donderdag 21 juli 2011

Five Businesses Born at a Bar

From Evernote:

Five Businesses Born at a Bar

Once in a while, the drinks let loose a sparkler of an idea and a cocktail napkin takes a turn as notebook. We went looking for entrepreneurial ideas conceived at bars. Here’s what we found.

1. When the green chiles they’d ordered from their native New Mexico didn’t arrive at their home in Tampa, Fla., Allison Rugen and Carlo Marchiondo made a logical next move. “We walked across the street to a local bar to drown our sorrows,” Rugen says. “Up on our semi-drunken high horses, we ranted about the superior job we would do as chile distributors.” Then—on a cocktail napkin they still have—the duo jotted down the plan for Southwest Chile Supply, a company that now includes restaurants, wholesale accounts and chile merchandise. 

2. Three martinis and 10 cocktail napkins from Chicago’s Boka. That’s what it took, in 2007, for Daniel Adamany and Aaron Nack to come up with the business plan for their IT company, Ahead. Last year’s revenues? $130 million. Definitely enough cash for Adamany—a Grey Goose man—and Nack—who prefers Belvedere—to order a few celebratory martinis.

3. Publicist Lisa Jeffries was always in the know about the best to-dos around Raleigh, N.C. When friend Evan Roberts asked for a New Year’s Eve 2009 recommendation, she “realized there wasn’t one source to sort all of these offerings,” Jeffries says. She met Roberts for drinks at Sauced Pizza and came up with the idea for, a one-stop guide to the city’s NYE parties. Up next: an app to clue people in on events year-round.

4. Jason Stenseth and Mazen Dauleh drafted a plan for their medical equipment rental company, 123DME, in just 30 minutes while sipping Crown and Cokes at a Denver bar. “We bought the domain, put the website up and registered with the state on the spot,” Stenseth says. Their idea to sell and rent equipment not usually covered by insurance may have started as a lark, but their client base now includes hospitals, schools, doctors’ offices and medical supply companies—and they’re considering franchising.

5. Kimberly Fowler says her epiphany came mid-mojito at James Beach in Venice, Calif. Though her Yoga for Athletes classes were popular, many of her members had to maintain a second gym membership for weight training. When she overheard a waiter at James Beach say “just add mint,” she realized she could just add weights to YAS. Yoga for Athletes Ripped was born.

Sara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider. Follow her on Twitter: @KaraOhngren


woensdag 20 juli 2011

Richard Branson on the Art of Delegation

From Evernote:

Richard Branson on the Art of Delegation

Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. What follows is the latest edited round of insightful responses. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.

Q: Your company has hundreds of different businesses in operation; how do you manage to keep them on track and achieve expected output? ~ Robert Cheng, Taiwan

A: The short answer is that I rely on a terrific team of CEOs and top managers, and on the great people around the world who work for Virgin. But building this group was a long process, so let’s look at how our team arrived at this point.

Virgin’s ability to grow and diversify successfully was set in the company’s early days, with my learning how to delegate and let go. This will probably seem counterintuitive to anyone who is in the midst of launching a business. Right now, you are almost certainly motivating your staff by demonstrating your own drive and enthusiasm. Most days, the founder will be the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. This is often the only way to survive those first tough years, when most businesses have to scrape by with the minimum number of employees.

The trick is to start promoting from within on day one. I’m not just referring to moving people to new positions, but giving all employees enough flexibility to take on new responsibilities within their current jobs.

When employees tell you about their good ideas for the business, don’t limit your response to asking questions, taking notes and following up. If you can, ask those people to lead their projects and take responsibility for them. From those experiences, they will then have built the confidence to take on more and you can take a further step back.

Related: Work On — Not In — Your Business

I stumbled across this truth accidentally. My friends and I started up Student magazine and Virgin Records when we were kids, and so we had little corporate experience and knew next to nothing about setting up a bureaucracy. If someone in our group had the ability and desire to take on new responsibilities, he or she just went ahead and did it.

A few years later, as the number of our employees neared 100 at our record business, I began to fear we were becoming slow and cumbersome. So I split the company in half, which created a new company. We picked talented people from within Virgin Records to run it. The next time Virgin Records’ number of employees reached 100, I repeated this trick, and I have carried on doing it. This policy kept our businesses hungry and adaptable and, crucially, we uncovered great management talent — people who otherwise might not have gotten noticed, and would likely have pursued promotions at other companies.

At Virgin, we often promote employees who have energy and determination, even if they don’t yet have a lot of experience. They are so buoyed by their promotion and passionate about their work that they make a success of the new job. All we have to do is ensure they have the support they need to carry out their goals.

Related: Build Your Management Team

Looking back, my decision to work out of my houseboat in West London rather than at Virgin Records’ offices was a very important move. This happened about the same time I split Virgin Records into two. I decided to take a step back to give my managers space to make decisions. That’s when I learned that the most successful entrepreneurs are those who find people who are at least as good as, or better than, they are at running their businesses.

Stepping back frees the founder to focus on the bigger picture — to dive in when there are problems or to help close a deal. This is how I manage our diversified group: I am not involved in the daily business of any Virgin company, unless I need to be.

When your team is in place and the launch phase is over, take the time to conduct a test to see how well the company performs without your help. This can be a very revealing exercise: It will show you where the problems are and, most important, how well you have learned to delegate.

So make sure you hire great people and find ways to keep them on your team for the long term. Encourage them to pursue their ideas and give them the tools that they need to succeed: promotions, assistance, or perhaps a new company! If you get this right, you will also have more time to look after body, mind, family, friends and children. Basically, you’ll have to time to have a blast.

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Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to