Sep 26, 2007

Elevate your game

The business of higher education continues to be elevated by driven and committed folks who push new paradigms.

(I'm a little biased).

Sep 19, 2007

Re-Do

...decided to give U.S. Cellular one more try tonight -- same result.

That's some really good marketing dollars down the drain...

Sep 18, 2007

Do as I say, Not as I do...

There's this great company called BzzAgent based in Boston that's essentially a word-of-mouth organization that has a small army of marketers as "agents "to produce word of mouth on various products and campaigns. I am one of those agents. They send you something to try and then you "bzz" about it.

The latest campaign I'm a part of is for U.S. Cellular. They sent me a free, gitchy little Motorola phone and you get free service for a month or whatever to try it (and then talk about it). A slick brochure came with it that says, "Activate your phone by calling 888-xxx-xxxx for Immediate Customer Service". Called the number at 8:30PM on a Tuesday night, having just returned from a late business meeting (like any other average professional). "The average wait time is over 15 minutes..." said the recording on the other end.

Ah, no thanks. I'll try again -- maybe. If you're going to execute a promotion and need to cover a higher call volume, you better be prepared to commit the resources (labor, in this case) to getting it done.

If you're gonna print it, you better be prepared to live up to it...

Aug 15, 2007

Google Talk

Pretty cool IM gadget.

Change in Strategy

I recently finished reading the latest book by Seth Godin entitled, The Dip. It's a very quick read, a little book, actually. It talks about and r aises some very interesting questions about quitting bad things and continuing through tough times with good things/ideas/plans/programs.

We're going through a Dip in the coffee business. It's an incredibly challenging time right now as we're staring a lot of growth in the face, ramp up with new talent and the like. We also recently had a major shift in sales strategy that we basically bet the farm on.

But if you have faith in the product or service, you'll be nimble enough to change direction on a dime to get through the Dip to the end game: success of your business or program, product, marriage -- whatever. Sometimes it takes sheer strength of will to quit what you're doing poorly, learn from it and head in a totally new direction.

Jul 17, 2007

Cheesy

We live in Wisconsin and as such, eat a lot of cheese. Good cheese.

Was recently introduced to some varieties from Vermont, particularly Cabot and Grafton Village aged sharp cheddar.

My wife and I put them to the test against a brick of Steve's Cheese aged sharp cheddar, locally considered to be some of the Wisconsin's best. The Vermontonians (Vermontites, Vermonties?) won.

That's not saying that Wisconsin cheese isn't any good -- I'm just saying they make some mighty fine stuff in Vermont.

Disingenuous

Best Buy is kinda like Starbucks. You go there because they're everywhere and it's just too much work to go anywhere else when you need a fix in a hurry (electronic or otherwise).

I was in Best Buy today and they asked me to sign up for their new "Reward Zone" frequent buyer/points/certificate program. They pitched it hard at the checkout, said things like, "Just think, those points can really add up if you buy a TV...!".

I was cleaning up and glanced at the program explainer they gave me before I pitched it -- it's weak. Really weak. I mean, it starts at $5 on $250 and runs up to a lousy 20 bucks on $1000, a mere 2% rate. If you have a little time to shop, you'd be better off finding a good deal somewhere else, like buy.com.

When you put smoke, mirrors and fancy bells around a weak program, it doesn't lure people in, it turns them off and shows how cheap you really are. People's bullshit radar is just too high today to be doing this. It's not worth it.

But then again, I'm sure some marketing executive at Best Buy or the agency they've hired thought this idea was brilliant. I doubt they'll be around too long.

Jul 12, 2007

Dates and meaning?

Seth Godin writes:

7/7/07

Why all the hoopla about a date? (Marriages are up by 30% year on year for today over a similar Saturday last year, for example).

Simple. People are meaning machines. We look for hints about what the future will hold and add meaning, often where there is none.

Putting a lucky number on your marriage certificate is just as silly as all the other cues (from the typeface in the ad to the tie on the applicant's neck) that we use to make decisions.

-------

Fortunately we only have five more years of this, then it's all done.


Jun 25, 2007

Desperation and urgency

Disclaimer: I am associated with a coffee franchise.

Couldn't believe it when a colleague forwarded me an email that a competing coffee company is circulating amongst it's prospective franchisees.

There are many ways to create urgency in the sales process. The example below is not one of them. In an era of increasing transparency and being genuine in how you work with prospective clients or customers, it's frightening to see that some people still resort to essentially shouting to get their point across. Unfortunately for them (and maybe fortunately for us?), it just sounds desperate:

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 08:50:05 -0400
From: Maui Wowi Hawaiian
Reply-To: Maui Wowi Hawaiian
Subject: A Maui Wowi Call to Action!!

