Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ironman Miami.. Whoops! Ironman Access Whoops!

Company Does What A Lot Will Not... Take Responsibility

Refreshing. That is as simple as I can put it. I feel like I bit into a York Peppermint Patty . We live in a world where businesses may preach transparency, but typically they try to blame others for issues, and/or deny ownership. Consumers often feel that they are powerless and are never heard. Brands and images take a huge hit and unless a company is really listening, it may never know, and I believe that many do not care. Social media may provide an opportunity for instant feedback, but many companies are too slow to move or do not move. However, what I saw from the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), who owns the Ironman Triathlon brand and its CEO, Ben Fertic, in response to Ironman Miami 70.3 and Ironman Access shows one thing: this company understands that its brand is precious and "image is everything".

While some of you have not experienced the sweet nectar that is Triathlon, the Ironman Brand puts on events that are extremely organized, prepared, and well-run (and, oh so hard). Having put on bicycle races in the past, I know most participants do not even know how much of a logistical nightmare these races are and they should not care since they are investing so much. The entry fees alone may cost anywhere from $200-$1000 and this does not include their travel, equipment, and lodging. Participants have invested money and more importantly hundreds of hours in training for an event. When things go wrong, they are going to voice their opinions. Enter Ironman Miami 70.3 and the licensee, Paramount Productions.

The short and sweet of what happened was that the WTC licensed its name/brand "Ironman" to another company to host an event in South Florida. Little did they know, there would be major issues that would reflect on them. The consensus was that the event was poorly organized. We're talking participants did not have enough access to water or porta-potties, street conditions were hazardous, etc. Can you imagine racing (for non-pros) four to eight hours in this? If you want more information, the story is here. One participant was quoted saying,
Ironman, you should be embarrassed.”
Yikes. Not good. Word of mouth alone could destroy this location's event (the inaugural one at that) and would reflect on Ironman as a whole. A brand relies on the trust and relationships between the company and consumer. It is what personifies them. This is a company that understands its customers and the extreme need to protect its image and brand. Hello, Johnson & Johnson and the Tylenol Nightmare. Ironman came out with a press release saying they are taking over the race for 2011 and are waiving their entry fee to their next event. AWESOME.

Here is why this press release and action should be a template for all businesses.
  1. Briefly explained the situation and apologized
  2. Acknowledged the dissatisfaction
  3. Put in writing the steps they are taking to resolve the situation
  4. Offered a pass for another event
How can a participant be mad with that response? That is how one keeps their brand safe. Acknowledge the issues, apologizes, and works to resolve. I am not saying that a poorly managed athletic event compares to people dying, but the marketing lessons are similar. WTC seems to have followed the J&J example. I dug up an article from 1986 about the J&J Tylenol issue and the way it was handled left this image in the minds of its consumers.
Johnson & Johnson seems to have built up considerable public confidence. ''Nobody blamed Tylenol, nobody blamed J.& J.,'' said Judith Langer, the president of Langer Associates, a market research concern.
If Ironman either ignored this or simply apologized, the event next year would certainly suffer.

The reaction to the WTC’s actions was pretty positive. Fred Mehrer posted “Way to step up WTC”, while Miami resident Andreai Nana said “Admitting fault and offering a clear plan to correct the mistake was the right thing to do.”

WTC was trying something new (Ironman Access) to try to expand and enhance the triathlon experience. However, the feedback from emails and social media outlets were so bad that the CEO made a video apologizing and reversed the plan.

"So, we’re going to rescind the Ironman Access program. We’ll refund the money. And I just wanted to say personally that we’re sorry we disappointed you. We’re human. We make mistakes, but we’re listening."
AWESOME. This, on so many levels, shows how this company, this brand, is tied to the end-user. Companies are going to try to do new things to enhance the experience for its customers. Sometimes they will work out, sometimes they will not. The important factor is that they listen and they are showing they are.

In the end, WTC could have blamed the company it licensed its name out to and done not much else. But, because protecting its house-hold name is so crucial, it attacked quickly to resolve all issues. Ultimately, satisfying the consumer/participants and protecting the 'ole brand equity.

~the GURU

P.S. I did my first Ironman 70.3 in September and had a blast.

Monday, September 13, 2010

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review

My Renewed "Engagement Ring"

While this review is rather delayed, better late than never. Especially since this phone is now free with promos.

Why upgrade to the BlackBerry Bold 9700?

Initial Needs: 3G phone FINALLY! Send/receive emails and talk on the phone at the same time (thank you AT&T network!), and a sleeker /more compact size.

The link for all the nitty-gritty details is at the bottom.



Here Is My Review:

Ease-of-Use:

Buttons: Moving from the 8820 to the Bold was a welcomed change. The QWERTY keyboard is smaller and more compact. At first, it is a little difficult, but I quickly adapted to the change. The buttons on the Bold are precise even with no spaces between them, but are easy to hit. My larger hands do not have problems with the keys.

Call Quality: Much better than my 8820. No complaints. The occasional dropped call, but no different than any other network.

Scroll Track Ball Pad: The TRACK pad is awesome. This is probably my favorite upgrade on the phone. No more ball! It occasionally doesn't respond immediately (less than the scroll ball), but it is very fluid most of the time.

Battery Life: It does a great job. On my three to four day trips, I was never worried. But, I do not talk all day on the phone.

