The Hot Mommas Project has no business model. Is that wrong? Okay, maybe that is not totally true. We have 5 out of 6 parts of a business model. The clincher: We’re missing the economics. So, to rationalize this – I have decided there are two primary ways to look at business models. This can be summarized as:
A. What I teach my students at GW.
B. The “Because it would be cool” theory.
A. Okay, let’s first start with what I teach my students about business models. One of the best business model tools out there is a 6 part process constructed by a team at Syracuse led by Michael Morris.
The 6 parts of the business model – in layperson’s terms – according the the Michael Morris paper are:
1. How we create value – what you do/make and put out there in society
2. For whom – okay, this one is self explanatory
3. Internal comp advantage – operational efficiencies or processes that make you better
4. External com advantage – how folks outside the company know you’re better
5. Economics – how you make money
6. Exit strategy – what is your exit from this business, is there one?
This is an incredibly back-of-the envelope description of the paper by Mike Morris and his team, but, you get the general idea. There is a grid at the back of the paper I have students fill out using various business examples. First, we start with a seemingly non-businessy example. Mine is Lord of the Rings. I hand out a summary about the filming, the tax advantages they gained filming in New Zealand, how they filmed it all at once, how they locked in the stars for all three in doing that, the rights to the book, the cult following, and some other stuff. Then, using information we just know – because we walk upright and have cable – the students talk about how the movie makes money. That’s fun. That’s when they realize they know more than they thought about business. Last, is the exit strategy part. This is a zinger. LOTR really shows students how movie makers put in a TON OF MONEY for something that they HOPED would make a ton of money back in a relatively short period of time. There is, however, no way to be sure. What does this sound like? Uh? Venture Capital? So, the movie industry has been doing this for a loooooong time before VCs became the Britney of finance. Mark Ordesky was one of the LOTR producers and we have talked about collaborating on this curriculum, which would be cool. Which gets me to my next point.
P.s. Don’t confuse business model with business plan. Here is a good piece on business plans.
B. The “because it would be cool” business model.
I started the Hot Mommas Project because it was needed (See first post, and blog brief or about page). I also thought it would be cool. People had, and continue to have, all sorts of ideas for how the Hot Mommas Project can make money. However, I am pretty much just forging ahead with what fills a need in women’s education. Exposure to role models correlates with women’s professional success. So, we provide role models on paper so the stories of those leaders can be read anywhere, anytime, free. (Side note: We used to sell the cases, but, that was a pain.) Family and work life balance is a HUGE issue globally impacting the supply and demand side of employment. So, Hot Mommas Project cases address the personal lives and backgrounds of case protagonists are discussed along with business lessons such as the 4 Ps of marketing and what have you. All of this is geared to be taught in a classroom, so educators are preparing the next generation of workers with the toolkits that research – and reality – shows they need. I am not sure how we are going to make money to be honest. I’ve thought of a coaching network with exclusive access to our data. I’ve thought of workshops and conferences. I just don’t know. All I know is I’m doing the right thing by starting this initiative and I’ll let the case readers tell me what they need.
I am intrigued by the term “CLOG” – which I made up the other day – since what we are producing is a hybrid between a case study and a blog. So, maybe we’ll be the inventor of CLOGS, but, a clog we can all be proud of and not just associated with bell bottoms and unattractive hair styles. Here is a sample CLOG (the kind we are building).
Others who I perceive have a “because it would be cool” business model:
Both of these guys are successful and intelligent. My guess is they don’t get involved in much of anything that won’t ultimately make scads of money. However, at the outset they appeared very personally connected to their ventures and doing it because they though it would be cool….not just for money. Is this true guys? I would love to know and will forward you this post. Clearly there are big markets for both areas in which Guy and Peter are involved. Ted Leonsis, friend of the Hot Mommas Project, won’t get involved in a market under 10 million clients.
The Hot Mommas Project is involved in the education market, specifically written products which is a $15 billion dollar market globally. Can you help us brainstorm a financial model for the Hot Mommas Project?
The alternative title to this post is, “How to fake like you’re a big company” or “Running it lean and mean.” Let’s get right into it since I’m on vacation in Vermont. One little story, then onto the top 7.
(Note: See past posts for our long-standing, co-dependent relationship with coffee. Nintendo recently rejected a sponsorship request from us. Starbucks MUST be involved in some way. WE ARE SOLICITING ANY AND ALL IDEAS FOR SPONSORS FOR OUR CASE STUDY LIBRARY, KICKED OFF BY OUR COMPETITION OCT 13.)
