The writing, reporting, and humanity of the below four articles are absolutely excellent. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
The writing, reporting, and humanity of the below four articles are absolutely excellent. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
For Entrepreneur—If there’s one thing I learned while researching and writing my first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, it’s how to get more done in less time.
For the first five years as a self-employed writer, I passionately and excitedly burned the midnight oil, thinking the act would get me ahead. While it certainly helped to cut my teeth and quicken my understanding of the craft, in hindsight I spent much of that time with my head down, spinning my wheels in the mud, and failing to see bigger ideas and opportunities.
That is until my “Montana Moment,” a life-changing and completely off-the-grid vacation in Big Sky Country that upended and improved my relationship to work in more ways than one. Since that fateful week, I’ve enjoyed record personal, professional, and social growth. But only because I radically changed my underlying approach and motivations for work.
There are as follows: Continue reading…
I made a boo-boo at work yesterday. The client I was working with was very understanding, forgiving, and even accepted some of the blame. But I felt pretty rotten about the oversight.
Now, I’m not a perfectionist because done is better than perfect. But I couldn’t shake my disappointment of letting them down. So much so that I continued to worry about my mistake into the night.
Then I awoke to the above new sign on display in our kitchen today, which was ironically crafted by my eight year old daughter. It immediately cheered me up. Partly because I learned some things from my mistake and instituted two immediate changes that will make me a better writer. But also because the sign reminded me that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.
Showing up really is half the battle. As my friend David says, “You gotta play some sour notes in order to make your sound sweeter.” I’m grateful of those simple truths that make moving on, closure, and even improvement possible.
My answer: As I’ve said before, Emojis and animated gifs are not only appropriate in business emails, they often improve the response of work-related emails when used sparingly. I wouldn’t use them more than 25% of the time. But they’re downright endearing because business correspondence is often stuffy and staid. So the occasional visual surprise keeps things interesting and reminds the recipient that they’re dealing with a personable human being. I highly recommend them.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you like money. What does money have to do with offline balance, though?
In my research, everything. Next to fame and sex—which by no coincidence are often facilitated by money—the latter is arguably the most sought after thing in life, particularly (but not exclusively) for male species.
For purposes of this newsletter, however, I won’t preach to you on the ill-guided focus of money or bottomless cup that is greed. Instead, I’ll let smarter people do it for me: Continue reading…
PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.
“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.
Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.
“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…
Humans are more distracted now than ever before, at least since we’ve started keeping records. Over the last decade, the average attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2014, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. The kicker: our eight second attention spans are one second shorter than a goldfish’s. No joke.
Who or what’s to blame for such abhorrent focus? “External stimulation,” says the Library of Medicine. That’s code for mobile internet, apps that vie for our attention, push email, social media alerts, work from anywhere, persistent connectivity, and our enthusiastic adoption of “the internet of things.” In other words, the only person we can blame is ourselves.
What’s a working professional to do then? You have three options, according to popular thinking: fall off the grid, stick with default technology settings for substandard productivity, or my personal favorite, set usage boundaries to upgrade concentration, contributions, and welfare levels.
For those interested in options one or two, this article won’t be any help. But for for those interested in the latter, there’s quite a lot you can do to stay focused in a 24/7 world. After extensive online research, here is the most celebrated and pragmatic advice for doing just that: Continue reading…
Phil Knight seemingly had a lot of slick editors to help him write his wonderful book (4/5 stars) on the creation and rise of Nike. But his passion, character, and insightful war stories all ring true. These were my favorite excerpts:
I’m an enthusiastic Amazon, Apple, Uber, and Google user because they make my life easier. I don’t think twice before upping my Prime membership. In fact, I like these companies so much, I’ve even willing to pay a little extra for the convenience they offer.
But obsessive brand loyalty will ultimately hurt us, argue two ivy-league economists for USA Today. “Each of us can do our part to make sure Amazon and others never get to the point of ubiquitous domination. It might introduce a bit of hassle and inconvenience into your life, but only a tiny bit. But by taking on this challenge, you’ll be doing the job that antitrust authorities, in an ideal world, might take care of on our behalf – ensuring that consumers and workers, rather than the owners of capital and algorithms – get a piece of the surplus that’s created by new business ideas.”
Make no mistake, I’m a proud American capitalist. But I like it even more when companies compete for my business. “Think about those credit card teasers we all get,” the authors add. “As long as we keep businesses thinking they need to chase after us to try to lock us in, they’ll keep on handing us value rather than using it to pad their bottom line.”
If you agree, consider shopping with competing companies and platforms from time to time to keep your favorite companies on their toes, hungry for your business, and willing to let you keep a greater share of the value.
“Hi, human. I sell this thing (in my case writing) for a living because I believe in it. It’s benefited myself and others you may know. Are you the right person to pitch? If no, do you know someone who is? If yes, is now a good time?”
I’ve been writing full time for 10 years now. Much of that time, if not half of the time, is spent asking people if I can write for them. In that sense, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell, or a seller who knows how to write.
Either way, I’ve followed the above pitch for the last decade. I don’t know if it’s the best sales approach, but it’s worked alright for me, and it’s one I feel is the most respectful.
Know a better way?
Does .99 cent pricing really work? Wouldn’t it be easier to round everything to the nearest dollar?
The answer to both those questions is a resounding “yes.” Although it would be easier to round up, stores use so-called psychological pricing because it demonstrably boosts sales by 8%, according to one study of 60,000 mail-order catalogs.
In short, the 30,000 customers that received rounded up pricing spent 8% less than the 30,000 catalog recipients of 99 cent pricing. (Note: The two catalogs were identical except for pricing.)
