Saturday, July 30, 2011

Have You Created a Citadel for Your Startup?

By Bob La Loggia, CEO StormSource Software

Business is often compared to war and waging battle with enemies. Indeed, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is one of the most popular business books ever written, and it was originally written as a military strategy guide. Battle terminology has been a mainstay in the business lexicon for decades. The list of war references used in business is almost endless, from “gathering the troops” to “losing a battle but winning the war.”

One battle concept that has enduring applicability is that of creating a citadel. A citadel is a fortress in a commanding position in a city. The purpose of a citadel is to provide defense for a city. Citadels are fortified, meaning they have the firepower to fight off enemies. When a citadel is built, a city is preparing itself for a battle.

In today’s competitive business environment, where barriers to entry seem to be crumbling before our eyes, creating your citadel is more important than ever. But, erecting a citadel goes way beyond just creating barriers to entry. Developing a citadel involves the following:

  • Creating a battle-ready infrastructure. Michael Gerber’s must-read book on starting a business, “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It,” talks about working "on" the business instead of "in" the business.

    It’s a bit counterintuitive, but by focusing on creating a rock-solid infrastructure, whereby all processes are sharpened, documented and turnkey, you are developing a foundation that will allow your business to expand swiftly. You are also developing a key to business success that is rarely talked about: transforming new recruits into productive warriors quickly.

  • Developing a proven, but flexible business model. Your business model is the structure that supports your strategic plan. Your business model is how you get customers, grow and make money. The paradox of a business model is not that you have to continue to tweak it until you reach perfection, but you have to continue to remain willing to adjust it constantly based on customer and market information.

    Ideally, you’ll end up with a core, proven model that you adjust along the fringes on a real-time basis. It’s the same mindset used in planning a citadel. You hone and execute your core strategy, then adjust some of the details as you gather information on the enemy, the elements, and other pertinent information.

  • Building a reputation. The most effective citadels are never used. They are built as a protective measure. They say, “We are here and ready to fight. We won’t back down from any battle.”

    When citadels are constructed effectively, enemies usually move on to fight less-formidable opponents. When you build a reputation as an authority in your segment, a juggernaut that won’t let up, and a company that will defend what it has to the death, competitors will think twice about attacking.

Yes, citadels are fortresses. They are bastions of your business. Your citadel is your protection from the competition. Creating barriers to entry is important, but creating a strong infrastructure, having a proven business model, and establishing an impenetrable reputation will help ensure any would-be adversaries take their fight elsewhere.


Today’s guest post is by Bob La Loggia, who is the founder and CEO of StormSource Software, the source of Appointment-Plus online scheduling software. He is a veteran of four startups, has over 22 years in technology, and has built several citadels. You can contact him directly through his website or email.



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Find the Best of the Best Blogs for Entrepreneurs

With as many as 100 million active blogs (web logs) in English alone on the Internet, how can you find and read the ones you need to be a leader in your business domain? I’m a speed reader, but that’s a challenge for even the best of us. Yet we know keeping up with the latest trends and techniques can make all the difference in ensuring that your business stands the test of time.

I’ll summarize below some of the strategies and tools I use to tackle this challenge. But I’m sure there are some good ones I’m missing, so I’m soliciting your input as well.

  1. Business site expert blogs. Almost every traditional major business news site, like,, and have blogs which are contributed by experts in different business areas. I review these, as well as contribute entries occasionally for entrepreneurs and startups.

  2. Blog aggregators. One of my favorites in this category is MyAlltop, run by a well-known name with entrepreneurs, Guy Kawasaki. This site allows you to build your own page of selected blogs and news sites from the Alltop selection of the “best of the best.” Other popular aggregators include TheHuffingtonPost and BusinessInsider.

  3. Follow thought leaders on Twitter. Most great bloggers, like Mark Suster and Scott Edward Walker, are also active on Twitter. That means they send tweets to announce their latest entries, and they usually re-tweet others of value to their followers. You might even get personalized answers to business questions (try me on @StartupPro).

  4. LinkedIn groups news links. There are several popular ‘groups’ you can join on LinkedIn that are focused on entrepreneurs and startups, like On Startups, Founders & CEO Club, and Startup Specialists, to name a few. They feature news links daily from popular blogs, and well as relevant discussion topics. I’m there every day.

