Sunday, October 26, 2014

To be or not to be - classy

Classy Lesson One

Dear Friends (who are interested in creativity, innovation, and tech): I recently began researching about this new venture, Magic Leap, a novel human and visual computing tech venture (start-up), that is headquartered in Dania Beach, FL. They raised their A round of $50M in Feb this year. Just this week, they raised a B round of over $500M, in less than 8 months!  They are attracting some of the smartest tech and creative talent on the planet.  Their site is very interesting in that they don’t really say much, but articulate their story of how they are in stealth mode and want to change the world of machine learning and visual computing. Inspirational...

You have to scroll down on their web pages to read through the text.  Also make sure you see the neat animation with the elephant. You might have to click on the elephant when you see that part of the image to see the moving image.

I thought it was a neat concept and a different kind of website design, both creative and innovative.

Mukesh Patel, CEO

The above was an email that I received from one of MY friends - a serial entrepreneur, a founding principal of a private equity firm, attorney, business advisor, angel investor, and mentor.


Classy Lesson Two

Hi Tom,

I'm working hard to find more practical ways for us to work together to take your business to where you want it to go. To do that well I need to understand how I can best help you. Please complete this short survey. Your answers are for my eyes only and will help me to create the thing you really want.

Thanks for being here.



The above is from Bernadette Jiwa, who I met via

“I’m Bernadette Jiwa, I lead organisational change around marketing and I'm here to help you tap into the essence of your idea, to uncover your unique ability and tell the story of how that translates to value for people in a marketplace. I want to show you how to make something people love so that you don't have to work so hard to make people love your thing. Whether you make chocolate bars, or sell consulting services, are a tech startup, a non-profit or incumbent global brand—you've got a brand story to tell. My job is to work with you and your company to unlock the value in your story and translate that into marketing people love. I'll help you to understand the difference you create and show you how to shine a light on that so that your brand becomes more meaningful to the people you serve.”


A Class Act - or Class Dismissed?

Classy people do classy things. They give, they share, they recommended. They have their own adventures, they have their own successes and failures, but they always bring something back to share with the tribe. Seth Godin sends out a daily blog that is essentially free - sharing his amazing brain and valuable insights with the world. Mukesh Patel was compelled to share with his network of friends which indeed seems to be well on their way to being remarkable and disruptive. As for Bernadette Jiwa, she just seems to exist on this planet to help you to thrive and succeed in business. Explore her website, and tell me how you FEEL about Bernadette.

I don’t know if they can teach this in business school - how to be classy. But at least they should point it out when it rings your doorbell, or arrives in your inbox.

To be or not to be classy, that is the question. I don’t know the exact definition of classy, but I know it when I see it. 

And I think your customers will know it when they see it, too.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fingers Crossed

To cross one's fingers is a hand gesture commonly used to implore God for protection, as well as to wish for good luck. The gesture is referred to by the common expression "keeping one's fingers crossed" or just "fingers crossed" and has also been historically used in order to allow early Christian believers to recognize one another during times of persecution.

Some people, mostly children, also use the gesture to excuse their telling of a white lie. This may have its roots in the belief that the power of the Christian cross might save one from being sent to hell for telling a lie. A similar belief is that crossing one's fingers invalidates a promise being made. I recently interviewed a new applicant who said during their recorded video interview "I'm not gonna lie....." many times, describing their passion for their job. How many times have you heard someone start a sentence "The numbers don't lie" when it is obvious that someone's numbers are indeed lying. 
Why do airlines tell us that our comfort, safety and happiness is their #1 concern - then they immediately treat us so poorly? Did you ever read the fine print on the "I ACCEPT" button when downloading software, or accepting an app on your phone? If you took the time to read it, you probably would never hit "ACCEPT" because it says you accept and agree to being a doofus. 

I once was a paid consultant to "right the ship" of a company on the rocks. I was given unfettered access to everything - the books, the customer records, all internal and external correspondence - everything. It only took a few weeks to discover the core problem of the business. The leadership was lying to everyone, including lying to themselves. I thought that my written report to the Board of Directors, Investors and Senior Management would put things back on track. Instead, it just caused them to lie about the report.

Something has happened in this country. It did not happen overnight, but over hundreds of years. Politicians ran on the platform of telling the truth (Honest Abe, George Washington). But now politics is all about the belief that everyone is liar, but the other guy lies more. The fine print on contracts became finer, and the feeling that you are being lied right to your face is the norm. 