Extra Features: The phone has a stop watch, timer, and many more games. It also has applications to work with Microsoft Excel (read, edit, etc) and Word. The back of the phone is leather which helps prevent it from sliding around too much. The trim is metal, which continues to make the phone look sleek.

Access: 3G is amazing. Being on the AT&T network allows me to talk and text at the same time. I rarely have issues with dropped calls. This is vital when on a conference call and I need to reply to emails during. This phone is Wi-Fi capable. It is nice to be able to access the internet faster when in a hot spot.

Screen: It is pretty sweet. No complaints on the resolution. The colors are very rich and sharp.

Camera: Pretty good camera for a camera phone. However, I never really use it. If you want to shoot video, you need to buy a memory card.

Accessories: The two ear phone head set is great. It is weird listening to a phone call with 'surround' sound.

A Couple Notes:
-The phone would occasionally load while on.... meaning that a pesky hour glass would show itself and not let me use my phone for a few minutes. I do not know why it did it, but it was frustrating at times.
-While using the track pad, sometimes when I scroll up, my fingers go off the pad and rub the screen, slowing my scroll. It could just be me, but it happened every so often.
-The phone may feel cheaper to some people, but I assure you, it is not. It is just a lot lighter than other phones.
-The 9700 is on AT&T's network.

Overall:

Pros:
*Easy to use
*AMAZING screen resolution / colorful
*Visual voice mail
*Light
*Compact for a full QWERTY keyboard
*3G Internet Access
*Wi-FI
*Email / Voice simultaneously
*Track Pad
*Small and compact

Cons:
*Phone has to load -- annoying hour glass
*Track Pad is slightly too close to screen

In closing:

Upgrading to this phone was great. The aesthetics on the phone are superior to my previous phones. The track pad and 3G service is fantastic . The amazing screen resolution allows you to see documents and websites clearly. Despite the occasional need for the phone to load while on is not a deal breaker. I would highly recommend this smart phone.

9.3/10

Here is the Link to BlackBerry's Official Page

~ the GURU

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blackberry Bold 9700 Review

A review of the Blackberry Bold 9700 is in the works!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ask and You Shall Receive

I pulled this from July 2008 blurb from BusinessWeek (sorry no link). Wow. Long time. However, it remains relevant as things have been turn up-side in the world.

Driving Sustainable Innovation in Tough Times
Posted by: on July 09
While many companies are hunkering down during the current economic storm, smart companies understand that it is critical to drive the market, instead of being driven down by it. CEOs have to be committed to sustainable innovation, and management must make its commitment to innovation palpable.

Here are several ways for management to drive the innovation culture at your company:
Invest in people. Develop innovation capabilities by providing innovation best-practices training.
Reward wanted behavior. Publicly reward those who distinguish themselves as innovators. Two examples: Create annual innovators awards. Build a wall of innovation.

Invest in infrastructure to support sustainable innovation.
Visibility to corporate objectives. Often investment is wasted on ideas that are doomed from the start because they are not aligned with the needs of the company. Knowledge-workers must be able to integrate corporate strategy into their innovation paths.

Practice innovation. Workers must practice innovation in everything they do. Managers must support innovation workers and not push employees to short-circuit the solution process.

Managers who avoid taking responsibility for driving an innovation culture by using the crutch of "adoption must be a grassroots thing" will always be met with failure and left wondering why they can't achieve their repeatable innovation goals.

James Todhunter
Chief Technology Officer
Invention Machine
Boston

Investing in people.... a hard concept to believe in currently, given the extremely high levels of unemployment. People are always the first to go due to the knee-jerk reaction of "cutting costs." It is one thing if it is a lazy or extremely under performing employee, but if you wipe-out the heart of your business, the people, it is harder to innovate and adapt. Businesses cannot expect their computers to change their business for them. It takes the insight of your employees on what needs to be changed to move forward.

Everyone is worried about costs. Sales drop off and revenue is not coming in, so survival is, of course, one's goal. However, survival will not come from ridding the people. How are sales supposed to come in? How are new markets supposed to be tapped? How can the business model change? How can anything be changed for the better without people?

Innovation is a scary word for some. I think a lot of people believe it strictly involves some expensive computer system or technology that is thrown into the business and expected to do all the work. Or that it is for the "big guys".

Let's take a restaurant for example. Margins are typically very slim for some establishments, so wherever they can save costs and increase revenues/traffic is a major plus. I think simply signing up for Twitter or Facebook is innovating. The business is increasing its exposure to a internet-socially networked obsessed demographic. Using Twitter to spread information about meal specials to those 'select few' who follow is free! FREE! For instance, a teenager is checking Facebook/Twitter and sees the specials. When the parents ask about where they should go for dinner, the teenager can suggest the restaurant and the specials. It eliminates the guess work. To me, this is innovation. You are changing a portion of your business model to lower costs, but increase traffic..... all for free. Before all the business magazines and media stations talked about Twitter, I bet if you asked the sixteen year old server, he would have told you about this... oh, but wait, you let him go.

If you lose people, how will ideas like this surface? Open the lines of communication in your business before letting people go. You will be amazed at how people will come up with ideas to help save costs and think about evolving the business model. Firing everyone when things are rough limits you when things pick back up again and you're left in the dust because you let everyone go. I understand there are always some employees who are not holding their weight and are more fluff than anything. Thus, they most likely need to be let go. But, when it comes to overall economic turmoil, talk with your employees about evolving the business and getting their $.02. They may just have that one idea that could change everything.

