Starting a Business is Like Eating Glass

On my way to California this week I was watching a conversation with Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla, Space-X, PayPal and more.  Elon, for those unaware, is one of the greatest minds of our time.  The conversation centered around advice for those looking to start their own business.  His response?  “Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”  Wait, what??

“Staring into a void because you face the constant risk of you company failing.  99% of start-ups fail, so when you’re looking ahead it’s all a gamble.”  He continues, “Eating glass because you end up having to do the stuff you hate.”  He’s right.  Owners don’t often get to do what they’d like because everything ends with them.  All of the things nobody else wants to do funnels to the owner, and they don’t get to work on the stuff they want to work on but instead what the company needs them to work on.

Another line that distinguished itself is “if you need encouraging words [to start a business], don’t do it.”  That seems like a discouraging line, and perhaps it should be.  As most who’ve taken the plunge know, things are not easy.  It truly takes a drive and passion for what you’re trying to accomplish.  You must differentiate yourself, you must work hard, you must keep working hard, and even then there’s no single plan to success.

I’m currently on my 3rd startup.  What Elon stated is ecstatically true, which makes it hard when I see others start their own thing.  Of course I want them to succeed.  Of course I want to see their dreams come true.  As with many things in life, however, setting expectations can go a long way.  While many look on from the outside and think I’m a success, they don’t see the backend; the hard work and struggle that’s needed, especially when you only have so much money to work against, can be debilitating.

In closing, if you’re on your own path to entrepreneurship, take a moment to realize that even if successful you’re in for a strenuous journey.  It will take a toll on your relationships, mental state, and financial well-being.   You will be forced to do things you don’t want to do time and time again.  You’ll feel like a failure even when others think you’re a success.  If, after admitting these things to yourself, you still have a fire alive inside, perhaps it’s time to make the jump.

-Tizz

 

 

 

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The Best Modern Fax Options

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Why is faxing still a thing?  The technology came to popularity in the 1980’s as an easy and somewhat secure way of transmitting documents.  Fax machines turn your paper into auditory tones which are sent over the phone line and interpreted and reconstructed on the other side.  While that all sounds great, fax requires a dedicated phone line and fax machine meaning you’re likely spending $500 dollars or more every year for antiquated technology.  Don’t even think of using FedEx or Office Depot as sending my recent 18-page fax cost a whopping $32.50!

So why use it?  Unfortunately, fax is still required in the business world.  A generation gap exists where people have no idea how to scan and attach documents.  Some companies won’t work with you without a fax.  So what about the modern generation?  Instead of faxing you can just scan/email documents.  Heck, in 2015 we can take a photo with our cell phone and email from there!

We did the research on online fax services.  These services bring faxing into the modern world.  You can send electronic documents and have them come out as a fax on the other side, and faxes received simply show up as an email.  There are tons of options and almost all are better than a traditional fax machine.  So… what did we find to be the best?  Read on.

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1:  RingCentral.com

This was the best overall option.  Plans start $7.99/mo for 500 pages (in/out) which is plenty for most small businesses.  Operation is simple:  Simply email the fax number @rcfax.com (ie, 5035556424@rcfax.com).  What’s even nicer, they have an app!  Send/Receive faxes straight from your iPhone/Android device.  We found this feature extremely useful for the busy, on-the-go professional.    Lastly, all your faxes can be set up to automatically save in Google Drive which is helpful for documentation purposes.

efax-logo1FaxZero2:  eFax/FaxZero combo

For those with minimal usage, this is a completely free option, though it requires the use of two services.  eFax gives your own personal fax number and allows up to 10 free incoming pages/mo.  FaxZero allows you to send faxes (up to 15 pages per fax) for free with the small caveat of an ad being placed at the bottom of your cover sheet.  These services are basic but really, there’s no price better than free.  Because they do exactly what they say and nothing more, combining these two services makes #2 on our list.

myfax3.  MyFax

If money isn’t an issue, MyFax offers the most extensive list of options and is very modern and well designed next to its competitors.  Basic plans start at $10/mo and allows you to send 100 pages and receive 200 so some businesses will need to upgrade.  What’s nice about it?  An option for a local fax number for one.   It also allows you to schedule faxes at a future point in time, something nobody else does.  MyFax supports more file types than the rest and allows you to email from PC/Mac or mobile just like RingCentral and it backs up the documents on it’s website.

Have you worked with these or other services?  What are your thoughts?

-Tizz

Are faster internet speeds worth $300 per month?

