Date archives "February 2008"

Time Management System

“Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas. But can it really?…True effectiveness requires balance.” Stephen Covey

When scheduling my week, month and year I use the following time management system. The system basically asks you to break up your week into three different types of days. The break up is:

  1. Preparation
  2. Best
  3. Rest

This system truly is very simple, yet, it is often overlooked by many of us. Examples of when this system is not used are days when you feel you are not giving your best to what you are doing, looking to find more time in the day to complete a critical task, thinking your life is purely about work and nothing else.These are thoughts which come to mind even though we have a goals list which is prioritized. By implementing this system I have been able to bring balance into my life and to make sure that I am in sync with all aspects of it.

To use the system effectively you need a prioritized goals list as well as clearly outlining  the functions or tasks you excel at and bring the greatest amount of value to. Once you have marked these, you need to categorize your week into preparation, best and rest days. For example, due to an excess work load I am experiencing this month, I have allocated 2 preparation days, 4 best days and 1 rest day.

Preparation Days: These are the days when I plan the critical tasks which need to be completed during the course of the week or month. These include research for proposals which need to completed, tabulating psychometric tests scores which have been conducted, set and plan agendas for meetings scheduled during the week and coordination which needs to be done for events taking place during the week. Everyone’s preparation days will be unique to the core tasks at which they excel.

Best Days: These days include a number of tasks which create the greatest value. These would include finalizing and sending out proposals, giving presentations and meeting prospective clients, consultations and feedback sessions with clients who have taken our psychometric tests and internal strategic planning meetings. These are tasks which are made easier when prepared for in detail and make my best days a lot more productive. Choose tasks which you have skills and passion for to ensure that you make the most of these days.

Rest Days: These days include tasks which are not related to business . With the advent of Blackberry’s and iPhones, these rest days are slowly becoming extinct. You should do your best to allocate activities or events where you can relax and unwind during these days. I usually spend time with friends and family during this day, reading the ever increasing backlog of unread books and catching up on some sitcoms and shows which I enjoy. These days are essential for a balanced lifestyle.

By targeting a number of prep, best and rest days in a month I have been able to allocate  time more efficiently and have become more effective at the tasks which I excel at. I hope this system can help you as much as it has helped me.


” I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.” Dan Millman

If you have constructed a goals list and have broken it down into several sub goals it can be intimidating at first. We need to prioritize the list we create to manage time more effectively. Without prioritizing we will remain stuck in an over burdened state where we will not find the time to finish anything efficiently. Prioritizing goals is a critical step and needs to be done carefully to ensure that you concentrate on the activities which have the greatest return for your efforts. By focusing on the “right” things you will move towards your goals at a more effective and faster pace.

The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule is an apt principle to describe the prioritizing process. You need to identify the tasks which you do daily and which result in the greatest output. Concentrating on those top 20% of activities will result in you working at your optimal. In essence the principle is very straightforward and logical one, yet we find ourselves bogged down everyday doing tasks which are not in the top 20%. For example if you are a salesperson with 100 clients on your roster, you should be focusing your efforts on the top 20 clients who are generating 80% of your revenue. This principle forces you to make choices between what is important and critical and what is not. When I look at a task sheet I usually mark it using the 4D formula which is;

  • Dump it: Tasks which are not relevant to reaching  stipulated goals. For example if I am swamped with work, going to buy myself a new TV isn’t essential at this time  and I will cross it out.
  • Defer it: Tasks which are important but not urgent are put into this category. For example if I am told that I need to select a new vendor for our air conditioning servicing contract for the next quarter I will file it away for a later date.
  • Delegate it: Tasks which are important but for which I may not be the best person need to be delegated. For example, if my company is looking to invest into a new web conferencing solution, I will delegate the research to an assistant so that I can have all the relevant information to make an informed and faster decision.
  • Do it now!: Essential tasks which I am the most efficient at doing should be done with the highest priority. For example if I am head of marketing and need to deliver our marketing plan for the next year to the Board I should be focusing my energy to make it the best I can.

By focusing on the important tasks and at which we are the most efficient, we will find ourselves completing and accomplishing  more during the course of the day, week, month and year. So if you haven’t prioritized your task and goal list make sure you do it as soon as possible to ensure that your time is allocated to those activities which produce the greatest amount of value.


