Archive for June, 2009
After months of trials and tribulations with X-Cart we decided that we will not give them the opportunity to make any more money off of us.
We spent $300 on them to purchase their base system and we are going to use that system. However, we are not going to use the X-Cart team to make any modifications to the system we have purchased for scrubadoo.com.
We created a proposal for the Job on Odesk and as of Thursday we officially hired another company to make the modifications we need. The expected cost is legitimately 25% of the cost X-Cart was charging and the time-line for the job is 1 week as opposed to 1 month.
The name of the company we are using is Matrix Design and they are located in India. Hopefully we will not run into the same issues we did with X-Carts team that was also overseas, in the Ukraine. So far they seem to understand what we need. After providing them with a description of our needs they came back to us with an in depth proposal and a diagram of exactly how it would work. They immediately understood what we needed and were able to easily show us that they understood.
The actual work starts Monday and I am once again confident that things will move forward relatively smoothly. Right now I am a huge fan of sites like Odesk and Elance (I am using Elance for a project with the gaming company I am a part of). Hopefully they produce the results we need and I will continue to use them in the future.
Hello all, my name is Kyle and I am one of the newest members of the ScrubSquared team. I am an intern from the McIntire School of Commerce at UVA, the undergrad business school, and I’ve been working here since the beginning of June. I was lucky to get this opportunity, because I had a part-time paid internship lined up, and wanted another job or internship where I could gain some experience. This job really worked out great for me since it fit perfectly with my schedule, and I was a good fit as an intern since one was needed at the last second.
This job really has been an eye-opener for me. My only other work experiences in the past have been in restaurants and local stores, typical high school jobs. Coming into this job I thought that things would be very structured like they were at my previous jobs. If you’ve ever worked for a restaurant chain you would know that you have a uniform and a set way of doing things with very little leeway. Working here I’ve come to see how there aren’t simple answers to solving the problems a business faces, especially a start-up business.
In a restaurant if a customer has a complaint, you tell the manager, he apologizes and gives them free food, problem solved. Those were the kind of situations I used to face. But here, when trying to find out what phone forwarding service we should use, there wasn’t a rigid system and protocol to find the answer. Instead I’ve gotten to see how a business goes about finding the best solution, and you don’t always know if you pick the right solution (as we found out with our experience with x-cart). I’ve been given a lot more responsibility with problems and the freedom to figure out the answers.
I always thought experience was overrated, because I didn’t have any. But now that I’m put in the situation where I have to make decisions (albeit small ones, there still big for me) and perform where my actions directly affect the business I realize how important it is. Luckily I’m getting experience working with ScrubSquared, and hopefully it will help me, and the company, in the future.
As mentioned in prior posts we outsourced the building of the scrubadoo.com website to a company called logoworks. To this point we have been extremely happy with the quality, service, and product logoworks has provided.
Unfortunately Logoworks does not work on chek out systems, thus we started a relationship with x-cart, to provide this system. We needed them to make some very specific modifications to their base package that we think will help differentiate our website. This process has been absolutely miserable. x-cart may have the worst customer service of any company I have ever met.
We laid out $300 up front for the base x-cart system. We then began speaking with them about our required modifications on April 28th. From the start the people there have been difficult to communicate with, work with, and they have been unresponsive. We have filed numerous complaints with their customer service portal which are not ignored, but certainly do not accomplish anything. Despite telling them from the get-go that we wanted to launch the site by mid June, it is now June 19th and just yesterday we received the final quote on how much they would charge to do the work.
On top of this they told us they can’t start the work for 15 business days and then once they start the work would require an additional 18 business days to complete. This was the final straw. We utilized Odesk yesterday morning and within 5 hours we had 14 bids for the project, yesterday afternoon I interviewed three candidates via skype. Today those same three candidates are providing us with proposals for the same project x-cart took over a month to submit a proposal for. All three of the new candidates can start working on it on Monday and it will be done within 2 weeks.
They have all been easier to communicate with and more responsive than x-cart ever was, we do not need to pay them for everything up front and to top it all off they will likely be at least 50% cheaper than x-cart.
