June 26, 2015
It's been two years since we first released our iPhone app to the AppStore. Since that time we've picked up a couple of bugs that made the app pretty useless. I am sorry for the trouble any of you have been experiencing with the app. While there are not any new features, the app has been completely rebuilt from the ground up and I've also zapped all of those bugs.
If anyone reading this is an iPhone developer they will know that there have been a number of changes for iOS developers in the last two years. The biggest is the introduction of Apple's new programming language Swift. I am happy to say that the new app has been programmed entirely in Swift. While a quick update was possible, I decided to learn the new language and start from scratch. It wasn't easy finding the time, but I am happy I made the choice to learn the language. It's clean, efficient, and pretty friendly to a developer who's decent at best. I think there are great things to come with this new language.
|Swift Code from the FLO Cycling App|
Storyboards and All of the New iPhones
The last time I built the app there were two screen sizes for iPhones. This time around, there are four and I wouldn't count on that number going down. To take care of this Apple has introduced storyboards and size classes. The first generation of the app used a lot of custom programming to test for the screen size and then programmatically set up the user interface. With storyboards and size classes, you set a number of constraints that allow the screen to adjust to any screen size. While this definitely had a learning curve associated with it, it strips out a ton of code and works really well. You can now comfortably use the FLO Cycling app on an iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus.
|Storyboard Overview for the FLO Cycling App|
Favorites Article and Core Data
I have to admit an error on my behalf. When I redesigned the app I started from scratch. When you do this you make it really challenging on yourself when you try and submit an update to an existing app. The way it works is that if you can't submit an update, you have to add a new app to the AppStore and your current users do not get the update. You also have two apps in the store under two different names.
I was able to figure out how to release the new app as an update but I am afraid that any of the "Favorites" articles you have will likely be deleted. I am really sorry about this and I hope it doesn't cause too many issues for our users.
I took a few screen shots of the number of sessions over the last couple of year and photoshopped them together. You can see the last few months have not been the best since the app hasn't been working. Pretty novel idea. It is cool to see that we were getting over 8,000 sessions a month. A session, for those that do not know, is when someone opens the app. hat's about 270 users a day. Top ten free app list, here I come! Haha, yeah right. Regardless, I am happy people are using the app.
The New App
As a part-time developer and someone whose main focus is getting wheels to customers, the FLO Cycling app is not always the first thing on my mind. I invite you to let me know if you notice anything about the app that isn't right. If you find a bug please write me with the app on the "Contact Us" link on the home view or contact us via our website with the link above. I am happy to fix things when I know about them. I've had a few interesting/angry comments about the app because of the recent bugs. I invite your comments, but please let me know what your problem is if you find one.
I want to thank everyone who has used the app and has provided their feedback. In time I will add more featured and cool stuff to the app. Keeping sending your ideas my way and I hope you enjoy the new version of the FLO Cycling app. Maybe you'll read this blog post in the app! I know, I know. I just had to. If you are not currently using the FLO Cycling App and want to learn more about it, you can check out this webpage and you can download the app in by clicking on the image below.
June 24, 2015
An Army of Two: Maintaining Sanity and Productivity With a Small Team." Feel free to check it out here or read the full article below.
An Army of Two: Maintaining Sanity and Productivity With a Small Team - by Chris Thornham
Productivity is possible with a small team!
Some of the most dynamic teams of all time have been small in size. Just look at the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, or even the Wonder Twins. Against the greatest of odds, these teams still manage to pull together and come out on top.
Unfortunately for you, your small team probably doesn’t have the advantage of possessing superpowers. And odds are even greater that you don’t have the Incredible Hulk backing you up.
Nothing about running a small business with big aspirations is easy. How do you stay sane and productive when your startup team can’t even fill an elevator?
My twin brother and I — a startup team of two — have worked out a system that preserves our sanity while still allowing us to thrive in our small setup.
Here are the six elements that lead to success:
1. Get organized.
When the buck stops with you, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose focus. If I had a dollar for every time a “quick” check of my email resulted in a 40-minute pause, I probably wouldn’t need to run a small business anymore. These types of momentum killers can derail your productivity.
Leo Babauta’s “Zen to Done” emphasizes the fact that jumping from task to task isn’t a productive work strategy. Instead, it’s a massive waste of time. Structure your day to ensure that every task is fully completed before a new one begins. This is key to remaining focused when you’ve got a jam-packed to-do list.
2. Know your role(s).
When you have a lean team, it’s inevitable that everyone will wear multiple hats. You just need to make sure that everyone is wearing the right ones. Don’t try to fit square pegs into round holes.
The members of your team have unique strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to stick with their strengths and allow others to take over where they’re weak. When your team members have roles that suit their skills and personalities, your business will run like a well-oiled machine.
3. Love and trust your team.
It’s especially important for small teams to get along. I’ve seen startups whose partners spend more time arguing with each other than actually working. Those businesses eventually fall apart.
Mutual trust and respect are essential to your success. Make sure your team is filled with people you’re ready to go to war with.