A MAUI WOWI CALL TO ACTION!!
Let me warn you that this is a strong e-mail! Delete it if you can't handle the truth.

I know you are thinking about changing your life. You told us so when you asked for more information from Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies. So why haven't you responded to our calls and e-mails?
FEAR? Fear that we are going to sell you something? Fear that you are going to look foolish or make a mistake? Trust me, we grant franchises which allow the use of our brand and business operations only to those who match the profile of our most successful franchisees.

As someone who has started his own business, I _KNOW_ the fear and anxiety of starting one's own business. The perceived risk is sometimes overwhelming. I will also tell you that my decision to own my own business changed the life of my family. No longer do we have to worry about every dollar we spend, no longer do I worry about retirement and no longer do I live in fear of not being able to provide for my loved ones! I control my own destiny!

Are you going to be sitting on your DEATH BED saying, "I wish"?
Hello! Newsflash! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WIN THE LOTTERY!!!!!

What are you going to retire on? What are you going to leave your kids? What mark are you going to make on the world! You are not satisfied now or you would not be looking for something new!

Another reason is ANXIETY. Often times one comes up with a multitude of reasons not to investigate further: 'I am looking for a business for next year', 'The kids are too small, maybe later', 'I am just too busy right now', 'I am up for a big promotion and hopefully (key word) a raise' 'Let me ask my friends first and see what they think!' - and a million other reasons to not take action to pursue owning their own business.

Look, you have been getting e-mails and calls from us for a week which you have ignored after you sent us a request for information.

GET OFF YOUR BUTT, FILL OUT THE CONFIDENTIAL QUESTIONNAIRE AND TAKE A LOOK! NOT LATER, NOT TOMORROW, NOT NEXT WEEK... STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND PROCRASTINATING... DO IT RIGHT NOW! IT IS GOING TO TAKE YOU 5 MINUTES! IT IS FREE AND YOU MAY JUST LIKE THE FREEDOM, CONTROL AND POWER THAT OWNING A MAUI WOWI HAWAIIAN COFFEES & SMOOTHIES FRANCHISE OFFERS!

This is the last e-mail you are going to receive from us. It's up to you to change your life for the better. IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

It's time,
Michael Haith, CEO
Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies

Jun 18, 2007

Nearing Western Africa

Reid and Soanya continue their interesting voyage.

Two Faced, revisited

And I was just beginning to think that Nick Barnett could be a good member of this community. This kind of behavior after signing a big contract extension is almost cliche. Look for the NFL's new conduct policy to take a look at this too. With the John Jones incident a few weeks behind us, I thought we'd be able to make it to training camp without hitting the national news again. Wasn't meant to be, I guess.

PS - The Fontenot has a good take on the situation tho...

Jun 12, 2007

Two-faced!

We have an employee that's pregnant. She's normally very good with customers and has been with us for a while.

The other day, I visited the store with a gentleman interested in buying into our concept/franchise. It was a bad day for the employee -- you could tell. And anytime something is just not right with you -- mentally and/or physically -- everyone, including your customers, pick up on it in a heartbeat.

I know it's hard, and I sympathize with not feeling your best, but you've been hired to perform a function at a certain level in exchange for being compensated (with benefits and money alike), so you best bring your A-game. Or at least be able to fake your A-game. If not, then you need to stay home, because I do not want you working with customers today.

Payola

I think someone in the LA County Jail system is out for a little grease after handling the Hilton slammer fiasco.

This kind of stuff makes every PR person wince...

And you thought we had a class-less society...!

Jun 11, 2007

Soprano lame duck

The only winners in this whole thing were the members of the 80s rock band Journey. At least they'll be remembered for the theme song to the absolute worst series finale I can remember. And Seinfeld is a close second.

It's just really painful when you've got loyal followers since 1999 and you let them down with the piece of shit that was the last episode to a series that probably should have ended around episode number 50.

I've heard it all -- it was a "cut to black" because you supposed to be Tony Soprano in that instant, they're holding the rest of the ending to make the movie version, and my personal favorite: David Chase wanted to leave the final Soprano family moments up to the imagination of the viewers who put up with the erratic scheduling and poor storylines for the last several seasons.

If we wanted it to be left up to our "imaginations", why have a TV show at all and just let me imagine some psycho mobsters and their goombahs to begin with...

