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7 Ways to Instill Trust in Your Website Users

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A couple of months ago we launched our interactive division here at Volano Solutions. Every project is different, but there are a few things every client wants: increased revenue, more sales, and customer loyalty. Those are standards in our website project objectives. Whether you have an ecommerce site or your site is simply meant to be informative, there are some elements we consider essential in establishing trust with your users. So, let’s talk about how Volano builds trustworthy websites…

  • Reviews and Testimonials

According to a Bright Local study, almost 90% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis. When you make these reviews readily available, you can establish trust sooner without making your customers dig for the information.

  • Showcasing Clients

Showcase your clients by adding their logos and links to your site. A nice touch would be adding case studies for those really successful projects and relationships. It’s always best to gain consent first.

  • Press Mentions

Be sure to share your positive press mentions. A simple slider with excerpts from articles in which your organization is given props can go a long way in reassuring potential customers and clients that you have a solid reputation for taking care of your customers.

  • Memberships and Awards

Do you have A+ ratings, certificates, memberships, awards, etc.? Be sure to add mention of these on your website. These acknowledgements let your site visitors know what they can expect from you. They are further proof that you can guarantee the level of service they’re looking for.

  • Security Policy

Your customers want to know what measures you’ve taken to ensure their information is secure. Be sure to offer a security policy that includes what systems and tools you use on your site, complete with logos/badges.

  • SSL

An SSL is now a standard online security feature. An SSL is a digital certificate that verifies the authenticity and identity of the merchant or organization. This certificate proves to visitors or online shoppers that the website is secure and reliable.

  • Presentation

Last but certainly not least, presentation is key to gaining trust. You need a professional site with authentic imagery and relevant resources. Additionally–we beg you–please be sure your text is grammatically correct and proofed for spelling errors. Nothing will discredit an organization faster than an unprofessional site.

Not too bad, right? These are all really easy additions to make to your site to instill trust in your visitors. Want to know more about how you can offer your site visitors a safer, more reliable online experience with your brand? Read more about our interactive division here. Then, give us a ring.

Answer These 5 Questions to Find Out if Custom Software is for You

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You may have caught the buzz about custom software in small- and medium-size businesses. For a while, this was a luxury only afforded to larger businesses, but today, custom software is a standard for nimble, efficient businesses of all sizes. The evolution of custom software for organizational workflows has made its way into even the smallest of businesses. Firstly, the technology is now more affordable, secondly, the ROI has been proven time and again, and lastly, custom workflow software smoothes out pain points, saving resources and sanity.

A lot of business leaders come to us unsure if they even need custom software. Here are some questions that will help you discover if custom workflow software is right for you and your organization.

Is your team trying to “share” spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets are great for small tasks with virtually no moving parts. They are not great for the efficient storage, organization and utilization of data where more than one person is involved. Simply put, spreadsheets are not designed to replace project management solutions or real databases. The functionality is simply not there.

Do your business systems dictate your processes?

One of the biggest advantages custom software brings to the table is that it works with your processes, rather than dictating them. When you have multiple, out of the box, rigid systems working “together”, your processes become cumbersome and disjointed. Custom workflow software smooths out those bumps and ridges, to make work flow.

Do you manually input data into two or more systems?

This is a time suck and increases the likelihood of entering incorrect information. There is no reason multiple people should be inputting multiple sets of data into multiple systems. Custom software ensures that data needs only to be entered once, and then populates the correct fields and systems seamlessly.

Are You Continuously Recreating Processes and Workflows?

If you and your team are having to continuously recreate the wheel, it’s time to use custom software to create, implement and maintain repeatable processes with work queues that increase accountability and transparency. Your team can work smarter, not harder

Did you accidentally lose track of over 500 weapons in Afghanistan?

So the answer to this one might be “no…?” but we had to work this in. Long story short, the Pentagon created an shoddy, albeit elaborate system to track the weapons they were sending to Afghanistan. Here’s the jist of it (this may sound familiar, only not with guns)…

“It turns out there are three databases meant to track the small arms, which include rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns. One is a Defense Department listing of all those shipped from the United States. The second is a Defense Department listing of all those received in Afghanistan. They rely heavily on the serial numbers of the arms. But these numbers must be entered manually, and the two databases — one showing shipments and one showing receipts — are inexplicably not linked together. The results are not pretty.”

