Archive for November, 2007

What Steve Said

November 28th, 2007 No comments

An excellent postmortem about Enthusiast Group:

I feel like I have learned — the hard way — some truths about grassroots content and online community. This column is my small attempt at preventing you from going through similar business heartache

It’s nice having a respected rock star columnist as your partner, even when the news is bad.

Categories: Entrepreneurship Tags:

Cleaning out the cruft

November 28th, 2007 No comments

As you may have heard, my latest venture failed. It was an angst-ridden time leading up to the decision to close our doors, but once it was made, life brightened considerably. No longer were we a train going down a track, sensing that the light at the end of the tunnel was actually another train. Now we were once again individual people, not co-founders, and the horizon spreads in front of us like Rocky Mountain sunrise. Or something like that. Can you tell I wasn’t an English lit major?

The freedom that comes with a wide open future is liberating (though sometimes a little scary). One of the nicest things was cleaning out my to-do list. I follow the Getting Things Done approach to task management, which means I capture all of life’s open loops on a master list and review them periodically (ideally weekly, but that’s an area where I too-often drop the ball).

This means I had a looooong list of things to do. The vast majority of them had to do with various company initiatives — sales opportunities, feature requests, bug fixes etc — and I gotta admit deleting all those tasks was like taking a breath of fresh air after being underwater for months.

I narrowed my projects list from 25 or so down to about three: close the company, sell assets and find a job. Feel free to help me out on any of those.

Categories: Getting Things Done Tags:

Administrivia: Switching email subscriptions to Feedburner

November 21st, 2007 No comments

If you read this blog via email notification and prefer a daily digest instead of a separate email for every post, you’ll want to unsubscribe from the list and re-subscribe to the digest version, which uses Feedburner. You’ll see the form at the top of every page on this blog.

Categories: Misc Tags:

CBS uses Billboards to Deliver free WIFI

November 20th, 2007 No comments

This is a pretty neat idea.

CBS Corporation has rolled out the ”CBS Mobile Zone,” a wireless high-speed network enabling New Yorkers with Wi-Fi-enabled devices to access the Internet for free. That means snappy Web browsing, making voice over Internet (VOI) calls, watching Web video, and listening to Internet Radio for free, all thru out midtown NYC.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: Marketing Tags:

OmniFocus hits it out of the park

November 18th, 2007 No comments

I’ve been a devoted practitioner of Getting Things Done for almost five years. During that time I’ve experimented with lots of software to help me manage my to-do list, and I’m excited to have found the best one yet: OmniFocus is still in beta, but it ships January 8 and you can bet I’m pre-ordering it.

Not only am I fan of the product itself, but I’m also impressed with how it came into being. It’s origins date from Kinkless GTD, an amazing set of Apple Scripts developed by a guy named Evan (couldn’t quickly find his last name) that run on top of OmniOutliner Pro. I first heard about Kinkless from 43 Folders and quickly drank the kool aid. While it wasn’t perfect, it was the best realization of GTD in software that I’d seen so far.

The Omni Group noticed this phenomenon and, apparently being smart people, contacted Evan about building a dedicated product that suited his vision. Which they did. Initially they worked with Evan as a consultant (they also consulted with Merlin Mann at 43 Folders), but they just announced that he is joining the company full time as VP of marketing. What a great story – a company the embraces that community and delivers a product from the bottom up, to the point that the community’s most prominent leader becomes an executive!

OmniFocus has been in alpha for a while, but I didn’t touch it because I didn’t want anything buggy potentially destroying my to-do list. But a couple days ago they announced their public beta. I downloaded it immediately and gave it a whirl. There were a couple of crashes initially, but it’s already self-updated a couple of times since then and I haven’t had any crashes since Friday.

I’m extremely happy with it and am already becoming a ninja. I can’t tell you how psyched I am about this product. It’s a great step forward toward the ultimate “mind like water” state GTD promises. Great job guys!

Categories: Getting Things Done Tags:

Don’t just listen. Ask!

November 14th, 2007 No comments

One of the big memes of the whole Web 2.0/social media phenomenon as it relates to business is the importance of listening. Stop talking about how great you are and start listening. To your customers, your advisors, your employees, the blogosphere – you get the drift.

But what do you do if they don’t say anything? When people complain about their computer catching on fire on their blog, it’s relatively easy to figure out what you need to do to fix it. And if they love you they’ll usually let you know that, too. But what if they’re just kind of, you know, “Meh.” Or maybe they have some sense that they want to do business with you, but aren’t sure where to start?

One thing I’ve learned the last few years is that listening often isn’t enough, because they don’t really say anything. You know why? Because first you have to ask them a question.

And during that time I’ve discovered a magical question that is useful in almost any situation: sales, customer service, dealing with employees, even job hunting. Here it is:

If I could wave a magic wand and make this problem go away, what would that look like?

Big whup, right? It turns out that it is.

I’ve found that asking this question puts the buyer/customer/employee into a different mindset. Instead of treating you as either a pesky salesman or a target for their anger, they start to envision a better future. Instead of you convincing them to buy your product or come around to your way of thinking, they tell you exactly what solution you need to offer to make them happy.

Of course, you won’t always have the solution. Sometimes they don’t need your product (or you may realize you’re selling the wrong product and start to make changes as a result). On the other hand, if you do have the solution, you don’t have to waste time talking about the 87 features & benefits because you already know the two or three that really matter to them. I’ve found that on a good sales call, the prospect talks at least 70% of the time (and they often thank me at the end for such a great meeting). They talk not just because they like to gab, but because I ask questions.

Or in the case of an employee, they may realize they’re working for the wrong company or that their request is unreasonable. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this question with employees. Not only do they appreciate that I’m listening, they also realize that they are an active participant in the solution and thus more open to adjusting their own behavior or expectations.

In a customer service situation, they will be shocked that you even think this way. I can’t tell you how many pissed off people I’ve disarmed with this over the years. (Not that I’ve personally pissed a lot of people off, but you know how testy people can get in email they send to…)

A couple variations:

Sales: What do you need to see, hear or get a feel for to feel like you have enough information to make a good decision?

Business development: If I guaranteed to you that this will be a great partnership, in hindsight how would you know I was right?

Recruiting: What would make you feel like you made the perfect decision in coming to work for us?

Job hunting: I know the job title is [insert title here], but what are some of the specific results and behaviors that will let you know, in your gut, that you’ve hired the right kind of person?

It even works with your spouse:

What’s the one thing I could do tonight at dinner/on our vacation/while visiting the in-laws that would make you feel like I’m the perfect partner?

Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Categories: Misc, Technology Tags: