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The Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab
Rants and Raves #06
The Agony and Ecstasy
of Living Small

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Table of Contents

  1. "Lead, follow or get out of the way": On being ruthlessly small...
  2. Geniots and the Law of Small Numbers...
  3. Around the dojo... Announcing the Netmosphere Forum and more!

It's alive! It's alive.

We can't resist segueing from last week's movie-oriented Rants and Raves with these immortal words from Dr. Frankenstein as he watched his creation twitch, then rise from the slab.

The Sohodojo community is alive and growing. The Rants and Raves newsletter mailing list is growing about 30-45% each week. Pageviews at Sohodojo are ten-fold better on a daily basis than they were two months ago. Visitors are not only joining into the discussions at the Forums, we have folks interested in starting and moderating new forums!

We decided to troll the Forums to give you a taste of what you have been missing if you only read Rants and Raves and don't supplement your nanocorp-awareness with a visit to the dojo itself.

Our lead article is from the Nano-philosophy Forum. We explore how the nanocorp's commitment to non-accretive growth is used as a competitive weapon.

Our second article, a counterpoint to the lead article, is from The Small Business Revolutionary's Handbook of Strategy and Tactics Forum. Here we focus our attention on the inevitable inner conflict which shapes the nanocorper's work experience.

We round out the issue with tidbits of what's happening at the dojo.

"Lead, follow or get out of the way": On being ruthlessly small...

You have heard it said, "Lead, follow or get out of the way!" It is usually in the context of some arrogant jerk who thinks that he or she is the leader. But there is a different truth in these words.

Free market tears

Free markets evolve into three tiers: The Winner, second place (usually positioned as The Opposite of whatever wins), and Everybody Else. It is the kicking and biting that goes on among the Everybody Else that is the world in which most of us live.

 22 Laws bookcover

This mechanism has characterized market dynamics for as long as we have been looking at and thinking about consumer behavior. Bigness rules, its reflection follows and everyone else, run for your lives. Trout and Reis brilliantly summarize this and a handful of other powerful facts of business life in The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Patterns of growth and the nanocorp

This leads us to a clarification about nanocorps. We have said that they are "ruthlessly small." That doesn't imply that we roam around beating up on folks. It means that a nanocorp is committed, ruthlessly committed, to a "no growth" policy. Its founder/owners are a nanocorp's only employees. The 'ruthless' of 'ruthlessly small' is a reminder to ourselves that we are using size as a competitive weapon.

Only when we do not lust for accretive (accumulative) growth can we truly exercise Discretion -- the analog of Power. We don't aim to get bigger, but that doesn't mean we won't grow. How we grow is the source of our discretionary power.

 Grow or Die bookcover

Nanocorps grow through replication and transformation, not accretion. This absolute commitment to non-accretive growth is one of the essential characteristics which distinguishes a nanocorp from conventional small businesses and microbusinesses. (See George Land's Grow or Die for a systems theoretic perspective on patterns of growth.)

What the heck does that mean, you are thinking. It sounds like a bunch of rhetorical baloney. But, truly, it is not.

Nanocorps are not victims

By not being beholding to anyone, we lose our sense of victimness. In a Cheers and Jeers post, we confessed that we respect Microsoft. We selectively use their products, but we take no oath of allegiance to them or any other megacorp that would have us believe that we have limited choices.

We expect that Microsoft, like any competitor trying to be Top Dog, will do its best to convince us that we have no reasonable choice other than to do business with them. But it is mostly Peter Principled management, looking for the safe and worry-free road to job security, that fall for that pitch. Nanocorpers, we small business revolutionaries, cannot afford to be so lame.

Free Will and the Zone of Discretionary Action

This is the "different drummer" perspective on the "...or get out of the way" portion of that popular saying we used at the start of this article. As a nanocorp, we revel in "getting out of the way." Microsoft, or any big company, doesn't know we exist or care. We like it that way. It gives us an advantage, a Zone of Discretionary Action.

In marketplace terms, we nanocorpers live in the cracks, between the battles of the titans. We don't care who the Winner is, only that the ensuing competition in the marketplace produces utility to us, for what it is that we want to do.

By preserving and exercising our Free Will, we are nobody's chattel, and we are not victims. Being ruthlessly small is a means to Freedom.

The Freedom and Responsibility to be Competitive

The freedom that comes from a ruthless commitment to being small brings with it responsibility. A nanocorp cannot expect to succeed merely by using today's basic SOHO office computer technology in conventional ways.

We have to leverage our effectiveness through such cutting edge methods as executable business model technologies. We have to amplify our personal effectiveness with model-based office automation systems. Our SOHO office systems need to function like the bio-extension exoskeleton Sigourney Weaver wore to kick the Big Mother creature's butt in the movie, Alien.

We continually scout the terrain, exercise new products and select our "bag of tricks du jour." We don't care if Microsoft makes it, the Opera folks or Ian Mead; large or small, they are all equal in our book. All a product has to do is pass muster with us in terms of our immediate needs.

It is a new ball game every time that product selection decision is made. Such an attitude is not possible in the world of conventional business. But, by being a nanocorp, we have committed to not live in that world where "cost of ownership" and "enterprise standards" overrule the simple choice of "what's the best tool for the job today."

