$100,000 Revenues in last 12 months – wow!

Ok, this might sound like bragging, but I have a very happy news to share with you all. My little company has crossed an important milestone.

We have made $109,941 in revenues in the last 12 months. (October 2009 to September 2010).

The numbers:

October 2009 was such a key month in my start-up. I have launched my first big product that month. It was one of the best things I have done. There was no looking back since then. I made 2 more products (and on the verge of releasing 3rd one next week).

The next wave of encouragement came in February 2010, when I launched my first online training program. It became an instant hit. I have rolled it out 2 more times in June and September this year. Both times, the sales were beyond my wildest expectations.

Please note that I have included revenues generated from advertising & affiliate sales. It is shown in blue (as against orange for actual product sales).

Here is same chart, but stacked. This gives you a better idea of total monthly revenues.

While it is clear that online training programs (Excel School) and Project Management Templates are my main revenue earners, I have few other products (ebook, wedding planner template) that generate $200-$500 every month. I have some plans to improve my e-book and make the sales much more prominent. Hopefully it should be ready by Christmas this year.

Finally, number of customers per month.

About 5% of customers repeat. They come back and purchase something else too. Most of these are Excel School students.

What next?

When I set-up my venture, I never thought I would hit $100k milestone this quick. While, I am very happy for this I also have ambitious plans and awesome ideas for future. Right now, my mind is occupied with these thoughts:

  • How do I ensure same kickass support and service to my customers when the base is growing. (1700 is a large number, and they are growing every month. Even if 1% of them email me a week, I will be loaded with work very soon).
  • How to automate or outsource more activities so that I can spend time with my customers and community?
  • Finding time & creative juices to work on products that my existing customers are asking for (mainly 2 new training programs, one more e-book and upgrades to existing stuff).
  • Moving from proprietorship (one man firm) to a private limited (more like LLC).

I have already hired one assistant on contract basis to help me with few activities. I will be moving more work to him as time passes. I have been thinking and outlining ideas for next products / upgrades.

I also have started the process of migrating all my sites to one vendor who will host, maintain and upgrade them as needed. This will free-up some of my time.

Growth vs. Sustainability

While the above ideas are fine, I also have thoughts about whether to grow my company or make it more sustainable.

On growth front:

I think the market where I operate (Microsoft Excel users) will change drastically in the next 10 years. Technologies like touch-screen computing, web-based spreadsheets, online analytics & visualization will mature by then to become mainstream. What I am doing for living will be obsolete by then. So I must grow my company to the maximum possible level before that (may be by 2015). This will create enough liquidity so we (my family) can live comfortably for long.

On Sustainability front:

I love spending time with my customers and community and learning new things. I like teaching and enjoy writing. I also want my business to have meaningful social presence. There is tremendous scope for doing all this while making decent money ($100k-$200k per year). While technologies may change, I can adopt and continue to be passionate about data, analytics, visualization in future and share what I learn with my audience. This is more sustainable.

What I am going to do?

I am certainly not going to manicly grow my company. I am hoping to sustain current revenue levels and slowly grow them with new products in future. I will keep my core values sacrosanct and stand by them. I will continue to be cheap and awesome. Despite all the excess, we (my wife and I) have mastered the art of living frugal. We have few un-fulfilled goals (mainly to get a house), but we will reach there slowly, not in a rush.

What is in it for you?

I am glad you asked. No matter whether my company makes $10k or $1mil next year, I will share the my journey with you thru this blog. I will tell you what stupid mistakes I am making and what awesome things I am doing. So stay tuned.

PS: Do you know you can get free email updates? Just click here.

PPS: this post is inspired by similar article written by Peldi on Balsamiq blog almost 2 years ago.

Why I run my company from our Bedroom?

When I wanted to start I faced a difficult choice – should I rent a office or work from our home?

I am not a pro and con guy, I do not list down pluses and minuses of choices on a notepad before choosing one. I am more of a “discuss and develop opinions guy”. So I talked with my wife and few people I know.

It became clear that working from home is a winner for the time being. Let me rationalize my choice,

No rent

Working from home means I have to pay no additional rent. We just cleaned up a corner in the master bedroom and put the computer table, surge protector and a chair there and bingo, my workspace is ready.

More time with family

Since we have babies at home (our twins are just 10 months old now), it became important that I give more time to family. So naturally working from home made it easy. I can just turn off the monitor whenever kids need me.

No lonely feelings

Since my company is a one man company, if I worked in an office, I would have felt lonely at times. While I am not a great social person, I would love to have people around me so that I can share what I am thinking and get immediate feedback. So, working from home seemed good choice until I hire people.

No time wasted

My work involves consulting, writing, thinking, reading, connecting, marketing, launching and sharing. Now, most of this happens on sporadic basis – ie I get a lot of work on one day and no work on another. The creative parts of my work require that I am in a good mood to pull them off. If I feel down or lazy, I just postpone what I am doing as giving my best to what I do is very important. This is where working in an office would have failed me. Because I work in chunks, I would end up with loads of free time in between tasks.When working from home, I could just turn off my comp when I have no work and play with kids or help my wife or run some chores.

So, is working from home all rainbows and butterflies?

Of course, working from home is not all hunky dory. I do find some problems in working from home.

It is difficult to focus for longer durations:

Sometimes, when a client is in emergency or when I need to develop an idea further, I need hours of time. I am finding difficult to get more than 2-3 hours at a time, thanks to kids who need our attention constantly. But thankfully, I found a simple solution for this. I wake up early (4am or so) and work 3-4 hours at a stretch.

Laziness:

Sometimes I become too lazy, thanks to temptations at home. Mostly I find myself indulging in naps, playing, reading magazines or watching tv. Most of these could be avoided had I worked in an office.

But overall, I am happy that I am working from our bedroom.

What about you?

Where do you work from? What kind of good things you find in that work environment? Please share using comments.

What are my Start-up’s Values? [and why you should define them too?]

During Strategic Management classes in my MBA, we have learned about Vision, Mission and Values. I used to think they are a bunch of loaded cr*p. So much so that I have my own working definition of what these are,

Our vision is to maintain our values thru our mission

But after starting my own company, I am converted. I understand the importance of having my own values. Not because they help me flaunt what I stand for, but because these values help me make better decisions and choose an alternative when stuck in a dilemma.

So, without further ado, let me list down the values that I stand for,

  1. Fun: because boring is for big companies
  2. Passion: genuine interest with hard work can bring success and fulfillment
  3. Awesomeness: Dont do lame work, do awesome products, awesome consulting, kick-ass work – always.
  4. Sharing: Share my knowledge, ideas, stupidity, wealth as much as possible. That is the only way to multiply them.
  5. Simplicity: Keep things simple. Be it my sales pages or websites or ideas or implementations or life style. Simplicity over complexity, lavishness or boring.
  6. Humility: Success can be quite heady. Never take it too seriously.

This is not my complete list, yet. I will be adding more values as I go. But, I found these simple values to work great wonders and help me make better decisions for me and my community.

For eg.

  • Should I write a long or short sales copy? – short because it is simple
  • Should I give free downloadable excel workbooks with my articles or not? – give free workbooks because it is awesome and I like sharing.
  • Should I give my products upgrades for free or fee? – free because that will make everyone awesome.

What about you? What values have you defined for your self / your start up?

Share using comments.