Category Archives: 5 Venture Launching

Basic Rules for Sustaining New Endeavors

Entrepreneurial projects are most vulnerable in the early stages, when no one is yet earning money or public recognition. People see the possibilities. They are excited. They want to be part of the team. They are willing to contribute. Then a team member sees an opportunity to get immediate financial benefits or career advancement. The need to earn a living and achieve security is compelling. Thus they place the experiment on the back burner. The project loses momentum. The leader says nothing because he or she can’t pay anyone yet. The promising endeavor fizzles.

Similar problems arise in the world of nonprofits. A team with a promising new program idea may become quickly diverted when a new grant solicitation offers the opportunity for short-term gains.

Think Ponds sustain members’ experiments and projects by adhering to these ground rules:

  • We will communicate as a team every x weeks, even when nothing is going on.
  • For an active project, the project leader will update the team regularly (at an agreed-upon interval).
  • There will be at least one mechanism for sharing information as it emerges and keeping the whole group up-to-date on important developments.
  • We will make only commitments we can keep. Barring dire circumstances, we will keep our commitments even if it means making greater sacrifices than originally anticipated.
  • If we are having an unforeseen problem that could affect a project we have committed to, we will let the leader know immediately so that backup can be planned or schedule adjusted. In dire circumstances, we will do everything we can to make sure we can hand off the work in the best shape possible.

Venture Launching: Essential Questions

  1. What comes to mind when you think about turning your passion into a business?
  2. What are you currently making or doing for free that could be marketed?
  3. Do you have a solution that could become a product or service?
  • Do you have any visible/tangible manifestations of that idea?
  • What would it take to start producing/doing something from your idea on the smallest scale possible?
  • What is the closest thing to that idea that is currently being offered?
  • What existing business or other entity (nonprofit, government body or agency) might possibly be working on an idea like yours? Who might be interested in it?
  • Who would be interested in buying your solution? Why would it appeal to them? What do they need?

The Multidimensional Meaning of “Presence”

By Deborah Vrabel

What do we mean when we talk about our “online presence?”

I think it’s multidimensional. It means:

  • Be there.
  • Pay attention.
  • Adapt.
  • Lead.

Being there. Woody Allen once said that “80% of life is showing up.” That quote captures the most literal meaning of presence It’s raising your hand and saying “Present!” when the teacher calls your name–whatever your academic preparedness or intentions to participate, you have cleared the first hurdle. You are there. Sometimes that simple kind of presence—being there with no distinction, no defined role, nothing unique to say or do—is all that is needed or required. You show up.

Occupying space–whether physical or cyber–is only the beginning of presence though.

Being Present to the Moment. To be present is to be mindful. When observing, it is noticing even the tiniest things. When interacting, it is listening carefully. When working, it is being invested and “in the moment.”  In other words, you are present when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.

Showing “Presence of Mind.” To be present is to think quickly and respond appropriately and competently when something unexpected happens—whether a threatening situation, an awkward moment, or a good opportunity.

Having Presence. Finally, presence describes an outward demeanor some people have that enables them to capture and hold attention and admiration. Ask ten people to think of someone they know who has “presence” and describe that person in one word or phrase, and you could easily receive several different answers:

“lights up a room” … “commands attention” … “star quality” … “elegant” … “poised” … “shows grace under pressure” … “unruffled.”

I would contend that part of what gives them this demeanor is the inner quality of attentiveness, as described above, along with self-confidence, purpose, and inner strength.

I think all of those forms of presence are relevant to anyone who wants to share ideas, build a movement, or sell a product online.

You need to be “there” in the search engine and social media milieu. You must show up with meaning and over time. How many times have you heard the plea “Like us on Facebook” and then found a page that serves no discernible purpose and seldom changes? I know I have created a couple of those.

You need to be “attentive and mindful” in the online world. That means learning from others, commenting on other people’s work thoughtfully, noticing things and making your own conclusions.

It means being relevant–which is impossible without paying attention to what’s going on around you–both online and off-line–and taking your opportunity to jump in and participate.

Doing all that will develop the kind of presence that people notice, admire, and find reassuring. It will help you develop self-knowledge and a voice that commands attention. You will be poised to respond with online offerings that resonate.

The Value of Program Documentation

By Deborah Vrabel

Documentation is a coherent record of your organization’s most important, meaningful activities, methods, and outcomes. It shows—through text, images, recordings, and artifacts—that a program or project is active, exciting, and fruitful.

It also is an effective but underutilized strategy for improving program sustainability.

Well-planned and executed documentation offers five benefits that all lead to stronger, more sustainable programs:

  1. Increases visibility
  2. Builds relationships
  3. Strengthens implementation
  4. Enriches evaluation
  5. Expands funding opportunities

Effective documentation helps you tell a coherent story that highlights the most important activities and features of a project or program. Building this story does not have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming if you:

  • Use your imagination.
  • Develop and implement a simple, realistic documentation plan.
  • Follow and regularly revisit the plan.
  • Promote awareness, involvement, and resourcefulness.