Why Putting People First Makes Good Business Sense

No business that strategizes around making people happy by giving them a voice and a sense that they have a stake in your business will experience less wealth. In the simplest sense we are talking about building relationships and communities around our business and the products and services we produce.


Here’s the bottom line: Putting people first is a different and a better way to think and to measure success. When we filter everything we say and do through the “putting people first” principle, we end up with a company that features the following:
1. The best products and services we can produce, because that is what people want and need.
2 Employees who are enthusiastic about their jobs and are given the responsibility and the ability to always say “yes” to customers by providing a solution, because that is what people want and need.
3. Products and services that offer great value at a fair price, because that is what people want and need.
4. A growing number of loyal and new customers, because you provide what people want and need.
5. Strong revenues and increased margins, because you provide what people want and need.
6. A company that never violates its values or acts unethically, because your focus is on people, not profits.
7. A company that communities vie for, because you provide what people want and need.
Of course, for any model to work, you must believe, you must be passionate in that belief and you must work hard to make the business achieve its goals and objectives.

Determine, Level, Happiness, Quotient, Consumers

1. DetermineExample Sentences: Verb
§ The purpose of this line of inquiry was to determine whether children would object to the stupid questions or simply answer them.
§ Tells the procedure used to determine where to drill a rescue hole.
§ But some researchers say it’s too soon to use the variation to determine treatment.
§ By following these guidelines it becomes easier to determine whether or not you have really found a fossil bone.
§ Besides staging games that are exciting and safe, three criteria will determine how well it does.
§ Together, cycle life and calendar life determine how long a battery will be useful.
§ The size and strength of the bubbles determine the durability of the meringue.
§ State policies also determine a teacher certification requirement-meaning who gets to teach and who doesn’t get to teach.
§ The professors harvested tweets for key words and plugged them into an algorithm to determine the mood of the broader market.
§ If a gun is recovered, a forensic scientist test-fires it to determine the markings it leaves on bullets and cartridge casings.

Main Entry: determine  [dih-tur-min]
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: conclude, decide
Synonyms: actuate, arbitrate, call the shots, cinch, clinch, complete, dispose, drive, end, figure, finish, fix upon, halt, impel, incline, induce, move, nail down, opt, ordain, persuade, pin down, predispose, regulate, resolve, rule, settle, take a decision, tap, terminate, ultimate, wind up, wrap up Antonyms: begin, start

2. Level
Example Sentences: adjective
Other Examples

  • The new faculty member will teach introductory chemistry and upper level inorganic chemistry and will direct student research.
  • Adjust position of grill if necessary so grill and liquid in pan are level.
  • But this ignores the fact that the level of water vapour depends on temperature.
  • The searchable site allows visitors to indicate a grade level and subject area for resources tailored to specific needs.
  • Then pull off any foliage or flowers that will be below the water level in the vase.

Noun

  • Many animals have some level of social intelligence, allowing them to coexist and cooperate with other members of their species.
  • Her garden is situated downhill from her house, but she wanted an outdoor dining area at house level.
  • Yet discussions regarding implementing a single payer system at the state or national level seem to be taboo.
  • Brant cannot claim that level of renown, but his résumé is not shabby.
  • Sea level rise affects more than beaches and oceanfront land owners.

Main Entry: level  [lev-uhl]
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: smooth, balanced
Synonyms: akin, aligned, alike, calm, commensurate, common, comparable, consistent, constant, continuous, equable, equivalent, even, exact, flat, flush, horizontal, identical, in line, leveled, like, lined up, matched, matching, of same height, on a line, on a par, on one plane, parallel, plain, planate, plane, planed, polished, precise, proportionate, regular, rolled, same, stable, steady, straight, trim, trimmed, unbroken, unfluctuating, uniform, uninterrupted
Antonyms: ragged, uneven

3. Happiness
Main Entry: happiness [hap-ee-nis]
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: high spirits, satisfaction
Synonyms: beatitude, blessedness, bliss, cheer, cheerfulness, cheeriness, content, contentment, delectation, delight, delirium, ecstasy, elation, enchantment, enjoyment, euphoria, exhilaration, exuberance, felicity, gaiety, geniality, gladness, glee, good cheer, good humor, good spirits, hilarity, hopefulness, joviality, joy, jubilation, laughter, lightheartedness, merriment, mirth, optimism, paradise, peace of mind, playfulness, pleasure, prosperity, rejoicing, sanctity, seventh heaven, vivacity, well-being
Antonyms: depression, gloom, misery, pain, sadness, sorrow, unhappiness, woe

4. Quotient
Example Sentences
Noun
§ It could jack up the entertainment quotient, he says.
§ Since he has achieved all these goals, and is a happy surgeon, his happiness quotient is high.
§ Cramming bold flavors into lean proteins helps with the satisfaction quotient.
§ My system of writing was to type my way through successive drafts until their ungainliness quotient declined.
§ His video spots are always edited tightly to get the maximum laugh quotient.
§ Intelligence quotient and economic status have nothing to do with anything.
§ There’s a nursery where the cuteness quotient can be ratcheted up and a camera to snap photos of those special moments.
§ The number of bushels of shelled corn will be two-thirds of the quotient
Main Entry: quotient  [kwoh-shuhnt]
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: outcome
Synonyms: computation, remainder, result

5. Consumer
Example Sentences
Noun
§ Even as consumer spending increases modestly, those dollars are buying fewer goods and services.
§ They argue that new network services and consumer access to vital information could be stifled by added fees.
§ But the light-speed innovations in consumer electronics have turned many of us into serial replacers.
§ Brakes-even new ones-are plagued with the problem of squeal, a major cause of consumer complaint and warranty repairs.
§ Yet it is estimated that about half such food spoils on the way to the consumer.
§ Become a smart consumer and learn what natural and organic labels mean.
§ But ads in the trade papers have been slashed, as have campaigns in the big consumer newspapers.
§ It seems that every generation needs its public, tweedy, literary personality to sell its consumer electronics.
§ Recycling also helps reuse and conserve valuable resources, reducing the need for fresh materials in creating consumer products.
§ Cheap plastic has unleashed a flood of consumer goods.
Main Entry: consumer  [kuhn-soo-mer]
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: person who buys merchandise, services
Synonyms: buyer, customer, end user, enjoyer, purchaser, shopper, user
Antonyms: marketer, merchandiser

Source:
Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Copyright © 2012 by the Philip Lief Group.