The custom software to make your processes and operations seamless is here, it’s affordable, accessible, and it has become the new standard in business. Relentless in the study of business operations and the best ways to leverage technology as your competitive advantage, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Some challenges can be met with existing solutions, while others need to be created from scratch. Together we’ll implement a solution crafted to enhance the efficiency, accountability, accuracy and transparency of your organization as a whole. Let’s start today.

We Love Building Stuff

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The developers at Volano have a passion for building. Some of our developers are into woodworking, some of them are part of the Omaha Makers Group (http://omahamakergroup.org), and every one of us loves to build solutions. We love building solutions for businesses in the form of customized software; it’s what we’re great at. That being said, we don’t mind copping to what we aren’t so great at, and that is design.

There is something to be said for playing to your strengths and embracing your weaknesses. We know that design is not in our wheelhouse, so we have always brought in a partner for creative design talent. When design and function can work together, it’s a beautiful thing. In our process, design comes first, then we go to work on building the software to make that design interactive. After years of refining this tandem process, we have mastered the collaborative process between developer and designer to ensure we hold to the designer’s vision, while providing our technical prowess.

Our focus has always been understanding the flow of business operations and building solutions that make work easier, reduce resources or increase efficiency. Because we’re so confident in our proven process, we’re evolving. Our mastery of workflow solutions combined with our ability to implement the designs, incorporate interactive details and manage hosting, gives us the ability to be holistic in our technical approach with our partners.

We’ve decided it’s time to formalize this offering as Volano Interactive. We have partnered with local branding and design firm, Turnpost (http://www.turnpost.com). Their work speaks for itself, but we’ll go ahead and attest to it anyhow. For over 20 years, Turnpost Creative Group has been engaging and developing brands at every level of enterprise. Their strategic and tactical approach to developing the aesthetic of a website pairs perfectly with our approach to creating customized, seamless software that simply flows, beautifully we might add.

Put simply, we now have a core group dedicated to taking design work and building it out for the web. Our partnership with Turnpost allows us to offer the best in the worlds of design and software that Omaha has to offer.

Not only are we offering a superior finished product, our differentiator is that the completion of your site isn’t the completion of our working relationship with you; it’s the beginning. The “build and bye” firms won’t last. That business model is simply no longer sustainable with rapidly evolving technologies and consumer trends. We don’t enter transactions; we enter partnerships. We’re excited to take this relationship with Turnpost, and our passion for creating and building to the next level of website development.

The 4 Emails that Everyone Loathes and What They Do to Productivity

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, email is great for a lot of things, but it definitely shouldn’t be any organization’s primary mode of communication. Instead of creating new processes and introducing efficient technologies, we’ve grown dependent on email, which was never intended as a project management or workflow technology. To highlight the pitfalls of email, we’ve identified the four types of emails we all get on a regular basis that make us go…

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The Forward -the email thread with about 127 conversations forwarded to you with little or no direction. You finally get to the bottom of the thread and realize you still have no idea what role you play in all of this. You read it again, and eventually ask the sender for some context. Next comes an overwhelming feeling of annoyance. You’ve read, reread, asked for clarity, and wasted a whole lot of time. The only real message “The Forward” sends is that the sender values their own time and not that of the recipient.

The Emotionally Androgynous -the all caps and exclamations email that has obviously been written by someone who is either extremely angry or excited…or are they? With email, intent and tone are not always obvious. And no, the solution is not to add smiley faces on the end of everything. When messages aren’t crafted with the reader’s perspective in mind, they can be detrimental to office morale, or even create an unprofessional atmosphere in the workplace.

The Article -isn’t it the best when your manager or co-worker sends you an article with no indication why? You’ve been sent an article on the latest ad retargeting best practices. Okay…am I implementing these? Am I giving you feedback on the article? Should I assume any deliverables and if so, what?! It’s annoying. Again, the sender is sending the crystal clear message that they don’t have time to make sure the recipient has all the information they need. Then, more emails go back and forth. An Atlassian report revealed that an average of $1,800 is wasted annually per employee on unnecessary emails.

The Siri -when the person sending you an email seems to not care in the least that their email makes zero sense. The same Atlassian report revealed that poorly written communications can cost your business as much as $4,100 per year, per employee. If your employees or colleagues have told you multiple times they need a translator, maybe let’s not have Siri send your messages?

