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2005-03-26 08:58:27 Source: Web

Since I last wrote, the weather has picked up a bit and we've actually started to have a spring! In fact, the last few days have even been warm and sunny. It's wonderful!

I've now been on two rides with HCK (Hisingens Cykelklubb), the first was around 65Km and yesterday's was 75km in total (the actual ride was only around 60, but cycling to and from the meetup point added another 15km for me). It's been really good fun going for training rides in an organised group instead of on my own. The club publish route maps on their web forum and have three speed groups. I've been riding quite happily with the middle group who keep a tempo around 26-28km/h.

Yesterday's ride had some pretty hilly parts. I think I need to work on my hill climbing as trying to keep up with the group I reached a pulse of 192 which is as close to my max pulse as I think I can get! (According to the various rules of thumb for calculating a max pulse, mine should be around 184 but I know that I've measured over 190 a few times, so I think I have a relatively high pulse for my age).

So it's nice to have gotten the cycling season underway again. I've definitely been jonesing for a fix over winter ;-D

Work is ticking along. I received my tax certificate for the company last week, which allows me to invoice clients and places the responsibility of paying income taxes and the like on my shoulders. It signifies that TrainingTime is now my sole means of support and I have to leave income support as well (Not that that's been worth much to me!). It also signifies that it's time for me to start getting to grips with bookeeping and I'll be doing a 4 day course during April to try and get to grips with that side of the business too.

I have several consulting clients and a website for the company is in development. In fact it's up and running at, but behind a password. So if you would like a look, just mail me. I could always use more consulting projects though, so drop me a line if you know of anyone who needs some web development work done.

We didn't win anything in the business plan competition. We did however get very useful feedback (which was one of the main reasons for entering). The main comments were that the idea seemed sound and interesting, but the communication of the central points of the business plan were a bit too woolly. A couple of days later I went over the plan with a business consultant and he helped me look at some of the main points from a different angle that simplify the whole communication of our customer value chain. So I'm not disheartened - the central idea is still sound and I'm looking forward to now focusing on putting it into practice.

I've been programming for a client a lot the last couple of weeks and am putting together some of the components that will later form the backbone of TrainingTimes product range. So all the consulting work I'm doing has secondary benefits apart from just paying the bills. So my situation feels OK - the company is in place and starting to make some money and I'm in a cycle of sales and development. As I said earlier - things are ticking along!

2005-03-11 13:23:16 Source: Web

Ugh - it's horrible weather here. It's been slushing (sleeting) all day. I'm hoping that at least it won't freeze solid and that the roads will be more or less ice free by Sunday so that I can go on the first Sunday cycle ride with Hisingen Cykel Clubb - something I've been looking forward to for the last few months. They seem to have a series of really well organised Sunday training rides planned for the season, which seems like a lot of fun.

Otherwise I have managed to keep up a base level of exercise for the last few weeks. I've been swimming more or less once a week and Lotta and I have tried to get out and go for long walks at the weekends - or as in last weekend, even some cross-country skiing. I am looking forward to the weather starting to perk up though so that the cycling can start to kick in properly.

With the company start, I doubt I'll have as much time over for cycling as I did last year, so my goals are more modest this year. I'm intending to do a few "motion" races and ride with HCK as much as possible. I haven't registered for Vättern Runt again and applications are now closed, so I'll only be doing that ride (that's the big 300km ride I did last year) if I have the time to train properly and can buy a second-hand start place nearer the time.

2005-03-09 12:20:55 Source: Web

Whoah - it's been a while huh? I've been focussing so much on work I've not found the time to report on how it's going!

The trip to Stockholm mentioned in the last post went pretty well and resulted in a gym chain being interested in acting as a reference client during development of my product. So that was positive. The last few weeks I've been focusing on actually getting my company up and running. I've been talking to potential clients. I've moved into my own office which is helping with keeping my focus on work. I've bought a nice new laptop which I got a reduction of 3000SEK (about £230) because the carton it came in had a coin-sized dent!

On top of that I have just sent away the registration papers for my company so in a few weeks things will be official.

Next week is the award ceremony for the business plan competition we've entered. I'll try and make sure to update with an entry to say how we did. There's a lot of entries though so I'm not holding my breath!

Last week it snowed quite a lot here in Gothenburg, so Lotta and I managed to find the time to go cross-country skiing - twice! It was great - I've been longing for a bit of snow all winter. It had snowed just before the trip to Stockholm and then was rained away by the time I got back. So I was very pleased to get a second chance to get out on my skis. Now though I'm looking forward to the ice (which is always the aftermath of snow in Gothenburg!) melting away so that the cycling season can start. It's time to work off some of the belly that's built up over winter.

2005-02-16 14:03:45 Source: Web

I'm off to Stockholm for a couple of days to explore a couple of business possibilities. I'm meeting the owner of a gym chain to discuss how they communicate with their company clients. Then I'm also visiting a health and fitness expo on Friday. Should be a good chance to meet some potential contacts.

