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Internationals 100s, and Fortune 500s that are having the hardest time adjusting their hierarchical organizations, outdated business models, and strictly in-house capabilities to the new strategy challenges of the digital and knowledge economy.”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

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The NPO Tribe

April 5, 2011

Web 2.0 – the current phase of the Internet – has changed many industries. Some drastically. Others subtly. The NPO industry is one which has changed drastically. The entire NPO structure is now no longer limited to confined demographics and confined resources. NPO executives, managers, members, funders, and communities are now spread across the globe. Life has changed. Business has changed. Charity has changed.

Seth Godin talks about the NPO landscape in his book Tribes. He says:

The Internet allows some organizations to embrace long-distance involvement. It lets charities flip the funnel, not through some simple hand waving but by reorganizing around the idea of engagement online. This is the new leverage. It means opening yourself up to volunteers and encouraging them to network, to connect with one another, and, yes, even to mutiny. It means giving every one of your professionals a blog and the freedom to use it. It means mixing it up with volunteers so they have something truly at stake. This is understandably scary for many nonprofits, but I’m not so sure you have a choice.

You might want to read this blog post, also from Seth.

NPO’s want to bring about change. That’s the purpose of their existence. They are social change agents. The Internet is facilitating change. I think NPO’s need to adopt the online phenomenon as if their lives depended on it. Oh wait, it does!

Why do you blog?

March 25, 2010

I love blogging. Actually, I love writing. I have been writing for years. I love expressing myself. I love sharing. And I hope people find value in that. I find value in what other people share. Books. Videos. Blog posts. One famous person said that if one day is not an improvement from the previous, then you’re better off dead. So we must learn. We must learn from each other. From each other’s knowledge, thoughts, and experiences. We’re all unique. And we’re all interdependent.

Seth Godin talks about blogging in this video. I think it’s powerful. I’m going to play this video at my next blogging workshop – it’s extremely insightful. I hope you’ll watch it.

Billboards are like sea turtles

March 23, 2010

Sea turtleI recently learnt about sea turtles, what a fascinating creature. Did you know that they are almost always submerged in water? It is for this reason that they have developed an anaerobic system of respiration. Although they breathe air, under dire circumstances they may divert to anaerobic respiration for long periods of time. They quickly refill their lungs with a single explosive exhalation and rapid inhalation when surfacing to breathe.

The sea turtle pictured here is called the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. Beautiful!

My first time learning about this creature was on a tv documentary. They showed how the eggs are laid in the sand, on the ocean’s shore. Wikipedia states that:

The mature nesting female hauls herself onto the beach and finds suitable sand on which to create a nest. Using her hind flippers, she digs a circular hole 40 to 50 centimetres (16 to 20 in) deep. After the hole is dug, the female then starts filling the nest with a clutch of soft-shelled eggs one by one until she has deposited around 50 to 200 eggs, depending on the species. Some species have been reported to lay 250 eggs, such as the hawksbill. After laying, she re-fills the nest with sand, re-sculpting and smoothing the surface until it is relatively undetectable visually. The whole process takes thirty to sixty minutes. She then returns to the ocean, leaving the eggs untended.

Now this is not a simple process. Due to the physical design of the sea turtle, movement out of the water is not very fast. It sort of crawls to move forward, and digging the hole to lay the female’s eggs is also a slow process.

After all this effort, the mother returns to the ocean, not knowing how many of the eggs will survive. And it has been statistically proven that only a very small proportion of each hatch – usually .01% – succeed.

God has designed nature and the universe with perfection – we all agree on that. But if we had to apply this type of process to business, it would be akin to shooting in the dark.

I think that is what advertising is, particularly big spend advertising like billboards. Advertising is shooting in the dark. It’s like dumping a whole lot of money in a hole, and expecting about .01% success. And if you have the opinion that advertising for branding is a smart thing – its not. And Chet Holmes will agree with me on that.

How do you know how many people viewed that billboard? How do you know how many people purchased your product due to that billboard? Measurement = impossible.