Granted, this study was performed 20 years ago. But with those kind of gains, the trend is sure to stick around for a long time.
Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.
Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.
That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…
Take these. If you’re interested in journalism, the art of war, Star Wars, business, and/or are “white,” I think you’ll enjoy them:
I recently read Paul Ford’s special report on software—all 36,000 words and three hours of it. If you work in computers, you should read it. If you work in business, you should read it. If you’re an adult human, you will learn a lot about the way things are and where they’re headed by reading it.
Admittedly, the story could have benefitted from some additional editing. Ford, after all, veers a little off topic. But like Bill Bryson, Ford is a master at explaining why things matter—in this case, why coders matter, and how they will increasingly influence the future.
If that’s doesn’t convince you to read the article’s entirety, maybe my 10 favorite excerpts will: Continue reading…
Outside of groceries, my household shops online 90% of the time. That’s not me overstating something. That’s my wife’s estimate. She does the budget.
Over the last 10 years, Amazon Prime, Zappos, Target.com, iTunes, Netflix, and many other e-tailers have dramatically improved my family’s standard of living, product selection, and buying power, while reducing buyer’s remorse, time spent, and money spent consuming wants and needs.
Every now and again, I get romantic and decide to “shop local,” as they say. Usually I regret it. The last time I needed a pair of slacks, I went to a big box store. The style selection wasn’t what I wanted. 30 minutes of my life, gone.
Before leaving the parking lot, I launched the Amazon app, found a better pair of 4.5/5 star fitted-pants for less, and clicked “buy now.” The transaction took two minutes. The slacks would be on my door step two days later, and if, for whatever reason, I didn’t like them, I could put them back on my door mat, and a brown truck would magically return them for free.
We live a charmed life. Continue reading…
Selling is a challenge. It requires unwavering confidence, polite persistence, and a deep understanding of buyer demand. It also requires an ability to withstand constant rejection, unfortunate timing, and even bad luck.
Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, overcoming buyer objections in another challenge. Some may be unique to your trade, but most are quite common, regardless of industry. What are they and how can they be surmounted?
To find out, I ransacked dozens of reports, expert analyses, and top Google results. After the dust had settled, I encountered close to 100 specific objections. But most (if not all) of those are merely variations of seven fundamental objections, which I’ve distilled and categorized below.
Before getting down to the nitty gritty, a word of caution: sellers must first understand theirs and their prospects’ available “walk-away” options before addressing any concerns. If you don’t respect those, you’ll fail to appreciate the nuances of your market and have a harder time overcoming legitimate buyer objections.
Furthermore, “objections are a gift,” says Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft. “It’s the customer telling you something that will help you sell to them.” In that sense, buyer concerns are rarely outright rejections—they’re merely requests for more information. Hence, good communication is key to overcoming them.
With that out of the way, here are the seven most common buyer objections and advice for overcoming them: Continue reading…
A year after the Great Recession reared its ugly head, my biggest account of nearly three years terminated our contract. At the time, I was the head of news, principal feature writer and editor-at-large for IDG’s second-largest media property.
During my tenure, I managed a small team of remote reporters, oversaw the production of thousands of stories and grew web traffic by 15% in a saturated market. But it wasn’t enough to save my job. When the going got tough (i.e. when the print business failed to transition to digital in time), I was an easy person to let go, despite my page view gains.
One reason: I only visited headquarters twice during my term. I knew management liked me, but they didn’t know me well enough to realize that I, too, had mouths to feed; that I was a peer, their equal. To them I was an impersonal guy that did good work from afar — an easy name to let go that didn’t evoke much emotion.
“Sorry, Blake. We’re cutting back.” That was it. Continue reading…
I want all my children to work fast food someday. Why would I subject the little darlings to low pay, hectic dinner rushes, rude customers, demeaning work, ignorant coworkers, monotonous tasks, slippery shoes, and stinky clothes?
The short answer: Life is filled with the above, so you might as well expose ’em while they’re young. The long answer: Much of what I learned in business I learned from fast food. Not the creative stuff. Not sustained rejection. Certainly not cerebral problem solving.
But working fast food taught me the essence of hard work—livelihood’s version of basic training. After two years as a low-level cooking, toilet cleaning, truck unloading, chicken suit wearing, stench absorbing, fry serving, drive-thru calling, and overly perspiring wage-worker at Chick-Fil-A, here’s what I learned about business, customer service, teamwork, and life: Continue reading…
An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. Just then, a skiff docked with one fisherman inside. His boat contained several large yellowfin tuna.
The American complimented the fisherman’s catch and asked how long it took to reel them in. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied. The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish. The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s needs.
“What do you do with the rest of your time?” the American pressed. Continue reading…
My wife and I recently borrowed a large sum of money to buy a highly illiquid asset. To secure the loan, we disclosed more of our financial behavior to the bank than we’ve admitted to anyone else, including God. And rightfully so—again we were borrowing a large sum of money, and they wanted to make sure we’d pay it back.
In addition to scouring our personal finances, the lender took a fine tooth comb to our business finances. I’m self-employed. But my wife owns 50% of “the company.” I generate and service all the income. She gets half. Many would call her—as my lender often did—a “silent partner.” But she is anything but. Continue reading…
My stomach turns anytime I witness waste, lavishness, or squandering. I smile whenever I see thrift, frugality, or resourcefulness. (See also: The difference between cheap and frugal)
In fact, the latter is a life-long pursuit of mine: To be resourceful in everything I do, including my personal and business endeavorers.