Americans have been asking for faster internet speeds.  In an economy that progressively does more and more business online, quicker speeds and rather instant communication helps get things done more quickly.  While speeds around the globe are increasing to 1Gbps, Americans have been limited to 1/10th of that, or 100Mbps at the quickest.  What’s funny is suppliers like Comcast and Time Warner have shown themselves to be so out of touch as to claim we don’t even want faster speeds.  Those claims quickly reversed after Google Fiber and other small municipalities became a hit and started bringing their own 1Gbps service to more towns around the US.  Carriers are now being forced to increase speeds to remain relevant, but at what cost to you as the consumer?

Google Fiber made groundbreaking news when it introduced speeds that were over 10x faster than you could purchase before.  And to make that more shocking, they did it at an incredible price – $70/mo.   Because the groundwork was already laid and the internet is such a crucial part of their revenue flow, they’re even giving away 5Mbps speeds for free.  You read that right – free.  They charge nothing for a faster connection than you’ll get by paying Comcast’s XFINITY almost $40/mo.  The only problem with Google Fiber?  it’s only available in select cities around the country (Currently Kansas City, MO & Austin, TX) and mass build out is not coming in the foreseeable future.

This then brings us back to topic.  Verizon FIOS, the once touted future of American internet, announced this week they’ll be bringing increased speeds of up to 500Mbps to select communities. At 5x the speed we can currently purchase, it sounds great.  Where can we sign up?  What wasn’t mentioned was the $310/mo price tag associated with it.  You read that correctly – $3,700/yr for internet service.  Television service is included in a required “bundle”, but in the age that many of us are turning away from traditional television because we already pay for Netflix or can simply stream shows online, this package doesn’t make sense to many.  Verizon will likely find their faster speeds desired by many and purchased by few due to the hefty cost.  The thought we’ll pay that because it’s the only thing available nears insulting and proves why there should be more competition in the industry and not less.  If the recent talks of duopoly in the cable industry happens, we can expect to see more of this.  That would mean regularly higher internet and TV prices for everyone.

On the plus side, start ups are beginning to pop up everywhere.  Small companies like Gigabit Seattle, Cedar Falls Utilities, Sonic.net, EPB Fiber Optics, and Google Fiber are providing opportunities of much faster service (up to 10Gbps or 100x faster than what Comcast offers) and at generally lower costs.  There are now 11 municipalities across the country providing their own plans to local residents with monthly bills are ranging from $70-150/mo.   If this keeps up, major carriers will have no other option but to improve their own options and lower costs.

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In the end, major corporations will find themselves backed into the corner unless they begin upgrading networks.  It’s what the people want and if acted upon soon provides an opportunity to get out and ahead of other major competitors.  The only problem is convincing those competitors to step away from their sky high profit margins and build into the future.  Thankfully it looks like underdogs are already on it and trying to help themselves further advance our economy.  Score one for the little guy.

-Tizz

You Hate Your Cable Provider… And They Don’t Care.

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The cable industry has been getting worse and worse customer service scores.  Your provider is even likely to be on the list if 5 worst companies to deal with. You would think that when 40% of your customers are upset you would do something about it, right?  Not in this case, where they can rake you over the coals and charge you exorbitant amounts for service and there’s not much you can do about it.  As an industry, they’ve given a proverbial middle finger to consumers as they know we have limited options.  So what can we do about it?  Read on to find out.

The cost to provide internet and phone service has been getting less and less over the years, yet our bills have been getting bigger.  It’s due to the limited number of options you have in choosing a provider in this country.  In reality, there are monopolies growing.  Don’t worry, the government has ways of squashing those in favor of public interest, right?  Wrong.  The top providers have worked around that by putting into effect ‘private understandings’ to stay out of each others’ areas.  If there is no competition, the consumers will have to pay whatever price is asked.  If they’re the only high-speed internet provider available, then those customer service scores really don’t matter.  Why change?  They’re pissing you off and overcharging you, and laughing about it.

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Need more evidence?  How about AT&T who recently added a fee to your bill that’s expected to make them $500-600 Million each year.  Comcast once held title of “Worst Customer Service” but instead of fixing things, they just changed their name to “Xfinity” and hoped you’d forget.  Just look at the responses Comcast gives its customers.   Time Warner Cable is selling packages that go up in price and go down in speed.  Don’t expect the government to crack down, because each of the above companies have lobbyists which fill the pockets of government with cold hard cash. 

Our only hope is companies like Google Fiber to come alone and change things.  While it’s highly unlikely that will happen anytime soon, due mostly to the high entry fee of building cable networks, we can begin supporting smaller companies so they can provide us more choice in the future.  Unfortunately, that probably means living with slower speeds for more money.

Tizz