The LessMoney Workshop by Less Everything…was it worth it?

A weekend ago, I attended the LessMoney workshop put on by Allan and Steve from Less Everything. While I have been in the industry for a long time, I’m kind of a rookie when it comes to attending events and conferences. After attending a few last year I was somewhat disillusioned when it came to evaluating my return on investment. I knew Allan and Steve had been thinking about putting on this event for a while, so it was on my radar, but I didn’t want to be disappointed again.

This is a long post, so if you are just reading this to see whether or not to attend if one is scheduled in the future, I will sum it up for you in one sentence. I don’t care if you have to beg, borrow, steal (at your own risk), or quit your job, if you run a web consultancy or have the desire to one day, you must attend the LessMoney workshop.

Why it was worth it

I know Allan and Steve are talking about writing a book. If the book is half as good as the workshop, you must buy that also. These guys know what they are talking about, and more importantly know how to build a community, or a circle of friends. The people I met met at LessMoney are some of the coolest, most talented people I have come across in a while. With that said, I don’t really get out much. So why do I feel like LessMoney was the best $500 I have spent for my business in a long time? Below you can find a brief list of reasons. A lot of what I learned I won’t even mention here right now. You will have to come back for that. I want to have a chance to implement it, and record my findings, but rest assured I will got into further detail down the road.

  • I gained some knowledge from practice advice that I have already implemented in my business. Sometimes when you hear or read stuff, it doesn’t always apply to your situation exactly. By meeting with other guys (and gal) who have the same goals, aspirations and issues, in an honest and open environment where people feel inclined to share, you are going to learn. Steve and Allan did a really good job of getting people to speak up, as well as sharing their own experiences of their many successes and the one time they failed.
  • I made some very talented and amazing friends. I feel like I will definitely work with some of them in the future, but even if I don’t, it’s always cool to make friends.
  • I will never get screwed by another customer again. This alone was w0rth 100 times the price of admission alone, at least. Learning how to put a better contract out is priceless. Learning that you absolutely must get paid upfront, may seem obvious, but it was reassuring to hear that this has worked in practice for a company who has been very successful.
  • When you have goals, you should always seek out the advice from someone who has accomplished those same goals. Someone who hasn’t been there just can’t offer you the right advice, only theory.
  • Allan helped me close the gap on an idea I have for an app. Even if the app has flaws, it will launch by 8/8/2011 (my 31st birthday and present to myself).
  • I had some long burning questions about sales that have finally been answered. One of those surrounded how to discuss budget when first talking to a prospect. This has always been a difficult topic for me, because I always felt like the person on the other end of the phone didn’t want to answer the question in fear that I was trying to take them for their money. The problem with this is, it’s the most important thing to understand so you can know how much you can help if at all. For instance, if someone comes to you with $100,000 in capital for a project, they shouldn’t be spending all of it with you on design and development. If they do, they will have a site with no money to market and sustain it. You should coach them on launching with the least they need to have their site, then take it from there. This is something I have always tried to do in my own consultancy, but when people are not upfront about their budgets, it makes it hard for you to help them. I have had a chance to throw this out there a few times since the workshop, and while I need to get better at it, at least I’m touching the subject now.
  • Maybe the most interesting thing that I picked up on was that you should be marketing to your peers and not to clients. At first it doesn’t make sense, but once you let it marinate, it starts to make sense.  Going to conferences and doing cool things for others attending is one way you can do this. You need to go to every Bar Camp around. Designers could offer up their services on open source projects as they often lack good design. Tech articles always bring good traffic to your blog, and there always someone who will be out there tomorrow looking for the stuff you just learned today. They should learn about it from you. Pizza, cupcakes and t-shirts can be very good friends for you.
  • I’m going to finally move ahead with re-branding my company, something I had been sitting on for over a year and a half. The logo and actual name are not so important to those on the outside, but if they mean something to you internally, go with it. Whatever helps you deliver success.
  • I learned not to waste my time with RFPs. Unless you have been promised the work in advance, and they are just a formality, you can sink a ton of time into doing these and never win any business. Business is about relationships, it always has been. RFPs do nothing for this. I was about to start down that road, and could have wasted way more than $500 worth of time filling them out.

