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Thursday, November 30, 2006

It finally came!!!

It finally came!
My Cingular 8125 arrived a few days ago and ever since I've been getting used to technology that makes life easy.

I read and replied to email while sitting at a stop light. I checked on movie times while sitting in the theater. Most recently, I blogged this post without a computer in my lap.

I'll give the full review Monday, but until then, envy my cool, new toy... er I mean productivity enhancing tool.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Diplomacy Defined

My personality is passive agressive. Stemming from that, I have always tried to be diplomatic. I'm very cautious in what words I choose when speaking, either in a large group or one on one because I don't want to offend anyone.

My own mother said I am a pharosie, though I know deep down inside what she really meant was I'm a savy diplomat.

Today I walked into a meeting where the top level execs of my organization sat around a conference table and I got to update them on what I have been doing for the last year. I had a few issues I wanted heard, but knew I couldn't blast them with my true feelings. I had to use words like "vigilant" instead of "over zealous retards".

As a result I defined for myself what diplomacy is. Diplomacy is cautiously taking someone up to the line without crossing it for the purpose of showing them what's on your side of the line, while keeping them comfortably positioned on their side of it. Then when you sense the first sign of discomfort, you pause for effect and back off gently to leave them feeling respected, yet aware of the issue.

Diplomacy is a key component of all aspects of life, but especially when negotiating. So when faced with negotiations in your organization, try my approach. It takes practice to get good at it and it's a bit of a chess game, but once mastered look out world. After being "diplomatic", I was told "This is the best report from your department we've ever heard."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Bedazzling Power of Television Marketing

Television marketing has become one of the most powerful influences in society today. It tells us what to buy, what to wear and how out of style we'll be if we don't follow their instructions.

Perhaps Mick said it best with "When I'm watchin' my TV and a man comes on to tell me how white my shirts can be. Well he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarrettes as me."

Commercials sell products to everyone. People of all demographic categories in America. But have you noticed that infomercials market to the uneducated and the children?

Well no one is immune to the power of the television. Not even my two boys. Sunday, we're all driving in the car when my oldest said, "Mom, we know what we want to get you for Christmas."
"What's that" answers my wife.
"We can't tell you because if we get it for you, you'll know."
"Why don't you tell me to see if I like it?"

After a short pause to consider this, an excited young voice from the back seat exclaims, "Well, we really want to get you a Bedazzler!"

Holding back sharp feelings of laughter mixed with horror I get this look of, "You'd better darn well make sure I don't get a bedazzler for Christmas."

And of course, I will do my part to disrupt the powerful seed planted by the repeated infomercials in my children's minds. If only they ran infomercials that got kids to make their beds, pick up their rooms and eat all their dinner. How about infomercials that got employees to work harder for less money?

Monday, November 27, 2006

MS Explorer Can Get Lost Exploring

Microsoft Explorer can, for all I care, go exploring and never come back. With the recent upgrade of Internet Explorer 7.0 not going as smoothly as I'd hoped, I wandered over to this other icon on my desktop, which I'd heard others use, but never been so brave myself and double click on Mozilla Firefox.

Since I'm a techie in my dreams alone, I'll skip the techie review and give you my simple comparison.
  • They both do the exact same thing (connect me to the web)
  • They both do it when you click the icon
  • They both have an address bar, favorites listing and a home button, so they function the same
  • They both offer "tabs" which is some new thing Explorer has, but evidently Mozilla has had for a while. I don't like it, so to me I could care less.
Essentially they are identical... until you get all techie about what they do. Then evidently Mozilla is more secure, blocks more spyware and whatever else I should care about.

My opinion is this, use Explorer until it ticks you off with a troublesome install, then switch to Mozilla and blog about it in hopes that all of your readers will be inspired to switch as well thereby sticking it to that horrid evil empire known as Microsoft, which by the way I still use about every other product they have.

On a side note, I am considering turning to the dark side and going mac. [gasp] I know, and I'm still wrestling with the idea, but it's growing on me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On the Hot Seat

I had the opportunity to sit down yesterday in a unique situation where I was one of 6 individuals invited to sit around a conference room table and critique business practices of the CEO, who willingly opened his books and office struggles to us for advice.

