If you were to offer advice to a beginning entrepreneur, what would it be? --Francisco Romero, Albuquerque
First, don't obsess on finding the "great idea." In fact, our research shows a somewhat negative correlation between pioneering a great idea and building a great company. Many of the greatest started with either no great idea or even failed ideas.
Sony (Charts) started with a failed rice cooker. Marriott (Charts) started as a single root beer stand. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's great idea was simply to work together - two best friends who trusted each other - while their first four products failed to get the company out of the garage.
They followed the "first who" approach to entrepreneurship: First figure out your partners, then figure out what ideas to pursue. The most important thing isn't the market you target, the product you develop or the financing, but the founding team.
Starting a company is like scaling an unclimbed face - you don't know what the mountain will throw at you, so you must pick the right partners, who share your values, on whom you can depend, and who can adapt.
February 2007 Archives
Until recently Zillow was read-only. But now Barton, Frink and their 133 employees are introducing new features to keep people coming back and, in the process, protect the site from downcycles in the real estate market. In September, Zillow opened the site to enable visitors to edit home records for everyone to see.
In December the site began accepting listings from homeowners and agents, and unveiled an intriguing feature called Make Me Move. Everyone has heard the heartwarming tale of the newlyweds who luck into a dream home while driving through an idyllic neighborhood. They get out of the car and slide a note under the door: "If you're ever interested in selling, we can offer you x. We promise to love your house. Please call." Two days later an elderly woman phones to tell the couple their timing was impeccable and the price is right. The couple buys the home, raises a family and lives happily ever after. Make Me Move - which, as it sounds, lets Zillow users post the figure that would cause them to pack up and go - is intended to make that fairy tale a lot more common.
We all have our price. Judging by some of the Make Me Move listings that have cropped up in a few months, that price is often ridiculous. But Zillow officials say the average Make Me Move figure is just 17 percent over the Zestimate. That's a relatively modest premium, so users are clearly taking the feature seriously. Which got me thinking. My wife and I have entertained thoughts of moving. We're not restless enough to go through the stress of interviewing agents, listing our home and opening it to visitors. But if someone made the right offer, sure.
IN real estate, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words. Much, much more. When selling properties online, agents and Web designers say that the pictures buyers see of houses and apartments for sale are often the first — and sometimes the only — chance for a seller to make a good impression. Less-than-flattering pictures can turn buyers off and lead to lonely open houses.Virtual Properties has created high quality still and panoramic images since 1995. Learn more, here.
Now that sales volume has also declined, agents are looking for ways to distinguish themselves from their Lexus-driving peers.
Not surprisingly, a growing industry of marketing wizards, Web site designers and personal coaches has sprung up to help them.
Suzee Miller, "author, broker, speaker" and founder of Feng Shui Paradigms, teaches agents to "feng shui" their listings and sell the unsellable. Coach Mike Ferry offers a "One-on-One Coaching Program" to agents eager to scale new real estate heights.
These programs don't come cheap -- to join Ferry's (which includes "40 high-intensity Coaching Calls," "Superstar Retreats," access to the Ferry library of media products, business tracking tools and daily e-mails from Mike, among other services -- but not actual private coaching with Ferry himself) the cost is $12,000 a year.
Locally, San Francisco agent Alexander Clark offers an electronic newsletter, with concise listings of all new properties on the market and all properties sold in the past week, to other agents so they can use the assembled data to "add value" to their client communications. And umpteen Web sites charge agents high fees and/or commissions in return for "hot leads" from random Internet surfers who fill out a form saying they are looking for an agent.