Sunday, October 25, 2020

Getting Schooled in BOONTON (USA)

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I went to Main Street Boonton (USA) yesterday to buy vacuum bags. 
We have one of those in-house vacuum, central vacuum systems that sucks dirt through hidden 2-inch pipes down to a 12-gallon canister in the basement. So, instead of maneuvering a heavy, noisy portable vacuum up and down stairs and from room to room, we have a 30 foot hose that plugs into special wall outlets, which automatically starts the two vacuum motors. 

So anyway, I went to Main Street Boonton (USA) to buy vacuum bags. And that's where I met Ed.

Ed owns and runs Boonton Vacuum. FOR YEARS. 

Here are some of the things I did not know before yesterday:

The idea of using in-wall plumbing to clean houses goes back to the 1850's in Sweden, where horse-powered fans created suction. Eventually, horses were replaced by servants who either pumped giant bellows or, in later years, pedaled stationary bicycles. Even when the electric motors arrived at the turn of the century, these systems were only within reach of the very wealthy magnates like Henry Ford and George Eastman. Then portable vacuum cleaners hit the market in the 1920's, and their whole-house cousins were left in the dust. 

But wait, there's more. 

Central vacuums weren't forgotten entirely. Frank Lloyd Wright, impressed by their clutter-free convenience, specified them in a number of his later designs. The systems became more affordable in the late 1950s when plastic pipe began to replace copper, but they did not really come into their own until 1990s, when growing house sizes and concerns about indoor air quality coincided with improved filtration, more powerful motors and more effective vacuum attachments. 

Ed is in his 70's easy. Maybe 80's. I noticed his accent, and asked him where he was from. Ed is from Zagreb, Croatia. "Oh, one of my best employees lives in Zagreb, Croatia. He has been with me for many years, working remotely" I said in passing. 

Once again, my words activated the launch sequence with Ed. 

Turns out that Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It lies on the intersection of important routes between the Adriatic coast and Central Europe. In 1929, King Aleksandar proclaimed a dictatorship and imposed a new constitution which, among other things, renamed the country the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The territory of Croatia was largely divided into the territories of the Sava and Littoral Banates. 

It also turns out that Croatia is home of the world's biggest truffle. Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO Intangible Goods of any European country. Zlatni Rat Beach changes in shape and color depending on the wind. And of course, Croatia has the richest collection of remains of Neanderthal people in the world. 

And, as I turn to leave (twenty to thirty minutes later) I learned that Croatia is a lovely place to visit, with charming old cities and towns, gorgeous beaches and coves, distinctive foods, and incredible cultural riches. 

Oh, one more thing. An interesting fact about Zlatni Rat Beach. One mistake people make when imagining the beach, is that it is a sandy beach. Well, it is not a sandy beach. Zlatni Rat Beach is a pebble beach. The pebbles are small, fine, round stones which are nice to walk on. 

I left Ed and walked down the stairs to the Boonton Farmers Market, following social distance protocols of course. I bought some honey from a local farm. But there was no conversation. I did not learn anything about the honey, or how honey is farmed, or about the people selling the honey. It was just a 30 second transaction. I did not learn anything about honey or people or anything. 

I also got two Taylor Ham Egg and Cheese sandwiches. Two for $10 is a bargain. There is a reason why people stand in line (or call their orders in) as these sandwiches are to die for. But once again, no conversation. Just a 15 second transaction. Pay, wait for the sandwich. They did bring it out to my car (social distancing and all) which was nice. 

I could not stop thinking about my customer service experience with Ed. I expected to be in his shop for 3 minutes tops, just to buy some vacuum bags. I think I was there for no less than half an hour. It could have been much longer. 

When I returned home, I told my wife all about my adventure on Main Street Boonton (USA). 

