Building the right team

“5 Things I’ve Learned” By Linus Torvalds, as told to Steven Vaughan-Nichols (CIO Mag, 15 Oct 2008). Once you click through don’t let the full title scare you, these guidelines apply to more than just software development. That’s why we felt this single pager was worth sharing. For those who don’t know, Linus Torvalds is the genius behind the Linux operating system.

Someone somewhere is always looking to make a buck

Got an idea? Looking to grow your biz? Need some money to make it happen? You’re going to want to breeze through these:

“Likes Taking Risks, Profitable Returns” by Dan Fost (NY Times, Wed 1 Oct 2008).

“Easy Money” on Sir Richard Branson’s new Virgin Money (www.VirginMoneyUS.com) by Jessica Harris (FSB – Fortune Small Business, Jan 2008).

Today is List Day at AU – Part #3

Spotted this quick little goodie on Men’s Health (www.MensHealth.com). Like the Mark Cuban entry, this article sums up what makes Denver Broncos’ QB Jay Cutler tick. “Beat the Blizt” (written by Kyle Western).

Here are Mr Cutler’s four simple principles of perseverance:

– Understand the opposition
– Grab your shot
– Play above your pay grade
– Never play it safe

Apply these as you see fit. Whether at home, at work, at play or somewhere in between these will come in handy. Kudos to Jay for keeping it simple.

Mark Cuban makes more sense

Those of us who are honest will probably admit that the initial impression of Mark Cuban can best be described as a part of my anatomy that one doesn’t get to see without using a mirror. And we’re not talking about my tonsils. However, as time goes on Mr. Cuban seems to be one of the few in business who actually has his head on straight – even if his head is the size of a hot air balloon.

“Slow Road to Wealth, With ‘No Shotcuts'” as reported by Wendy Fried (NY Times, Sun 12 Oct 2008). It’s just a couple paragraphs. Good stuff, right?

And if you never caught Mr Cuban’s “What I’ve Learned” interview that appeared in Esquire magazine (www.Esquire.com) in late 2006 then it’s strongly recommended you soak that in as well.

The best of the bunch is Cuban’s, “If you’re looking where everybody else is looking, you’re looking in the wrong spot.” Who knew that his ego left some room for this brain.

The better new days!

Baseline’s (www.BaselineMag.com), editor Eileen Feretic, via her Starting Point column titled, “The Good Old Days?” raises the flag for the slow moving biz masses and cleanly sums up how technology is not just a means to a line of business’ ends, but is now should be an integral part of those ends.

The key quote comes from Marriott’s CIO Carl Wilson,

“…we do not have technology projects. We have business initiatives that are shaped and enabled by technology.”

Somebody by this guy a beer. Now we know why they pay him the big bucks. If only more were so switched on.

The point that should be made is that Marriott’s approach, this state of mind if you will, doesn’t have to be limited to big enterprise sized companies and their solutions. As the barriers to entry for so many technologies drops the opportunities for “the little guy” increases. But you have to be looking. You have to be aware. You have to stop seeing your web site (for example) as just a web site. It’s a tool to enable you to better serve your customers. It isn’t about you, it’s about them. You can easily build a site that satisfies all your wants and still miss a good number of your customer’s needs and expectations. In fact, this happens all too often.

Bottom line… Before you engage a designer or a developer make sure you’ve done the necessary critical thinking and have clearly defined the needs – not just wants – of your customers and your business. Then if you engage someone and they only ask you about wants, and don’t focus on distilling needs just put the project on pause and find someone else. Anyone can design / develop a web site, the real question is can they design / develop the right web site for you?

From clueless to unemployed

“Still Clueless” from Mr Gary Beach, Publisher Emeritus of CIO Magazine (www.CIO.com) does a fantastic job summing up the current state of (corporate) marketing. It’s half a page so just dive right in.

The irony is CIO isn’t even a marketing publication. Here’s Mr Beach saying what too many marketeers are afraid to admit – the days of spin are over. The customer is in control of the relationship. Bullsh*t them and they’re likely to go elsewhere. Mr Beach specifies that in order to be effective CIOs must meet with customers. But why stop at CIOs? Let’s go all the way. Every position within a company should be well aware of who’s money is behind the paychecks.

Next time you find yourself saying, “I don’t want to speak with customers,” then you might as well just say, “I would love nothing more than to go out of business.” If you don’t want to talk to the boss (i.e., the customer) then don’t expect the boss to “give you a bonus” the next time they’re handing out their hard earned dollars.

A quickie – 3 fitness related articles (with a twist)

Please pardon the lack of these each getting full blown posting attention.

“Coping (or Not) With Injuries In Training For Marathon” by Gina Kolata (NY Times, Sat 27 Sept 2008)

“From Injury to the Olympics, Radcliffe Shares How She Made It Back” by Gina Kolata (NY Times, Sat 27 Sept 2008).

The key bit is in the first article and comes from Mr Chris Martin (who is not the Coldplay guy):

Martin, though, is not entirely won over. “The bottom line is that the water running and training on the elliptical running machines were stopgap measures to limit the damage to my running fitness,” he wrote.