Sure, it's a lot of work to keep current with what's out there and to adopt the best and brightest new technologies. But this is a responsibility that leads to freedom. And for us, it's a freedom that leads to a happier and healthier life.

What do you think? Talk back or find out more here.

Geniots and the Law of Small Numbers...

It's a hard fact of Life that all nanocorp owner-workers are 'geniots', that is, a symbiotic fusion of genius and idiot.

We are incredibly great at some things, dumb as posts at others. We obsess over some aspects of our business while turning a blind eye to things we don't like to do or don't do well.

Not that nanocorpers are any more or less susceptible to this universal human condition than the general population. It's just that we are more susceptible to our geniot's potentially deleterious effects. This is due to another hard fact of nanocorp life, The Law of Small Numbers.

Geniots in conventional business

The Law of Large Numbers works to advantage in most businesses. In even a relatively small business, there are different people to fill different jobs.

Specialization allows workers to skew their responsibilities toward the things they are good at and the things they want to do. With accretive organization growth, multiple people fill multiple instances of the same job.

The net effect? The Geniot Effect is pushed into background noise in anything but the smallest businesses.

Geniots and the nanocorp

The Law of Small Numbers plays havoc with the ruthlessly small nanocorp. A nanocorp's organizational structure is that of a tiny diversified corporate conglomerate. Not only many 'hats' for few heads, but many sets of many hats for the typical nanocorpers.

The demands of this conglomerate organizational structure mean that each nanocorper is and must be a generalist in the extreme, and in parallel. We don't have the luxury of specialization. We can't avoid doing things that we are not good at doing. And sometimes our work product suffers where our interest lags.

Leveraging our genius and buttressing our idiocies is the key to management success in the nanocorp.

The X Habits of Highly-Effective Nanocorpers

The volume and diversity of task requirements is something that we can attack with tools that help us organize and speed up our responses. But overcoming our knowledge blindspots and variable motivations is another story.

How do you recognize and overcome your weaknesses? What techniques are useful for assuring that you spend time on the things that need doing, even when what needs doing is something that you don't like to do? More to the point, how do you take best advantage of your geniotness?

Whether you are a nanocorper or not, we are interested in how you cope with your Geniot Self. What techniques and perspectives have you developed that can help the nanocorper cope with the demands of this emerging business model and personal work style?

How do you tame your Geniot? Inquiring nanocorpers want to know. Contribute your ideas or find out more here.

Around the dojo... Announcing the Netmosphere Forum and more!

We are very pleased to showcase recent developments in the sohodojo Forums. Our open discussion groups are transitioning from 'The Jim and Timlynn Show' to truly a community resource.

Remember, you don't have to be a nanocorper to be a part of our community. Whether you join in the conversations to share your special knowledge or experience, or you just want to join in some not-too-typical discussions, we want to hear from you.

Here's a taste of what's going on...

Announcing the 'Netmosphere in the nanocorp' Forum!

Join us in welcoming Netmosphere as a corporate sponsor of sohodojo. Our collaboration is kicked off this week with the introduction of Netmosphere in the nanocorp: Experiences and Support.

Netmosphere's ActionPlan and Project Home Page together offer an innovative software solution addressing the nanocorp's most critical "Few Heads, Many Hats" time and resource management challenge.

Netmosphere's Robin Eng moderates this forum where the nanocorp community shares our experience using Netmosphere's products. Robin is a graduate of San Jose State University where she moonlighted doing tech support and sys admin jobs to put herself through school. Having had a taste of Big Corporate Life at VISA while in school, she gravitated to the excitement of the Valley's start-up community when she finished her education. Netmosphere was made to order. She works in Technical Support helping customers with installation and usage of Netmosphere products and is excited about the chance to work with the sohodojo community.

This collaboration is our proactive way to help Netmosphere better understand the e-lancing nanocorper as a customer segment. The Netmosphere solution isn't a perfect fit for our needs. Nothing is, yet. But Netmosphere is listening. That's smart for them, good for us.

Thanks, Robin and Netmosphere for supporting the sohodojo community.

Aggregate demand purchase model and the nanocorp

Rex Hammock of Nashville, TN posted a heads up on two new sites on the Internet. Both use an aggregate demand purchase model where consumers pool interest in an item to drive the price down. Rex notes that such ad hoc purchasing opportunities give small businesses a chance to level the playing field where industry standard pricing models routinely discriminate against us.

Hunter-Gatherers of the Knowledge Economy

Been there? Done that? We Hunter-Gatherers of the Knowledge Economy have more in common with ancient peoples than we have with our 20th Century cohorts. Freedom and discretion? We're just reaching back to our ancestral roots.

Health insurance for the self-employed

Still don't have health insurance coverage? Tom Farmer of St. Augustine, FL posted very helpful information on what COBRA and HIPAA plans mean for the self-employed.

And, before you sign on the dotted line, see how your health insurance carrier ranks on the NCQA accreditation list.

As always, thanks for reading this issue of Sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter,
    --Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--
    Hosts, Sohodojo

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