"Did you know that there is only ONE 'BOONTON' in the entire USA? And that people used to get USPS mail addressed to just BOONTON USA" I said to my wife. You could mail a letter to Tom Capone, Boonton, USA and that would be just fine, that was enough. Kinda like sending mail to The White House and it will get there, because there is only ONE White House. Ed told me all about it. 

Because I bought six vacuum bags, two packs of three. I don't know when the next time I will need to see Ed. We vacuum every Saturday, so it could be a year before we need to get vacuum bags again. 

My wife said that she might stop into his shop next week, because she has a sewing machine that needs fixing. 

"I'll take it in for you" was my response. No problem. 

Without hesitation, I'll do it. I don't want to miss out on a chance to attend office hours with Professor Ed. 

Yeah. The Boonton (USA) School of Business. 


Sunday, October 18, 2020

How do you take your Topia?

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This past week was Zoomtopia 2020. Normally we would have been just now returning from California, back to The Big Apple. But this year due to COVID, the October 14-15 2020 event was virtual and it was free. I highly recommend that you check out the archives and session recordings. 

Anyone who knows me, is very aware that I am big fan of Zoom. I have been selling telecom and technology since the early 80's (damn, I'm old). I am so old in fact that the FIRST thing I think of when someone says the word Zoom is the PBS kids show out of Boston

Because I have been selling, marketing, installing, servicing audio - web - video conferencing since the old Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) days, I was an early adopter of Zoom. I was using Zoom long before Zoom became a verb. 

In today's blog, I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about Zoom vs. the competition. There are plenty of people doing the post-trade show wrap up this weekend, post Zoomtopia. 

I want to focus on the Topia. 

Greek topos, place. The key term here is utopia, an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. Paradise.  

I recently hosted a video podcast with Chris Herd, the Founder & CEO of Firstbase. We chatted about how: 

The 2020s will be known as the Remote Work Decade. 

Third Space: Office and Working from Home will be joined by somewhere close by that a number of people will use. Supermarkets or local bank branches should emerge as a convenient ubiquitous location option – if they are smart.

Asynchronous Work: Offices are instantaneous gratification distraction factories where synchronous work makes it impossible to get stuff done. Tools that enable asynchronous work are the most important thing globally remote teams need. A lot of startups will try to tackle this.

Hobbie Renaissance: Remote working will lead to a rise in people participating in hobbies and activities which link them to people in their local community. This will lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships which overcome societal issues of loneliness and isolation.

Rural Living: World-class people will move to smaller cities, have a lower cost of living & higher quality of life. These regions must innovate quickly to attract that wealth. Better schools, faster internet connections are a must.

Constant Presence: Asynchronous work lets you have the isolation to do deep work but it's not always required. Communication solutions which enable presence, like an open mic while gaming, will become more compelling.

Bad Tech: Remote will grow so popular so quickly that it will attract people who have no interest in it other than greed – like blockchain/crypto in 2017. Their lack of understanding of remote work will lead to them replicating the bad parts of office working remotely.

Remote Rejection: Certain demographics and generations will reject the transition. Their benefit – that everyone in the office is like them and it's easier for them to progress – will be their reason. Companies that don't transition will be left behind. 

Diversity & Inclusion: The most diverse and inclusive teams in history will emerge rapidly. Companies who embrace it have a first-mover advantage to attract great talent globally. Companies who don't will lose their best people to their biggest competitors. 

Output focus: time will be replaced as the main KPI for judging performance by productivity and output. Great workers will be the ones who deliver what they promise consistently. Advancement decisions will be decided by capability rather than who you drink beer with after work. 

Single Car Households: The rise of remote will have tremendous indirect benefits towards slashing pollution. Families will benefit from only needing one car slashing cost of living, potentially cutting commuting a lot. 

Private Equity: the hottest trend of the next decade for private equity will see them purchase companies, make them remote-first. The cost saving in real-estate at scale will be eye-watering. The productivity gains will be the final nail in the coffin for the office.