  5. Facebook for Business news links. Similar to LinkedIn, Facebook has a group for business topics, which also includes daily blog news links and discussion topics. I review news there, as well as posting my own link occasionally.

  6. User generated news links. Digg, BizSugar and Hacker News sites populated by user contributed links, who want to share their favorite item. These then get voted up or down in popularity by other users, so the hottest ones bubble to the top. I quickly found that ‘most popular’ doesn’t mean most useful, so use with care.

  7. Community bloggers platforms. There are now several platforms, like Bloggersbase and Brazen Careerist (for Gen-Y) where bloggers can post or repost articles, categorized by area of interest. If you are a budding blogger, these are a place to start, and even earn ranking points if voted up by other readers.

  8. Bookmark favorites. Every browser has a simple way of tagging favorite URLs, so they can be accessed quickly from your own browser. Other sites, like delicious and StumbleUpon, go several steps further by allowing access to the list from any computer, anytime, and anywhere. Also you can tag them into collections, search them, and share with others.

  9. Email subscription. If you like the latest blog entry from your favorite sources, like Seth Godin, to be sent to you automatically via email, it’s still available. I recommend you be very selective on this one, as many blogs will clog even the best email system.

  10. Blog catalogs. Finally, if you just want to search the universe of blogs to find ones of interest, try sites like BlogCatalog and HubPages. They will help you through the maze, and promote yours at the same time.

We all need information filters these days to find the nuggets of gold in a sea of sand. But I do recommend that you spend some time each day catching up on the real world around you. Otherwise, you are just keeping your head in the sand, and you won’t see the changes you need to survive.

Marty Zwilling



Saturday, July 2, 2011

Are Poker Playing Entrepreneurs More Successful?

By Bob La Loggia, CEO StormSource Software

Are startup founders who play poker statistically more likely to succeed in business? Beats me. But I do know that there are many lessons that founders can learn from poker players. As we all know, poker used to be relegated to smoky casinos and the back rooms of seedy lounges. But, in recent years, poker has become a game for the masses. Kids who once idolized athletes now idolize the “e-athletes” they see playing poker on TV.

Now, I’m not going to ask you to start wearing dark glasses and try to stare down the office supply salesman as he tries to convince you to buy your pens and Post-it Notes from his company. But, I am going to ask you to think about a key aspect of poker playing that is very applicable to businesses.

You can easily spot a novice poker player because they have a tendency to always think their opponent has a better hand than they do. If someone raises the bet, the novice folds their hand. “I’m sure they have a pair of aces. I can’t beat them with my pair of kings,” they think.

Conversely, you can always spot a confident pro. When they get raised, they take a moment to think. They analyze the situation, take a good look at the person who raised, and then decide what to do. Oftentimes, they’ll re-raise, but other times, they’ll match the bet. They know that their opponent doesn’t necessarily have a better hand, even if they act like they do.

In business, you will always have competitors. And you may have a tendency to think they have it all figured out – that they have the better hand. When they announce that new feature or high-profile partnership, don’t panic or get demoralized. Instead, stop and assess the situation carefully.

Chances are, you are holding a pretty good hand, too. Maybe it’s better than theirs, maybe it’s not. In poker, as in business, it’s not the best hand that wins; it’s the one who plays their hand best that wins.

Business history has proven time and time again that it’s not necessarily the best product that wins in the marketplace, and having a superstar founding team, VC partner, or advisory board doesn’t guarantee success.

Was VHS a better technology than Betamax (for you youngsters, VHS and Betamax roamed the Earth about the same time as the dinosaurs)? Why isn’t TiVo’s vastly superior DVR in a dominant position? Does Domino’s sell one million pizzas a day because it has the best pizza? And, did Facebook provide that much more of a rich user experience than MySpace?

So, now you have your excuse for spending your Tuesday nights at the casino. Tell your significant other that it’s all in the name of sharpening your business skills. And, if you must wear the dark glasses and hoody at work, please do it when you are alone.

The office supply salesman may be intimidated by your staredown, but, more likely, he will think you’ve lost your marbles. Dark glasses or not, always remember, it’s not what’s in your hand that’s most important; it’s how you play it.


Today’s guest post is by Bob La Loggia, who is the founder and CEO of StormSource Software, the source of Appointment-Plus online scheduling software. He is a veteran of four startups, has over 22 years in technology, and has seen a lot of poker games. You can contact him directly through his website or email.