Thinking About The Next Going Far Events [en]

[fr] Alors que je commence à penser aux conférences que j'organiserai après Going Solo, je me retrouve saisie par l'angoisse de la transparence. Même si je prêche l'authenticité et la transparence à mes clients, cela ne m'empêche pas d'être moi aussi sujette à la crainte d'en dire trop.

Je commence aussi à sentir le besoin de véritablement créer une entreprise. Il y a trop de travail pour moi seule. Je perçois quel devra être le profil de mon/mes associés: bon vendeur (je suis une bonne marketeuse, mais pas très douée pour clore et vendre), bon dans l'opérationnel, et qui ne rechigne pas aux tâches administratives. Il y en a probablement pour plus d'une personne, là. M'enfin, je réfléchis.

There hasn’t been much going on here, I have to admit, as I decided to postpone the actual incorporation of Going Far until Going Solo was off the ground. So, head over there (if that’s not where you’re coming from) to catch up, if necessary.

As Going Solo is taking shape, I’m really awed by how much support and how many positive responses and comments I’ve received, both from old friends and new contacts. It feels good to not be the only person to believe in what I’m doing. I have a great team of advisers, too, which has taken shape over these last months.

As I start thinking about the next events I want to organize, I find myself facing (once more) what I’m going to name “The Angst of Transparency”. Although I’m 100% sold on the idea of being transparent (the Cluetrain kool-aid and 8 years of blogging) I still find myself unsure about how much to say when business is at stake. It’s as if, when it came to myself and my own actions, I didn’t really believe what I was preaching to others. I find myself afraid, just like I sense others are afraid when I tell them transparency is the way to go. How transparent is too transparent?

I have a pretty good idea for what two (maybe three) of the next Going Far events are going to be. I’ve mentioned them in passing to a few people. I also have ideas for developing Going Solo, if the event on May 16th turns out to be the success it seems to be promising to be.

But I’m afraid to start blogging about this, on the one hand for fear of giving too much away and being overtaken (which in my right mind I find stupid), and on the other hand because it will set things in movement, and I’m already aware that there is not enough of me to deal with Going Solo itself — let alone get started on another two projects.

This is where I’m really starting to feel the need to create a company. I need other people on the boat with me. And I’m starting to see what kind of person/people I need to bring on board. I need a good salesperson. I’m good at marketing, but not so much at the actual selling/closing/getting the cash. I need somebody who’s good on the operational front, who actually gets things done, and doesn’t mind dealing with tasks like making sure people have paid, keeping track of what needs to be done when (that bit is project management, actually), and so on.

I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to go about finding that person or those people — but I guess having a clear “profile” in mind and making sure my advisers know what I’m looking for (and mentioning it here) is a good start. This isn’t a job ad, though. I’m far from there.

*Cross-posted from the Going Far blog.*

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Websites and Blogs, Where Does One Start? [en]

[fr] Petite prise de tête (j'aime bien ça!) au sujet du site pour Going Solo et l'entreprise (pas encore existante légalement) qui est derrière. Quel nom de domaine utiliser? (J'en ai enregistré toute une série autour de cette idée de conférences, ça m'a d'ailleurs coûté un saladier.) Il va me falloir une identité visuelle. Que bloguer où? Créer déjà un site pour l'entreprise? Bienvenue dans les méandres de mes questionnements.

Along the lines of [rediscovering some aspects of blogging](, I’m rediscovering some tricky online presence questions which I’m more used to hearing in the mouths of my clients than in my head.

Questions like: do I create a separate blog for my company? for my event? how? when? who will blog on them? what will we blog on them?

To be honest, those questions aren’t actually all that tricky. For example, of course I’m going to create a site-blog (website with a blog) for [Going Solo]( Is it too early to create a site for the company, though? I’ve got a good mind for the moment to [hold off incorporating]( it until the first event is done. I mean, not to be pessimistic, but if Going Solo doesn’t work out as well as I hope, and I decide to leave the event business at that, it will have saved me the trouble and grief of setting up the company “for nothing”, right? Other opinions on the topic?