In an effort to reduce the spam I email to friends and family, take this:
In a market economy, I believe state run economic development can sometimes be a good thing. But I suspect it’s usually a bad thing. Here’s why, in which a Rhode Island state treasurer cautioned against backing a celebrity owned company that would ultimately become a $75 million bath for taxpayers:
“In general, I would proceed very carefully on this. [The company] is in the Boston area where there are 200 venture capital firms, and it is in a very hot area of gaming so if it were in fact a compelling investment I would have to think it would be well funded already by venture capitalist; the fact that many have looked at it and passed is a red flag.” Continue reading…
Words to sell by.
I’ve grown up with Nike. I’ve watched them stir emotion with their commercials for decades.
The above ad — broadcast during the summer Olympics — is the latest in a long line of powerful advertising. It transcends mere sales and results in the thought of: “I like the company that made this commercial.” Of course, that ultimately leads to increased sales.
Doubly so coming from the global goliath of sports apparel that has acutely managed to stay cool for all these years, largely due to great copywriting.
You know those handheld beeping laser probes that some dentists use? They are a scam. At least that’s been my experience with them. And I’ve had 10 fillings!
Here’s how they work: Four years ago, after acquiring his first “diagnodent,” my old-old dentist said my x-ray and visual tests came back negative, but this newfangled beeping pencil-like thing said I had a cavity. Confused, I asked him: “Is this the same as an x-ray verified cavity.” No, he replied, but it did mean decay was starting. I asked if we could watch it with regular check ups. He agreed. Then retired later that year before I could follow up.
So I went to a new dentist. He too used a diagnodent. And each and every year, he would find more and more cavities with the device, while the xrays and visual tests all came back negative. Still doubtful, I pressed him on the issue each and every time. He always dodged my questions and politly replied, “If I were you I would get them filled.” He did this for not one, not two, but three consecutive years with an increasing amount of beeping teeth.
(As an aside, this dentist also said my root canal tooth should be replaced, as it could “crack and break at any time and injure my mouth.” Yep, I have a weaponized tooth, people. Keep your distance. It may attack at any moment.) Continue reading…
The New York times ran an insightful piece this weekend on the decline of Sony, which is valued at just a quarter of where it was a decade ago, and just one thirtieth the size of Apple:
“Sony makes too many models, and for none of them can they say, âThis contains our best, most cutting-edge technology,’ ” Mr. Sakito said. “Apple, on the other hand, makes one amazing phone in just two colors and says, âThis is the best.’ ”
In addition to department infighting, that really sums up Sony’s troubles: too much product, none of them hits. Continue reading…
I just got done reading this great story on a no-name musician landing a big break after “cold calling” a headliner on Twitter. In my opinion, the deal went through because of the following:
As an independent contractor, I get asked a lot on how I make a living. The easiest answer is “I work from home.” If that doesn’t satisfy the interviewer, however, I’ll usually say “I’m a writer,” which is only partly true.
In many ways, I’m a jack of all trades. Writing and developing content for others is my forte. But I also enjoy critiquing software and games, moonlighting in online advertising, content marketing, and one-off projects that present a unique but hard-to-screw up challenge.
That said, I never over promise. I’m quick to tell a potential client or existing client “I don’t do that” when asked about other disciplines and send them on their way—mostly because I do crappy work when I’m not passionate about it. That and I refuse to engage in work I don’t like doing, regardless of how well it pays.
(Seriously, doing stuff you don’t enjoy solely for money or status is the epitome of living a lie. I realize some people have no choice in the short-term and often have to take one for the team to make ends me. But EVERYONE has a choice in the long term. It just takes planning, sacrifice, and guts.)
Anways, long story short, here’s how I became a thousandaire last year: Continue reading…
“There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.”—Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of the Seattle-based Amazon.com, now going on seven consecutive years as my favorite website.
Great video, particularly from 2-5 minutes.
Today, auctions represent only 31% of all Ebay sales. A decade ago, Ebay was suppose to change the way everything was bought and sold. That didn’t happen. A new article in Wired tells why:
To begin with, the experience of auctions changed over time, generally in ways that made them less appealing to both buyers and sellers. Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, which consults for ecommerce companies, points to the advent of sniping—the practice of placing winning bids at the last second—as something that has alienated ordinary shoppers…
Bargains, too, have become less common, as the market matured and people on both sides of the transaction became savvier…
Really, though, the biggest factor in the decline of the auction may simply be that the novelty of bidding wore off. “The Internet stopped being a source of wonder and became a place to do certain kinds of business,” Koehn says. “Once that happens, you start to think about things like âDoes it make sense to spend this much time on an auction when I might not even get the item in the end?’” In econospeak, the hedonic benefits of bidding on eBay diminished.
In my opinion, I think the information age has simply normalized pricing. By that I mean you can save a buck or two on ebay, but you really have to work for it… and wait for it. Why not “buy it now” for a few bucks more elsewhere?
Samsung sponsored this guy Kenton Cool (awesome name) to summit Mount Everest for a ninth time this month. In exchange, the company had him place the first cell phone call ever from the highest point on Earth, to his wife. What a moment.
See those three stripes? They’re called “diva,” not pink, according to Adidas. And the white you see is “running white,” as opposed to idle white. I know because that’s what the box on my kitchen counter says. (They’re not for me, mind you, but the little soccer player I father.)
Adidas isn’t the first shoe manufacturer to use confusing names. I’ve seen red called “fire” on Nikes and blue called “ice” on Reeboks.
