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Archives for January 2007

Motivate Your People … Stand In Front Of Your Army

Dig deepA General who stands in front of his army will always have an army behind him.

Alexander The Great knew that. He built an empire on it. Good politicians put in a solid days work on a Habitat for Humanity house. Lousy ones get their pictures taken holding a hammer.

When it comes to motivating your people, nothing does it better than standing in the trenches with them when they really need you.

Dig In And Get Dirty

I had a production crew that was used to running automated equipment. That’s what they did. It’s what they knew, and they were a good crew. One day I put them on a job to dig a trench so we could lay some piping. It was summer. It was hot. Nobody was really excited about it, but that was the task at hand.

After about an hour, I went out to see how things were going and things were going miserably. They had barely made a dent in the ground. The supervisor I had working for me was an inexperienced leader and he sometimes had trouble getting the best work out of his crew. At the rate they were going this job was going to take them 2 or 3 days easily.

It’s nice to get away from driving a desk every once in awhile. And it was clear that some serious motivation was needed here. I took the guy who was working the hardest (the supervisor) and gave him a break. I told him to go pick up some cold bottled water for everyone. I grabbed his shovel and started digging.

This kind of stunned everyone for a minute … to have the “big boss” digging a ditch with them. The dirt started flying. I worked with them for about 40 minutes and then I bowed out and handed the project back to the supervisor with some words of encouragement for everyone.

The job was done in about 4 hours.

Know Your Priorities

Did I have other things to do other than digging holes? Yes.

Did I have more important things to do? Absolutely not.

People are a company’s greatest asset. You can’t build a great company without great people. And even though it’s often difficult to find great people, with motivation and leadership you can turn good people into a great team.

As a leader, it’s important to spend time building that great team. It’s more important than a lot of other things you have to do because a great team can and will help you get those other things done. Motivation carries through to other things; production was smoother and more efficient after that day because this crew had been in the trenches together and they had become a better team. A great team.

Stand in front of your army. They’ll be right there behind you.

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It’s A Google World … And It’s Good For $2500 A Share!

GOOGIf you bought Google shares during their IPO at $85, you made 5 times your money in about a year. Can you do that by buying Google stock today? No.

But …

Google shares are currently around $500. Could they go to $2500 within 5 years? I’m thinking yes.

I just pulled that number out of the air to make it 5 times the amount of the current share value. It’s not based on any fancy metrics. It’s just a prediction based on what Google is doing as a company these days and the market potential of some of those things.

The Google Growth Spurt

Google’s first big secret has always been to make things simple. Their search page is simple and uncluttered and AdSense is very easy to use. Their second big secret has been to build great applications that people can use for free. Gmail, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Earth, and Docs & Spreadsheets are a few of the flagships.

They have a lot of things in development right now. Because they keep things simple, development moves forward easily for them. Because all this stuff is free, even when they do have bugs and problems to sort out, people are generally pretty tolerant.

Here are some of the key things they’re doing right now:

  • Integrating Docs and Spreadsheets with Gmail. They’re steadily creating a complete package to compete directly against MS Office.
  • Building massive new data centers in Oregon and North Carolina. Video anyone?
  • Changing their Adsense TOS to softly hit major competitors. The new rules are good for many of Googles smaller competitors. They’re not so good for the larger ones like Yahoo. The rules will hurt Yahoo and MSN AdCenter as many publishers choose AdSense to wear the best color scheme. And then the rules will hurt them further as publishers are more open to try out other, smaller ad networks.
  • Lastly, one word; YouTube. Two more words; Bill Gates. And three very important words; User profit sharing. Since Google purchased YouTube the idea of melding the internet and tv is becoming more and more possible. Bill Gates thinks so too. The announcement of a profit sharing plan for YouTube users coupled with the fact that CBS and NBC are top 5 most viewed YouTube Directors pretty much ices the cake.

The Caveat And The Conclusion

Google overwhelmingly depends on advertising revenue for their growth and survival. If the bottom completely dropped out of the advertising market, they would be in big trouble. This is very highly unlikely, but never impossible.

To end, it needs to be noted that Google is no stranger to making appliances. And if I ever hear serious rumblings about a goo-box, I’m going to up my prediction to $3000.

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Industrial Espionage In The Cola Wars

Vending MachinesNo Respect

Vending machines never get any respect. If you’re a YouTube aficionado, you have probably seen a video like this one, on how to hack a high-tech vending machine.

When I was a kid, there were still a few of the old single door vending machines around. You would put your money in, open the door, grab your choice of soda and pull it out. With a little finesse, you could grab 2 sodas and wiggle them both out for the price of one.

The Value of Vending Machines

Branding. Instead of paying for advertising, vending machines let you put lighted signs up all over the place, and YOU GET PAID for advertising your brand from the profits the machines make. There are a lot of more profitable venues as far as ROI is concerned, but the free advertising bonus that companies get from these machines is well worth the effort.