“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no direction.” Baltasar Gracian

If you tell yourself ‘tomorrow I will manage my time more effectively and get more done’ without any sense of direction of the why or how, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You will need to set S.M.A.R.T goals to ensure that you organize your time effectively and concentrate on actions which will help you reach the desired goals more effectively (Detailed goal construction is a topic I will cover in the coming weeks). Specific.Measurable.Attainable.Realistic.Time goals provide a structure which helps us reach our desired outcome in a more effective manner.

Specific – You will need to answer 5 basic questions when setting a goal:

  1. What do you want to accomplish?
  2. When do you need to accomplish it by?
  3. Where are you going to accomplish the goal?
  4. Who is going to be involved in helping you accomplish the goal.
  5. Why are you wanting to accomplish this goal?

These questions will cover broad goals such as “I want to setup a business” to something along the lines of “By Dec 1st 2008,I will establish a consultancy practice with Mark Allen to provide services related to recruitment process management to help companies recruit more efficiently in Singapore.”

Measurable – When you set a goal you need to keep constant track of its development and progress. You will need to ask yourself the following questions (questions relate to example goal stated above):

  1. How many partners do you want in the firm by Dec 30 2009?
  2. How much revenue do you estimate in the first quarter of 2009?

These questions will help you set up benchmarks for your goals to ensure that you continuously monitor your progress to stay on time.

Attainable – Any goal that you set for yourself is attainable if you work towards it. If the goal I set for myself is “I want to list my business on the stock exchange.” This is a stretch goal which requires many smaller goals to enable you to reach the final goal. Making sure you develop the competencies and satisfy the requirements of your stretch goals through smaller goals is essential in making them attainable.

Realistic – When you set goals they have to be based on the fact that you have the motivation and ability to work towards them. If you truly believe that you have what it takes to reach your goal then you should go for it. Setting goals such as “I want to go play tennis every morning at 6am” if your day ends at 3am on a regular basis will not be a very realistic goal.

Time Specific – Goals need to have a specific time frame to make them effective. A goal such as “I want to lose weight” compared to a specific goal such as “By Jun 1st 08 I want to lose 10 lbs which will be done by going to the gym 3 times a weeks starting from 10th Feb 08” is more effective . Such a goal will be much easier to process and implement than the broader unclear one.

I make goals for myself on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. These goals could be sub-goals of stretch goals which I set for myself. Working towards stretch goals on a regular basis enables you to allocate time more effectively to reach them in the stipulated period.

Where did the day go?

“Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” Samuel Smiles

As an entrepreneur the biggest hurdle that I face is that I wish the day had more hours in it. This is a problem which I have attempted to overcome and have had some success in achieving. It all comes down to the fact that my brain is in a continuous processing mode. Somewhat like a computer which has not been reset for a long time thus slowing everything down. This is how I feel on the days when I know I am not doing my best. I have hence decided to use this week to remind myself on the importance of time management and in the process give some tips to others on what has helped me.

Time management is a vast topic and has been written about and discussed widely. Yet most of it becomes difficult to digest and implement. The reason for this is that most individuals already have too much going on in their lives and miss out on the bigger picture. Three years ago, I remember being in college, running a large students organization, operating my first startup company and occasionally hanging out with friends. Looking back, that period of my life was well time managed due to correct prioritizing . The first step for organizing time has to revolve around priorities . As an entrepreneur I ask myself questions such as; what is important to myself, what do I aim to achieve and how do I plan to achieve these goals? You have to bring focus to the key priorities in life otherwise they will get left behind. For example if you believe helping out the less fortunate is an important aspect of your life and you plan to support it through a particular NGO, how are you incorporating this into your schedule? Has life taken over whilst you have been talking about it? If it has you shouldn’t be too worried, this does happen to everyone at some point of their lives. Prioritizing and using time more effectively with greater focus will help you achieve your commitment.

You will need to allocate certain days and time to your goals to make them possible. Through this methodology we will be able to strike a balance and make sure we utilize this most precious commodity as carefully as possible. I would like to know from the readers where they would utilize an extra hour if they could gain it from effectively managing time. Comments will be much appreciated.

