okay. The point is that this is a starting point for your own ideas, not a recipe. In fact, I’ll cover a few more details inside Third Tribe for the members, but what you have here should/could be enough to get your juices flowing.

Thoughts? Questions? Disagreements? Ideas to extrapolate? Where do you want to take this?

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