A Real Life Espionage Story

First off, no … this is not how I suggest you zoomstart your business. It’s just a funny story and it really happened. It’s funny because what these guys did was so ridiculously simple.

The story involves two cola giants; Coke and Pepsi. I heard it a few years ago so I forget exactly who was on the receiving end and what the exact prices were, but it goes like this:

Most vending machines today have digital displays that show you the pricing. A number of years ago they just had a sticker on the front that told you the price. At this time let’s say the price of a soda from a vending machine was 85 cents.

A couple of salesmen from one of the above companies printed up a bunch of stickers that said 75 cents and they went around putting these stickers on all their competitors machines. Now you have a situation where people are putting 75 cents into a vending machine and getting nothing because the machine is still waiting for that last 10 cents! You know that’s going to tick off some customers and make them hate your brand.

On the flip side, the next person would plug in their 75 cents, get a soda and 65 cents in change back. It’d be like playing a slot machine … ding ding ding ding ding! Then the cycle starts all over again.

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The Most Important Thing I Ever Learned About Leadership, I learned When I Was 10

I can’t think of a better story to start off the Leadership category for Zoomstart than this.

Most people will agree; there’s a certain amount of leadership that you’re born with, and a certain amount you learn.

Of the part you learn, a very important part is learned when you’re young. These are the lessons that become very formative to your character. They become a part of you more than the lessons that you learn later on do.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with some really great business people with amazing leadership skills. They’ve taught me a lot. But by far, the most important thing about leadership I ever learned, I learned from my Grandfather when I was 10.

What Happened

When I was about 10 years old, my grandparents took me on a little fishing trip up to a small lake in the hills around the Okanagan Valley. We rented a rowboat. My Grandfather didn’t get to fish because he had to row. So my Grandmother and I were trolling off the back of the boat as we circled around the small lake.

It was a beautiful day for the first hour and a half. And then, as we were out at the far end of the lake, the clouds rolled in and the wind came up suddenly. In fifteen minutes we went from calm blue skies to rain, wind and waves.

The waves were knocking our little rowboat all over the place and we were far from any place we could get ashore. I was worried. My Grandmother was worried. My Grandfather was rather calm and in good spirits. He’d say things like “The fish love weather like this“.

At one point it got so bad that the waves were coming into the boat and were pushing us sideways into the dead logs that floated all along the side of the lake. My Grandfather was still calm. He’d say “This isn’t too bad. Seen a lot worse weather than this“. and “We might as well call it a day“. He had been rowing towards the beach this whole time.

Every time we started to get really worried he calmly reassured us that everything was going to be fine. He was so calm, you just had to believe it was true.

The Lesson

Several months later at a big family gathering, my Grandfather was telling the story about our little adventure on the lake that day. I stopped cold when he said “I was more than a little worried out there“.

He was worried. He never showed it.

That’s how I learned that when the fit hits the shan, the person that stays calm and cool is the leader.

To this day, when I face a truly sudden, unexpected and bad situation, it barely gets a reaction out of me. I just figure out what I need to do and do it.

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How To Speed-Read The Best Business Books In 20 Minutes Or Less

Soundview Business SummariesThe big secret here is … you have to get the right copy of the book.

Every year, throughout the year, Soundview Executive Summaries takes the best business books on the market and and boils them down to  an 8 page summary. No fat, no gristle, just 8 pages of meat!

Time is money, and no matter how little time you have, you can easily devour a couple dozen of the best business books published every year in summary format. They give you all the key ideas and the important diagrams in a nice, neat, easy-to-read format. It’s the easiest way to stay on top of all the latest cutting-edge ideas and the new twists on old ideas that are being written about in business today.

Check out their site where you can find a sample summary to download. They also sell audio summaries, and so you don’t lose your summaries if your hard drive crashes, you can store all your pdf book summaries in a secure digital library on their servers.

Soundview also writes book reviews for the books they summarize to help you find the right book within categories like economics, sales, leadership, strategic management, etc.

This week’s Review of the Week on Soundview is for a book entitled The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary by Joseph A. Michelli. I can tell you from experience: As a purchaser, Starbucks cares about price but they care about quality more. If you can produce quality, they’re a great Fortune 500 company to do business with.

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Always, Always Keep Your Eye On Good People

Business CardsIt’s hard to find good people. Really hard.

I have a whole binder full of business cards and phone numbers of tradespeople, suppliers, former clients, and people that used to work for me.

Right now, I’m involved in a great little startup company. I pulled a pile of business cards out of my big binder and started a new binder that’s focused on what I need for this startup.

