How is your business designed?

April 12, 2011

TrainingAs an entrepreneur, I constantly grapple with the design of my business. Here the design of the business is used broadly. How does the business function and operate? Who does what in the business? And very commonly, changing the design slightly can result in a radical results in the company. Although we all want radical results, we’re sometimes stuck in old patterns, or old learnings.

Social Media is a new pattern. A new way of doing things. Small businesses are easier to adapt to Social Media, but larger businesses find this much more difficult, and understandably so.

In Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide (written by Amy Shuen, published by O’Reilly Media, Inc), it says:

“Now the mainstream industry leaders, Internationals 100s, and Fortune 500s that are having the hardest time adjusting their hierarchical organizations, outdated business models, and strictly in-house capabilities to the new strategy challenges of the digital and knowledge economy.”

I feel sorry for these big companies. For them change is difficult. They’re not designed to change. But they’re happy. They’re comfortable. Comfortable is dangerous. The world is moving too fast to be comfortable. We have to get uncomfortable. Uncomfortable still means having fun. It still means building great companies. It still means making profits. It still means changing the world. But it also means questioning ourselves, daily. Are we doing the right thing? Are we adapting? Do we have our ears on the ground? Or do we have our heads in the sand?

Seth Godin spoke about this in a recent blog post as well. He said:

“Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault. Sadly, the complaints rarely make it as far as the overpaid (or possibly overworked) executive who made the bad design decision in the first place. It’s the architecture of service that makes the phone ring and that makes customers leave.”

I’m currently looking at every aspect of myself and my business. I’m trying to let go of old ways and patterns, and trying new things. It’s a tough and challenging exercise, but a vital one. If you’re an entrepreneur like me, I think you have to consider the design of your business. Change is physically easy. It’s the mental and emotional part that’s the big challenge though.

Photo credit

Don’t shove your message down my throat

April 6, 2011

UnsubscribeThe tweet to the left shows that my friend Nur was clearly frustrated. I saw it and thought about my own frustrations with spam. I could relate. I’m sure you can too. We are constantly being flooded with marketing messages from brands which we know and even don’t know. These come in at us from all directions: email, text messages, calls, pop-up web ads, etc. The one I think people are most annoyed about is email spam. This is one of the easiest and cheapest methods of reaching vast audiences. Certain emails which we have subscribed to are a joy to receive. Yet most newsletter-type emails are unsolicited and unwanted. We don’t know where these people get our email addresses from, but they come in daily.

Upon receiving a spam email yesterday, and I clicked the “Report spam” button which I do regularly. But something happened which has never happened before. This message popped up:


Google has now added the feature to unsubscribe from the company’s database automatically once you report the message as spam. This is a step in the right direction. And I’m not surprised that Google has taken this initiative.

Marketers need to realise that permission marketing and inbound marketing is the way of the future. Read up on them at those links. Wrap your head around these concepts. And then act. Change your strategy. Think about your customers. Think about their time. Value their time. Perchance they will value you.

Sidenote 1: When I saw the tweet from Nur, I did not interact with him. Before this blog post was published, he had no way of knowing whether I had even seen his tweet or not. Remember this! Please do not always engage with you online. But they’re reading, or “listening” to what is going on around them. I have experienced this many, many times. People have met up with me and mentioned things I said online weeks prior. People are listening. Some folks say little on Facebook and Twitter, but they log on simply to listen to the expressions of others. Have you ever done that? I know you have. I have.

Sidenote 2: The benefit of using “cloud” services like Google Apps is that they are improved on a very consistent basis. I don’t have to buy a new version of the software. I don’t have to pay for new features. The next time I log in, the features are there. And take note of this: Google does not email it’s users each time an update is deployed. Doing this would certainly be easy for them. But they don’t. They allow us to “discover” these new features. Isn’t that a wonderful word? Discovery. We love that word. Google Apps and Gmail also have a neat help interface which I have just “discovered” – but I think this has been around for a while. After I found it, I immediately shared it on Twitter with this simple message:

googlehelp 300x99 Dont shove your message down my throat

Let your users find you. Then let them discover your awesomeness. Don’t force yourself and your message on them. Be patient.