The death of Coworking: The last recession was the beginning of the end for bespoke vanity office. The next recession will spell the same thing for co-working spaces. The rise of remote will mean a majority of the 255M+ desk jobs globally are remote by 2029. 

Talent Wars: Remote work is the perk that is most sought after by workers globally. This will only increase. Remote-first companies will disrupt every incumbent who doesn't/isn't able to make that transition. 

Written Communication: the most important skill for workers to cultivate. Reading and understanding also key. Cultural issues arising from misunderstanding meaning behind the way people write becomes a big issue.

Working Too Much: Companies worry that the workers won't work enough when operating remotely. The opposite will be true and become a big problem. Remote workers burning out because they work too much will have to be addressed. 

Distraction Avoidance: The home office will skyrocket in popularity. A space at home to get away a necessity. There will be an explosion of people purchasing standalone units for their backyards for this.

Global Citizens: Individuals with no national attachment become ubiquitous. Challenges of paying people cross border due to compliance and legal issues slowly fade away as the world becomes more borderless. 

Retreat Destinations: Global hubs will pop-up that cater to remote teams getaways. Resort-like escapes with a deep focus on team building, collaboration, planning, and efficiency. Hotels with facilitators and coaches who assist teams for the duration. 

Life-Work Balance: The rise of remote will lead to people re-prioritizing what is important to them. Organizing your work around your life will be the first noticeable switch. People realizing they are more than there job will lead to deeper purpose in other areas.

Fractional Ownership: remote work will make advancement less important/more difficult. Rather than reward being a better title, fractional ownership could enable workers to be more easily rewarded with ownership of their companies/make the market for equity more liquid. 

Bullshit Tasks: The need to pad out your 8 hour day will evaporate, replaced by clear tasks and responsibilities. Workers will do what needs to be done rather than wasting their trying to look busy with the rest of the office. 

Decentralized Opportunity: Remote work will do more for inequality than anything in history. Workers everywhere will find the best, highest paying job. The fear that this will depreciate wages will be unfounded as companies will need more talent than exists. 

Accessible Jobs: Remote work will make work more accessible than it has ever been. Nothing will stop workers getting the job they deserve because there will be no obstacles in their way. 

Remote Tools: Companies operating remotely now will have created tools every remote team on the planet needs. @Zapier,  @Gitlab,  @GitHub, will spawn Mafias who take these internal tools and create startups around them. Expect several $Billion Startups to emerge this way. 

Multiple Jobs: The gig/freelancer economy will evolve. Remote work allows workers to have multiple employers. The difference in terms of reliability and consistency will be huge, eradicating doubt, lead to better conditions for workers. 

Remote Jobs: There won't be enough remote jobs for at least the next 5 years. World-class people will drive the change. They will demand more remote opportunities and realize the influence they have to make their companies give it to them. 

Remote Infrastructure: The focus on the sexy won't change any time soon. There is a missing half of remote work that's neglected because it's difficult, boring, and unsexy. It will be the most critical. Until that's solved remote teams won't scale globally easily.

No Code: Will grows to dominate creation. @webflow@figmadesign amongst others will democratize access unlike ever before. Remote workers who have an area of expertise and one of these broad skills will be unicorns at first, before everyone else realizes the need.

Social Contact: Loneliness, disconnection neither improved or worsened by remote work. A number of people's main social contact comes at work, with people decided by their bosses hiring policy. Remote work must lead to deeper more meaningful relationships with friends and family. 

Health & Wellbeing: A lack of commute will give workers 25 extra days a year to do other things. Workers will exploit the freedom they have to organize things more freely in their day. Afternoon runs, morning meditation, two things a lot of people I know now do. 

Child Connection: Hearing your child's first laugh, seeing their first steps won't just be in the memory of one parent. Being there, feeling like your children know you. Dropping them at school each day. Small things that remote gives to you. 

Visa Issues: The problem with workers having to leave a job due to the expiry of their visas will no longer exist. Companies won't accept losing their best people simply because their right to be in a specific country expires. Remote will be an easy option. 

