There comes a time when you are up against a limit, especially in a serviced based business, where you can’t grow unless you expand your business beyond yourself. In my case, I’ve hit that stage—in fairness probably quite a while ago.

Where others are perfectly happy about running their small business, or one person consultancy, I have always had far bigger plans. I have a vision to grow my companies into something much larger, because I believe we provide something that others really do not.

This is why my businesses have been global from the start, and it is also why I am now more than ever forced to make an active expansion decision. It involves finding staff.

Finding staff is risky. Hiring someone costs a lot of money, and you better be sure you have the business to pay for it, or they money to sit it out while you wait. This is a financial risk that I simply cannot afford to take at this moment in my life, for various reasons. In just running the business, I constantly run a personal financial risk—all small business owners do. It would seem foolish to risk a thriving business, simply to grow in size, especially at this time in life.

The other option is to grow by consultants. Unfortunately finding talented freelancers is tricky. As a conscious manager, I am actively trying to find people that are better than me. People that are experts in areas where I am not. Finding great people is hard, because great people are busy. That’s what characterizes finding a great freelancer—they are otherwise engaged.

I still believe in growing by freelancers and consultants and I am always actively on the lookout for great people to involve in projects, because that means that we can be even better and deliver even greater results. I also firmly believe that growing in this way sets us up for further expansion later, and the possibility of long-term bringing these people on board as full time staff, as more business comes in. As far as trade-offs go, I feel this solution brings value to everyone. My businesses, my clients and of course the freelancer or consultant.

This post is one in a longer series in trying to share the daily struggles of being a young entrepreneur and businessman. As always, let me know your thoughts, comments or questions.

A recording has been making the rounds this week by Ryan Block of Gdgt, where he is trying to cancel is service with Comcast in the US. In the eight minute conversation (following after his wife, another tech journalist Veronica Belmont, gave up!), Ryan calmly tries to get the rep to just cancel, while the rep just won’t do it.

Comcast has naturally responded to this by blaming the employee for this, and are allegedly trying to get the employee to personally apologize. And this is where they go wrong.

See, I do not believe for a minute that this employee is acting in a very unusual way. Contrary, many people are sharing similar stories. In a typical sales/customer service/customer retention department, compensation would undoubtedly today be set in part by performance. For a so-called retention specialist, this is likely to translate into how many customers he or she can persuade not to cancel.

This story shows a series of issues, the least being how much good a nice experience even when canceling can do. More broadly, it highlights how disposable these low level sales people are to companies today.

For Comcast, it is convenient to have just another scape goat. It does, however, in fact just serves to highlight the systematic approach, which is likely not at all limited to just one person.

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. As I mused over this January, it is something hard to just sit down and take the time.

Business-wise there are quite some things going on. Perhaps the most time and energy consuming thing is planning and realizing an expansion to Germany. The timing makes sense and the potential for refreshed websites seems rather good in Germany. And so, to the German market we go with a new website offer at XLD Studios and Bernskiold Media gets to come along for the ride.

When we developed the new site for the new direction that Bernskiold Media is taking we made it multilingual from the start and I very recently added German as a language on the site. For XLD Studios, this takes some more work as the Swedish and English sites need to be consolidated and refreshed, partly because of the new direction and positioning.

Apart from actually making the website changes there are the practicalities of an office address, a place to live in Frankfurt and getting trivialities such as bank accounts and phone numbers set up. Despite the great deal of work, it is fun and I am much looking forward to extending my travel to include many trips between Gothenburg and Frankfurt in the coming months.

Viel Spaß bis nächstes Mal!

goodui

User Interface design is always tricky. It not only involves a bit of creativity, but needs decisions on business and branding as well as take psychology and the human user into consideration.

The site GoodUI has a running list which is being continuously updated, with good practical ideas to improving user interfaces. My suggestion is to bookmark, read and revise. You might know many of them, but being reminded about them is always a good thing, for everyone.

Amazon has been awarded a patent on a pretty nifty idea that they are calling “Anticipatory Shipping”. Basically, they are going to be using customer data to predict where, geographically, an item is most likely to be ordered and likely in what quantity. With this information, Amazon will be trying to shift inventory as close to these locations as possible to achieve as short as possible delivery times, when a customer finally does order.

The idea is, like most good ideas, surprisingly simple. By realizing that customers don’t want to wait and that there (most likely) are customer behavior patterns, this new “anticipatory shipping” idea might become a big success—if they manage to do it properly.

It’s effect on small businesses

For Amazon, this is all good, but what about small businesses? If this catches on, small businesses might have an even bigger problem on their hands. Doing what Amazon is doing will appeal to customers and if this catches on—which I am confident that it will—other stores will have no option but to try and follow.

This highlights an oft forgotten need for logistics. When we at Bernskiold Media work with clients to launch e-commerce sites, it happens more often than not, that people have forgotten about shipping and logistics. Yet, this is one of the processes that customers care about. The lead time from ordering to receiving your product is still one of the biggest obstacles for e-commerce.

As Amazon is trying to overcome this, it puts greater pressure on small businesses to care about logistics too. While it may not right now be realistic to think in the same size and scope as Amazon, just giving logistics a thought in the purchasing process is a good step forward.