A few weeks ago, I booked a pile of domain names (my poor credit card can testify). For the company, for Going Solo, for other events I already have in mind. I got .nets, .coms, .orgs, and even .co.uks. You don’t want a porn site as a neighbour, right? And if you’re going to build a name or a brand, who knows what you might want to do with the other TLDs 3 years from now? Better have them handy. Well, this isn’t really the topic of this post, but gosh, does it add up to a pile of money.

Of course, to make things easy, one of the .coms I didn’t manage to get is (it’s an insulin pump, so not much to do with what I’m plotting). Which leaves me with a choice of, .ch, .net, .org. I’d say .org is out, as this is a commercial venture. As the event is going to [take place in Switzerland](, .ch would make sense, but then what happens when we reproduce the event in other countries? (I’ve actually already been talking about that with a few people — and can you imagine: the first event hasn’t even happened yet that they are already showing interest…)

Leaves us with .net and, the latter making sense if the mother company is indeed incorporated in the UK as I plan, but as it hasn’t actually happened yet, it could change. So, I guess for the moment I’d go with and set up a blog there, to start with.

I don’t have any visual identity yet so that means it would be pretty bland at first. (This is where I really regret not being a bit of a designer myself.) I’m half-tempted to try and recruit [Bread and Butter]( (look at the [beautiful art they did for Adsclick](, but they’re already doing LIFT (maybe a bit of a conflict) and as they’re already nicely established, I’m a bit afraid about the price tag. My more realistic idea is to try to find a small design shop in Lausanne which could use the visibility (local and international) Going Solo will bring them, or see if anything could be set up involving [students from the ECAL](

As for the company, should I set up a website already, even if it doesn’t “legally” exist? (God, I wish I were a lawyer and understood all this stuff.) I’ll need a visual identity (at least a logo) and some content. I guess there will be a lot of cross-posting between the Going Solo blog and this one, at least at the start.

Also, languages! Oh my! Actually, no. Going Solo will be held in English, therefore the site will be in English. I’ll provide some French content for local sponsors to dig through, but I’m not going to do the whole [multilingual space]( thing yet for it. Could be an idea in the long run, though… hmm.

Well, thanks for following my thought process. I’ll be setting up soon and cross-posting relevant content there so that we can all start linking to it! 🙂

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Advisors, Boards, Companies, Partners, Oh My! [en]

Welcome to the area where I feel I’m swimming rather than standing on firm ground. Thankfully, I have advisors for this, but I’m still the person who needs to make the decisions. Let’s dive into the swimming-pool: it’s called [Starting a Company](, in the city of Oh-My-God-Is-It-Really-A-Good-Idea-To-Blog-All-This.

I have one event underway, [Going Solo]( If all goes well (and I intend it to) this will be the first of many — whether they cater to the same audience or not is still something I’m thinking about. So, I want to create a company which will be behind these events. Good for branding, allows me to bring in partners, pay myself a salary, etc. (Actually, I realise now that I’m not 100% sure why it’s a good idea to create a company — I’m sure it is, but I have trouble explaining it. Enlightened comments welcome.)

This company has a board of advisors. I haven’t drawn up any contracts or anything yet, but we have verbal agreements. I do want to get things down on paper, though. In French, we say *les bons comptes font les bons amis*, meaning that keeping money/business issues clear and clean preserves friendship (or makes it, depending how you understand it).

I need to incorporate the company, too. I live in Switzerland, I’m a British-Swiss dual citizen. In Switzerland, to have an “SA” company (the equivalent of an Ltd.) you need to show up with 100K CHF on the table. Even an SàRL requires 20K. From what I hear, it costs virtually nothing to set up a company in the UK. My focus is events on the European market, so basically, I see no real reason for the company to be Swiss. I’m no specialist of these kinds of decisions, though, so I’m basically listening to what people tell me and reading up here and there.

It seems to me that the simplest thing to do is to set up the company in the UK. I could have a subsidiary (? = succursale) in Switzerland, but again, I don’t understand how this makes things easier. (This isn’t making me look good, is it?)

I’m also not sure what happens with my “independant” status in Switzerland. I’m not going to stop being “independant” because I set up the company (ie, not looking at becoming a full-time employee of my company yet), so is there a way I can preserve this — it’s particularly important from a tax point of view, for example.

