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How Do You Define Success
By: Developer Shed
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    How Do You Define Success?
    by Bob McElwain

    Many people have selective hearing. That is, they hear only
    what they are listening for. When such people tune in to the
    notion of getting rich on the Web, they can't seem to hear
    anything else. They are deaf to the news of dot-com failures in
    mass. Deaf to the certain doom that lies at the end of any path
    claimed to be quick or easy. And deaf to any mention of how
    tough it is to succeed in business anywhere, online or offline.

    If you have fallen into this trap, there are only two
    options. Continue on your chosen path and fail. Or redefine
    what success means to you, then begin working to achieve it.

    Getting Rich Is Unlikely

    It is no easier to become wealthy online than offline.
    The only advantage to beginning a business online, rather than
    offline, is in the lower startup costs. The rest of it is work,
    learning, then implementing what you learn. Which, of course,
    is more work.

    What are your chances of opening a new business in your home
    town and becoming a millionaire? Unless you have very special
    talents and skills, it's unlikely. The chances of doing so
    through a website are no better.

    Would Making A Living Suit You?

    Do you have what it takes to open a business on main street
    and earn a comfortable living? If you lack essential infor-
    mation, are you willing to take the time to hunt it up? If
    there are things you do not know, are you willing to learn them?
    If you lack needed skills, are you prepared to develop them?

    One who can answer a resounding, "Yes," to the above
    questions, can succeed. Online or offline. Until you can shout
    this right out loud to your family, friends, neighbors, and even
    strangers on the street, any effort to build a successful website
    will break your heart. And waste a ton of your time. And more
    than a few bucks.

    One Path

    If you want to succeed on the Web, you must first come to
    grips with what you mean by success. If your definition can be
    simplified to making a good living with the opportunity to make
    more, then all is quite doable. And one of the best ways to
    start is to begin part time and grow your business as you learn.
    For a description of such a path that works, send any email to

    Getting Real

    Whether you have started a business or are still only
    thinking about doing so, you may find it informative to check
    out some successful sites. Successful, that is, according to
    the definition of their owners.

    Common Elements

    While the following sites may appear quite different from one
    another, they have much in common.

    Nobody is making a million bucks a year; this was not the
    goal. Rather they are making a living (their definition) and are
    in an excellent position to increase their income.

    The site designs are quite simple; very few fancy graphics
    are to be found.

    Each site is well focused.

    Each site is loaded with content.

    Some face stern competition; others have carved their niche
    and conquered it.

    You will probably note ways in which each site can be
    improved. But this is true of any site, large or small. And
    it's true of yours. And mine.


    Features hot peppers, sauces, and such. A great example of
    niche marketing. Not many are into hot in this fashion, but
    those who are search constantly for more and hotter. Note there
    are a few such people in your community. Every nursery stocks
    pepper seedlings in the spring, labeled, "HOT!" This site tapped
    into this wide, if thinly spread interest. Something impractical
    in even a major city, but easy to do on the Web.


    A super smooth catalog site. They resell TV direct sales
    merchandise. Their growth has come through the site and all
    business is transacted on it. Beyond what you see there is
    undoubtedly at least one person who spends a good part of each
    day with routine business chores, solving problems, dealing with
    customer complaints, and above all searching for even better
    deals for existing customers.


    This company began as a marginally successful local wild
    flower seed company in Wisconsin. They grew significantly when
    the owner took the business online, expanded the product line,
    and reached out to a national (and to some extent, international)
    audience. In the reply to a message, Deb Edlhuber said, "It [the
    site] has totally amazed me and continues to grow."


    Malcolm Simmonds launched his first site in late 1997,
    selling herbal products, which he had been making and selling
    offline since the early 80's. He learned HTML and did the entire
    site himself. Within a year, it had paid for itself. Since
    then, he has expanded and enriched the site enormously,
    increasing his profits in the process. While looking ahead to
    even further increases, he is doing quite nicely now. All this
    in addition to his continuing success offline.


    Dan Poynter had a successful self-publishing company
    going before he launched his website. What used to be a
    travel/phone/direct mail company is now strictly a web-based
    company. In a reply to a message, Dan said, "This morning I
    checked the order-email account and found we sold 21 reports
    overnight. The customers benefited because they received the
    reports instantly (on a Sunday) and did not have to pay for
    shipping or sales tax. Para Publishing benefited because we
    did not have to print, inventory, wrap, ship, or place postage
    on the reports. This is truly a win-win situation made possible
    by the Internet."


    This site was built by a mother-daughter team. They first
    learned the brick and mortar catalog business, then expanded to
    the Web. The site is now a profitable component of their
    business. For their delightful story, see "Net Lessons from the
    Monster Girls" by Rob Spiegle.

    (An Aside: Rob also pointed me to a couple of the sites above.)

    Wrapping Up

    A while back, a visitor asked, "Do you know of a small site
    that is successful?" I referred him to one of the above. A
    short while later, he replied, "You gotta be kidding. That's

    If you visited any of the above sites and found "nothing,"
    then you probably need to know more about business and the web
    in order to build a successful site. Revaluate your definition
    of success, learn what is needed, then take another look. These
    sites are successful. That is, successful in the eyes of their
    owners. And in the eyes of their customers. What else matters?

    Bob McElwain
    Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
    have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
    to "STAT News" now!

    Web marketing and consulting since 1993
    Phone: 209-742-6783

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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