There are so many more notes and details that I could talk about, but that wasn’t the point of this post. Again, if you are thinking about attending LessMoney, just freakin do it. At the end of the day, everything that went on was great. The only thing that would have made it better is if it lasted longer, not because more material needed to be covered, but because the discussions that were taking place were awesome. Which leads me to my closing shout-outs to those who attended LessMoney with me.

The people

I personally believe that our interactions with people and the relationships we make with each other are one of the centerpieces of life. God designed it to be this way. While I didn’t get a chance to connect with everyone as much as I would have liked to, here’s what I learned about those that attended the workshop with me. Everyone who attended this workshop was talented. You don’t get to say this too often.

We already know about Steve and Allan, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will leave you with this. They are genuine individuals and what you see is what you get. There is no façade. I know it’s cliché, but they keep it real. I look forward to meeting up with them when they come to Tampa, and the start of a new friendship.

@natecroft - From the instant I first heard Nate speak about why he was there, I knew him and I shared a lot of common ground. He is an amazing designer, and along with his partner @necker47, they form a great duo at 47m. If you want to learn more about these two, check out the hilarious Kick Awesome Show. Don’t miss episode 5. There is a really good story behind that one. I really look forward to an opportunity to work with these guys at some point.

@ericdarnell – Besides being really good at creating videos, Eric is a no BS, fun dude to talk to. Apparently he is also a ridiculously good Crossfitter, who accomplished most of my personal fitness goals, by the time he was 15. I can only wish to be more like him one day. Beyond that, if you ever need to capture something on film, Eric is the guy to call. Check out his video work.

@philipzaengle – I really wish I had more time to speak to Phil, as we only got to speak personally over lunch on the last day, but I did check out his design work, and it’s impressive to say the least. Phil doesn’t live too far from me, so I expect him and I will have an opportunity to meet up and work together often.

@16toads- Paul and I didn’t really get to talk much at all, but we didn’t need to. His work and his words tell you everything you need to know. Again, another very talented artist. At first I thought he owned a company called 16 toes, but later found out it was 16toads. He is also doesn’t like Work for Hire contracts very much. Paul has a crazy amount of experience, speaks his mind, doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and like those mentioned above, is someone I would love to have an opportunity to work with.

@hughbutler, @dorisuzanne, @keithburnson, and @timothyrobbins are fellow Tampans, or Tampanian’s, however you choose to call it. They do some pretty amazing work over at Gauged2. Since they are right down the street, I’m going to have to stop by eventually. They may even get involved in some shenanigans with a collection that Steve and I are going to try and make when he is down in Tampa. I really look forward to getting to know you guys better.

@BrownWebDesign and I had a chance to sit down at the very end of the workshop after I promised him a ride back to his hotel. The good, we got to have a really great chat. The bad, I didn’t realize the car we rented only had room for 4, so I couldn’t give him the ride I promised. Jess, I’m glad you made it back that night anyway. Jess will probably be the first guy I work with, as I have a deal that I’m looking to close this week, then send his way for some help with it. LessMoney in action already!

Besides being a developer, @turnandface is also a phenomenal photographer. Another guy close to home that I hope to work with as the overflow work pours in from implementing the secrets shared in the LessMoney workshop. I may have also infected him with my CrossFit/Paleo brainwashing. Adam, perhaps I will see you at CrossFit Firebase next time I’m in Orlando.

@wesgarrison is going to be launching a product very soon. I’m glad I was one of the first to break the news, so when he becomes rich and famous from it, perhaps he will remember me. I will be the next one in line after him to get an app off the ground, and if I become half as rich and/or famous, the LessMoney workshop can be considered two-thirds successful.

I’m going to be honest, @kylecordes and  @siffring were two guys I didn’t get to chat with very much. We need to fix that. They are both developers, from St. Louis and Chicago respectivly, so geography is not on our side, but geography isn’t important anymore.

And then there was @garethsprice. Holy cow. This dude can type. He pretty much transcribed the entire event. I think there were something like 663 pages of notes by the time he was done. He’s also a kick butt Drupal developer out of Orlando, which means I’m sure our paths will cross in person again soon. I really enjoyed spending time with him while over at Allan’s house for dinner. A super nice and geniune guy. I also have some envy of his Herman Miller Embody Chair.