Then, advisors. I want the advisors to the company to have a (small) financial stake in it (I think that’s rather common), so I need to write up agreements for that. Do I need a lawyer (eeek)? Can I just do it myself? How do I know what to write in it? I’m a bit uncomfortable about saying who the advisors are publicly before the formalities are done — am I worrying for nothing?

Which also brings up another issue: many people around me are being very helpful by providing their advice and support. But if I bring them all onto the advisory board, as I’d be tempted to do, that means I’m going to have a (possibly) important amount of very little shareholders, which can create trouble if I want to bring partners into the company, or investors, or sell (they have to approve, don’t they?) So, can I have two kinds of advisors — advisors with a financial stake in the company, and others without?

Those of you out there who own companies with advisory boards or who are on advisory boards — would you mind telling us a bit more about how this works? And this is Europe, not the US (in case it changes anything — I suspect it does). Also, should I set up the company now, or wait until the first event is done?

Same kind of questions about partners. At the moment, there will be three of us doing the bulk of the organisation of Going Solo. We’ll be subcontracting other companies or individuals for some pieces of work, of course (any tips about where to go shopping for Wifi That Stays Up, by the way?) So, as far as Going Solo is concerned, we can draft out an agreement between the three of use to determine how much and how we get paid for our work, and what happens with any extra money we might have (ok, might be dreaming here). If this first event goes well, and we’re happy working together, it could make sense to have them enter the company, wouldn’t it? (This is where the when-how-howmuch stuff comes in, but I’m aware we’re not there yet.)

So, maybe my question is this: what are usual models for paying people who organise events? From what I’ve heard, bringing in sponsorships should earn you a cut of what you brought in, though it gets complicated when the sponsorship in question is not just cash, but covering the expenses for certain parts of the conference, or bringing in goods/services. It also gets complicated if the event doesn’t make as much money as planned, or makes a loss — should the person in charge of the sponsorships be paid while others are not? So many questions.

Also — trademarks? Do I need to trademark anything?

Any pointers, advice, or opinions that can help me see clearer here will be most welcome.

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Why Events? [en]

[fr] J'explique dans ce billet pourquoi je me lance dans l'organisation de conférences-événements. (Le français c'est ambigu: une conférence ça peut être un blabla par une personne, ou bien une journée entière avec plusieurs intervenants. Je parle de ce dernier cas de figure. Faites signe si vous avez un meilleur mot.)

J'ai perdu le compte des conférences auxquelles je suis allée assister au cours des derniers 18 mois. Au point que j'en ai un peu marre, j'avoue. Les organisateurs de conférence commencent à avoir l'habitude de lire mes critiques au sujet de leurs événements, donc je sais qu'on va m'attendre au contour.

Donc, je commence à voir un peu de quoi c'est fait, ces fichues conférences. C'est l'occasion de me lancer dans un projet un peu plus à long terme que ce que je fais d'habitude, de m'entourer de personnes compétentes (parce que finalement, je me rends compte que j'en connais une pile), et d'utiliser ma connaissance du milieu web/tech pour monter un programme qui non seulement tienne debout, mais danse la valse.

Donc, voilà. Comme je l'ai déjà dit, cela ne veut pas dire que je mets un frein à mes activités de consultante ou de conférencière (j'ai d'ailleurs des idées à ce sujet que je vais développer dans un prochain billet).

The idea of [starting a company]( and organising conferences like [Going Solo]( is the result of a conversation I had a bit over a month ago, just before Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin.

Even though it sounded like a wacky idea to me at first, organising events now really seems like the “right thing to do” today. I’ve been to more conferences during the last 18 months than I can remember, so I’m starting to get a good sense of the ingredients. I have a good network. I have a “generalist’s” view of the web/tech world. I’m also a detail-oriented person. It’s also time I became more active in my professional life (ie, “taking things into my own hands”), and I like the idea of building something over the long term (well, long term by my standards).