~the GURU

Friday, February 27, 2009

Review Update: Blackberry Curve (Verizon) & 8820 (AT&T)

A Few More Months of Testing

Blackberry 8820

*This phone is AWFUL in the wind. The input microphone is right below the keypad on the right, so the wind easily rushes right past it.

*The keyboard is nice to type on. I wish the buttons were slightly more crisp in responsiveness, but all in all, I like them.

*Why does the input language keep switching?!!! Even when I have the phone locked, it changes my language preset. It bothers me that when I try to write an email sometimes, it comes out in a different language.

*The microphone may be too close to the speaker's mouth so the person on the other end hears your voice as slightly muddled.

*AT&T's Edge Network: FASTER than Verizon's 1xEV. (Non-3G phones) Don't believe anything else.

Blackberry Curve

*This phone is much better in the wind than the 8820. I believe the reason is because the microphone is on the bottom edge of the phone.

*The keypad buttons are too spaced out, so I have to "peck" more at the buttons. The buttons could be bigger.

*Input language does not change ever.

*Verizon's Network: SLOWER than AT&T's. (Non-3G phones)

~the GURU

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brief Response to the Article

Things Change So Quickly

I was very fortunate to be contacted by Rachel Brown, a free lance writer, who was writing about rural telecommunications, businesses, and the potential effects of the economy. I was contacted in the early Summer (before things, well, got stirred up..)

The excerpt pertinent to my section:

Focusing on the business side of the shop, another analyst said small telcos may actually benefit from a recession as businesses turn to them for a competitive edge. "Most small businesses realize that you get what you pay for," explained Zane Schweer, a small business telecommunications specialist. "If they skimp on telecommunications, it's not a good business move. You need telecommunications to survive. It's how you pull in clients, it's how you place orders, it's how you communicate."

For most companies, telecommunications is only 3% to 5% of the budget, Schweer said, adding that in a recession, many will look to additional telecommunications services to improve their bottom line. "Telecommunications is what drives businesses forward," he said. "It's not just a budget cost; it's an investment and revenue generator. A lot of businesses are looking to grow. They're not scared of an economic downturn."

Schweer also questioned whether the economy is truly in terrible shape. "If you turn on the news, it's all negative and there's too much emphasis on the economy," he said. "They don't focus on the positives."

Even the high cost of gas can be viewed positively, Schweer said. "Gas prices are pinching people, but it spurs innovation," he said, adding that telecommunications solutions can lower gas consumption. "Say that you have a fleet of trucks. With wireless and tracking technology, you can ensure that no one's getting lost or taking extra trips. If a driver comes in and has a 30-minute detour, you can ask, 'What's this about?"'

Higher gas prices also will spur video conferencing, Schweer said. "It's not as personal [as face-to-face meetings], but after 9/11, it's much cheaper and safer," he said. "And with cameras that move in the room and offer three-dimensional pictures, it almost feels as if you're there."

RTFC's Buchanan agreed that the green movement is growing. "In a world with increased energy costs, telecommunications assumes an even greater importance," he said, speculating that high gas prices will spur more telecommuting. "If people work from home, they'll need high-speed access to get into their company's virtual private network, so that means more broadband installations."

King and West said they haven't seen a huge shift toward telecommuting yet, but King agreed it's still a positive trend for rural carriers. "More people working from home translates into increased usage in residential landlines and increased demand for broadband," he said.

As another gas-saving example, Schweer cited a salesman who drives to client A and then back to headquarters to check e-mail and voice mail and then drives to client B. "With a BlackBerry, he can log in remotely and drive directly to client B," Schweer said. "In rural areas especially, this can translate into big distances--it's not uncommon to have 50 to 75 miles between clients. You want to be as efficient as possible, and telecommunications is what allows that."

I wanted to comment quickly on a couple of my remarks. I am sure some of you laughed when I said business' telecom. budgets are 3-5% of their expenses. It certainly depends on the industry and the type of customer. For example to look at the far extremes, an ISP provider's telecom expense is going to be fairly high (ie investing in a huge pipe of bandwidth and redundancy) while a Quickie shop would barely have any (ie couple lines and a DSL).

The blurring of the telecommunications and information technology fields also makes that 3-5% seem inaccurate and I embrace that fact. I was considering a simple, yet emerging small business.

Now, when I was interviewed, all the news of scandal and inappropriate money practices was unbeknownst to me (and the rest of U.S. and world), so I truly believed things were being over-played. I would be silly to still say everything is not a problem. Things are tough. Companies are laying hard-working people off left and right. But for media outlets to continually harp that we are doomed and in a Depression is overkill. Even President Obama is using words like "catastrophic". Let's stop using scare tactics here to push certain agendas. We are coping with a lot, but people are learning how to survive and push forward.

With the dynamic environment that we are in, we will see who the strong businesses are and weed out the weaker ones. It is painful and people are dealing with a plethora of hardships, but with hardships comes innovation. With innovation comes success and with success comes a rebound of the economy. (It will not happen overnight) There is a lot of good going on in the corporate world right now, but too many outlets are focusing on negatives all day long. (ie Cobblers See Resurgence (they aren't going to save the economy, but they are part of it) or AT&T Brining Back 4,000 Jobs (yes, they did lay off 12,000, but they are bringing jobs back from overseas), Manufacturing Moving Strong) We're in a rebuilding phase.