On the other side of things, I've had some positive signals regarding consulting work and I have a couple of offers out which hopefully will bring in some work for the next couple of months. So it's not looking too bad right now. I'm still waiting around to see what the situation is with the start-up grant. It doesn't look good, but it's not a problem to wait right now.

My next step is to put some more meat on the bones of the actual products. I'm getting to the point where potential clients are looking for more information about how the product will actually work. So I'm hoping to get some good planning done on the train journey to Stockholm and back. It's always a good time to be able to just think things through.

2005-02-08 09:08:24 Source: Web

Statistics for pancake day

Well, we probably won't be having pancakes at home today, but the day is important for me for other reasons. This afternoon I'm handing in my marketing plan to step 2 (of 3) of a business plan competition. It's the culmination of a lot of very hard work and if we've done well enough to place amongst the top 10 marketing plans in the region then we can win 15,000 SEK. The money is not the main incentive though as the jury for the competition provide very important feedback on the submitted material which can be very useful for my company.

Aside from that, progress has been fantastic. I have a row of very interesting meetings set up and will be going to Stockholm at the end of next week to visit some gyms there and go to a healthy living trade fair. Amongst the contacts I have been working on lately I have some potential consulting jobs, several gyms who are interested in helping me develop my core product and also at least one contact that could result in a major project which could help finance my first year.

Of course - there's a lot of work to be done converting these potential jobs into actual jobs (and then into revenue for the company) - but that's the fun bit right? What I'm most proud of though is that all these contacts have come through cold calling - something that has always been a scary prospect for me. However I've found that the prospect of picking up the phone and trying to interest a complete stranger in what I'm working on is becoming less daunting all the time. Especially as I've been getting a great response from people.

So it's looking fairly positive at the moment. I still don't officially *have* a company as I need to get registered for tax, but that should hopefully be a formality. I'm still waiting for some more news regarding the situation with the start-up allowance, but it's not looking good. So I will probably be giving up on that before too long and getting on with the job in hand instead.

So in short - all is well in Steve's world of empire building!

2005-01-31 13:40:01 Source: Web

I'm now officially unemployed!

I was really looking forward to this moment, but it was slightly marred this morning when I went and registered at the unemployment office. I was completely prepared to start the application process for the start-up grant I have been planning for. However I got the news that they are unable to give out any more start-up grants at the moment as the money has run out already.

This is quite a shock! I was advised a couple of months ago to not start my company straight away, but to plan ahead instead and apply for this grant as a strategic tool to help me get started. I was pretty undecided over this for a while as I would have preferred to get started right away and start finding clients, but I decided that the chances of getting the grant were pretty high so I should apply.

So that's 2 months of waiting that I've been unable to use as productively as I would have.

I'm pretty hacked off as you might imagine.

It's not the end of the world of course, I had planned for the eventuality that I might not get the grant for some reason or other, but it does mean that I will probably have to focus more on getting in consulting projects and less on developing my core business at the start. And it will probably mean that the first year will be more risk filled for me.

Aside from that shadow on the day, I received a very nice send-off from my job. They had prepared an "English" lunch with sandwiches and salt & vinegar crisps :-D I also received a lovely send-off present of a very stylish briefcase/computer case and a start-up kit of office supplies. Much appreciated guys - thanks!

So now it's time to slightly revise my plans and get started on the serious job of finding customers! I still have a week or so of hard work to do on my business plan and I have some good meetings lined up next week with some potential consulting clients, so things don't look too bad on that front.

Shame that the government have made things more difficult for me though. I vow that when I get to the point where I have a stable business of my own, I'll do what I can to help young entrepreneurs get a footing.

2005-01-23 12:27:22 Source: Web

Hello from a slightly snowy Gothenburg! We've had a waaaay too mild winter this year. There's a slight dusting of snow falling at the moment, but basically winter here has been like London. *sigh*

The countdown to U-day (unemployment day ;-) is drawing to a close. I have 4 official days left at Evitbe which is pretty exciting. The last day is Monday the 31st when I'll basically be going in to clean my desk and do my final hand-overs.

It's been another exciting week. I had a great meeting with the owner of a gym that was on the top of my list of potential clients. He liked what I had to say about my plans and has agreed to be a reference gym during my development process and has offered to help with feedback and ideas from a gym-owner point of view, contact with some of his corporate clients to bring them into the process plus any help I might want with industry facts and figures etc. It's a huge success for me as his gym is huge and has a focus on company clients.

On top of that I had a meeting with the "brain trust" - the group of people who have been helping me put together my business plan. I presented where we stand today, we brainstormed a little around the company's business idea and vision and I presented my new product idea. The team put a lot of very good questions my way and I felt that the majority received good answers. It feels like the ground-work is in place and that we have a good starting point to build from.