Uncle Bear was not part of our live group, but I feel like I know him. Maybe one day I will have the pleasure of shaking his hand.

Last but not least, thanks to @frshnk for hosting the event. They have a really awesome space that you can co-work in and need to check out if you are ever in Panama City. Besides their space, they some pretty cool stuff with pixels.

Do what you’re bad at

This is real simple advice. It covers every aspect of life. If you actively participate in some activity on a regular basis, whether it be memorizing Bible verses, working out, playing softball, or creating software, you need to practice the aspects of this activity that you are not good at.  You will never improve until you do. You need both conditioning and confidence.

Here’s a few easy steps to get going on this today:

  1. Determine what  you want to work on – This one is easy. There is nothing we do in life that we can’t be better at. Just pick something.
  2. Set a goal for where you want to be in a month. The time factor on setting goals is one of the most important aspects of goal setting. By putting a time period on it, you can break your goal down to math to make sure that as you are practicing you are making the right progress towards that goal. By limiting it to a month, you will be able to quickly move in to the habit of practicing what you are bad at.
  3. Make the goal something that you will be really excited about when you accomplish it. It’s got to be satisfying. This is important for continuing on to improve other things that you do.
  4. Practice at least once per week. That’s all you have to do, but when you get down to business, hit it with everything you have. Depending on what you are trying to improve on you may need to practice more frequently, but no less than once per week.
  5. Set a goal for progress each week. This goes along with number 2. In order to go from where you are starting, to where you want to go, you have to have some checkpoints along the way. Set your goal incrementally each week. This is simple math. I will give you an actual example below.
  6. Announce it to the world, or at least to someone. This is one thing that Facebook is actually good for. If you don’t do Facebook, then simply tell someone who you communicate with on a regular basis.
  7. Once you announce it, keep everyone updated with your progress at least once per week. If you practice more than once per week, consider giving an update each time. This will provide you with accountability. This is crucial. You don’t want to start and not finish.
  8. While it’s not imperative, I would focus on only one thing at a time. If you get really good at this monthly routine, then try adding another goal and see if you can handle two. If it works great, if it doesn’t, go back to one.

 

So now for the example. I’m working on Burpees this month. For those who do CrossFit, you are all too familiar with Burpees. Others may also be. For those who don’t know what a Burpee is, consider it a push-up from a really hot place. Rather than try to explain it, I will let you check out this video instead:

A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to get better at Burpees. First I had to define better. To me better meant doing 100 in under 5 minutes.  While I wasn’t sure of exactly where I was at, I figured I would be under 10 minutes. To me this wasn’t good. So the only way to figure it out is to try. I went out and did a round. 100 in 8:03 and I started off doing 35 in row. Better than I thought, but pretty far off from sub 5. I was encouraged though because I started. I decided at that point I would try this workout once per week for a month, with my goal being the sub 5 by the end of the month. I was so excited about it that I decided to try it again only 3 days later. My goal for this attempt was 7:30 and 50 in a row. Well I got the 50 in a row, and I did the workout in 7 flat. This got me real excited. In just 3 days I trimmed a minute off my time. I went into the second workout very confident, because I felt 50 in a row was very doable based upon the first time I tried it. I waited a full week before going into round 3. My goal was 6:30 and 65 in a row. My result 5:48 and 65 in a row. I was totally blown away by this. After a little more than 2 weeks I was within 49 seconds of my goal. I was also pretty pumped about being able to do 65 burpees in a row. Most people struggle to get 10. To follow my own advice, along the way I have been letting people know what I have been up to. I have told my trainer at the gym, announced it on Facebook, and have posted my results there as well.

So that brings me to today. I will do the workout again on Friday, which will be 3 weeks from my start date. My goal is to hit the 4:59 mark this week, getting 80 in a row. I will have hit my goal with a significant improvement within 3 weeks if I can make it happen. I will try for 100 in a row in week 4, just to wrap it up and hit a new goal that was born during this one. From this point forward, I will be satisfied with my performance on Burpees for a while. I will be good at them. I can always be better, but there are plenty of other things to focus on getting better at, and a new month long journey will begin.