The rest of the article in relation to me continues on about innovation and looks for ways to streamline. A lot of businesses and people are in a certain routine and all it takes is for someone to come along and provide an alternative view point that garners value and of course, cost justification. Answering the question of, "How will this save me time, which will save me money?"

Every penny is being re-analyzed today. People need to evaluate how they do business. Invest time in contemplating alternative ways of doing business. If you have multiple locations that you travel between many times for meetings, why not, for example, invest in a multi-location video conference solution? Reduce windshield time, save gas money, and sit in your favorite chair. Do not go cutting all your expenses just to save money because if it affects how your provide service to your clients, you will do more hard then good.

I know I have sort of jumped around in this post, but on a whole, telecommunication companies, especially the rural ones are providing valuable service to clients. The reliance on telco. establishments to provide innovative solutions for you is only gaining momentum because if they do not, how will you reach your customers in the future? More importantly, how will they reach you?

~the GURU

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Guru was Interviewed

The GURU was briefly interviewed about Telecom.

A telco survival guide


The interview took place in the early summer, so some of my viewpoints have since shifted and I'll discuss them on a later post.

~the GURU

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Would You Bet On It?

Avoiding These Dangers Can Save Your Business

"Seven Ways To Fail Big"

http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu/flatmm/hbrextras/200809/failbig/index.html

Adapted from "Seven Ways to Fail Big," the September 2008 Harvard Business Review article by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui

As the economy continues to keep us guessing, it is even more critical that each move you make, makes sense! Watch the 10 minute seminar to get a brief overview.


~the GURU

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Product Review: BlackBerry 8820

My New "Engagement Ring"

I reviewed the BlackBerry Curve (Verizon) a couple months ago and this month I reviewed the BlackBerry 8820 (AT&T).

Why a BlackBerry 8820?

Initial Needs: Send/receive emails, ease of use when it came to typing emails, ability for clients to reach me out of the office, easy to use/view calendar to schedule work. This BlackBerry is provided for work, not personal use.

I could bore you with all the specific specifications about the phone, but most users just want a phone that works. (There is a link at the bottom for all the nitty-gritty details) As a result, I am detailing my experiences with the phone through out my work day.



Here Is My Review:

Ease-of-Use:

Buttons: Typing on the 882o is amazing! Compared to my BB Curve, where the buttons have small spaces between them and are smaller, the buttons on the 8820 are full, rectangular, and easy to hit. When it comes to dialing phone numbers, it is slightly more difficult (compared to a regular cell phone) as there are many more keys and the numbers are on the left side. Nevertheless, despite my bigger hands, I have no real problem punching in the numbers.

Call Quality: The voice on the other end is pretty clear. The phone does have an "airy" sound during the call, which is somewhat distracting and makes it at times a little hard to hear. However, I do not have my ear piece volume all the way up. It can go to a very loud setting. For me, I have it set at the second softest level. The main issue with the call quality is when I am speaking, the phone seems to have "bounce back". I feel my voice is bouncing off the phone.

Scroll Ball: The scroll ball is the main way the user maneuvers between applications. It is utilized by either moving it up, down, left, or right. The user can also press it to make selections instead of the arrow enter key on the keyboard (see image below). I have no problems scrolling in either direction. (On the Curve, it does not scroll as well to the left)

Battery Life: It does a good job. I will say I have not been using it non-stop yet, just emails and a couple calls, so I do not feel ready to give input on battery life. I will update this portion later.

Navigation: The user explores the phone through the 5 top bar buttons. Predominately, I use the scroll ball, the multi-dot button, and the half-circled arrow button. The multi-dot button allows me to bring up prompts for more detailed windows and to access the full list of applications. The half-arrow button allows me to go-back a screen. Then of course, is the scroll ball which the user uses to select and click the desired applications.

The phone comes with loads of applications, which clutters the navigation fields. As a result, I have hidden most of them as they are entertainment based applications. This is a work-phone, it's supposed to be bland. Haha! It is very easy to customize the phone. I can move my more frequently used applications to my main screen. I can select one option to associate with the side button on the phone for rapid selection. I have the ringer control on the left quick button. One issue I have with customizing the screen is that I cannot have the "L" shaped icon set-up compared to my Curve. I am not sure if this is a Verizon vs. AT&T phone thing or not.

Access: This phone is Wi-Fi capable and I used it the other day. It is nice to be able to access the internet faster when in a hot spot. It moves pretty quickly. I have not tried the GPS nor any of the additional applications. I've been on the EDGE network, no 3G cities yet, but I have no complaints. I cannot wait to try it on the 3G network.

Screen: It is pretty sweet. No complaints on the resolution. The colors are very rich. Compared to the Curve, the screen colors are brighter and not as dull/fuzzy. They are also slightly sharper. I do clean it often as the oils from my skin transfer onto the screen.

Camera: n/a. This is for WORK!!

Accessories: My boss ordered a hip holster case. (I'm that cool now). Unless I lock the phone, buttons are hit when I slide it into the case. It almost deleted a contact once. The phone also comes with a ear piece. It can go in both ears which is cool as it's a phone conversation in "surround sound".

Software: The BB 8820 comes with software to sync/manage with your computer. It works well if your computer's hardware can process it smoothly.