Maintaining confidentiality, I’ll only say that his professional firm started in his basement 5 years ago and has grown to 17 employees and 1.3mil in annual revenue. He is now dealing with what many driven entrepreneurs deal with. How to keep growing his business while maintain profitability as well as his sanity.

We each took our turn giving our opinion and recommendations of his situation. When my turn came, I shared information from the heart and after things settled I realized I just told a man 20 plus years older and much more experienced in business than I why what he is doing won’t work.

By the time it was over, I kind of felt bad, because he looked like he'd been beat up. Everyone telling him what was wrong. He was definately on the hot seat for the day, but at some point, I'll get to take my turn in the hot seat and get beat up on by the others in the group.

Here is the gist of what I said:

“Your dilemma of how to grow out of $5,000 a year clients and into $35,000 a year clients doesn’t stem directly from a marketing standpoint, but a staffing standpoint. Change your views so that you believe no one should ever have to be fired. Instead believe that if you take responsibility and hire the right person, then spend time developing, motivating and engaging the person, you will never have to fire them.

Keeping employees is a concern and you’ve mentioned giving ownership in the company to keep employees motivated, but don’t feel the only way to give ownership in the company is to give or sell stock. Someone who doesn’t have ownership leaves when an obstacle comes along. Someone who has ownership stays and fights for the company. The key to ownership is not a legal ownership, but a perception that what they do influences the organization. Give them the ability to make decisions. If they can control the future, they are vested in the company. Let them decide and then live with their decisions.

At the same time, engage your staff in a mentoring role. You talk about sending them to training and continuing education, but what are you deliberately doing to mentor them so they come to understand not just accounting principles, but corporate philosophy on how to treat clients. As you mentor your people, you will create individuals that have better skills in certain areas than you do. At that point, you have to transfer responsibility to them in front of your clients by ensuring that your employee is now seen as the expert who is as good as, if not better than you in this area.

Once you accomplish this clients will stop calling you to find out how much they can deduct mileage for and start calling your employees. This is crucial because it allows a smooth transition from you to your employees of responsibility within the company. It also allows frees up your time to get out of the office and find two $35,000 a year clients. Because your business is one of referrals, you will stop gaining plumbers and electricians at $5,000 a year and start gaining larger clients because large clients travel in circles of large clients and refer large clients.”

I wanted to share this with you because I think it is good advice for anyone who is going through struggles of expanding beyond what they can directly control in their business.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Real Life Negotiation Skills

In a society where the common consumer doesn’t negotiate anything, life for an entrepreneur is full of negotiation. When was the last time you walked into Starbucks and told the barista that you thought $3.30 was too much for a latte, but you’d be willing to pay $2.75? I think the world might stop spinning on it’s axis and we’d all fly off the earth into space if we actually tried this. In business, however, everything is negotiable. The rub occurs when people apply societal norms from consumer life into business life.

If you understand a few basic concepts about negotiation, everything you buy, sell, use or throw away is negotiable.

Negotiating is the process of identifying goals and interests among two (or more) parties and creating mutually beneficial solutions.

Good negotiators:
  1. Account for their counterpart’s interests and perspectives. If you approach negotiation not from the standpoint of what do I want, but from the perspective of what do they want, you will be on your way to fulfilling both.
  2. Use knowledge of their counterpart’s interests and perspectives to improve communication and the quality of the proposals they make. If they want cash upfront, offer to pay upfront for a discount. If they want a particular timeline, offer to meet it for an increased price.
  3. Understand yourself and what you want out of the process. You should be outward focused, but at some point you have to make sure your needs are being met.
  4. Achieve an objective perspective that allows them to overcome hurdles during the negotiating process. You can’t take negotiation personal. It’s not a subjective process. If you let your feelings get hurt by a “low ball” bid from a client, don’t take it that they value your business poorly. Keep focused on the end result – the objective of what you are trying to accomplish.
  5. Shares information. Don’t hold all of your cards close and in secret. If you reach an impasse because the client doesn’t want to pay what you’re asking, explain to them what your prices are, what your desired profitability is and this is why you can’t lower your prices anymore. It feels like a risk, but there is nothing wrong with being transparent in today’s culture.
I encourage you to try this the next time you negotiate anything. Whether a business deal with a client, time on the golf course with your spouse, or bed time with a child, it will make a difference.