7 Things That Blogging Does

Seven years ago (2003), I posted my first Blog post here. The day would have slipped by had someone not sent me a note about it.

After tweeting about my Blogaversary, Jay Fleischman, replied: "@mitchjoel 6.18 posts/wk for 7 yrs. Take out 1 for the podcast and you’re at 5.18; 400 words ea = 2,072 words/wk. 754,208 words total. Nice." my newspaper column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun (which will be cross-posted here tomorrow) is all about the future of Blogging. That being said, after 7 years and 2251 Blog posts, I have learned some very important lessons about the value of Blogging when I think back.

7 Important Lessons About Blogging:

  1. Blogging = Critical Thinking. If everything else went away (the readers, the comments, the community, the feedback), Blogging was (and still is) an amazing place to think about an issue or news item and work through it. I liken myself as a Media Hacker. A Blog is a great place for anyone to be a Hacker of whatever it is that they love. If you don’t believe me, then just watch this: Blogging Still Matters… Now More Than Ever.
  2. Blogging = Ideation. In using your Blog as a platform for your critical thinking, you will quickly start uncovering new and interesting business models and ideas for how you can push your industry forward or how it can/should be thinking differently. Writing a Blog, reading the comments and feedbacking into them is the ultimate Petri dish for ideation and innovation.
  3. Blogging = Tinkering. The ideas and critical thinking are not always one hundred percent final. Blogging allows you to tinker with ideas. To work at them (like a complex mathematical formula). Slowly, over time, you start realizing how wrong you were, how visionary you were and how much further you still have to go.
  4. Blogging = Relationships. It’s not about sitting in the dark recesses of your basement as you tinker away with words and thoughts. It’s about using this platform to connect. It’s about real interactions with real human beings. Some of my best friends are people that I would not have otherwise met were it not for Six Pixels of Separation (the Blog, not the concept). If you Blog, step out into the physical world. Meet other Bloggers. Share, learn and collaborate with them.
  5. Blogging = Business. Make no mistake about it. This Blog started out as a means for Twist Image to tell the world how we think differently about Media, Marketing, Advertising and Communications. Over the years, this has attracted many world-class clients, speaking engagements, a book offer and many other amazing and interesting business opportunities. So, while this is not a place where Twist Image shills its wares, it is a place that is directly tied to our overall business objectives/strategy. It consistently delivers a very solid ROI to our bottom line (take that, you Social Media measurement naysayers!).
  6. Blogging = Sharing. As each day passes, I like Charlene Li‘s latest book, Open Leadership, more and more (her first book, Groundswell rocks as well). Many people think that Social Media is all about the conversation and engaging in the conversation. I believe what makes any media "social" is the ability to share it. To help you to open up. Not only can you share the concepts by telling your peers and friend about a Blog, but everybody shares in the insights as well (whether you work for my company or not). It has changed/evolved our corporate culture. A Blog makes you think more about how you can share your content, your thoughts and why others may want to work/connect to you.
  7. Blogging = Exhaust Valve. A great Blog is great because the Blogger actually cares and loves to create content. If it’s forced, if it’s your "job," then the passion rarely comes through. The biggest lesson I have learned in my seven years of Blogging is that this Blog is my exhaust valve. After working a full day with clients and their many challenges, this Blog is my playground. It’s the place where I can let off some textual steam. Make your Blog your exhaust valve. Caution: be careful that you’re not Blogging simply to blow off angry steam. The steam and exhaust I am talking about is the pent up energy of passion that I have from doing what I love to do.

What does Blogging equal for you?

Social Media Can Change The Corporate Culture

Most corporate cultures are what they are. Some have been around for decades. Others have had the same corporate culture for a century (or longer). Change is never easy, but change does happen. 

There’s this old trucker saying that goes: “if you can’t change people, you change people.” The truth is that not every competent individual is right for every company, and there are also some serious nincompoops who manage to stick with a company longer than anyone can fathom. Beneath the many layers of individuals, personal politics, power shifting and HR is a corporate culture. The brand’s raison d’être. It is not something that changes easily, but it does change. Mark W. Schaefer over at the Grow Blog doesn’t seem to think it’s possible. In his Blog post, Can social media change your company’s culture? I doubt it (September 22nd, 2010), he calls me out for saying that Social Media is changing corporate culture during our recent Podcast debate on Ghost Blogging (more on that here: SPOS #214 – The Ghost Blogging Debate With Mark W. Schaefer).

Social Media can’t change a corporate culture…

And, here’s why Mark thinks this way: “The idea that you could transform a company culture just because it needs to create a Twitter account or YouTube channel is probably fanciful. I believe the companies who are succeeding on the social web are doing so because they already have a company culture that would enable and reward that success. A well-managed, market-oriented company with a legacy of customer-centricity is going to do well with social media — and any other marketing innovation that comes down the line. If you look at a list of the most successful companies on the social web, there really aren’t any surprises are there? Their cultures are pre-wired to succeed.”

Social Media is not from within.

Mark is one-hundred percent accurate. A company that is customer-centric and open to innovation will probably be more successful in platforms like Twitter and YouTube, but that’s not my point. Take a look at Dell prior to Jeff Jarvis and his infamous Dell Hell post. What made Dell turn the corner was not a proactive decision to embrace Social Media. In fact, it was the total opposite. Social Media did not come from within. It came from consumers leveraging these powerful sharing and publishing platforms to speak their minds, and the net result of this content scared Dell’s top echelon enough to start re-thinking their corporate culture and how they connect with consumers. We’re all quick to cheer Coca-Cola for embracing their consumer-generated Facebook page, but let’s not forget how unhappy the company was when the Eepy Bird guys started mixing Diet Coke and Mentos for some volcanic fun. The company was not amused and reminded people that they would prefer if people consumed Diet Coke.

Coming round.

There are countless stories of major (and minor) corporate brands that over time have begun to understand how their brands now “live” because of Social Media and the brand ecosystem (Dell and Coca-Cola are just two regularly cited ones). A new Social Media marketing platform will not change a corporate culture, but enough voices in Social Media talking, sharing, creating and doing more is likely to get attention and force change. We have to remember that Marketers – if given the choice – would probably never want Social Media. They can’t control a message and they can’t keep others from speaking publicly about them. That’s scary, but Social Media is forcing this change in corporate culture. Whether brands are doing this proactively or because they have no choice is a whole other discussion.