Again, we realize email is an essential tool today and it’s here to stay, but there are ways to optimize the use of email. Here are a few tips from author and entrepreneur David Silverman aimed at making our email communications better:

Include a call to action. Does your e-mail ask the reader to do anything? If not, why are you sending it?

Be upfront. Is the e-mail’s purpose clear from its subject line and first sentence?

Assume nothing. Verify what you think the audience already knows, because it may not.

Think it through. Are your views or requests clear? Don’t force people to read your mind.

To conclude, there are better, more efficient ways to communicate. Email is now this puzzle piece that we continuously try to make fit into these spaces that is just isn’t supposed to be. It doesn’t fit into the CRM role, or the project management role, or the workflow management role, or the operations role. We’d love to talk with you about the technology that does fit. Contact us today.

Using Automated Emails to Improve Customer Relationships

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“Traditional marketing talks at people, relationship marketing talks with them.”

While the end game will always be sales, we’re seeing a huge shift in marketing as a whole. The focus is now firmly on forging relationships with your customers. Smart brands are moving away from the “one night stand”, and focusing on creating long term relationships. So what does a workflow software development firm have to do with all that?

Email marketing plays a huge role in building and maintaining the B to C relationship (business to consumer). Every organization has an, or several, operations processes and within those processes are workflows -how the product or service gets from A to Z. We’re in the business of optimizing those workflows, but not just for the client. When we develop the software behind workflows, we take a holistic approach. We don’t create solutions for a business, or a customer, or the sales team, or operations, we create all encompassing solutions.

Just one of the many aspects we take into account is how our client can craft those long lasting relationships. It can be hard to strike that magical balance between automated and thoughtful, but that’s why we’re here. Customers want to feel cared for; they want to be kept in the loop but odds are your customer care department doesn’t have the bandwidth to shoot out a text when every order hits every stage of operations.  

Adding automated emails to your operations processes is an efficient and cost-effective way to give customers that care and reassurance they want from your relationship with them. We found this aspect of workflow especially important with one client in particular, Peggy Bank, a service that transfers, photos, slides, negatives, home movies, video tapes, and audio recordings to digital format that can be viewed on computers, TVs and smart devices. We didn’t just need a workflow that safeguarded these precious and irreplaceable memories, we needed a workflow that incorporated transparency and reassurance for the customer.

Automated emails can be used in a myriad of ways, but for Peggy Bank, each step of the ordering process would trigger an automated email to the customer letting them know the status of their order. Not only is the customer left feeling assured their treasures are in good hands, your customer care department isn’t answering phone calls about order statuses. Ah the beauty of automated workflows.

Again, there are countless ways to incorporate automated emails into your workflow processes -the solution can be as unique as your business. We’d love to discuss how automated emails can transform your customer relationships.

5 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your Hiring Process

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As organizations grow, it’s important to make sure key processes like hiring are evolving as well. When you have a few resumes trickling in each month, there probably isn’t a need to revamp your hiring process, but anywhere from a few each day to a few each hour, calls for a hiring process upgrade. Human capital is the single most valuable asset you can have in business, how is that the processes we use to vet and obtain our human capital are often, so tragically disjointed and thoughtless? Know when to step it up a notch.

Sales Suffer

You will almost always see a dip in sales when hiring is a pain point. If your hiring process sucks, you are likely scraping the bottom of the talent pool, leaving your sales team to suffer with a slew of bad hires. Bad hires then lead to increased turnover, until you’re left in a costly cycle of hiring and firing just to stay up and running.

Time to Hire is Painfully Slow or Not Tailored to the Candidate

A disjointed process is also a slow process, which means the organization will be undermanned for even longer. In addition, good candidates will drop out if they’re made to wait too long, especially if they aren’t kept in the loop about the process. The current average time to hire is about 25 working days, which in our opinion is way too long. There is still onboarding, training and the learning curve to get through. If you needed this position filled last month, you’re farther behind than you thought. Beyond lag time, a poor hiring process is one that can’t be tailored to the timeline of the candidate and how quickly or drawn out they need the hiring process to be. 

You’re Not Sure Where Candidates are in the Process

If you’ve asked a candidate for their resume three times and you’re not even really sure what position they’re applying for, you need a solution, a streamlined workflow for hiring. Beyond wasting internal resources sorting through emails and figuring out who needs to be part of this decision making process, you’re making a terrible first impression on potentially awesome hires.