International Talent: Great for developing countries. International companies will access to talent globally. Access to opportunity will be decentralized. 

Job Title Death: What your job title is will become more irrelevant as remote work becomes more prominent. What you do, what you're capable of, the tools you can wield will enable you to do jobs that break you free from the shackles of a title. 

Universal Tools: Global workforce that understands and the same SaaS services means technical debt for training shall be $0. Companies add another seat to SaaS platform and worker uses the same tool they would use if they were in an office or with a different company. 

Older Workforce: Boomers may be standing in the way of the remote work revolution happening quickly, believe least in its benefits, lack the trust for it to emerge. Ironically, remote work will allow them to work far more easily later in life. 

Remote Living: Work from anywhere RVs will become huge business. Associated business parks and services will spring up. This will happen even more rapidly as self driving tech emerges. Expect a @Tesla type of product in this space.

Personal RPA: robotic process automation will transform work for individuals. No-code tools that enable workers to built bots that automate menial parts of their roles will be huge. 

Micro Co-working: a home on every street is transformed into a hyper-local co-working space. It comes with all the amenities needed, like high-quality coffee, and has on-demand fitness equipment like @onepeloton bikes. 

Today, I run the NYDLA, which (like Bell Atlantic) has now morphed into the NADLA, servicing all of North America. We went from servicing the 55M+ people living in the "New York Megalopolis" to servicing the 579M+ living across all of North America. I highly recommend viewing the session recordings from Zoomtopia 2020. For me, two days of Zoomtopia is like a trip to Disney World, virtually or otherwise. 

The future of work, the future of entertainment, the future of education, the future of medicine, the future of commerce - is all in the clouds. And now due to COVID, the future has indeed arrived early. 

Will the future be a Paradise? 

That is up to us. 

That is always up to all of us, since the future is what we make it. Together. 

From My Home To Yours 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Propelify Dunks!!!!

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Ever since COVID-19 changed our world, I have been paying close attention to how everything changed in the travel, hospitality and especially the events business. I live just 25 miles west of Times Square, The Big Apple. You know: The Center of the Known Universe. Living in the region, I really feel that I was able to see the most massive changes in behavior unfold in the most dramatic ways. 

Facebook has that feature that reminds you of exactly where you were and what you were doing 365 days ago. So many times we would have events in NYC, that would feel like "mini" vacations. I mean, who turns down an excuse to visit NEW YORK CITY?

COVID-19 caused me to start saying the following: Telemedicine has now become just Medicine. Distance Education has become just Education. eCommerce has become just Commerce. Remote Work has become just Work.

And Virtual Events have become just Events. 

Last week was the Propelify Innovation Festival, powered by TechUnited:NJ. Normally, this event is held outdoors on the waterfront in Hoboken, New Jersey. This year due to COVID, the event was virtual.

Memories of Propelify 2019

Normally, speakers, sponsors, and attendees from some of the most well-known groups in the world - and many of the innovation community's rising stars - would gather (thousands strong) with the New York City skyline as their backdrop. This year, virtually, the overall theme was building a better future for all. Each day centered around a different theme: Better Together, Better Wellness, Better Planet, Better Connected and Better Beta.

Over 5,000 attendees registered for Propelify 2020, for over 1,797,487 minutes of virtual content. 

Here is a quote from an attendee: 

"Phenomenal! Very rarely do I attend an event where I am upset that I have to be pulled away to attend a meeting or a call. I genuinely wish I could have watched every second - every speaker you've invited has been so very engaging!"

One more quote:

"This is one of the best events I have attended this year. I did not say virtual events, I said EVENTS. Period." 

That second quote is mine. And I am in the events business. Since 1983. 

If you missed out on attending the Propelify Innovation Festival live this year, paid members of TechUnited:NJ can view the archives. Just visit their website. 