Push beyond Marketing.

Look at LinkedIn. People are posting their positions. Peers and customers provide recommendations. Companies now have their own profiles. All of this information that used to be so closely guarded against the corporate chest is now open for the world to see. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in enough small, medium and large corporate boardrooms to know that all of this cumulative content (beyond Marketing and Communications engagement) and information is pushing corporate culture to change. From Real Estate and big pharma to financial institutions and law offices. Change is happening… and it’s happening at the corporate culture level. It may be happening slowly for some or at breakneck speed for others, but it is happening.

What do you think? Is Social Media changing corporate culture?


Happiness Matters

Happiness is the driving force behind everything Americans do. It is the key to determining their wants, needs and desires. It is the essence of the American Dream and is as important as the air you breathe.


Even our Declaration of Independence calls for the pursuit of happiness. And yet a 2006 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 34 percent of Americans consider themselves “very happy,” 50 percent “pretty happy,” and fifteen percent report that they are “not too happy.”
One of the most popular courses at Harvard University teaches happiness and creating “a fulfilling and flourishing life.” In fact, the course on “Positive Psychology” outdraws “Introductory Economics.” That scares me. Have we have gone so far down the road of work, power, and greed that we need to be taught about happiness?

Read more: http://www.marketingprofs.com/opinions/2007/21776/happiness-matters#ixzz32u73QcHE

Skills You Need for Successful Content Writing

Writing is a dream job, but not for everyone. Some writers are hired to write product descriptions for catalogs, and some turn out to be J.K. Rowling. Unfortunately, however, most writers have a better chance of writing product descriptions than they do of becoming best-selling authors.

While successful content writers seem to have an enviable life — they work from home, make their own schedules and work as much or as little as they please — the vast majority have a hard time making a living of it. They lack the skills necessary to succeed. Because no matter how talented they are, writing skill is simply not enough. So, if you want to become successful as a content writer, you need a full toolkit of marketable skills.

1. Successful content writers must master different writing styles.

The reason is that each form of writing has its own style. News is delivered AP style, in short, informational paragraphs with the meat of the story at the top. Blogging is personable, friendly and often opinionated. Ad copy is short and persuasive. White papers are long; they describe a problem and provide the solution. But, regardless, each and every category is content, and each style writers master makes them more valuable and in demand.

2. Successful content writers don’t pick random subjects.

“Ideation” is a marketing industry buzzword that describes the creative process of finding a subject, title and angle to write about; and ideation begins with analytics. Most ideation is done in a team setting, but freelance writers are usually on their own. Which is why it’s helpful to know how professional marketing teams generate ideas. Before doing that, successful content writers need to:

  • Understand their audience. Marketers call it creating a “buyer persona.” If you know who your readers are, you can write what they want to read. You write for your audience. Not for yourself, not for your company, not for your brand.
  • Perform keyword research. Buzzsumo.com showed that “content writing” is a better keyword than “content writer,” which is what led to a title change. The site also revealed that writing how-to posts are popular. One by Neil Patel on how to come up with topic ideas was shared nearly 16,000 times. (swoon)
  • Check out the competition. What successful content are others in your industry sharing? A competitive content audit gives you a ton of information. Not just about what your competitors are sharing, but who is linking to their content, blogging about it, tweeting it out and posting it elsewhere.
  • Craft a snappy title. After you have keyword, competitor and reader knowledge, take your time, choose your subject and craft a title that will interest readers. The title compels people to read. . . or not. The most important words on your post are the title and the meta description.

3. Successful content writers are original.

It’s your reputation. Every post with your name on it should be original. That probably sounds crazy, with all the tens of thousands of people writing about the same subjects, but it’s easier than it seems. Every talented writer can bring a unique voice, different perspective or new light to an overworked subject.

Related: 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Content

Plagiarized content is bad for SEO, bad for your employers and even worse for you. Protect your reputation and your career by taking precautions. Before you submit your work, use an online program tocheck for plagiarism. With all the content out there, it’s easy to accidentally duplicate writing.

4. Successful content writers know SEO, HTML, CSS and WordPress.

Don’t panic. You only need a few basics. WordPress themes have varying levels of automatic functions, and sometimes the only way to make your text appear the way you want it to is to dig into the text/HTML tab and manipulate the code to make a title tag or fix a spacing issue. It’s worth your time to learn the basics.

Updated SEO knowledge is also critical. Search engine algorithms change constantly, and writers have to keep up. One thing remains constant: High quality is always in demand. If you can write in-depth content from a unique perspective, you’ll be in demand.

5. Successful content writers are social media specialists.

Name recognition is important. Social media puts everything you need within your grasp. Build your audience, meet publishers and talk to industry experts. When your writing is published, the fun has only just begun. The more active you are on social media, the more likely your followers will be to recommend your content. Successful content writers are active, public and friendly.

So, think again about writing “success.” It stops being about words on paper as soon as “content” is added to “writer.” Content writers are marketing experts, SEO specialists, on-page coders and social media butterflies. With the right skill set, you’ll succeed and find that yours is the best job in the world.

A Look At Crowdfunding Guidelines In India And Why It Needs To Be Revisited [Take One]

Technology startups are finding it a tad easier to get funded with the many sources of funding and the fact that VCs are more active than before. We are also witnessing that the valuations are improving too.

Crowdfunding

Apart from the usual non-traditional sources, friends & family, angels, angel networks, accelerators and seed funds, India is now witnessing the rise of crowd-funding platforms.

Raising of pooled managed investment funds has always been a regulated area. SEBI in June 2014, released a consultation paper (“Paper”) which seeks to regulate crowdfunding, which is not pool managed, but the investor directly invests into the startup.

Here’s a short critique:

The Paper defines (sort of) Crowdfunding as ‘solicitation of funds from multiple investors through a web-based platform or social networking site for a specific project, business venture or social cause.’ Perhaps, the traditional angel networks (which are not web-based) can breathe a bit easy? Well, it is yet to be seen.

There are other legislations, including Companies Act 2013, which details lengthy procedures for raising investments.

Who can set up a Crowdfunding Platform?

