The April 18 – 24, 2013 edition of Time Out Chicago, which unceremoniously arrived in my mailbox this past week, is apparently the last print issue of the weekly arts, food and entertainment magazine. As of this writing I haven’t heard it officially, only from other sources, including some of the majority of the staff who were just fired.
For as much as I talk of how I get most all of my news and information online, Time Out Chicago was the sole exception. It was part events calendar, part coffee table book and not to mention part great bathroom reading material. Even if I wasn’t participating in the literally hundreds to thousands of events, shows or restaurants listed, it was a convenient, well-edited and attractive print publication.
And now it’s gone.
Once partially owned by Chicago resident and Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, it was sold back to its parent company (which published editions in other cities) and it is apparently going solely online. They already have a Web site, though I have infrequently visited it. They also have an iPod app which apparently I could have bundled with my print subscription but when I attempted to do this the last time I renewed my subscription the customer service rep was not aware of this. Though it would have been nice to have it on my iPad, I had the print version, so why would I need another format?
My Idea Too-Late But Worth Mentioning
This idea hit me when I was in a doctor’s office waiting room, looking at the magazines fanned out on a table. Among them were a copy of Time Out Chicago and StreetWise, the latter being a periodical sold on the streets of Chicago by, as described by their Web site, people “…who are facing homelessness.” The magazine is part of a larger social services agency, and you can read more about StreetWise on their Web site. Where I don’t personally know much about the larger organization , I do see the people selling copies of them on the streets of Chicago. I’ll be honest I may have maybe bought 1 or 2 copies over the years, but then again I barely pickup free copies of other periodicals also available around the city.
So do you see my idea? Why not merge or mashup the 2 publications? The much smaller StreetWise would be included in the pages of Time Out Chicago, then the street sales force would sell the combined publication.
Could it have worked? It would have been worth a try! Rather than hearing someone hawking, “Streetwise…” we could have heard “Get Time Out Chicago, with the latest going on in Chicago…” Add to it Time Out logoed-gear to wear, and it would have added more to the sales pitch. The tourists alone would have bought out every issue.
But alas, it’s not to be. With the staff cuts already made, Time Out Chicago is going digital. I don’t know how much the quality will be effected, or even if their Web site has an RSS feed, but only time will tell.
Though it’s too late, I had to share this. What do you think, could it have worked? Are there other mashup opportunities out there that could be such a win-win? Other potentials for for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations to partner? Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments to this post.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
Back in late December, 2012 and early January, 2013, a small but might event occurred across the US – Hug Train USA. As the name implies, there was a journey across the country by train, stopping in major cities and offering hugs and raising money, all in the name of mental health.
Rather then telling the story myself, I asked Arié Moyal to tell it himself. The format is in the order of the 6 Questions I have asked in the past, but as a video. It was recorded on January 3, 2013 on his second stop in Chicago. If you can’t see the video below you can view it on YouTube.
If you would like to get involved with Hug Train USA you can learn more at their Web site or you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
On December 30, 2012, with no fanfare (once again), this blog – thehotiron.com – turned 6.
Where I got back into a small groove of blogging as of late, I am over a month late in acknowledging the anniversary of this venue. Like last year where I tried not to set unrealistic expectations, I will not set any again, and rather would like to take the opportunity to thank you, my loyal readers, who have given me the encouragement to keep writing and keep The Hot Iron going! Without you, I would be simply talking to myself.
So let’s see what THIS year has in store…
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
To all of my friends and readers in the US and abroad who celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving, a happy and peaceful and fulfilling holiday!
Thanks go to the Web site Keep Calm and Posters for the Thanksgiving poster. If you have seen these posters around and are wondering about their origin (as I was) here's a great article from Wikipedia about the original Keep Calm and Carry On poster, whose roots are ironically British.
2012 has turned out so far to be a very interesting year for me in many ways, and there's still a lot to happen in the next few weeks. I am thankful for my lovely bride, my 2 lovely princesses and all of my family, whether they are blood relatives or not. So even if you live someplace where there is no Thanksgiving, I hope you are thankful for all you have and the opportunity for more!
