ProGen Study Group #4

Thursday, 14 Aug 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Scout camp is over and the children are back in school.  July was a busy month.  It is already mid-August and I haven’t yet posted the July happenings for the ProGen Study Group.  For any newcomers, here is a link back to last month’s post: ProGen Study Group #3.

We only had one chapter to read for the month:

  •  Chapter 9 – Structuring a Business by Melinda Shackleford Kashuba, Ph.D.

This is definately one of the chapters in the book geared toward professional as in business as oppossed to other chapters that focus on expertise and skill:

“Many genealogists run their businesses with minimal planning or documentation, and they wonder why opportunities seem to elude them.”

As you might expect, this chapter includes many questions to be used as a self assessment:

  • Why you want to start a business?
  • Do you have the skills?
  • Are we entrepreneurs at heart?

The following topics are included:

  • Mission statement
  • Business plan
  • Legal structures – sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation (C, S, LLC)
  • Local, state, and federal regulations (licenses, zoning, taxes, permits)
  • Resources – time, people, and money

Overall the chapter does a good job of introducing the basics of business and how it relates to the professional genealogist.

Practical Assignment

In addition to reading the chapter, the practical assignment had us use the resources available at the U.S. Small Business Administration:

  1. Small Business Planner
  2. Check-list for Going into Business
  3. Business Plan Workshop

The final part of the of the assignment was to write a rough outline of our own business plan.

To be honest, I am so far away from starting my own business right now that I didn’t take the time to start a business plan.  I am not interested in being a professional researcher.  I am interested in designing and developing innovative genealogy software so a business plan may one day be in my future.

Peer Group Assignment/Discussion Group

My peer group changed this month so now it is the same as my discussion group.  The peer group assignment was to talk with members of your peer group: in person, on the phone, or online via Skype or otherwise.  The topic of conversation was open ended.  A scribe was to take notes and share with the peer leader. The discussion group assignment was left to the discretion of the discussion group leaders.  Well, since both these group are combined for us now, we decided to hold a conference call instead of the regularly scheduled IM chat.

Strike 3 – SkypeOut

I decided that I would take this opportunity to research and possibly try out Skype which allows for free calls over the internet.  In a short time I was able to discover that free only applied to Skype-to-Skype calls. There would be a charge for making a Skype call to a regular telephone (referred to as SkypeOut).  Now the cost was reasonable.  For an hour SkypeOut call to New York (the location of the conference call-in number), the cost would be: 3.9 cents for a connection fee plus 2.1 cents/minute times 60 minutes equals $1.30.

Now there was a number of reasons that I wanted to go with Skype in this situation:

  1. Good opportunity to explore the technology and capabilities
  2. Already had a headset (headphone/microphone combo)
  3. Didn’t want to use my cell phone minutes
  4. Didn’t want to crane my neck to one side during an hour conversation
  5. Didn’t want to risk having my cell phone drop the call

The download and setup of Skype was really easy.  I even got a free phone call to test it out.  My next decision was how to pay for the call.  I decided to go with the prepay option and bought a $10 credit. 

I did all this the night before so that there would be no technical difficulties the night of the call.  Well, the time for the conference call arrived.  I put on my headset.  I dialed the number and was prompted for the conference code.  Ok.  So how do I enter the conference code?  I checked on the Skype website and didn’t find the answer.  I did a Google search and found that it was a capability missing in Skype.  The voice on the conference bridge even adviced that if I were calling in using a voice-over-IP service like Skype to call back on a regular phone.  I admit that I heard that message first but was in disbelief that Skype couldn’t connect to a conference bridge.  I tried a few times before I gave up and called in using my older cell phone.  So now I still have $9.83 worth of credit and a little better understanding of the technology and its current limitations.

Talking to Everyone – One a Little Later than the Rest

The best part (by far) of this month’s assignment was talking to newly-found friends and hearing their voices.  We talked about the assigment, about starting a business, about writing articles, and anything else that came to mind.  There was a change in the call-in number and unfortunately one member of our group called the other number.  So while we were talking, he was listening to hold music and feeling quite solitary. The 1 hour call was over too quickly.  I hope that we hold another conference call soon.

Well, this month is half over and I haven’t yet started my reading.  Two more chapters along the same lines as last month: client contracts and setting fees.

At least I have the group discussion to look forward to.


  1. Skpe offers a monthly plan for $2.95/month – 10,000 minutes. I just recently started using Skype and still haven’t figured out all the nuances, but for $2.95/month it’s a great deal for some experimentation.

    Comment by taneya — 16 Aug 2008 @ 10:00 pm

  2. Hi Mark, I was just catching up on my blog reading and caught your mention of SkypeOut challenges. I used to use Skype for our various conference calls into various kinds of bridges. I can’t recall having difficulties punching in the necessary conference call codes and passwords using the Skype keypad (the place/tab in their UI where you can manually dial a number) after connecting to the conference call phone number. I haven’t encountered a bridge that couldn’t connect VOIP calls and that would seem a little strange since there are companies that have standardized their comms on VOIP systems like those offered by Cisco. Anyway, try the number pad next time after you get connected to the conference bridge and you should be able to put in the necessary digits for codes. These get turned into audible DTMF tones so you should hear them as well as you dial them.

    Comment by Charles — 18 Aug 2008 @ 11:10 am

  3. Hi Mark,
    My GoogleReader suggested your blog today and I am glad it did. I have a lot to learn about genealogy blogging, but I’m getting started.
    I am looking forward to your future posts.

    Comment by Kelly — 5 Sep 2008 @ 10:02 am

  4. [...] It is hard to believe that we have finished our fifth and now sixth month of the study group.  I am a little behind in reporting month five. Here is a link back to ProGen Study Group #4. [...]

    Pingback by ProGen Study Group #5 | ThinkGenealogy — 7 Oct 2008 @ 10:32 pm

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