...please. Spare me the Hollywood artsy-fartsy shit and admit you simply ran out of gas. It's the show that, unlike Seinfeld (although they had a lame-ass finale as well), went on past it's prime and couldn;t figure out how to whack itself, so you simply decided to leave it up the "viewers". That's rich. And how the show will be remembered. Cheers, M*A*S*H: Classic shows with classic endings. Even the more recent HBO series, Six Feet Under had one of the more memorable and creative finale episodes.

Unfortunately, Chase squandered any hope of Sopranos entering into the group of shows worthy as mentioning in the phrase, the best ever.

It simply, wasn't.

Jun 7, 2007

Good green (in theory)

Ethanol is looking like one of those green initiatives to get us off fossil fuels that looks good in theory, but not really that good in practice.

Thing is, it apparently it's having OPPOSITE effect. Currently, it actually takes more energy to make than it creates -- takes more gas to make a gallon of ethanol than if we weren't. This may not always be the case as technologies improve, however.

Another one of life's little ironies...

Where they stop, nobody knows!

We have several roundabouts in my Midwestern community. You know, the simple traffic control import from Europe that's made it's way from Boston to here. They're great -- keeps traffic moving -- when people know how to use them.

See, around here, people don't. Even if there is nothing to yield to on left, people come to a complete stop and wait for another waiting car on the left. It's completely absurd -- which makes me think, "Wait a minute... this is a training issue".

How come city planners put these things in and then just assume people know what to do with them?

Jun 6, 2007

Jun 5, 2007

Howdy Doody



Will somebody please tell GW that we actually need some friends around the world...?!

Warm sensations

Some fans have some pretty interesting tactics when they haven't won for a while...

Jun 4, 2007

Locked out... by robots.

"This blog has been locked by Blogger's spam-prevention robots. You will not be able to publish your posts, but you will be able to save them as drafts."

Blogger locked me out of my blog. I have to write this post as a draft until they "unlock" my account. I know it's a free service, and I realize it's spam prevention, which we all HATE, but you mean to tell me that they can't get enough mathematicians in Googleplex Building # 43 to come up with an algorithm that can tell the difference between my own, fairly-frequent posts and that of a spammer? Further, I requested a review by a live person yesterday and they have yet to review/unlock my blog.

And I'm a Google shareholder! How dare they!

Perhaps it is time to consider a paid blogging service like Typepad.

Jun 1, 2007

Too much static...

Mark Cuban says he believes that another NFL-type football league could flourish. I respectfully disagree and think any effort as such would fall the way the XFL and USFL did.

I don't see this working for two primary reasons:

1) I'm not sold on the argument for unmet demand in the pro football entertainment space. You've already got a pretty good arena football league going. And I see plenty of unsold seats on nationally-televised NFL games throughout the regular season. I think the competition among entertainment vehicles today is so strong and so fractured, that any effort toward another powerhouse league has odds stacked way against it. And I don't think you could get another league going and be any less price-point sensitive than the NFL is today. It would have to be a huge saving to attend another league's games. Bottom line: too much competition for the entertainment dollar.

2) The NFL is a well-oiled machine. It is managed and disciplined far better than any other major league sport. It also has such history, well-established rules and experience, and lore. I don't see any other league coming up against it anytime soon that hs the clout that even approaches the level of the NFL.

May 31, 2007

Follow up...

I was pleasantly surprised to see a semi-personalized response from Ice Mountain in my inbox. To their credit, they did a good job of getting back with me ahead of their stated time frame and exceeded expectations:

May 30, 2007

Dear Mr. Lukens,

Thank you for contacting Ice Mountain® on the Internet. We welcome questions and comments from our consumers.

Our goal at Ice Mountain® is to provide the highest quality products, and we would like to assure you that we have reported your experience to our Quality Assurance Director so that he can follow up with the appropriate personnel. We value you as a consumer and feel confident that you will be completely satisfied with our product in the future. You can expect to receive a follow up letter from us via regular mail that will contain product replacement coupon(s). Please allow seven to ten business days.

We appreciate your interest in our products and hope you'll visit our website often for latest information on Ice Mountain® products and promotions.

Sincerely,
Annmarie Kratz
Consumer Response Representative

May 30, 2007

We'll get back to you...

I wrote a letter to Ice Mountain water this morning. Some time ago they changed their bottle caps and now when you sip from the bottle, it tastes like plastic. It's not good, and I thought they want to know about it, because I've been a good customer for a while, fairly brand-loyal, and I'm about to bolt for another water.