A recent article on the Kansas City Star’s Web site by Diane Stafford titled, “Why young achievers don’t stick around” caught my attention, in addition to the fact it was promoted in a weekly LinkedIn email. The topic of team building, motivating, mentoring and leading your team is one that means a lot to me. The article referenced a Harvard Business Review study and research on exit interviews, both of which talked about how young workers will only stay around a company as long as they have opportunities for growth, training and to receive mentorship. Otherwise, they will leave and go elsewhere.
When I read this, my reaction was, “duh!”
The same conclusions of these sources are something I have experienced numerous times in my own career in high technology – as an employee myself, as a manager and as a colleague of other managers who lament over the loss of people on their teams. After reading this, my own beliefs and philosophy in management and leadership were reaffirmed, and I am writing this to discuss this topic and observations I have made over my career.
You Hire A Person, Not Just Their Skillset
Allow me to repeat that, you hire a PERSON, not just their skillset. As obvious as this may seem to some, time and time again I see recruiters and hiring managers looking just at what skillset the person has and how immediate they can contribute to the company, team and bottom like. Of course this is important, however they often overlook the entire person – who they are, what types of experiences they have had in the past, what they do outside of work and what their goals and interests are. The individuals who overlook these important attributes often lack vision themselves, or the manager is more interested in their own goals rather than those of the team.
Many managers are looking to simply make their jobs easy for themselves, expecting their team to just “git ‘er dun” without any regard for their team’s wellbeing and growth. A perfect example of this is the job titles that are prevalent in many Web technology jobs, which include qualifiers like “rock star,” “guru,” and “ninja.” With labels like these employers are looking for the best, but are they also willing to give their best back to the employee, with a positive venue of personal and professional growth?
The True Cost Of Developing Your Team
When management looks at what it takes to give their employees what they need not only to succeed but to grow, they are always fixated on the dollar figure. Many companies have cut back on employee training and other growth opportunities with the justification that once the employee gets this benefit, they will just leave for a new job. Granted that can happen, but they may still leave if the opposite happens and they don’t get growth and mentorship in your company. Where you may have saved on training, conference and time taken for mentoring, you are now spending It on recruiting, recruiter fees and the time it takes to review, interview and vet the replacement employees. In many cases those costs are actually higher but not realized as such as they may be spread over several departments where staff development may only apply to the department they are in.
You Must Believe For It To Happen
In order for people who work for a company to get the growth and attention they crave, management must believe in it. Those managers who do are what I truly call leaders. Sure, some companies may say they do, but if it is not marked against a manager when his staff doesn’t get these opportunities, it truly it not a culture that believes its success is tied to the growth and success of its people.
Like Anything Growth And Mentorship Must Be Defined
In most businesses if it is not defined it will not happen. The same goes for developing your team. To whatever degree you want to do it, write it down, include it in the employee manual and promote the heck out if it. Even small teams can offer budgeted dollars for formal training classes or to attend seminars or conferences. This can include covering either the entry fees and/or the time off from the office. An added feature can be that this budget can be exceeded when the staff is presenting or speaking at such events, where they are a representative – and brand promoter – of your company.
When it comes to mentoring, it should be stated what and how the company looks out for its staff, and what defined meetings or metrics are in place. The challenge here is that not all managers may have it in them to be mentors. In that case, training for mentors can be implemented or mentors from outside the firm who have a vested interest in it (e.g. investors, board members) can be assigned to staff. What better way can there be to ensure of the company’s success than working with its people at all levels?
Strive For Action Not Perfection
If your company doesn’t have a growth or mentorship program or you are a new business, then just start one. Define, review it and refine it with 360 degree feedback from those on the giving and receiving end of the program.
Career Growth and mentorship have always been things I have strived for as a manager. As a small business of 1 person I admit I have not always been the best boss to my 1 employee – me. But if you are to grow, you need to consider the time and cost investment in your people along with everything else you do to bring the on-board your firm.
Agree? Not agree? Not sure? I welcome your comments and questions.