4. Share a vision.
A united front is one of the greatest assets a small business can have, so only partner with people who are fully committed to your vision for the company.
As I said before, you can’t waste time bickering about big-picture issues when there’s work that needs to be addressed immediately. Make sure you and your partners are truly on the same page and possess mutual ideals.
5. Don’t be afraid to outsource.
The bigger your business gets, the more hands you’ll need on deck. Instead of hiring full-time employees, outsourcing your work can be a great way to free up your time and eliminate the added pressure of managing a larger team. This pay-as-you-go approach is especially useful for young companies with small budgets.
6. Keep your cool.
Running your own business can bring massive amounts of stress. And because you have a small team relying on you, a mental breakdown is simply not in your budget. It’s paramount for you to always keep your cool, even in the most hectic of situations.
Completely removing yourself from the office is sometimes the best way to keep your cool. Whether you take a 60-minute walk or an extended lunch break, you’ll find that keeping your sanity not only preserves your productivity, but it also guarantees your company’s existence.
Running a small startup is a complicated endeavor. But if you manage your time well, pick your partners carefully, and prioritize your mental health, you’ll find that your small size provides big strategic advantages.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please leave your comments and questions below.
June 22, 2015
It’s hard to believe that I just returned from my fourth trip to Taiwan. Landing in Taiwan brought a sense of excitement. What four years ago was foreign in every sense of the word, now provides feelings of familiarity and comfort. I look forward to this trip each year. It’s great to check on production and visit the friends we’ve made over the years of doing business together.
If you’ve ever flown overseas you know that long flights can get old pretty quickly. We’ve always flown economy with China Airlines. Each year we’ve looked into business and first class tickets but they are about $6,000 and $10,000 respectively per ticket. Comparing this to $1,200 for economy, it’s not an easy trigger to pull. However, this year we found out that United has an option called Economy Comfort that adds about $300-$400 per ticket. You get more leg room, more recline, and you can pick your seat. This was a no-brainer.
Out and About
We stayed at a new hotel this year. La Vida was recently renovated and was really nice. Their rates are also ridiculously low. We ended up each getting a room. While I don't mind sharing a room with my brother, when one of you is wide awake and the other wants to sleep due to jet lag, your own room is a nice option.
It's always cool to walk through the streets of Taiwan. It never ceases to amaze me. Here are a few shots of our exploration.
|Streets of Taiwan|
|A very large, very expensive, domesticated jungle cat hybrid.|
|Someone trying to share my lunch.|
Each year we try and take a day or two and explore. This year we headed back to Kenting, Taiwan. The beach is always a good option.
We stayed in an old army barracks that was converted to a hotel. It was actually really cool. They had a very unique decor. The lights in the lobby were old surgery room lights, which I thought this was a pretty cool idea.
|The hotel had two dogs. I assumed they'd be nice, but the little bugger in this picture bit me.|
We visited two beaches. One was a popular surf beach with jellyfish. Nice beach, but swimming was out of the question. This year we were smart enough to ask about jellyfish since Chris got stung the last time we were here. The second beach was White Sand Beach with amazing swimming.
|This dog did not bite me. Haha.|
Over the years, we gotten pretty good at finding stuff we like to eat. I love my fix of Taiwanese food but for a full week it's a bit much. We found a great buffet in the Top City Mall, and a couple a great Japanese restaurants. This one had a pretty cool salad presentation.
The Best Part of the Whole Trip
While the trip was excellent and there are exciting things in the works, the best part of the whole trip was spotting one of the coolest dogs I've ever seen. Nothing like kicking it on a scooter rocking goggles!
June 18, 2015
How to Find the Right Overseas Factory Fit and Make the Partnership Last." Feel free to check it out here or read the full article below.
How to Find the Right Overseas Factory Fit and Make the Partnership Last - by Chris Thornham
How to Find the Right Overseas Factory Fit and Make the Partnership Last - by Chris Thornham
When it comes to doing business, I learned some lessons the hard way.
When my brother and I started our cycling company, the idea of importing our product from another country seemed daunting. We had a laundry list of questions and no confidence in our answers. We found solace in the familiar and comfortable – a factory with a fancy brochure, a slick trade show representative, and the assurance that our product was in line with the company’s expertise.
We bought the pitch, invested thousands of dollars, and waited for our products to ship. To our horror, when the wheels arrived, they weren’t even round, and the finish quality was, in short, terrible. Over the course of eight months, the vendor promised it would fix the problem. Then, it became clear one day that the vendor had no idea what it was doing.
My brother and I were scared of what we didn’t know, and as a result, we made a mistake. However, this experience was invaluable, as it taught us how to choose and keep the right overseas vendors.
Finding the Right Factory for You
Here are a few lessons I’ve culled from my experience:
- Gather advice from trusted referrals. You’re not going to call your biggest competitor and ask what factory it uses, but you’d be surprised what you can find through a little research. Compile a long list of potential factories that could make your products. Then, do some digging. Research online forums, industry publications, and local distributors. Compare and contrast multiple options. More than likely, you’ll get a feel for the right fit for your business.
