Having the best tools to get work done for my clients is what I strive for. Paying for them is sometimes a challenge, taking all other costs I have into consideration. This is where I have to justify if the tool, whether is is hardware, software or what have you, will make me more productive or give me a competitive advantage.
As a small business owner I have the luxury of making these decisions. Over the years of working for others, this decision making varied. Sometimes my immediate manager would make the decision. In this case the request process was generally fair, especially for the managers who actually knew what I did on a daily basis.
Some of the companies I worked for – usually the larger ones – made these decisions based on blanket policies that set justification based on your title or position and not on business need. Such a policy assumes upper management are typically the ones that need and will use more advanced tools. Whether or not they actually use them at all or to their fullest is more than likely never followed up on. If you try getting any particular tool whose distribution was based on such arcane rules – forget about it, no matter how well you are able to justify its need it will fail.
I have personally encountered this over the years in requests for business cards, email access, software, access to the company’s VPN to work from home, a notebook computer (when I was traveling for work), a decent-sized monitor and a mobile device for email. Though these requests spanned a period of almost 2 decades, I continue to hear such stories today from others.
Such policies are driven by the desire to control costs, and the only costs being monitored are cash expenditures. Opportunity cost is never usually taken into consideration. How much less productive is an employee when they do not have a tool to be more efficient? How about their overall team? Or how about opportunities lost when people are not able to get in touch with people outside the office who do not have a mobile device to reach co-workers? And don’t forget the cost of rehiring an employee who leaves a job if they feel they are not respected to handle the "fancy toys" their managers have.
With the season of generosity around the corner, managers and companies should take a hard look at what it really costs to be in business and not be penny wise and pound foolish.Business • Technology • (0) Comments • Permalink
Tomorrow, Thursday, November 8 is the “official” 3rd birthday of my Internet consulting business Dunkirk Systems. Where I was already in business before this date, it marks the day I emerged from the bowels of the Cook County Office Building with my certificate stating my sole proprietorship is called Dunkirk Systems. Yes, it was a surreal moment where I felt like Jake and Elwood Blues!
I am inviting my friends, clients and readers of by blog The Hot Iron to join me in celebrating this. If you are in Chicago, please join me:
Date – TOMORROW, Thursday, November 8, 2007
Place – Gallery 37 Cafe, 66 East Randolph, Chicago
Time – 8 am to 9:30 am CT (note the cafe opens at 8 am)
And the coffee is on me! They offer other tasty treats if you wish to purchase them yourself, but I will be springing for the coffee, tea or whatever other beverage you prefer to start your day.
Please no cards or gifts. But if you insist, make a donation to the American Liver Foundation – Illinois Chapter.
See you then!Announcements • Business • (9) Comments • Permalink
While perusing the "catchall" folder on my PC, I found this photo - it is of me at the Green Festival in Chicago this past spring. At the booth for Co-Op America, they asked people to write down something they do for the environment and have their picture taken with it. I chose the first thing that came to mind, printing on both sides of a sheet of paper.
Seeing this photo caused me to digress a bit from my daily routine and write down other things I consciously do having a positive impact on the environment. As I scrawled them on my white board, categorized and entered them into my content management system, I realized what I had was a draft of the Dunkirk Systems Environmental Statement. As I am working on content for my Web site, this is a logical statement to add.
In the spirit of blogging, I decided to post the draft here and solicit input. Here goes...
- Use PDF documents and digital signatures rather than paper for contracts, invoices, etc.
- Power off computers at night
- Use whiteboard instead of paper
- Use eFax.com, which delivers faxes as PDF documents, instead of a fax machine
- Purchased duplexing laser printer to print on 2 sides of paper
- Minimal inkjet printer use
- For printing draft documents, use low ink and toner settings
- Always carry a compact shopping bag or pack
- Decrease burning of CDs and use Flash or portable hard drives and FTP of Zip files
- If an in-person meeting is required, walk or take public transportation over taxi and driving
- Reuse paper – print on both sides or use for scrap
- Reuse packaging – boxes, padded envelopes
- Use reusable UPS envelopes for overnight shipping
- Shred all confidential or personalized documents and recycle
- Recycle all other paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, etc.
- Give read books to friends and colleagues
- Recycled dead UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to vendor for credit towards a new one
- Return ink cartridges to Staples for recycling (do not refill ink cartridges due to reliability issues)
- Donate unneeded items to Goodwill
- Buy recycled products
- Seek products with minimal packaging
- Seek out stores and vendors that sell environmentally-friendly products and share my passion for the environment
So what do you think? Did I leave out something obvious? Have a question on something there?Business • (0) Comments • Permalink
Whenever I search for a particular domain name, I still cross my fingers hoping it is not already registered. If not, then I register it, whether it is for me or for my clients. If it is already registered, then several steps come into play, from monitoring the domain name for when (or more likely if) it becomes available to the search for alternative names. On occasion there is that certain domain name or names someone wants that is worthy of taking yet another step – trying to purchase it from the current registrar.