To be fair all of our prospective suppliers are also overseas and are trying to win our business (x-cart never had to we went straight to them). Perhaps once we contract with one of the new bidders we will run into many of the same issues. I certainly hope not. So far our experience contracting out IT work overseas has been miserable. We are giving it another chance and hope the next company can change our mind.
I am proud to say that we have completed the ScrubSquared team. There are now 7 of us working on making scrubadoo.com and scrubraisers a success. We consist of three mba graduates, 1 current mba student, 1 undergraduate, and 2 law students. So far so good.
In the short two week time we have been together I am already impressed with the ability and diligence of everyone on the team. My roll continues to evolve and has become much more managerial than ever before.
As scrubadoo.com has yet to launch we are using a project based work style. There is not a lot of repetitive day to day functionings of the company thus everyone is working on largely independant projects. This has worked extremely well so far. So far I have found two keys to making this strategy work.
- The first is keeping everyone up to date on everyone elses work. We have had a few instances of some overlap so we are still trying to get better at this. Currently we have weekly progress updates that everyone is involved in which has provided a great brainstorming opportunity for each of the project leads. On top of this I try and keep everyone on target and when there some synergies between projects I need to make sure I get the two people together.
- The second challenge is making sure everyone understands and has the same vision and mission. If everyone is working towards different goals we will get nowhere fast. There are a lot of ways to do things and we need to make sure everyone is doing things the ScrubSquared way. I think that this may be the most important part of my roll as manager.
On a side not I recently joined a website called thinkentrepreneurship. It is a very new website but I think it has a ton of potential. I think that anyone interested in entrepreneurship will be able to benefit from it. The more people that join the better the resource it will become.
We are currently up to a team of 5 working on scrubraisers and scrubadoo.com. I increasingly find myself doing more and more overall strategy and managerial work and less of the nitty gritty stuff. We still all wear a lot of hats but my roll is steadily changing little by little. I think this is fairly normal for a company at our stage and it will be interesting to see how my roll and the companies evolution move together.
So far I think things are going fairly well with the team and I am pretty happy playing my roll. It has only been about two weeks since we expanded past Meredith and myself so we have a long way to go. One downfall is that I have found myself passing off projects that I would normally enjoy undertaking and it seems that a lot of what is left is sometimes very monotonous (like editing and reading through a 35 page operating agreement).
The upside is obvious, we have a ton of brainpower working on making the company better. We are going to get a lot more accomplished in the next three months than if we were without all the talent we now have. A lot of these projects are things that we would never have had the time to explore.
Managing and evolving your position is a challenge that almost all successful entrepreneurs will have to succeed at. If anyone has any tips, feel free to post away. The ongoing challenge of entrepreneurship is what attracts many to it and trust me, so far the challenges have yet to run out.
Well, today I’m going to tackle LinkedIn and Twitter, two somewhat newer social/professional networking applications that we hope will prove useful to our start-up.
I learned about LinkedIn while working at JWT, an ad agency in New York City, before business school. LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in that it builds an online network of people you know and allows you to connect to new people through this network. The big difference is that Facebook was designed as a social networking site, and LinkedIn was designed as a professional networking site. So instead of friends, you have business contacts, and the content exchanged throughout the network is work experience and qualifications, job opportunities, company information, etc. We have decided to use LinkedIn as another way to get out the word on our company ScrubSquared, and its two businesses Scrubadoo.com and Scrubraisers. LinkedIn now hosts company pages, which describe a company, provide a link to its website, and creates a common identity that its employees can link to from their personal pages. I imagine this will be most useful to us in letting our acquaintances and professional networks know what we’re up to, hopefully leading to suggestions, advice, and contacts that will be helpful to us.
Twitter of course is the latest social networking craze. I just read an interesting article about it last night in TIME Magazine. For now, Brett and I are both tweeting as ScrubadooBrett and ScrubadooMer. We’re using this in a similar way to LinkedIn and Facebook in terms of getting the word out on what we’re doing from an entrepreneurship standpoint, but I believe Twitter has the potential in the future to create an ongoing dialogue about what nurses and other medical professionals go through in their day-to-day lives, which could give us some insight into how to make their lives easier. I think Twitter’s still really finding its own identity, and we’ll have to figure out our Twitter identity as time goes along.