- See it before you believe it. Once you’ve named potential vendors, contact them and visit as many factories as possible. Seeing where the magic happens up close will give you a good idea of which vendors are reputable. The flight to Asia may be more expensive than visiting a local trade show, but it could save you valuable time and dollars in the long run.
- Be wary of aloof vendors. On my first overseas trip, I met with many reputable factories. Most invited me to inspect every part of their facilities – showing me sample products, their assembly lines, and how they performed quality assurance checks. One factory, however, didn’t allow visitors past the front office. It’s no surprise that factory went out of business only a few years later.
- Start at the end. Americans love the story of the American dream, but that doesn’t mean other cultures think the same way. Most overseas vendors want to know where you’re headed before you get there. When meeting with potential factories, show them where you’ll be in two years and how you plan to get there. It might not be perfect, but they’ll get excited about the potential future.
- Have patience. When starting a new project, it’s common to go through a phase that seems to take forever. Rather than lash out in frustration, build more time into your product development schedule. Reputable factories are masters at producing high volumes of products that don’t fail. These time delays often mean they’re perfecting the manufacturing process and minimizing product failures. Patience during this phase will pay off when you ship products that surprise and delight your customers.
- Recognize the difference between samples and mass production.High-quality samples often get new businesses excited. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean you’re ready to start mass production. Producing a few quality parts is much different than producing hundreds of thousands of quality parts, so look for factories that want to ease into mass production.
- Avoid challenging contracts. Signing a contract in America can be much different than signing a contract in Asia. International laws are hard to uphold, and more often than not, it’s a waste of money to try to fight anything. This is yet another reason to do your homework before you choose a factory. Most reputable factories will keep their end of the bargain if you keep yours.
Four Tips for Working With Overseas Vendors
After going through this process, one factory stood out among the rest, and we formed a great partnership. Things got a lot easier, but we still had a lot to learn about the process. Here are a few pointers:
Your product is the lifeblood of your business. Without it, your business fails. Finding a reputable, dependable factory will minimize frustrations and help your new business flourish. Do your research, go with your gut, and trust the process.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please leave any comments or questions below.
June 2, 2015
A new revolution in cycling has transformed the way people engage with the sport. And unsurprisingly, it’s driven by technological innovation.
New products from Widerun and Zwift are bringing cycling home by allowing users to connect their bicycles to virtual reality systems that track workout effectiveness and progress, provide multiplayer competition and immerse them in a wide variety of environments—from the streets of the busiest cities in the world to peaceful mountain paths.
While some traditionalists might scoff at virtual cycling, I’m a strong supporter of anything that promotes physical fitness. And virtual cycling will only create a larger opportunity for people to participate in the sport, especially those who have grown up playing video games or been restricted by location or other factors.
Merging the physical benefits of cycling with the virtual landscape will help bridge these realities and encourage physical activity.
Experience the Benefits of Cycling Indoors
With virtual cycling, anyone can reap the physical and mental benefits of cycling from the comfort of his or her own home.
In fact, just two to four hours of cycling a week provides a full-body workout and leads to an all-around improved sense of health by enhancing cardiovascular fitness, reducing fat, strengthening bones and increasing muscle flexibility. And while the majority of the activity works the lower body, the upper body and core are also engaged from steering and maintaining balance.
Because physical activity causes the body to produce endorphins and other chemicals, cycling can also help reduce and regulate stress, anxiety and depression. And as a non-weight-bearing sport, it eliminates the joint impact and stress inflicted by activities like running.
Taking cycling indoors also provides some distinct advantages to the traditional outdoor approach:
It’s safer. Outdoor cycling can be dangerous; moving it indoors eliminates the risk of being struck by a car or crashing.
It takes location out of the equation. Depending on where you live, it can be impossible to get a good cycling workout. From coping with traffic or inclement weather, stopping at lights or dealing with a lack of pavement altogether, virtual cycling frees you from the restraints of location.
It heightens competition. Nothing spurs results like competition, and virtual cycling allows users to train in a social environment where they can compete on virtual courses, race other users online and complete monitored workout routines.
It boosts self-confidence. Starting a new workout program can feel intimidating and unnerving; it’s common to feel self-conscious about your appearance or fitness level. But with virtual cycling, you can build up some confidence at home, which will make it easier to eventually join a group and continue participating in the sport.
It’s more convenient. Riding on the road can take up a lot of time, from preparing for the elements, driving to and from a cycling location and putting on cycling equipment. Having a virtual bike setup at home eliminates all of that, making it easier to squeeze it into a busy schedule.
So what does this all add up to? A more accessible approach to health and fitness.
Virtual cycling will create new opportunities for people who had never considered biking or were restricted by issues such as location.
Not everyone will be sold on the idea, but when you think about it, anything that gets people engaged and excited about exercise deserves some praise. And who knows? Maybe those who learn to love cycling in the virtual world will venture out into the real world and realize how exhilarating outdoor cycling can be.
We hope you have enjoyed this article. Please leave your comments below!