It\’s my birthday and sometime in the course of this day, very likely by the time you read this, I am going to have launched my ersatz owl project. I will toss my little career concept from the nest and see how it flies. If you are reading this, the first few days and weeks of writing and exposition might not make a whole lot of sense. It will be slightly abstract as I gradually build the framework of something (I hope will be) awesome. But trust me: I have a plan.
Bamboo Emu is lingering nearby talking with Zombie Wren. “Today is the big day.” I say as I walk up beside them. “Launch day. It is a day of promise and potential. Everything lies ahead, you know. Everything is glistening with potential.”
Zombie, far less patient than Bamboo, is restrained little by her prior knowledge of my project. “I was just telling the bird here.” She says. “But last time we spoke you were — ah — ridiculously cryptic about this idea of yours. I assume you\’ve figured out more the details.”
Bamboo shrugs apologetically in my direction. “Zombie is skeptical.” He says. “But grok it to us, bud. I\’m sure the idea has — as you put it — potential.”
“Right, right. And now that it\’s my launch day,” I say, “I suppose I could tell you a little bit more about what I plan to do. But, you should know,” I hesitate, “there is a bit of a catch.”
“Catch?” They both ask, nearly simultaneously.
“A catch.” I repeat. “See, the project involves more than just me. The project involves –” I stretch the words out, look at each of them and momentarily pausing, “– you. Too.”
“Me?” Zombie blurts. “Us?”
“Yeah.” I nod, a sheepish grin spreading across my face. “You guys are part of the project. You\’re my gosubs… my meeps… my…”
“Come again?” Bamboo quirks his eye at me and says in a level voice. “How exactly are we, ah, involved?”
What is the purpose of our business?
“Alright, alright.” I say, holding my hands up to pause the questions. “It may seem like I\’ve sprung this on you, but the fact is simply that I\’m going to make use of these little discussions we have — you could call them dialogs, I suppose — to work through aspects of technology and business. Your involvement will be very — how can I put this — uh, Socratic.”
Bamboo and Zombie cast dubious glances at each other before Zombie asks, “So, which of is is the wise philosopher, and which of us is the naive student?”
“Both. Neither. All of us… Look, it isn\’t a perfect metaphor, okay.” I argue. “But the point is that your involvement only need go as far as what we\’re doing right now. Talking. We\’re chatting, and discussing ideas. There are plenty of different concepts upon which we can shoot the breeze. For example, right now we just happen to be talking about the general purpose of this project and the business behind it. But we could be chatting about…”
“Which is…?” Bamboo prods.
“Which is what…?” Brainfart. “Oh, you mean the purpose of this business. It\’s two-fold, really.” I smile. “First, we use this space — this blog — and other tools to carefully, and purposefully build a solid reputation as folks who actually know what we\’re talking about. We discuss things. We chat about business planning, technology tools, content systems, and project management. You know… stuff that we have experience with.”
“Just us?” Bamboo asks.
“Oh, of course not.” I reassure him. “I\’ll be drawing from a whole cast of folks with particular insights. I trust you guys, but — c\’mon — you\’re not the only people I know here. But, as I was saying; I\’ll pick a topic and we\’ll chat about. Then, I\’ll record what was said here in the blog. Folks can stop by and read the…”
“For free?” Zombie asks. “How are you going to make money at this? No one is going to pay to read our chats.”
“Right. Well, it\’s true; that\’s the part that\’s a little more complex.” I agree. “The thing is that any good business hinges on reputation. Business flows from people who trust you to do work that they know you\’re good at doing. It really goes back to the old adage: it\’s not what you know, it\’s who you know.” I look at my two friends expectantly. “And, if you\’re still following me, you might also see that in these heady days of electronic businesses, knowing someone is only partly about a handshake and a phone number: often it is just as much about trust and relationships based on purely digital interactions.”
Who are we targeting as customers?
“Who are these digital people, then?” Bamboo scoffs. “You\’re banking on someone hiring you based on reading your blog.”
Zombie speaks up in my defense here. “Actually, that is fairly plausible. Our buddy, ersatz owl here, has actually worked contracts on multiple occasions based purely on a web reputation — and a reputation in those cases that he wasn\’t even actively trying to build. Write a blog and people will read it. Write a niche blog and people in that niche will read it. Write it well…”
“Write it well,” I interrupt, “and those people will recall your name when they need a solution to something you wrote about. Follow?”
“But, I still don\’t know who you plan to engage as these so-called customers.” Bamboo winces. “And who is going to do the work?”
“Well, that\’s the big question, isn\’t it. And I\’ve got a few ideas about that, too. But the process is going to take time. Months. A year maybe.” I say solemnly. “This isn\’t about a quick fix, but honestly brokering a relationship with a community of business people.”
Why does anyone buy what we\’re selling?
“And you expect to make a living at this?” Bamboo\’s skepticism is written all over his face. “How? I\’m still…”
“Dubious?” I ask. “And I\’ve already told you this is a little abstract at the outset. One of the big questions any business needs to sit back and ask itself is simply: why the heck would someone pay us to do this? Basic economics. Supply requires a demand, right?”
“If I may,” Zombie interrupts, “I think I\’m starting to get a sense of what you are talking about. Now, correct me if I\’m wrong but… well… look at it this way.” She holds up a finger and clears her throat. “The way that any business makes money is by selling a product that people need. The more people who need your product, the more money the business makes. Right?”
“Sure.” Bamboo nods.
“What you are telling us is that you can offer something that customers need, and those customers just happen to be — I\’m supposing — companies or organizations who have need of a project manager or a technology guy, right?”
“Exactly.” I say.
“And the reason they wouldn\’t just hire a project manager or technology guy is…?” Zombie prods. “Help me out here.”
“Because hiring those folks full time, while ideal, is not always feasible financially, particularly for a small business.” I mean if I want to renovate my house I don\’t employ a guy full time to do the work. I hire someone for the job. It\’s a temporary service-based, contract thing.”
“And if you were a white-collar guy doing that kind of work we\’d call you a consultant, no?” Bamboo asks.
“Yes…” I reply. “… and no.” I shrug. “But the spirit is there. You\’re close, but with the very subtle difference that in this case the work isn\’t so much consulting as it is, well, services for hire. In the strictest sense…”
“I think we get the idea. You\’re going to be a consultant.” Bamboo says bluntly.
“If it helps to think of it like that, I suppose.” I wince a little as I contest the notion. “But there is a subtle difference at play here. And the reason why anyone would buy that service, while very similar to why they would hire a consultant, is kinda where that difference lies. Do you follow?”
Zombie sighs. “I think we\’re going to need an example. But right now, I would like some birthday cake.”