Nov 282006

Book Short: Another 8 Habits

Book Short:  Another 8 Habits

Besides having a fantastic title, Richard St. John’s Stupid, Ugly, Unlucky, and Rich is a fun and quick read.  It’s a completely different style than Stephen Covey’s “habits” books (The 7, The 8th).  It’s a little cartoony and list-oriented, and it’s a much quicker read — and also easier to put down and pick up without feeling like you’re losing your place.

The book’s foundation is interviews, mostly by the author, of successful people who span many different careers, from artists to actors and models to athletes to politicians to business leaders.  The organization is very solid, and the content is highly motivating.  It’s a good guide to success in any field, and in particular many of the examples are spot-on for entrepreneurship.

At a minimum, I’m buying it for my senior staff…and for every new entry-level employee as good career foundation reading material.

Nov 222006

Always On is Too Much On

Always On is Too Much On

Among other things last week travelling abroad for work, I learned another good CEO lesson — sometimes it’s ok, even good, to be a bit out of touch. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m Always On at the office, while travelling in the US, and usually at home and on weekends as well.  And as I’ve said before in various postings (here, here, here, and definitely here), it’s great to completely unplug at least once a year for a peaceful vacation with friends & family.

But last week was a nice lesson in the middle ground.  I had an international cell phone that people at work didn’t seem to want to call, so they could in an emergency, but no one did for routine things.  I was 5-8 hours off on time zones, so people didn’t think to reach out.  I did email once or twice a day when time permitted, so I stayed in good touch, but I wasn’t grinding out email responses on my Treo every time I took a deep breath.

And the company was fine.  As far as I could tell, sales were even up, so maybe I should semi-disappear more often!

Nov 172006

The Good, The Board, and The Ugly, Part III

The Good, The Board, and The Ugly, Part III

To recap other postings in this series:  my original, Brad Feld’s, Fred Wilson’s first, Fred’s second, Tom Evslin’s, and my lighter-note follow-up.

So speaking of lighter-note takes on this topic, Lary Lazard, Tom Evslin’s fictional CEO who ran, now has his own tips for effective board management.  You have to read them yourself here, but I think my favorite one is #3, which starts off:

Never number the pages of what you are presenting.  Lots of time can be used constructively figuring out what page everybody is on.


Nov 172006

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Part II

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Part II

Two years ago, when we got Vonage at home, I blogged raves about the service, which I continue to believe today (although I do hear mixed reviews of it from time to time, depending on the user-in-question’s internet connection).  And I blogged about Skype when I started using that last year.  The theme of both posts was a big “uh oh” to phone companies everywhere.

So let me add another note on this theme.  I spent some time yesterday at the offices of Skype, now a client of ours.  From the minute I walked in the door, something seemed odd about the office.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, there just seemed to be something missing.  Then it occurred to me — no phones.  Literally, I couldn’t see a single one.  The receptionist did have one for incoming calls and routing, and she said she thought there were one or two other ones in the entire office.  Everyone is happily on Skype.  Skype In, Skype Out, video Skype, plain old Skype.  It was a beautiful thing — not to mention extremely cost-effective.

Now I can’t wait for the team at Skype to figure out how make a true Skype mobile phone to marry VOIP with high-speed wireless.  Then I can be released from exorbitant cell phone charges.

To Ma Bell…and all of your offspring who specialize in overcharging customers and then providing them with horrendous customer service…you’re really on the path to being marginalized.  And good riddance, I say.

Filed under: Current Affairs, Email

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Nov 162006

Counter Cliche: Connected at the Top

Counter Cliche:  Connected at the Top

Fred hasn’t written an official VC Cliche of the Week for a while, but his post yesterday on Connectors is close enough — in it, he talks about how he likes to be a good Connector between people and thinks it’s a quality of great VCs.

First, we should give credit to Malcolm Gladwell for a great definition of Connectors in The Tipping Point.  Gladwell not only defines Connectors as Fred has but also defines two other types of people who are critical in the social networking/buzz building arena:  Mavens and Salesmen.  I’d argue that a great VC has to have a bit of all three!

But in terms of entrepreneurs (the point of the counter cliche series), is being a Connector a prerequisite for success?  I think the answer is nuanced, but it’s probably no.  I’ve met great CEOs who are fairly introverted and whose brains don’t work in the Connector kind of way.  And they can be great at developing product, even running operations.  But if you’re an entrepreneur and not a Connector, you’d better have one or more of them on your management team (think sales or business development or marketing) to make up for that missing piece of the equation to make sure your company is connecting the dots outside the corporate walls.  Otherwise, you’re sure to miss out on opportunities.

The one area where I would say that being a Connector is critical for an entrepreneur is internally within the company.  If you’re going to lead the troops effectively, you do need to be able to make Connections between people within the company, especially as the business grows.  And off-topic a bit (literally if not figuratively), you also need to be able to connect with your staff members on a personal level and make sure that people are connected to the company and its mission.  I’m not sure these are things that an entrepreneur can delegate as long as he or she is CEO.

Nov 092006

Get a Phone!

Get a Phone!

An emerging pet peeve of mine (which I’m feeling acutely at this precise moment) is people who do job interviews on a cell phone.  I understand that lots of people today, especially younger people, don’t have land lines, only cell phones.  They’re welcome to do that, although why someone wouldn’t get Vonage for $15/month, I’m not sure.

The reality is that cell phones in this country still get poor reception half of the time.  How can you conduct a job interview and expect to be taken seriously if the person interviewing you can’t hear you and has to keep asking you to repeat yourself?  It’s as if you showed up for a job interview wearing a suit jacket with a bathing suit.  You’d just never do it.  Find a real phone somewhere that you can borrow.  Get Vonage.  Make sure you show up in person.  Something other than a cell phone, please.

Filed under: Leadership


Nov 062006

A Tale of Two Strategies

A Tale of Two Strategies

Two headlines right next to each other in today’s Wall Street Journal tell an interesting story.  First, they tell of Google’s strategy to allow advertisers to use Google’s web site to bid on and buy print advertising in over 50 leading newspapers. Then comes CBS’s strategy to bring in a new executive digital media M&A guru, Quincy Smith from Allen & Company, to “find the next YouTube.”

(These links should work for a week, but I think that’s all the Journal allows – sorry!).

So there you have it.  CBS’ grand interactive plans are about trying to do value-based Internet acquisitions.  Best of luck.  Les Moonves’ quote is somewhat sad — “This shows how serious we are about new media.”

All that against a backdrop of Google probably dropping three engineers and a case of Jolt Cola into a room for a week and coming up with an automated way of buying print ads in newspapers whose circulations are declining precipitously.  Eric Schmidt’s quote is equally interesting for its contrast to Moonves:  “Anything that we can do to improve the economic efficiency of the old model [of advertising] transfers money from the old model to the new model.”

Now to be fair, Google did say that eventually they would have 1,000 people working on offline media placements, 10% of its workforce, but they will probably grow their way there profitably, instead of turning into a private equity firm.

Nov 012006

Killer Email Industry Stats

Killer Email Industry Stats

In case you’ve missed any of these reported recently, all by the Direct Marketing Association’s outstanding research department (link so you can see the details of reports available to purchase):

  • Email marketing in the US alone will account for approximately 71,000 jobs this year, growing at 8-10% annually historically and projected into the future as well
  • The ROI for email marketing is $57.25 for every dollar spent. The ROI of all non-email online marketing is $22.52, less than half

As I mentioned here (where a client of ours said her email ROI was 40:1), the biggest problem with email isn’t how effective it is — it’s how much inventory you as a marketer have available in your housefile and super qualified and permissioned rental lists.

Filed under: Email