 

How to lose a customer, How to gain a customer

In today’s world people’s need for instant gratification is stronger than ever. We don’t have to go to the video store any more, we can just play movies instantly on Netflix. So Blockbuster loses customers after all the years of pissing people off by charging ridiculous late fees and having an inferior product. Why would I pay crazy rental fees at Blockbuster, when I can pay $9.99 a month to watch as much as I want? Now they are going out of business. Same thing with Borders books. Why would I go to the bookstore and spend $3.45 a gallon on gas, when I can just download the book to my iPad from wherever I am in the world with an Internet connection? Why would I pay $30 for a book when I could have it instantly for $9.99, or for $4 if I bought it used from Amazon? These are just two examples that immediately come to mind as I am watching what used to be two powerhouse companies shut their doors in Tampa and around the country.

This is not a trend that’s going away. It will only get worse as technology improves, and as the younger generations who are used to it get older, making up a greater part of our population. If you don’t think this affects your business, or the business that you work for you should stop being naive. It affects all businesses and organizations. How much software do you still get on CD? Heck how much software do you still install on your computer? It seems like a new SAAS (Software as a Service) provider pops up every two minutes, with great products most of the time.  Why would I want to install software on one computer, or many of them for that matter, when I can access my software through any device that has Internet access and a web browser?

Today Zephyrhills lost me as a customer to a smaller, cheaper, more agile competitor. After receiving my $71.00 water delivery bill from them, I gave them a call to see why I was being charged $7.00 a bottle for water. They informed me that it was because the price automatically goes up after a year. I’ve had service with them for 2 years, so I’m not sure I buy that. The person on the other end also had a very hard time speaking English. On a side note, if you really want to lose customers, hire workers lacking this most important skill set to answer your phones. You might as well stop offering phone support all together. You probably wouldn’t aggravate as many people.  After getting frustrated with the rep and the answers I was getting, I was transferred to speak to someone about changing my service. At my old office I had a water filtration system instead of the water bottles and it was considerably more cost effective. It was also nice not to lug and store 40lb water bottles that needed to be replaced every two days. I was interested in getting this installed again. The new rep, who could speak English, informed me that she needed to contact the installer to answer some of my questions and that he would be giving me a call back. After two days of not receiving a call back, I decided to call the a competitor, Arctic Spring. They were friendly, answered all of my questions competently, spoke English, had the product I wanted, and could install the next day. One more thing, they were $25 per month, with a $20 install fee! So I get similar water, my bill is cut into a third, they have good customer service, they are local, I have a person I can call instead of a company, and they came out to install the next day. Zephyrhills couldn’t even give me a call back the next day.

Folks this type of stuff is going on all around us. This is a real life example of how companies are changing the game to put a beat down on their competition. The old way, just doesn’t work anymore. The important question to ask is this; is your company Zephyrhills or Arctic Spring?

Do you rely solely upon Google Analytics? You are probably missing out.

Every SEO I have ever spoken to thinks that Google Analytics is the bee’s knees. Most of the time stuff from Google is. I love gmail and Google Apps. Google Docs has kept me from the nasty presence of MS Office rotting on my desktop. Google itself is an amazing search engine. I can’t remember how I ever used the Interweb without it. I mean I’m no Al Gore. I didn’t invent the thing. Then there is Google Maps. Google Earth. Google Talk. All of their cool code libraries and APIs. I can’t wait for the upcoming release of Google Farts, their venture into what we used to call “Smell-a-vision.” That’s going to be big. They are the most fascinating company in the world. For the most part, everything Google does is great, just not their Analytics product.

Before I get going too much here, I must admit, I am a dumb user of Analytics at best. With that said I have yet to meet a smart one. Perhaps I am jaded by the so-called experts who have tried to sell me on it in the past.  The funny thing is when you ask these experts to explain what all the numbers mean, and how it is affecting you, they start spinning in circles of confusion. Is it because they have no idea what they are doing? Perhaps for some, but I think the real problem is in the tool. It really lacks clarity in some areas. The absence of  instant feedback disconnects you from experiments you are running and the traffic that results from them. If you are happy with your data being a day late and a dollar short, feel free to continue using this tool and stop reading here.