Class I Entities:

  • Recognized Stock Exchanges with nationwide terminal presence (RSEs)
  • SEBI registered Depositories

Class II Entities: Technology Business Incubators (TBIs)

  • Promoted by Central or State Government through bodies such as NSTEDB (National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board) under Department of Science & Technology
  • Functioning as a registered society or a non-profit company (section 8),
  • Having at least 5 years of experience,
  • Having a minimum net worth of Rs. 10 crores

Class III Entities:

  • Associations and Networks of PE or Angel Investors
  • With a track record of a minimum of 3 years
  • With a minimum member strength of 100 active members from the relevant industry
  • Which are registered as Section 8 companies under Companies Act 2013 with a paid up share capital of Rs. 2 Crores

We believe that the regulator should re-examine the intent to promote crowdfunding as not-for-profit activity.

Who can invest?

The Accredited Investors, who is:

  • Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) as defined in SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) regulations, 2009.
  • Companies incorporated under the Companies Act, with a minimum net worth of Rs.20 crore.
  • High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs) with a minimum net worth of Rs. 2 Crores or more (excluding the value of the primary residence or any loan secured on such property), and
  • Eligible Retail Investors:
  1. who receive investment advice from an Investment Adviser, or portfolio manager or
  2. who have passed an Appropriateness Test (may be conducted by an institution accredited by NISM or the crowdfunding platforms)

and

  1. who have a minimum annual gross income of Rs. 10 Lacs, filed Income Tax return for at least last 3 financial years
  2. who certify that they will not invest more than Rs. 60,000 in an issue through crowdfunding platform,
  3. who certify that they will not invest more than 10% of their net worth through crowdfunding. (Net worth excludes the value of the primary residence or any loan secured on such property)

From a plain reading of the consultation paper, it appears that it is a self-certification method, with the burden of proof of accreditation imposed on the investor.

Who can be the investee company and how much can it raise?

  • A company intending to raise capital not exceeding Rs.10 crores in a period of 12 months,
  • Not promoted, sponsored or related to an industrial group which has a turnover in excess of Rs. 25 crores or has an established business,
  • Not listed on any exchange and not more than 48 months old,
  • A company which proposes to engage in non-financing ventures or real estate activities is not permitted.

There are obligations expected of the investee company.

  • In a given period of 12 months, the company shall not use multiple crowdfunding platforms to raise funds.
  • Company shall not directly or indirectly advertise their offering to public in general or solicit investments from the public.
  • Company shall compulsorily route all crowdfunding issues through a SEBI recognized Crowdfunding Platform.
  • Company shall not directly or indirectly incentivize or compensate any person to promote its offering.
  • Company shall provide provisions for oversubscription. This may include maximum oversubscription amount to be retained, which should not exceed 25% of the actual issue size; intended usage of the oversubscribed amount. The total amount retained. including the actual issue size and oversubscription, shall not exceed the limit of Rs. 10 Crores
  • The Company is also required to make certain disclosure through the “private placement offer letter” and on an ongoing basis documents such as audited financial statements, a detailed view of the current state of business, penalty, pending litigations etc.

If the platform should not receive any compensation for helping the company raise investments, then sustaining the platform will be a challenge.

The retail investors should be provided all opportunities to understand the inherent risks involved in investing in start-ups, illiquid nature of the securities and a possibility of losing the entire investment. At the same time, it is also important that there are no systemic risks. But, it is equally important the regulations proposed should enable platforms to operate and the start-ups getting invested.

Shot not yet ready! Take 2…

Source: http://www.nextbigwhat.com/crowdfunding-india-guidelines-297/

Cost of setting up a e-commerce business in India

The market has evolved a lot since then. Marketplaces such as Shopo and Craftsvilla have gained traction. There is significant competition to MartJack in the form of Zepo, Shopnix etc. Several payment gateways such as PayU, PayTM and CitrusPay have really taken off. Payment solutions provider CCAvenue has introduced a small-business friendly starter plan. Logistics providers are improving.

Here is a look at what it is like to setup an ecommerce business in India now.

The ‘business plan’ below is based on real-life experience from expanding an eCommerce operation from Shopo to Shopo + Zepo.

At the outset, let me clarify a few points:

» This article is not a commentary on either Shopo or Zepo or any of their competitors. [We have been pretty happy with both, if that helps]

» A storefront set up at a marketplace doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘Basic’

» A store set up with a SaaS provider doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘Small’

» The model outlined below would work best for products that are fairly unique or not widely available. E.g. designer apparel or handicrafts.

Most importantly, this is just a superficial model that considers only the ‘e’ part of eCommerce. The ‘Commerce’ part is the row highlighted in red. This is domain specific. Success or failure will depend on how well you manage your sourcing, operations and marketing so that it costs you less than Rs 500 per order while creating value worth more than Rs. 1000 per order for your customers. (The numbers are just examples).

Basic Small Medium
Scale 1 person operation out of home. Either as a hobby or as a side business 1 -2 person operation. Likely as a primary source of income Serious business
Indicative Turnover < 1 Lakh /month 1 – 10 Lakhs / month 10 – 100 Lakhs per month
Ave no. orders per month (@ ave size of Rs 1000) 50 500 5,000
Typical IT infrastructure Online marketplace – E.g. Shopo, Craftsvilla SaaS – E.g. Zepo, Martjack Self-hosted on AWS, Rackspace etc. Software could be Magento or a similar product
Legal status and formalities Proprietorship:PAN card, VAT / CST No. Proprietorship:PAN card, VAT / CST No. Pvt. Ltd. / LLC:VAT/CST, Accounts, Audits, Payroll
Payment Gateway Not needed Economy / Basic Plans – PayU, PayTM Premium Plans – PayU, PayTM, CCAvenue, EBS
Shipping / Logistics Retail rates Small business account with negotiated rates Discounted rates
Employee count (excluding founders) 0 < 5 (mostly temp / ad hoc skills) 5 – 10 (including professional skills – tech, marketing, accounting etc.)
Setup costs
Legal formalities 10,000 10,000 100,000
IT infrastructure 0 0 – 25,000 100,000 – 200,000
Office space (Assuming Hyderabad) 0 15,000 – 30,000 30,000 – 60,000
Payment gateway 0 0 – 6,000 20,000 – 40,000
Operating capital – (3 month fixed operating costs + 15 days variable operating costs) Rs 20 – 25K Rs. 3 – 4 Lakhs Rs 34 – 38 Lakhs
Total initial investment Rs. 30 – 35K Rs. 3.25 – 5 Lakhs Rs. 36 – 42 Lakhs
Ongoing fixed costs (monthly)
Employee salaries 0 20,000 500,000
IT infrastructure 0 1000 – 10,000 5,000 – 10,000
Office rental 0 5,000 – 10,000 10,000 – 20,000
Utilities (Power, Internet, Maintenance) 0 2,000 – 5,000 4,000 – 10,000
Payment gateway 0 0 – 200 200 – 1000
Total ongoing fixed costs 0 28,000 – 45,000 520,000 – 550,000
Ongoing variable costs
Sourcing / manufacturing
(Assuming 100% markup)
500 500 500
Shipping 100 – 150 per order 60 – 100 per order 30 – 60 per order
Photography
(~ 5 orders / product)
0 – 100 per product