Hey everyone, welcome Achin to The Hot Mommas Project! He is a George Washington University MBA student. Here, he holds the Indian equivalent of Starbucks. He is in India right now and will join us in the fall.
INTERLUDE [Samba music plays, rudely interrupted by "You are My Friend" the horrific Barney themesong]
Setting: The Posh Frey Honda Pilot (recently downgraded from an Acura MDX as Kathy has a gripping phobia of investing in depreciating assets).
Location: Driving from Lake George (our rainy-day plan) back to Vermont (our vacation location, where there is nothing to do in bad weather).
Josh (my husband): [Seeing a shirtless, blonde Grizzly Adams looking hitchhiker] “Hey! Let’s pick him up.”
Kathy: “Ha! Yeah.” [Pause] “Well, we do need to start looking for a new au pair.”
Josh: [After passing shirtless Grizzly Adams] “He could have been a good one.”
Kathy: [Feigning "interested friend" voice] “Your new aupair is so great! Where did you find him?” [Feigning response] “Oh, we found him on the side of the road one day on vacation.”
Josh: [Feigning response] “Yeah! Just south of a federal correctional institution in New York! No problem.”
And so goes the cost-effective search for a new au pair for the Frey family.
END INTERLUDE [Barney Theme song ends]
P.s. Did you know there is a full-on anti-Barney trend? Riveting.
This is a really odd, tangential method of transitioning into the Top 7 Low/No Cost resources for businesses (no, we will not suggest you pick up Grizzly Adams hitchhikers for subsidized staff members):
1. Advice. Advice is the best free thing you can get. How to get good advice:
- KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. If you are someone who thinks, “Oh, I’ll just figure it out” you’re in trouble. I’ve noticed the willingness/ tendency/ propensity in certain people to spend 5 hours on the internet searching for something versus 5 minutes on the phone solving the problem. I make sure my interns don’t do this (see item #7). I have a list: “STUFF I DON’T KNOW THAT IS CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF THE HOT MOMMAS PROJECT.” Then, I search for smart people who can help me with those issues (see next item).
- HOW TO GET A NETWORK: Social media allows for relationships never before available to folks outside of the right schools or social circles. Go to www.Alltop.com to see who the players are in your industry. If they’re blogging, you can reach them. I have also seen entrepreneurs benefit tremendously from EO (forum) and like groups. Personally, I have relied on all of the above plus I have specifically sought out role models/business luminaries I admire and am in varying stages of contacting them/working with them. For example: Ted Leonsis, Bob Prosen, Guy Kawasaki, and Stewart Friedman. The latest are Tim Ferriss, Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, and I am trying to get in touch with Gina Bianchini who co-founded Ning with Marc Andreesson of Netscape. Based on this, Esther – my right hand woman – approached Senator Lieberman (whom she idolizes) at the movies, told him about the Hot Mommas Project, and is emailing with him. Go Esther!
- EXAMPLE: I posted the following on Twitter the other day
how atrocious is our website? We need free help for exposure. anyone? www.hotmommas.org
2. Low Cost Web Templates. I thought I was all cost efficient using the $5 GoDaddy template when I first took the Hot Mommas Project online. Good: It’s cheap. Bad: It sucks. As we became more tech-savvy, I realized: a. It was pathetic-looking and b. It was incredibly slow (shared server, not dedicated server). Here are some resources suggested by Frank Gorton (fgorton on Twitter), who is a social media expert and worked with AOL and Monster.com, among others, during his career:
- http://www.wordpress.com – Good templates, says Frank. Even though I am doing our insiders blog on wordpress, I didn’t realize that you could use a wordpress template for your whole site (click here for Hot Mommas Project non-insiders blog). Frank recommended this to us based on our needs at this stage of the project (Nutshell of our project: Building world’s largest women’s case study library. Kicking off w/ case study competition launching October 13, 2008. Read more here.)
- http://www.templatemonster.com- Frank told us about this, and Achin (new intern) had heard of it too. I have zero time (as I am doing this part time, have two kids, and yada yada) and really need to rely on others to cut through the mess and act as the social media Consumer Reports for me.
- http://www.ning.com. Everyone thinks Ning is awesome (“awesome” word count from past 2 blog posts: 3). You can start a community for free using their software (with a Ning address), and for a nominal fee use your own address. It was founded by Gina Bianchini and Mark Andreesson. Here is a cool video c/o Robert Scoble.
3. Low Cost “Other Stuff” for Our Site. Aside from the basic “how to pimp out your blog” items (see first post reference to Seth Godin’s article on this), Frank specifically noted the following beyond the basic widgets and RSS stuff:
- www.Vimeo.com – get a free account and build video content. Frank suggested we film our Hot Mommas Project case study protagonists to connect people with our educational tools and take “role models on paper” to “role models on film.” We had dreamed of doing this for a long time, and were even approached by some Hollywood folk, but this is quick and does the job.