Email is No Longer Working

Email has several realistic applications in business, but it is certainly not meant as a candidate management tool. It doesn’t really matter what add-ons or apps you’ve acquired, email is not effective here. You need search, collaboration, workflow queues, automated candidate emails and a bird’s eye view of the hiring process for every candidate. Yeah, email can’t do that.

Good Candidates Turn You Down

A slow, inconsiderate, disjointed hiring process makes good candidates withdraw from the process. Transversely, the hiring manager likely won’t even know the candidate has moved on until they’ve offered them the job, putting them back to square one at a later time than if the candidate were made a part of the process. Good, experienced candidates have an advantage that means they don’t have to wait for you, and they certainly won’t continue a relationship with a company who has only shown them a negative employer brand.

In the end, a good hiring workflow frees up resources for what all organizations really need, recruiting. The hiring manager can get away from tracking resumes and focus on creating a pipeline of relevant, quality talent. While there are countless tools and products out there to help organizations with general hiring pain points, we believe in customized, total solutions at Volano. Out of the box solutions get organizations to an 80% solution, while customized hiring workflow software can get you to 100%.

To find out more about how Volano upgraded the hiring process for YMCA in Lincoln, click here.

Getting the Most Out of Your Franchise Owners

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One of the greatest challenges that growing franchise companies face is the disparity in performance between their locations and franchise owners. Often it takes years of franchise sales and development to learn who your ideal owners are, what markets tend do well and what processes enable operational efficiency and communication between corporate and franchisee. This can be a rocky period and can lead to lost revenue, costly time spent putting out fires and can complicate your franchise sales process by reducing the number of happy owners willing to promote your brand and talk to potential franchisees shopping for a business to buy. One of the most frequent complaints heard from franchisees is that they felt like they purchased a job, not a business. Many feel as though they’re not receiving enough corporate support for the marketing dollars allocated from their royalty payments. Of all the issues complicating the relationship between a growing corporate franchise and her franchisees, communication or lack thereof is at the heart.

Brand Standards

There is no silver bullet to improving the communication and relationship between corporate and franchise owners. However, having a clearly defined set of brand standards is the most important component. You have a successful model or formula. Based on that premise, you decided to apply that model in a franchise setting. Ensuring that your brand standards and proven best practices are applied consistently across all of your locations is the cornerstone of your success. Your brand standards also speak volumes about your company culture. When your owners deviate from the model, they confuse the culture and worse, create a muddy customer service experience for your customers. Your food should taste the same no matter which location you’re patronizing. Your product should be the same and come from the same vendors regardless of the location from which it’s purchased. Your customer service practices, uniforms and even the kinds of people you hire should be consistent with the culture and standards you’re promoting. For those that would say growing businesses find this to become a challenge as they get bigger, I’d point out the fact that companies who consistently get the highest net promoter scores have tens of thousands of employees (USAA, Costco, Apple, Dillards, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines). If you have a great product, clear standards and those brand standards become part of your culture, recruiting, training and supporting the right kind of owners becomes less challenging.

Connecting Emotionally with your Brand

CEO and founder of Buyology Inc. Gary Singer came up with a powerful list of “brand activators” that help reinforce consistent standards. To state a few: Have a Great Story, A Clear Vision, Sensory Appeal, Symbols, Rituals and a Sense of Belonging. Tom Smith lays these out in detail in his recent blog “10 Ways to Enhance Emotional Connection to Your Brand”. The common denominator here is that successful companies have a compelling narrative and the things they do at every level reinforce that story and create a sense of belonging to customers who become part of the story through their patronage. If Apple can create a sense of belonging within their customers, franchises should be able to promote that same solidarity among their owners and subsequently, promote the standards that, if followed, drive revenue at leach location. I feel more like an owner when my leadership excites my employees to live the standards at work than an employee whose purchased a job.