0 – 20 per order

200 – 500 per product

40 – 100 per order

200 – 500 per product

40 – 100 per order

Marketing 0 (Assuming the marketplace handles this) 250 per order
(Assuming CPC of Rs 10, Conversion rate of 2%, 50% paid traffic)
125 per order
(Assuming CPC of Rs 10, Conversion rate of 2%, 25% paid traffic)
Transaction costs 150 – 200
15 – 20% charged by marketplaces
50 – 70 per order
5 – 7% charged by payment gateways. CoD & Paypal not considered
20 – 40 per order
2 – 4% charged by payment gateways. CoD & Paypal not considered
Total cost per order 750 – 950 900 – 1050 750 – 850
 
Gross margin / order 150 – 250 -50  – 100 150 – 250
Operating margin / order 150 – 250 -100 – 50 50 – 150
Total profit 7,500 – 12,500 -50,000 – 25,000 250,000 – 750,000
 
Summary » Zero fixed costs means risk of losing money is low.

» Margin is not highly dependent on order size (within certain limits)

» Hard to scale since you will not be spending money on SEO / marketing (if you plan to, you are better off building your own website)

» Average order size of less than Rs 1000 will most likely mean losses for new sites where proportion of paid traffic is high.

» This can be overcome if the sourcing costs are low (E.g. if you are selling your own paintings) or markup is high (E.g. designer wear)

» Marketing cost will come down after 3-4 months as you build a base of loyal customers

» You are in business if you have reached this scale.

» Fixed costs are mostly salaries. Need to plan your hiring well.

About the Author

Haribabu Thilakar has been in the software services industry  for 17 years, and has worked for Infosys, Kanbay and UnitedHealth Group. His current focus is on Data & Analytics. Ecommerce is a side interest of his which was first ignited while he was managing a large program for a retail giant, and flared up recently while he was helping his wife set up her online store

How to Start a Consulting Business

Consultin Business

Editor’s note: This article was excerpted from our Consulting Business start-up guide, available from the Entrepreneur Bookstore.

The dictionary defines a consultant as “an expert in a particular field who works as an advisor either to a company or to another individual.” Sounds pretty vague, doesn’t it? But unless you’ve been in a coma for the past decade, you probably have a good idea what a consultant is.

Businesses certainly understand what consultants are. In 1997 U.S. businesses spent just over $12 billion on consulting. According to Anna Flowers, spokesperson for the Association of Professional Consultants in Irvine, California, the association has recently noticed an increase in calls for information from people who want to get into the business. “The market is opening up for [the consulting-for-businesses] arena,” Flowers says.

Melinda P., an independent consultant in Arlington, Virginia, thinks more people are getting into the consulting field because technology has made it easier to do so. “The same technology that has helped me to be successful as a consultant has made it easier for others to do the same,” she says.

A consultant’s job is to consult. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s that simple. There’s no magic formula or secret that makes one consultant more successful than another one.

But what separates a good consultant from a bad consultant is a passion and drive for excellence. And–oh yes–a good consultant should be knowledgeable about the subject he or she is consulting in. That does make a difference.

You see, in this day and age, anyone can be a consultant. All you need to discover is what your particular gift is. For example, are you very comfortable working around computers? Do you keep up with the latest software and hardware information, which seems to be changing almost daily? And are you able to take that knowledge you have gained and turn it into a resource that someone would be willing to pay money for? Then you would have no trouble working as a computer consultant.

Or are you an expert in the fund-raising field? Maybe you have worked for nonprofit agencies in the field of fund-raising, marketing, public relations or sales, and over the years you have discovered how to raise money. As someone who has turned a decade of fund-raising successes into a lucrative consulting business, I can tell you that fund-raising consulting is indeed a growing industry.

Things to Consider Before You Become a Consultant

  • What certifications and special licensing will I need? Depending upon your profession, you may need special certification or a special license before you can begin operating as a consultant. For example, fund-raising consultants don’t need special certification, although you can become certified through the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. And in some states, you may need to register as a professional fund-raising consultant before starting your business.
  • Am I qualified to become a consultant? Before you hang out your shingle and hope that clients begin beating your door down to hire you, make sure you have the qualifications necessary to get the job done. If you want to be a computer consultant, for example, make sure you are up to date in the knowledge department with all the trends and changes in the computer industry.
  • Am I organized enough to become a consultant? Do I like to plan my day? Am I an expert when it comes to time management? You should have answered “yes” to all three of those questions!
  • Do I like to network? Networking is critical to the success of any type of consultant today. Begin building your network of contacts immediately.
  • Have I set long-term and short-term goals? And do they allow for me to become a consultant? If your goals do not match up with the time and energy it takes to open and successfully build a consulting business, then reconsider before making any move in this direction!

Top 20 Consulting Businesses Thriving Today

Although you can be a consultant in just about any field these days, the current top 20 consulting businesses include:

1. Accounting: Accounting is something that every business needs, no matter how large or small. Accounting consultants can help a business with all of its financial needs.

2. Advertising: This type of consultant is normally hired by a business to develop a good strategic advertising campaign.

3. Auditing: From consultants who audit utility bills for small businesses to consultants who handle major work for telecommunications firms, auditing consultants are enjoying the fruits of their labor.

4. Business: Know how to help a business turn a profit? If you have a good business sense, then you’ll do well as a business consultant. After computer consulting, people in this field are the next most sought after.