Where you’ll rarely find a retail merchant who doesn’t accept credit cards, you’ll find plenty of professionals – from painters to physicians – who do not. Whenever I ask one why they don’t, whatever reason they give me is almost predictable to me, especially as I am a small business person who didn’t always accept credit cards. Despite this, I look back on my decision to do so as a wise one. Rather than counter common reasons, I’ll present it by benefits, as well as how to decide how to accept them.
Credit – AND Debit Cards
Today most all debit cards are branded with a credit card company logo, so automatically when you accept credit cards, you are able to accept debit cards too. This is not only good to know as some people only have a debit card rather than a credit card, but also for the various “sources” of debit cards, including:
Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts – Most FSA or HAS accounts provide their insured customers with a debit card, and not checks, so the only other way to draw from the account is to pay in cash or check, then submit a claim for reimbursement. As a result, patients would prefer to pay by debit card and not have to front the money and wait for it to be reimbursed to them.
Unemployment Benefits – Some states, including Illinois, pay unemployment benefits by addingto the balance of a debit card rather than sending a check. Thus, this may be the best – of not only – way for someone to pay you.
Gift Cards – Just because it was given as a gift it doesn’t mean it has to be spent that way.
PayPal – You can draw on your PayPal account balance by debit card to a merchant or even at an ATM, and many people choose this rather than transferring the funds to their bank account.
Credit Card Fees Vs. Getting Paid Sooner
The fees, the fees! Yes, credit card processing involves fees, where depositing a check usually doesn’t. The best argument I can give in justifying the fees is getting paid sooner when someone pays with a credit card than with cash or a check. Why? In order to pay by cash or check you need to have the money on hand (not considering overdraft protection on your account or just overdrawing your account) where a credit card, providing they have credit available, someone will let you process it right away or sooner than the terms you have offered them. If there is any delay, it may be to wait until after a billing cycle closes so the charge appears on a statement in 2 months as compared to the next one.
My personal experience with my Web consulting business has shown me that clients who pay by credit card typically pay me in HALF the time of my terms with them, which are net 30. Some of them have asked me to pay them when I generate the invoice. For me, that’s huge!
Credit Card Fees Vs. Not Getting Paid At All
Earlier I mentioned I didn’t always accept credit cards. The catalyst for me was when I presented a proposal to an existing client for a new Web site project. They said they didn’t want to proceed right away as they did not have the cash on hand, but if they could charge it they could. I wanted the project to happen and I also realized that at some point I would have to accept credit cards, and there’s no time like the present! By the end of the day I was setup to process cards and ran theirs, and the project began the very next day.
The Magic Numbers For Determining Credit Card Fees
There are many ways to process credit cards, and I will get to that next. Before you inquire you need to know 2 key inputs to how credit card fees are calculated – the number of transactions per month and the average transaction dollar amount.
Any processor that can provide customized rate plans will use these values to determine what they will charge. As you can guess, the higher these numbers are the less your fees may be. Where you may be able to accurately calculate these values, others may not, especially if you have never processed credit cards before. If not, you can survey your customers to see if they’d prefer to pay you by credit card. If you still have no idea – no worries, as that can help narrow the choices for you initially.
Choosing A Credit Card Processor
Below is a list of some credit card processors and is not meant to be an exhaustive list. In addition to these, talk to colleagues or other business owners for ideas on who they may use.
PayPal – The pioneer in person-to-person is ideal for business as well, especially if you don’t know your transaction volume, or if you do and it is sporadic. PayPal charges per transaction only and has no monthly fees, though the per transaction fee may be higher than others. PayPal offers Web online payments as well as a smartphone card reader.
Square – The newcomer introduced the smartphone card reader and now others are adding it to their feature set like PayPal and Groupon. Square offers per transaction as well as flat monthly fees. Soon you will be able to buy a Square at Starbucks stores.
QuickBooks - Intuit’s QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online integrates credit card processing right into their software and Web site functionality. This reduces extra steps – and vendors – and provides a 1-stop shopping with a quick turnaround on setup. Their fees may be higher than what you can get from a bank, and they do charge a monthly fee even if there are no charges for a month.