Not only did they require that I submit my full address and phone number when I sent them my note, which I personally disagree with (an email and name is all that should be required), I got a auto-responder page that said:

"Thank you for contacting IceMountain. We will get back to you as soon as we can, within the next seven business days."

Seven business days? That could be almost 10 days. In my businesses, it's a 24-hour rule during the week and a first-thing Monday after a weekend. I want my customers to feel like I value them and their inquiries. What Ice Mountain's practice says to me (screams, really) is that, "We'll get back to you when we feel like it. We've got enough customers we really don't have to hire any additional people to respond in a more timely manner."

I'd better choose another water...

May 29, 2007

Time OUT!

My wife informs me that my five year old son now understands the concept of consequences. She had a conversation with him that quite clearly mapped out his crystalline understanding.

I was thinking about this and it could quite conceivably be the single greatest breakthrough moment as a living being. Think about it -- if you stick your arm in the fire, you're gonna get burned. If you stick your sister's arm in the fire, you're gonna lose out on something BIG. I mean, there's degrees... and my son now gets it.

This means the world of child disciplinary tactics can take on a whole new realm in my household. One that involves reason, logic and consequences...

Love it!

May 23, 2007

"You want fries with that...?"

I bought some pizza coupons from co-worker as a fund raiser. They were for a long-standing, local ice cream and deli outfit here locally that has gone through several owners in just the past few years.

I grab 5, 1-topping 12-inch pizzas and proceed to the checkout counter. I hand them my 5 free coupons. The clerk gives me a blank stare; "I ain't never seen these...", she says flatly. Now we wait for the manager to get off the phone with her buddy/boyfiend/whatever. Five minutes. The manager walks over and quickly says she hasn't seen the "Free 12-inch, 1-topping" coupons I offered for payment either. Another five minutes while they try to extract some sort of answer from the cash register, as if what an idiot puts in, the machine will translate into some sort of higher-order thinking.

Finally, I say politely, "These are clearly your company's coupons, right?"

"Yup."

"Then, we're good here, right? I mean, I can leave and you guys can figure this out without me, right?"

"Yup, thanks..."

No -- thank you -- for reminding me why I never shop here...

May 15, 2007

Outsourcing the Commander-In-Chief

Bush takes delegation to a whole new (unprecedented) level.

May 13, 2007

Fried, Green...?

Proud to a Wisconsinite (I think).

May 8, 2007

Summer is Welcome

May 8th, 2007

April 11th, 2007

May 7, 2007

Just Desserts

It's nice to see that Giddell's new conduct policy is resonating with individual clubs as well. This kind of behavior shouldn't and won't be tolerated within the NFL.

By the way, maybe Carroll should be a boxer, 'cause he sure can grab at people on the run.

PS - They couldn't find a picture of the guy in Jags gear...?!

May 2, 2007

The power of suggestion

My wife came home the other day with five boxes of Yogos snacks for the kids. Five boxes? They were 5 for $10, she said. Today she came home with three bags of Chex Mix -- and again I got the "3fer" response. Now, of course, I explained that it's not that you HAVE to buy that many, it's just an old merchandising trick -- but it works.

I recently read a Seth Godin blog about the marketing strategy of "triangualtion". If you have two products, one lower price and one a little higher, chances are you're going to sell a lot more of the lower priced product. But, if you have a third product at a pricing level that's significantly higher than the other two, chances are now that you may choose the middle-priced item.

There are a million ways to merchandise and market -- sometimes the best ones are the simplest.

Speaking of Eddie Izzard...

You should check out the new show called "The Riches" starring Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard on FX Network. Very good TV.

Cake or Death

Of course, the Episcopal church will take everybody with issues.

I still like the Onion's headline a while back -- "Gay politician admits he's governor of New Jersey".

May 1, 2007

Another dead ender

A major corporation and marketing might like MSN and others should never allow things like this to happen.

I can understand a small business and cutting them some slack. Pay a recruit $30K a year to do nothing but scour your sites ALL DAY LONG and report problems.

It's unbelievable to me...

Gas pricing and the NEW normal

I find it interesting that you can look almost daily in the press and find an article talking about how gas prices are going to ease this summer in the sub-$3.00 range. Conversely, as with nearly every other issue from sports predictions to the weather, you can easily find another that's talking about how we'll be at $4.00 in no time.

