This year I have a goal to read one book a month. Where for some this may not seem like much, it is a big deal for me. I have not been much of a reader in the past, with the exception of trade magazines and technical manuals. As I finish each book, I will write not a review but my "take-away" or the things that made me go “hmmm” after I put the book down for a final time.
My book for January was Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, editor-at-large at Inc. magazine. It highlights several companies that are "giants" in their respective industries, but chose to remain at a certain, smaller size, and details their path to this decision. Some of the companies featured include Anchor Brewing, CLIF Bar and Chicago's Artists' Frame Service.
When people talk about growing their business, the discussion starts at getting larger, but it does not tend to stop anyplace. The companies in this book made a decision to get to a certain size – by the number of staff or services they offer – and are content there. They do not see themselves being limited by this, and the contrary they feel much better about their businesses and its vitality, and in turn themselves. As I plan to grow my own business, this book has given me a different perspective on what growth is, and insight into some choices I may have to make in the future. I recommend fellow small business folks to give this book a few hours to read.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
Book Take-Aways • Business • Diversions • (3) Comments • Permalink
With all of the curiocity surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith, I visited her personal Web site, annanicole.com, on Friday and all that was there was a black background and the words “Anna Nicole Smith 1967-2007” (as of this writing, it has since been replaced with a photo of her and the dates).
That creeped me out. Why? Because I was born in 1967! It has nothing to do with her age as compared to my own. It was more to do with the fact that I saw a date range for a death that started with the same year I was born.
However this was not the first time I was creeped out over this. In 1994, shortly after the death of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, t-shirts were being worn with his picture, and his name and birth and death years. Again, 1967 was right in front of me.
Yet another reminder to make the most of our days...Diversions • (0) Comments • Permalink
There are purely cross-browser Web sites, ones which can be viewed and function the same no matter the browser brand or version they are viewed in. Then there are Web sites that have small quirks or functionality that only work in some Web sites.
Then there are some that only work in one browser. When someone who builds Web sites thinks about this, they typically chalk it up to bias or sloppy work on the part on a single developer/designer. But Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer? TechCrunch has the screenshot of what Wal-Mart's new video downloads site looks like in the Firefox browser.
After walmart.com was down most of Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) last year, why does this not surprise me?Technology • (2) Comments • Permalink
I find the office supply wars in Chicagoland mildly amusing. It may be the same in other areas – you tell me – but this is the first time I have been exposed to it.
Hailing from Massachusetts, I have shopped at Staples, which was founded in the Bay State, since they opened in the 80’s. Staples has dominated the northeast, even with the few OfficeMax stores that come into the area.
When I moved to the Windy City a couple of years ago, there were no Staples stores. Then they arrived, or should I say invaded. As I had a Staples Rewards card (their frequent shopping program) I was invited to their launch party, featuring a performance by Chicago’s own Mavis Staples. And for what seemed to be almost half a year, I was bombarded with general discount coupons (e.g. $5 off a $5 purchase) by guerilla marketers in the streets and by mail.
Prior to their arrival, I shopped at OfficeMax and Office Depot and I still have their respective frequent shopper cards. Therefore I am in their "systems" and they should have noticed that my purchases dropped and pretty much ceased. If so, you could have fooled me. I have yet to hear or receive anything from them to indicate this. How about a "we miss you" mailing with a general discount coupon or other incentives to bring me back? That would be my thinking, but not theirs. I get specific, low-discount coupons for items I am obviously not buying. Not to mention their lack of response to the general discount coupons I continue to get from Staples.
Or maybe OfficeMax and Office Depot do not have that kind of information on me, or they do but don’t know what to do with it?Business • (0) Comments • Permalink
This Saturday, February 10, there will be an amazing concert just outside of Chicago put on by the Sing to Live Community Chorus. The chorus is made up of people who have been personally affected by breast cancer, whether it was themself or a loved one. I am proud that my wife is a member of this chorus in honor of her aunt, grandmother and a dear friend, all who had breast cancer.
I am also proud to have an advertisement in the program book for the entire season of three performances. Do I have the ad because Super Bowl ads are outside of my budget? Or is it because I believe my phone will be ringing off the hook after each performance? Though the latter would be nice, it is to show support for an amazing organization that puts on equally amazing performances, and I hope my small contribution will help in their cause.
Community service is a big part of my life. The experiences I gained from being a member and president of the Boston Jaycees helped shape me greatly, not to mention that is where I met my wife! Our support of the American Liver Foundation has helped channel the energy and emotions from the loss of my Mom to liver disease over 5 years ago. I also have several pro bono clients I help in communicating their message on the Internet.
As much as these organizations have benefited from the little bit I give to them, I believe I get back more from them. And I hope to see you at the Sing to Live concert on Saturday night!Diversions • (0) Comments • Permalink
Happy Groundhog Day! Today is the day when we find out whether we have six more weeks of winter or not – not in the sense of when spring starts, but what the weather will be like.
When most people think of today, they think of Punxsutawney Phil, of the town by the same name in Pennsylvania. But there are other groundhogs, and my choice of weather prognostication animal is Dunkirk Dave from the city in western New York that also inspired the name of my business.
