Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sorry I'm late, Boss, but the dog ate my BlackBerry

I am looking for a programmer who can build an app for me. I think it will be worth millions. Very simply, it works this way. When one of my (vendors, clients, contractors, etc.) that I gave a deposit or signed a contract says that they are going to do something for me by a certain time or date (and they don’t keep their promise) their phone starts screaming out “I’m late!” and the only way it can be shut off is with a password that only I can supply.

Being late for an appointment or a date can seem like a small thing that really doesn’t matter, but it communicates volumes, whether we mean it to or not. Being kept waiting is an experience that almost no one enjoys, because at best, it wastes their time, and at worst, it indicates a lack of regard. It’s as if we’re saying that our time is more important than their time, so we don’t need to honor them by showing up when we said we would. When we are running late, it means a lot if we call and let the person know, especially if it’s going to be more than ten minutes. However, if we are chronically late, it may take more than a phone call to properly address the issue.

If it’s become a habit of ours not to be on time, or worse – miss a deadline at work - we may want to look inside ourselves and see what’s going on. It’s easy enough to make excuses about our behavior, or to project responsibility on the other person, perceiving them to be uptight if they are irritated by our tardiness. What’s more difficult, and more meaningful, is looking at ourselves and asking why it is that we always, or often, show up late. Sometimes this happens out of a lack of self-regard, as if we aren’t really important anyway, so why will anyone care if we’re late, or don’t show up at all. Chronic lateness can also stem from being disorganized, or simply trying to do too much in one day. Another possible reason for being late to a particular appointment, or missing a project milestone, is that we don’t really want to be there in the first place. We communicate our disinterest or boredom by not showing up on time or in the extreme case, by not showing up at all.

In today’s Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, Blackberry, 4G laptop world, simply forgetting about an appointment or missing a meeting or a project deadline is almost impossible (for those who really want the job). Even blizzards, floods and other natural disasters cannot keep those responsible (who really want to do the work) from getting on with business.  Audio, web and videoconferencing allows anyone to work from just about anywhere. Skype, Instant Messaging, Voicemail, Video mail, cell phones, and other assortments of gizmos and gadgets makes it really hard for someone to make excuses in the new world of the Internet. The days of “my dog ate my homework” are long gone, both at school and at the office.

Ask yourself when was the last time that you missed a meeting, or simply forgot to do something, where you were not constantly reminded of the tasks at hand with an assortment of emails, voice mail messages, and all sorts of buzzers and alarms ringing your phones, laptops and assorted social media tools? Whatever our reasons, if we raise them to the conscious level, we have an opportunity to live a more conscious life. As we begin to understand the deeper reasons behind our inability to show up on time, or to complete a task on time and on budget, we have the option to communicate clearly and consciously about how we really feel, rather than communicating unconsciously by being late.

So, when the “I’m Late” app is ready for testing, I will have a free download on my website for anyone who wants to give it a whirl.  I have a few programmers who have promised me a working prototype by the weekend.  I hope they are not late, or they will (also) become my first customer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why do you rob banks?

Willy Sutton was a depression era bank robber. He was wanted for robberies in Miami, New Orleans, and New York. After his capture in 1950, a reporter asked him why he robbed banks. His reply was, “Because that’s where the money is.” Aside from the lack of moral justification, his strategy was sound: go where the money is.

Despite the unsteady state of the domestic US economy, the worldwide telecommunications industry is expected to continue expanding over the next five years as continued spending by consumers and businesses for wireless services, especially in emerging markets, drives industry revenue growth.  Telecommunications services revenues on a worldwide basis are expected to grow at a compounded rate of nine percent over the next five years, bringing the sum spent globally on telecommunications to $25.6 trillion by 2016.

Wireless makes the strongest showing while wireline follows a distant second. Nearly all of the growth in both sectors is expected to occur in broadband services, with wireless broadband service revenues expected to grow at a compounded rate of more than 45 percent over the forecast period, while wireline broadband services grow at almost a 14 percent compounded rate over the same forecast horizon.

While there are indications that the worst of the economic turmoil on a global basis is past, job creation in the US still remains elusive, and is slowing domestic recovery. Yet even amidst the uncertainty, we expect the telecommunications industry to continue growing.  Telecom is as necessary to development as roads and bridges, so we expect it to fare much better than other economic segments that may take longer to return to normalcy.