The silliness makes me wonder: Could shoe manufacturers sell more shoes by using color names people understand? Granted, people don’t shop by shoe boxes; they shop by display. But I imagine some prospective buyers have crossed an unsuspecting color and decided to pass on it. I know for a fact that ambiguity always hurts your chances.
That said, is there any proof that unconventional (or idiotic) color naming boosts sales? I doubt it.
Either way, at least Adidas got the hueless color right when describing the above shoes. They call it “black.”
They have cash—lots of it.
I’m a big fan of cash. Love the cash.
Today, a year since Krywko’s decision to go against the offshoring tide, Sleek Audio has a full-scale manufacturing operation that can be reached via a 15-minute car ride rather than a 24-hour flight. Each earphone costs roughly 50 percent more to produce in Florida than in China. But Krywko is more than happy to pay the premium to know that botched orders and shipping delays won’t ruin his company. And so far, the gambit appears to be paying off: Based on enthusiastic customer response, Sleek Audio is now projecting 2011 to be its most profitable year ever.
Globalization has been great. But thanks to latency, localization is thriving once more. It’s like the best of both worlds now.
I love entrepreneurial ingenuity.
As the value of higher education continues to decline, these are some great alternatives: Start a business, travel the world, create art, make people laugh, write a book, work for a charity, master a game, master a sport. Splendid!
As seen on Yahoo News: “The most obvious way out of this mess is for bankers and developers to build or convert existing units into affordable studio apartments for the masses… Those kind of units created an on ramp to home ownership in the late 50s and early 60s. Instead, residential insiders are waiting for the country to be forced into some big public jobs initiative in hopes that property values can be propped up to levels that won’t massively threaten equity. They’re waiting for somebody to save them from the market instead of responding to it. Somebody’s got to take initiative. Will it be industry or government?”
Jansport sent my wife the above post card, after she returned her nine-year old pack for free warranty repair. Thanks, Jansport! Although I recently purchased a competing brand on a whim, my family will never buy another brand of backpack after this nice gesture. Rock on!
I needed an extra HDMI cable for my living room. So I turned to where I always go for such things: Amazon.com.
When I found one for $2.15 with free shipping, I was skeptical. But the 4.5 star average user rating quickly quieted any concerns. After all, the item has been favorably reviewed a whopping 3,231 times on Amazon.
So I bought it.
The fairly advanced cable arrived today, after only a few days. The craftsmanship is middle grade. It works fine. It suits my needs, if not exceeds them given the ridiculously low price. So how the crap can someone make money selling this thing for only $2.15 with free shipping?
It can’t just be volume. It can’t just be cheap foreign labor.
In other words, if this little guy isn’t proof that the Chinese artificially deflate their currency, despite their booming economy, I don’t know what is. Booming economies, after all, have trusted currency. Trusted currency results in higher trading prices (i.e. historically high prices for Dollar and Pounds when compared to the rest of the world).
What’s a reasonable consumer to do when the global economy doesn’t play by the rules?
In China’s defense, the U.S. just printed 6 billion notes, which isn’t exactly playing by the rules. But at least our currency is rightfully trading at market prices. The Chinese’s, on the other hand, is still bottom of the barrel, even though its economy is similar in size and trusted almost as much as the American economy.
Something’s fishy, no?
I went to lunch today with an old business school buddy. We always have a good time making fun of brainless ideas while trying to make a honest buck. Today, we ridiculed some of the following business cliches, which are beyond stale and should never be used; otherwise you’ll sound like everyone else and influence few:
But if you operate a working, established, or otherwise popular website (say at least 2,000 visitors per day), I would never recommend a major visual or mechanical overhaul. It pisses people off. And when that happens, loyal visitors flock to alternatives in mass exodus, as Digg users have done this month.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If your website has a monopoly on information, you can do whatever you want, and readers will keep coming back. And if your website isn’t “working, established, or popular” to begin with, you only stand to gain from a major overhaul, provided it’s done by someone who knows what they’re doing (aka no flash, proper xhtml/css coding, a regular content plan, and most importantly, good usability).
What can you do then to improve or refresh established websites? My advice is to make subtle changes to your design and monitor your visitor’s behavior. If the change has no significant effect, or better, a measurable improvement, keep the change. If the change is off-puting to visitors, revert to the the previous version immediately and re-evaluate both your desire for change and your strategy.
I know this holds true on the few “popular” websites I publish. And if Digg is any indication, I know it holds true for mega websites as well.
May all your redesigns be well-received.
The short answer: Since they’re coffers are already full, they’re complacent. And complacency is the enemy of inspiration.
In my case, once my “business reserve” (aka checking account) is at a comfortable level, I know I get complacent.
So to stay inspired, I guess I need to be more ambitious with how much money I’m chasing—rather than wait for when the heat is on.
Because everyone wants to follow and friend a shopping mall. Way to think big, guys.
Used video games have been around since the early ’80s. But they weren’t a problem in the eyes of developers until the middle of the decade, at which point game sales weren’t growing as fast as they used to.
Rather than blame the safe creative bets, bloated budgets, and $10 HD surcharge (yes, many games carry an MSRP of $60 these days) for the decline, developers set their sites on used game sales. “When the game’s bought used we get cheated,” echoed one senior official this week, the latest in a long line of whining.
In light of complaints, some game makers are including single use “unlock codes” in factory sealed games, which they have every right to do. Dumb, but legal.
Still, imagine if other tangible goods started stripping features at resale. For example, “Unless you buy this house new, we’ll section off a part of the home behind a cement wall.” Or, “To see the end of this DVD, you’ll need to enter your single use unlock code.” Or, “Power steering won’t work in this car unless purchased new.”