- www.Brightcove.com – Here are some syndication products from Brightcove (think “Alliare” – inventors of ColdFusion software). This could be useful if the above (Hot Mommas video case studies) are a hit or there is other content we want to syndicate (like our research on best practices in work life balance).
-http://www.Twitter.com - Twitter – it’s everywhere. Frank suggested having a Twitter widget on our site would, again, humanize it and help connect people with our cause: Providing academic tools to serve as role models for women and girls (Cool Daddies beta – too!).
If you’ve ever gotten an email from Guy Kawasaki, here is something he uses that he lists as part of his signature: SpinVox(will convert voicemail to email). You can also usually find lots of fun widgets on Guy’s blog.
4. Low Cost Developers and Designers. Achin, our newest addition, found a developer in India to convert our whole site onto a blog template if we don’t have the fortitude to do it ourselves. Frank uses a developer who charges him about $12 per hour. Contact Frank (fgorton) if you want to know who this is. Here is who Achin found for us: http://www.compose.co.in/.
P.s. Re Designers, I’ve heard of folks using eLance. I use Brad Imburgia who developed the Hot Mommas Project logo. I also used our interns to do some work. (see #7) I’m sure India also has designers.
6. Low Cost and Professional Looking Printing. Big fan of Vista Print. If you plan far enough in advance, can be UNBELIEVABLY cheap.
7. INTERNS. This is a biggie, so, if you do not care about interns stop reading now. When thinking low or no cost, my personal favorite is interns. My favorite place to list them is at GW’s career site. You can also integrate your post in with NACElink which lists nationally. I also have friends who have used Craig’s list (under part time or your industry). In 1 or 2 years, these interns are going to cost someone $40,000 to $70,000 plus benefits. So, why not receive help from their fabulous brains NOW. I have had to learn to do the following to be successful with interns:
- LIST AT THE RIGHT TIME. Think student. When are they looking for internships? Post in between January-April for the spring semester (by May you’ve probably lost them to finals). Post by early August for Fall. Post in the Fall before Thanksgiving for the Spring semester. I cannot tell you how many business owners contact me during finals in May and say, “Can you tell your students about this internship?” I give it a 1 in 100 chance at that point.
- BE GOOD AT TRAINING If you suck at mentoring, or don’t have the time or interest, don’t bother.
- HAVE AN “IT” or specific thing they can do. There is no such thing as too much definition or clarity. Consultants, project managers, and individuals who think this way can usually easily get their brains around this.
- HAVE A WAY TO MONITOR the “it.” I discuss this in an earlier post. It is easier if you have done a good job setting a clear goal or “it” (mentioned above). I am CONSTANTLY adjusting this based on what I see in the person’s performance (e.g., If I sense they are overloaded, I stop sending lists of things to do and re-focus them a la ”HERE’S WHAT WE MUST DO BY TODAY.” I will ask them to tell me, with hours by tasks, how they are spending their day…in this way, we work on time management together).
- HAVE SPACE FOR THEM. I have had experience with the student population through teaching. One thing I’ve learned is: It is HARD for most to work on their own and deliver what they say unless they are EXTRAORINARY. So, ixnay on the virtual/independent working.
- SELECT GOOD ONES. I try to select interns where I see a minimum 1/4 ratio. That is, for every 1 hour I spend with them, they can do 4 hours of work. If I can combine several interns into the one hour, great, that is an exponential amount of work being done when everyone goes on their merry way to do a project. A list of questions I ask is below:
HOW TO INTERVIEW INTERNS:
Interview #1: Phone interview. Min = 15 mins, Max = 1 hour
a. What drew you to the Hot Mommas Project? (Desired answer = They are interested in/passionate about the project. This is KEY.)
b. Tell us about _______________. (Ask about several items on resume to get a sense of responsibilities). We ask about GPA if there is a problem. Below a 3.0 is a red flag (see “e” and “f” below).
c. What are your top 3 strengths? Draw from group projects, other internships? (We like to see social sophistication and a drive to succeed. If this is not apparent, we ask another question later).
d. What is something on which you’d like to work or improve. (We like to hear them admit a real weakness vs. some B.S. At this point we figure they are an over-achiever type anyway, a couple chinks in the armor show self-awareness which is ESSENTIAL for self-correction).