Overall:

Pros:
*Easy to use
*Great screen resolution / colorful
*Light
*Compact for a full QWERTY keyboard
*Internet Access
*Wi-FI
*Full Keys -- easy to type
*Scroll Ball is very fluid
*Slimmer than the Curve


Cons:
*Voice "bounce back" when user speaks
*"Airy" sound when making and having a call
*Wider and longer than the Curve (but for reading emails, t
*Ringer is very loud even on the medium setting


In closing:

I find this phone very useful. The typing easy of use and ability to send/receive emails is great. The screen is bright and crisp. Just like the Curve, you rely on the scroll ball, if something were to go wrong, you're in trouble. For a business professional, this is a great phone. The bigger keys allow you to write emails well and avoid a lot of typos/misspellings. It has certainly improved my productivity outside of the office when in the field.

8.9/10

Here is the Link to BlackBerry's Official Page

~ the GURU

Monday, September 15, 2008

BlackBerry 8820 Review Coming soon

Review will be posted soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

When To Stop Your IT Investments?

IT Success is All in the Approach

Long time, no post everyone! Sorry I have been MIA. Life has been hectic (brother off to college, promoted at work, knee issues with cycling, and building a restaurant reviews website/blog), but I'm starting to find a routine again.

As you all know, I am pro-IT. I think the opportunities Information Technology can bring a business and society as a whole are amazing and still an untapped resource that many businesses do not take advantage of because energies are focused elsewhere. But, in this post, we're talking about control IT costs because they can lose focus on the ultimate goal.

I was reading an article from Harvard Business Publishing that gave a very brief and succinct overview of IT costs and how to manage them. The article is by Susan Cramm, link here. We all have budgets that we need to try to stay in and sometimes when the goals are not clearly laid out, budgets are "bent". This is not good. IT investments are rarely cheap, but if your IT team and your vendors work well together uncovering how a solution will bring BENEFITS and RESULTS, the investment will be worthwhile.

However, I do disagree with Ms. Cramm's statement below:
The key to further, smart, cost reductions is to recognize the fact that, in general, companies spend too much on IT because they are unwilling to say "no" to IT-related requests. The path of least resistance seems to rule the day: Too many projects are funded, too many die a slow death, too much technology is procured, too many quality defects are tolerated, and users require too much hand holding.
Through my experience to date, a lot of businesses shut down IT projects/management without looking at what the project's goals are. A great example, your stressed out and over-stretched IT guy manages everything from email/spam management, security processes, phone systems, routers, network management, bandwidth allocation, data management, and puts out all the fires your fellow employees create. Now, any IT guru will say the problems they deal with the most is the nagging processes... email/spam. This results in the IT guy not being able to focus his efforts elsewhere. Imagine if you could pay your service provider to MANAGE your email/spam filters for you?! Your IT guy would thank you and he could focus on solving and creating solutions your business is facing. This project would not suffer a slow death. But, too many businesses are scared to let go of these projects because they are stuck on the idea they have to manage everything for it to work. Take off one of the hats you wear and give it to someone else.

Moving back to the main point of the article, sorry about the little tangent that isn't really applicable to the article. Having clearly defined goals are critical for project success. I recently took a Project Management course and having a PM can really help keep projects on course. Just something to think about.

At the end of the day, businesses need to look at the project's progress and see if the BENEFITS are becoming apparent. If they are not, cancel the project. If there are some delays, but the benefits are being seen, continue a little longer.



Finally, a lot of projects become out-of-hand because the full support from everyone is not there. A problem I see a lot of businesses facing is that only a few people see the benefit of the project and the rest could care less. As a result, people are not depending and routing on its success. It is more of a "status quo" mindset. If you're going to set strict deadlines, you better give the project your best effort. No half-bassing it.

What are your thoughts on this? How have you approached your projects in the past? How are you approaching them currently?

Like the article says how do you manage the "truth" when it comes to your projects?

~the GURU

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The GURU is still alive

To my readers, I have been recently promoted at work. As a result, I have been ramping myself up for my new position and that is why my posts have stopped.

I'll be back soon!

~the GURU

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How Mobile is Your Business?

THE BUSINESS “OFFICE” IS NOW MORE MOBILE THAN EVER —
Business owners include a “no Strings attached” communications solution

Let's be honest.... Receiving information in real time creates a lean, agile, always in the loop work-force

The Wireless Revolution (WR) is upon us and it allowing businesses to do more than ever. Workers are no longer constrained to conducting business in the office or at their client’s locale. Wireless technology allows business owners to always be “in the office.”

The benefits are infinite and the we’re on the cusp of the tremendous changes in the telecommunications industry. While there will still be critical land line based services, the more basic services are going wireless because the “office” is going mobile.

Whether you Need:
*track where truck fleets are going (especially with gas prices, “side stops” are even more costly)
*need air cards for internet anytime anywhere
*Push to Talk Phones,

Wireless providers will have a solution for you. Have you discussed recently with your wireless contacts/account managers about how you currently utilize mobility and if you do not have a solution, thought about developing one?
Business Owners are always running around, mobility is a person’s RSS Feed to their business.

There are awesome ways to craft a solution that creates an even more effective business model and reduce costs.

I will say AT&T has a great website that explains some of the applications available. For the curious business owners, AT&T’s site, http://www.wireless.att.com/home/. Mosey on over and get a taste of all the things that can be provided your business.

