June 9, 2008

Father's Day Contest

If you are a dad or have a dad go check out this post on my other blog. Submit an entry if you are bored or think you have a really good story.

June 2, 2008

I Got Tagged

Have you ever got one of those email forwards that asks you to answer a bunch of questions and then forward it onto all of your friends who then send it back to you and a bunch of their friends. I'm not sure of the point other than to get an email.

Well the trend has hit the blogosphere. My friend Matt blog tagged me last week and I'm just getting around to doing it. I'm not one that would normally do this but my wife really wants to me to tag her (love you sweetie).

But the questions in Matt's tag were lame so I'm breaking the tag rules and answering questions that I would actually like to know the answer to. Some of them I stole from Ross's tag. Sorry Matt, it isn't that you aren't cool, or that Ross is cooler than you, though I think Ross is cool. You are cool, just keep telling yourself "I'm cool."

I'm then allowing the option for my taggees to answer my questions or to create new ones they find more interesting. See, isn't this just a better game!

1. If you could change one thing about a major event in your life what would it be?
This one was easy for me (but I made up the question). The funny thing is that it happened on a day that was perfect. Can a day be perfect and want something different? The major life event was the day Chrystal and I got married. It was awesome. The one thing I'd change was paying for a wedding planner. Here's why...

There were lots of little things that we didn't think about, but also one big thing. Right as the wedding started my dad asked me if I was going to walk my mom down the isle. I looked at him clueless and said with a shrug, "I guess not?" It hadn't even crossed my mind, which makes me feel like a bad son but we were so engrossed in trying to figure everything out. It is something I wished I could have done. Sorry Mom. But she never once has made me feel bad about it even though I know it was something she really wanted.

2. What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire? (I stole this one)
1. Pay off all my debt and the debt of friends and family.
2. Buy a bunch of property in Santa Barbara and offer my family and closest friends free homes so we could live near each other in my favorite place in the world.
3. Pay Josh Gustafson to figure out how to invest some portion so we could live very comfortably but not outrageously. I'm not going to lie and say we'd live meagerly, because we would travel often and we'd fly first class.
4. Give a huge chunk of change to Westmont College but specifically allocate a portion to buy the freakin' coolest athletic facility you had ever seen and name the track and field stadium after coach Russell Smelley. Smelley Track & Field, can you dig it!
5. Establish a foundation to figure out all the places the money needs to go and hire a staff to help manage it.

3. What are your three worst habits?
1. Not listening. Lord forgive me but I talk too much, day dream too often, and listen too little. Ask my wife.
2. Pointlessly surfing the Internet and too often entering "Kevin Sturm" in Google or Technorati just so I can see if someone loves me enough to put my name in a blog.
3. Quietly judging someone based on how they talk, how they dress, or what they do. If anyone knew how often I did it no one would be my friend.

4. What are the three things you have to have within reach at all time (think bedside, car, etc.)?
1. My iPhone. This could mean I need to add another worst habit. I freak out if I don't know where my phone is, and having an iPhone only made it worse.
2. A book. This is not saying I read all the time. I just always want a book near for when the urge arises. On the night stand, in my laptop bag, near the man throne.
3. I don't really have a third. How about Love?

5. If you could have any job what would it be and why?
Professional athlete. I'm open to almost any sport. Though not gymnastics, or curling, or billiards, or boxing...you get the point.

There is a sixth question. What five people do you want to tag.
Chrystal (My Love) - Will do it because she is waiting for me to tag her.
David Jay - Eventually will get around to it if he reads this and lots of girls will find it cute.
Tessa McCook - Stay tuned it will be funny.
Gabriel Ryan - Have no idea if he'll do it.
Tim Halberg - Maybe will do it.

June 1, 2008

Two Things I Hate

I'm generally not a negative person, but yesterday was not a great day for me. I endured two of my most hated things simultaneously.

First hated thing...sickness. I had a sore throat that was ripping me up. I hate being sick, but really hate being sick when I'm trying to get something done. I had planned to clean out the garage yesterday and all the dust and dryness was not helping the throat. Not sure why I was so stubborn to finish it versus wait for another weekend. But the reason I did it was it was clear of all sorts of stuff...leading to the next hated thing.

Second hate thing...garage sale. Having a garage sale is in my top 5 hated things (I'm not sure of the other 4, but I'm sure garage sale is in the top 5). We had a huge multi-family garage sale where a bunch of people, most of whom I didn't know, got to put the stuff they don't want anymore and are too stingy to just give away in my driveway so strangers could loiter around and take something home to store in their garage. And most of the stuff was junk.
Me post garage sale sitting on couch that didn't sell.

I'm a terrible garage sale salesman. My goal isn't to make money, but to just get someone to take the stuff out of my driveway. If someone barters I counter with a lower price then they offered. I'd just as soon put a huge FREE sign on the corner and then enjoy the glorious possibility of a humorous rush of people fighting over junk, versus just touch everything and ponder if they really need a chipped shot glass. A rhubarb between two middle aged women over an ugly plate sounds way more fun. But alas, I married a woman that LOVES garage sales. Going to them, having them, bartering at them...she thinks it's great.

The wife told me to go wash the car after I complained enough, which I actually enjoyed. I'd have washed every car on the street versus sit at the garage sale.

But what I can say for garage sales is the people watching. I believe there are two types of people that d0 garage sales. The first is a deal seeker looking for entertainment, which is the category my wife falls into. They most likely will buy nothing but enjoy the process of looking.

The second is the person that can't leave without buying a cart full of crap it doesn't appear they can afford. They hand you somewhere between $5 and $20 and leave with the junk you were sure was going end up in the throw away pile. I want to feel sorry for these people, but at the same time want them to show up just to watch them. I suppose that makes me a bit mean...Lord forgive me.

All-in-all we made $124 for about 6 hours of work. That is the other reason I hate garage sales...the return just isn't worth while.

May 2, 2008

A New Title for What I Am

I just learned what I am...

While reading Escape From Cubicle Nation I found out about Anywired and read the post Become a Lifestyle Entrepreneur: Complete Guide and 40+ Resources.

I'm a Lifestyle Entrepreneur! What does that mean you ask? You really should read the post, but here is a great description from Skellie over at Anywired.

"If you are — or would like to be — an entrepreneur, yet you’d be happy to earn enough to live the life you want rather than becoming filthy rich, lifestyle entrepreneurship might be a good fit for you.

