Luck is what you make it

“Life Pursuits: Chris Gardner” by Marta Bright, Bobbie Hartman, Christopher Null, Kate Pavao, Joe Shepter, Lia Simpson, and Tara Swords (Oracle Profit, August 2009). More words of wisdom to keep you going from Chris “The Pursuit of Happyness” Gardner.

Profit: What are you encouraging people to do in these uncertain times?

Gardner: One of the things I’ve encouraged people to do is to just turn the TV off. Use it for entertainment purposes only. All of the smart-guy pundits you see on television are saying, “The feds should do this. The Treasury should do that. Credit markets need to do this.” The truth is nobody really knows. Too many of us allow what we do to define who we are. If you’ve been laid off, fired, downsized, outsourced, or pushed out of a job, you really need to ask yourself, “Who am I?” It’s important not to confuse your self-worth with your net worth. Net worth is going to fluctuate, because that’s what markets do. They go up, and they go down. Your self-worth, who you are as a person, what’s important to you, and what you care about, those are the things in life that won’t fluctuate.

The entire interview will take you about 90 seconds to read. But you must invest the time to get the payback.

A bit less power to the people

“Wikipedia to Limit Changes to Articles on People” by Noam Cohen (New York Times, 24 August 2009). A subtle but noteworthy tweak in approach. It’s as if to say the people are always right except when they’re not. Interesting, eh? What do you think?

Google isn’t always the greatest – Part 2

A quick addendum to the previous post on Google and Yahoo.

First, here is the link to Yahoo’s Finance page: http://finance.yahoo.com/. And here’s Google’s: http://www.google.com/finance. As you dip your toes into Yahoo’s water you’ll notice similar aesthetics that often overshadows Google’s more utilitarian approach.

In addition, here’s a quickie from CNN Money: “Do you Yahoo? Probably” By David Goldman (CNNMoney.com, 23 August 2000). The article points out that Yahoo’s approach is less profitable than Google’s. What it fails to clarify is the time frame of this measurement. Is it the last two of three quarters? Or more? Or less? Even so, three or four quarters does not a long term trend make. It should also be noted that to some extent this is an apples and oranges comparison. These are both internet based companies but their paths in terms of focus and approach quickly diverge. There is little reason to believe they will produce similer results.

Btw, did you notice the similarity between Yahoo’s design and CNNMoney’s?

Google isn’t always the greatest

“Where Yahoo Leaves Google in the Dust” By Randall Stross (New York Times, 22 August 2009). While the Google hype machine would like you to believe otherwise, Google is not perfect. Yes, they are a damn good advertising machine but there are plenty examples of failed Google projects that were eventually sacked. If fact, that’s Google’s M.O. — if a project takes off they continue to refine it  but if it doesn’t they cut their losses and move on. They don’t waste resources on ideas that fail to gain traction in the market. For some there’s a possible lesson here. I digress.

When it comes to having a successful web site it is essential to embrace the value of a great UX (user expereince), or as we at AU like to say, the all inclusive Guest Experience.

Yahoo understands that information about money — a user’s own money — presents some tricky psychological issues. James Pitaro, vice president of Yahoo’s audience group, said, “In our research with users, we found that the more information that was displayed on the page, the greater the anxiety.”

Put another way, it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear. Say too much and you run that risk that nothing will be heard. No doubt you are passionate about your business.  That you want your guest to know everything about your brand and you want them to know know it all the second they meet you (i.e., visit your web site, see your ad, etc.). That’s just not practical. That’s not the way relationships work. There is a pace and rhythm to The Guest Experience and often TMI (too much information) is not part of The Guests’ expectations.