Now to lighten things up a bit, here’s the best example of negotiation in any movie I’ve ever seen.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Resolving Conflict Without Any Conflict

A few months ago we bought out house out here in Colorado Springs. The realtor we used, like everyone's realtor, came to us through a personal referral. He made us feel welcome and special as we went through the buying process. But, as the time of closing approached, we lost a little of that personal touch and felt less like a priority and more like a number being processed in a transaction.

Eventually, the transaction completed and we went on our way... until we filled out our post purchase evaluation form. In this form a comment was made about our feelings of being processed and losing the personal touch. Instantly a phone call was made by our realtor saying they wanted to get together and talk about this. Finally this week we all sat down over breakfast to have this conversation.

However, the conversation never came up. There was no "So exactly what did you mean by this comment?" or "I'm concerned about what I read on your comment sheet." Instead there was lots of talk about kids and family and church and a host of other things, none of which related to our negative feedback. We finished breakfast, they thanked us for taking time to meet with them and we went on about our day.

I left the resturaunt totally confused because I'd worked myself up for a confrontation that never happened. At first I was a little perplexed, then disappointed, because I'd worked myself up, but never had a release. Then this morning I realized what exactly happened. They made us feel like people and not like a number, which is what we wanted. And they did it without ever addressing the comment which allowed us to avoid the akwardness of confrontation. Issue resolved - Slam dunk.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Watched Water Never Boils

My blogging plan was to discuss my new Cingular 8125 phone and give a product review that would make you all jealous of my cool new toy. However, all I can say so far about Cingular is that they must deliver using horse and buggy, because 2 weeks after placing my order with our corporate rep I still don't have it. I guess if I'd quit watching for the delivery guy to knock on my door, it would probably get here sooner. The old "watched water never boils" statement applies here. Never one for much patience for new toys or water to boil, I turned up the temperature on the stove and called my rep who has been on vacation and is now promising me "ASAP" results.

On a side note, I'm beginning to notice a trend when I have conversations with some of my readers. A common phrase keeps recurring. "This better not end up on your blog!", has been threatened to me several times recently, and I'm not sure what about me makes some think that I take every Keystone Cops moment out of other people's lives and feel a need to blog about it. You know who you are!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thank You For Grinning and Barretting It

Sorry for the length between posts. No excuses, but I'll give a few anyway.
  • My vacation sneeked up on me and I didn't have time to leave a "I'll be gone for a few days" post.
  • My wife and I were having such a good time celebrating our birthdays (mine is Nov. 11, hers is Nov. 19) that I didn't have time to post anything.
  • The hotel we stayed at in Las Vegas wanted to charge us $11.95 a day to use the internet and I'm too cheap to pay that.
  • I was so depressed that no one (except the people we originally scheduled the trip with) was willing to join us in Las Vegas to celebrate that I lost motivation to write anything.

I'll be back up and writing this week about a variety of things like:
  • A review of my new Cingular 8125
  • My inability to win at anything in Vegas
  • Keeping your clients from feeling like a number

So tell your friends to come back and grin with me!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Branding: Too Much Of A Good Thing

Branding yourself is a key element to making a business in today's climate successful. But as with anything, there is such a thing as going overboard.

One of the original ideas was to wear a corporate logo on your body for 30 days and get paid $100 - $5000 to do it. Then it went a little further when eBay got into the act.

Finally this guy decides he'll brand himself permanently with a variety of... well... tattoos. I guess changing your hair color and running from the law becomes a little harder when you reach this level of brand identity.

Want to know if your branding efforts are working? Check out this useful tool from AllAboutBranding.com

PC - Mac Parody Makes My Hypocritical Point

All the recent news of church scandal in my neck of the woods, which has some how even made it to the Al Jazeera network , has brought several things to light. I've analyzed, observed and now realized that one thing America hates, probably more than anything, is a hypocrite.