Is that what game-makers are really after? Is that serving the customer and engendering them to your brand? Do video games really expect immunity from the resale of packaged goods, even though that’s the right they transfer to consumers when selling merchandise? Because if so, that’s incredibly backwards. Unrealistic. Hypocritical. Ignorant.
Obviously the industry is still run by insecure nerds.
A friend recently (and politely) declined business from someone he once worked with. This someone didn’t take “no” for an answer. Nor did he take unanswered emails. Behold, his latest email:
Dude… what am I missing here ??
I have always assumed entrepreneurs treated each other with respect and responded to each other; especially those that have known each other for a while.
So… um… why are you treating me (a 3 tie INC 500 winner and 5 x successful entrepreneur; arguably more successful than you)… like crap ?
I respected you enough to personally respond… not to have one of my people call; you.
If that is your definition of class. Please… don’t respond to my email at all.
Persuasion: You’re doing it wrong. Ellipses too. Not to mention unnecessary spacing before question marks. In any case, my buddy did not reply. ZING!
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out (for a second time).
After Tiger Woods took “extramarital affairs” to new lows this year, numerous sponsors canceled their contracts with the once role model, including Gatorade, AT&T, General Motors, Accenture, Tag Heuer, and Gillette. Out of all his major sponsors, only two “stood by” his sleaziness, including Nike and Electronic Arts.
Today, the latter is wishing it hadn’t. Continue reading…
I’ll take one, please. (Photo by Tim Ormond, taken deep within the bowels of Salt Lake County.)
Last month, Apple became the second largest company in America, according to Fast Company. That said, Apple is now bigger than Google, Microsoft, Walmart, General Electric, or any other enterprise not named ExxonMobil.
As a self-employed individual, I’ve closed a lot of deals. Seven years worth, in fact. Enough to make me a thousandaire. But I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won, something that’s expected in business.
What isn’t expected, however, are the rare occasions when a prospective buyer ridicules me for not meeting his terms. It usually happens like this: Buyer probes, likes what he sees, and then starts asking questions. We talk. I name my final price. He doesn’t like my final price.
But instead of walking away, like most sane buyers do, this buyer hangs around, and suddenly decides he no longer likes the free market. Continue reading…
In case you didn’t know, I don’t like Wall Street. It’s not that I think the stock exchange is wrong, but I don’t like how its description went from being “speculation” to “investment” in the last 50 years. And I don’t like how it’s primarily sold to the uninformed public.
If you watch TV, chances are you’ve seen numerous investment commercials for Prudential, ING, Pacific Life, Merill Lynch, Charles Swab and countless others. What you might not have seen is the fine print during all this commercials: “Investment products may lose value” and “Investments involve risk.”
This of course is neatly tucked away at the bottom of the screen while some voice over promises an increase in wealth, a secure future, and guaranteed retirement. It’s yet another reminder that what these people are really selling is speculation.
In other words, know your stuff before playing the game, or stick to what you know if you want to protect and grow your principle.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve never felt overwhelmed by Google results. It’s not information overload if I find what I’m looking forward on the first results page, second at most. It’s almost as if Microsoft is confusing relevance with lack of choice.
I’m all for keeping Google on their toes through competition, but build a better mousetrap if you want to compete.
With a new decade upon us, the lemonade salesman in me is thinking about adding brownies to the menu. That is, I’m ready for my next big move, having already established myself as a new media tycoon.
So help me out, folks. Help me brainstorm and identify the next big thing. You know, a “Google killer.” I’m looking for a real win-win, here. Some ideas to get the juices flowing: Continue reading…
“Soccer is often mocked for its low scores, but precisely because goals are so scarce, the release of joy is greater than in other sports.” Soccernomics, page 295.
Of all the reasons to watch soccer, this is probably the most compelling. Admittedly, a tough football game, grinding tennis match, or nine nail-biting innings of baseball is more engaging than 90 minutes of soccer.
As if Major Leauge Soccer didn’t have enough credibility challenges, the two opposing teams playing in this weekend’s championship will be outfitted by two suspect companies—as they have been all year.
In one corner, you have the LA Galaxy sponsored by Herbalife, a multi-level marketing company out of Los Angeles that sells magic herbs. In the other corner, you have Real Salt Lake sponsored by XanGo, a multi-level marketing company out of Utah that sells super juice. (Match preview here.)
Simple Photoshoping of my company logo turns an otherwise crappy stock photo into digital wonder. Did this years ago but never had any use for it… until now!
OREM, Utah — After four convenient but usually bad-habit forming years, I canceled my Blackberry email/data plan with T-Mobile last week. To my surprise, I was amazed that my email would actually wait for me on the computer, as opposed to following me around wherever I went. Now, if I’m away from my desk, my email will tell me how many unread messages I have upon my return, so as not to overlook anything. (Some fancy email programs even support audible alerts, such as “You’ve got mail!” Really neat stuff.)
In a flurry of discovery, and in search of more answers, I asked a representative of ARPANET, the inventor of email, for comment. “The great thing about email is that it’s free, provided you don’t give money to your cell phone provider for the same service,” the spokesman said. “And unlike the Post Office, you don’t have to put a hold on your mail if you’re away, say on nights and weekends. If it fits, it ships—which is all the time.”