Did you know that $220 billion is spent on unmeasured advertising every year – in the US alone?

There’s a saying that advertising is the price you pay for not being remarkable. I’m sure you’re remarkable. We all are. Or more accurately, we all can be remarkable – but it takes some work. Advertising is the easy way out.

I’ll leave you with words by Seth Godin on this topic: “Do you want to bet your future on a process [that of advertising] that’s getting less effective every day?”


Photo credit: Wikipedia

Mediocrity is for losers

March 17, 2010

Mediocrity is a sinAt the start of all my seminars I play one of the Shift Happens videos. The people I talk to are usually the Eternal September crowd, so it’s important that I first illustrate the importance of having the correct mindset, a mindset which accepts change and progress. Only thereafter can I gradually ease them into the world of Social Media.

The mind has incredible power. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” If we take just a little effort to change how we think about things, new dimensions open up for us.

The Internet is huge, would you agree with me? I think you would. I was at the Coral International Hotel a few days ago (my second visit, and I highly recommend it) and I picked up a copy of an international newspaper there. An article by Arno Maierbrugger mentioned that, “By the end of last year, a total of 192 million domain names had been registered by internet users throughout the world, according to data by internet infrastructure provider VeriSign.”

I’d say the number is much higher than that though. Many websites use sub-domains – like photos.jayz.co.za, which do not need to be registered. Also, WordPress.com and other companies provide countless millions of sub-domains to their members.

So how do you stand out in such a mass of content. The key is to be different. The key is to be unique. And the funny thing is that we are all already unique. But due to society, peer pressure, and what is known as “group think” – many of us try to conform to be like everybody else. We discard our individuality for acceptance. And in doing so, we lose our unique essence.

I try my best to be myself all the time. I’m a teacher, so I try to teach. Many Social Media blogs rush to get out the latest Social Media news of the day. I don’t do that. For all the best news, go to Mashable.comPete Cashmore has done a fantastic job growing that website into the best online resource in this space. My blog is about ideas. Insights. And it’s specifically geared at the lay person. This is not a blog for geeks, although many may label me as a geek. It was refreshing to get a message on Twitter recently from Jo Duxbury who said to me, “It was so refreshing to see blog posts that are intelligent and original.” I don’t mention that to impress you, but I want to impress upon you the importance of being yourself.

Will Smith, in this video, says, “Being realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity.” Once we set ordinary goals, we just become ordinary. Why not set huge and unrealistic goals? I saw something interesting on Twitter today, which said: “Don’t tell me that the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” I like that sort of thinking.

Seth Godin is, in my opinion (and the opinion of some millions), a marketing genius. I have (only) 3 of his books, and I highly recommend getting any of them. At the last talk I did, I told the audience that if they go to a book store and see any book by Seth Godin, they should grab it and buy it – without hesitation. Yes, he’s that good. Seth is Seth. He speaks his mind, and he is very intuitive. I like that.

I found this interesting video of him, it’s titled “The Mindset of a Winner” – and I think it’s valuable that’s why I’m sharing it with you. I’m sure that after watching this video you will sit back – at least for a minute – and think about what you’re doing in your business. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks.


Photo credit: thost

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

Reuters gets constrictive

March 13, 2010

Old MediaNews giant Reuters has released a Social Media Policy and has even made it available online – you can read it here. Reuters is instructing it’s journalists on how to manage Social Media interactions. There’s a part of me that has empathy for them. The Social Media landscape can be scary for corporations which have had dominance for many years. I understand that. That’s the reason that “Small is the new big” as the title of Seth Godin’s book suggests.

For the most part I think the policy is fine, but what I think is going to hurt Reuters in the long term is the seemingly tight-fisted stance and mindset that the powers that be have developed regarding Social Media. My concern is that which is in between the lines of their policy, not that which is on the lines of it. Things have changed, and embracing Social Media with more openness would be much more in their interest.
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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.

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