Lifestyle entrepreneurs will generally base their ventures around time minimalism, or something they love, even if there are more profitable (but more time-consuming, or less interesting) options available.

The goal of a lifestyle entrepreneur is not to amass a huge fortune, but instead, to achieve certain definable goals and, beyond that point,
to ensure business does not interfere too much with the enjoyment of those goals."

Now don't get my wrong, I think it would be cool to be filthy rich. But not at the expense of the relationships with my wife, kids, or current freedom. I spent 9 years climbing the corporate ladder and had a good position with a good salary. The next step in my plan was a VP position which would lead to a C-level position. But ultimately what I found is the stress of those positions, the time requirement, and the sacrifices I was going to make just weren't worth it.

I quit my job and started my own consulting firm to create freedom in my life. Here is my current daily schedule - which I adjust daily as I need to fit into my lifestyle.

7:15 am - Wake up to alarm clock of "DAAAAADAAAA IT'S LIIIIGHT TIIIIIME!"
7:45 am - Get breakfast for the alarm clock and take a shower
8:15 am - Make coffee and lunch for Bubba
8:30 am - Catch up on my favorite blogs or take Bubba to preschool
9:15 am - Blog (I have two others here and here)
10:00 am - Work on client projects (yes I start "work" about 10:00 am)
12:00 pm - Lunch or go pick up Bubba from preschool
1:00 pm - Work on client projects
4:00 pm - Stop work to alarm clock of "DAAAADAAAA I HAVE TO GO POOOOTYYYYY"
4:05 pm - Play with Bubba, Chrystal, and Mianna for the rest of the day.

I say this not to brag or gloat but to say it's possible. We are not getting rich and sometimes money issues are stressful, but we (my family and I) live a comfortable life and love it. We have more freedom (though not necessarily financial) than we have ever had. Join what Tim Ferris calls the NR and break the chain!

Photo by Dazzie D'

April 30, 2008

Confidence and Humility are NOT Mutually Exclusive

In the last week of my full-time employment a co-worker (and former consultant) told me she thought I would find consulting harder than I expected. I didn't know her very well but I knew her well enough to know she was referring to the selling side of consulting, and I could tell by the way she said it she didn't think I had the "selling side" in me.

I told her I agreed that most consultants struggle with the selling side of the job, mainly because you are selling "you". What you personally bring to the table is all there is to sell, and part of what you bring to the table is confidence. But many consultants struggle with the concept that confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive. The opposite of humility is not confidence but rather cockiness. Cocky consultants are annoying, irritating, and often difficult to do business with.

When I talk with any customer I know I bring confidence to the discussion. Confidence that I know what needs to be done or that I don't.

Cocky consultants always know the answer, regardless if they really do. Confident consultants are humble enough to know when they don't know the answer, but instill confidence they can find it.

She was right that I'm not naturally a sales person. I have friends who are and they could convince you to buy the dirt off your own floor. As a consultant that is not the type of sales person you want to be.

If you are selling on the basis that you offer a service you're selling on cockiness: "Buy me because I'm here." You should be selling on the basis of a business problem that you personally can help solve: "Buy me because you have this problem and I can help solve that problem."

Seth Godin had a great post today on Self Promotion that spurred this thought. Thanks Seth!

April 26, 2008

The Most Important Decision as a Consultant

The number of decisions you have to make when starting your own consulting business are numerous. Decisions like choosing your niche, how much you charge, where you will spend money are all important. But one of the lesser discussed but possibly most important decisions is what business will you NOT take.

I have found this to be the most difficult decision because knowing when the next job will be is usually unknown. You are always in need of the money (lets be honest here), but every opportunity that comes your way has the potential to grow or limit your business (read income).

  • Will the contract increase your specific skill or expertise that makes you valuable?
  • Will the contract lead to on-going future business with a client?
  • How sure are you that the project will end successfully?
  • How likely is it that the potential client will provide you with a good reference?
  • Is the potential client the type that would recommend your services without request?
These are all important questions to ask when deciding what kind of projects you do or do NOT take. But I'm going to focus on one question where many consultants make the wrong decision.

Will the client pay you what you are asking?

This is an important question because it brings up two equally important questions. First, how much are you worth? And second, what type of personal life do you want?

The temptation to take a contract at a reduced pay is great, especially when the pipeline is small. But one of the most important decisions you will make is sticking to your guns and turning this business away. Consultants are generally willing to take these jobs because they come with a promise of lots of work or because of nervousness that nothing else will come along.

But if you take a contract for either of these two reasons you are both decreasing your perceived value to current and future clients and sacrificing your lifestyle. You should be confident that you are worth your rate and your current and potential clients must see that. Taking a contract for a lower fee says that you believe you are not worth your stated rate. And if you do not believe you are worth your fee then you should not be charging that fee.

The second reason you should not accept a reduced fee is based on simple math. Let's say your normal fee is $100 per hour. If you take a 20% fee reduction at $80 per hour then you have to work more hours and harder to make up the difference.

Most likely you have a revenue goal for your company (if you don't it's time to get one). The more projects you take at a decreased rate the more you have to work to achieve that rate.

If you are still not convinced then look at it this way. Let's say your goal is to bill 30 hours per week at $100 per hour with four weeks of vacation. That means there are 48 billable weeks in the year. This is pretty aggressive goal if you are just starting out.

48 weeks x 30 hours x $100 = $144,000

NOTE: $144,000 may look like a lot (or may not), but when you factor in taxes and business expenses your take home quickly begins to fall.

If you take a 12 week contract at your 20% fee reduction there are only 36 weeks left in your "goal year".

12 week x 30 hours x $80 = $28,800
36 weeks x 30 hours x $100 = $108,000

Now your total revenue is $136,800. In order to make up the difference of $7200 to meet your goal you have to work 72 hours at your $100 rate. That equates to 2.5 weeks of work which leaves you with 1.5 weeks of vacation time.

But the better scenario is that you would only need to work 45.5 weeks at your normal rate to achieve the $136,800 revenue number. This means that you either have 2.5 more weeks of vacation time (imagine a job with 6.5 weeks of vacation), 2.5 more weeks to market and build the business, 2.5 weeks to blog and share your knowledge, or 2.5 weeks to try and find a small contract at your $100 per hour rate.

Be worth what you say you are worth. It will be better for you in the long run.