Ok, I’m being a little harsh. To be fair Google does give analytics away for “free.” Additionally I think there is some integration into “Adwords” for when you are spending big money with them.

When I started this blog, I had a desire to see my traffic in real time. I wanted to know if I was wasting my time with things I was trying, or if my efforts were bearing fruit. I was never able to really gauge this using Google Analytics for the reasons I stated above. Because this blog is built on WordPress, you can all to easily hop over to the plugins section and search for anything you want. I found Hit Sniffer when I was searching for stats. It’s very simple to install and I’m very happy with it. It gives you information in a more understandable and useful fashion that Google Analytics, and more importantly it’s real time. Sure it’s requires a large investment of $4.99 per month, but I really feel like it’s worth it. I have to be honest, I’m not an expert in the field of website analytics and stat tracking. I’m sure there are better tools out there. This post isn’t about that though. This is about me not finding Google Analytics helpful. Most people like it because it is free. Isn’t there a saying that you can’t argue free? Most think free is good, but generally there is a trade-off. In this case I wasn’t willing to settle for the inferior product, just because I didn’t have to pay for it.

As a matter of fact I would say costs me money to use Google Analytics. Why? Not knowing the immediate effects of time spent posting links, comments, tweets, and status updates makes it feel different when you look at the numbers the next day. If you post something on Twitter, using a certain wording or hashtag and it was very successful, you know it immediately. With Analytics, you have a harder time feeling this. You lose the affirmation of success or failure. You miss out on learning something. Being that marketing experts have always told me that what they do is an experiment, I would think that learning is the most important thing you can take away from your efforts. If I’m wasting time, I’m wasting money. Will Hit Sniffer keep me from wasting time? No it won’t. I just think it will keep me from wasting as much time as I did when I just used Google Analytics.

To give you a great example of what Hit Sniffer can do, I can see that right now there is a visitor on my site. They are from Norway and found the site from a link on the Basecamp website. It’s their first visit to the site, they use a Mac, Chrome 8 is their browser, and they have Flash 10 installed. They have been on my site for 5 minutes. Within the next month I will be able to know how many kids they have, their SSN (only if they are a US resident) and what their blood type is. Ok I’m just kidding about the blood type part. But you get the point, the tool is very effective if you want real time feedback. You can see the current online summary below:

Screen shot of HitSniffer

By the way, I was kidding about the number of kids and SSN part for those of you stalkers out there who were getting excited. Settle down now.

2011 Book a week reading list

One day while on twitter I saw a link for Julien Smith’s website, and found this article about how to read a book a week in 2011. While studying for my MCSE about 10 years ago, I really burnt myself out when it came to reading books from cover to cover. So over the past decade, I would read a little here, a little there, but rarely would I finish books. It was like Donovan McNabb trying to win a Superbowl. I would get close but never finish. Over the past two years I got a little better, and actually finished a few, but never on a consistent basis. This article gave me a practical approach on breaking this cycle, and I have been on a book reading spree ever since. Below you will find a list of each book I read this year. Here’s to the race to 52.

  1. Rails for .NET Developers
  2. Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me about Debt by Jon Acuff
  3. Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable–Includes new bonus chapter
    by Seth Godin

*Note: Once I get some time I am going to do a short write-up on each of these books to let you know some of the highlights and my recommendation.

Currently Reading
1. Agile Web Development with Rails 4th Edition

Books I intend to read

  1. Crossing the Chasm by Geoff Moore
  2. Crafting Rails Applications by Jose Valim
  3. Continuous Testing with Ruby by Ben Rady and Rod Coffin
  4. Rails Test Prescriptions by Noel Rappin
  5. The Dip by Seth Godin
  6. Small is the New Big by Seth Godin
  7. Linchpin by Seth Godin
  8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
  9. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz
  10. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Rod A. Beckstrom
  11. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki
  12. The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist by Frederick Brooks
  13. Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug
  14. Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson
  15. Smarter, Faster, Cheaper by David Garland
  16. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  17. When Pleasing Others is Hurting You by Dr. David Hawkins
  18. The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works!
  19. The Business of Software : Eric Sink

Take the road less travelled and admit you’re wrong

I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, because I don’t think the clock striking midnight, marking the passing of one year into the next is a good reason to do anything. You will most likely fail on your endeavor whatever it might be. While choosing to do something because a specific day has passed on the calendar could be considered a reason, it isn’t the right one. One of the key aspects in setting and achieving goals is that they have to be for you. This is the right reason. You will have the proper motivation required to accomplish your mission. So what does this have to do with admitting you’re wrong?

