Young Entrepreneurs – Outsourcing

Amazon Web Services
Amazon Web Services

Outsourcing… I’m not talking about sending your customer service calls overseas either.

Things have changed a lot since I started building businesses and that really wasn’t that long ago. When it comes to building a company that is technology related or is leveraging the internet to build and drive business, it is a lot easier and a lot less expensive than it used to be. Instant access to anyone and anything, the drive of the American consumer and entrepreneur and the constant re-doubling of computing speed and power has really opened it up for anyone with a great idea and the passion to see it to its end. Outsourcing used to be a bad term and generally referred to companies using foreign workers to answer their telephones and provide 24/7 customer service for less than they were paying to have business hours coverage.

It isn’t a bad thing and here is just one example covering a lot of small business needs; Amazon Web Services (AWS)

With minimal time and effort, using AWS you can build hosted applications (like Twitter), obtain remote storage, setup billing and payment services, provide content, leverage hosted keyword and optimization tools and even push manual labor tasks out as projects for jobs that cannot be automated and require substantial short term headcount. Below are some of these various services and brief descriptions of what they do. This is a great place to build a prototype, test it, optimize it and even push it live before needing to get any financing, hire any employees, lease any office space or even setup a legal business entity. I truly wish this was around and its benefits explained back in ’95 when I got going with my own companies. The service is free to set going. Any ‘go-live’ fees are minimal and usage based.

  • Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers. In more simple terms: You can setup your own application server, create your application, take it live and watch it grow without buying any hardware, no network integration, no expensive commercial grade broadband and reactionary scaling where your servers capacity grows automatically as external demand requires. In terms of a web application, like Twitter, the servers that hosts the application, the connectivity to the internet, the storage of information and scalability of it as more and more people use that application grows.
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) provides a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers. No simplification needed here: S3 is low cost data storage with high availability to anyone around the globe.
  • Amazon DevPay is a simple-to-use online billing and account management service that makes it easy for businesses to sell applications that are built in, or run on top of, Amazon Web Services. It is designed to make running applications in the cloud and on demand easier for developers. Simplified: DevPay is used to sign up and bill customers using your applications and collect their payments. This billing can be subscription/recurring based or based on usage of the application. This takes a lot of pain away from new business owners and even established ones stepping up to AWS.
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk web service enables companies to programmatically access this marketplace and a diverse, on-demand workforce. Developers can leverage this service to build human intelligence directly into their applications. While computing technology continues to improve, there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings or researching data details. Traditionally, tasks like this have been accomplished by hiring a large temporary workforce (which is time consuming, expensive and difficult to scale) or have gone undone. A simple example use: We need UPC codes for all of the products listed in our online store – (VoIP Supply). With my current staff busy handling day to day work and unable to dedicate the days needed to track down UPC codes for 2,000+ products, this task is always going to sit on the back burner. With Amazon Mechanical Turks and access to thousands of people able to work together on this project, we can get this project completed in less than a day for a fraction of the cost, without disrupting my staff and their work.
  • Amazon CloudFront works by distributing your web content (i.e. images, video, etc) using a network of edge locations around the world. Your content is then served from the edge location that is geographically closest to the user who requests it. This is best explained visually (HERE) but basically permits distribution of your content globally with the less latency and greater reliability by finding the closest point of storage/access for the person or system requesting your data.

This is a very remarkable bundle of services for anyone looking to take their idea from a napkin to the Inc. 500 without many of the traditional hurdles and roadblocks that have plagued past entrepreneurs.

Young Entrepreneurs – Mind your focus

Focus
Focus

I hope to write a series of these for those getting started with a new venture of their own or those thinking about getting into business for themselves. All ‘Young Entrepreneur’ topics shall be general lessons learned and mistakes made that compensate for my lack of tuition and college education expense. This is the first one and one of the most important; Mind your Focus.

Sure, you have great ideas. You’re smart, young, driven, fresh out of school with your MBA and about to change the way everyone does everything. Me too, except that MBA thing!

This is one chunk of advice that I have read all about, was mentored on and frankly knew it was true from the get go, yet rarely chose to make it part of my mindset.

Too many great ideas, not enough focus.

I’ve long been terrible at this (or awesome at it, depending on how you look at it) as are most people with ambition and creativity combined. Putting all of your effort towards one project at a time and enduring the good and bad until completed will always yield better and more profitable results than spreading your focus over many great ideas, completing none and exhausting yourself in the process. If you have ever worked with me, you are probably laughing hysterically right now since you would know how counter this logic is to my historical patterns. Hindsight is 20/20 and I can only change the future by learning from the past.

One major initiative at a time.

I remind myself of this all of the time and currently believe that I and we are doing very well at this within the company. While we have plenty of minor initiatives going on at the same time, our only focus is on our core business of online retail. We sell high tech emerging market hardware, including VoIP, IP Surveillance and Network related products. It isn’t the sexiest work, but we do it very well and it generates the profits needed by the company. I have a lot of service ideas that can easily be built, launched and they will generate higher margin revenue, but during times like these it is more important to care for what I have, my customers, my employees and the business as a whole. There is always time for the next great thing.

If you have the courage to start something on your own, have the sense to focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else.

Note: If you fail at this and spread yourself too thin or try working too many angles, remember to learn from it and move on. Get back up and try again, at least you tried and no one ever gets anywhere without that. Less than 1% of the population starts and runs a business, the fact that you tried makes you special.