Shaken up by the Shakeout?

Can we talk perspective for a moment?

I’m sure all of you are going through the same kind of thing I’m experiencing… In the past, when I would go to gatherings of friends or family (translated: no industry people present), folks used to be QUITE impressed that I’m one of those “dot-com guys” who has a Net company. They had no idea what that meant, only that there was gold in them thar hills. Well now, with all the horrible press, the layoffs, the bankruptcies, the shutdowns, etc. the same people look at you and treat you with sympathy and comfort… as if you just got diagnosed with cancer or heart disease.

Well, here’s the perspective: Just as you shouldn’t have been fooled by their adulation in the first place, don’t get sucked in by the negativity either.

Personally, I feel energized by the current shakeout in the industry.

Do you remember working in a company when the lazy sloth, the constant complainer, or the evil do-nothing finally got his or her just deserts in the form of a pink slip? All that negative energy just went away, and in its place was a feeling a relief – a breath of fresh air.

What we are going through right now is not all that different.

For a long time now, business plans that would have been laughed out of town in any other industry were lavishly funded by VCs and turned into businesses run by spreadsheet-driven MBAs who can talk the lingo and schmooze the investors but lack any common sense whatsoever about what constitutes a legitimate business opportunity.

It was a drag watching these people become instant millionaires (or billionaires!) over a feverishly funded wireless ukulele portal.

Since last March, however, when the market finally regained its senses and began to ask simple, commonsense questions about the feasibility, the viability, and the profitability of the companies that it funded in all the frenzy, we’re finally seeing the demise of many businesses that only saw the light of day because they had a “.com” at the end of their name.

Those of us who stuck to the fundamentals of good business, who avoided getting caught up in all the hype, will be the ones who survive the onslaught. We may not be billionaires at the end of it, but we’ll know – and they will know – that we did it right.

What are those commonsense principles?

Well, you just need to ask some questions about your business plan…

Are you serving an audience that has enough critical mass and enough growth possibility to sustain your business?

Is there a “community of support” around this area you are focused on? Are there companies offering products and services that are prospering? Are there conferences, seminars, trade shows, user groups, or clubs?

Are you providing them with a solution that is better (whether online or off) than what they can find elsewhere? Or are you a solution seeking a problem?

Are you distracting yourself with dazzling technology, or are you solving a real-life problem that is such a pain that people HAVE to find a solution?

Is your ego getting caught up in rapid-growth spreadsheet projections (an insidious tool that pulls us away from reality-based thinking), or are you really offering something that people or companies will actually PAY to get? And by the way, offering an audience that has tremendous value counts as a solution that people or companies will actually PAY to get (in front of).

Does it cost you less to produce the solution than you will take in for providing the solution? Are you getting caught up in wishful thinking about “economies of scale” or “other opportunities” that will emerge simply because you’ve reached critical mass? If so, think again.

A nice way for you to think through your business plan is to stroll down to Barnes and Noble or Borders or whomever has a large magazine selection in your town. Once you get past the 10 percent of titles that are general interest (very telling that that’s about all the print industry can handle), look through the remaining 90 percent that are focused on special interests. Look through their ads, their classifieds, and their special advertising sections. Get their sense of community. See what other titles are competing with them. See what companies are dominating the ad space.

The magazine rack will tell you everything you need to know about succeeding in Internet publishing.

That’s what we are: magazines. Only we’re free and MUST survive on ad revenues. And we aren’t physical.

You will be able to steal more good ideas – more commonsense, time-tested ideas – from your local magazine rack than you will from a month of online surfing.

These guys have been growing and profitable for many years. Most are privately held and HAD to be profitable to survive.

Shouldn’t that tell us something?

So breathe in the fresh autumn air, feel good about the fact that you’re still hanging in there, ask some commonsense questions, and take a stroll to the magazine store to get some ideas from our older, wiser counterparts in the print biz.

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