I heard Rudy Ruettiger speak this month as a guest at a neighboring university. Not only does he have a great story, he’s a great motivational speaker. Admittedly, I went because I love his movie—the greatest sports film ever made. But I stayed for his choice commentary on life, guts, and optimism. These are the nine ideas that most inspired me: Continue reading…
T-shirt companies were kind of a big deal five years ago. And I came close to launching one in 2004 during the height of the industry, before bailing on the idea a few months later due to manufacturing headaches. In any case, I was perusing the “design” folder on my hard drive today, and stumbled upon these favorites. Continue reading…
In addition to being a gun-for-hire, savvy readers know that Smooth Harold is also a part-time proprietor (aka entrepreneur on the side). I’m not a very good one—at least in terms of making money. But I enjoy building things. So I build websites. This is my latest.
MSNBC published a story yesterday that confirms what many of us already know: The almighty dollar is a lot more elusive these days, as Americans are working harder for less money. That’s been my experience, as I have to scrap a lot more now to make deals happen. Thankfully, there are still deals. For that I’m grateful. But my Mom put it best when she said, “They party’s over!” It sure is, Mom. It sure is. The upside: I got complacent at the party. So the down economy has been just the kick in the pants I’ve needed to double my creative efforts. The paper chase lives on!
I have found, as many before me, that with age comes added responsibility and a much larger to-do list. I’m arguably busier than I’ve ever been in my life with managing a marriage, a new baby, a company, and working on several other projects. Opportunity surrounds us, and I want to take it all in. I hope to learn, experience, and do as much as I can (or even can’t sometimes) throughout my life. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and finding other ways of applying the little that I know.
While pondering all of this on my way to Salt Lake City this morning and after catching myself saying “I’m so busy,” to those around me, I couldn’t help but think how this claim might sound to the receiver. Does that phrase add any value to the person listening? Does that make them feel important? If it doesn’t, then do away with it. Continue reading…
Smooth Harold reader Scott Daniel asks via email:
Does social networking really work as a marketing tool? My CIO is standing firm that it does not.
Yes, it does, provided you have something interesting to say. For example, my blogging efforts on Smooth Harold alone have directly resulted in checks amounting to around $17,000 over the last four years, excluding advertising. Continue reading…
“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”—William Bernbach, famed American copywriter
In sum, to be interesting you have to say things in ways other people don’t—but can still relate to. To be heard, you have to say interesting things as often and in as many places as possible. To be understood, you have to communicate clearly. And to tell the truth, you have to tell the truth, which can be found in everything. For example, Satan is undeniably “the most evil man in the world,” so if you are ever hired by the devil to sell more immorality, brand him as such in a creatively loud way and you’re gold.
I just got done reading Malcolm Gladwell’s How David Beats Goliath: When underdogs break the rules. It’s brilliant. The most inspiring essay I’ve read in at least two years. Instead of getting in the way, I’m just going to point you there, admonish you to print the 7,000 words, and read it. Afterwhich, you should full court press, challenge conventional wisdom, and display chutzpah for the rest of your life.
What do all those silly corporate titles really mean? Let’s find out.
According to Wikipedia, the Chairman (of the board) is pretty much the top dog. He elects the CEO and President who then elect the rest of the down line. The Chairman and the rest of the board are more concerned with governance while the CEO and President are more concerned with management. The distinction between governance and management allows for clear lines of authority with the aim being to prevent a conflict of interest and too much power being concentrated in the hands of one person.
The President can also be known as COO or chief operating officer, taking care of the day-to-day operations of the company while the CEO is more concerned with strategic management. The President or COO report directly to the CEO, and the CEO to the board.
These titles are generally used for large, public corporations, while partners (chair persons) and directors (managers) are typically used for smaller, private firms. There you have it.
Originally published Oct 21, 2005
In an effort to grow a handful of consumer websites that I publish, I’m seeking the help of a business manager (independent or otherwise) to hawk ad inventory for me. The biggest property, pictured above, generates 85,000 unique visitors per month and reaches 13,000 RSS subscribers. I also have a handful of other properties I’d like to monetize. If you or someone you know might be able to help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can chew the fat. Thanks! Now back to regularly scheduled programming.
Two years ago, I launched the Smooth Harold Helpdesk and Open Lunch Invitations (see sidebar). In that time I’ve met with more than a dozen individuals I previously didn’t know, fielded upwards of 50 email inquires—ranging from typography design to how to make a pregnant wife happy—and rekindled relationships with countless friends, colleagues, and associates. To say the program has broadened my horizons and created new opportunities would be a gross understatement.
“If you have a specific question you think I might be able to answer (business, web, personal, etc), don’t hesitate to ask via email or in person over lunch,” I wrote at the time. “If I don’t know the answer, chances are I can refer you to someone who does. And no, this isn’t ‘you scratch my back I scratch yours.’ It’s just a genuine attempt to share the little that I’ve learned from talking with people smarter than me, reading good books, and seeing what sticks.”
The British had it right at one time. During the 19th century, their culture viewed stocks and securities exchange as a less than noble venture, according to the writings of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens—like how you and I look upon multi-level marketing companies today. Appropriately, the stock market was widely known then as “speculation.” A theory. A guess. An unverifiable promise or conclusion.
At some point, investment sharks (don’t call ’em bankers) hijacked the accurate description of “speculation” to mean “investments,” “stock market,” and “Wall Street”—prestigious terms that sound nothing like the conjecture they represent. Smart people made money on changes in the fickle market, giving hope to uninformed individuals, who blindly followed and still lose the majority, if not all their money, every few decades. Some are lucky. Most are not.
(April 23, 2005) A message—whether an email, voice-mail, sticky note, or blog post—is just a mini presentation. It’s a way of conveying information to an audience. To effectively do so, I try to adhere to the following 3 principles.