April 19, 2008

How Far Should I Take It

Out of curiosity to where it would go I responded to the French email I received. Here is what I wrote...

Dear Mr. Majeed,

It took me a while to understand your message, but I was able to translate it. I think maybe you didn't mean to send this to me since I'm not French, but since I was able to understand the message WOW! $20 million! Lucky you...and now lucky me for maybe accidentally receiving your email. I think you are looking for americans to help you invest the money. If so, I am definitely interested! I mean even if I only get 1% that is a lot of money. How do I go about helping you and me make a bunch of money?


This morning I received this message back. (Click on the picture to open a more readable version.)
This kills me because who would honestly believe this?! But now I'm intrigued because I'm curious how far this could actually go. What do you think, how far should I take this?

April 17, 2008

I'm Gonna Be Rich

I received an email today that is going to change my life. There is this guy in Iraq that works as a translator for the US military. He and a few soldiers found this trunk with $20 million US dollars! His share is $5 million and he wants me to help him invest it in the US stock market and I get to keep a portion of the profits! I mean, even if I only get 1% that is $50,000 per year! If you don't believe me, here is the email he sent.

Oh...it reads a bit odd because the email was in French and I had to translate it on Babel Fish. Leave a comment if you want me to email Issam Majeed and ask if you can be involved, too! I'll keep you apprised of how it goes down.

Good evening, Jai have your contact and would please share an important business trcs with vous.Si that does not interest you, want mexcuser for the disturbance much. I am Mr Issam Majeed, I work in Iraq with the American Soldiers as translator. Jai of the evidence for you to show it aprcs.Dans one of the our military operations in Iraq, we discovered a strong trunk in a large house dun great man daffaire Iraqi in the town of TIKRIT. This strong trunk contains a great sum dargent, of the American dollars, it be-R-statement USS 20 Million. We immediately kept this strong trunk in a place made safe with three other American soldiers. After long deliberations between us to know if we must give these funds to the American authorities in load of place or not, we decided all to share these funds between us. For the division, each one of us received the sum of USS5 Million For my part R causes problcmes of safety in Iraq, jai decided marranger with the agents of safety measures deprived in Iraq to transfer my share from these funds out of lIraq, precisely R London. Jai put the funds in a parcel as being family affairs and I lay coded what wants to say to quaucune anybody does not know that this parcel contains largent me except. What I tell you is the truth and if we treat together in this business, you will see it. I you contact thus to see whether you can maider has récupcre the parcel R London and to transfer it in your country or I would like to invest these funds in profitable fields. I would give you also a few percentages of these funds to have to accept maider, the percentage we will discuss it when I receive your answer. The Iraqi insurrectionists are against me what makes quils seek me to kill me because I make translations with the American soldiers. I do not leave nimporte how without the American Soldiers to avoid the worst. I nutilise not of telephones nor do not receive calls here. Jutilise only lInternet and walkie-talkies to communicate with soldiers with whom I work. If this transaction is well concluded, I want to resign of this works because to live here in too risky Iraq cest. I thank you and jattendrais your answer. Please, if you agreed to help, I want that you me via this address e-mail (issam.majeed1@yahoo.com Mr Issam Majeed.

Original email in French

April 13, 2008

Next Gen Dads

I posted about launching Next Gen Dads and while back and I've got enough of the layout done that it was time to launch. No sense waiting till it's done or it will never get launched. Next Gen Dads is a Daddy Blog about raising kids as a work-from-home-dad that believes dads and moms should share raising kids as an equal partnership. It will be my thoughts, and hopefully the thoughts of others, on marriage, parenting, and the successes and failures that you experience as a husband and dad. You will need to read the blog to find out exactly what all that means.

For those of you that read k.sturm blog to find out about my family related stuff, the majority of those posts will now appear at Next Gen Dads. This blog will be 99% dedicated to "Ramblings on business, entrepreneurship, consulting, technology, and other topics I'm passionate about." I will be migrating all existing family related posts to Next Gen Dads over the next few weeks.

If you would be interested in co-authoring on Next Gen Dads leave a comment and we'll chat!

April 9, 2008

Ending the Name Game

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

April 7, 2008

What's In a Name...

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

April 3, 2008

Somebody Has a Funny Sense of Humor

Last Saturday Brody and I went to breakfast together. We walked past a small construction area where the below drawing was on the sidewalk. Somebody has a funny sense of humor...

The Marketing Value of Personal Recognition

I recently have been the lucky recipient of personal recognition as a valued customer. For many organizations personal recognition marketing gets regularly overlooked as one of the best and very cheap ways to spend marketing time and money.

Have you recently personally recognized a customer for their value? Without them you wouldn't be in business...

Example #1
I've written before on my transition to using a local bank (or credit union in my case) versus a big-impersonal-conglomerate-that-apparently-does-not-care-if-they-have-my-money-type-bank (aka Wells Fargo). Since switching to Wescom I have received now at least two (maybe three) personal letters from staff at the bank. I think it is important to note that it is not always from the branch manager but from the bank teller of my last visit. I have never banked at any other bank where the teller sends a "you are valued" letter.P.S. Despite what Chrystal says it is not because I'm Daddy-Big-Bucks. Not even close!

Example #2
When I switched from a PC to a Mac I found the need to have an MS Office compatible program with the hope to not pay through my nose for it. On the recommendation of a friend I downloaded NeoOffice and have been "reviewing it" for about 6 months. This week I came to the final conclusion that "it is awesome". I think it is awesome for two major reasons. First, all the functionality I need is there. Second, it's FREE! That's right, a FREE Office Software Suite that includes compatible versions of MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and MS Access. It also has a very basic Visio type program. I only use Writer (Word) and Calc (Excel) but I have not yet had a single compatibility problem. NeoOffice asks for donations to support keeping the software free, so upon deciding how useful it was I made a donation. I immediately received the below automatic email.
But then I also received a personal email from Patrick thanking me for my donation.
Oh, and for the record my very large donation was $100, which seemed really cheap considering it saved me the $400 expense of buying Office for Mac.

March 19, 2008

On Feeling Like an Adult

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

March 18, 2008

Blanchard Block Party!

Last Sunday afternoon our REALITY Home Group hosted a block party on Blanchard Street (the street we live on). It was so much fun! The wind picked up and it got cold but people stuck it out. Todd cooked up some absolutely mouth watering tri-tip. Like I've never had tri-tip this good...ever. Everyone from our Home Group pitched in and we really had such a wonderful time, and I think everyone that came did as well.