Here in the Midwest, we may have it easier than others (Minneapolis recently had the lowest average price in the country) but I doubt people have hit their breaking point yet, where it actually may affect their lifestyle. I overheard a guy at the Chrysler dealership this morning (while my wife's minivan was ousting a bad fuel injector) that he was "parking the truck in the garage" and driving his company car instead.

Once a threshold is reached and people adapt to it for a period of time, I think it beomes the new normal. I think your average person will probably admit that the days of $2.00 gallon gas over a consistent period of time are probably over.

Can you imagine being at sea for 1000 days?


A very interesting blog from a couple doing just that, right now.

Apr 23, 2007

Who's your daddy?

I can't get away with anything anymore in my house. With three kids under nine, and the youngest being a feisty three and a half, their super-absorbent brains and young, untainted minds are now starting to make sure that I stay in line. It's almost like we did TOO good of a job of teaching these guys manners (I'm not THAT foolish). But I think least in regard to enforcement of the 'you better practice-what-you-preach, mom & dad!', they've got a keen collective eyes and ears.

I used to be able to roam my abode, in all sorts of clothing, make any sort of noises I damn well want to make at ANY time, and basically act like cro-magnon man at my leisure. It is no more. At least without recourse.

... (sigh) ... (burp).

"What do you say, DAD!"

Apr 20, 2007

Cell Phone Hell (in the air)

I've changed my mind on cell phone use on airplanes. I used to think the pending FAA review on in-flight cell phone use was a long time coming, based ona ridiculous analog-era technological excuse and just the natural progression of things.

But then, I've been traveling lately and I've taken note on cell phone use. Have you noticed how many people are instantly on them once the jet hits the taxiway? I've since decided that I don't need to have my already cramped trip cramped further by knowing about your mother's 12-inch incision from her butt surgery, or the fact that your supplier can't deliver the goods and you're now yelling at about 50 DBs inside this sardine can.

I just want to relax as best I can -- having everyone on their phones during the entire flight isn't going to be good for anyone, including the airlines, I can only surmise...

Apr 19, 2007

Wisconsin No Smoke

I smoked cigarettes for 11 years, quit nearly 10 years ago and I pray that any discomfort I get in my torso isn't some sort of malignant tumor growing deep inside me due my youthful feeling of indestructiveness.

These days, I find myself increasingly militant about the whole restaurant/bar smoking issue. Even the Wisconsin Restaurant Association president has recently called for a statewide ban. But we can't seem to make much progress, and I keep needing to take a shower every single time I go home from having a few beers with the wife or guys.

Of course, it remains a political issue about how much "food" you serve relative to "alcohol". The powerful Wisconsin Tavern League has resolved the issue be determined by bean counters who can manipulate the books of a respective business to look more or less favorable in any direction to circumvent any rules.

I can breathe in NYC, DC, Boston, SF and countless other communities around this great state and country, and yet, we can't seem pass the only logical and fair solution for all tavern and restaurant owners - a full statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Take your butts outside.

I guess we're at least a decade away from any trans-fat laws and green fluorescent light bulb requirements...

This is the Midwest, after all.

Cattle Car

I had to board a Northwest Flight this morning for Colorado Springs. I fly infrequently, maybe a average of once a month. And I just now realized how much I hate modern air travel. I mean, those seats seem to be getting smaller and your chances of sitting next to someone who is shower-impared is better than 2-to-1. The only domestic airline with any sense of civility these days is Midwest Airlines, and they can't make any money.

A commentary on consumer cost vs. customer service is forthcoming...

I missed the warm chocolate chip cookies today...

Apr 17, 2007

Whiskers

Tonight, while saying goodnight to my spitfire three year-old daughter, she runs the palms of her hands along my checks and says, "Daddy - you have whiskers!"

Then she pauses and says...

"I'd like pink whiskers!"

Powerpoint theory

Seth Godin points us to a really bad CEO Powerpoint slide. I remember while working for both Apple Computer and Nortel Networks, these guys would send out pre-produced sales and engineering slides for channel or end-user consumption, and would be bona-fide eye charts. Why is it that nearly everyone feels compelled to put every single talking point and icon on each and every slide?

I heard this theory on Powerpoint a while back -- I can't remember if I came up with it or I heard it elsewhere:

A company's success is inversely related to its deployment of Powerpoint.

Apr 16, 2007

What do Reggie White and Tommy Thompson have in common?

I think you need you need to be just a tad bit smarter when running a long-shot political campaign. But who knows, maybe he IS the smart one for garnering some headlines.

Apr 11, 2007

Move aside, Industrial era

Netflix has a very interesting non-policy on vacation.

Just one more pint...