5 ways to fund your startup

“If you experience great difficulty in raising money, it’s not because VCs are idiots and cannot comprehend your curve-jumping, paradigm shifting, revolutionary product. It’s because you either have a piece of crap or you are not effectively communicating what you have. Both of these are your fault. End of discussion.” Guy Kawasaki

Over the last week we talked about 5 ways on how to fund your startup. This list was limited to traditional funding options. For a list of a 101 creative ways to raise money for your startup please click here. Keeping in mind that funding is an important aspect of any startup, your belief and faith in your idea or concept is far more important. Before you go searching for funding make sure that you have your value proposition clearly in mind. Position yourself correctly and leverage on a good team to propel you to the highest of heights.

  1. Friends and family: This source represents a large portion of how startups get off the ground. It is however not as straight forward as it looks and you have to take into account the lenders financial status, bring professionalism into presenting your idea and have a properly structured legal agreement. To read more about this source please click here.
  2. DIY: A tough route where you develop a consulting model to facilitate the development of your end goal.This method provides entrepreneurs with a safety net before taking the deep dive. Care needs to be taken to ensure that you work towards specific and realistic goals in mind to progress to the next level. To read more about this source please click here.
  3. Angel Investors: Represent a group of high net individuals who are well  connected. They bring with them specific expertise and a valuable network to kick start your business. They provide a more flexible environment to the founders as compared to venture capitalists. Care must be taken when taking on an angel investor. Your interests must be aligned and a comprehensive legal agreement outlining each others responsibilities is critical. To read more about this source please click here.
  4. Incubators: Provide entrepreneurs with initial seed capital and resources in exchange for a minimal equity swap to get your idea off the ground. They help you in creating powerful networks which act as catalysts to get your product/service moving in the right direction. Incubators are quite scarce making them extremely difficult to get into. To read more about this source please click here.
  5. Venture Capitalists: Represent the end goal of most entrepreneurs. Venture backing provides you with the funds, mentorship and networks to take your startup global. Care has to be taken when presenting to VC’s, you have to ensure that you get referred to the firm, have a comprehensive business plan, a working prototype and a well made presentation to stand a chance. To read more about this source please click here.

The life blood of any startup company is its available cash line. Without it, startups witness stunted growth where their full potential is not realized. Establishing a reliable and stable cash line therefore becomes very important if you want to see your company become the next Google. If you happen to be among the fortunate few who get venture funded please use your allocated funds wisely. The art of bootstrapping by Guy Kawasaki is something that every entrepreneur should read very carefully. I have personally seen how venture funded companies squander their money without realizing. Spending money is the easy bit, especially so at a startup when we all strive for the best. Controlling your spending is much more of an uphill battle, so tread carefully. Best of luck in raising funding for your startup!

Source #5: Venture Capital

“I never invest in someone who says they’re going to do something; I invest in people who say they’re already doing something and just want funding.” John Doerr

Venture Capital. There are few words which ring bells in my ear and this happens to be one of them. It represents a stage in your entrepreneurial career which makes up for the roller coaster ride that you may have been through. To be substantially venture funded is a stamp of approval from seasoned veterans of this field that you have what it takes. All that is between you and immortality such as the likes of Google and Amazon is a little money. Getting here for most is a long and difficult process. This source of funding in todays day and age comes after you have used one of the previous sources outlined earlier. Diligence and persistence are two core personality traits which are vital.

Once your startup is at a stage where you believe venture funding is required to take your concept global, several steps must be taken. Some of the critical ones are outlined;

  1. Find someone who can refer you to a venture capitalist. Referrals comprise of the majority of ventures which are backed.
  2. Your business plan has to be professionally done with all the major topics covered. Sequoia Capital has outlined this very nicely on their website and every business plan should cover all the sections discussed.
  3. Have a prototype or proof of concept ready before the presentation. This is absolutely essential when pitching to VC’s today as the cost of developing them has been reduced considerably. It is an added advantage if your business concept is already running and you require the VC firm to take you to the next level.
  4. When preparing your pitch presentation please follow the 10/20/30 rule which Guy Kawasaki aggressively promotes. Having the presentation structured in this way will give you the ability to focus as well as to allow for discussion time. During the discussion you can use extensive research to answer questions.

Be as prepared as you can be for this meeting. I have been on both ends of the firing line both as a judge and a presenter and the first impressions in this encounter make all the difference. Know your presentation like the back of your hand. Be confident about your product or service, most importantly, belief in what you are pitching must be clearly apparent.