Telling the truth, even when painful, even when embarrassing, even when expensive has become so rare in our world today, that it has become scarce

Scarcity is the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants in a world of limited resources. It states that society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill all human wants and needs. A common misconception on scarcity is that an item has to be important for it to be scarce. However, this is not true, for something to be scarce, it has to be hard to obtain, hard to create, or both. Simply put, the production cost of something determines if it is scarce or not. For example, although air is more important to us than diamonds, it is cheaper simply because the production cost of air is zero. Diamonds on the other hand have a high production cost. They have to be found and processed, both of which require a lot of money. Additionally, scarcity implies that not all of society's goals can be pursued at the same time; trade-offs are made of one good against others. 

Ah yes, of course, the TRADE-OFFS. 
Profits vs. Honesty. Profits vs. Integrity. 
Greed vs. Generosity. 

In business (and in life) things that are rare, things that hard to achieve, things that are hard to posses are valuable. A Rolls Royce is expensive, because it is hand made, and it takes a long time to produce. Let the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth become your key to riches, in both your business and in your life. Your kids will thank you for it. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grumpy Old Man

Sadly, my body is now 54 years old.

But my mind is still a wise ass teenager. My mind remembers Black and White TV, with tin foil on the rabbit ears. There was no such thing as a remote control, and there was channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 13. If you watched TV at night, at some point after midnight they would play the National Anthem and then you would get a test pattern.

How many WPM can you type?

Back in the day, this one question was more important than the rest of your resume. To “get the job” you needed to type at least X words per minute without errors or you would not be considered.

Back in the day, the teacher would write in chalk the chapter to read, the questions to answer and the homework for the day ON THE BLACKBOARD. The next morning some would turn in their homework, some would not. And some would ask “there is a book for this class?”  

Back in the day, we had “car phones” that cost $1,800 plus installation fees, and the service was terrible. There were only 9 cell towers active in 1983, and it cost $1 per minute plus taxes fees and a monthly service charge on top of it all. There was only a very small footprint where cell service would even work. We would say “call me back from a real phone” which was the most embarrassing thing to hear from a client.

Back in the day, we would go to the library, use the periodicals, read things on microfiche, and you NEEDED to go to the library. You did what you had to do to get the job done. Period.

Back in the day, computers did not work well at all. DOS operating systems, dot matrix printers and floppy disks made it an adventure to use a computer. There were no color screens, there was no Internet. You could not share - anything. Back in the day, we just made it all WORK.

You had to read the manual. You had to go to the library. You had to figure it out, do it yourself, read a book, research it. You had to find a way to do anything that you needed to get done. But we were all in the same boat. We all had to learn how to type, we all had to read, research, seek, find, discover.

Back in the day, computers were very, very dumb. YOU were the computer. YOUR BRAIN made that stupid little box do magic. There was no magic in the box, all the magic was still in your head.  It was a wonderful partnership. If you could make a computer “do anything” YOU would be the one to get the credit. Not Google, not Facebook, not Twitter or any billion dollar company. 

Computers in the 90’s were dumb, and WE were smart. We were the ones that pulled the magic out of the silicon chips and wires. We did all of the work, and we got all of the credit. Back in the day, we did the work. Not our machines.

Today, I have the pleasure of working with many kids in their 20’s.  My two sons are on that list. The “work” that they do is very different indeed from the work that I did what I was their age. It is a different time, and I know that we must not live in the past.

But deep down inside, I wish that the kids today could experience what did when I was their age. I wish they could experience the feeling of getting the TV picture to come into focus, from putting tin foil on the rabbit ears. I wish they could appreciate standing in line at the library, to make photocopies of some pages of some “reserved book” that you could not check out. I wish they could appreciate writing a term paper with a typewriter, with whiteout and with carbon paper. OMG, who remembers using carbon paper!!!!  We drove cars with paper maps, not a GPS. If there was traffic, you were going to be late. And AM radio was terrible in the car, back in the day.

Yeah, my body is now older, but my mind is still a wise ass teenager. But when I was a teenager, we just made it work. You either did your homework, or you did not. You either made your computer work, or you did not. You used the map, you read the book, you figured out how to do just about anything and everything. Back in the day, it was a simpler time - we could take credit for everything, because we did everything.

I love technology. I sell it, I have made a wonderful living over the years, selling and embracing and marketing technology. But somehow along the way, in the last 30 years, we as a society have somehow lost our way.

Doing a Google search is simply not the same thing as walking to a library on a rainy day, to search the stacks and the periodicals so that you could do your homework. Back in the day, homework meant that you actually had to do the work. Not cut and paste stuff from the Internet. WORK was the key part of homework. It was supposed to be hard, that was the point.

Hey kids: cc: means carbon copy, as in carbon paper.  bcc: means blind carbon copy.

Back in the day, if something went viral, it was not a good thing at all. I wonder if this blog will go viral? Damn, I am old. Is this what it means to be a grumpy old man? I better Google it.