Found this little Euro gem today on whether you've had too many pints. Problem is, there's usually not a wi-fi connection at the bar when you need it.

Packers schedule out today

here

Apr 9, 2007

Jott.com

Seth Godin points us to a neat little public beta for the disorganized...

Humility works

A recent customer service (and my lack of satisfaction) issues was resolved today with a little humility on the part of the company employee, who went our of his way to admit there was a problem, take personal responsibility for it and committed to getting it right.

Sometimes that's all it takes to turn a bad situation into a good one.

Apr 5, 2007

Retirement-schmirement

Some people simply love doing what they do, all their lives.

The First Time

Way back when I heard a customer service mantra that I've always remembered: What brings back customers the second time? The first time.

I hit a deer with my truck the other day; rather, the deer literally hit me. Every thing's fine, save a few dents in my SUV. I took it to a friend-of-friend to fix at his small auto body shop. He had the vehicle three days. When I picked it up, there was a thin layer of dust throughout the entire vehicle, and someone had put a size 12 white boot-print on the front floor mat. Took me 45 minutes to clean it to my satisfaction.

Further, the repair is not great. In fact, I'm going to take it back for them to get it right. When I called, they were amiable about fixing it, but actually stated, "well, they may have rushed things a bit..."

It wouldn't have taken much additional effort to a) fix the job the right way to begin with, and b) clean my truck. As a result, they'll end up spending more time repairing it in total. Due to the experience, I likely will opt to go elsewhere should I ever need repair again (requisite wood knock) and they'll lose both money and a customer.

Apr 1, 2007

You want to sell to ME?

I've been in Washington for the International Franchise Expo talking to hundreds of people interested in franchising from Bethesda to Bejing. The right to be here to talk to these folks officially costs over $6000 plus travel expenses.

I've had to endure three days of industry folks who chose to opt for a $30 attendee ticket and want to take my time away from my prospects to sell me anything from advertising to financing to construction. And many of them are actually offended when I offer my business card and the opportunity to contact me AFTER the show (no hint taken).

And the conference administrator puts token "No Solicitor" signs at the gate but doesn't enforce it.

Note to salespeople. Be mindful of your audience and their receptiveness. Sure, it's clearly a pet-peeve of mine that you're bothering me, but I'm also guessing that you're bothering many others. I'll personally be more inclined to talk to you and be receptive to your information if you contact me on my home turf, not MY selling turf.

Get a clue.

Cherry blossoms

I'm in DC this weekend, and one hears about the cherry blossoms, but I personally had never experienced our nation's capital in full bloom.

Now I have. And I can say there's nothing more breathtaking than the Jefferson Memorial, et al, under full cover of the brilliant white and pink blossoms.

A sight to behold.

Mar 27, 2007

Hole in One

My daughter, who loves to play Tiger Woods Golf on xbox and is quite good, hit a hole in one on a par 3 tonight. I'd never seen that before.

She's three.

I think I shall put a real club in her hands this summer...

Mar 26, 2007

Alter ego...

Apparently, my blogging alter ego...

Noimpactman, Midwest version

OK, Seth Godin's blog about NYC's Noimpactman is compelling - As a Midwestern male, it's always intersting to me to observe what those crazy kooks on the coasts are doing. But his has merit. There's always an early adopter cycle with things like these (trends, or more lasting?).

I'm the Midwestern Noimpactman; well, at least Reducedimpactman. I drive a Yukon XL, but I do so because I have five people and lots of gear in my family and we travel. But I did start replacing all the non-dimmer light bulbs in my house with the low-wattage flourescent fixtures. Those things used to be like $12 each and light up your room like your local deli, but they're better now, and I bought a four-pack at Home Depot for $8 bucks.

If they'd figure out how to make those dimmer-capable, I'd buy stock in the company.

It's a start...

Mar 25, 2007

Death and ...

I just did my 2006 taxes... and I have a splitting headache. I know we've got bigger fish to fry like Iraq, home front USA, schools, poverty and the like to deal with, but I would think that a good issue for a presidential candidate to latch onto that would be hugely popular would be tax code reform (again).

It was very interesting to see a request for donations door the Packers Stadium near the top of the list ahead of firefighters, breast cancer research, etc. on my Wisconsin state return.

I guess we all have our priorities.

Dead end

Nothing irks me more than being on a web site, clicking a link and running into a dead end. It's even more unbelievable when it's a major corporation, like Time Warner.

Shame, because I was actually looking for info on their products. Now I'm losing interest.

Don't make me think...