Your Bank - The bank where you do your business banking may go the extra mile to keep credit card processing under the same roof as your bank accounts. They can provide custom rates by volume and can waive setup fees. They will charge a monthly fee but it could vary by volume. I’d suggest looking into all options first and presenting all of this to your bank to see if they can match or beat it.
Note no matter which way you can start, you can always change if your volume changes.
I’d welcome your feedback and comments on this, and even if you’re still not convinced to accept credit cards.
A story that received little press, even tech circles, was how a blogger was flown to Berlin, Germany to attend and objectively cover the IFA 2012 conference by technology firm Samsung. When the blogger, Clinton Jeff, arrived there from his home in India, he was told instead he was to be a rep for Samsung and demo their technology to attendees of the conference. When he refused, Samsung threatened to strand him there and would not pay for his hotel or return flight. In the end, rival mobile technology firm Nokia paid for Jeff’s stay in the German capital and his return flight home, allowing him to cover it as he saw fit. This was first reported on The Next Web in this post.
Where I personally don’t know Clinton Jeff, I do read his blog Unleash The Phones and follow him on Twitter, and I do know people who know him and he is well-respected in mobile tech circlers. So if he says this happened, I have to believe it. And from Samsung’s response it reinforces their blunder.
A part of the story that was barely touched on by the reports out there was how Nokia paid for his extended stay and flight home. Where some may say this was simply a smart PR move by a competitor, I agree it is. However this in line with how Nokia works with bloggers. How do I know this? Because about 2 years ago Nokia flew me to Berlin to attend a conference and cover it how I saw fit, and I had no logistics issues at all.
Nokia has a strong word-of-mouth social media marketing program called Nokia Connects, which back when I went to Berlin was called WOMWorld/Nokia. It is facilitated by Nokia and WOM agency 1000heads. The program loans new mobile devices to bloggers and others to evaluate and, if they choose, write about it. I say it this was as in all encounters with Nokia connects for over 4 years now, since I went to Nokia OpenLab, they have never even eluded slightly that I need to write something or what I should write.
If this concept is new to you, a thought going through your head may be – why? Why would a company spend money on an international flight, hotel, ground transportation food, admission to a conference for not just 1 person but 3 to cover an event without any expectation of the quality and quantity of what they write? That’s exactly the point! Granted the people they invite are people that will be writing something. But this is why Nokia’s word-of-mouth program is popular with bloggers and successful for the brand.
Diary From Berlin
To better explain, I’ll share more of the itinerary of the trip to Berlin in November 2010. I attended Microsoft TechEd, an international developers conference for those who work with Microsoft technology. Nokia was an exhibitor and had a keynote address on its collaboration with Microsoft for an Outlook/Exchange email client app on Nokia devices as well as other sync technology. Nokia invited me, Dennis Bournique and Craig Richards to cover the event. It was by no means an earth-shattering announcement, and we had no idea only a few months later Nokia would announce it was moving completely to the Microsoft Windows Phone ecosystem from its own known as Symbian. But Nokia wanted people to cover it, and we were invited.
We had a host in Rhiannon from 1000heads who coordinated travel logistics, getting around Berlin, making sure we were fed and access to Nokia staff. Never at any time were we asked to sign ANYTHING, never told or even hinted at what to do or any. In addition to the conference itself we attended a Nokia social and had a little time to see the city, and I gave a brief tour of the areas of Berlin I remembered from a vacation there a few years earlier. I’ll reiterate there was no expectation on what – and when – we wrote, and I did write a few posts including this one and this one and tweeted form the conference. And neither Nokia nor 1000heads ask me to write this – when I heard of what Samsung did, I recalled my time there and was compelled to write this on my own.
In one tech media account of the drama that Samsung put Clinton Jeff through it closed with, “basically, it's not a great idea to accept "free" trips or gifts from companies.” I disagree. First off, for decades journalists have been receiving free trips and all the trappings and still do. Of course buyer beware and know the reputation of the vendor and their consultants to determine it it’s right for you. If an invite comes to me from Nokia again, I will certainly accept it if it fits my schedule and interests.