If you are brief, detailed, and structured when conveying information to an audience, your message will be loud and clear. Just be sure you have something important to say…
Now before any dreamy eyed Obama voters get offended by the timing of this, I’m in no way calling our nascent President a failure. I’m still hopeful. But as an American, I want answers, which is what good reporting should be seeking anyway. So why haven’t these questions been asked (or maybe I missed them)? Continue reading…
I haven’t taken a fortune cookie serious — let alone keep one — since… well, forever. Rather than predicting actual fortunes, almost all of them instead state the obvious or reference vague generalizations like, “Your friends have heartbeats,” or, “You’ll never know what you can do until you try.”
My latest fortune cookie, acquired last month after overpaying for an uneasy meal, was a keeper, however: “The project you have in mind will soon gain momentum.” I excitedly thought to myself, “Really? Which one? How soon? Tell me, omniscient Confucius!” I then slipped the two-inch piece of paper into my pocket and later onto my desk as a reminder of my fortune. After a discouraging precursor to Q1, I was willing to let even a cheap, dry cookie have an effect on my professional life.
Yesterday, I closed one of those deals — a reputable and ongoing account that is sure to bolster my portfolio and bank account. As a result, my faith in fortune cookies has been restored. My faith in suspect Chinese joints, on the other hand, has not.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been pretty cynical about the great economic apocalypse of 2009 and our federal government’s questionable ways of dealing with it. Armed with a degree in business, I like to think I have all the economic answers, but I don’t.
Though I strongly disagree with frivolous spending, especially the kind that doesn’t create actual jobs, I’m not blind to the fact that it’s been going on for centuries. Hopefully good legislation will prevail again, and the people in power will make smart decisions and adjustments to support entrepreneurs.
So rather than complain and point fingers, I hope to contribute, starting with a sensible and positive outlook. Viva, la revoluciÃ³n!
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Beta, that silly subhead you see on so many websites, has been dead for quite some time. It just took a while before someone came out and said it. Here’s my latest from GigaOM, also syndicated on CNN/Fortune, entitled “Beta is dead”:
“Beta, as it pertains to web sites, has seen better days. Not long ago, saying the word as part of your web development cycle could help land venture capital even faster than claiming “community,” “paradigm shift” or “disruptive technology.” Now, the term is dissipated and confusing.
“While the specific origin of its use is unknown, beta as a tagline was popularized by a Google with the release of Google News in 2002, and later, Gmail in 2004. From there, startups quickly followed suit. By 2006, it seemed like every new web site was “in beta.” Continue reading…
Originally published December 19, 2006.
Here’s stating the obvious: Most employee appreciation bonuses are lousy, exposing how cheap corporate America can be. Take for example my good friend Matt and his wife Susan. Both are honest working individuals that are extremely kind to those they come in contact with and extremely loyal to the companies they work for. Susan has worked close to 10 years for a local manufacturer. What did she get after working five years for the company? A small shelf clock. And Matt, having worked at a local credit union for five years, got a whopping $50 bonus for his tenure. Nothing says “we care” and “the biggest asset to our company is our employees” quite like skimping when it counts. That’s not to say Susan’s or Matt’s employers are shmoes, just that they suck when it comes to appreciation bonuses.
I interviewed Chris Anderson (Wired editor, Long Tail author) for a story I’m working on about the future of beta as it pertains to the web. While talking, I digressed to the subject of business models, to which he said, “I think launching without a business model is fine, if your costs are low enough.”
A year ago, I would have no problem agreeing with Anderson, especially given the low overhead qualifier. Google launched without a business model — why not? But in an depressed economy where credit is tight, consumers aren’t spending, and job security is threatened, I’m not so sure.
Convince me, dear reader: Is it ever okay to launch a company without a business model?
Boston.com has published an interesting story surmising what a depression in the 21st century might be like. While the Great Depression and all its similarities to our current situation was very public, the New Depression (defined as a recession lasting a few years and unemployment upwards of 25%) will be very private, the article suggests, given the proliferation of the Internet to perform many daily duties including shopping, banking, entertainment, and communication. In short, author Drake Bennett expects long lines at the ER since people will drop their health insurance, a television boom since it’s the cheapest form of entertainment (movies and baseball were in the 30s, but not anymore), and barren suburbs due to crashing home values. Oh, and those shiny gadgets (bu-bye iPhones) will be traded in for reliable and durable tech like Nextel phones, and people will stop consuming organic food and other snobbery items because they’re too expensive.
… The world financial markets fall more than they would have, because financial markets are based entirely on confidence. And when you have intimidating officials like President Bush and McBama spreading FUD like, “the worst economic crisis since the great depression,” fickle investors will believe them, and global bank markets struggle.
I’m not saying there wasn’t a partial bomb to begin with — there was thanks to a greedy and irresponsible Wall Street — but that still doesn’t mean top officials can frighten the public with said statements just to bail out their Wall Street buddies who donated lots of money for special interest (which they succeeded in getting this time). Just like yelling “Bomb!” in an airport is illegal, so should it be for individuals in power crying “depression” just to get their way.
I fear for the future value of my hard-earned dollar. I no longer trust the federal government with spending, nor do countries abroad. When that happens en masse, the dollar will crash.
Sadly, that’s the price we pay for electing big-government knuckleheads into office, and for letting the Federal Reserve buy 80 percent of AIG for $95 billion without a vote, even though U.S. taxpayers will have to pick up the tab.
Man, is our federal government broken (I trust state government so much more right now). When will they understand that “this insanity and the problems we face economically will only occur when we allow the economy to find its own equilibrium. We have to allow the market to endure a recession, we have to allow failure.” — Joe M.
