Tag Archives: Oregon

Business is Where Home is Good

Yesterday I posted Home is Where Business is Good here. Today, the exact opposite. That seems like a contradiction, I know; but it isn’t really. I I love a good paradox.

Yesterday’s post was about living where you have to when it’s not your choice. Generally, employees have to move. They get transferred.

Entrepreneurs, with some exceptions, get to make a choice. You start a company. You move a company. And sometimes you move yourself to start a company. Usually it’s your choice.

My wife and I have made our choices several times, with varying results. The illustration here is Eugene OR, which is where we’ve lived for 18 years after moving Palo Alto Software here from its original location in Palo Alto CA. I posted here about that. We moved from Eugene to Mexico City once for a job, and we moved from Mexico City to Palo Alto for a job. We tried and failed to start a company in Mexico City, where the location was a disadvantage for our particular venture at that particular time. I was a founding director of a company that moved from the heart of the Silicon Valley in San Jose to the other side of the Santa Cruz mountains, in Scott’s Valley, and went public in less than four years.

I really don’t recommend moving from where you are to someplace else because the new location is better for the business you want to start. Move because you want to, yes; particularly if you’re young, and not tied down, and more so if it’s somewhere you want to move to. And move if you’re in the middle of nowhere, with to infrastructure, so you’re at a huge disadvantage. But don’t move because people say some other location is better. The business advantage you get is really unlikely to make up for the personal disadvantages of moving from somewhere you know and like.

The United States is a national economy. Sure there are the startup clusters, but success stories are everywhere. So are Internet access, Fedex, UPS, Kinko’s, and commercial airports. Some people swear by the cities, some prefer the towns. Some like a lot of action, which comes with a lot of smog and traffic and such; some don’t. If you’re going to build your own business, you get to choose.

One of the best moments of my years owning a business was when my wife said:

If we’re going to put up with all the downside of owning our own business, let’s get some of the upside, and move to where we want to live.

So we moved to Eugene. And 18 years later, we’re still glad we did.

(Image: I picked it up from a Eugene city website)

True Story: Home is Where Business is Good

We were in our early twenties, and he was in his late forties. We knew him as the quintessential Oregon lover, born and raised in Oregon, running a lumber business, loving the advantages and ignoring the disadvantages of living in Eugene. He was smart, successful, and very easy to like. We both liked and admired him.

Then one day he told us he had to move to Los Angeles. We were shocked. We offered our condolences. We couldn’t imagine somebody who would be less happy moving to Los Angeles.

But he surprised us. Here’s what he said:

“No,” he said. “And this is important. You are both young, you need to watch me move to Los Angeles, and learn this lesson. Home is where business is good. I’m going to move happily.”

We spent some time with him a couple years later, after we’d moved from Oregon to Mexico City. He was true to his own advice, happy in Los Angeles.

We’ve reminded each other about that many times over the following 40 years. I can’t say we’ve actually followed his advice, because that situation never came up for us; but we think maybe we would have. And It came up in a family conversation recently, and I want to share it here, as good advice given.

I Hate The Power of Political Advertising

We’re immersed in an election battle in Oregon. And the commercials are reminding me how much I hate political advertising, which is essentially a battle of fund raising and reducing issues to slogans and sound bytes.

Our vote is about a real problem, with a lot of nuance and shades of gray. It’s about raising taxes to pay for schools and public services. It’s a tough issue. I’ve written about it locally, taking a stand, but I’m not going to repeat that here, because my point here isn’t which way I want the vote to go, it’s about how the advertising is killing public debate.

Instead of a debate on taxes and public funding and public services, we get crap. One side boils it down to “the job killer measures.” The other boils it down to “big business doesn’t pay taxes in Oregon.” The best that we see on television are beautifully done emotional ads that focus on fictitious job losses, a great pitch, but built on lies and exaggerations. The worst that we see on television are knee-jerk slogans, phrases like “job killer measures,” and “big business.”

The problem of course is that most voters decide based on these 30-second ads, and all of them, on both sides, are intended to kill discussion with half truths or selected truths or powerfully communicative lies. Given that none of what we see is beneficial in any way, does a society have to settle for this? Is this really free speech? Is paid advertising on mass media really protected by the constitution?

With the present system, it seems like winning a vote on something as important as taxes for public services is a matter of two powerful variables that outweigh all others: 1.) how much money is spent on the mass media; and 2.) how effective are the ads (the slogans, the pitch) in winning the vote. And that’s just bad. It’s not democracy, it’s not the voting public, it’s the contest over manipulating the vote of the voting public.

And what do we do about it? Who if anybody do we put in charge of changing it, and, worse still, who do we put in charge of enforcing the change? I do see why we opt out for free speech as the least bad option, but damn!

It’s a tough problem.

(Image credit: olly/Shutterstock)

Business Boost: How Did it Go?

Thanks for asking. Our Oregon Small Business Boost day (business plan software free for Oregonians) yesterday went even better than expected. I like this summary from our local newspaper, which tagged it as “frenzy” on its front page this morning.

And you can click here for our summary of it.

We distributed 16,200 cards through 85 locations. By the next morning, we’d had people logging in and registering their new software from more than 170 different cities and towns in Oregon.

When some locations ran out of cards, we got them more units, even though we’d run out of the formal preprinted cards. We made do. As far as we know, no adult Oregonian who went to one of those locations to get Business Plan Pro for free was turned down.

That was hard. One location had 80 people waiting when they opened the doors. Several locations ran out within the first hour or two.

Was it worth it? Well, just for the skeptics, this was not a light version, hoping for an upgrade. It was Business Plan Pro Premier, the more expensive of the two versions we have. And it was not an end-of-market version either; it’s our latest, and just in case anybody notices a later version within the next few months, if that were to happen, it would be upgradable for free.

So was it worth it? I’m big on planning, objectives, and metrics. Here are some values:

  • We won’t know for a while how many people actually used the software to create new businesses or manage existing businesses better. That will be hard to track. We will be asking people for stories.
  • We know for damned sure that we’ve already helped a bunch of people think about their businesses better. And we’re ready to bet that the massive distribution of business plan software is going to end up helping small business, in general, in Oregon. Which means job and economic improvement.
  • Our 85 distribution spots were organizations trying to help business, not commercial businesses: either chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers, economic development agencies, town halls, or similar organizations trying to help people do business. None of them had commercial motives. Calling attention to those locations is a good thing. It did our hearts proud to see crowds outside the SBDCs, for example.
  • We met a lot of cool people, doing good work, within those organizations. That makes us very happy.

So we’ll see. It will be fun to watch. If you’re one of those who got a copy yesterday, keep us posted, okay?

Business Boost: Business Planning for Oregon

I hope it doesn’t seem like total self promotion — I’ve tried to avoid that as much as possible on this blog — but hey, tomorrow Palo Alto Software is going to give away thousands of copies of Business Plan Pro (and not a light version, the upscale, premier version) for free to Oregonians who want it. I would like to think that’s newsworthy, even if it’s my company.

The video here is my talking for slightly less than three minutes, my summary of what happens tomorrow. And if you can’t see it for any reason, then please click here to go to the Youtube source.

And for more information, here’s the link to the page at Palo Alto Software that explains what we’re doing, and provides a map of the 85 locations (mostly town halls and chambers of commerce, no commercial locations (it really is a free giveaway)) where people can go tomorrow to get the software.

It’s just for the one day, tomorrow, July 1. For any Oregonian 18 years or older who goes to one of those locations to collect a download card.