What’s mentioned earlier in the article is that after getting injured Mr Martin pursued an alternate approach to training that was less damaging to his body. In short… He PB’ed in an Ironman triathlon. Yet he dismisses that method? Shouldn’t he be rejoicing that he’s found a better way? Instead he insists on the superiority of an approach that injured him. Huh? The Radcliffe article is also about a different approach due to injury that also proved to be pretty effective.

Bottom line… There are other ways to train (or market, or sell, or advertise, etc.) that don’t entail hurting yourself. Sooner or later the (macho?) 70’s mindset to (over) training is going to have to change. But as with most change, people are slow to grasp the obvious when they are blinded with routine, habit, addiction, etc.

While we’re on the subject of working out also see “How Powerful Is Your Workout” by Linda Baker (NY Times, Thur 25 Sept 2008). Pretty cool. Makes sense, right? Why waste that spent energy when it can be put to use? Every little bit counts.

A quick must-read for the sales & marketing types

Ya gotta love these little tidbits that pop up here & there. All meat, not fluffy over-analysis.

“Free Samples Work, Now and Later” by Alex Mindlin (NY Times, Mon 6 Oct 2008).

“Closing the Innovation Gap”

The Grill: Judy Estrin (www.ComputerWorld.com, late Sept 2008). To read the complete interview please click here. Great interview. Hardly a word wasted. What this interview brings to mind is that to most people innovation is really just a high class word for breaking the rules. Unfortunately, such a mind set scares a lot of people.

Simple put, the majority of corporations are not only anti-rule breaking but “corportate culture” (by its very nature) is about conformity. The carrot is typically for employees to fall in line. Not explore the unbeaten path. Unfortunately, HR won’t approve a dismissal based on someone being too homogenized. If they did it would certainly “inspire” the rest to reach a little further.

Poor management? Possibly. Effective? Maybe. Innovative? Yes.

Burger… medium rare… cheddar… bacon on the side…

CRM Magazine (www.DestinationCRM.com) posted another inspiring piece by Lior Arussy titled “Self-Service Is Just Less-Than-Full Service” (October 2008). Using the direct line we have to the big dogs at CRM Mag I plopped the email below on Josh Weinberger (Managing Editor).

Yes, another inspiring piece from Lior Arussy, thanks. From my perspective the right answer is a bit more grey than it is black & white. First, the customer should be provided with “functionality” that meets their expectations. Sometimes we like and want self-service and get annoyed when I get “please call” or “please email”. Other times, we want live chat or to make that call. It depends. But the decision should be mine. If I see “features” elsewhere, from what I perceive as similar vendors, then I expect the same. No excuses. Btw, someday I hope companies start to offer a text message option.

Second, the brand should deliver nothing short of what they promise. It doesn’t do any good to just say, “We’re high end” or ” We’re customer focused.” It’s a new era and the brand has to walk the walk too. The customer expects what we all expect – to get what we pay for. Ideally, a little more. I don’t think it’s a question of self vs full but simply of customer expectations and value. Unfortunately, and I’m sure Mr Arussy would agree, too many decisions are made by MBAs with spreadsheets.

I believe that the hospitality industry is actually the model for all others to follow. They don’t have customers, they have guests. A lesson in deed for the rest of it. The fact is, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, if your brand looks at everyone as guests – and treats them as such – then the dog will wag the tail as it’s supposed to. Unfortunately, these’s no function for that in Excel.

Bottom line… Good service – self or otherwise – is when I don’t feel like I made a mistake for wanting a hamburger at 3:00am. Yes, it might be a slightly unreasonable request. I’m only suggesting that I not be made to feel wrong for making it. So ask yourself, “How
does my company treat my guests?”

Service is in the eye of the beholder

“Self-Service Is Just Less-Than-Full Service” by Lior Arussy (CRM Magazine, Dec 2008, DestinationCRM.com). This article innspired this letter to Mr. Josh Weinberger & Co. over at CRM Mag:

Yes, another inspiring piece from Lior Arussy, thanks. From my perspective the right answer is a bit more grey than it is black & white. First, the customer should be provided with “functionality” that meets their expectations. Sometimes I like and want self-service and get annoyed when I get “please call” or “please email”. Other times, I want live chat or to make that call. It depends.  But the decision should be mine. If I see “features” elsewhere, from what I perceive as similar vendors, then I expect the same.  No excuses. Btw, someday I hope companies start to offer a text message option.

Second, the brand should deliver nothing short of what they promise. It doesn’t do any good to just say, “We’re high end” or ” We’re customer focused.” It’s a new era and the brand has to walk the walk too.  The customer  expects what we all expect – to get what we pay for. Ideally, a little more. I don’t think it’s a question of self vs full but simply of customer expectations and value. Unfortunately, and I’m sure Mr Arussy would agree, too many decisions are made by MBAs with spreadsheets.

I believe that the hospitality industry is actually the model for all others to follow. They don’t have customers, they have guests. A lesson in deed for the rest of it. The fact is, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, if your brand looks at everyone as guests – and treats them as such – then the dog will wag the tail as it’s supposed to. Unfortunately, these’s no function for that in Excel.

Bottom line… Good service – self or otherwise – is when I don’t feel like I made a mistake for wanting a hamburger at 3:00am. Yes, it might be a slightly unreasonable request. I’m only suggesting that I not be made to feel wrong for making it. So ask yourself, how does my company treat my guests?