Mar 23, 2007

Sock Hop and memories

My daughter had a father-daughter sock hop for her Brownies troop tonight. It/she was cute. Got me thinking about all the neat memories I had when I was a kid in school:

Kindergarten: Mrs. Dais, thought she was a hottie at the time. Solar eclipse circa 1974-75.
1st grade: Mrs. Zimmerman; still run into her around town. PBS special taped in my class.
2nd grade: Mrs. Adams - started writing short stories
3rd grade: Our teacher was the local Dairy Queen franchisee, so we always got free Dilly Bars.
4th grade: Mrs Adams, redux. Drama and piano lessons. A music teacher that said she needed to have her "temper" removed. A birthday party at Pizza Hut.
5th grade: First space shuttle launch. Science projects with Mr. Soz. Bad showers in gym.
6th grade: Mr. Bishop, girls and geeks (me); The Police.
7th grade: This hottie of a social studies teacher, church youth groups and ski club.
8th grade: Puberty (wham, yikes!); Pea coats, girls from other schools, football, meeting Huey Lewis & the News, ,music.
Freshman year: missed good friends who went to Catholic school; high school girls, drivers license (on the day the Challenger blew up). AC/DC in the lunchroom.
Sophomore year: Girlfriends, typing, computers intro, way too much freedom.
Junior year: Study halls and leaving early, lats year of playing football, pole vaulting
Senior year: Classes at St. Norbert, a disdain for high school, time to move on...

Time flies...

Mondays

Today is Friday. Which is why I'm reflecting on the week behind me. If you're like me, Mondays are jam full of emails and phone calls and everything that needs to ramp-up for the week. I try to manage my volume of email in my inbox over the weekend so I'm not as hammered on Monday morning, but it always seems to still be a menace.

I've mentioned I'm basically a sales guy. I sell and I manage people and companies. I have a great deal of empathy for a sales rep, whether they're selling printing or real estate or whatever.

But don't call me in the first hour of business on a Monday morning. Don't even call me in the morning on a Monday. You will find me much more amenable to your sales pitch generally later in the week. Happens all the time and I continue to wonder why people don't get it.

Experience, I guess. And the perspective of being on both sides of the sales fence.

Fishing expedition

I've basically been a sales guy my whole career. It started in the property casualty insurance business, grew to financial planning and then made an about face into technology. Now I'm in franchising and real estate (and still a little tech).

One thing I've learned that says a lot about a person is whether they keep the meetings they set. I'm not talking phone calls -- I read a business article this week locally about how you should return every phone call. I get hundreds of sales solicitation calls a month in the franchising business and if I returned each call, I'd never get any real work done. No, I'm talking about a business meeting time one sets up and then either doesn't show up or calls to cancel shortly prior. Nothing says, "You're not my priority right now..." greater than that. I instruct my sales staff to make a single effort to reschedule and then move on. If a prospect isn't interested enough to show up to an appointment they've agreed to, then I'm not interested enough in wasting time on them.

One of the hardest things to do in sales in to know when fish and when to cut bait, no matter what the rapport.

Mar 21, 2007

Auto pilot

I see a lot of wanna be business owners each week. And the one of the biggest things I try to impart on them as of late, because I recently realized this to be truly important, is that you must ultimately keep full eyes on your business. Owning a business isn't easy -- if it were, everyone would be doing it. What most of people don't necessarily realize about a franchise, which some might misconstrue as a business that absolutely runs itself, is that they still require a lot of work. It's still their business. The franchise model only works if people who ultimately have the most skin in game actually have the passion to make it succeed. No one else will make that happen for them.

Spring is welcome

In typical spring (March) in Wisconsin fashion, we had big ole thunder and lightening storm on hte first official day of spring. I love sitting outside under a shelter and watching the lighting and listening to the thunder. If you haven't looked at Weather Underground's weather/storm tracking, it's worth a look.

Mar 19, 2007

Thanks, Bucky...


...for a good run this year. But a team with more desire, quicker feet and hotter hand always beats its less-enthused, field goal-less opponent, no matter how the rankings go...

Road Maps

I love maps. My wife loves maps. In fact, I think there's a cartographer hiding in a college professor's body there somewhere with her. I like knowing exactly where I'm going, how long it will take to get there and just what kind of things I'm going to encounter along the way.

My wife's family owns a lovely little independent telephone company. Yes, they still exist. No, AT&T, MCI, Verizon (GTE) and all the other have not swallowed them all. And they have relied on regulated phone service business for years. And now they an unregulated side, and have to change. It is an interesting case study in business adaptability, competition and change.

