Business Plans – Are They Worth It?

I’m not a big fan of business plans, but apparently that’s not always been the case. In my Google Drive there is a folder called “Business Plans”. Inquisitively I clicked on the folder to see what it contained.

Business Plans

My last modification was on April 10, 2008 (6 years ago). None of the five businesses listed are still in existence and only two of them ever made money. I thought it’d be fun to open them up to see what I wrote.

Able Trainers

The idea was to create courses on basic computers, the Internet, and Microsoft Office applications. Our target market was “small businesses and suburban schools.” Phonebooks. Business cards. Paper flyers.

Comp LubeComp Lube

This business plan contains a logo and the words, “Sustainable computer repair.” I’m not sure what that means. I ended up giving the rights to this company to a former employee, who never used those rights.


This plan is 9 pages long, 2,250 words. The objective was, “User-friendly, professional, sites with personality based on customer needs and desires. Generate Profit. Grow at a challenging and manageable rate.”

Turn FilmTurn Film

Like Comp Lube, this plan is nothing more than a logo and the words, “Film editing and conversions.” At least it actually described what it did. The idea was a “VHS to DVD” service, which dates it pretty well.


Watershawl was a “new media company specializing in computer services and design.” That’s pretty much true to what it was. I did a lot of web design and IT work, but what I loved doing was process management.

Are Business Plans Useful?

Planning is useful, but I’m not so sure the actual document is useful. It can be used as a way to flesh out ideas, but it doesn’t have to be a long document. One page should be enough to state what you’re doing, how you’ll make money, and who your target audience is.

A business plan is usually all made up numbers, but it’s easy to feel like you’re building your business by writing a business plan instead of actually trying to Sell First. Customer development is one way to figure out whether or not someone will buy what you are selling.

I’ve spent the last year and a half helping one of my customers develop a business plan while another customer has already sold tens of thousands of products. Not all companies can be bootstrapped I realize, but the sooner you can validate your idea, the better.

Social Media Dashboards

Are you still using a spreadsheet to collect your social media data? Me too. Here is how I’m trying to automate marketing analytics.

Every morning I manually calculate metrics like the number of Shopify orders, the number of Facebook likes, and the number of Twitter followers (to name a few). I started to wonder, “How can I view all of my social media stats in one place automatically?” I wondered if there was a program or web site that would provide me the information I was looking for automatically, something like a “social media dashboard”?

Sprout Social

Sprout Social

After hearing a lot of business marketing podcast guests talk about Sprout Social, I decided to check it out. It boasts, “Unlimited reporting & exporting across all of your accounts. Profile, group and roll-up reports for high or low level performance data,” in short, “Integrated analytics across all of your social properties.” While Sprout Social has the social media dashboard functionality I was looking for, at plans that start at $39 a month, I wondered if I could get that functionality elsewhere? Enter Ducksboard and Geckoboard.

Ducksboard Dashboard


Ducksboards are “Real time Dashboards” to “Visually monitor all your metrics at a glance.” I tested it out by loading in Google Analytics for one site, a Facebook Page, my Trello account, and my Twitter account data. The process was relatively easy and while the displayed data was slightly different than the data I was manually collecting, it did a good job of showing me a real-time “snapshot” view of what was going on. One neat feature of Duckboard dashboards is their “TV mode” feature where the data is meant to be displayed on a flat panel in your office or waiting room. Starting at $16 a month, if all you want is social dashboarding, it’s a nice alternative to Sprout Social.



Geckoboard is “Your Key Data, In One Place. Stop spending time checking services and start monitoring your business in real-time.” After using Ducksboard, Geckoboard seemed much more granular. It asked many more questions when setting up a “widget” than Ducksboard did. If you want to be more specific, use Geckoboard. Similarly, Geckoboard lets you control how big each widget is displayed, whereas Ducksboard did not. So if you’re anal retentive, use Geckoboard. As far as the dashboard view, I found Geckoboard less appealing and one of the widgets just didn’t work. Pricing is very similar to Ducksboard: it starts at $17 a month, making it a another dashboard alternative to Sprout Social.


One thing both Ducksboard and Geckoboard have in common is a public link to your dashboard so that you can share the information with someone without an account. This makes it easy to share with say, a client. I manage a lot of different client’s marketing campaigns as well as my own sites, so a single dashboard view wouldn’t necessarily work for me, but setting one up for each client might work. It could be a nice upsell that could potentially benefit the client, but like all information, the data is only as good as what you do with it. If you’re looking for a more detailed review, GetApp has a nice Geckoboard vs. Ducksboard review page.


I just got an email from Matt at Geckoboard that shows how they can be used on a TV just like Duckboard:

Hey Erich,

It’s great to see that you’ve been adding some widgets to your Geckoboard. Now if you haven’t done so already, you should really think about getting your dashboard displayed on a big screen TV for all to see.

2 in 3 of our customers do this and they tell us that having Geckoboard up on their wall has meant that everyone has access to this important data. It also starts conversations about data – what they’re seeing and why that might be!

The screen is best placed where people regularly come together (we have one of our own above the water machine) and just focus on the metrics that really matter – you don’t need to display everything.

Since you’re just starting out, you might want to get creative and add in a few fun widgets – this encourages more people to stop and look at it and as they say, nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. If you’re stuck for how get your dashboard on to a screen, then consider the following options that we blogged about recently.

As ever, if you have any problems or questions then let me know.


Matt at Geckoboard

The Trading Turtle Experiment

Richard Dennis and William Eckhardt are not names you will immediately recognize. But if you are interested in becoming a successful Forex trader, it is worth reading up on them as it might change your life.

In the early 1980’s, the two commodity traders had turned $5000 into $100million. Of course, they were ecstatic and often discussed the reason for their success. Eckhart believed that it required a special ‘gift’ or trading instinct that had resulted in the profitable trades. Richard, on the other hand, firmly insisted that had nothing to do with an inherent nature but that he had taught himself how to trade by using specific moves that resulted in the right choices of when to enter or exit the market and at what price to make the move. He concluded that anyone could be taught to trade.

He decided to run an experiment. He placed an ad in The Wall Street Journal and thousands applied to learn trading at his feet. He chose a group of people of 14 applicants each with different backgrounds, ages and financial knowhow and over a period of 14 days he taught them all about Forex. He called them the ‘Trading Turtles’  after recalling turtle farms he had visited in Singapore and deciding that he could grow traders as quickly and efficiently as farm-grown turtles.

Among the most important concepts he taught them was how to implement a trend-following strategy. The idea is that the “trend is your friend”, so you should buy futures breaking out to the upside of trading ranges and sell short downside breakouts. In practice, this means, for example, buying new four-week highs as an entry signal.

At the end of the two weeks, he opened an account for each member of the group and deposited $250,000 in each account.  As a group, the Turtles personally trained by Dennis earned more than $175 million in only five years. Richard Dennis had proved beyond a doubt that beginners can learn to trade successfully.

The idea that anyone can be taught to trade Forex continues today. There are many online tutorials available today, that provide the trader with information that will guide him into successful trading. There aren’t many millionaires out there that are willing to foot the original deposit, but with the proper instruction, making money in Forex is still possible.