This morning Phil did not see his shadow, meaning an early spring. Dave did see his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter. Maybe a split difference is in store? In either case, it would be nice to get some snow to go with the single-digit weather here in the Windy City.Diversions • (0) Comments • Permalink
Podcasting has been of mind lately, as I pondered an accompanying podcast to The Hot Iron blog. A monthly or semi-monthly podcast featuring highlights of recent posts and perhaps some unique content was my running thought.
Then along comes a new, free service to automatically convert the words of blog posts to an audio file. Odiogo takes my RSS feed and creates an MP3 file with a digitized voice reading the text of each blog post. About a week after signing up for the service, I am in the program, and MP3s of the last ten posts are now available – you can follow this link to Odiogo or subscribe to their feed.
How does it sound? You can tell it is a digitized voice, but it is very clear and it speaks "difficult" words well, like Maddaloni. I put my last name, which people have been mispronouncing all my life, into my last post to see how it sounds, and it was better than I have heard from many people. The service is free to bloggers, and there is an ad program available to blogs with high traffic, sounding similar to Feedburner’s ad program.
Give it a listen and I am eager to hear your feedback.Technology • (2) Comments • Permalink
It was not until 11:30 pm Central time yesterday, January 30, 2007, that I realized Windows Vista was officially launched. I only heard about it because Craig Ferguson, the host of The Late Late Show on CBS, mentioned it in his monologue. Maybe I saw headlines earlier, but note I have been hearing about this product going on eight years, back when it was code-named Longhorn.
As Craig continued to his punch line on Vista, and I paraphrase, he noted people will use it because they have to. Where the studio audience was laughing, I was not. It is an inevitable truth that at some point, I will be running Vista. For the Internet design and development I do at Dunkirk Systems, I will need to test Web sites and applications on Vista. Eventually all new PCs will be shipped with it as the only choice, with Windows XP going away.
As a result, Microsoft Corporation never does sell me, Mike Maddaloni, on their newest operating system. If I don't want to run Vista, I need a separate license for an older Windows version, or go down the Linux path. Yet Microsoft spends millions on marketing and selling Vista. Where it's easy to attack the giants, there are other products we buy where we really don't choose.
The first example of a lack of choice coming to mind is with the airlines, and maybe it's because I am planning a trip. This choice is different, as the entire industry is at a point where there is little differentiation between brands. The only news you hear about brand differences is when they cut snacks and olives in drinks and the like. If you are going to fly, you are more concerned with the price and maybe the number of stops, and only if all flights are the same price may you choose one airline because you have more miles with them.
Maybe it's a nice situation to be in, but I'd rather not be there. When something better, or different, comes along, as your customers have no loyalty to you, they will leave, with the speed depending on the level of difficulty in doing so.Business • (0) Comments • Permalink
I was catching up with my friend Steven Benjamin today and I want to share part of the story. I got to know him originally through the ColdFusion community here in Chicago, and not only is he a talented developer, but an engineer as well – an engineer as in building things with tangible objects, not code.
Last year he launched a new business, MightyMugs.com, and I was asking him how things were going. MightyMugs gives people the ability to upload a photo or image via the Web site, and Steven would make a single or multiple coffee mugs with that image on it. He developed the process to put the image on it and makes them himself, and is a stickler for quality.
As he started marketing his services, he found a lot of interest from businesses, great and small. The fact they could order a quantity as small as a dozen was a key selling point, as other “swag” vendors usually require minimums from several dozen to a gross. Another nice feature is he can create a “3D” animation of what the mug would look like. It’s a great selling point – I know, I am a customer! He also launched a complimenting site for businesses, MightyMugsB2B.com. Not only can you upload an image, but you can email or post mail it, as he got many requests for the latter two.
I think the mark of a good entrepreneur is in how she or he can react to their audience or market and make changes in a way that large corporations cannot. Where he still sells his service to consumers, his tailored Web site and marketing to businesses has helped propel his own business. Same product, different markets, one entrepreneur. It makes you think of what you can do with your own offerings.Business • (0) Comments • Permalink
With the weather in the Windy City hovering around the single digits, thinking about temperatures seventy degrees warmer is always welcome, and Super Bowl XLI this coming Sunday makes it easier. As a Chicago resident and follower of the game, my support is behind the Chicago Bears. They are a hard-fighting team that takes a holistic approach to winning. What do I mean? As much as people think it’s about the quarterback leading the team, all of the players have risen to the occasion over the year to achieve a 13-3 regular season record and win the NFC Championship.
My decision to back the Bears was made easier when my team, the New England Patriots, lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. I am a New England native, a long-time follower of the Pats and remain a season ticket holder, making as many games as possible. Not to mention co-operating a Pats fan Web site, GoPats.com for the last decade. The Colts are a long-time rival of the Pats as they were once in the same conference division. The play of the Bears feels to me a lot like the play of the Patriots over the last several years, a level of production that won them three Super Bowl championships.
Coincidentally the last time the Bears were in the Super Bowl, 21 years ago, they beat the Patriots. The teams then couldn't have been further apart, as compared to the similarities of this year's teams. Though I will always bleed blue and silver, I will be wearing a different shade of blue with orange this coming Sunday. Go Bears!Diversions • (4) Comments • Permalink