Archive for August, 2005

CEO success: Tip #1

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Remember you heard it here–having fun at what you do makes you a better CEO. Smiling and enjoying yourself while at work creates a better atmosphere for everyone in the company–and all people do better work when they’re enjoying themselves.

That’s one of the tips in the recent Business 2.0 report on the unpublished “secrets of CEOs” handbook written by Raytheon CEO turnaround genius, Bill Swanson. And it’s a perfect adjunct to the FreezeFramer heart-rhythm sensor product I’ve just installed (from HeartMath.com).

The FreezeFramer’s tagline is, “A change of heart changes everything.” Read my previous post about how the HeartMath people are making big waves in corporate America by proving that it does.

And think about how much fun you’re having today.

U.S. Patent Office reaching out to small business

Friday, August 26th, 2005

As a business person who has filed for protection of intellectual property on more than one occasion, I’m glad to hear this. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is reaching out to bloggers and asking us to promote their new service for small business owners–when and how to file for protection of your intellectual property–and in case that terms seems kind of ambiguous, they’ll tell you what of yours belongs in that category.

Now of course this could be a marketing campaign for the PTO, but if it actually helps (and having spent money on it myself, I can tell you I believe in it) protect your cool tagline or your logo from being used by unscrupulous folks who want to leverage your credibility or your name recognition, then I’m all for it.

Check it out and bookmark it in your favorites. It might be very helpful one day.

Listening 101 – customer surveys

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Funny how we have to keep learning the same things over and over again. Good point in this month’s BtoB Email Marketer Insight:

“If your email response rates are slipping, it’s a sign that you’re increasingly out of touch with the real interests and desires of your subscribers.”

That’s good and so true. But I wonder how many of us knew for sure what people signed up for when they subscribed? Did you ask questions in your “subscribe” page? Yeah? Good. How many of your subscribers actually answered them?

Listening to your mate or your kids is one thing. Listening to your customers is quite another. It’s not as easy as putting down your book or turning off the TV. You’ve got to reach out–and it takes thought, planning and effort to get enough responses that you can use to make a difference in your offerings. Maybe you don’t have time or resources to do it? That’s pretty common, especially among small businesses. But it’s something worth doing anyway–and worth spending money on.

Here’s an interesting site full of articles on the subject. If you like to get ideas from a real person, give me a call.

Google puts RSS a leap ahead

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

Google is serious about changing the way you use your computer–and most analysts are saying this is a big poke at Microsoft and Yahoo (who have been fighting over who’s gonna control your desktop for ages now). My guess is Google wasn’t actually trying to compete. It was taking what it knows and brainstorming how to use it to make things better–and what a way to focus! Entrepreneurs who think mainly in terms of beating their competitors are taking the negative focus–much more energy comes from focusing on creating greater value for your customers.

If you’re not familiar with RSS, it could be because it’s seemed like a big dark mystery to all but the very tech-savvy among us. But Google has just changed that completely. They’re going to make RSS the way we’ll all soon be getting our information–even if you don’t know or care beans about how it happens.

Read about Google’s beta version of its new sidebar software that will automatically downloads RSS feeds into a neat spot on your computer that you can click on anytime you want–and see what’s new on the blogs and websites you want to keep up with.

Oh, yeah, and it looks like it might put Outlook in a tizzy–it aggregates all your email, including from Gmail (Google’s service). Anything that can go one better than Outlook’s record of blotchy service is a must-have for me.

Wow. Changing the face of our business day with a single stroke. I love it. Thanks, Google.

Shuttle shortcuts…as we were saying

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

This item comes under the “science” section of the Washington Post, but it belongs even more under the “business” heading. Just wrote the other day about how businesses need to look at the long-term picture, not just today’s profits and here comes this example of how the space shuttle project is suffering disproportionately because engineers were told to meet a deadline instead of get it right.

You know, Deming told us all this decades ago. What a waste to keep learning the same lessons over and over.

Your money and your mouth

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

We all like a bargain, right? It’s not saying too much that most people prefer to pay the lowest price they can find for any particular item. And that’s a reasonable attitude–they say the only way to get rich is to spend less than you make.