I understand the initial reluctance an entrepreneur at Darden or anywhere else may have to reveal their ideas to a wide audience. I recently had someone tell me that I need to be careful not to reveal too much about my business this early on. While I understand this train of thought I don’t really agree with it.
I have gotten into the habit of talking about scrubadoo.com and scrubraisers with pretty much anyone that will listen. Every time I do, it seems like I get a useful piece of information or a new idea that I hadn’t thought of yet. In fact, I really should start writing them down as I probably forget half of what people come up with (this is another issue I should eventually write about…time management and how to decide on which ideas to act on). This blog is the result of someone else’s idea and even if no one reads it, the posts are a good release for me.
Several key ideas and contacts that I have made in the last two months have come from me just talking to random people about my business. As far as I can tell no one has stolen our idea yet. My theory is that the majority of people out there have zero (0) intentions of leaving their comfortable lifestyle to pursue the unknown. At the same time everyone dreams of running their own company and being their own boss. Sooo, when you give them the opportunity to live vicariously through your endeavor they get excited and want to help in almost anyway possible.
The saying “loose lips sinks ships” didn’t come about by accident but I think in the entrepreneurial world you are pretty safe talking to just about anyone, especially for us. We don’t have any IP or real “secrets” to hide so maybe our model is unique and others should worry about loose lips but I have the feeling that as long as you use some common sense you will be pretty safe.
I have written several times about how many resources are out there for entrepreneurs. This is especially true in any place like Darden and the University of Virginia. Here we are lucky enough to have both people with significant experience in entrepreneurship and several young entrepreneurs we can learn from and share ideas with.
A few benefits I have received from my network already include banking help, free legal work, and help in recruiting and selecting interns. Today I had a great opportunity to sit down with Rick White, a CPA, who I was introduced to by Philippe Sommer, the Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Darden’s Batten Institute.
Rick and I had a phone conversation about a month back and agreed to meet closer to the launch of scrubadoo.com. We spent about an hour talking about the company and, more importantly, the things I need to be thinking about now, that will make our books and tax statements easier to handle in the future. I wanted to relay a few key points that anyone else working on a start up may find useful.
1. Make sure you have a thorough operating agreement (everyone I talk to emphasizes this).
2. You are responsible for paying taxes, sales and income, in any state that your company has “nexus” in. Every state differs slightly in what defines “nexus” but there is a loose rule to follow it is defined by property, employees, or sales. (Remember this is loose and I am not an accountant).
- Property - If you own or rent property in a state that you operate from you will likely have nexus in that state.
- Employees – Any state that you have employees in likely qualifies you for nexus in that state. What is defined as an “employee” can vary greatly state to state. These days states are doing everything they can to define this term loosely so they can create revenue.
- Sales – Any state that you sell from, i.e. have a storefront, qualifies you for nexus. In the case of e-commerce your “storefront” is the state in which your servers are located.
3. If you hire people on a contract (1099) basis, which we will likely do, make sure they sign the appropriate tax paperwork prior to issuing their check. We, like many small businesses, will utilize the 1099 as a way to avoid payroll issues that can be expensive and time consuming. There will be a point when we need steady full-time help and at that time we will move to the more traditional payroll system.
4. Any start-up costs a company has prior to the time that they are physically ready to bring in revenue can be capitalized.
5. QuickBooks is a solid program for any small company. We use QuickBooks Pro, mostly because the inventory features are superior to the free version. If you don’t have inventory I think you can get away with the free version of QuickBooks.
Rick also went through what will happen at tax time and what we would need to provide an accountant, the costs associated with it, and what we can start doing now to be ready for it. He answered all of my questions, was a huge help, and did it pro bono for the first meeting. If you are interested in talking with him I don’t think he would mind an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aside from the accounting advice just remember that it isn’t enough to have a network. You need to take advantage of that network. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and you may be surprised at how willing people are.