The Process

Once franchises have clearly defined their brand standards and successfully incorporated those into an overarching company narrative, a system must be in place to ensure brand complicity at every location. Identifying areas of confusion or conflict quickly, dealing with them and selling your vision is the critical job of your Franchise Support Team and field personnel. Are locations adequately staffed? Are the right people recruited and hired? Is the owner purchasing from the approved vendors? Is the brick and mortar location consistent with the right signage and look? Is the owner following the model? Most franchises conduct regular site reviews. These may range from quarterly, bi-annual and annual reviews to phone calls. Having an assigned liaison between you and your franchisees is ideal. They will be the person that needs to sell your vision to the owner and gain trust and buy-in. They also need to provide a voice for your franchisees so you are aware of the challenges and mindset of your owners. The follow up here is essential and much can be leveraged from the time your staff spends with your owners. The criteria to which you’re holding your owners accountable should be consistent with your brand standards. They should be concise and easily measurable. Your scoring should be used to identify struggling owners as well as high performers. Reviews should be used as much to recognize achievement as it is to identify owners who need help. If they are seen as “audits” you’ll be challenged to have honest conversations with your owners and your field personnel will be driven to drink. The reviews should be easy to complete and should be transparent with your owners. Mobile applications such as Action Card can help streamline this review process, schedule reviews, identify and reconcile action items resulting from the reviews, track correspondence and documents including the reviews themselves and provide reporting that can be sued to track trends. All of this can be done on-line and with a tablet, including photo uploads to help capture examples. Regardless of the system used, franchise companies should be able to easily account for the time spent with their owners and the outcomes from these visits. If you can maintain consistent brand standards at all of your locations in a collaborative way, chances are you’ll have a much better relationship with your owners and that relationship is the basis on which you can clearly tell your story.

Technology and the Future of Warfare

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Image of David Kilcullen, former member of the Australian army, author and advisor to General Petraeus in Iraq.

David Kilcullen, former member of the Australian army, author and advisor to General Petraeus in Iraq.

Last week I caught a few fascinating minutes of NPR on the way into the office.  On my bucket list; at some point in time contribute monies during their fundraising efforts as I am a selfish benefactor of great content and have been riding that gravy train for years… But I digress.  Steve Inskeep was interviewing David Kilcullen, former member of the Australian army, author and advisor to General Petraeus in Iraq.  I’d read Kilcullen before and thought he had very progressive insight on modern warfare.  Kilcullen asserted that warfare is becoming more urban and that “we’re starting to see a real democratization of technology.”  I thought this concept was worth exploring.

Kilcullen talks about how technology that used to be the “preserve of nation states” is now available to anybody.  The flow of information and the availability for groups to access how-to manuals as well as more sophisticated weaponry, especially in larger, urban areas has shaken up conventional thinking on the U.S. approach to conflict.  He also cautions that major troop commitments won’t work in larger coastal cities of 20-30 million people.  In short, Kilcullen does not see a military solution to urban and regional conflicts that are based less on broad, existential reasons (the threat of Communism, radical Islam) and more on income inequality and lack of opportunity and progress.  He thinks that ‘fundamentally …social work, international assistance and diplomacy’ will be needed to address areas of unrest where US interests are at stake, where the military plays a secondary role of support.

We’re always interested in how technology drives change, whether it’s behavioral, cultural or process and business oriented.  Kilcullen touches on how prolonged conflicts are in large part supported by “war entrepreneurs” who profit from unrest.  These are timeless reasons for war, and the hand that technology has played in changing how wars are conducted can be equally attributed to how they are quelled, brought to international attention and even how protests are coordinated (see Arab Spring and social media).  We’ve also seen, especially with the recent NSA controversy, how technology is ahead of our discussion on the ambiguous line between protection and personal privacy.

Livescience.com wrote recently about seven technologies that transformed warfare.  These range from drones to nuclear warheads and provide a broader context for the evolution of lethal technologies.  I think the common denominator here is that these advancements have given us a more precise, lethal and comprehensive way to kill while dehumanizing the method.  There is a buffer between the trigger and the target, making it easier to eliminate blips on a screen than flesh and blood on the field of battle.  What interests me in Kilcullen’s interview with NPR is the notion that technologies accessibility has forced the hand of developed nations to consider non-military solutions and preventative political actions to war.  This changes the current, hawkish debate from how do we strike at this problem to how do we identify a potential problem, and can foreign policy be used to help unite divided urban populations so that running water, functional schools and working systems become the interests of all and not the leveraging tools of the few.

The Not So Distant Future

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Volano Solutions spoke recently at a technology summit in Kearney Nebraska.  The event centered around the importance of broadband in rural communities and featured some dynamic thought leaders and organizations.  One of the keynote speakers, “Futurist” Jack Uldrich, gave the most entertaining and thought-provoking presentation on key innovations that were already making their way to  market.  If you have time, I highly recommend you check out his talk.  Uldrich focused specifically on nano-technology.  It is hard to contextualize the significance of some of these technological advances without slipping into a stupefied state of awe and hyperbole.  The innovation, coupled with the shear speed in which it’s coming to us has in my opinion put global business and our daily lifestyle on the precipice of change that we have not yet begun to comprehend.  I wanted to catalogue a few specific advances that I consider game changers.