The other lesson here is that Goliath can be beat, but you have to choose your battles. You have to be willing to suspend your subjective passions for a moment. Stop, step back and be objective about what is going to maximize the Guest Experience that your brand offers. Ultimately, it is your guests who will beat Goliath, not you. Think about it…

Finally while we’re on the subject of Yahoo vs Google there is another place where Yahoo slays Google — email. Yahoo offer unlimited storage while Google is currently capped at 6 or 7 gigs. Fair enough, 6 gigs is still a lot of email but it’s not as much as unlimited. Regardless, Yahoo’s UX is much stronger (and almost a desktop experience). For example, you can drag and drop emails from one folder to another. You can even drag an email onto your Contacts folder and Yahoo will prompt you to add that person’s email address and other details to your contact lists. Simple, clean and easy.

One often overlooked bomus is that both Yahoo and Google allow you to check your other email accounts (commonly known as POP3 accounts) via their interface. So rather than have to use (for example) Verizon’s crap web mail you can use Yahoo (or Google) instead, much like you might have used Outlook to check multiple accounts. This is also handy when you’re transitioning from one email address to another. You can have your email come in via the old address and then send out via the new one, all via a single interface. Yahoo mail is also slickly integrated into MyYahoo!. MyYahoo! is great for setting up pages of RSS feeds but that’s another lesson for another day.

Btw, the Yahoo calendar is great too. You can even set up reminders to be sent to your cell phone via text message. Remembering important dates and appointments has never been easier.

The bottom line… If you have more than one email address or are looking to make your life – both online and off –  easier, AU proudly dismisses the Google hype and highly recommends Yahoo email and MyYahoo.  Check it out, it’s time well spent.

It’s not going to happen unless you try

“Inspiring Minds” by Stephanie Overby (CIO Magazine, 1 August 2009). Training is back in style and the pursuit of innovation is finally moving to the right side of the lip service tracks. What’s next? Executive pay becoming reasonable again? Think about it, a $100k pay cut could mean and $1,000 for 100 people.

Oops. Let’s get back to innovation and what this article has to offer. It looks as if Ms. Overby has saved the best for (the) last (paragraph):

But just as important as a spotlight on success is highlighting ideas with potential. Domino’s McGlothlin tries to keep the phrase “that’ll never work” out of his vocabulary, even when an idea clearly needs more time in the oven. “I have a tremendous team,” says McGlothlin, “and as long as I don’t squash their innate passion and curiosity, I believe that innovation will happen.”

Keep minds open and ideas flowing and sooner or later good things are going to happen.

Safety in numbers

“Imperfect Futures” by Alix Stuart (CFO Magazine, 15 July 2009). What’s most interesting is how much of the science of forecasting is actually becoming more of an art. If extra time isn’t a luxury then jump to page 2 and read the section titled “Risk-Spotting” and continue right on through “Predictions: E Pluribus Unum”.

For those of you who might not have corporate type resources the take away here is that you should ask questions of your customers, of your suppliers and of your peers. Always keep your ears and eyes open. While 100% of the information might not be available 100% of the time the idea is to collect as much as you can before making a decision. Trying to do it all on your own is a level of risk that can and should be avoided.

Your knowledge is your power

“6 ways to train your employees on the cheap” by Mary K. Pratt (Computer World, 10 August 2009). It’s official — common sense is finally back in style. The best stuff here might come from the sidebar (on the first page) titled “3 ways workers can get their own free training.” Let’s be honest, if you’re not going to make an effort to keep yourself sharp then it’s not really fair to complain when management is neglectful and your skills become dated or even obsolete. There is one person in charge of your career and that person is you.

On the plus it’s nice to know that there are some outfits who are trying to push forward in spite of the economy. There are however a handful of AU caveats:

— Why cheap? Shouldn’t the emphasis be on cost effective? Cheaper isn’t better if it yields third rate results. Regardless of economic conditions the focus should be on ROI.

— Fact: Nothing like this comes to life and stays alive without full and proper commitment from management. If management sees training and growth as not worth the investment then it’s not going to happen. If that’s the case either update your resume and move on or go into DIY mode, or both.