Reading Rules!

July 3, 2010

Teaching is my biggest passion, and each time I teach I get a tingly feeling inside. That’s when I realise that the bit of information I just shared came from a book I read a few months back, or a podcast I listened to long ago, or a video I saw, or a conference I attended. In that very moment I yearn to learn more. So that I can teach more.

I’m old fashioned, so I still read books, the old…paper kind. People in my industry keep saying books are done, books are last century. I don’t buy that theory. I only see books going one of two ways: They’ll either be around forever, or they’ll at least be around for a very very long time to come. Either way, I’m keeping mine! I rarely travel without a book in hand, even if that travel is just into the city for a business meeting. When I deliver seminars I always have books in my hand, I think it’s effective to inspire people to learn.


I’ve taken a small selection of books from my bookshelf, and made a list. These are books that I think might benefit you in business. I have a very long “Book Wish List” – but I have not included any of those books simply because I don’t have them…yet! You can find the list here:

I’ve also made a list of 65 eBooks which I have collected over the the past few years. I think they’re good, and they’re worth looking over when you have a chance. Very large eBooks I print – I simply cannot read on a screen for very long. Smaller ones I read on my laptop, but I have them on Dropbox, so they’re accessible on my iPhone from anywhere. So standing in a queue, waiting for someone, etc is never a problem for me – there’s always some reading to be done. You can grab them here:

Happy reading!

Soccer World Cup with Google Maps and Street View

June 9, 2010

Google Street View
Google has launched Street View in South Africa, so you can now see your favourite World Cup stadiums and city hotspots online. The image above is from Google Maps, and shows Green Point’s Main Road, with the Cape Town Stadium in the background. Truly magnificent! Of course, license plates and people’s faces are blurred to avoid privacy issues. What is interesting though, is that I’ve seen company signage on cars and this of course cannot be hidden. Try Street View for yourself, but I warn you, it’s addictive. Images are not live, and they’re not current, they can be up to a few months old. So there’s no need to worry about stalkers and the like. This is simply an archive of street imagery that Google has been collecting for a very long time. The launch of Street View is a real big shift for us in South Africa – and I’m very excited about it.

This Google video explains Street View adequately, and towards the end of it you’ll see imagery from Cape Town, which feels nice, I must say.

Are you a mobile user? This video explains Street View for mobile:

If you want to be creative during the World Cup season – or really at any other time – Google allows you to create your own Google Map with a tool called MyMaps. It’s really very simple to do, and it can be done in just minutes. Look at this short video to see how it’s done:

CleverPete has made his MyMaps public. He’s done the Waterfront bus route in Cape Town. Check it out here. This map was created a while ago, but it’s now very interesting because Street View has been activated.

Try Street View by clicking this link.

Brady Corporation goes Google Apps

June 8, 2010

Google AppsBrady Corporation has recently adopted Google Apps as their communication and collaboration suite. Small businesses, large corporations, and even cities like Los Angeles, California have shifted to Apps. Read this interesting post: The City of Los Angeles uses Google Apps.

Brady Corporation is a $1.2 billion international manufacturer and marketer of complete solutions that identify and protect premises, products, and people. They have 7,800 employees across 90-plus locations.

Google Apps is a Cloud-based solution, so deploying to users in a single location is the same as deploying across multiple locations. There are no hardware and networking infrastructure concerns. Everything is online. Simple.

Brady says:

“We went with a “Big Bang” rollout for our 6,000+ users, and it’s been a great success. We chose Google Apps for cost savings over other solutions, but more importantly because we believe it’s the strongest platform to take advantage of future advancements on the Internet.”

To share their story they’re hosting the following webinar:
Choosing Google Apps as the Best-in-Class Cloud Solution
Thursday, June 10, 2010
2:00 p.m. EDT / 11:00 a.m. PDT / 6:00 p.m. GMT

The City of Los Angeles uses Google Apps

March 15, 2010

I mentioned LA’s move to Google Apps briefly in yesterday’s post, but I think I need to share some more detail. If a small business or even a large business moves to Cloud Computing it’s a big thing – but when an entire City does, then I think we should take note.

 The City of Los Angeles uses Google Apps

In October 2009 the City of Los Angeles moved it’s 34, 000 employees to Google Apps, replacing its Novell GroupWise system. The move has costed around $7.25 million, but Los Angeles officials believe that it will save millions of dollars in software licensing, maintenance, and storage costs while improving security.

Patrick Thibodeau reported in a Computerworld article:

Los Angeles spent months negotiating a contract with Google that includes a provision providing the city with unlimited damages if its nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is breached by Google, said Kevin Crawford, the assistant general manager of IT for Los Angeles and the person who is managing the transition…Los Angeles data will be administered from inside LA’s firewall by city staffers through an administrative console built by Google, said Crawford. “We have control of our portion of the data….”We’re going to have a more secure system then we have today,” said Crawford, noting that Google personnel does more work on security “than we could ever afford to do.”

The same article reveals an interesting decision about Microsoft Office:

Los Angeles isn’t forcing employees to abandon Microsoft Office, since it already owns licenses for it. But the city won’t be buying new Office licenses for the next 12 months, and then will assess with various departments about whether they still need it, said Crawford. “Our best guess is that for somewhere between 60% and 80% of the staff, Google apps will meet all of their office productivity needs,” he said.

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US, but not the first to adopt Google Apps. It has been preceded by Washington DC and Orlando, FL.

Randi Levin, Chief Technology Officer, City of Los Angeles:

Google Apps will also help conserve resources in the city’s Information & Technology Agency (ITA), which is responsible for researching, testing & implementing new technologies in ways that make Los Angeles a better place to live, work and play. Because the email and other applications are hosted and maintained by Google, ITA employees who previously were responsible for maintaining our email system can be freed up to work on projects that are central to making the city run.

That’s the beauty of Google Apps. It means all your staff do not need to worry about email and related applications. That’s Google’s problem now. What about the savings…

By ITA estimates, Google Apps will save the city of Los Angeles millions of dollars by allowing us to shift resources currently dedicated to email to other purposes. For example, moving to Google will free up nearly 100 servers that were used for our existing email system, which will lower our electricity bills by almost $750,000 over five years. In short, this decision helps us to get the most out of the city’s IT budget.

This is phenomenal! Many companies don’t realise that Google Apps brings savings on items like servers (and remember these have huge maintenance costs too), as well as electricity.

This installation, across 34 city departments, was scheduled over a few months. Now keep in mind that the installation does not consist of any physical hardware. This is Cloud Computing. What takes time is adding users, creating groups, providing training, transferring data, and that sort of thing. A change to a City cannot happen in one day, even if the new infrastructure resides totally on the Internet.

Kevin Crawford, Assistant General Manager, Information Technology Agency, City of Los Angeles:

Google Apps is going to provide us capabilities mostly in the collaboration, disaster recovery, and archiving that we don’t currently have today…The product is going to make it easier for people to work together….Somebody’s on vacation, somebody’s on a business trip somewhere, they can sign into their Google system just as they can from their desk in their office.

The important points of collaboration and mobility are pointed out here. Google Apps makes this all so easy.

What does Randi say about email?

Email is vital to the inner workings of the city. There was a general dissatisfaction with our current email system. It can’t work on certain devices, people’s frustrations with the size of the mailboxes have really reached a peak. I didn’t want something that was going to require hours and hours of training. I wanted something that was going to be easy for them to use, intuitive, and something they can have when they’re at their desk, and when they’re out in their car, or when they’re out in the field.

And the big ROI question? And productivity?

Our ROI could be upwards to about $20 million, which includes increased productivity… With the Google solution, because of the way the whole system is architected, the availability of the system is increased. We’ll have more security, our data’s going to be much safer with the new system… For example they could do video chat and do their meetings that way as opposed to people driving into City Hall every day for a meeting… We’re going to see huge productivity savings, particularly when we train the organisation on how to use shared documents.

What makes things even more interesting, is that just last week Google launched the Google Apps Marketplace. I blogged about it here.

Does Google Apps implementation have to cost $7.25 million? Of course not. LA has 34, 000 employees. It’s likely your company is not that big.

Do you want to simply your communication, documentation, and collaboration processes? Do you want to eliminate server hardware and application software costs? Do you want to eliminate in-house and contracted IT support costs? Then Google Apps is for you. If you’re interested, contact us, we’ll get your hooked up.

For now, why don’t you watch this video of the City of Los Angeles’ move to Google Apps…

Do less, outsource everything else

March 14, 2010

Live simpleOwnership is so last century. It’s time to liberate ourselves and enjoy what technology affords us. In my opinion, we have two advantages which we should really be making use of.

Firstly, we have the opportunity to be specialists. The time is over for generalists. We no longer want to deal with one company that does everything – because we know that each avenue of expertise is so deep and advanced, that a generalist company can only scratch the surface of each of these avenues. Specialists can go to the depths. We want people who eat, sleep, and talk their expertise. Industries and businesses are evolving at such a rapid rate, that a generalist is no longer a valuable asset. And being specialists, we should be doing less. Being an effective specialist means doing less. It means being focused. It means choosing when and how we want to work. It means choosing the type of clients we want to work for. It means redefining success.

Seth Godin says in Small is the new big that, “Maybe you need to be a lot pickier about what you do and for whom you do it.” He continues by sharing the following…

Dan, a real-estate developer I met recently, told me that he does one new investment a year. It’s not unusual for his competition to do ten or a hundred deals in the same period of time. What Dan told me, though, really resonated: “In any given year, we look at a thousand deals. One hundred of them are pretty good. One is great.” By only doing the great deals, Dan is able to make far more money than he would if he did them all. He can cherry-pick because his goal isn’t volume.

Secondly, we should outsource everything that is not core to our business. It is common place today for companies to have employees stationed around the globe, working remotely. It’s even more common place to use individuals and companies to do secondary tasks. Once we set ourselves free and relinquish control, we have the opportunity to engross ourselves in what our mission is. Tim Ferris is a master at this. You should pick up his book The 4-Hour Work Week wherein he expounds on ideas to liberate ourselves from limited and ancient thinking patterns.

Even the City of Los Angeles, California has outsourced it’s email and communication infrastructure to Google. In October 2009, the city replaced its Novell GroupWise system with Google Apps. The city estimated the move at around $7.25 million, but Los Angeles officials believe the move will save millions in software licensing, maintenance, and storage costs while improving security. Email (as well as other communication items) are now outsourced to Google. This is phenomenal.

Randi Levin, Chief Technology Officer, City of Los Angeles:

City employees fulfill a range of important functions – from policing our streets to supplying water and power to city residents and businesses, and from operating our libraries to designing and building wastewater treatment plants and other public facilities. We want to provide all these employees with modern tools that help them do their jobs.

Outsourcing is something that we as entrepreneurs really need to get our heads around. And quickly. Inside of our businesses, we also need to learn to delegate more. Outsourcing is a type of delegation, but it technically refers to delegating to external resources. Warren Buffet: “We delegate almost to the point of abdication.”

Tim Ferris goes a step further though. He says, “Eliminate before you delegate.”

He explains…

Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash.

This is a subject that I’m passionate about, so I plan to write much more on it over the coming weeks…

Photo credit: cliche


March 11, 2010

Collaborate TshirtYesterday I tweeted the news of the newly opened Google Apps Marketplace, but I feel that I need to blog about this. This, I feel, is important for us all to understand, because the future of business and technology is being defined – and redefined – in and by online advancements.

One of the many things I love about the Web 2.0 world is it’s direct and natural resemblance to the real world. Web 2.0 – like the real world is all about sharing, honesty, transparency, and all those feel-good things. In the real world, no man can live alone. No man is an island, as they say. We need to connect, collaborate, and help each other to build a society. Everyone is important. The famous NASA story comes to mind. One of the cleaning ladies at NASA was asked what she does, she said: “I send people to space.” Now that is a profound understanding of common purpose and vision.

In the Web 2.0 world collaboration is fundamental. There is no surviving without it. If you want to “go it alone” in this space, you’re going to go nowhere slowly. Successful online companies (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter) have realised this. They’ve realised that they have to allow collaboration into and of their products, in order to provide more value to end users. This is not an easy thing to do – it is to some level a relinquishing of control.

If you’ve ever been on Facebook (who hasn’t!), you’ve at one time or another used an Application, an App as it is commonly known. There are Apps for everything, obviously the gaming Apps – like Farmville (reporting 83, 755, 953 monthly active users) – are very famous. There are Apps in all sorts of categories – Business, Education, Entertainment, etc. You can find a full directory of Facebooks Apps here.

Facebook wouldn’t be Facebook without the Apps. So picture Facebook as a big company in a big building. The company is theirs. The building is theirs. But they’ve opened up little side doors all around the building, to allow other companies (the App developers) to have access to their users. It’s a Win-Win-Win situation. Facebook wins because their users have a more enriched experience. The App developers win because they have access to millions of people. And the end user wins because we have a better experience on Facebook.

These little side doors are called APIs. An API is an Application Programming Inteface.

Apple has done the same with the iPhone. Apps really make the iPhone. And there’s an App for virtually anything. See the official Apple directory here. Some Apps are free, and some carry a price tag. Prices are very affordable though. Ranging from $0.99 to just a few dollars. App developers have already made a fortune selling millions of Apps in the Apple App Store. The Apple iPad is going to be released in a few months, and already there are Apps being created for it.

There are so many Twitter Apps available. TweetDeck, Tweetie, and Twhirl allow you to monitor and send tweets. Apps like Twitpic allow you to send photos on Twitter. It’s very interesting that the Twitpic founder was interview by Andrew Warner on recently, and he said that last year he was offered over $10 million for his company. He didn’t sell, of course. What’s more interesting is that Twitpic doesn’t have offices. The founder works from home, and his parents also work for him – from their home, and he has also employed another developer – which he hasn’t even met yet, and who also works remotely. Yep, that’s how drastically the business world is changing.

If you look at the homepage of this website, you’ll see our Flickr photos displayed. This is an example of WordPress using the Flickr API.

The examples of API usage are endless, and it’s going to grow. To understand this dynamic of mass collaboration, I really recommend the book Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams.

It says:

Even ardent competitors are collaborating on path-breaking scientific initiatives that accelerate discovery in their industries


McEwen saw things differently. He realized the uniquely qualified minds to make new discoveries were probably outside the boundaries of his organization, and by sharing some intellectual property he could harness the power of collective genius and capability. In doing so he stumbled successfully into the future of innovation, business, and how wealth and just about everything else with be created.

I suggest you buy this book. It’s well worth the read if this sort of thing is of interest to you.

The latest spark in the App world is the opening of the Google Apps Marketplace.

Google says:

More than 2 million businesses have adopted Google Apps over the last three years, eliminating the hassles associated with purchasing, installing and maintaining hardware and software themselves.

We’ve found that when businesses begin to experience the benefits of cloud computing, they want more. We’re often asked when we’ll offer a wider variety of business applications — from accounting and project management to travel planning and human resources management. But we certainly can’t and won’t do it all, and there are hundreds of business applications for which we have no particular expertise.

In recent years, many talented software providers have embraced the cloud and delivered a diverse set of features capable of powering almost any business. But too often, customers who adopt applications from multiple vendors end up with a fractured experience, where each particular application exists in its own silo. Users are often forced to create and remember multiple passwords, cut and paste data between applications, and jump between multiple interfaces just to complete a simple task.

Today, we’re making it easier for these users and software providers to do business in the cloud with a new online store for integrated business applications. The Google Apps Marketplace allows Google Apps customers to easily discover, deploy and manage cloud applications that integrate with Google Apps. More than 50 companies are now selling applications across a range of businesses…

Watch this interesting video to see how easy it is to use the Google Apps Marketplace:

Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

Get your head out of the clouds – no, don’t!

March 10, 2010

Clouds and corn“Get your head out of the clouds” is a famous saying that I’m sure we all know all too we ll. Having your head in the clouds was seen as a bad thing, when someone was daydreaming, etc. But, it’s 2010. And I say: don’t only get your head right up there in the clouds, but get your entire business up there too!

The 2 terms used to describe what I’m referring to are: “Cloud Computing” and “The Web as a platform.”

Let’s look at the evolution of computing (in a very over-simplified manner). First there were none. Then there were very big computers, mainframes, which were in the hands of a select few. Then the desktop computer was born. Then networks were born – a bunch of computers connected to each other. First you could only connect to the network’s server by physically being in the building. Then you could connect from any location by dialing in. Then national and global networks emerged. Then the Internet was born.

The Internet is, metaphorically, the cloud. More and more, all our information resides online. Less and less are we dependent on servers, desktop computers, or laptops. We are dependent – more and more – on the Internet though. But that’s okay, because access to the Internet is becoming more easy, and less costly.

If you’re a Facebook user (and I’ll bet you are), you’d have experienced the power of the cloud. Logging into your Facebook account from any computer or mobile phone provides all your Facebook information – contacts, messages, news feed, etc. The same with Twitter.

I think Internet banking was the first significant cloud service. Firstly, being able to bank online revolutionised business, in my opinion. Being able to access your bank account, and make payments, without going into a bank – changed the game forever. And if you had a bad experience as I did of having being arm robbed after leaving a bank, it tends to be one of your least favourite places to visit. Secondly, you could bank from absolutely anywhere – as long as you had an Internet connection. Phenomenal!

Today there are so many cloud services which make our lives much more productive, much more fun, and much easier. Google Apps (used by 2 million businesses worldwide, including ours) is a communication suite from Google – providing email, online documents, calendar, and more. Freshbooks is an online invoicing system – also providing time tracking, expense tracking, and quotations. Evernote, Basecamp, and many other online applications now make us more mobile. We are no longer dependent on computers or locations, we’re only dependent on the Internet – and that’s not too hard to come by these days.

It’s not easy to give up control of your data, and move it to online locations – but it’s a move we must make. And once we’ve made that move, we never want to go back!

Photo credit: kables

The Eternal September Crowd

November 7, 2009

Seth GodinOn May 21, 2009 Seth Godin wrote a blog post called Eternal September. For a long while before then, I was focused on training “newcomers” and “novices” about Web 2.0 and Social Media. I didn’t have an adequate term for them though, because many of them were not absolutely new to the Internet, many of them were web designers (of the Web 1.0 era), and people who used the Internet on a fair basis.

I am astounded at how I, and others in the Web industry, take for granted what we know. When I deliver training, or consult with clients, I get asked questions which jolt me back to reality. That reality being that there is an endless stream of people who need to be educated – and inspired – about what the Web can offer today. It’s very exciting, and it’s really a thrill to catapult people from ignorance to absolute enthusiasm. As much as it is exciting, it’s equally challenging. The need is so big that we’ve now dedicated our resources to having continuous training events – seminars and workshops – across the country. The first set is already underway, and we’ve already received an overwhelming response from the public.

Eternal September is as apt a term as one could find. Seth puts it across clearly:

“…each September sees an entire crop of freshman showing up at college, you need to assume that you have to start teaching protocols all over again. Once a year, it’s a whole new audience, and they need to learn the ropes.

The Internet has been stuck in September ever since. Every day, new people show up at your blog, on Facebook, everywhere. Every day it’s a whole new crop that need to figure out what RSS is and how to subscribe.”

Will this “Eternal September” crowd ever disappear? Will we reach a point where everyone knows how to use online technologies to their fullest potential? I don’t know. I don’t think so, though.

Image source

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