So, are you looking for work? Thinking about a career change? You might want to take a page out of Willy Sutton’s playbook, and go where the money is.  There are always industries that do well, regardless of the economy.  Telecom and IT are always in demand. And, over time, working in telecom and IT pays much better than robbing banks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sounds Fishy To Me

A little girl was watching her mother prepare a fish for dinner. Her mother cut the head and tail off the fish and then placed it into a baking pan. The little girl asked her mother why she cut the head and tail off the fish. Her mother thought for a while and then said, "I've always done it that way - that's how grandma always did it."

Not satisfied with the answer, the little girl went to visit her grandma to find out why she cut the head and tail off the fish before baking it. Grandma thought for a while and replied, "I don't know. My mother always did it that way."

So the little girl and the grandma went to visit great-grandma to find ask if she knew the answer. Great-grandma thought for a while and said, "Because my baking pan was too small to fit in the whole fish".

When running a company or business, people often become accustomed to going about their routine of managing the ordinary day-to-day business tasks. These people don't necessarily put much thought into what they are doing or analyze ways to improve their entity - and who can blame them?

Between jumping from project to project, handling typical workday emergencies, and going through the daily grind of dealing with numerous employees, vendors and customers, it's difficult to maintain a comprehensive business outlook and come up with ways to improve the company as a whole.

But to achieve success, it's necessary.

While it's crucial to take a hands-on approach and ensure a company remains running properly, smart business owners will often take a step back and implement strategic methods to strengthen their company and keep it on the right track.

Now, you probably don't have the time or luxury to start analyzing ways to work on your overall business strategy - so I've done it for you!

Lock Your Door
- Change your business mindset by spending a day alone, away from employees and customers, to review the things that are helping your business grow - and those that are impeding it from being successful. Analyze which employees are assets to your business and how they can be given more responsibilities. Think about the steps you take to get your customers returning to your store or business. Calculate ways to outsource certain non-essential tasks that can otherwise slow your productivity.

Turn off the cellular phone
- Yes, that's right. Forget about talking to your vendors, friends and relatives - spend the day talking to your employees instead. Ask them for ideas on how they think customer service methods can be improved. Find out how they feel about your business operations and if there are changes that can be made to help it run smoother. Above all, you can boost employee morale by letting them be involved in business decisions that relate to their specific field of experience.

Unplug the computer
- Turn off the distractions posed by your Email's Inbox and spend the day crunching numbers instead. Calculate which products and/or services are performing well and which ones aren't. Strategize ways to cut costs and slash wasteful business spending. Analyze which areas of your business are profitable and how you can expand those money-making parts even more.

You don't have to abandon your daily business routine to improve overall business strategy - start by following these tips and see where it takes you.

And eat more fish!  It’s good for you.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Egypt!

When Internet access was fully restored in Egypt after a one-week blackout (in a failed attempted to thwart anti-government protesters) Facebook and Twitter statistics when through the roof. Despite the blackout, one of the biggest players throughout this crisis has been social technology.
Innovation by Silicon Valley's brightest has kept people on the ground in Egypt connected to the outside world throughout the crisis. A Google-Twitter partnership set up international phone numbers allowed people to call and leave a voicemail that was automatically tweeted. This meant when mobile networks were down, people could call from landlines and still reach their Internet audience.
This is not the first time social media has empowered people in crisis. Twitter was first recognized as a weapon in the fight for democracy during the 2009 Iranian election uprising. 
Has anyone reading this ever used a GPS system in their car? 
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth when and where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver. GPS was created and realized by the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD) and was originally run with 24 satellites. It was established in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems. Now, we all get to use this magical service – for free – to help you find your way home, or to plan your best route to work, avoiding traffic along the way.
Anyone here ever use the Internet? 
The origins of the Internet reach back to research of the 1960s, commissioned by the United States government in collaboration with private commercial interests to build robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks. The funding of a new U.S backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by the 1990s an international network resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. As of 2009, an estimated quarter of Earth's population used the services of the Internet.

Almost every technology that we all use and that we all take for granted – every single day – was born out of multi-billion dollar budgets from massive corporations. (I consider the US Government to be a massive corporation).  We are then ultimately judged by how we use (and then master) these once very expensive tools.

The first “cell phone” call was made on the moon, as cellular phone technology was born out of the space race. Today, we cannot think of leaving our homes without our cell phones.  The magic of sending and receiving a “fax” was a big deal in the 90’s, and owning a fax machine back then was considered to be a status symbol for a small business. 