Special Points of Interest:
*Wireless Capabilities
*Wireless Lap-Top Solutions
*Wireless Connectivity
*Email / Messaging
*Push to Talk Technology
*Real Time Inventories to Sales People in the field
*Access corporate & ISP email, calendar, & address book
*Certified enterprise solutions
*Custom business applications
*Flexibility & Time Savings
*Built for 3G network
*Robust network & security
*Blackberries, “Push to Talk”
*Lap Top Air cards

~the GURU

Monday, August 4, 2008

Travel Expenses: Hit Smart Businesses HARD

Tele & Video Conferencing: Very Productive for B2B Communications

The days of cheap travel are pretty much in the past. While businesses still need mobile workforces, controlling costs when it comes to travel is an exponentially growing concern for companies. As the cost increases, finding alternatives may well differentiate a good business from a great business.

Enter tele & video conferencing solutions.

We have meetings all day, everyday, and ease-of-use and accessibility are key.

Why Video-conferencing?
*Want “Face to Face” meetings — business is personal
*Show presentations aside from Power Point
*Safer than travel
*Geography is irrelevant
*Impromptu meetings — no delay
*Record meetings and save for later uses
*Ease of Use
*Major cost reduction
*Less “windshield” time
*Save space: No need for classrooms.
*Distance is NEVER an excuse now.

“If fuel goes any higher, nobody will be flying -- it really and truly is scary. We're just going to have to come up with something else."
--Colleen Barrett, president of Southwest Airlines


Who said business cannot be face to face? Video Conference is almost as personal as F2F

Key Points
Reduce Travel Expenses
Geography is irrelevant
Save Space Save Time
Flexibility & Time Savings
Have a ‘War Room”
Conferences on PC or Meeting Rooms
Safer alternative than typical transportation

~the GURU

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Product Review: BlackBerry Curve 8330

Is this Device Superb or just a Blurb

While this phone has been out for quite some time now, I purchased one a few weeks ago and wanted to share my thoughts.

Why a BlackBerry?

Initial Needs: Send/receive email capability, ease of use when it came to typing text-messages/emails, easy to use/view calendar to schedule life, and a fairly high resolution screen.

Now that I have surpassed the poor service at the store when I purchased the phone I have been able to focus on the phone itself.

I could bore you with all the specific specifications about the phone, but most users just want a phone that works. (There is a link at the bottom for all the nitty-gritty details) As a result, I am detailing my experiences with the phone through out daily life.

Here Is My Review:

Ease-of-Use:

Buttons: I needed to rid myself of the multiple clicking of each button to type out messages, so I knew it would take me some time to adapt to the QWERTY keyboard. I now love it! Typing is much easier and fluid. However, when it comes to dialing phone numbers, it is slightly more difficult as the buttons are somewhat small (I do have big hands). Nevertheless, it is simply the learning curve I am going through and I guess I need to be more nimble with my fingers. I guess all my years of playing the saxophone haven't helped...

Call Quality: The voice on the other end is very crisp and clear. My old phone muttled the speaker's dialogue and I was always asking, "say again?" With this phone, that is not a problem. The volume is great as well. It can go to a very loud setting. For me, I have it set at the second softest level.

Scroll Ball: The scroll ball is the main way the user maneuvers between applications. It is utilized by either moving it up, down, left, or right. The user can also press it to make selections instead of the arrow enter key on the keyboard (see image below). It works great when I am scrolling down to scrolling to the right. I find that it is not as responsive when I scroll up or to the left.






Battery Life: It does a fairly good job. I usually charge it every two days out of habit from my old phone. I do not have a landline phone so this is my main device. I would say I talk about 1.5-2 hours a day on the phone. Then, there is the email/text usage that goes on as well.

Navigation: The user explores the phone through the 5 top bar buttons. Predominately, I use the scroll ball, the multi-dot button, and the half-circled arrow button. The multi-dot button allows me to bring up prompts for more detailed windows and to access the full list of applications. The half-arrow button allows me to go-back a screen. Then of course, is the scroll ball which the user uses to select and click the desired applications.

On a whole, I find the navigation pretty easy to use. I am still learning what each icon/application does, but for the most part, it's fool proof. It is very easy to customize the phone. I can move my more frequently used applications to my main screen. I can also select two applications to associate with the side buttons on the phone for rapid selection. I have the ringer control on the left quick button and the alarm on the right quick button.

Access: I can access the Internet and Google maps which is awesome!! While the download and upload speed are not 3G, I did not have that functionality before so I have no complaints. Users who have had BlackBerries in the past and want faster speeds should invest in a BlackBerry 3G phone. I love the ability to send/receive/read word documents as well.

Screen: It is pretty sweet. I love the resolution compared to my old phone. The colors are very rich. I would say they are more blue-based. I do clean it often as the oils from my skin transfer onto the screen.

Camera: I realized I use the camera more than I thought. It saved me once when Jiffy Lube ran my bike into their garage and I had to take pictures. Also, as my digital camera is on its last leg, it's nice to have a decent camera to take pictures.

Accessories: It comes with a leather holster. One would think it would have a belt loop on it (if you want to be that cool), but it does not. I decided to purchase a rubber protector to put my phone in. As a cyclist, I would hate to have my phone slip out of my sweaty hands when I'm stopped for a break checking messages. Also, we all drop our phones and I want to keep it safe. The phone also comes with a ear piece. It can go in both ears which is cool as it's a phone conversation in "surround sound".