e. How do you organize yourself? Explain an example – beginning to end – using a major assignment or work project. (We like to see someone with an actual process for organization. If they suck at organizing themselves this means your tasks will not get done, as much as you may like them in the interview. You can turn a B+ into an A, you cannot turn a C or D into an A is our experience).
f. Do you tend to overextend yourself? (This is BEYOND CRITICAL for students who are doing MANY MANY things and often will get into the semester, freak out, then bail on you. Ask this up front. Dig a bit.)
g. What questions do you have for us? (We like smart questions, but, many are overwhelmed so we assign it to them for the next interview. We say, “Come with three questions to the next interview” if they proceed to the second round.)
h. Of the items I’ve described, what sound the most interesting to you? (If you have some flexibility and can match the intern’s interests to specific functions, you’ll have a greater chance of a happy worker.)
Interview #2 (if we ran out of time, but had a good vibe about the person, we’ll send some of the above questions for them to answer via email in between Interview 1 and 2).
a. What additional questions do you have about the project? (They should have been assigned 3).
b. What ideas do you have for the project? (They were assigned a “task” of coming up with 1-3 ideas to make sure they “get” the project).
c. Are you interested in the project (usually already apparent by end of first interview and email interactions in between interviews 1 and 2)? (If we like them) Rate your interest from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. If not a 10, what would make it a 10? (Take notes to integrate into their job during the internship to – again – create happy workers).
d. (If we like them) We’d like to formally offer you the __________internship. (Discuss start date, weekly schedule, their ability to continue beyond one semester, confirming they understand the internship is unpaid, making for-credit arrangements, other logistics. WRITE THIS DOWN and make sure you EACH HAVE A COPY.)
PARTING THOUGHTS: Gotta run, on vacation, need to go look for hitchhikers.
I also affectionately refer to this post as: “How to get s*&t done.”
What are the big takeaways from today’s post?:
Esther, pictured here (with our original business partner), and I have been religiously and regularly deploying the “F-word”: FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS. We have been very focused on results, and – unfortunately – not fun stuff like blogs.
What is the Hot Mommas Project: In case you are lost, the Hot Mommas Project (www.HotMommas.org) is an award-winning research and curriculum endeavor on how successful professional women balance it all. Click here for main blog. Our goal this year is to build and launch a global case study competition in which women write their own case, tell their story, help others in doing so, and might get just get in one of the nation’s top textbooks by Prentice Hall! (Let’s not forget the cash and prizes). Click here if you would like to nominate someone you know, or be notified when the competition is live. Now, onto our post:
Focus - What has NOT been happening. I started this post about a month ago and am only finishing it now. Why? I’ve been focusing. Two of my three team members bailed on me. A set back, yes, but it forced a high level of prioritization. Here are some keys and tips that are working:
1. PRIORITIES AND FOCUS: KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE. The Hot Mommas Project survey research (data from highly successful professional women who also want to have a life) indicates that PRIORITZATION AND FOCUS are the keys to the universe. More on this in the future, just trust me.
2. SAY NO. SAYING NO IS A PART OF PRIORITIZATION AND FOCUSING. Newsflash to some of us overachiever “oh…I’ll just do it myself” types. Men focus this naturally because of the way their brains work.Toilet paper roll not changed? Bed not made? It’s focus ladies. The beauty of what’s NOT getting done COULD be – gasp – FOCUS. Not on the top three list, not getting done.
Note 1: See brain book which I’ve mentioned before.
Note 2: This of course does not allow frat boys doing beer bongs to claim they are “focusing.”
TIP: HAVING TROUBLE? Develop a DO NOT DO LIST.Works wonders. Did it when I was pregnant/post-preggo, hormonal, and nuts.
3. DELEGATE: THIS MEANS GOOD PEOPLE. Esther is like having 2 staffpeople. And I don’t mean multiple personality disorders. I mean, she is on top of it. So, the lesson here is GOOD PEOPLE ALLOW YOU TO FOCUS. Here is my time triage with a bad person/staffer:
TYPICAL DAY WITH BAD STAFFER:
2 hours – meeting and download with staffperson.
4 hours – staffperson works independently on project, I do my stuff.
2 hours – clean up of staffperson’s crap work. Assign staffperson some other less meaningful task I feel they can’t mess up.
2 hours – staff person works on their menial task, I get some work done.
After work: 1-5 hours – worrying about what crap work I’m going to see tomorrow.
-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 6 hours
-Total time spent worrying: 1-5 hours
-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 2?
TYPICAL DAY WITH ESTHER:
2 hours – meeting and download with Esther.
4 hours - Esther works independently on project.
.5 hours – Approve and press “send” on project with Esther.