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I’ve become a bit [conference-weary]( lately. I’m also known (to conference organisers, at least) for my sometimes nasty (but heart-felt!) feedback on their events. So, rather than continue complaining, I’m going to organise **conferences I’d like to attend**. I’m perfectly aware that given my track-record for finding fault with conference organisation, you’re all going to be waiting for me when I do mine. So be it ;-).

I believe it isn’t possible to please everybody: my intention isn’t therefore to organise the “perfect event”, as I know that it doesn’t exist. However, I’m strongly committed to getting **all** the basic stuff right, and to providing something slightly different from what already exists. More will unfold about that over the next weeks.

I’d like to state again that **I am continuing with my speaking and consulting business** (I actually even have plans for it in the near future, particularly in Lausanne). I know organising a conference is a lot of work (and luckily I’m not alone for that, I have two great partners and a bunch of very precious advisors), but that doesn’t mean I’m dropping everything else while I organise it.

*Going Solo* will be my first event, but I already have ideas for events to follow on other topics. The responses so far to my desire to organise an event for freelancers and very small businesses as been very encouraging, and has caused me to start thinking about what else I could set up for this audience/public (which I’m part of).

So, please, keep the feedback coming — I’m off to start writing my next post. (Feeling like a serial blogger just now.)

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Competition, Colleagues, or Partners? [en]

[fr] Avec mon projet de démarrage de boîte, je me retrouve à me demander comment exactement l'on définit la concurrence. Qui seront mes concurrents? Quelle genre de relation peut-on avoir avec "la concurrence", surtout lorsque ceux-ci sont des amis ou des connaissances? Est-il possible d'aspirer à un rapport s'approchant de celui de collègues, plutôt qu'une guerre sans merci? Vos idées et expériences sur la question m'intéressent.

In the last ten days I’ve started planning, thinking, and talking about [my new company]( One of the things I’m struggling with at the moment (besides finding a name which isn’t already taken, isn’t too lame, and won’t get me sued) is how to consider others that are in the field I want to step into (I haven’t told you yet, have I?)

Very obviously, they are competition. My company is going to be doing stuff similar to theirs. But I don’t have the feeling it’s really clear-cut. I mean, look at the “social media consulting” business. Amongst my acquaintances and friends, there are many people who do similar things to me. But they feel more like colleagues than competition.

Is it simply because our skills overlap imperfectly, and our markets are geographically or economically separated?

As I understand it, to be competition, two companies (or people) need to be competing for the same clients/users, and this competition has to be exclusive. By that, I mean that if the client/user decides to go with company A, company B is going to lose his business. I guess this is pretty obvious.

So this is what I’m wondering about. I’m preparing to enter a market which is not totally new. There are already people/companies doing what I want to do. But I’m going to do it in a unique way — mine. Does that still mean the others are “competition”? and in that case — for those of these others who are friends or contacts — does that mean that I will be perceived as a threat, and that any “network benefits” I would have had from those people is to be considered lost? Is it going to have a negative impact on these relationships?

This seems pretty tough. (Maybe it’s just the business world, and I need to toughen up, but I don’t like this side of it, if it is.)

I’m not here to put others out of business. I want to do things better, appeal to a different audience, or “increase the consumption” (horribly way to phrase things, but I don’t have anything better on the tip of my tongue without being more specific) of the current “audience”.

I’m aware I might be coming across as terribly naive to all of you seasoned entrepreneurs and business people out there. But I’d like to believe it’s possible to “play nice” with “competition” — maybe not to the extent that they become partners, but at least something resembling a relationship between colleagues. A relationship where help can be given, contacts shared, advice and lessons learned dispensed. Even if I wouldn’t go so far as to expect partnership.

What about partners, then? Can they be involved with the competition? Could they have interests in one’s competition? (That sound like a bad idea, said like that.) Conflicts of interests aren’t good, that’s certain — but can we really be free of them?

I know that without the specifics this may seem a little abstract, but I’d really love to hear what you all think about this.

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I'm Starting a Company [en]

[fr] J'ai décidé de créer une entreprise. Eh oui. Sans donner trop de détails, je peux déjà vous dire qu'il ne s'agira pas principalement de consulting web (même si je ne renonce pas à mes activités professionnelles courantes) et que ce ne sera pas non plus une application web. Par contre, ce sera l'occasion de faire bon usage de mon réseau.