Software: The BB Curve comes with software to sync it up to your computer. Users can transfer files, pictures, etc either to the the phone or to the computer. My computer is three years old and the software brings it to its knees.

Overall:

Pros:
*Easy to use
*Great screen resolution / colorful
*Customizable
*Light
*Compact for a full QWERTY keyboard
*Internet Access


Cons:
*Software brings older computers to knees
*Battery life may be a problem
*Keys do feel a little cheap -- wear and tear may affect visibility of letters/numbers
*Scroll Ball is not as responsive going certain directions
*Vibrate feature is not as apparent


In closing:

I find this phone very useful. The typing functionality and ability to send/receive emails is great. The screen is bright and crisp. However, I hate the reliability on the scroll ball. If something were to go wrong, you're in trouble. I would recommend this phone to a new BlackBerry user.

8.7/10

Here is the Link to BlackBerry's Official Page

~ the GURU

Monday, July 14, 2008

Book Review: Customer Approved Small Business


Does this book give hope to young businesses?


Schell, Michael. The Customer Approved Small Business.

Approved Publications Inc. Vancouver, British Columbia 2005.

By The Small Biz. Guru, Zane Schweer

It is 3:11am. He just downed his seventh cup of coffee. The dog is speaking French and the significant other is threatening to walk out… again. Yet, the ever-persistent entrepreneur and/or business owner is awake, plotting, and creating a business to make his/her dream a reality. However, these late night sessions could be just a waste of time unless this visionary develops a sound design and plan to make his idea a reality. This is where Michael Schell, CEO and President of the Approved Group of Companies comes to rescue the bleary eyed business hopeful. Having twenty-plus years in business-to-business sales, Michael Schell and his team surveyed 228 buyers, conducted 330 interviews, and recorded the answers to 4,327 questions with the hopes of developing an easy-to-understand, basic platform to build one’s business. This book is different from others in that it is written from the perspective of the customer.

An emerging businessman can develop a service or product that solves all the problems plaguing a particular market, but if the proper foundation is not established, appropriate clients not targeted, and proper business professionalism not exhibited, the venture is destined to perish. The Customer Approved Small Business is based on numerous business secrets that revolve around the foundation of solid business practices, development of new business, and how to tie it all together.

The forward focuses on the fact that clients in today’s markets are less likely to show loyalty to one business. People go where the overall experience and service meets and exceeds expectations. Therefore, the importance of listening to the customer and curtailing the business model to embrace that premise is critical. Let us not forget that there is a sixty percent rate of failure for a business in its first five years. So, Schell stresses the idea of “measure twice, cut once” and “plan, plan, then execute”. Thus, I decided to refer to this book as a manual/handbook because it gives great instructions and helpful tools to begin to build a well-functioning business that evolves to the volatile market-place.

This manual plunges into building a business foundation. The foundation is built upon ensuring operational efficiency and effectiveness. Schell believes this is achieved by developing manuals (processes, job descriptions, missions). Well written handbooks help to avoid confusion as a business grows and, inevitably, becomes more complex. Thus, it helps to avoid the development of the “micro manager”. We have all had them and the strain they impose in the workplace environment is detrimental to overall goals. Mr. Schell gives tips on how to standardize each process and effectively eliminate the guess work. However, I do feel that a smaller business at the onset should not have as strict predefined roles. Most of the time, smaller businesses have employees that deal with numerous areas in the business and restricting them to specific roles may do more harm than good. While Mr. Schell believes (and rightly so) the ultimate goal of developing manuals is to withstand turn over and, thereby, maintaining stability in business practices.

As the book progresses, Schell examines the development of new business. Whether it is building the prospect database (industries, contacts, locations, etc), cultivating strategies to influence the decision makers, creating ISPS (industry specific positing statements), or telling us, the readers, what not to do during that initial sales call, he provides useful tips that every businessman/woman should know.

A serious pitfall for eager salespeople is to try to make a sale on the first call. I strongly agree. For a business to be “customer approved” according to this book, it is all about developing relationships and showing respect for a potential client’s time. Concentrate on providing a solution that meets the needs of the potential new purchaser. Sales will follow.

Understanding that the first 30 seconds of a call or meeting can make or break one’s success / clinching business, Schell provides tips on ways to The Customer Approved Small Business gives great examples of ways to write opening statements, primary reason statements, and key point statements because those initial thirty-seconds of a call or meeting make or break any hopes of success. As a business continues to grow and hire more employees, having this book as a resource gives the “newbies” a great way to draft their own statements instead of some cookie-cutter elongated paragraph. Getting a new-hire up to speed as quickly as possible increases the opportunity for profitability. I wish I was given this book when I started my job.

The most important sections in this book are the chapters honed in on planning and organizing meetings, developing an overall organization’s structure, and the “What the Buyers Say” sections. The “What the Buyers Say” is spread throughout the book. These tid-bits are notes and comments from business owners themselves regarding how they like to be approached and how they ultimately decide who earns their business. In addition, there are survey percentages given in regards to how many businesses put into practice certain ideas and the average rating of importance. For example, “I prefer to be asked for a moment of my time, but only about 20% of representatives do it” (Schell, pg 33). This was in reference to sales calls. These tid-bits scattered throughout the book are to re-enforce the theme of respecting client’s time and showing the ideal ways to conduct business.

