A taxonomy of resources: Mining what you have to get where you want to be

Have you ever started researching something only to discover you already had the information in a really convenient place? Have you ever started on a project only to discover that you already had a good portion of it completed but tucked away in a dusty file? Have you ever stared blankly at a folder of ebooks and downloaded resources and wondered when you’d find the time to review this information?

This happens to me all the time and I’ve decided to do something about it, and I thought I’d share it with you.

HERE’S THE PROBLEM
Although I only noticed the problem recently, I’ve been amassing valuable information over time. I’ve got textbooks from my stockbroker days and from my MBA; I’ve got tons of downloaded materials (ebooks and podcasts mostly) that have been purchased or given to me; and I am an avid book collector with shelves of business books.

Amassing all of this information is good — in theory — except that I have reached the point where I simply have too many resources to manage. Where can I find information on this topic or on that topic? There are potential resources everywhere.

HERE’S WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING ABOUT IT
So I’ve started creating a taxonomy of resources. A taxonomy is the classification and ordering of a group of things. And I’ve decided to classify my resources according to where in the life of a business they can be most helpful.

So first I developed some life-of-a-business classifications. (Actually, I had these classifications hanging around for another purpose and I used them here).

  • Find a customer problem
  • Find a creative solution
  • Create a business model
  • Create a sales funnel
  • Build a compelling brand
  • Implement the business model and sales funnel
  • Grow the business
  • Exit the business

Next, I’ve started reviewing my resources and plugging them into the appropriate places. Sometimes an entire book fits in one category, sometimes an entire book fits into more than one category. Sometimes a single chapter from one book fits in one category and another chapter fits somewhere else.

As my list has grown, I’ve had to create sub-categories to make it even more useful. So the “Grow the business” category might include sub-categories like “Leading and Managing”, “Productivity and Efficiency”, “Tipping points”, etc.

JUST IN CASE YOU THINK I’M CRAZY
On the (hopefully) slim chance that you think I’m crazy, let me tell you why I’m doing this. It’s not because I have a ton of time on my hands I’m looking to burn it by sorting a big pile of resources. The real reasons I’m creating this taxonomy are:

  • To make my business more agile: I’ll be able to respond to the changing market by quickly finding the right resources to guide me.
  • To make my customers happier and my business more profitable: I spend a fair amount of time chasing down information that will help my clients. This will help me to speed up that process.
  • To make better use of my investments: Like most entrepreneurs I’ve met, I have invested in a fair amount of resources and have only scratched the surface in terms of using them. I want to change that. I want to open them up and mine them for the gold that’s inside.
  • To identify gaps: I’m going to find sooner or later that I’m missing something important. The categories listed above are the areas where I tend to help clients a lot, and if I find that I’m missing resources there, I can easily see it and correct it.

I’m going to keep it really easy to do and easy to access. I’m not here to create something ponderous and academic — I want it to be insanely usable.

IT DOESN’T STOP THERE
My short-term plan is to add my books, textbooks, ebooks, and podcasts to my taxonomy. Later, I might consider adding research notes, web bookmarks, and network contacts to this process… but that’s down the road.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
Give it a try. You don’t have to use the taxonomy categories I’ve used; create a list of categories that’s useful for you. (I chose my categories because they applied to my business but would also apply to my client’s businesses, so I could easily find the right resource regardless of whether I was working in my own business or a client’s business).

Start small: If you have a ton material, break it up to keep it manageable. Just do one shelf of books at time. Or plan to do one ebook per week. Don’t plan to do it all because it could become overwhelming. I’m not reading all of my resources as I “taxonomize” them, but I am finding it to be a useful exercise to be reminded what each resource contains.

Make it useful: Use the type of system that works for you: I’m using Microsoft Excel, only because I’m comfortable in spreadsheet. I was tempted to use a database but I wanted to start really fast and with no barriers, and a spreadsheet fit the bill.

Purge a little: It doesn’t hurt to discard resources as you go. I found an ebook I downloaded from 2002 about using search engines. I found it tucked into a forgotten folder within a forgotten folder within a forgotten folder… and it belonged in a museum.

Think long-term: Stick with this project. It may not be done next week or next month; in fact, it might not be done for a year. But you will finish and you will start reaping the benefits faster than you realize.

Do it because it’s profitable: This will be a profitable exercise for you: You’ll run a better business and you’ll make more effective use of existing investments.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.

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