5. Business writing: Everyone knows that most businesspeople have trouble when it comes to writing a report–or even a simple memo. Enter the business writing consultant, and everyone is happy!

6. Career counseling: With more and more people finding themselves victims of a corporate downsizing, career counselors will always be in demand. Career counselors guide their clients into a profession or job that will help them be both happy and productive as an employee.

7. Communications: Communications consultants specialize in helping employees in both large and small businesses better communicate with each other, which ultimately makes the business more efficient and operate smoothly.

8. Computer consulting: From software to hardware, and everything in between, if you know computers, your biggest problem will be not having enough hours in the day to meet your clients’ demands!

9. Editorial services: From producing newsletters to corporate annual reports, consultants who are experts in the editorial field will always be appreciated.

10. Executive search/headhunter firms: While this is not for everyone, there are people who enjoy finding talent for employers.

11. Gardening: In the past decade the demand for gardening consultants has blossomed (pun intended) into a $1 million-a-year business. Not only are businesses hiring gardening consultants; so are people who are too busy to take care of their gardens at home.

12. Grantsmanship: Once you learn how to write a grant proposal, you can name your price.

13. Human resources: As long as businesses have people problems (and they always will), consultants in this field will enjoy a never-ending supply of corporate clients, both large and small. (People-problem prevention programs could include teaching employees to get along with others, respect and even violence prevention in the workplace.)

14. Insurance: Everyone needs insurance, and everyone needs an insurance consultant to help them find the best plan and pricing for them.

15. Marketing: Can you help a business write a marketing plan? Or do you have ideas that you feel will help promote a business? If so, why not try your hand as a marketing consultant?

16. Payroll management: Everyone needs to get paid. By using your knowledge and expertise in payroll management, you can provide this service to many businesses, both large and small.

17. Public relations: Getting good press coverage for any organization is a real art. When an organization finds a good PR consultant, they hang on to them for life!

18. Publishing: If you’re interested in the publishing field, then learn everything you can and you, too, can be a publishing consultant. A publishing consultant usually helps new ventures when they are ready to launch a new newspaper, magazine, newsletter–and even websites and electronic newsletters.

19. Taxes: With the right marketing and business plan (and a sincere interest in taxes), your career as a tax consultant can be very lucrative. A tax consultant advises businesses on the legal methods to pay the least amount of tax possible.

20. Writing services: Anything related to the written word will always be in demand. Find your specialty in the writing field, and the sky will be the limit!

Target Market

Your idea may be the best one you have ever thought of, but there needs to be a market for your ideas. Someone must be willing and able to pay you for your expert advice.

In other words, who are your potential clients? Will you be marketing your consulting services to large corporations? Or will you offer a specialty that would only be of interest to smaller businesses? Perhaps your services will be sought after by nonprofit organizations. Whatever the case, before you go forward, make sure you spend time preparing both a business plan and a marketing plan. You won’t be disappointed with the results–especially when clients begin paying you!

Why an Organization Wants to Hire You

According to a recent survey, here are the top 10 reasons organizations hire consultants:

1. A consultant may be hired because of his or her expertise. This is where it pays to not only be really good in the field you have chosen to consult in, but to have some type of track record that speaks for itself. For example, when I mentioned earlier that I had become an expert as a fund-raising consultant, I knew that every client who hired me was doing so partly on the basis of my track record alone. After all, if you are a nonprofit organization that needs to raise $1 million, it makes sense to hire someone who has already raised millions for other organizations.

2. A consultant may be hired to identify problems. Sometimes employees are too close to a problem inside an organization to identify it. That’s when a consultant rides in on his or her white horse to save the day.

3. A consultant may be hired to supplement the staff. Sometimes a business discovers that it can save thousands of dollars a week by hiring consultants when they are needed, rather than hiring full-time employees. Businesses realize they save additional money by not having to pay benefits for consultants they hire. Even though a consultant’s fees are generally higher than an employee’s salary, over the long haul, it simply makes good economic sense to hire a consultant.

4. A consultant may be hired to act as a catalyst. Let’s face it. No one likes change, especially corporate America. But sometimes change is needed, and a consultant may be brought in to “get the ball rolling.” In other words, the consultant can do things without worrying about the corporate culture, employee morale or other issues that get in the way when an organization is trying to institute change.

5. A consultant may be hired to provide much-needed objectivity.Who else is more qualified to identify a problem than a consultant? A good consultant provides an objective, fresh viewpoint–without worrying about what people in the organization might think about the results and how they were achieved.

6. A consultant may be hired to teach. These days if you are a computer consultant who can show employees how to master a new program, then your telephone probably hasn’t stopped ringing for a while. A consultant may be asked to teach employees any number of different skills. However, a consultant must be willing to keep up with new discoveries in their field of expertise–and be ready to teach new clients what they need to stay competitive.

7. A consultant may be hired to do the “dirty work.” Let’s face it: No one wants to be the person who has to make cuts in the staff or to eliminate an entire division.

8. A consultant may be hired to bring new life to an organization. If you are good at coming up with new ideas that work, then you won’t have any trouble finding clients. At one time or another, most businesses need someone to administer “first aid” to get things rolling again.

9. A consultant may be hired to create a new business. There are consultants who have become experts in this field. Not everyone, though, has the ability to conceive an idea and develop a game plan.

10. A consultant may be hired to influence other people. Do you like to hang out with the rich and famous in your town? If so, you may be hired to do a consulting job simply based on who you know. Although most consultants in this field are working as lobbyists, there has been an increase in the number of people entering the entertainment consulting business.

Location and Employees

Your consulting business will probably not require a large capital investment at first. In fact, if you are able to, you should consider operating out of your home. (Certain deed restrictions and local laws may prohibit you from doing this; check with an attorney before you proceed.)

There are many advantages to having a home office. Among them are:

  • Low overhead expenses. You don’t have to worry about paying rent or utilities for an office; you will appreciate this feature until you establish a regular client base.
  • Flexibility. There is little doubt that operating as a consultant at home gives you a great deal of flexibility. You can set your own hours and take time off as you need it.
  • No rush-hour nightmares. For anyone who has had to commute to and from a job during rush hour, this will be a welcome change of pace.
  • Your home office space will most likely be tax-deductible. The IRS has relaxed the rules for people who work at home, but check with your account or income tax preparer to see if you qualify for this deduction.