One good thing about the end of the year is that it’s good for reflection. The proverbial clean slate that you have on January 1st, prepares your mind to sit back and look at the year in review. A year is a measurable unit, so it allows us to contain that reflection into something that is quantifiable. We can look back on the year and see where we started, and how we’re ending. We can take a good look at our progression and if we are closer towards fulfilling whatever it is that we consider our mission in life to be.

One of the realizations that came out of this end of year period for me, was that I need to be better at admitting I’m wrong. I have a real bad tendency of becoming an ostrich when things don’t go the way I intended. Gladly I can say that I’m not big on carrying out malicious acts, but I do make mistakes. Sadly I’m not always ready to admit it.

So here are a few ways I plan to address it:

  1. Respond Quickly – If something bad has happened, you need to own it quickly. By letting things linger only allows for the ostrich tendency to grow stronger. The sooner you address something, the faster it can be resolved. It also doesn’t have the chance to become a mountain, when initially it’s only a molehill. When you avoid things, they usually seem to get worse. Let’s take a backyard as an example. If you don’t mow for a while, the issue becomes more then just cutting the grass. Now not only do you have to mow, you also need to rid it of the pests, weeds and whatever else has made itself a new home. The scary thing is when the same thing happens with relationships.
  2. Understand where you are going wrong consistently – We all have our weaknesses. Mine tends to be making promises I can’t keep. I have a really bad habit of over extending myself. My biggest issue with this is on project due dates. In the web consulting business, your clients typically want the work done as soon as inhumanly possible. For some reason I always agree that the unattainable target can be hit. Just before I agree to it, I get that uneasy feeling in my stomach. But for some reason I think I can just put on a cape and play super hero, simply because I have done it before. Guess what? That leads to burnout. You begin to resent whatever it is you promised rather than carrying out your work joyfully. Everything we do in life should be done with joy in our hearts, even if it is the hard stuff. The hard stuff makes us grow. With that said, you shouldn’t put yourself in a hard situation when you know better. That’s not called growth. That’s called stupid. Whenever I write a check for a promise I can’t keep, I start to get real sketchy as I realize I won’t be able to cash it out. This goes along with number 1. The sooner you admit to something, the sooner you can correct it. If you can prevent it however, that’s better than any cure. Figure out what it is that you should be apologizing for, and then stop doing it.
  3. Consider the worst case scenario – So you aren’t going to be done with a project on time. Part of what would keep me from admitting this to a client is the fear of how they might respond. That’s because I’m not considering the worst case scenario. Are they going to take my family from me? No. Are they going to cut my head off? No. Are they going to take everything I own? No. Are the going to fire me? Most likely no, especially if I admit that I’m wrong as soon as I realize it. People understand that other people will make mistakes. If they don’t they are jerks and you’re better off not to deal with them anymore. What people don’t understand is when people make mistakes and then fail to admit their wrong doing. That makes the scenario go from how do we fix it to you’re fired. The point here is, there can be some pretty bad outcomes this is true. However when the worst case scenario is taken into consideration, these outcomes are rarely as bad as we think they are. They also tend to be a little less bad when you address them sooner. Remember problems cannot be given time to grow if you can help it. Sorry to beat a dead horse here.
  4. Be candid - No play on words intended here, but I do feel like a hypocrite. When the name Candid was chosen for my company I wanted it to be because we shot straight and never sugar coated things. When you have to admit you’re wrong, give the whole truth and nothing, but the truth. Admitting you are wrong, but leaving out details is lying. You are immediately causing another problem when you are working on fixing another. When you are wrong, just admit what has transpired, don’t try to cover it, and take it from there. In the past instead of saying I’m going to be late with something, I have chosen to beat around the bush. If you need more time, ask for it. If lost data, admit to it, then outline what you have done to make sure it won’t happen again.