— The other side of the coin is that employees have to want to learn. If someone wants to coast then they should expect to be run down from behind. Don’t be that guy / gal. You shouldn’t ever assume that someone else knows what’s best for you and your career.

The bottom line… If things are slowing then use that time wisely to improve, because if you or your company doesn’t then someone else cetainly will.

Just one step at a time

“Simplementation: 10 Tips to Smooth Your CRM Initiative” by Lauren McKay (CRM Magazine, July 2009). Hold onto your mouse, we’re about to hit the highlights…

1. Do Your Homework — …the front end is about 30 to 45 days of fully understanding what the business needs are, what the strategy is, and what you want CRM to supplement. The technology piece is relatively simple from that point.

2. People Who Need People — Before even thinking about solutions, organizations must get down to basics, involve key stakeholders, and discuss pain points and objectives.

3. Let It Trickle — While it’s imperative that solutions and implementations deliver results in a very timely manner, a step-by-step implementation approach is prudent.

4. Think Outside the Box—Just Not Too Far Outside — So make sure that any customization is done within your organization’s known limits.

5. Don’t Be Seduced by Technology — Regardless of how new, hip, or innovative a technology may be, employees must be comfortable with it…

6. Find Sponsors That Stick — The sponsor doesn’t have to be the CEO, just someone who’s passionate about the undertaking.

7. Plan for Product Enrichment — Recognize that CRM really becomes nothing more than a Rolodex if you don’t put the add-ons to the product…

8. Audit, Audit, Audit — By paying close attention from the start, it will be possible to tweak the solution as any problems arise. Users, for example, may be approaching the tool differently than intended.

9. Pull the Plug When You Have To — It’s going to hurt a little—in some instances, maybe a lot—but if enough time has gone by and a solution has not worked, it might be time to call it quits.

10. Mind the Generation Gap — If the implemented CRM software doesn’t provide instant value, it’s likely those users will find solutions on their own that better suit their needs.

Ok, now dive in and consume the whole article.

Live and learn and live again

“Listen And Learn: Become A Better Manager By Learning From Others’ Mistakes” by William Matthies (TWICE Magazine, 3 November 2008). A supplement to yesterday’s post, as well another jewel from the to-d0 stack.

Sometimes big risks are worth taking

“Leadership Skills Critical Now for Club Executives” by Ed Tock (FitnessBusiness.com, 1 July 2009). Please pardon the delay in getting around to this. As usual Mr. Tock’s thoughts are well worth the wait. These are challenging times for all of us. Some will rise and some will fall. How you lead, whether it’s others or yourself, is going to define where you eventually stand. Hopefully this will enable you to step towards your personal winner’s circle.

Mr. Tock’s topic brought to mind an oldie but goodie… “Achieving executive balance: Nine ways leaders and managers work together” by Shannon Kalvar (TechRepublic.com, 16 May 2006). Notice how leaders are the visionary means and managers define that vision with ends.

And finally, here’s one from the bottomless to-be-posted pile. “Chris Gardner: 5 Things I’ve Learned” by Kristin Burnham (CIO Magazine, 15 November 2008). Mr. Gardner is the author of the book, “The Pursuit of Happyness” (as played by Will Smith).

Three great one pagers to keep ya goin’. Now get goin’!

The Chaos Scenario

As heard on WNYC,org’s The Leonard Lopate Show:

Bob Garfield, Advertising Age editor-at-large and co-host of On the Media, documents how the digital revolution has separated the 350-year connection between mass media and mass marketing, and prescribes a new way for business and institutions to go forward in the changing media landscape. His book The Chaos Scenario looks at what happens when the traditional media world order collapses and there’s nothing in place to replace it.

The audio of the interview can be found here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/08/03/segments/137774

Mr. Garfield does a perfect job of summing up the current state of marketing and how the internet empowered guest is changing everything. Click to get a free download of the first two chapters of The Chaos Scenario.

Brilliant stuff.