To borrow from Lysander in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the course of true business never did run smooth. Whether we have meticulously planned or just thought things were going well, stuff happens to disrupt the flow of our workday. Where we can’t deny that it can possibly happen, we also can’t deny the impact it can have on the team or people you work with or manage.
Over the years I have lived through many stressful projects and events on the job. When I started out many times I would feel helpless, but as I moved up into manager and leadership roles, I always felt I needed to do something more – not just work hard to resolve the issue, but to ensure the morale of my team was addressed and supported when needed.
When I sat down to write this post, 2 stories immediately came to mind – 1 when I was on the receiving end of great leadership and the other when I took the lead to bolster my team’s morale.
It’s The Grande Things That Matter
When I approached my desk I knew things weren’t going well. A mass of people, from partners to directors, were huddled around where I sat next to my co-manager, whom I’ll call Becky. And the look on Becky’s face this early in the morning supported my concern.
The issue at hand was not a technical error, rather a business choice that was ultimately deemed incorrect, and now Becky, myself and our development team was deemed the critical path to resolve it. It resided in a part of the system that we had never worked on as we had no previous issues with it – the system was developed by consultants and turned over to the team we built from scratch. In the course of about an hour, there were meetings, finger-pointing, passing the buck, denials and a few heated words. But it was ultimately our job to troubleshoot the technology and work with a 3rd party vendor who provided part of the functionality to get the matter resolved.
As the dust settled from the meeting and we were back to our desks to start the triage, in slowly approached our new boss, the director of development, who started work that day. He did not charge in, rolling up his sleeves and diving into the problem, of which he really had less knowledge of than we did. Rather, he gradually approached us, said hi, acknowledged that there wasn’t much he could contribute to the work we were doing but knew we were on it and needed the time to do so.
And he offered to buy us a cup of coffee!
In the train wreck of our day so far, this was like a rainbow leading to a keg of beer next to a pot of gold. He caught us off guard, allowing is to take our mind off the problem for a minute, catch our breath and tell him how we wanted our coffee. That cup of coffee was one of the best I ever drank.
Talk Work And You Buy Your Own Lunch
At this same company, another fire drill happened a short while later. One of the top managers called for a meeting on a topic and wanted not only the managers but most of the development team – even my graphic designer – to attend. When he told me this I pushed back, as many times “all the king’s horses and men” were called out when they really weren’t needed, and I felt this was the case with this meeting as well. We did not need to get to the code and pixel level in this meeting, and as development manager I would work the team to create a solution to the issue.
Despite my common-sense plea, he demanded the team attend, and I apologized to my team as I told them they had to attend. Now I don’t want to brag but I was right – they did not need to attend, the meeting really went nowhere as was often the case and it sucked a couple of hours of our mornings we would never get back. The looks on my team’s faces were painful, and I felt bad for them but there was little I could do.
Well, there was little I could do about the meeting itself. When it ended and we walked back to our area I felt rumblings in my stomach as it was noon-time. So I gathered the team and I offered to take them to lunch at a new Italian restaurant that had opened nearby, and lunch was on the company under 1 condition – during lunch nobody could talk about work, and if they did, they would have to pay for their own meal. Color returned to the faces of everyone as we all walked together to lunch.
At the end of the meal I paid for everyone’s lunch – there was no talk of work at all, but just about every other topic in the universe was covered, from sports to religion to relationships to politics and beyond. We have had many team meetings and many people went out for lunch and drinks after work, but never had there been a gathering quite like this. I feel people got to really know each other a little better, and they were appreciative of my gesture.
Maintaining positive morale in the workplace takes more thought time than it does in its action. As leaders, you need to be cognizant of it and the actions you take do not need to be grandiose all the time, but timely and appropriate.
I welcome you to share your comments or stories about morale in the comments of this post.
On their own, business and sports are great areas of conversation in social media. Mix the two, and as it can be in real-life, it can be a tricky area to be in. Do it well, though, and it can go a long way.
