- Posted 113 times, not counting today.
- Through at least the end of this year, I’m donating everything I’m make through this website to my local food bank.
- Created a lot of “Road Warrior” checklists2
- Posted about how to go about getting your laptop repaired3
- How to decide whether to repair or replace a laptop
- Hint: Scroll all the way down to the end of that post for a formula to help you decide whether you should repair or replace.
- Repairing with the manufacturer
- Repairing at a “big box” store
- How to decide whether to repair or replace a laptop
- A few posts about starting and running businesses:
Tag: Business Plan
Everyone has heard the phrase, “pull oneself up by the bootstraps.”1 It basically refers to using your current resources to reach the next step.
In a prior post I talked about “How to Start a Business: Plan B,” which was mainly about fund raising. Fund raising is the exact opposite of bootstrapping. If you can’t raise funding for your business and you’re really committed to it, you’ve got to find another way. That would be “Plan B.” In hindsight I would have entitled that post, “B is for Bootstrapping” or “Starting A Business On A Budget.”
For a very nuts-and-bolts look at starting a business, look to Guy Kawasaki‘s “The Art of Bootstrapping.” This is an excerpt from his new book, “Reality Check.” My understanding is that this book is a distillation of his prior books and blog posts. Its on my Christmas wish list, so I’ll look forward to reading it in about a month.
I used many of these bootstrapping techniques while building this website. Using the bullet points from Guy’s post, here’s some of the things I used to start this business:
- “Ship then test.” To be more exact, I tested the calculators rigorously but didn’t spend nearly as much time testing how the earliest versions of this website looked in different web browsers. Once I got it to work in Internet Explorer, I started marketing it.
- “Start a service business.” In the first few months of building this website I worked as a technology consultant and part-time programmer. In addition to being a nice change from my day job as an attorney and earning a little extra, it also gave me the chance to learn some new programming languages and techniques.
- “Go direct.” I schlepped my laptop to every appearance and showed off the website to every single attorney that was foolish enough to sit still and listen to me. Besides not having the resources to hire people to sell for me, it also allowed me to learn more about what my customers wanted. Keeping in touch with my clients/customers has lead to a LOT of new developments on this site.
As to “how” I started this business, here was my process:
- I wanted to build my own online rating calculators.2
- I bought a book about starting a business. “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki. $17.00 or so.
- I bought some books about web based programming languages. $55.00 or so for two books.
- “SAM’s Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL, and Apache” is probably written for the beginning programmer who’s already familiar with other programming language structures, but not with PHP, MySQL or Apache. I found this book the more helpful of the two.
- “PHP & MySQL Everyday Apps for Dummies” assumed I knew the basics about PHP / MySQL and would be able to edit the functions and code presented.
- I bought a few website domain names. $10.00 each.
- I wrote a “prototype” of the 1997 and 2005 permanent disability rating calculators. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
- Once I had a working prototype, I bought some web space. $180.00 for two years.
- Market the website.
- Make a sale.
- Develop more features and/or improve the site.
- Lather, rinse, repeat steps 6 – 8.
Before I start talking computer repair, I offer three caveats. First, I have no formal training in diagnosing, repairing, or even using computers. Second, I have no experience with repairing an Apple or Mac computer. Third, all of the below only applies to laptop repair. Its incredibly easy to swap out components on a desktop.
You’ve done the math and decided that it is a better use of your resources to repair your non-functional and out-of-warranty laptop.1 You know that sending an out of warranty laptop to the manufacturer is a bad idea. But, what about a big box store like Best Buy, Circuit City2 , and Fry’s?3
Option 2: Big Box Stores
When I’m not buying computer or electronics components online, I like Best Buy for products and Fry’s for components. However, I would never have a computer diagnosed or repaired by either place.
First, let’s recognize that a big box store has certain priorities. As such, their staff are trained to sell, not to diagnose or repair. I imagine their priorities are, in order: (1) Sell you things, (2) sell you warranties for things, (3) sell you new things, and (4) sell you warranties for those new things, (5) LLR. 4 From a capitalistic perspective, its hard to argue with a business plan like this.
A little burned out component on the motherboard takes very special equipment and skill to replace. When faced with such a problem you can replace the entire computer, the motherboard5 , or just that one component.
From calling numerous computer repair facilities, I know very few of them have the special equipment and skill required to replace a single tiny component on a motherboard. If dedicated repair facilities do not typically have this equipment, I doubt big box stores would be up to the task.
I think everyone’s heard the horror stories or seen the TV investigations of big box computer store repair services scamming unwary or uninformed consumers. I have friends who hired Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” and still didn’t have their problems fixed.
If I were a very cynical person6 I’d suggest that big box stores hire untrained staff who have a vested interest in charging a diagnostic fee to tell you that your computer and all your data is beyond recovery.
Luckily, I believe the third option, finding a reliable dedicated computer repair shop, is your best bet.
A while ago a very entrepreneurial friend of mine suggested I read a book called, “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki. This one book is responsible in no small part for the website you see today.1 Guy worked for Apple and later started an influential and innovative venture capital firm, Garage. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s a frequent lecturer, best selling author, and avid blogger.
In one of his recent articles, he talks about “Plan B for Fund Raising.” Here’s my take on Plans A and B:
Anyone who was alive during the late 90’s has heard of “Plan A.” Build a prototype, put together a PowerPoint presentation, get some venture capital, and spend venture capitalist money. You know how this story ends. The company gets bought out and everyone is rich or the company never goes anywhere and its assets are sold for scrap.
Anyone who was alive during the 70’s knows all about “Plan B.” These are the people who started businesses in their garage. I suppose we really only hear about the success “Plan B” stories. No one’s surprised when a home business doesn’t go big so no one talks about it. Plan B is where somebody believes so feverishly in their own idea they work on it nights and weekends after they come home from their day job as a barrista.
The whole reason I’m writing this blog post, indeed the reason why I have this blog and website at all, is because of “Plan B.” At its most hectic in the last year, I was working a day job, doing contract attorney and techie work for various clients, while marketing and programming these calculators. While I didn’t live with my parents, I participated in a surprisingly (and embarrassingly) large number of the activities Guy describes under Plan B.
This is NOT something I intend to do ever again. Thankfully, the hard work of building the calculators is done.3 These days my only continuing time commitment to this site is writing blog posts and answering fan mail.4