Will you Tweet today?  Will you post anything on Facebook?  Do you have a website for your business?  And most importantly, do you have a proper social media strategy for your business?  I've been mostly silent on the "social media revolution in Egypt" meme because, frankly, I didn't want to join an already crowded chorus until enough information had emerged for the beginning of an actual analysis.  Justly or not, the idea of the uprising in Egypt being a "Twitter revolution" or "Facebook revolt" has become one of the major narratives in the American media. I think it will be the first of many.

Here is what I do know to be true. Not every technology will last the test of time. Fax machines were hot, and now, not so much. Cell phones were hot – and they stayed hot – and they will get even hotter as the Smartphone replaces the PC. Will Social Media be as popular as it is today, ten years from now? I say yes.

If you are in business, you cannot afford to ignore the social media revolution. You would not think to have a business in today’s world, without a website, would you?  Not too many years ago, people in business had to ask themselves, if they needed a phone number listed in the Yellow Pages. Just as the term “Webmaster” was born in the 80’s the term “Social Media Expert” (or something like that) will become the norm in business.

Do you know what is worse than not having a website?  A bad website.  Do you know what is worse than having no Social Media strategy for your business?  Having a bad social media strategy. In the business of tomorrow, your social media expert will become just as important as your CPA, Attorney or Bookkeeper.  Govern yourself accordingly, and don’t try to do it alone.

In closing, Happy Birthday, Egypt! I’ll go now and put a nice posting on your Facebook page.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Norman Stingley - Father of the Super Bowl

SuperBall® is a toy invented in 1964 by chemist Norman Stingley by compressing a synthetic rubber material under high pressure. He offered his invention to Bettis Rubber Company (for whom he worked at the time).  They turned it down, so he took it to toy company Wham-O® and they worked on developing a more durable version. The SuperBall® has an amazingly high coefficient of restitution. Dropped from shoulder level, SuperBall® bounces nearly all the way back; thrown down by an average adult, it can leap over a three-story building.  Initially the SuperBall® sold for ninety-eight cents at retail, by the end of 1966 it sold for as little as ten cents in vending machines.

The Super Bowl was created as part of the merger agreement between the National Football League (NFL) and its rival, the American Football League (AFL). After its inception in 1920, the NFL fended off several rival leagues before the AFL began play in 1960. The intense competitive war for players and fans led to serious merger talks between the two leagues in 1966.

One of the conditions of the agreement was that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest to determine the "world champion of football". During the discussions to iron out the details, AFL founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had jokingly referred to the proposed interleague championship as the "Super Bowl."

Hunt said that he thought of the name after seeing his daughter playing with a toy called - the SuperBall®. The SuperBall is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The name Super Bowl was feasible because postseason college football games had long been known as "bowl games" (The term originates with the Rose Bowl game, which was in turn named for the bowl-shaped stadium in which it is played).

Hunt later said that he only meant for his suggested name to be a stopgap until a better name could be found. Not having thought of one, the owners named the contest the NFL-AFL World Championship Game. Unsurprisingly, fans and media tended to use the shorter, unofficial name.

Starting with the third contest in 1969, the name "Super Bowl" became official.

The day on which the Super Bowl is played is now considered a de facto American national holiday called “Super Bowl Sunday”. It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In most years, the Super Bowl is the most-watched American television broadcast; Super Bowl XLIV, played on February 7, 2010 between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, became the most-watched American television program in history, drawing an average audience of 106.5 million viewers and taking over the spot held for twenty-seven years by the final episode of M*A*S*H.    

When it was called the AFL-NFL Championship Game, it was televised by both NBC and CBS, and it had a cost of $42,000 for a 30 second TV commercial. The price for a 30 second TV spot today will be $3 million, and that price is considered a bargain.

Today will be the highest traffic day in the history of both Facebook and Twitter, all due to the Super Bowl.

Would today’s national holiday even exist, if the game were simply called the AFL-NFL Championship Game?  Remember, the first game was not even sold out. More Super Bowl ads will be watched this year - via the Internet - than during the actual game. I say that we have chemist Norman Stingley to thank for today’s national holiday.

It is funny how technology changes our lives, in every possible way. Was the Super Bowl made for TV, or was TV made for the Super Bowl? The people who are lucky enough to be at the game today, will be watching the game live – and – they will be watching it on the largest HDTV it the entire world. Twitter and Facebook traffic results will now set the price for next year’s TV ads. Social Media viral marketing of the post-game advertisements are now more important that the airing of the TV ad itself.

In business as in sports, you never know how the ball is going to bounce. May your favorite team win!