September 28, 2007

I'm So Bummed!

So I'm sitting hear tonight and went to check my bank account and make sure things were in order...and this is what I see. Oh jeeze! Nothing like getting information that you don' thave access to your bank information for 48 hours.

Before a bunch of people tell me I should be banking with an established brick and moter bank, I've had an account with Netbak for over seven years and loved every second of it. If I had a problem they resolved it immediately and they had the best bill pay program I've ever seen. I'm so bummed. Given current circumstances and that every bank now has online bill pay I'll probably switch...but we'll see how ING handles the transition.

Here's the kicker, your bank has no responsiblity to inform customers that they are in trouble and will be shut down by the FDIC. I understand why but it still sucks!

If things do go South I'll be creating a blog to raise money, so everybody be reading!

September 27, 2007

Your Job Description Isn't "Mail Manager"

I had a pretty crummy travel experience on my trip this week in missed flights and too little sleep, but I had an interesting conversation that prompted this post. I had a partner in my travel woes that was sharing with me how she often spent her evenings reading and responding to emails creating a 60 hour work week (thanks for the post idea travel partner).
For a long period in my career I received sometimes 200+ emails per day. I’d spend hours every night reading them all and responding appropriately. After about three years of this I decided there had to be a better way. Below is a combination of my and others tips in how to spend less time on email. They are in no particular order.

The Carbon Copy Rule
Build email rules that help you prioritize what to read. Create a folder called “cc mail” and create a rule that moves any message where you are in the cc: field to this folder. Never read them, they are saved for reference only. You may need to create exceptions for certain people or groups which most email engines allow. If you are nervous about this try it for two weeks. I was nervous about it at first but this single rule cut my email volume by two thirds. I’ve now been doing it for three years and have been asked less than a dozen times if I got an email. Most people cc you on message to feel important or CTA (cover their arse), so not reading it is usually no big deal.

I had a co-worker that joked delete every email you get and if it’s important they’ll send it again. If someone cc’s you on an email and needs a response they will most likely send it again directly to you.

It’s All About Me
Build another email rule that flags any email where you are the only person on the To: field in a specific color (my preference is red). This way you can immediately know which email you probably must read and respond to.

It’s All About Them
If you have certain people that you must read their email set them as an exception to The Carbon Copy Rule and build a rule that flags their email in a specific color so you can see them easily (my preference is green).

The Conversation Stopper
Use email as a method of communication not conversation. Request this of co-workers, employees, and clients. If you need to have conversations pick up the phone and talk to the person.

If you receive a reply email (RE:) quickly scan to see if there are multiple of them with the same subject. Sort your email by subject, select the most recent, and read the entire train starting from the top down. I suggest from the top because you may find quickly that you don’t need to do anything and just delete it. If you make it all the way to the bottom you are reading just to read or you’ll find you need to respond in some way. If it is going to take more than one email pick up the phone. You can most likely then delete the emails with the same subject line. If you follow the next rule all questions in the email will probably have gotten resolved and you won't have to respond at all.

e-mail Is Not On Your Task List (a slight variation on a Tim Ferris rule)
If you don’t have a daily task list before the day, start doing it today. Have three important things you must accomplish that day, and one before 10:00 am. Email should never be on that list. Look at email at 10:00 am, not before. After 10:00 am respond to email that requires immediate response, flag what requires follow-up, file or delete the rest. Schedule times to check and respond to email or you’ll spend 4 hours of every day getting nothing accomplished. Try to read email at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 4:00pm. The 4:00 pm slot lets you respond to any requiring it that day.

Spending one full weekend emptying your email box is not actually accomplishing anything, except maybe generating more email. Avoid this really stupid way to spend your weekend.

Don’t Respond to e-mail on the Weekend (a tip from Tim Sanders)
This is one of the hardest things to do and I know from personal experience. But it is vital to managing your email volume. It is also a good habit if you are a manager because your employees will emulate your behavior. Sending email on the weekend sets the expectation that you’ll read and respond to email on the weekend. If someone really needs to get in touch with you they will find a way other than email.

The next step is to apply this rule to responding to email after hours. I promise, if someone really needs to get in touch with you they will find a way.

If you have other tricks and tips on managing the email nightmare post it for the world to benefit from your wisdom.

You Have to Watch This

Okay, you don't have to...but you should. This is a video clip from "Britian's Got Talent" reality show. It's just awesome! I got goose bumps watching the second clip. This guy is such a great story about following your dreams!

September 14, 2007

In Flight Entertainment

I've always been an isle seat person. But recently I've been enjoying window seats because of the in flight entertainment. I've been spending time on each flight being amazed at the world we live in, just looking out the window of the plane.

Here are few shots I caught from recent flights.

Seattle to Los Angeles. I love flying above the cloud line and absorbing the amazing view it creates.

City of Angels downtown

On your next flight put your book, magazine, or computer down for ten minutes and just admire what you see.

September 13, 2007

It's Not About You

I was visiting a church last Sunday and the pastor’s sermon started with, “It’s not about you…”. His next four words were “…it’s about God.”, but for this post I’m going to focus on the first half.