If you're a fall down drunk, you might get made fun of, but as long as you don't deny it or speak out agianst drinking, America in general doesn't care.

If you're a homosexual, no one is really going to bother you about it, as long as you don't tell others it's wrong to be gay.

This pattern is true for almost any moral / lifestyle choice, and isn't just limited to "religious" morality. Look at Ken Lay from Enron. People hated this guy because he let his company go under, costing his employees their entire future while he almost got away stinking rich. America hated this guy becuase he was thought to be a rich powerful guy stealing from poor innocent victims.

People hate hypocrites, regardless of how real they try to be.

This video I think proves my point. A funny parody on the Mac / PC commercials.

Thanks to my bro-in-law Mark for the link to his good friend John Mitchem, where you can find 2 more such videos.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hockey, Nascar & Preachers

If you ask the average person why they watch hockey they will say it's for the fights. Ask the same question about Nascar and the answer will be for the crashes. Ask them why they love to talk about allegations of a preacher having a homosexual affair and the answer will be because he preaches against it so much and now he has to pay the price for being hypocritical.

We as Americans love to see carnage and blood. Whether it be blood on the ice, twisted metal on the track or a life splattered on the altar, the messier the better.

This morning the Colorado Springs radio stations were buzzing with call ins about the recent news of Ted Haggard, which is now becoming a national news story. I listened to everything from "He's a hypocrite and I think he'll get what he deserves when the truth of this story comes out." to "He's a man of God and we should support him in prayer."

Regardless of what you think about him as a person, pastor or quasi-political figure, I find it fascinating how people love to see others suffer. In the same way we used to put others down in high school so we felt bigger than them, people seem to want to put Haggard down so they don't feel the pressure of his statements considered convicting by some and judgemental by others.

Updated news is that while it is now being admitted "some claims are true" his accuser failed a polygraph. Cue the organ music, it sounds like a cliff hanger to me.

My take on this is that whether or not he's guilty, it's a political move. In Colorado Springs, the ballot for Tuesday's election contains an item that makes marriage between a man and a woman only. Haggard has been a huge supporter or this agenda and I find it less than coincidental that this breaks a week before the election.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ted Haggard & New Life Church Scandal

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the mega church waters, this story broke.

It's been a while since the days of Swaggart and Baker, but how fresh a wound this story can make.

Unbelievable... Even thought the story is just breaking, I'm speechless and shocked.

It's too soon to give and insight other than my intial reaction of obvious surprise.

*** This Added Later ***

Let me also add that I am making no judgement on the truthfulness of these allegations. I'll wait for the truth to come out. My initial shock is both from the standpoint that it could be true and if it's false it is still an accusation that will cause shockwaves to ripple throughout the local area and possibly beyond.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Using Wikipedia to Make... er, Change History

On my way to work this morning, I heard a report that Wikipedia has become the most widely used resource of students today. My first thought was "duh, its the easiest source to use and has information on virtually everything.

Then the radio host, who is more of a comedian than a news person said that he thought this was terrible because wikipedia was often wrong. Being naive, I didn't understand how this could happen. I knew wikipedia by definition was a source of information that was continually edited by everyone in the world. If I want to add information, I can go add the information and state whatever I held to be the truth. If you don't like what I add, you can go change it and the end result, in theory, is that the world will shape the truth to be accurate.

My personality is generally a little mischievous, but I honestly, and somewhat ashamedly, can say I never thought of what this individual did. Essentially they planted intentional errors in wikipedia and watched to see if they were ever edited out. Hmmm, that gives me a few good ideas. Holding the "Wikipower" to essentially change history, or at least some 13 year old's report on it, I could, for instance make it so that Osama Bin Laden enjoys long walks on the beach while humming show tunes. Or perhaps, John Kerry, as a result of a swift boat accident in Viet Nam, had to have a steel plate put in his forehead, but because he was so far away from the hospital they did an emergency procedure where they cut off a section of the boat's hull and used this to surgically repair his head wound. Yes, it made his forehead look ridiculously large, but it saved his life.

This all brings me to my points.
Point 1 - If you can't make history, at least now you can change it.
Point 2 - Students shouldn't use Wikipedia for reports.