If you are stuck on step number one where you do not know anyone who can refer you to a VC firm there are a few things you can do.

  • Firstly you have to increase your level of exposure through networking (this is a topic which I will talk about in the coming weeks). Networking is an essential skill that every successful entrepreneur must have or develop.
  • Secondly join entrepreneurship clubs and committees. These provide you a platform to meet with and interact with  successful entrepreneurs which may become possible links for you to get introduced.
  • Use Linkedin or other professional networks to find individuals in your network who will be able to provide you with connections to the right VC firm.
  • Scout the web for prominent VC’s who regularly blog such as Kawasaki’s blog to find out more about them.

In essence you have to become a lot more proactive if you want to increase both your network and exposure level. You have to put yourself along with your product/service out there and get valuable feedback. Entrepreneurship is all about getting out there and giving it all you have because you believe in your company that much. Get inspired to be more today!


Source #4: Incubators

The genius of investing is recognizing the direction of a trend – not catching highs and lows Anonymous

If you find yourself in a precarious situation where you haven’t been able to raise any money through the three methods outlined in the previous posts; incubators may be the route to take. Incubators are essentially centers or organizations where startup companies are provided seed funding and a office location to launch their business. An example which comes to mind immediately is Y Combinator. The website provides you with a basic idea of how incubators are run.

I was introduced to the concept of incubators very early on as the university I attended runs several of them. The way it worked was;

  1. Write a comprehensive business plan and send it in for review.
  2. If you get short listed you were called in to give a presentation about your concept or idea to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs.
  3. Once you get through, you negotiate with the university on an equity swap for seed financing. Usually the sum would be below $15k and they would take anywhere between 5-10% of the company.
  4. You are allocated a small cubicle where you have access to shared services such as a receptionist and a business center.
  5. You are allocated a mentor to guide you along your startup route until you are ready to meet an angel investor or VC.

In theory this is a relatively easier route than the ones outlined earlier. However due to the severe shortage of incubators in most countries I left this source out earlier. I would appreciate if comments could be made regarding incubators in your country of residence to facilitate anyone who may be looking to use this source.

Source #3: Angels

I want to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in. Anita Roddick

Angel investors consist mostly of high net individuals. They have domain expertise in some specific area and are very well connected. Once a company decides that it wants to take itself to the next level, angel investors are usually a good first step. At this point, the advice I give startups is , find an angel investor who has domain expertise in their particular industry or field. They become an excellent reference point for you to get connected, gain exposure and set yourself up for a much larger round of funding. To begin the search for an appropriate angel investor you should;

  • Prepare a formal business plan with an attractive executive summary.
  • Get your elevator pitch and presentation fine tuned.
  • Preferable to have a working prototype or demo of your product/service.

Angel investors usually fill the void for investments ranging from $100k – $1m. Assessing your companies valuation (This process will be talked about in a couple of weeks) is an essential step before pitching to them. This will help you to gauge how much equity you will have to give up to raise the amount of capital you require. Armed with this information you are ready to begin your search. If possible get a referral from someone who may have contact with an angel group or the angel him/herself. This will increase the likely hood of getting an appointment. Without a referral, search for prominent angel groups in your city or country. Such as BANSEA in the SEA region.

Angel investors provide startups with flexibility which is not available in venture backed companies. Angel investors provide you with the ability to sell or buy your stock from them during the initial stages. This gives cash strapped founders the ability to benefit along the way. This flexibility also brings with it some unique challenges. Angels can be a lot more intrusive than venture capitalists. Some take advantage of cash strapped founders by increasing their shareholding at the expense of the founders and may even take an active role in the company which may lead to undermining the founders authority. Some ways you can guard against this scenario’s is to have a lawyer draft out a comprehensive agreement. In this way you can ensure that your rights remain guarded and you will not be caught off guard by the angels contract agreement terms. Making sure both parties understand the agreement fully before entering into this partnership is vital.

This is the stage in a startup venture when your dreams begin to take shape. When an angel shows interest don’t reach the conclusion that it is a done deal. Continue to market yourself, this will raise your companies exposure level. With a greater level of exposure you will have considerable leverage to ensure that you get the better end of the deal. Rushing this stage is never a good idea, you are selecting a partner who is essential in your journey to an IPO or acquisition stage. Keep your eyes and ears peeled and once you get that “right” feeling just go with it.