We were planning for about 50 people and didn't get quite that many but we got to meet some neighbors and hear some awesome stories. Our neighbor directly across the street has lived there for 32 years and has never seen anyone on the street coordinate a block party! That really amazed me as every neighborhood I've ever lived in has done a block party, and I've never lived at any address longer than 6 years.

Todd apparently saying something very funny to Georgina.

Rich and Charles doing it unplugged style on the wall.

When it got so cold our neighbor brought out blankets for all the girls.
I think a bunch of them wanted to keep the blankets because they were so awesome!

I'm hoping this will be the first block party of many. I've already got some serious ideas about getting permission to block off the street for Fiesta!

The main reason for the block party was to connect with our community but to also invite people to the Easter Service at REALITY. If you normally head to Church on Easter but are not sure where you are going we would all love to see you at REALITY on Sunday morning. The service is held outside at Carpenteria High this Sunday at 10:00 am. After the service we'll have carne asade and the kiddos (if you have them) can jump in the bounce houses and play games.

If you do decide to come visit try and and find me as I'd love to meet you. It may be easier to find my gorgeous and very pregnant wife. Either way we hope to see you there!

March 17, 2008

Compelling Rhetoric About Your Resume

A few months back I wrote a post about resume writing called Care Enough to be Different. Today I read a post by Seth Godin that moves the ability to be unique and remarkable in your resume to a whole new level. His opinion is to be so bold as to not even have a resume.

Read his post here. It is worth your time to think about his thoughts.

March 16, 2008

Remember The Name(s)

I'm terrible at it. Absolutely horrible. When I meet someone it is almost for certain that 10 seconds later I can't remember their name. I know it is one of my worst traits and I hate it about myself.
Image provided by ArstySF
I'm envious of people that remember names because it comes natural and even more envious of those that have trained themselves to be better at it. I have tried almost all methods: say it 8 times in the next minute, word association, activity association, writing it down...none of it works for me.

It is important to remember someone's name for many reasons, but I think the most important is because it shows you care. Note I did not say it shows you listened. Listening is important, but caring is more important.

As I was trying to find a parking place at Church today I saw my new friend Dave from the Mammoth Ski Trip. I rolled the window down and yelled, "Hey Dave!" He came over and said, "Hey Kevin," and then looked in the back and said "Hey Brody, gimme five." It is important to note here that Dave had never met my son Brody. He had heard about him during our trip but never met him. He cared enough to not only remember my name but to remember Brody's name. He knew Brody was really important to me and it showed that he cared about that. I immediately felt like I was important to Dave...which made me feel great.

The next time you want to make someone feel like you care, remember the name(s) of people that are important to them...which will always include their own name.

And if you have any fail proof method of learning names please tell me...I would love to be better!

"Blogger Buster" - The Best "How To" Blogger Site

As I've gone through the process of customizing my blogger blogs and struggling through the html on how to get it setup. I've used lots of different help resources using multiple Google search terms. But last week I found THE site for blogger users on customizing your blog. Blogger Buster by Amanda Fazini is now my one-stop-site for anything "how to" on blogger. I even emailed Amanda directly last week on a problem I was having with the line height on htms (for the record I had no idea at the time the problem was with my line height). She emailed me back the next day with the most likely resolution...and she was totally right! I also found out how to implement page links for my htms blog on Blogger Buster. I was thinking about switching to WordPress because I could not figure out how to do page links, but now that I've figured it out I'm no way changing.Amanda also gave me props on my blog layout, which makes me feel great because I think her layout is KILLER!

Here is what else I love about Blogger Buster. Blogger Buster offers everything FREE! Amanda even wrote a pdf guide on tips for designing your blog and it's all FREE! The value of FREE cannot be understated! It not only brings people to your site but also breeds loyalty because your hard work supports others success. It is a wonderfully authentic and extremely effective marketing tactic.

Thanks Amanda!

"Ya-ttitude" - A Great New Blog

For those of you that have not found it yet, "Ya-ttitude" by Benny Greenberg is one of the best new blogs on the web. If you are interested in joining the allied forcies against the Procrasti-NATION read his blog and join the fight.
Thanks Benny for the insightful wisdom and witty rhetoric!

March 12, 2008

Effective Networking

I'm currently in Dallas at the Hospitality Operations & Technology (HOT) Conference and will be speaking tomorrow on Business Intelligence. Tonight we had the welcome reception and I knew no one...literally I had never met a single person in the room. I know they say more people are afraid of public speaking than being burned alive (or something crazy like that). I however have no problem standing in front of a bunch of people (friends or strangers) and talking about almost anything and could probably go on for hours (I can tend to be long winded at times). I think it is great fun. But being in a room full of people I don't know and starting up a conversation is roughly equivalent to being stabbed in eyes with red-hot forks. I have flash backs of being at the jr. high dance with that deathly fear of being rejected, but knowing I had to ask in order to dance (which is a whole other story for another post). Why is that?!I know it is part of being a consultant. You have to network. So here is a question to my small group of readers and smaller group of commentors.

"What is the best way to start an interesting conversation in professional setting...like a trade conference?"

Oh, and "So what do you do?" cannot be an answer. I'm looking for something more interesting and original.

March 10, 2008

Apathy = A Problem Technology Cannot Solve

Some of you know I have two blogs currently. I wrote a post for hospitality technology made simple that I thought was worth while for the readers of k.sturm blog as well. I won't do this often as duplicating blog content is a bit lame, but I thought this post was worth it.
I am a big believer that technology can solve many business and operational problems. There is POS for tracking product mix, streamlining order flow, and revenue reporting; Inventory Management for getting accurate food costs, purchasing cycles, and inventory control; Reservations for managing guest reservations, table turn, and wait times; and a slew of other systems depending on the venue. But for hospitality venues there is a problem that technology solutions cannot solve - mainly apathy or the trait of "learned helplessness."

Last night my family and some friends went out to dinner at El Paseo restaurant in Santa Barbara. We were doing an early dinner (we had two toddlers in tow) and were glad to see the restaurant was not too busy. We really like El Paseo because of the atmosphere (retractable roof) and good food (our opinion). We LOVE the table-side made guacamole and fresh made warm tortillas, and they usually have a pretty solid margarita. We go enough we know what is good and what is not, so we stick to what is good (like the fajitas). Also an important point is I go there because they are a former customer and I am a firm believer in supporting your customers.