So this is great. I’m resolving to make a change. I came up with some ways to address my problem so I can be successful with it.  So how can I make sure that this change actually takes place? Well besides knowing what the status quo is like from being myself for the past 30 years, I also ask my clients. I recently sent out a survey asking how we did in 2010. I will go more into detail about how to do this in another post, but briefly all I did was ask them to rate our performance as Great, OK, or Not Good. The next thing I asked was for them to explain their rating in whatever level of detail they wanted, including not at all. Gladly most results were Great, but a few were OK. All of the OKs had a lot to do with what I outlined above. This did not come as a surprise whatsoever because I’m well aware of this problem. So to answer the question, I plan to turn all the OKs to Greats. I also don’t want to see this come up as an issue in the 2011 survey. This will be hit or miss. I will have succeeded if it is absent, otherwise I will still need to work on it. To make sure that I learn about my progress throughout the year, I plan to send the survey out at the conclusion of each project, no matter how big or small. A year is too long to wait to see if you are doing the right thing. You need to stop along the way and make sure you are still headed down the right path.

At the end of the day, when we have done something wrong, we will feel guilty as a result. The only way to release that guilt and get things back to where we need to be is to admit what we have done wrong.

Why long fingernails have finally gone out of style

Long Fingernails

Like many, I believe that long fingernails actually went out of style towards the end of the 80′s, but there is now new evidence to support this idea. One afternoon, several weeks ago, I  was having a conversation with someone, when the ever popular question of what do you do came up. I told her I build custom software and have recently began developing iPhone applications. At the mention of the word iPhone, she kind of made a sour face. It was so bold that it forced me to pause and wait for her to interject. There are some people who don’t like Apple, so they immediately write-off off anything to do with them and it is usually accompanied by the rolling of eyes. But there was something in her expression that went a little deeper than that.

Her next words to me were something to the effect of, “I don’t like that silly iPhone. You see these long nails? I can’t use that thing.” In my mind I was thinking, is it really the iPhone that is silly? I let her continue. “I use the Treo. The keyboard on this thing is great.” She pulled out her phone with a great big smile. The rest of what she said kind of sounded like the teacher on Charlie Brown to me. Now there is nothing wrong with the Treo. I had one back in 2004. It was a nice phone in its day. I will admit, the keyboard isn’t too bad, and there are times where I really don’t like typing on my iPhone, but if my long finger nails were keeping me from using the best technology, I would cut them.

This goes beyond touch screen phones. How about normal keyboards? The reason this lady fancies the Treo is because she can type with her thumbs. You can’t exactly type efficiently using your thumbs on a regular keyboard. I would imagine iPads, or any of the competitors, are hard to use as well. TV remotes. Car stereos. I’m sure I could come up with a really long list if I wanted to. If the end to strange fashion in the 80′s did not put long nails to death, I believe new technology just might.

QuickFire for Basecamp is in the App Store!

This post is quite a few days late. Normally a company with their act together would have this post written in advance, with a finger on the trigger just waiting to push the publish button. Marketing isn’t my strong suit and whoever said I had my act together?   I am pleased to announce that on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 a dream came true for me. I got real. QuickFire for Basecamp, my first iPhone App was approved and started selling in the App Store.

I built this app to scratch my own itch. I wasn’t really interested in managing my Basecamp projects in full from my iPhone, I just wanted a way to create To-Dos. While the iPhone is a great device, I’m not sure it’s ideal for Project Management. I think that is done best while sitting in front of a computer. Creating reminders for myself to get a certain task accomplished by a certain date, or assigning it to someone else seemed like a great way to interact with Basecamp while on the go. Sure it is simple, and not nearly as comprehensive as competing Basecamp apps, but I think this is a good thing. It does what I want it to do, and it does it very well. If you have an iPhone and you use Basecamp, you really should check it out. I’m convinced it’s worth the 99 cent price tag.

Beyond the app, I really look forward to everything there is to learn from this experience. It will help mold my next one, the one after that and so forth. I have a feeling that I will be receiving a baptism by fire (no pun intended) like education on marketing.

QuickFire for Basecamp Screen Shot

Don’t just say NO, scream it!