Of course, with any new adventure, there are always new people and new companies that you’re going to have to bring in to help you put things together. And this is where it gets interesting.

The people already in my binder have been short-listed because I already know they do great work. As I’ve called on them, they’ve been ready, willing and able to step up and come through for me on whatever I need.

As with the NEW suppliers and tradespeople I’ve been talking to … some of them have been great. They’re going to make the short-list and become people I call on regularly. Others won’t.

Finding Good People

Here’s a quick list of how I find and deal with new people:

  • Keep track of good people. Always
  • Get referrals from people whose judgement you trust and respect
  • Use an agency to pre-screen candidates (Be careful. Only good agencies send you good people)
  • If someone isn’t right for what you need, don’t invest time in them. Cut them loose and keep looking
  • Experience is invaluable, but I’ll take brains and attitude over experience most days

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Donald Trump: Talk Like A Billionaire

The ApprenticeA friend called me the other night to tell me that The Apprentice was on. It’s one of the few shows I enjoy watching occasionally.

Because of the highly publicized feud between Trump and Rosie O’Donnell recently, I knew the new season was supposed to start soon. I didn’t know it had already started because I rarely turn on the TV.

*thought* – I wonder how I can pay for cable service by the hour instead of by the month?!

I thought I’d weigh in on the feud, because it’s uncharacteristic of Donald Trump to talk so harshly about someone publicly. And with good reason.

When you’re at the top of the ladder, there are always people looking to knock you down. Some of them are trying to get there themselves. Some of them are just jealous. So when you’re at the top of the ladder, it makes good sense to treat people well. You’re going to have people gunning for you no matter what. It’s better not to aggravate the situation. And it’s also a sign of insecurity which is never good in business.

Now, put your politics and thoughts of Monica Lewinsky aside for a moment and read what Bill Clinton had to say about diplomacy in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear issue because this is always the best strategy:

“But I think you have to [be] firm in public and absolutely brutal in private.”
~ Bill Clinton

The feud between Trump and Rosie certainly created a lot of press, which is always good when the new season of your show is starting. But Trump struck back hard. Very hard. Maybe too hard. Here’s why:

The View is a very popular show. It has a large audience. Rosie’s on-air comments about the Miss USA Pageant were designed to help her career as an outspoken tv personality at the expense of Trump’s business.

The same way that negative campaigning works in elections, Rosie’s comments potentially have a bad affect on the bottom line of the Miss USA Pageant. Which sucks if you own it, work for it and depend on your job there to put food on the table, or advertise on it.

It’s well known that negative campaigns are very effective. The only way to defend yourself is to stand up and wage your own negative campaign. That’s why everyone in politics does it.

I don’t believe The Donald was looking for media hype for The Apprentice as much as he was trying to strike back against a negative campaign.

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Bidding On and Buying a Domain Name

I did a bad, bad thing.

I jumped into a negotiation without preparing a gameplan first. On the upside, I got what I wanted for much less than I was prepared to pay.

I’ve been thinking about the domain zoomstart.com for a while now. It’s catchy, easy to spell, and it pretty much sums up what I want to talk about with this blog. The domain was in the hands of a reseller and one night a few weeks ago I decided it was time to grab it. I set up an account on Sedo and started the bidding process. It went like this:

  • I offered: $150
  • Seller countered with $1000
  • I countered with $220
  • And the seller countered with $930

You can see this is turning into a tit-for-tat game and it’s time to get serious. I don’t like the idea of making a final offer, especially when I’m prepared to pay more and I really want this. That kind of thing usually amounts to an ultimatum and closes off all other options.

But hey, I just jumped into this anyway. I make a final offer of $475. And then I get thrown a curveball … remember all the preparation I didn’t do …

The Seller has the option on Sedo to force the domain name into an auction for 7 days and my bid becomes the reserve price. If there are no other bids, I get the domain, which is what happened.

Something to Keep in Mind

Why would Sedo allow a seller to do this? Simple. They earn a 10% commission from the seller when a domain name is sold. The auction option gives both the seller and Sedo one last chance to bump up their earnings on the sale. And there is no risk because my final offer is still binding if there is no additional bidding.

When you walk into a bank and talk to a financial consultant, they get a bonus commission from the bank for the services and investments they sign you up for that gets larger as the rates they offer you get worse. When you buy a house, the real estate agent is earning a percentage of the sale price from the seller.

Anytime you buy something and the broker is earning a percentage of the sale price, she is working for the seller to get the highest sale price. This is great if you are the seller.

Conclusion

So I paid $475. My budget for zoomstart.com was $1500. I’m sure I could have gotten the domain for much less but in the end, something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Just for kicks, here’s what Zoomstart is worth according to Leapfish.

The price was well worth it to me. Now my job is to fill Zoomstart with great posts and make it a great read that’s worth more than that to you.

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