Opportunity And Risk: A New Small Business Forum

By nature I’m a cautious person. I wasn’t raised to do the leap before you look thing and most of my decisions in life are measured responses to the information in front of me. In some ways that’s good as it mitigates risk.

However, that same thinking can also limit the opportunities you go after and thus your success. Sometimes it’s important to take a chance when you see an opportunity and this week that chance has resulted in a new Small Business Forum.

Risk

If you read about the lives of successful people you’ll notice many took risks on their way to wealth or fame that most of us would typically avoid. They were willing to throw themselves into debt to pay for an idea they believed in or pulled off some brilliant marketing strategy that could have easily backfired.

In the early days of the last century Ty Cobb was playing minor league baseball in rural Georgia, determined to be a success at the game. He was playing at a very low level of organized baseball and to help himself rise to the next level he would write the editor of the papers in nearby towns that they had to come out and watch this kid Cobb play ball.

Those nearby towns had teams at the next rung up the ladder and by the time young Tyrus would tryout for the team there was already a buzz around him making it easier for him to land a spot on the team.

Had it been found out that the hundreds of fans all praising the ability of Ty Cobb had all been Ty Cobb he probably would have thrown away his chance to ever make those teams. But he took that chance and went on to be the greatest ballplayer of his generation.

Often success or failure depends on your willingness to take a chance.

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photo credit: JasonJT

Opportunity

Opportunities are everywhere. They are always in front of you and they always surround you. Most opportunities aren’t life altering. They may involve going out to dinner with a friend as opposed to staying in watching tv. They may involve a chance to see a show if you get in line early enough for tickets. Not life altering, but opportunities nonetheless.

Some opportunities will take you down a road you may be better not traveling. They have little chance for success and more likely will lead you away from where you want to be in life.

Then there are a select few opportunities that if recognized and followed have great potential to impact your life in positive ways. Unfortunately these opportunities are usually the hardest to see, sometimes need a quick response, and often involve a good deal of risk. You can easily see the risk and even the potential opportunity, but what remains hidden is the probability of the successful outcome.

Another’s Loss Can Be Your Gain

The last few weeks have put an opportunity in front of me that comes with some risk, required a quick response, and places a good amount of potential success somewhere down the road.

Like many when I first ventured online I quickly discovered forums. When I started my first business online I networked through forums as a way to meet others, market my services, and build my brand.

One of the forums where I’ve been active over the years has been a small business forum. I chose it because it seemed to me the people there were my target market. They were small business owners, many or whom had or needed websites. A good way to get to know your market is to actually talk to them and help them solve some of their problems.

Aside from having gotten to know some really great people these last 2 1/2 years, I’ve also picked up a fair share of clients through my interaction with them. Forum traffic here has generally proved to be more valuable than other forms of traffic.

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photo credit: tkksummers

Sadly the forum has changed hands several times over the years and each successive owner seems to care less and less about the community. I can’t say there has ever been a time when an owner of that forum was overly communicative with staff and members, but the current owner by far offers the least communication. Since he took over 6 months ago the forum has been in decline and members have visited less and less frequently.

A couple of weeks ago the forum went down and in its place was a message about a database error. It was a couple of days before the message was changed, but even then there was no information about what had happened, just a quick note that the database was being updated. The forum stayed that way displaying the single message for a little over a week.

Some of the members began emailing each other since most of us assumed our forum might never come back. As the only active moderator I emailed and sent messages to the owner several times offering to help get things back online. None of my offers received a reply.

When the forum did come back it still wasn’t quite right. Months worth of data was no longer there, common features weren’t working, and the supposedly private staff and admin forums were left open to the public.

After an initial quick thanks from members for getting the forum back up, many started to talk about the lack of communication and talking about how they were going to leave and not come back. This was definitely a final straw for many, including myself, and I found it funny that a few members reregistered with usernames like ‘outahere’ to say good bye.

Taking Advantage Of The Opportunity In Front Of You

At first I felt like many of the members, but in chatting with a few outside the forum we realized the opportunity in front of us. There was an active community in need of a new home.

I spent most of last weekend researching what was necessary to get a forum going and the risks involved and then spent all of this week working on setting up a new hangout for our old community. Now you know why you haven’t seen me here all week.

A couple of us knew we’d have to act fast. The existing community wouldn’t stay together long without a place to congregate. There was risk associated with starting up a new forum mostly start up costs and time. The money necessary was hardly exorbitant, but it was more than I wanted to part with and the forum is already proving to be a time sink as we work to build the community back to what it once had been.

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photo credit: David Boyle in DC

On the other hand the potential rewards are good. Think about the goals many of you have in building your blogs. You hope to grow a loyal audience of subscribers. The forum represents an opportunity to grow a loyal, albeit somewhat different community. The opportunity is an existing community ready for a change that we hope will help us with the initial growth so difficult for many forums. It’s possible and even likely that in a matter of weeks we’ll have a strong core group of members.

It’s far too early to know if we’ll succeed. The window was certainly closing and may already have closed before we were able to open another. It’s possible that forum windows are mostly broken being replaced by social media windows. It’s possible that we won’t have the resources to hang in for the duration. There are risks.

But we’re all hopeful that we will be able to make this a success. We opened the doors yesterday and began welcoming old friends and we hope to welcome many new friends in the coming weeks and months.

We think that we can pick up the ball the old forum dropped and grow quicker than you would expect for a new forum. If we’re ultimately successful we’ll have a specific and ready market in front of us that trusts us and that we can learn from. Isn’t that something we’re all trying to find?

Feel free to join us at the Small Business Forum. Our community has always been a friendly group with a diverse set of knowledge and skills.

How many of you still participate in forums? Do you think it’s still possible to build a forum today?

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

4 comments

    • I do know. How could I not. I’m excited too. I think there’s a lot of potential here for many things, but there’s so much work to do to build things back.

      I think so many members were put off by the way the old forum was managed and may not realize we’ve opened a new one. I just spent an hour finding some old members and inviting them.

  1. Well Steve ol buddy…. I shall certainly go and sign up… always up for helping out and totally into the Social Networking 1.0 as U know….

    • Thanks Dave. I just saw your intro thread and replied with a hello.

      It’s been a long week getting the place started. A few days setting up the hosting and the forum software itself and then the rest of the week starting threads and posting.

      I’m actually hoping once the forum reaches critical mass we can 2.0ify it a little. I have some ideas. I also noticed that the version of vBulletin we have seems to include a few internal networking features.

      You can befriend specific members, build a photo album and create your own social groups within the forum. There might be a couple of voting features I hadn’t seen before too.

      You can also tag threads with keywords for searching. I’m still learning my way around some of the new things.

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