There are several areas where there are some decisions to be made:

However we feel that we have enough information in place to put together the first draft of the business plan. Which is good - as I'll need it in order to apply for the start-up funding I'm hoping for.

So everything is looking pretty good. Interest in my ideas is high, the planning work is falling into place and I'll soon be able to focus on development full-time. It's all exciting stuff!

2005-01-17 17:28:00 Source: Web

It seems like I have now found the right potential market for my company. Last week while ringing round gyms I focused on how our products will help them communicate better with their company customers. That it will help their end users plan and monitor their company's health and fitness.

All of a sudden people want to hear more! The difference has been amazing. A week ago I couldn't keep anyone on the phone for a minute. Now I'm suddenly booking meetings with the CEOs of gym chains and company healthcare providers. I've always been terrified of cold-calling, but all of a sudden I'm not just doing it, but succeeding at it!

Which is great of course, but as someone said to me today, now you just have to deliver a product that actually realises the vision. Of course that's the side of the whole thing I'm most confident in. I've often been accused of over-delivering, rarely of under-delivering ;-)

So I now have 5 working days left at my old job and 4 weeks to get my business plan completed. I have a kick-off meeting with all of my network of advisors on wednesday at which I'll present where we are today and what needs to be done in the coming weeks. It's a chance to get everyone on the same page and to marshall the troops for the final push (so to speak). I also have some *very* interesting meetings booking in during the week, meetings which could lay some interesting cornerstones for the future.

Hopefully I'll be able to get a company site up in a few weeks as well and I'll be making sure that I have a blog there to record development of the company. I've developed a CMS (Content Management System for non-nerds) using ASP.NET which I'll be using on the back-end and which will also be a central product I'll be using for consulting jobs.

Things are coming together!

2005-01-07 14:31:31 Source: Web

Trying to keep up with my New Years resolutions has, as usual, not been the easiest thing in the world. Though in this case, the thing that's been difficult has not been keeping the resolutions, but getting back into the saddle with some training.

Damn I've lost form!

I cycled 5km out to a nearby running trail earlier in the week, ran 1.5km (puny - but trying to ease into it to see if I can get my knee to behave) and then 5km back again. I could feel that my performance was pretty pathetic!

Today I swam - the first couple of hundred metres crawl left my arms burning and when I swapped over to crawl I had trouble stringing together a few hundred metres. Puh!

Oh well, the thing to do is to take it nice and easy, work my way back into training and try to keep some regular effort going. I know that I my training dropped off thanks to the sudden overwhelming focus on starting my business, but I'm starting to get back into the flow of life again and finding it easier to balance my time again.

Hopefully I'll be back in trim by the time the weather starts to pick up again (rain, rain, rain here in Sweden at the moment - very unsexy weather!).

2005-01-01 09:19:26 Source: Web


Happy New Year!

As I sit at my desk at the beginning of another new year, I realise that there's one thing which will probably be all-consuming this year. Yep, starting a new business is a pretty huge undertaking and it's now that I'm in my last month of secure employment that it's starting to really sink in.

What I've realised is that for the last 17 years I've been working my butt off, but I've always had a secure income. The first 8 years of my working life I was working for subsistence wages, often working 7 days a week in order to make ends meet. Only first when I started working for Bluewave did I start to make a more comfortable living. During those first years, the constant lack of money was a continual worry. I often ran out of money to live on, 2 weeks into the month! Not a nice way to live life, but common for millions of people around the world.

Now I'm facing being back in a position where I don't know where my next income is coming from. I have to admit that it worries me. But as Lotta has pointed out, I'm in a much more secure position to deal with it than I ever was at that time. We have a number of contingency measures we can take in the event that my income is not enough in the early months of the company.

So sure, I have a lot of work to do, but that has never phased me. What is clear though is that the new year is open to all sorts of new experiences and surprises. Having stagnated at work for the last few years, that is really welcome and as I'm already putting in over 100 hours work on my company per month, I'm already learning and doing all sorts of interesting new activities. I'm realising that I have the potential to be an accomplished salesperson, I'm learning a lot about budgeting, I'm looking at products from the customers view rather than a developers view and I'm networking like crazy! These are all welcome additions to my professional life.

So all of that brings me to my New Year's resolutions! unsurprisingly, there's one which sticks out above all others -
  • To work as hard as I can to create a profitable and enjoyable new company.

    There are more however -

  • To work at being more patient in my personal relationships (to be a better listener and to not take a defensive stance so often).

  • To find time to continue training in cycling, swimming and inlines (and possibly running if my knee allows) and to complete some interesting competitions this year.

    I think that about covers the major areas of my life at the moment. Once again, Happy New Year and watch this space to see how 2005 pans out!

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    name: Steve Cook
    age: 36
    location: Göteborg, Sweden
    occupation: Run own company
    hair: Tufty
    sport: Cycling & swimming

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