As I embark on this journey to be a successful hospitality technology consultant I have multiple times thought about the challenge of how to communicate clearly my desire (my mantra if you will) to help clients be successful. I find this especially difficult as a technology consultant because there are so many of us (versus them). This is also a challenge because many prospective customers have had poor experiences with consultants. How do you convince a customer that your desire is for them to be successful and that you can help create value?

I believe the first thing is to recognize that it is not about you. Focus on your customer and see how they react.

In short, use your ears and listen. Epictetus said it best, "We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak."
I’ve posted on this key successful trait before (probably because I recognize how much I need to improve in this area), but I find that listening can help a client believe you want them to be successful. Clients hire you as a consultant because they believe you have or can find answers. And they may be right, but having answers comes with the prerequisite of understanding the problem – vis a vis listening.

Success as a consultant is predicated on your client's confidence that you can make them successful. In your next client meeting build confidence not by knowing all the answers (because you won’t) but by listening and understanding the problems you are there to resolve.

September 10, 2007

Family Matters

This post has been moved to Next Gen Dads. Click here to see this post.

September 8, 2007

Proud Papa

This post has been moved to Next Gen Dads. Click here to see this post.

September 6, 2007

Listen and React

I was reading Seth Godin's blog today and this link to Apple was highlighted. I have been a hard core PC user my entire life. But the more I see of Apple (and that you can now run Windows on a Mac) I'm convinced that being associated with Apple is a good thing in almost every way.

Listening to your customers when they are going to spend more money is easy. Listening to them when they are unhappy and want something for free is much harder. Apple and Steve Jobs illustrate perfectly why listening to your customers is beneficial. Happy customers buy more stuff, so if you have to spend $100 to make $200 it's probably a good idea. My guess is that most of recipients of the gift card will spend more than $100 dollars. And if the iPhone can be sold for $399 versus $599 it means that the $599 price was probably big time margin. Apple is playing a great revenue game. You can sell fewer phones for higher margin or more phones for lower margin. The initial iPhone selling was way higher than the forecast by Apple, so you can bet that sacrificing some margin for volume is a good gamble (not including the pending holiday season).
And since the mass majority of people will spend more than $100 when they redeem it is just more revenue for Apple...genius move!

Additionally Apple has said that if you purchased the iPhone within the last 14 days they will refund you the difference.

September 5, 2007

Who Do You Know?

Tomorrow morning Chrystal, Brody, and I are leaving for Phoenix to visit family and hopefully meet with a prospective client. All the communication that I've had to date with them has been that they are not interested at this time. I have an inside connection that hopefully will be able to at least get me a lunch meeting.

As a consultant who you know can often be more important than what you know when trying to get a meeting. Use your network (but don't abuse it), the worst they can say is no.

September 4, 2007

Are You a Runner or a Jogger?

I used to be a runner, and I was fast. I was not world class fast, but was fast enough to compete at the national level in college. When I saw other people out running I could almost immediately recognize if they were a “runner” or a “jogger”. I probably was not always right, but was confident (and still am) that I was right 80% of the time.

Below is a table that outlines the characteristics of a runner versus a jogger.

NOTE: All items in white are what I think are me now…maybe I’m still a runner. :-) I just love listening to TED talks, sermons, and entrepreneur podcasts when I run.

I stopped running shortly after college and transferred the energy I had to put into running into my career. (I’ve now started running again, but it is more because I am getting to the point where I need to exercise so I don’t turn into a soft bread stick. I could never be a bread roll, if you know me you know why.)

I’ve been in business about the same amount of time I was a competitive distance runner, and during my run jog today realized that running and business have a lot in common. I can generically assess after working with someone a short time if they are a runner or jogger in business. Here is the same table as above for business.

If you had to highlight the descriptions that fit you, are you a runner or a jogger? Better yet, if you had to hand this to all your co-workers to highlight about you would you be a runner or a jogger? The second is a better exercise because business is a race where everyone has to run together, but you can only run as fast as your slowest team member. If you have one or more areas in the “jogger” column, work this week to become a “runner”. The great part about business versus running is that you can change any of the business columns almost overnight. It can take weeks or months in running.

September 3, 2007

What Matters Most to You?

What is more important to you, wealth or dignity?

I'm enamoured and shocked with the statistics of world poverty and have recently become interested and in strong support of microfinance lending in poverty stricken areas of the world (how I was not intersted in it before I will chalk up to laziness and a narrow world view). If you read my blog (and there are few that do), you'll know this by my other posts.

I just finished watching a great TEDBlog by Jacqueline Novogratz entitled Tackling Poverty with Patient Capital (the talk is at the bottom of this post). She made a really amazing statement based on her experience in Africa working in areas of microfinance.

"Dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth"

I love this statement because it's a great balance to the get rich, be rich, act rich, all thing rich culture. There is a battle here because part of my initiative in starting my own company is to create financial freedom and personal freedom. But it's quotes like this that bring reality to the goal of "freedom". Life is not about wealth nor should it be about financial freedom. If it is a product of life, then what blessing.

My college budies and I had a quote that we all swore we wanted to live life by.

"Be men of God speaking well."

I hope and pray when people look a me, my life, and my business they see dignity being more important than wealth and they see a man of God speaking well.