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Building an Online Private Community – 10 Lessons Learned During The First 6 months

Six months ago I launched what is now called Founders Grid – A private member community for like minded entrepreneurs who want more freedom, greater privacy and better opportunities to put their skills and money to good use.

As with every new business, Founders Grid has had it’s fair amount of teething problems, challenges and has gone through a few different “phrases” in it’s short 6 month history.

This post will try to outline the lessons I have learned, and hopefully a few nuggets of helpful information for those who considering building their own online private community.

Background Story

In 2011 I wrote a blog post covering the process of incorporating a offshore company in Hong Kong. Since publishing, I receive multiple emails per week asking for advice on setting up companies offshore.

From the emails it was clear the “offshore company” industry is very fragmented – those who contacted me clearly wanted advice from someone who had been on the ground and had incorporated an offshore company themselves vs. advice from offshore service providers who who have a financial incentive.

While I try to help as many people as I can, I can’t give detailed answers to everyone, hence the idea of creating what was then called the Hong Kong Company Hub – a private community members could use to discuss incorporating in Hong Kong. Discussions included what service providers we’re trust worthy, what accountants were reliable and so on.

After a month or two I quickly realised The Hong Kong Company Hub had more potential than I first realised, especially if I broadened the focus. The choices that made sense to me at the time included broadening the community to cover a bigger geographical region (i.e Asia) or focus on covering other offshore jurisdictions.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of choosing the region specific direction and went onto change the branding to the Asia Business Hub. The plan was to build a community for business founders in Asia. The main problem here was that there wasn’t really a problem to solve and I did not have enough experience with the subject.

Top Ten Reasons Why Start Up Companies Need to Blog

Blogging is extremely valuable to a company’s success, even if it’s a start-up. Most new companies have very scarce marketing budgets. This is largely due to the fact that many choose to direct resources towards quality control, ensuring their products and services are ready for the market.

Business blogs are very easy to manage. And, to top it off, blogging is relatively affordable, and in some cases free, form of small business marketing. As long as you’re knowledgeable and passionate about your industry niche, you can have a successful business blog. That’s what makes blogging such an efficient marketing tool for start-ups.

What is the most important resource needed for your company to be successful? You need customers. But, with so many competitors in your field, how will people learn just how amazing your solutions are? Most startups would probably answer, “our company website.” Yet, if no one knows your website exists, you’ll never make those online sales you’ve been expecting.

So, how do you get the word out about your website and your solutions? A business blog gives your start-up the opportunity to engage your target audience. Using your blog to educate your potential customers on the ins-and-outs of your industry, niche, field, products and services lures them into your blog. The more you educate, the more they’ll visit your blog and read and your informative posts. In time, they’ll begin to trust your industry knowledge and experience. Soon, they’ll view you as an expert in your industry… an expert whom they trust to recommend products and services that will make their lives easier.

The 12 Step Checklist For A Successful Business Partnership

A successful business partnership has many similarities with a successful marriage. In some ways it is even more challenging to build such a partnership.

The first question you should ask yourself is, “Do you really need a partner?” If you can create a viable business without a partner you are probably well advised to take that route. It may be that a partner is essential to complement your talents, to sell to customers, to help handle the work load or to bring needed financing. In that case, you and that partner should consider together whether it will work for you both by going through the following checklist.

It is often said that you learn more from your failures than from your successes. At one time in my life I was one of two equal partners in an R&D start up, which eventually involved VC (venture capital) partners. This checklist reflects that learning experience combined with what others have set out in similar checklists.

You should consider every one of the twelve items in this list in an honest and open way with your partner before either of you commit to the partnership. The more critical elements in that real life situation are discussed in the case study that follows the checklist.

Key Partner Attributes

1. Absolute trust in each other

This is rightly set as the #1 condition since without it disaster may well occur at some time in the future. One boss I had said that this meant you would be comfortable in leaving your wallet (or handbag) for safe keeping with your partner. I think that is an excellent test of your trust. The ultimate condition here is that such trust will be durable even if circumstances go awry.

2. Complementary skills

If you both have the same skill set, then the reason for the partnership is somewhat weaker. When skills are complementary, much richer creativity is possible and you have the benefit of different points of view.

3. Compatible working habits

Nothing will sap motivation faster than feeling your partner is not pulling his/her weight. You do not need to follow the same work schedule and indeed different work schedules may give better coverage to satisfy customer needs. Each partner should feel that there is a fair division of labor.

4. Good communication

Nothing will erode that absolute trust faster than a failure to communicate important news or decisions. With modern technology and smart phones there is no excuse for not staying in touch on important issues.