But our experience last night ranks in my top 5 worst at any hospitality venue. I point the cause to apathy on the part of the manager and service staff. I will set the stage as it was immediately apparent El Paseo was understaffed for the night. We were all sensitive to this as my wife and friend both waited tables for years and I have spent hours on end helping restaurant staff work through system technology issues (I bused tables in a suit once at a customer site because that was where I could help ensure the guest's experience stayed positive).
From the moment we walked in the door at El Paseo we were an annoyance versus a guest. I had to find someone to seat us, and once we were seated had to flag down the manager after 15 minutes. We asked the manager if he could bring us water and napkins (napkins came half way through the meal...recall we had two toddlers with us) and requested a waiter to come over. He declined to get us water and replied, "I will find someone to get your drink order." No apology for the wait or a comment that things might be a little slow.

When our waiter arrived (visibly annoyed we had him summoned) we ordered our drinks, our food (with a one special request), and asked for silverware and napkins. We got three deep sighs and at least four eye rolls. We had been given a kids menu and ordered two kids meals with a lemonade. When our drinks arrived the waiter set a foot-tall-cone-shaped-three-pound-bar-glass filled to top with lemonade in front of our friends 2 year old (no exaggeration!) We asked for kids cup to which he responded they have none (kids menu, kids meals, no kids cup?). We asked if they had a smaller cup, and he came back to the table with a plastic Budweiser cup and no lid (a Bud cup for
a toddler?).

We arrived at the restaurant before 6:00 pm and received our food at about 7:00 pm. In that one hour we saw our server once to place our order and once to receive our drinks. We called the manager over twice to ask for more water and napkins, and never once got an apology or a comment on better service. I helped implement El Paseo's technology solutions so I know their systems cannot be to blame for what we experienced last night. I also know the ownership group and have eaten at their other restaurants in Santa Barbara, so I do not believe it is part of the ownership group. Our experience last night was 100% caused by apathetic management and wait staff. But our experience could have been 100% different with the same staff and same poor service. Here's how...

roll out the welcome mat
Greet your customer with a smile and welcome them to your venue. Even if the service is going to be below standard you should still make your customer want to be there.

when required set a low expectation
When as a manager or server you know you cannot deliver the best service, be up front with customers and set that expectation. Offer that you will check in as often as possible, but that service may be slower than normal. That way if it is slow the guest expected it, but if it is not you over achieved. Most customers will be accepting of this.

Image credit to Julianfoto
cater to your customer
If you offer a separate kids menu families will come to your restaurant. Parents expect kid cups to be available if you have a kids menu. Not having kids cups is saying you don't want kids in the restaurant.

apologize when you know you should
You know when you need to apologize for crummy service, even when it's not your fault. An apology can go a long long way. Everybody has bad days at the office. Apologizing when you flat out do not deliver means you care enough to want to deliver.

If only I could invent a technology solution that solved the apathetic employee problem...

My Celebrity Morph

Okay, after the last post this had to come next. I'll get to a business post in a few but Chrystal and I just laughed so hard. Chrystal was looking at a blog that had a Celebrity Morph, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Apparently my celebrity look alike is Sinclair Lewis. I don't think he was known for his looks...

MyHeritage: Family tree - Genealogy - Celeb

March 6, 2008

I'm a Stock Model!

I switched to a local bank recently after major frustrations with Wells Fargo. It's pretty awesome because two of the employees know me by name now when I walk in and I don't even have to give them my account number! (As a side note it's Wescom Credit Union and I would HIGHLY recommend them for your money.)

Yesterday I walked in to make a deposit and Jessie asked me what kind of consulting I did. I told her hospitality technology consulting and she says, "I only ask because I was on this site and there was a guy that looked exactly like you." I asked her for the site and last night remembered to go look. I don't think there is much similarity other than the hair style, but even Chrystal said the resemblance is pretty close. She is always saying I could be a model which is a load of bologna...but I love her for it!

Heading to Mammoth!

I'm heading up to Mammoth Mountain this afternoon for the REALITY Men's Ski Trip. Three days of fellowship, skiing, and getting in The Word. It always amazes me how much "stuff" it takes to go skiing. It probably doesn't help that I always bring two pairs of skis.
Mammoth got dumped on last month but it doesn't look like there is any chance of snow this weekend. :-(

Insurance for Your iPhone

Three days ago I dropped my iPhone for the first time. My hands were full and in an attempt to slide it into my pocket I dropped it on asphalt. I cringed as it hit and then bounced, landing screen side up (whew!). As Apple promised, it withstood the drop well and came away without so much as small scratch. But a nerve had be pinched and I wanted...no needed insurance. For me it is really more than a phone. It is almost a mobile computer away from my computer.

And more importantly it is the worlds best toddler distraction when in the car, grocery store, hardware store, or (insert location here). Brody (who is not quite 3) knows how to start the iPod and watch Cars or some other movie, and has just recently figured out how to use YouTube. In preventing him from watching whatever he clicks on I've bookmarked a bunch of YouTube cartoons for him. He still never fails to end up watching some strange cartoon clip with graphic rap lyrics a full volume. It's like he knows exactly how to find it, crazy.

Seriously though, let's get to the point. After searching the web I found some insurance companies will cover the iPhone. I quickly emailed Jayme (my all star All State agent) and asked how much it would be to cover my iPhone, laptop, and a few other ancillary items that I carry in my mobile office. Get this...$79 bucks per year. I already feel a sense of comfort.

I couldn't get less than a $250 deductible, but $250 is better than paying $400 for a new phone (or $2000 if it's my laptop). $79 is pretty cheap for peace of mind.

March 3, 2008

"Perfectionists are Losers" by Pamela Slim

Here is a great post by Pamela Slim on not being perfect. If you are thinking about starting your own company you should be reading her blog.

After talking with a couple different friends who had made the leap I came to the realization that you have to build a company to have a company. And to have a company you have to start somewhere. kevin sturm Consulting is in no way ultra successful, but I enjoy my work now more than ever and have more time to spend with Chrystal and Brody.

There are tons and tons of things I need to do to make the company better, but if it would never have been if the goal was for it to be perfect.

Grab Your Integrity and Hold on Tight!