Salesforce.com, leader in hosted Web-based applications commonly referred to as “software as a service” did just that, and after a 4-year negotiation they acquired the domain name force.com for an undisclosed price. As Salesforce.com’s business has progressed and changed, the “sales” portion of the name is only a part of their overall offering. The name force.com was ideal, yet already owned by someone – Force Technology of California which was founded by Gordon Force. Not only was the company named “force” but so was the owner! Keeping those facts in mine doesn’t make it surprising it took the length of a presidential term to acquire it.
In an industry like the Internet where multiple seconds can be an eternity, such a wait could be considered not worth the effort. Many times, waiting that long is also not feasible, as the naming and branding of the business may not be able to wait. In such a case, business and life must go on and an alternate domain name or names must be selected. Continuing the pursuit of a domain name, however, is not out of the question.
“Everything is negotiable” is a phrase I remember from many of my college business courses. Though the length of those negotiations may go longer than one would hope, a successful outcome, as with Force.com, makes it all the more sweeter.Business • Domain Names • (2) Comments • Permalink
Earlier this year Chicago was all abuzz when the city was designated the US applicant city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. After a head-to-head battle with Los Angeles, the US Olympic committee voted and selected the Windy City to compete against several cities from around the world to host the international event. The final decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be made in 2009.
A rally was held in Chicago the Monday after the decision was made, and then the buzz seemed to die. Other than a few stories about venue locations and the need for the Chicago bid logo to change (it had a torch in it, which violated Olympic branding rules, and the new logo is shown here), there was no news or events surrounding the bid until the recent international boxing event. But other than a parade through the city, unless you were a boxing fan, you probably weren’t involved.
There’s about a year and a half between now and when the IOC makes its choice for the host city. I am sure there are many tasks and activities going on in the background that are not public and do not need to be. Posters with the new logo just started appearing on ad space in the downtown Loop area. But the buzz and excitement of getting such an event, even if it is 9 years away, just isn’t here.
So how can I help get the Games to Chicago? I have blogged about the Olympics before. I also created my own custom return address labels with the logo on them, though I have no idea if that is in violation of some trademark usage rules. I have this feeling that there’s more that the common resident could do, especially with the potential economic impact to the city.
For a city that prides itself on being a center for advertising and marketing, more must be done to engage the people of Chicago in the city’s bid to get the 2016 Olympics. Otherwise, when the few messages that hit the public come out, they may not get the reception they require, let alone stir the soul.Business • (2) Comments • Permalink
Today, November 2, domain name powerhouse NameMedia Inc. announced it filed for an initial public offering worth up to US$173 Million. Shares of NameMedia will be listed on the NASDAQ market under the ticker ‘NAME.’ This is big news for the domain name industry, as NameMedia is one of the largest players with BuyDomains as well as recent announcements of their launch of Gardens.com and acquisition of Photo.net.
It is also big news for the Boston area technology market, as NameMedia is located in Waltham, Mass., the home of many technology giants over the years, including Polaroid and Lycos. Waltham for centuries has been a center for pioneering advances in industry, including the Waltham watch, Metz automobile and bicycle, the invention of the microwave oven at Raytheon. In recent decades Waltham and the entire Route 128 corridor that cuts through it was called America’s Technology Highway, only second to the Silicon Valley. After the dot-com bust many biotech firms replaced the offices of tech companies.
Good luck to NameMedia on their IPO filing, the next generation of innovators to line the highway immortalized in “Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers!Business • Domain Names • (2) Comments • Permalink
I have about a dozen outstanding invitations for people to join my LinkedIn circle. Each time I invite someone new to join the social networking Web site, I usually get asked what it is and why they should join. Rather than re-forward that information every time, I will present it here. I also welcome your feedback and suggestions for this personal frequently asked questions, or FAQ, for LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a Web-based application in the category of a social network. Members can create and maintain a profile as detailed or minimal as they wish, and it can be said the more detailed it is, the more it resembles a resume or CV. You can invite people to be linked into your circle, and as a result you are indirectly linked to people in their circle, similar to the concept of six-degrees of separation (or Kevin Bacon). You can search for these connections and request to contact them, post to and answer questions from the community of members, and write recommendations of members.
What is a social network, and aren’t all networks social?
All networks should be social! Here is a definition of social networking from WikiPedia, and I will leave it to you to read it and make your own conclusion.
How do you use LinkedIn?
I have a rather detailed professional profile on myself, as my LinkedIn profile returns a result high on the list for a search on my name and my business in the search engines. I have reconnected with many people over the years of using it. But primarily I use it to keep people at “arm’s length” to see where they are and what they are doing. When logged in, the home page is a great resource as it shows people in your circle who have changed their profile or added new people to their own circles.
What do you see as the strengths of LinkedIn?
Its strengths are in its home page (as mentioned above), a professional format and layout and the number of people using it.
What do you see as the drawbacks of LinkedIn?
