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 BLOG >> October 2012

Holzer on farming success [Agriculture
Posted on October 23, 2012 @ 05:35:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Starting reading a book called Sepp Holzner' Permaculture. Sepp takes agricultural innovation to the next level at his mountain side farm in Krameterhof, Austria.

On p.54, Seth asserts the key to farm growth:

"...it is your own strengths and weaknesses that help a farm to grow and nothing else."

What is true of farm success is also true of startup success. Like Sepp, you are attempting to carve your business out of the side of a mountain and a key determinant of whether you will succeed will be your profile of strengths and weaknesses.

Here is a recent film on Sepp if you want to learn more:

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Getting serious about a hobby [Startups
Posted on October 18, 2012 @ 09:46:00 AM by Paul Meagher

In the farming industry, there are lots of "hobby farmers". Presumably this refers to people who are into farming for the lifestyle aspects of it rather than to make it into significant source of income. The tax code also likes to distinguish between hobby farming versus serious farming, where hobby farmers are more likely to get audited if they claim too many expenses - the Canadian Revenue Agency views it as a potentially illegitimate tax shelter.

What is true of farming is probably true of many entrepreneurs who have "hobbies" that they invest money into and improve over time. The amount of expenses they want to claim on a "hobby" might be limited by their fear of upsetting the tax man by claiming "personal" expenses.

It could be argued that the difference between a hobby and a real business is how willing you are to manage the tax accounting for that business as a real business. So if you are fishing around for a new business to start up, consider the option of turning your hobby into a serious line-of-business by starting to journal all the income and expenses related to that business. Consider investing more into your hobby and claiming the full tax-sheltering benefits of doing so.

Sometimes starting a new business is not about coming up with a innovative new concept but rather getting serious about a hobby by deciding 1) to investing more into it, and 2) running it as a fully journalled and expensed line-of-business. When your new business is ready for, and has a plan for more investor capital, consider registering with Planet Dealflow and submitting your proposal to our network of business investors.

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The power of vision and using the dark side to achieve it [Startups
Posted on October 4, 2012 @ 07:55:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I am 188 pages into the Steve Jobs biography - he is just reaching the 30 year old mark. By this time he is very wealthy and Bill Gates and Microsoft are still a small company compared to Apple, but Steve has let Bill into Apple to work on developing software for the Apple and Bill has picked up alot of ideas about where he wants his company to go as a result. Apple is also going into a decline after a very impressive launch of the MacIntosh computer as people are realizing its hardware shortcomings.

The main point of interest in my reading about the early glory days of Apple was how abrasive Steve Jobs was towards his employees, yet how this seemed to drive them to achieve more than they thought they were capable of. There are probably very few people in this world that can pull this off and the question becomes how Steve was able to do so. One aspect of it was that he was consistently abrasive in terms of not putting up with sub-par performances or employees rather than erratically abrasive. Another aspect was that when goals were met, he could be lavish in his praise and promotions. His charisma and intelligence were also factors, but perhaps the biggest personal factor was the accuracy of his vision with respect to how computing technology would evolve. To prove this point, you should listen to a speech he made in 1983 at the age of 28:

The Lost Steve Jobs Speech

All startups believe they have an accurate vision of the future. It is one thing to believe this, it is another for it to be actually true. Also, even if you have an accurate vision, you need to be able to communicate it effectively and persuasively and, again, Steve Jobs had this skill in abundance. It should be kept in mind, however, that the metaphor of "vision" is somewhat misleading - as if the future exists in the distance and some people have better eyesight in discerning it. This ignores the transformative aspect of "vision"; that what you see in the future is what you strive to put there and that the world will evolve in such a way to make this possible and desirable (many people also talk about Jobs "reality distortion field" when talking about his vision). So you can ask yourself what is your vision of the future both in the near term and the long term, what forces are conspiring to make it so, and do you have the personal and institutional means to make it so. Your employees are not dummies so the "truth" of your vision will determine whether they will go along for the ride, even if you need to be occasionally abrasive to them in order to achieve that vision.

I suspect that Steve's more unpleasant attributes as a human being may have been required in order to achieve what he achieved in business. Business is not all fun and games, and if you can't be ruthless and abrasive when required, chances are you will not achieve the level of business success that Steve Job's did. Very few will. And very few have the vision and intelligence of a Steve Jobs so I'm reluctant to promote the dark side that Steve Jobs seemed to effectively weld in achieving company goals. I do, however, think that business leaders need to be able to summon their personal dark side to deal with goals that are not being met, employees that are not performing up to par, and business relationships that are not working out. Steve dealt with these issues decisively and in no uncertain terms by summoning his dark side, where most others would be less nasty and clearly confrontational - and perhaps less effective?

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