RICH SLOAN: STARTING UP
“IF A CLUTTERED desk is
a sign of a cluttered mind,
of what, then, is an empty
desk?” Albert Einstein
Rich Sloan is chief
co-founder of www.
a leading site for
The question provides
the thesis behind Costco
members Eric Abrahamson
and David H. Freedman’s
A Perfect Mess: The Hidden
Benefits of Disorder (
available on costco.com). True
stories and case studies
prove their point that people
with a modicum of messiness and disorder can indeed
be more efficient, more creative and, in general, more
effective than their highly
There may be tongue-in-cheek comments in the
book, but the authors’ intent
is completely serious. “An
unproductive and frustrating
obsession with neatness and
order is a real problem in our
society,” says Freedman.
IT HAPPENS EVERY JANUARY. A huge surge of
traffic inundates our Web site: would-be entrepreneurs seeking advice on how to start a business.
By March, though, traffic drops back to normal as the
New Year’s resolutions lose their shine. One by one,
millions of start-up dreams give way to life as usual.
With the right tactics and tenacity, though, you
can go beyond life as usual and enjoy the passionate, creative and fulfilling life of an entrepreneur. To
make sure you succeed in starting up in the year
ahead, follow these recommendations.
Know what you’re after. For a dream to be
realized, it has to be built on reality—your reality.
Define what you love doing, what you’re good at
doing and where you have experience. Also, get
clear on what resources are available, what you’re
willing to risk and what you ultimately want to gain.
Put your answers in writing to use as a compass
The authors suggest
embracing not chaos
but flexibility, and warn
Freedman offers some tips
from the book.
Introducing the new 5 spot
■ Think in terms of
disrupting the status quo in
your company rather than
■ Most plans end up
going out the window;
instead, focus on being a
fast reactor and improviser.
■ Don’t hold employees
to your standards for being
organized. People tend to
naturally organize themselves in the way that works
best for them.
For more information,
visit the authors’ Web sites,
A NEW $5 BILL is hitting the
streets soon. New security and
design features make counterfeit
bills easier to spot and tougher for
counterfeiters to fake.
The U.S. Bureau of Engraving
and Printing offers these tips to
help you recognize the new bills.
Hold a bill up to the light to see
these new features:
■ A large number 5 watermark is located in a blank window
to the right of the portrait. It
replaces the previous watermark
portrait of President Lincoln found
on older $5 bills.
■ A second watermark—a
column of three smaller 5’s—has
been added to the new design
and is positioned to the left of
for all decision making. This should help you avoid
a situation where you end up working for your
business instead of your business working for you.
Research extensively but quickly. Search
the Internet, conduct a brief survey, read industry
studies, attend trade shows—do everything you
can to become smart about your business niche.
Apply that learning to your specific concept to
make sure all of your operational, financial and
customer assumptions are on target.
Test-drive your assumptions. As quickly as
possible, test your idea on customers. Your first
handful of customers will teach you more about
your business opportunity than anything else will.
Just be prepared to go back to the drawing
board—initial feedback may require you to change
Monitor progress with milestones. Create a
chart that shows dates by which you plan to achieve
major milestones. Include things like “launch Web
site,” “win 10th customer,” “break even,” etc. Hitting
the milestones is important, but even more critical is
adjusting your course when you don’t.
Use the buddy system. I’ve always been
more focused and effective when I’ve had
someone to talk to about my business. For some
people this can be a mentor; for others, a paid
coach. For me, simply having a buddy who is smart
and supportive and who holds me accountable for
my wide-eyed entrepreneurial ambitions has done
the trick. Knowing you have to report adds a level
of discipline to your work and may be just what you
need to help you realize your start-up dreams. C
■An embedded security
thread runs vertically to the right
of the portrait. The letters USA
followed by the number 5 in an
alternating pattern are visible along
the thread from both sides of the
bill. The thread glows blue when
held under ultraviolet light. In
older bills, the security thread was
located to the left of the portrait.
■ A background color of light
purple in the center blends into
gray near the edges, with small
yellow 05’s printed on the front
and back of the bill.
The new colors differ from the
redesigned $20 bills (green, peach
and blue), $50 bills (red and blue)
and $10 bills (yellow, orange and
red). New $100 bills will follow
soon. Officials say $1 and $2 bills
will not be redesigned.
While much of the design
change is to thwart counterfeiters,
various elements—such as the
distinctive color schemes and
images—are intended to help
people with visual impairments.
For more information, visit
the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing’s Web site at
factory.gov/newmoney or call toll-free 1-877-639-2877. C