Picture courtesy of Ian David

After quitting my job and starting my own company I thought it was time to look into a financial adviser. It was not that my company was ultra successful so I needed somewhere to put the money (far far from it), it just seemed that someone who new more about how to grow wealth than me was needed. I have almost no interest...okay, no interest...in day trading or monitoring the stock market to plan my next stock purchase. But there are people who love it and make a living at it...oh the beauty of capitalism. So why not pay them?

One seemingly opportunistic day while working at Starbucks I struck up a conversation with a really nice person that ended up being someone that could possibly help me with this. Chrystal and I met with them a few times and discussed our financial goals. We reviewed how we should roll over our 401K, what our risk acceptance and aversion was, and all the options of where our money could go. After three meetings we were heading towards investment in a VUL and rolling our 401K into a traditional IRA.

We put our trust in this person and I liked them. I felt we had a bond in being young entrepreneurs, expecting parents, and Christians. In our last meeting to sign papers I was advised to answer a question on the application untruthfully. I questioned the advice and said I would prefer to answer the question truthfully. But I left the meeting feeling very unsettled. In order to not make a short story boring, I'll get the point that today I let the person know we would not be investing our money with them or their company.

The point of this post is this.

Never ever ever do anything that brings your integrity, honesty, or character into question with your customer.

I believe the person we met with is honest, has a high character, and values integrity. But this one thing made me call into question the advice we were being given. And since we were talking about our financial future, I was not willing to take even a small risk.

From a letter I received from the person we met with this was a learning experience for both of us. I took five points from this experience.
  1. When deciding on who you are going to work with to invest money, I think it is best to talk with the actual person that is going to be investing your money. Seems somewhat like common sense now. ;-)
  2. Before you meet with someone about your finances, do your own research on what you think the best options may be. Have a basic understanding of options so you can talk the talk.
  3. Find out exactly how fees are paid and who is paid. Ask for a detailed example of if you invest X, and have a return of Y, what will be paid by you in Z. This will most likely be a hard question to get answers to. It is worth it.
  4. Entering a partnership like this is a bit like getting married. The first meeting is informal and soon you are talking about long term plans. There is a cost to get in and a larger cost with penalties to get out. And more important, even a small amount of perceived dishonesty can ruin the entire relationship.
  5. Last but most important was the confirmation that the most important thing you can be to your customer is honest, always!

February 29, 2008

My 100th post!

After almost a year and half I finally reached my 100th post! A goal this year is to post more frequently and on a subject matter that I think will be more interesting from a business standpoint.

When I started blogging I posted on just about any topic that shot into my head. The blog had a few different names and themes. It started out "Kevin Sturm" with a very generic template, then migrated to "fun@life", and I finally settled on "k.sturm blog" with the current layout (which I really like). Originally most of the posts were about my family and general happenings in my life. The blog was kind of a hodge-podge of information.

In the past year I began to refine what I posted on and choose more topics on business related subjects. I made that decision because I love business and am passionate about new ideas and making them happen. I finally quit my job and started my own company, kevin sturm Consulting. Many of you know with that new venture I launched hospitality technology made simple, a blog dedicated to my consulting business.

With focusing so much on business posts and posts for hospitality technology made simple I haven't really posted much about family, being a husband, and being a father. And really that is the part of my life I love the most. Chrystal is my best friend, most wonderful wife, biggest supporter, and often my muse. Being a father to Brody is more than I could have asked for in life, and there is endless blog content in that little head. With the expectation of a new little girl in April I want an avenue to share that part of my life. So, in the danger of spreading my blogging capabilities and time to thin I will be starting a "daddy blog" in the near future...probably late March.

I think that will be all the blogs I can do as I will be covering all of my passions. I may try and use "WordPress" on this new blog because of some great advantages they offer. I've learned a ton about blogger though so we'll see. Additionally I hope to have guest bloggers as I have tons of friends that are crazy funny, and have kids that inspire some riotous laughter.

But the real point of this post is to thank my readers (few as that may be). I have no idea how many of you are out there, but yesterday I randomly discovered one in Benny G (thanks for commenting Benny!). Thanks also to David Jay, Tim Halburg, Andy Morales, Chrystal (obviously) and a few others for being consistent commenters. My request from the rest of you at this point is to add value to the blog and post your insight. I'd love to hear from you!

February 27, 2008

Business Success and Partnerships

I was meeting with a friend the other morning about a new business idea. His idea was awesome and could really change some of the cooperation and communication in his industry. He was having doubts about his idea though because many of his peers kept saying, "Oh that will never work because people won't risk losing profits by working with you."

For clarification I've left my friend's name and the industry out of the post because he hasn't yet got the company off the ground. But he's got a doozy of an idea!

We had a great conversation on how to overcome this problem which made me think about the concepts of launching a new company where partnerships are a must (which is just about any company). Currently my biggest client is because of a reference from a company that offers the same consulting services, but without a portion of very specific expertise that I have. The company is probably losing $30,000 to $50,000 in revenue by referencing me. However, if I can help turn things around then their upside revenue will exceed $2,000,000 with the client. If I can't turn things around the risk is $50,000, but their annual revenues are beyond $800 million so no big risk for them.

The point here is that if you can create an upside with little or no risk for your partner then you really create a win-win scenario. My example is maybe not great because their is no risk for me, but that is beside the point. Here are a few things to think about when creating a partnership that you need.1. What is your motivation in creating the partnership? This is an important question because your motivation MUST be something other than you make money. Is there a bigger benefit that helps you, your partner, and your joint customer. A partner will see right through you if a big motivation is not to help them make money. Guy Kawasaki says a key element of any new business must be "to make meaning", and that is this point. The partnership must help make meaning for all involved.

2. Evaluate the value of each partnership and ensure the returns are balanced for you and the partner. If the upside value is almost all yours, then almost all returns may need to be your partners. If the upside is all your partners, then almost all the returns may need to be yours. Don't not do a partnership because there is little direct profits. There may be indirect profits (see #5)

3. My dad always taught me "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered". It is easy to get caught up in squeezing the partnership for all it's worth. Fight that urge and take what you should versus what you can.

4. Figure out a way to make the partnership low risk. For example, if you want to sell another persons product they will probably not risk losing revenue to your gain. In this situation figure out a minimum sales number before you take profits. This way your potential partner only gives away a portion of the profit when they sell enough to accept it. You can also build in levels of profit sharing here where the more you sell the more profit you get.