But the fact is we can’t have it both ways. In Herndon, an area around Washington, D.C., they apparently have a problem with great crowds of immigrants just hanging around, standing on residents’ property, while they’re waiting to be chosen for day work. Everybody’s complaining. But a DC radio show host (reported in Potomac Confidential) calls the proposed solution–building a special place for immigrant worker-wannabes to stand around–what it is: “…really only a band-aid on a festering wound, and the underlying fact is that even those who complain about illegal immigration act in ways that encourage it–in our decisions about where we shop and how we hire.”

We’ve written in previous posts of about Walmart’s less-than-sterling tactics (here and here) to take over business wherever they settle in (including hiring illegal immigrants). But the fact is, they can only do what we support them in doing. As long as we in America put our mouth in one place–no illegal immigrants, no exporting work overseas–but continue to put our money elsewhere–to shop in places that pay pathetic wages and sell products made in China and Thailand and so on because they’re cheaper–we don’t have a leg to stand on.

And I promise that’s all the mixed metaphors I’ll be trotting out today. Also posted to Blogcritics.org

Even bad guys know the Internet's power

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

I talk a lot on this blog (which by the way has a new look and a new feature: here’s a link to our first product to help you be a better speaker/promoter) about how you could be using the Internet–especially blogging–to more effectively promote your business.

Many U.S. politicians got the picture during the last election–Cleveland’s own Dennis Kucinich was among the first to blog his campaign to higher visbility with his online tactics. And now come the “bad guys”, otherwise known as Al Queda hosting streaming video on the web to show off their latest antics and gain exposure for their “accomplishments”.

Your blog is a powerful tool to get and keep your customers and prospects engaged and involved with your company–which builds a sense of loyalty that can make a difference when it comes to customers making buying decisions. REmember, not every entry has to be high-level literature–you can even just point to information on another site that you feel your customers might find useful.

Your blog becomes the true voice of your company–and that’s what people are hungry for–real voices, not corporate speak.

If you don’t have time or internal resources to do one yourself, hire a good writer who knows how blogs can help. Start slowly if you like; you can get a free site from Google’s Blogger or some other web-hosted software. Later you can host it on your own site.

Either way, it’s worth trying for at least three to six months. It may take that long for the “word” to get out–which you must ensure yourself by notifying your target audience about your blog and asking them sign up to receive an email when there’s a new entry. Give them a link to forward to a friend and an RSS feed so they can read your material anytime. Let us know if you’d like to know more about RSS–I’m working on an article and will be glad to share.

Microsoft getting ready to rock the PC boat again

Monday, August 8th, 2005

Microsoft is sticking its neck out now. The new operating system they’ve invented (God help us, it seems like only yesterday we got Windows XP–it was in 2001) is now called Vista (not Longhorn as it was originally dubbed) and is being sent out to 10,000 “hand-picked” customers for testing. Supposedly has better performance, better security, fancier graphics (geez, I hope we won’t have to find out how to disable more dancing paper clips–and I wonder how much RAM this’ll take).

Information Week says they think the world is shifting to online applications (e.g., Salesforce.com) and that the PC is headed downhill. But the point is whatever they do, they’ve got to respond to the inescapable truth that people are wanting to be able to conduct their business from wherever they are (use of smartphones and PDAs is mushrooming).

One new feature that sounds hot is the ability to tag your files, much as certain blog software lets bloggers tag their entries, by keywords that make it easier to find what you’re looking for. Vista will also offer more support for online applications and for RSS (the cool new way to share information–see here for more).

But don’t worry yet. It’ll be at least a couple of years before small businesses and even some of the big ones will have to think about making the change.

Traffic reports on your Treo – Free trial

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

What a cool idea to be able to see where the traffic jams are and map out the path of least resistance in a congested U.S. city. If I hadn’t JUST gotten my Treo up and running smoothly with all applications, I’d jump on this for when I travel to Chicago.

If you’re up for it, though, you can now pick up a 14 day free trial of Traffic for Treo. Maps, traffic reports, congestion and more show up on your screen–even for little streets.

After the 14-day free trial, you sign up for a subscription plan. Plans start at $4.99 per month for one city. Customers can choose two cities for $7.99/month, or all cities for $14.99/month.

The possibilities with smartphone wireless devices get more exciting everyday.