Employees

When you first open the doors to your consulting practice, you may be able to handle all the operations by yourself. But as your consulting business begins to grow, you may need help handling administrative details or help completing the actual consulting assignments.

You need to make some important decisions. For example, do you have the time it will take to make labels and insert your brochure into 1,000 envelopes? Can you afford to spend time doing administrative tasks when you could be using that time effectively marketing your services–and signing up new clients?

There are many options when it comes time to decide if you need help with your paperwork. For example, a quick look through the Yellow Pages will reveal a number of small secretarial support firms. The rates will depend on a variety of factors, including how large or small an organization it is and what types of services it provides.

While it will pay you to shop around for these types of services, don’t select a secretarial service just because it happens to have the lowest prices in town. Instead, ask for references, preferably from other consultants who have used their services, or from small-business owners. A good, reliable support service is worth the price in the long run.

There will come a time, however, when you may find it more cost-effective to hire someone to work in the office with you. Hiring a good administrative support person can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure–between obtaining more clients or constantly losing clients. There are some benefits to having someone in the office with you. Among them are:

  • You save time and money. By having someone concentrate on the more routine tasks (opening the mail, filing, answering phones, etc.) you can focus all your efforts on recruiting new clients. Think about this: Would you want to lose a $500-a-day client because you were too cheap to hire someone to stuff your brochures into envelopes?
  • You don’t worry about being out of the office. If you are a one-person operation, it’s hard to be out on the road marketing your services if you’re worried about clients calling–and only getting your answering machine.
  • You have someone to offer another perspective. Sometimes it can be pretty lonely trying to do everything yourself. Having someone around the office during the day who can offer another perspective can be worthwhile.

Income and Billing

Now that you have made the decision to open your consulting business, you need to get serious about how much money you will charge your clients. If you charge too little, you won’t succeed in business. If you charge too much, you won’t get any clients. So how do you find that middle ground that seems fair to everyone involved? One way to help you decide how much to charge is to find out what the competition’s rates are. A simple telephone call, asking for their brochure and rates, should do the trick. Then set your rates so that you are competitive with everyone else in the community.

Before setting your fees, make sure you have listed all of your expenses. There is nothing worse than setting your rates, having your client pay you on time and then finding out you failed to include several expenses that materialized. This brings up an important point to remember in every job you take from a client: Include a “miscellaneous” line item in your fee proposal. But don’t pad the miscellaneous figure to make additional income.

Most clients will understand that in every project, there will no doubt be additional expenses. Just be sure everyone knows upfront an approximate figure for those expenses.

Before you set your rates, find out what other consultants in your community are charging for their services. Sometimes a simple telephone call to another consultant’s office asking what their fees are will give you the answers you need. Or you may have to have a friend call and ask for their brochure, or any additional information they can collect regarding fees and pricing. If you live in a small town and there are no other consultants in your field, then rejoice and be glad, but set your fees at a reasonable level!

When setting your rates, you have several options, including hourly rates, project fees and working on a retainer basis. Let’s examine each one closely.

Hourly Fees

You need to tread carefully when setting hourly fees, because two things could happen: A) Your hourly rate is so high that no one could ever afford you (therefore no client will ever knock on your door). B) Your hourly rate is so low that no one will take you seriously.

Keep one important rule in mind when establishing your fee, no matter which structure you decide on: The more money people pay for a product or service, the more they expect to get for their money. In other words, if a client agrees to your hourly rate of $400, then you had better give $400 worth of service to that client every hour you work for them.

Some clients prefer to be billed on an hourly basis, while others hate the idea of paying someone what they perceive to be too much per hour. Those clients usually prefer to pay per project.

Project Rates

When working on a project rate basis, a consultant normally gets a fixed amount of money for a predetermined period of time. A few of my fund-raising clients actually preferred to be charged this way, so it wasn’t unusual for me to charge $36,000 for a one-year project in which I consulted them on how they could raise money. Because of the amount of money involved, most agencies preferred to be billed on a monthly basis. This worked out fine until I realized that many agencies were late paying their monthly bills.

Because of this, I decided that all future clients who wished to be billed on a monthly basis would pay the first-month fee and the last-month fee at the signing of the contract, which meant that if the agreed-upon amount of the project was $36,000, to be paid on a monthly basis, I received a check in the amount of $6,000 before I began any work ($3,000 for the first month’s fee and $3,000 for the last month’s fee).

Retainer Basis

Working on a retainer basis gives you a set monthly fee in which you agree to be available for work for an agreed-upon number of hours for your client. While in the ideal world you would have a dozen or so clients who hire you and pay you a hefty sum each month (and never actually call you except for a few hours here and there), don’t get your hopes up. Most companies that hire a consultant on a retainer basis have a clause in their contract that prohibits you from working for their competitors.

Working and getting paid in this method certainly has its advantages. You are guaranteed income each month, and when you are starting out in your consulting business, cash flow can be a problem. Some consultants actually offer a percentage reduction in their fees if a client will agree to pay a monthly retainer fee. The average income when a consultant is paid on a retainer basis is $3,500 per month.

Marketing

If your consulting business has no clients, then you have no consulting business. But you must remember that selling your consulting services is not the same as selling a car or a house. In the case of the car or the house, the customer is probably already in the market for one or both of those products. Your job, then, becomes harder, because you are marketing your services to people who may not even be aware that they need those services.

There are a variety of methods you need to become both familiar and comfortable with in order to begin attracting and keeping clients. Let’s look at some of the more conventional ones that are being used by many consultants today.

Brochure Basics

There are five issues your brochure should address. They are:

  1. It should clearly convey what your services are.
  2. It should tell customers why you are the best.
  3. It should give a few reasons why you should be hired.
  4. It should include some brief biographical information.
  5. It should include some information about who your other clients are.

That’s it. Keep it simple, but do it right. Remember, your brochure represents you in the marketplace, so make sure you polish it before you send it into action. Your entire consulting career depends on it!