5. Recognize that recognized names can bring customers. If you are the little dog in a partnership the big dog may get you leads because they are the big dog. In follow up to point #2 it may be beneficial to just have the partnership and take little (or even no) profit. Rather negotiate an endorsement of some kind. Free press from an influential person and/or company can bring bigger revenues and encourage other partners to join. Creditability for any new business is huge. Acceptance and endorsement from credible sources is priceless.

My final note is don't quit because people don't like your idea. Talk about it with people. You'll be amazed how the idea changes through each conversation. You will turn it into a great idea or realize it probably won't work and scrap it for a better idea.

February 15, 2008

Build Your Own Favicon for Blogger

After some serious frustration, trial-and-error, and getting bad information from a bunch of different blogs and "how to" sites I finally figured out how to implement a favicon for my Blogger blogs. For those of you that want to do the same, here are the steps.

This screenshot curtiousy of Jason Ungos

1. First you have to create an image file that is no more than 16x16 pixels. I did this using Photoshop Elements, but you could use any program. If you already have an icon or picture you want to use, just resize it using your standard photo editing software (iPhoto or Windows Picture Viewer can do this).

2. Second you need to create either a .ico, .gif, or .png file. I used a .ico file by downloading IcoMaker for Mac. Works beautifully. Supposedly you don't have to use a .ico file, but if using a .gif or .png file doesn't work then go ahead and use a .ico.

3. Once you have the file you need to host it somewhere. If you have a hosting site, just post it up there. I use Tripod to host my files. It is FREE, secure, and doesn't require you to download a separate FTP client.

4. Once you have it on the web copy the location of the file and paste it into your text editor software (Notepad or TextEdit).

5. Log into blogger and click on "Layout". Click on the "Edit HTML" area and it will bring up your html code. Search for in the html text. Enter the following code right below it. My looks like this.

If you are using a .gif or .png file it should read like this

6. Click "Save Template"

Hope you get it to work with more success than I first did.

February 13, 2008

Ideas Excite Me!

I just had coffee with my friend Carter Crockett, a business professor at Westmont College. If you have read my LinkedIn profile you know talking about new ideas is one of my favorite things to do. Carter and I had this great conversation about a new business idea and I can hardly get my brain to stop working out the details so I can focus and do work for kevin sturm Consulting clients.

One of the biggest changes in my life since quitting my job has been how I think differently. Versus being mired in all the "things" and "problems" that dominated my day and my brain, I am free to dream about new and fun ideas. Your brain really can do amazing things when you stop trying to force it to do something it doesn't want to.

If you have a new business idea you want to talk about, invite me to coffee. I love hashing it out even if it never happens! I'll even buy!

February 10, 2008

Don't Steal Software

I was on Craigslist today and came across this post.
In response I flagged the post as in violation of Craigslist rules and sent "sale-569449932" the below email. And yes I did give him/her a link to this blog, which I hope they find with this post.There are a few things here that amaze me. First, it is really bold to openly post for the world to see that you do not care about software licensing. Stealing software is a crime, and just really shady.

Second, it takes a narrow minded person to not realize that it is stealing and you are stealing from lots of people. It is not just Bill Gates; it's the Gates Foundation (you cannot argue it's not a good cause), the developers that wrote the software, and some seriously hard working people at Microsoft (that are not rich) which I have had the pleasure of working with during my career.

Thirdly, as much as I like working with Microsoft they are not the only software option. Lots of companies that are not Microsoft exist. If you don't want to buy Microsoft software do a Google search on "mac office software" and NeoOffice comes up on page two. It would take less time than doing a Craigslist post.

If you want something with a little more functionality for a really low price try OpenOSX
for $30.

With so many options out there why resort to something that shows such poor character?

February 6, 2008

Doing Well Just Isn't Enough

In college I was part of a group of guys that met regularly to keep each other accountable in our lives, our relationship, and our walk with God. One of our goals, or mottos if you will, was "To Be Good Men Speaking Well." I was reminded of that motto today when I read this speech given Anna Quindlen at an American University graduation ceremony. For a while I lost track of my priorities and mixed up what was really important in my life. The desire to do well surpassed the desire to do good. Looking around it is easy to see how doing well can take precedence over doing good. We put our faith and happiness in the next promotion, the bigger house, the nicer cloths, and the newer car.

But the promotion, house, cloths and car can't give back. They just lead to the newer car, bigger house, and next promotion. Today reflect on what you are known for. Are you known for doing well or doing good? I'm not against doing well. I want to do well, but when all is said and done doing good will create more happiness and a longer legacy for you and those you are good to.

Speech by Anna Quindlen:
"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank accounts but also your soul.

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort on a winter's night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've received your test results and they're not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my friends and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best mediocre at my job if those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are. So here's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay cheque, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well will never be enough.

It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of our kids' eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the back yard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived".

February 5, 2008

Excercise Your Privilige - VOTE!

Chrystal, Brody and I went and voted today as a family. Give a prayer of thanks that today you get to exercise that privilege, and then go vote. Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent voting is important.

Check out Seth's Lessons from voting for some interesting insights into voting.

February 4, 2008

How Do You Shower?

Okay, this isn't original but it is so funny. I first had this sent to me a long time ago, but Chrystal just got it and sent it to me again. I'm not sure who first wrote it, but they are ingeniously and genuinely funny. They also must be married.