Last week Amazon’s terminally excitable Jeff Bezos blew a few minds when he announced on a 60 minutes segment that Amazon had the capability to ship product to their Amazon Prime customers via unmanned drone within 30 minutes.  If you haven’t heard about this, check out it here.  Bezos claims to be 2 years away from this with his biggest challenge being regulatory.  The FAA likes to be in the know on who and what is flying where and I don’t know that they have considered packages shipping through their air space but not in a traditional and regulated aircraft.

But check out some of the innovation that is already emerging.  These are not George Jetson ideas about someday, they are here.  If you geek out on this like we do, do some digging on any of the below innovations.

  • Web-based Video Conferencing; allows for everything from virtual medical consultation including play-by-play surgery to virtual grocery shopping from British tube (subway) stations.
  • 3D Printing Technology
  • Robotic Technology; driverless, self-driven cars.  Google has successfully tested these cars for over two years.  The New Yorker did a piece on this in November.  Robots are way better drivers than we are.  This could put a huge dent in the 10 million auto accidents that occur in the US ever year, 9.5 million of which are driver-error related.
  • Sensor Technology or “The Internet of Things;” sensors can help track health issues via the web and predict potential health problems as well as monitor the structural integrity of our roads and bridges.  Farmers can already check and monitor the moisture level in hay based on sensor technology to determine when it makes good feed.
  • Gene Sequencing Technology; transforming health and pharm industries as well as agriculture.  Will likely spur an ethical discussion as it becomes increasingly more affordable.
  • Algorhythmic technology; tools like Siri on the iPhone that currently answer questions from us will become 1000 times more advanced to the point where Siri will be telling us things we need to know before we thought to ask based on their knowledge of our habits.

These are just a few rapidly emerging technologies that will fundamentally change how we live our lives and we are already there.  We certainly have the opportunity to enhance the quality of our lives but it remains to be seen if these advances will make us happier.  This reminds me of the now famous Louis CK bit on the correlation between technological advancement and our collective dissatisfaction with life.

Alternate Endings for Start Ups

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Volano likes to be around the start-up community for a lot of good reasons and Omaha, though not without its challenges, has become an increasingly friendly place for entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas.  As a software company, we are particularly interested in how technological innovation can solve problems and make money.  Start-ups are often warned about the rigors and risks involved in going out on their own, pursuing capital, investing in an idea, people, infrastructure and staying in the money during the early growth years.  It would seem that most start-up companies get into business to eventually cash out or forfeit some measure of control and go public.    But this isn’t always the case and a recent blog by the NY Times explores start-ups who chose less conventional paths.

Last week’s NY Times blog explores alternative methods of gaining liquidity without an IPO or selling to a larger company, but these decisions can be tough.  Whether it’s the eyeglass e-com Warby Parker allowing “early employees sell shares to new investors” or the decision that some boot-strapped companies make to stay small enough where they are never beholden to outside investors and remain autonomous.  Other entrepreneurs seek partnership with larger companies or investors in order to reach loftier goals.  The challenge then is seeking the right relationships.  Andrew Dreskin, the cofounder of TicketWeb sold his company for 35 million to Ticketmaster and regrets today that he didn’t hold onto it longer, believing it could have been a multi-billion dollar company.

Other start-up entrepreneurs have opted to sell their concepts in order to finance retirement or projects and companies  to which they are more passionate.  Seattle entrepreneur Dan Shapiro sold his comparison shopping tool “Sparkbuy” to Google which helped finance his passion project, Robot Turtles, a  board game that teaches computer programming to preschool age kids.  This writer is interested in any board game that is not “Sorry” and actually teaches applicable concepts.

It’s hard to pass up the advantages of taking your company public.  First there is the obvious financial benefit of raising capital.  This allows business owners to pay off debt, fund initiatives and invest in research and development.  The prestige factor can also lead to a greater level of awareness through the publicity generated by the IPO.  Taking your company public can also help increase market share and in many cases, lead to profitable exit by the founder who may not be interested in continuing on with the business, especially given the loss of total freedom.  However, going public also leads to increased scrutiny, regulation and added transparency for investors.  These changes may be tough for entrepreneurs to stomach given their focus on growing their concept.