This week, we have Zoomtopia, which is a FREE EVENT open to EVERYONE using Zoom - worldwide. What is that like 300M+ people? In December, we have Web Summit, with 100,000+ expected to attend their virtual event - from home. 

Zoom is a multi-billion dollar, global brand. Propelify, not so much. But one possible good thing that COVID-19 has brought to the world is this: it has forced our hands. The pandemic has indeed forced (all of us) to rethink the way that we live, learn, work and play. The technology powered changes we are all now experiencing will be with us forever. I do hope that Propelify will be back on the Hoboken waterfront this time next year. But I also hope that the virtual option will be available. I think that virtual events are indeed just events, now and in the future. 

At Propelify, we learned that every company (regardless of size) is a technology company. 

Here is another thing that members of learned this past week. They say, "Bigger is Better." Well, I think that as virtual events go, bigger is not better. BETTER is better. 

This past week, Propelify dunked on the bigger competition. Virtually. 

Aaron Price, CEO, TechUnited:NJ
In the Virtual Dunk Tank

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Birth Daze

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I do love that feature of Facebook that reminds you of where you were, what you are doing - ON THIS DAY - in the past. Last year, five years ago, all the way back to your first day on Facebook. It (usually) is a happy time, something that brings back memories of good times with friends, family or colleagues. The Facebook algorithm controls the ordering and presentation of posts, so users see what is relevant to them. Rather than publish content chronologically, posts and ads are presented based on what Facebook sees as relevant to you, the user. 

Both LinkedIn and Facebook have that feature that allows you to wish everyone a "Happy Birthday" online. For the last year, I would always start my day in Facebook by saying: " wishes you a very Happy Birthday!" which is a cool (sneaky?) way of having my 5,000 friends on Facebook ALSO connect with me on LinkedIn. Let's just say that I am indeed sneaky cool - and we'll leave it at that. So, every morning for at least the last year, I would say Happy Birthday to around 10 or 20 people on Facebook. All 5,000 of them would hear from me, over the course of 365 days. 

This past week, I had 5,000 people on Facebook wish me a Happy Birthday. And around 15,000 on LinkedIn. All at once. I'm not even sure how many of these people manually wished me Happy Birthday, or if a "bot" did the wishing for them. 

This year, I got one Birthday Card in the mail, from my sister. Just one. I'm not complaining, and I have zero stock in Hallmark. But I did notice the paper card that required a purchase, a stamp and effort many times more - thousands of times more - than the "Happy Birthday" wishes on social media. 

Birthday Cards made me start thinking about business cards. When was the last time I exchanged business cards with anyone? The new world of COVID-19 might have killed off the business card industry. I remember when "electronic" business cards were supposed to kill off paper business cards a few years ago. I remember when "bumping" your smartphones together would swap info, so that there would be no need to carry a pile of business cards to your next trade show or event. That never happened, the paper business card never went away. Until now. 

I tried saying "thank you" for all of the birthday wishes on social media, but it soon became too much. Someone on my staff made me a graphic to put up as a blanket "thanks" for everyone. This might be the future of the Happy Birthday thank you now and forevermore. I'll keep saying Happy Birthday to everyone on Facebook (manually) every day. I will not be doing the same on LinkedIn. I mean, I just can't do it. I just can't go there, it's too much!

I have learned that there is an automated way to say thank you (in bulk) to social media Happy Birthday posts. But this is starting to get a little weird for me. It's like "my bot" thanks you for "your bot" wishing the real me (not a bot) a Happy Birthday. I decided that I am not going to do that either. 

Yeah, Birthday Cards and Business Cards. For me they are (both) now a trip down memory lane. 

I have a box of business cards that might (now) last me for many years. I hope that I will need to re-order business cards sometime in 2021. I miss exchanging paper business cards, in person, in New York City. 

Yeah, exchanging business cards, in person. That might be the thing that I miss most of all. 

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, everyone!