Cold Calling

You must do whatever it takes to make cold-calling work and make it easier for yourself. There are a few tricks you can use to make cold-calling a little easier for you:

  • Prepare a script ahead of time. Spell out word for word what you expect to say when you get someone on the telephone. Remember, though, that your goal is to get a face-to-face interview and, eventually, a new client. So before you end up stumbling over your sales presentation (either in person or over the telephone), write your script and practice it again and again.
  • Be creative in your efforts to reach the decision maker. Most times you will encounter a secretary or administrative assistant who has years of experience turning away cold callers like yourself. But don’t give up! Don’t let any obstacle stand in your way! To avoid being screened by the secretary, try calling before she is on the job. Yes, you may have to call before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m., but at these times, chances are the decision maker you are trying to reach will answer their own telephone.
  • Limit your cold calls to just several days each month. And look forward to those days, making sure you put your best effort into the process. That way, not only will it become easier to make those cold calls, but you will find yourself actually looking forward to making them!

Advertising

The limits you place on advertising your consulting services will be directly tied to your advertising budget. If you are lucky enough to have a very healthy advertising budget, remember that you don’t have to spend the money on ads just because you have it to spend. Advertising can be very expensive. Jeffery B., a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, consultant, advertises in his association’s publication. “They publish what is called the Green Book, which is a directory of research and marketing consulting businesses around the country. It has helped me generate new business,” he says.

Other consultants, such as Merrily S. in Newark, Delaware, depend on word-of-mouth. “The best form of advertising [for my business] has been word-of-mouth and recommendations from other people,” she says.

Depending upon the type of services you offer, it may be necessary to advertise in specialized trade journals or magazines. For example, as a fund-raising consultant, I have placed ads in such publications as The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Non-Profit Times and Fund Raising Weekly.

Before you spend any money, start looking through professional journals and newspapers relative to the fields you specialize in. Take some time and examine ads that have been placed by other consultants, and then carefully determine how effective you think their ads may be. Then design one that suits you best.

Newsletters

Whatever your consulting field is you should have more than enough information to produce a newsletter as a means of attracting potential clients. If you don’t have the time, or don’t feel comfortable self-publishing your own newsletter, hire a local freelance writer and graphic designer to do the job for you. Again, you don’t have to make it an expensive, four-color, glossy publication. The simpler you keep it, the better. A good newsletter will sell itself based on the content rather than the splashy design.

Start collecting newsletters that are being published in your consulting field. If you think there are none being published, or if you think there are only a few in your field, guess again. A quick visit to the library will reveal several newsletter directories–Oxbridge Directory of Newsletters(Oxbridge Communications) and Hudson’s Newsletter Directory (The Newsletter ClearingHouse)–which list, by subject, newsletters that are published not only in the United States, but in other countries. Take some time and write for sample copies before you design and write the first issue of your own newsletter. You’ll be surprised at the quality of the newsletters that are being produced today.

Newsletters are an effective means of communication and, in my opinion, represent the best advertising media for a consultant to sell his or her services. Think about it the next time you receive a newsletter in the mail. Did you put it aside to read it later? And why did you do that? Probably because you wanted to make sure you weren’t missing any important news or information.

But what about that brochure you received in the mail the same day? Did you put it aside to read later? Or did it go directly into the trashcan? Think about this before you spend big bucks on a glitzy brochure that may not even be read.

Public Speaking

Public speaking is another excellent way to recruit new clients and to earn a reputation for excellence in your community. Unless you live in a town so small it doesn’t have a chamber of commerce or a Lion’s Club, Rotary Club or other similar service organization, you can begin offering your services as a speaker for luncheons, dinners or any other special occasion.

In addition to using the telephone directory, see if anyone has published a directory of service organizations in your community. You can visit the library and ask at the reference desk. Go through and make a list of organizations that hold monthly meetings and therefore may use guest speakers. Contact each group and offer your public speaking services.

Ask for Referrals

This often-overlooked method of finding new clients is such an easy marketing tool (which is why it’s usually not thought of), you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it yourself. When you have finished your consulting assignment and your client is in seventh heaven (and is no doubt singing your praises), that is an excellent time to ask for a referral! Simply send a note or a short letter asking for the names of any colleagues, friends or business associates they feel might be good prospects for your consulting services. Ask their permission to mention their name when you write to the people whose names they pass on to you. Sometimes all it takes is having a mutual friend or respected business associate to get the potential client’s attention.

The Tipping Point – Summery

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell, first published by Little Brown in 2000.

Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”.[1] The book seeks to explain and describe the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life. As Gladwell states, “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do”.[2] The examples of such changes in his book include the rise in popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the steep drop in the New York City crime rate after 1990.

The three rules

Malcolm Gladwell describes the “three rules of epidemics” (or the three “agents of change”) in the tipping points of epidemics.

The Law of the Few

“The Law of the Few”, or, as Malcolm Gladwell states, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”.[3] According to Malcolm Gladwell, economists call this the “80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants”.[4] (see Pareto Principle) These people are described in the following ways:

  • Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. They usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. They are people who “link us up with the world…people with a special gift for bringing the world together”.[5]They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances”.[6] Malcolm Gladwell characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people. To illustrate, he cites the following examples: the midnight ride of Paul RevereMilgram’s experiments in thesmall world problem, the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” trivia game, Dallas businessman Roger Horchow, and Chicagoan Lois Weisberg, a person who understands the concept of the weak tie. Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to the fact that “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy”.[7]
  • Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.”[4] They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. Gladwell cites Mark Alpert as a prototypical Maven who is “almost pathologically helpful”, further adding, “he can’t help himself”.[8] In this vein, Alpert himself concedes, “A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own”.[8] According to Gladwell, Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics”[9] due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. As Malcolm Gladwell states, “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”.[10]

The Stickiness Factor

The specific content of a message that renders its impact memorable. Popular children’s television programs such as Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues pioneered the properties of the stickiness factor, thus enhancing the effective retention of the educational content in tandem with its entertainment value.

The Power of Context

Human behavior is sensitive to and strongly influenced by its environment. As Malcolm Gladwell says, “Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur”.[11] For example, “zero tolerance” efforts to combat minor crimes such as fare-beating and vandalism on the New York subway led to a decline in more violent crimes city-wide. Gladwell describes the bystander effect, and explains how Dunbar’s number plays into the tipping point, using Rebecca Wells‘ novel Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhoodevangelist John Wesley, and the high-tech firm W. L. Gore and Associates. Malcolm Gladwell also discusses what he dubs the rule of 150, which states that the maximum number of individuals in a society or group that someone can have real social relationships with is 150.[12]