For the sake of our country, at the least to make a statement, write in Ron Paul for president this November. It appears McBama will only continue the trend of frivolous spending and federal intervention.
The United States is nearing bankruptcy, and yet officials want to borrow more money (!) to curb economic woes, according to today’s headlines. It’s amazing how fiscally incompetent these knuckleheads have become — they’ve all but defecated on our once precious dollar.
As harsh as it sounds, natural consequences (i.e. bankruptcy, foreclosures, loss of jobs) is the only way to atone for our country’s overly optimistic and unchecked enthusiasm of recent years. This includes irresponsible land developers, loan officers, politicians, investment bankers, and home owners who bit off more than they could chew — all of whom ignored the basic principles of supply and demand.
Dude, where’s my country? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
Ars Technica has a nice summation of the rhythm wars, aka the battle between Guitar Hero and Rock Band for rhythm game (and profit) supremacy. So who will win? From the article:
For rock fans, picking a title could be as simple as one track or one band that tips that scales; assuming that both games are fun to play and the hardware works well enough, the track list is what will move rhythm games of the future.
It’s worth noting that Guitar Hero sells significantly more games, while Rock Band sells significantly more digital downloads. And save only the music creator of Guitar Hero, both games are near-identical in features, including separate online stores.
Personally, I prefer Guitar Hero to Rock Band (having played both extensively), because the music is more rocking, the peripherals are sturdier, and the difficulty is more challenging. Plus, it’s the original gangsta of rock video games in America.
If you’ve never played Xbox 360, you probably missed it.
During the final action sequence of Transformers (2007), at precisely two hours, two minutes, and 25 seconds in, gamers are treated to a recognizable image and sound: a newly purchased Xbox 360 with its accompanying audio logo.
The brief product placement lasts no longer than 1 ½ seconds, as the popular console transforms on-screen into a hostile robot, after its owner becomes entangled with evil forces, while innocently shopping the streets of Las Vegas.
“I think a lot of Xbox fans got a kick out of it,” says Eli Friedman, director of Xbox Global Brand Marketing. “When we learned Transformers was being made into a movie, we jumped at the opportunity to work with Paramount Pictures since much of our core audience also happens to be Transformers fans.”
The Utah Department of Transportation is currently widening the road (800 N) in front of my apartment. It hasn’t been the end of the world, but it’s still a nuisance — not only for local residents but for street side retailers trying to drive business.
One such retailer, a truck dealership, began commandeering the unfinished lanes in front of his property over the weekends (while UDOT isn’t working) to showcase his trucks and lure in customers. When I first saw this a couple months back, I said to myself in snooty fashion: “He can’t do that. He doesn’t own those lanes — those are public.”
harvardbusiness.com — “Zappos sells shoes —lots of them—over the Internet. After a week or so of employment with the company, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!”
It pays to be in it for the long haul…
For any interested, here is a handful of my recently published video game works after my visit to Baton Rouge two weeks ago.
The 10 Most Underrated Consoles (GamePro) — The road to modern video games is littered with the corpses of noble game consoles who flew too high to the sun. Here are the 10 best under-achievers of all-time.
Not Every Politician Hates Video games (Crispy Gamer) — At a VIP game developer event in a secluded upstairs San Francisco lounge, a well-dressed man in his 50s is making the rounds. “Hello, I’m the mayor of Baton Rouge.” “Do you just walk around calling yourself a mayor?” asks one doubting attendee. “No, I’m really the mayor of of Baton Rouge…” Continue reading…
American Way has a whimsical article in their April 15 issue which profiles distinct-looking, non attractive amateur models, and how they’re making one New York agency popular with advertisers seeking greater image authenticity.
DiNardo, at 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with stringy locks held back by a headband and tufts of hair encircling his chin, could be any random guy you’d pass on the street. And that’s the reason that Simon Rogers, owner and CEO of Ugly NY, wants to represent him. “Tom’s very arresting, isn’t he?” Rogers says admiringly.
Ugly commissions range from an occasional few hundred dollars to $2,000/shoot — hardly substantial, but gravy for people who were never looking to model in the first place. I love seeing people zig while others zag and get rewarded for it.
Engadget tells the story: “So last week Deutsche Telekom, owners of the global T-Mobile brand, sent Engadget a late birthday present: a hand-delivered letter direct from their German legal department requesting the prompt discontinuation of the use of the color magenta on Engadget Mobile. Yep, seriously.”
If you read the legalese, the company says it “holds trademark protection for this use of this color in connection with its products and services around the world.”
Since when could you copyright a color, even in connection with a product or service? Ridiculous — otherwise Apple could sue any computer-maker that used the color white (though white’s not really a color, so that opens another can of worms).
Atta way to exploit legal muscle, T-Mobile. Nice form. Really. This totally makes me want to stay with you instead of jumping to AT&T’s iPhone.
IDG News (whom I freelance for) reports: “Microsoft’s brand power has been in sharp decline over the past four years, an indication the company is losing credibility and mindshare with U.S. business users, according to a recent study by market research firm CoreBrand.”
I enjoy seeing fat business cows get a proper market cleansing.
No other company has proven as adept at giving customers what they want before they know they want it. Undoubtedly, this is due to Jobs’ unique creative vision. But it’s also a function of his management practices. By exerting unrelenting control over his employees, his image, and even his customers [while endorsing secrecy], Jobs exerts unrelenting control over his products and how they’re used. And in a consumer-focused tech industry, the products are what matter.
Though I believe Steve Jobs is a management anomaly, there’s obviously more than one way to make an honest buck. In any case, follow the Wired link for an insightful and challenging viewpoint on closed communication.