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...


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.


Go Badgers, as March madness begins this week.