This is what happened with me and a couple of others this past weekend, and related to the NFL’s AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots (my team, which you may have gleaned from a post or 2 here on The Hot Iron) and the Denver Broncos. A couple of Broncos fans stepped up and offered bets with payouts via social media, and I jumped at the chance. With the Patriots handily beating the Broncos 45-10, My friend Glenn Letham and Jared from my favorite domain registrar Name.com paid me back this week via their blogs.
I met Glenn a few years back at Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki, Finland. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada – and formerly from the Denver area – Glenn is a journalist, speaker and expert in geographic information systems (GIS) and location-based services (LBS) and anything Geo for that matter. Though we have only seen each other in person a couple of times – once at the Nokia E73 Mode Beach Party (as pictured) and when he was in Chicago for a conference, Glenn is a great friend and collaborator, and always has time to answer a question or offer advice and support.
Add to that list a good sport, as he wrote a nice post on his blog, The AnyGeo Blog, about not only the Patriots win but a nice nod to 5 years of this blog. Had I won I had to write a post here about the Broncos. You can read that post on his blog here from this link.
The fact that I made a bet on the Patriots/Broncos game with a Denver-based, globally renown domain name registrar is not unusual or surprising to me. From day 1 of my business relationship with Name.com, it has always been about people. I met my initial contact with them years back at a domain conference, and throughout the 4+ years working with them a person was always available to help if I needed one, in addition to them being proactive in offering assistance.
While I was tweeting with Glenn about the game last Friday, Jared the community manager at Name.com chimed in and offered to bet. Had I won, my Patriots fan Web site, GoPats.com, would have to pay homage to the Broncos. As I won, Jared had to go out and get and wear a Tom Brady jersey and post the picture on the Name.com blog. As a fellow bald guy I can say the colors work well for him, though I don’t think he quite sees it that way.
I tip my hat (which happens to be from the Patriots win in Super Bowl XXXVI) to Glenn and Jared and thank them for not only holding up their end of the bet, but in showing great examples of how tastefully done niche engagement on social media can be done well.
By tweeting this, you are entering YouthBuild Boston in a contest run by Nokia Care US, the domestic support arm of the mobile phone giant. There are 15 charities around the US vying for this, and the top 10 charities, as counted by the number of tweets they receive, will make it to the final round, where judges will select the winner of the $2,500 prize.
And I couldn’t think of a better charity to win this prize! YouthBuiild Boston, or YBB for short, is located in the Roxbury section of Boston and daily lives their tagline of “strengthening you, rebuilding communities.” This is the description of YBB which I submitted when I nominated them for this contest:
Since its inception, YouthBuild Boston (YBB) has been dedicated to improving the lives of young people of Boston by teaching skills that will enable them to become both self-sufficient and civically engaged. While YBB promotes the core values of youth development and community service, it stands out as an innovative non-profit by offering young people a hands-on approach to skills training and community building.
Its Theory of Change is predicated on the belief that, “young people, when empowered with the skills and education necessary to improve their quality of life, will realize that they can play a leadership role in strengthening their communities.” From construction to landscaping to design skills to encouraging and supporting young people to get their GED degree, YBB has become a cornerstone for all whose lives are touched by their work. During its 20 year history, YBB has helped more than 1,000 young people develop the skills and opportunities necessary to successfully enter the workforce.
YBB has adapted to the needs of the community over the years and their programs reflect it, branching out from their early programs solely on construction. They also offer the greater Boston community the opportunity to get involved, benefitting the students even more. As a result of what they do and how well they do it, YouthBuild Boston has gained a stellar reputation in the community, and with your support they can only make a greater impact.
I have been proud to support YBB for almost a decade, going back to when I lived in the Boston area, helping them with their Web technology over the years. What impresses me most about YBB is not only the amazing things they do, but also how they do it. Their level of professionalism is only matched by their dedication and compassionate service to the youth who are involved with their programs as well as to the community.
The deadline for tweet voting is this Friday, November 18, 2011. One vote per person, but feel free to pass it along to your friends. More information on the contest is available on the contest page on Facebook. As this is a contest sponsored by Nokia, and I evaluate their mobile devices on this blog, I must mention that, but it will have no impact on this contest.