How to Shower Like a Woman

  • Take off clothing and place it in sectioned laundry hamper according to lights and darks.
  • Walk to bathroom wearing long dressing gown.
  • If you see husband along the way, cover up any exposed areas.
  • Look at your womanly physique in the mirror -- make mental note to do more sit-ups/leg-lifts, etc.
  • Get in the shower. Use face cloth, arm cloth, leg cloth, long loofah, wide loofah and pumice stone.
  • Wash your hair once with cucumber and sage shampoo with 43 added vitamins.
  • Wash your hair again to make sure it's clean.
  • Condition your hair with grapefruit mint conditioner enhanced..
  • Wash your face with crushed apricot facial scrub for 10 minutes until red.
  • Wash entire rest of body with ginger nut and jaffa cake body wash.
  • Rinse conditioner off hair.
  • Shave armpits and legs.
  • Turn off shower.
  • Squeegee off all wet surfaces in shower.
  • Spray mold spots with Tilex.
  • Get out of shower. Dry with towel the size of a small country.
  • Wrap hair in super absorbent towel.
  • Return to bedroom wearing long dressing gown and towel on head.
  • If you see husband along the way, cover up any exposed areas.
How to Shower Like a Man
  • Take off clothes while sitting on the edge of the bed and leave them in a pile.
  • Walk naked to the bathroom.
  • If you see wife along the way, shake wiener at her making the woo-woo sound.
  • Look at your manly physique in the mirror.
  • Admire the size of your wiener and scratch your butt.
  • Get in the shower. Wash your face.Wash your armpits.
  • Blow your nose in your hands and let the water rinse them off.
  • Fart and laugh at how loud it sounds in the shower.
  • Spend majority of time washing privates and surrounding area.
  • Sing the National Anthem like you are at a baseball game and love how it echos.
  • Wash your butt, leaving those coarse butt hairs stuck on the soap.
  • Wash your hair. Make a Shampoo Mohawk.
  • Pee.
  • Rinse off and get out of shower.
  • Partially dry off.
  • Fail to notice the water on floor because curtain was hanging out of tub the whole time.
  • Admire wiener size in mirror again.
  • Leave shower curtain open, wet mat on floor, light and fan on.
  • Return to bedroom with towel around waist. If you pass wife, pull off towel, shake wiener at her and make the woo-woo sound again.
  • Throw wet towel on bed.
My wife and I were laughing out loud reading this together.

Make Sure What You Do = What Your Customer Wants

Sometimes on the weekends I do very dad-like things.

Brody turns 3 in April, and since we are expecting baby-sister (no name picked yet) in April it was time to move into a "big-boy" bed. So this weekend I built a bunk bed. Okay I assembled a bunk bed, but I did everything but sand and stain the wood. I could not believe the amount of assembly required for this bed. It made me feel very "daddish" though and I was super excited about it. Putting together my sons bunk bad...seriously how dad is that!? Brody loves it and climbs all over it.

And today we were playing with his cars from the movie Cars (he has all of them) and I got this great idea to build a ramp to drive the cars down from his top bunk. I thought we would have a great time building it together. We went to the hardware store and got some material, got the project all setup, and after attempting to hammer one nail Brody got bored with the board. I spent the next 45 minutes building a ramp with barriers, lanes, and finish molding. I thought it was really cool (still do). I took it up to him all excited and set it up. Brody thought it was cool for about 4 minutes until a different toy grabbed his fancy.The reality was Brody did not ask for a ramp. He was completely content just playing cars with me and didn't need anything else.

I often find I want to do something for my customers that I think is cool, even if they don't need it. This is especially easy in software development where unnecessary features get added because they are cool but not very functional (think annoying paperclip man in Windows). Avoid doing something because you think it's cool. Instead do something that is useful, which should start with spending some time with your customer and listening.

And if you're a dad spend some solid time playing with your kids and listening.

February 1, 2008

Spending Money in the Wrong Place

I'm not an economist and I am probably not the best source for how a company worth billions should spend their money. But I think Microsoft is about to spend money in the wrong place. Microsoft submitted an unsolicited offer today of $44.6 billion to buy Yahoo (read about it at Bloomberg.com). This is historic either way as it represents the largest technology take over in history, but I think it may be historic as another bad decision my the new Microsoft. I can't help but think they are competing with Google in the wrong way.

Google did not win the search engine war by buying other companies that were also loosing the war. They were innovative, created a product that was easier to use, and got a reputation as company you wanted to work for (still do). They did awesome things like pay people to advertise for them (AdSense) even when 98% of users never see $0.10. Microsoft's Vista and IE 7.0 "innovation" has created more Mac and Google fans out of former Microsoft fans (me included as I write this from my MacBook Pro using Firefox). At what point did Microsoft make it a business plan to bottom feed buy spending billions of dollars on inferior technology and companies?

This former Microsoft evangalist would like to see them either buy an innovative industry leader (think YouTube) or spend $44 billion dollars and a release a product that gets the kind of buzz and adoption the iPhone got.

At the most basic level they could attempt to copy a very easy thing that made Google easier to use. Look a the three pics below and tell me which you would rather use if you were trying to find something on the Internet.

January 31, 2008

Losing Business with Business Automation

Automated customer service emails have their place. But when they are not in line with customer expectation you can end up doing more harm than good.
On Friday Jan, 17 I took a flight on US Airways from San Antonio to Phoenix. I experienced the worst service in my history of flying, which is saying something since I spent the equivalent of one full work month on a plane in 2007 (about 160 hours for those told there would be no math) . Never before had I written an airline as the bar is set pretty low with regard to guest experience and I am generally understanding of the airline plight. Airline employees deal with unhappy and rude customers all the time, and 98% of the time the problem is out of their control like flight delays or being out of Coke cans mid flight.

But attitude and how a job is performed is completely in the control of any employee. The kicker for me was getting off the plane to wait for my carry on bag to be delivered (small plane) and watch our bags get "launched" by an employee three feet up over a railing and fall about three feet to a landing. Thankfully I didn't have anything fragile in mine, but I saw one laptop bag go airborne (as it's owner cringed) and one garment bag get a hammer style throw.

Since my iPhone does not have video capability (one of its major limitations) I tried to get my camera out to take video but was too slow (I think it would have made an interesting YouTube upload). I sent a note to US Airways, but not an "angry customer" note. I told them the story of my experience and ended it saying I did not want anything in return but hoped customer service would be a higher priority.

The following day I got an automated response from US Airways apologizing for my "travel difficulties" and a $75 non-transferable travel voucher. I suppose I could have just accepted this as the reality of things, but I felt a bit insulted. US Airways could have quickly validated if I had a frequent flier number (which I do) and found my Star Alliance status. My guess is they could have also discovered I spent over $2200 in airfare since January 1, 2008 (30 times the voucher amount).

I sent a response email to customer service saying I did not want the voucher I just wanted better service the next time I flew. They sent another email apologizing for offending me with the voucher and that my concerns had been delivered to the appropriate management. I ended feeling again like my experience stunk.

US Airways could have righted my experience one of two ways. Picking up the phone after the second email would have been ideal. It would have made me feel appreciated and ensured they understood I was not angry but disappointed. Obviously they cannot do this with everyone, but the reason for loyalty programs is so you know who a customer is and what losing them may mean. Second, though I did not want anything, a full fare voucher would have told me they really wanted me to fly with them.

The point of business automation should be to improve the guest experience, not the other way around.