As compared to other social networks, LinkedIn is a little stuffy. Just recently they allowed people to add an 80 pixel square photo of themselves, where photos are the hallmark of all social networks. If you want to connect with someone in someone else’s circle, the request has to be passed along from person-to-person. Why not just let people choose if they want to receive these connections directly, as I myself have always passed along a request. It is also limiting in how you can reference other non-work activities and Web links.
There is a paid version of LinkedIn, do you use it?
No. It only allows you to contact more people, and since I don’t contact many people indirectly it is not worth it to me.
How many people are in your LinkedIn circle?
As of October 23, 2007 I have 236 contacts.
I already belong to enough services and have too many logins, why should I sign up for this?
LinkedIn is currently the primary networking service for business – if you want to network for business, you should create a free account. By doing so you can claim your name, as they allow you to create a custom URL to your profile page, such as my own, http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikemaddaloni. Plus more and more people are joining LinkedIn daily.
Can I join your LinkedIn circle?
Sure, just ask!Business • Technology • (5) Comments • Permalink
It was bad enough for the Dallas Cowboys, the so-called America’s Team, to lose to my beloved New England Patriots 48 to 27 last week at Texas Stadium. When the team loses on the field, it is usually felt throughout the organization. Fast-forward a few days, and this time the front office had the domain name cowboys.com in their grip, and then lost it.
Where many sports teams have the one-word name of their team as their domain name, many do not, as I wrote about previously. One team is the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, whose domain name is dallascowboys.com. The name cowboys.com had been a country and western themed Web site, and was put up for auction this past week by Moniker.
The sports franchise was well aware of the auction, and bid on the domain name. Their bid was for US$275,000.00, which was the winning bid. But the team believed their bid was for only US$275.00, minus a few trailing zeroes, and after realizing this requested their bid be voided. It was, and cowboys.com later sold to a group of investors led by Eric Rice of BulkRegister for US$370,000.00. That is thousands, not hundreds, and nearly US$100,000.00 more than the team’s previous winning bid.
Years ago I recall reading an article about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones where he spent millions on an airplane yet balked on the price of a pair of shoes in the hundreds. It is not known for sure if Jones was involved in the decision making, though in an article in the Dallas Morning News Brett Daniels, the team's director for client services and corporate communications, confirmed the Cowboys had the original winning bid. The thinking may have been that since they already had an established Web site at dallascowboys.com, why would they want cowboys.com, where there was a distinct difference between the two Web sites? As the Morning News' coverage is basic, you can read more about the sale from Sahar on the Conceptualist.
Where letting cowboys.com slip through their fingers won’t cause the Cowboys to not win the Super Bowl, this is like fumbling a football to lose the game. With the rising costs and demand for domain names, the infrequency of a domain name like this coming onto the market and a new billion-dollar stadium to replace Texas Stadium in 2 years, this amount of money is small in comparison to these and other costs in pro sports today.
Or maybe the Cowboys did not realize a domain name could cost this much? If this was the case, Jones should have consulted with Steve Forbes, the Forbes magazine publisher who spoke at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East conference a couple of weeks back, as Jones is ranked number 317 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the world.Business • Domain Names • (0) Comments • Permalink
After a session of entering receipts and generating invoices in QuickBooks, I will always run financial reports to see how Dunkirk Systems is doing. These reports not only tell me what my revenues are, but the price of doing business in the cost of goods sold and expenses incurred along the way. Though I am very close to every financial decision made, it is good to see it all together in a big-picture format.
Like any good small businessperson, I am never satisfied with the numbers. But what can I do about it? Are my products and services being offered at a fair price that the market can bear? Can I charge more? Should I charge more? And why are my costs what they are? Could I get a better price on services? And who would be offering those services? Then there is the all important question – where am I paying more for a particular service or for a service overall that I do not need, both in its cost and in the people involved in delivering it?
The answers to these questions and others pertaining to pricing and costs do not necessarily come with quick answers, and require thoughtful analysis and sometimes hard decision-making. But I did not start a small business to make things easy, did I? This part of leading a small business is one many people do not realize is required as they venture into it. It is also one they do not like to perform and may struggle with. But as the leader of a small business it is one they must do and do thoroughly. Focusing on solely revenues and not expenses or vice versa can have a negative effect on the vitality of the small business.
Now, if you substitute “small business” for any other entity type, does the above still make sense? What if I swapped in “corporation” or “non-profit organization” or even “government agency” would what I said still apply?
My goal with The Hot Iron is to write about issues impacting small business and technology and in the past have opted against delving into politics. However I do not live in a bubble, rather in the City of Chicago in Cook County in the state of Illinois in the US. Proposed tax increases by the city, county and state could increase varying taxes and fees to some of the highest levels in the US. Where the intent is to fund services, it could make existence in this great city unbearable.
So I ask the leaders of where I live – please swap your title and governing body in the above text and provide detailed answers to the questions. This leadership is the minimum requirement you need to provide to your constituents, many of whom are very accustomed to doing this for themselves.Business • (3) Comments • Permalink