I, being my wife's proxy, attend the Annual Meeting of shareholders. It's a privately-held company and there are maybe, like, I don't know -- maybe 25 shareholders that all grew out of the same grand and great-grand parents. It's a wonder the thing is still in tact given all the family involvement. Yet it is...

After looking at their financial statements in the meeting, observing the obvious decline in regulated (actual phone service) business, and noting tough struggles on the P&L side for such new unregulated business ventures as Digital TV, Internet and Broadband, I asked a relatively broad question.

"Do you guys have a road map?"

"You know -- have you run the numbers out three or five years on people pitching their land lines for cell phones in their homes, for VoIP services like Vonage (which I recommend - email me, I'll refer you and we'll BOTH save money!) and really taken a look at where you have the most profit margin on the unregulated side of the business so you know where to focus, from a numbers perspective, of course...?"

Not that I'm Joe-CFO or anything, but I can read statements, understand marketing and the need for good planning and business strategy.

A road map. Get one. And know where you're driving to.

The Web's Outta Control

Web sites are out of control. I mean the complexity, navigation. I remember reading a book a while back that my brother gave me from a master's class. It was called Don't Make Me Think. Although somewhat dated, it's concepts still hold true.

I was just on DirecTV's website trying to look at my account. Well, they're making me think. So much so, I had to grab a beer to stave off the impending headache. Just because the technology gets better doesn't meant he complexity has to. Got to where I wanted after some fumbling around. Then I wanted to look at packages , HD channels, HD-DVRs and packages. Not so simple. I ended up with about five tabs open in Firefox that I needed to keep bouncing back and forth between.

As a consumer and quasi-technology critique-r, I've always been super-impressed with good web site design. Like Amazon. It takes good planner, good intuition and good study from the eyes of your customer.

Pretend you're a customer a go look through your web site. Do you get a headache?

Mar 14, 2007

Grocery To Go

Why wouldn't most grocery stores of the future (or today) have a service where you could hit their store web site and look at every inventory item they stock -- every single Mac & Cheese box to toilet paper roll. Heck, they already know exactly what they've got from the inventory and checkout systems. You place that system online on a store web site for the public to search and select the items they're abut to shopping for. Except this time, you make a grocery list, but I make it at the office before I leave work and gets sent to a store clerk. Heck, they've got a million of them too running around straightening store shelves, why not have them take your online-produced list, grab all the items you're about to pick up, and have them waiting for you to settle up and load into your car when you pull up?

I know there are online grocers/delivery services that already do that, but I'm talking your local, neighborhood store chain -- you still have to go get it, but what a time-saver. Just put some kiosks at the storefront like an airline check-in and forget about the aisles. I hate rolling through the store aisles because I always end up doubling and tripling-back for stuff I forgot in an aisle I've already passed -- four times. I wonder what a breadcrumb trail of me through the store on average grocery shopping trip would look like...

Mar 12, 2007

Customer service nut case

I have an employee who is a bona fide customer service nut case. These types of individuals do not grow on trees. They believe in it and are committed to it to their very core being. It's not learned, it's inherent, it's assumed. If they're smart (and this person is very smart) they can take you places, take your organization to new levels if you give them the latitude and respect they crave.

This employee of mine makes peanuts. Yet she remains committed and does things above and beyond the call of service and job description. She is re-writing the job description.

Cultivate and take care of these individuals. Showcase them. Encourage them. Reward them.

This dog can't hunt

I believe the Bush Administration has officially achieved lame duck status. While I believe the intentions are good at heart (I really do), the managerial incompetence has reached it's pinnacle. The bottom line is that no critical-thinking American can trust the judgment of this adminstiration and their competence any longer. A shame, especially since very critical decisions have yet to be made over the next 18 months in Iraq and other critical foreign policy issues like Iran and North Korea.

Mar 11, 2007

Good guys & barbarians... on ice

Ice Hockey...

The good guys: Congrats to St. Norbert College for making the NCAA Division III hockey championships.

The bad guy: No only did the NHL get it right when they penalized Chris Simon for his recent appalling hit, he should be criminally liable as well. Unbelievable.

Tiresome business theater

Seth Godin points to some interesting business theater, including observations on airlines and their antics.

Why can't they tell us the real reasons. In the wake of Best Buy's double-website shenangans and Jet Blue's Customer Bill of Rights, customers continue to ache for honesty from corporate America.

Badgers


Go Badgers, as March madness begins this week.