3.5 hours – Esther moves onto her next thing, I move onto my next thing.
1-5 hours – thinkng how awesome Esther is and how I am looking forward to tomorrow
-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 7.5 hours
-Total time spent being positive and happy: 1-5 hours
-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 7.5 hrs
GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE. Can’t say it enough. I finally get when the business books/business experts say “get good people.”
4. HAVE A PROCESS/FORUM FOR TOUCHING BASE ON PRIORITIES. Esther and I are really, really, really focused on results. We are constantly in touch about the big picture (where we are heading) and what steps we need to be taking NOW to get there. In addition, I want to make sure to this is a rewarding experience for Esther so that we are in a mututally beneficial situation. Here is how we accomplish the above:
4a. Bi-Monthly Culture Check Ins.We sit down every other week at the beginning of the week. I ask her, “How is it going? Poor, Good, Great, Really Great?” Esther told me in our first meeting that things were going “Great.” I said, “What would get it to ‘Really Great’?” She said, “Talking with more contacts and coming to more meetings.” So…that is what we did. When there was a meeting, I included her. When there was an opportunity to speak with a partner or the media, I assigned it to her. By our next meeting two weeks later, Esther was giving the experience a “Really Great” rating. It has to be a two-way street, however. Employers working with Generation Y may be tempted to make it all about what the employee wants. However, this does not allow for growth or mentoring. During that same meeting, I rated the experience a “Great” also. I told her that when we started producing actual deliverables, I would probably lean more toward a “Really Great” rating. So…that is what we have been FOCUSED on: Actual Results. Not a lot of chasing your tail.
Tip: Think – if I could only do 3 things today, what would they be?Then FOCUS! Screen/test your answer by following up with this question: “Will these three things get me closer to my major goal MORE than other tasks?” If not – time to REPRIORITIZE. Tim Ferriss is a real hard a*& about this stuff in The Four Hour Work Week.
4b. Daily Check Ins. Esther and I check in daily. We work off a list of priorities. The list is shaped based on:
a. Our goal (in this case launching a case study competition) and
b. Meetings with experts (please, don’t try to reinvent the wheel…such a time drain). For example, we met with a PR expert who told us NOT to lead with information about the Hot Mommas Project survey research. Susan Matthews Apgood, owner of News Generation, told us, “The case study competition is much more interactive. There is something in it for people. They can participate, tell their own case study, help others, and be honored by winning prizes and getting their case published in a text book. LEAD with the story about the case study competition.” Well, this conversation changed everything for us. We had to be able to quickly adjust, and re-assign tasks based on the readjusted priorities.
5. RE-PRIORITIZE, RE-FOCUS. If you have a regular process for meeting to discuss goals and steps for achieving those goals, it allows for quick correction and re-prioritization. Catch as catch can meetings don’t always allow for this. It’s part of the criticism about virtual workplaces. Thus, a formal structure needs to be created for communicating – even if it’s just a “call staff” note in Outlook. I would say that at every other meeting, Esther and I slightly bump up or down an item on the list.
PARTING THOUGHT: Ted Leonsis talked about the relentless drive to execute in a Cool Daddies case we did on him. He checked in with staff regularly. He was basically seeing if they were getting the job done, and what they needed to get it done. He had a saying, “No bad days.” A bad day would lead to a bad week, a bad week would lead to a bad quarter, etc. It is about having processes for early correction. I think he was probably effective in building AOL, and achieving his other successes, because of this trait…but also because people wanted to do well for him. Thus, steps 4a and 4b – and this post as a whole – is my attempt to model these behaviors.
I also started thinking, “Why the hell am I doing this blog?” Putting all my stuff out there. Horrible old boyfriends could be reading this. (If you are a horrible old boyfriend or stalker, please click here and never come back). Considered 86-ing the whole thing. Still considering it.
Trying not to make any major decisions now. More next week (maybe).
5.01 pm update
In a sort of paradoxical twist, two of my mom’s ICU nurses are massive Caps fans (Washington Capitals Hockey). The Caps are majority owned by Ted Leonsis, of whom I am a massive fan, and about whom I wrote a “Cool Daddies” case that was just published in a business textbook. I emailed Ted and he arranged for the nurses to meet the team next season. Ted is so cool that way. So, is this the “sign”? “Don’t give up…keep going with Hot Mommas and Cool Daddies Project. You can’t avoid it…even when your mom is in ICU?”
Parting thought: Thinking I will probably continue now and that is is fairly wimpy of me to consider anything else. Hellooo? Am I learning anything from the Hot Mommas I’ve surveyed? Persistence is one of the top 3 traits.