Un peu étrange pour moi, mais ce sera aussi la première fois dans ma vie que j'entreprends quelque chose dans le but avoué de gagner de l'argent. Bien entendu, ce ne sera pas aux dépens des produits/services/clients/utilisateurs/employés/collaborateurs/partenaires... Je reste qui je suis et j'ai des valeurs auxquelles je tiens 😉

If you [follow me on Twitter](, then you’ve certainly already [heard the news]( I’m starting a company. Now, though I’ve told a few people online and off what it was about (shhh), I’m not going to spill all the beans right now (have to keep you wondering for a bit, right?).

What I’ll say for the moment is the following:

– I’m not “retiring” from any of what I’m doing now (I’m still for hire for my usual consulting/speaking/experiential-marketing/etc. stuff, though I might be a bit busier in the coming months, so plan ahead!)
– my company’s main business will *not* be consulting, and it will *not* be a web app (that narrows it down, doesn’t it?)
– strange as it may sound for me to say this, for the first time in my life I’m making a professional decision with the intent of earning money (though not at the expense of my products/services/users/clients/employees/partners, obviously)
– I’m still thinking about a name (“Pink” stuff is out, unfortunately — that should give you a serious hint)
– this will be a chance for me to put my network to good use (amongst other things, I intend to surround myself with great advisors/partners/collaborators).

I’m excited! Full of questions and ideas, but really excited 🙂

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The Shadow IT Department (and Shadow HR) [en]

[fr] Un article qui montre du doigt un nécessaire changement de mentalité dans les départements IT: nombre des outils que les employés utilisent pour améliorer leur productivité ont en fait été introduits de façon "sauvage". Vouloir tout contrôler à tout prix n'est pas la meilleure solution.

Here’s a very interesting piece I picked up in [Bruno’s links]( [Users Who Know Too Much (And the CIOs Who Fear Them)]( It talks about the chasm between what technology IT departments make available, and what tools employees install and use behind the IT department’s back to be more productive at work.

> And that disconnect is fundamental. Users want IT to be responsive to their individual needs and to make them more productive. CIOs want IT to be reliable, secure, scalable and compliant with an ever increasing number of government regulations. Consequently, when corporate IT designs and provides an IT system, manageability usually comes first, the user’s experience second. But the shadow IT department doesn’t give a hoot about manageability and provides its users with ways to end-run corporate IT when the interests of the two groups do not coincide.

> “Employees are looking to enhance their efficiency,” says André Gold, director of information security at Continental Airlines. “People are saying, ‘I need this to do my job.’” But for all the reasons listed above, he says, corporate IT usually ends up saying no to what they want or, at best, promising to get to it…eventually. In the interim, users turn to the shadow IT department.

I remember that when I used to work at Orange, many of my most useful tools were things I “wasn’t allowed” to have on my computer. I also remember that when [I got really bad RSI]( and [using dictation software]( was the only way to get me back to work, the IT department flat-out refused our request for [Dragon]( (Somebody actually said that if I couldn’t type anymore, they should just get rid of me.) My boss had to have a chat with somebody else’s boss to finally have the program installed on my computer.

The bit that actually prompted me to write this post is the comparison with the way HR organises the company:

> For example, a similar dynamic has long played out in HR. A company’s employees have titles and reporting relationships that give their work a formal structure. But at the same time every company has an informal structure determined by expertise, interpersonal relationships, work ethic, overall effectiveness and so on. Companies suffer when HR is out of phase with the informal structure. Employees are demoralized when the formal architecture elevates someone at the bottom of the informal architecture, and people who occupy the top spots in the informal architecture leave when they aren’t recognized by the formal one. Good HR departments know where employees stand in both the formal and informal architectures and balance the two.

A few months ago, I was giving a talk on blogs (etc.) to a bunch of Internal Communications people, and one of my points was that there *is* an informal structure inside the company (the value of which is in fact recognized by the companies, who will invest in “teambuilding” or “recreation” activities to encourage transversal communication), and that use of tools like blogs can help make this structure more visible and efficient. (Think [Cluetrain, these 50](

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