As organization is one of the lifelines to a successful business, Schell gives concrete advice on how to create structure within the business, increase effectiveness of meetings, phone calls, mission statements, and ways to position oneself as an expert in the respective industry. In particular, the sections on developing an agenda before meetings to maximize time and guidelines for conducting follow up phone calls/meetings are excellent templates for anyone starting out or a seasoned veteran looking to fine tune.

Overall, The Customer Approved Small Business does a great job providing advice on laying a sound foundation through the use of manuals, processes, people, and plans. Then, Schell leads the business owner on how to take those plans and ideas and organize them, develop strong mission statements, and adapt to the ever changing business environment. Receiving tips from professionals who actually interact and make decisions based on what they have experienced gives this book an added bonus. The commentary and survey results help guide any start-up business in the right direction. At the end of the day, 60% of all entrepreneurs who set out to fulfill their dreams fail within in the first five years. This book will not save the business owner, but it does harness key knowledge that will ignite the spark that will hopefully burst into full-fledge flames.




~the GURU


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Customer Service... Or Lack There of at Verizon

Verizon should be glad their (cell) service is good

As my previous post stated, I finally took the plunge and purchased a BlackBerry Curve. Thus far, I love the phone; however, my experience at the store was not satisfactory at all.

The play-by-play of how sales should not go:

I walked into the store with the goal that I would not be leaving with out a new phone. I went over to the BlackBerry section and began to tinker with the phones to begin to familiarize myself with them and ensure I was selecting the proper thumb-clicking device. I believe I spent 10-15 minutes of standing there reviewing the phones before I was approached by a sales person. I mean, did I smell? Did my beard intimidate them? Am I too good-looking?

Finally, some man with a clip-board and a supposed suit walked up to me and asked if I needed any help. My response, "I was wondering when someone was going to approach me." Now, of course, I could have be pro-active in seeking advice, but, the fact of the matter is, since I was never even asked initially if I needed help, I wanted to test the waters. I've been in sales for a year now and I'm starting to toy with other sales people to see how good their skills are and see if they really want my business.

Moving along, once I was approached by the clip-board bearing, blue-tooth wielding, sales-person, as I asked my questions, he actually made me feel like an idiot. While I cannot precisely pin-point the exact causes, there were instances in his tone and inflections that really angered me. If I had not been adamant on purchasing a phone I would have left.

Nevertheless, I selected the Curve and then was taken to the counter. This "sales consultant" was even worse. Talk about being so bored and not wanting to show the customer he wanted the business as well. We began the phone upgrade process as I supplied all of my pertinent information. At this point, I thought (sarcastically), I really must be taking up this valuable person's time by me wanting to spending a couple hundred dollars with this company. Not only that, but the ever-annoying "Can You Hear Me Now" Guy was plastered right in front of me and I wanted to break his glasses.

I understand my phone upgrade was pretty much a transactional sale, but how did they know that? Should that matter? At least show the customer you value their business.

As I continue to evolve my sales skills and analyze others, I really paid attention during this "experience." Like I said before, if I had not been so focused to buy my new phone that day (or wanted to waste another trip and gasoline), I would have walked out.

My experience at Verizon was awful. The "sales consultants" made me feel stupid at times, all the employees showed poor customer service, and they made it seem that me wanting to spend money with them was deplorable. Verizon is lucky its cell-coverage is very good where I reside, or I'd be gone.

~the GURU

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I've Sold My Soul

Will I Resist Morphing into a "CrackBerry" Guy?

Ladies and gentlemen, I have gone beyond the point of return, I purchased a BlackBerry Curve over the weekend.

I must say, she is a beauty. I will be doing a product review on my website, http://www.thesmallbizguru.com/reviews after a couple weeks.

However, I have sworn to myself, I will never be the person who "thumbs" through the device while I am having a conversation with someone else...


My experience at the wireless store is another story...


~the GURU

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Have Toner All Over My Pants!

Will this Ink Rub Off During A Presentation?

Managing cost is a vital skill in the business world. Office supplies are a huge culprit in sucking the life out of budgets and in particular, ink cartridges.

I stumbled upon this article and thought you all would find this of interest; comparing brand-name ink to third-party ink.



If you're a busy individual, I have quoted the conclusion:

The Bottom Line on Printer Inks

Depending on your printer, you may be able to find cheaper, third-party inks that perform as well as or better than the brand-name stuff. In our study we found that third-party ink cartridges usually cost less and often yielded more prints than their manufacturer-made rivals. On the other hand, in most cases, we confirmed the printer manufacturers' claims that their own inks produce better-looking images.

Deciding between brand-name and third-party alternatives depends in part on how you plan to use your prints. If you want high-quality color photos that future generations will be able to enjoy, then OEM inks are usually a better choice.

Many of us, however, don't need the best ink supplies that money can buy. If your prints tend to be for one-time-only office presentations, text documents for school, or temporary color images (such as plain-paper photos), inks from third-party supplies may be a reasonable cost-saving option. And over the lifetime of your printer, cost savings from buying third-party inks can be considerable.




~the GURU

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blogroll *Updated*

Hello everyone,

As I like to support fellow bloggers, I have been following a couple business-based blogs for the past couple months and have decided to add them to my blog roll as they provide great information. I believe business owners will find what they have to contribute very helpful.

They are:

Rescue Marketing

Weakest Link Consulting

Both provide insights, advice, and raise awareness about happenings in the business world.

~the GURU