This is a topic that seems like a dead horse that just keeps receiving a beat-down, but for some reason budding small business owners rarely seem to listen. As a matter of fact, those in the service industry seem to listen the least. It’s one of those things that most need to try before they buy. But I will tell you right now, there is no reason to put yourself through this kind of pain.

Here’s the scenario. You are just starting out, or perhaps you’ve been around and business is a little bit slow. Then this deal comes around. It has an odor to it. Sometimes the stink is so unbearable that your eyes start to water and your stomach starts to turn. A good example of this would be someone who wants to pay a thousand or two for $10k worth of your services. It’s a bad idea to take this business, and you know it from the word go. Most of the time these types of deals will anger you enough that you will just walk away and spare yourself the pain.

The second smell is a little more subtle and a lot more dangerous. It’s the guy that wants what seem to be little compromises. Certain wording in a contract. A 10% price break. A smaller security deposit. Much like the carrot salesmen, these guys have more angles than I can think of. What will happen with them, is they will feel you out, and see where you will bend. Once they understand your vulnerabilities, they will capitalize on them every chance they get. Along the way, you get the feeling that you are probably not a good fit, but what can you do? You need the money. When all is said and done, you made the stupid decision to do business with them and you ended up losing money. In the meantime, the rest of your business suffers because these guys tend to be time vampires. They want to meet all the time, but they don’t want to pay for it. You can never keep them happy. They have designed it this way. If you feel like they are constantly unhappy with you, you will do more to try and get back in their good graces. They don’t value what you bring to the table, they proved that during negotiations. They are not concerned about the welfare of your company. If they put you out of business, they will just pick up the pieces and go somewhere else.

I have made this mistake on a number of occasions. I don’t want you to make it too. I implore you to be careful of these types of situations. Never, ever accept business out of desperation. As much as you may start to believe there is nothing else out there for you and you have to take the deal, I have rarely found that to be the case. Run away from bad deals and turn up your hustle meter. Get out and network some more. Call up a few of your current clients, see if there is anything you can help them with. Look at your expense sheet and see where you can cut some things. Just always keep this in mind. If you say yes to the bad deals, it makes it hard to say yes to the good ones.

Why your small business, your client, and their carrots are like Eve, the snake and the apple

A bad carrot

As a small business, at one point or another, you inevitably will be offered a carrot. Whether you are starting out or have been established for a little while, there are people out there who can smell you desire to go to the next level with your business, so they offer to “help” you get there. Here’s a quoted example from an email where one such carrot was offered to me just recently:

Basically, I am developing a social media website and have tons of people that are waiting for me to launch.

Are you willing to help create aspx pages for me calling webservices controlled by my data architecture team?

Due to the potential growth, most of the individuals that are working this deal are working for stock..  Are you up for that kind of arrangement?   You wont have to quit your day job, but this will definitely lead to WAY MORE WORK…

Who knows, when I replied to him this way I may have walked away from a chance to make millions. I will keep you posted.

Thank you for the offer. Unfortunately I have been a part of a number of arrangements like the one you are proposing (stock for services) and none of them have worked out too well for me. So after the last one I decided that if I am going to work without getting paid it would be  on something I have a controlling interest in, or for charity.

Carrots can come in all forms. The promise to send you “Way more work” or “buy more product” . Stock offerings in a startup. A promise to refer lots of business to you if you do a good job. I could go on all day. Some carrot salesmen are better than others, and they package them in all sorts of ways. What they have in common is they are all after the same thing. They want to take advantage of you. They want you to work for free, or for a lot less than what you would normally charge. They want you to take a loss on selling something to them. Sometimes they want you to finish in half the time it should take to do the job properly. They basically always want you to go outside of  your business model. You setup your schedule and pricing based upon the time you need to spend and the profit margins you need, to achieve in order to stay in business and be successful. The minute someone compromises this, they aren’t helping take you to build your business, they are planting the explosives that will help it to implode. If you want to spend extra hours working on something, build something for yourself, not someone else.

Carrots are poisonous. They aren’t good for you. If you see one, run faraway and do so as quickly as you can. Eve thought she needed to move away from the plan too. When the snake offered her the apple, she ate. I think it’s fair to say she regretted that decision.