Friday, July 31, 2009

REVIEW: Posterous makes blogging easier than ever Andy Ihnatko

Years of building and maintaining my Wordpress blog have resulted in my learning a lot about Wordpress and getting a lot of grease under my fingernails. Weeks of using Posterous has resulted in a media-rich blog with several posts per week. Tell me which service is more powerful.

I've had the same reaction to Posterous. Easy to use. Dynamic. Powerful. And I'm barely using its best features. Did I mention it's easy to use?

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Best. Comment. Ever.

You have the luxury of not knowing what we know: That pulling Google Voice, while tragic, probably saved the network. And our existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves the network.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Donalda Club Gets it Right

Quick thanks to Martyn B. for hosting us at Donalda yesterday.

The latest improvements to the Club are impressive and well done.

Donalda has been true to its mission of "providing a high quality, well managed, family oriented golf and multi-activity country club in the city of Toronto that provides year round recreational and social activities to meet the needs of its members".

Keeping a club like Donalda on track isn't easy. With volunteer Boards of Directors and Presidents being elected directly from the membership (independent directors? it's more like having your employees be your Board) - frequently from a population that is aging, and not necessarily with any experience in strategic or long range planning - leadership and decision making can be daunting. Who wants to be the President who raises fees to build the new club house, then golfs with his/her buddies on Tuesday mornings?

Like any organization, having a clear mission is clearly helpful. Donalda's mission to be both family oriented and to provide other activities besides golf has helped ensure a young, vibrant and capable membership with strong vested interests in looking to the future. It's paid off in terms of membership and revenue. Downturn? There hasn't been one.

Donalda's experience probably makes an interesting case study in private club governance, direction setting and execution. I know a Director or two who would benefit from a quick drive down the Don Valley to check it out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Anti-branding: Why the Starbucks "15th Ave" Store Is Doomed to Fail

Perhaps my biggest beef with 15th Ave is that it's fundamentally dishonest.

A friend used the term 'anti-branding' in the context of what Starbuck's is doing to not be Starbuck's. Not sure the term is original. Not sure anti-branding is new although it's goal - to not be something (as opposed to for example, diversifying and/or reorganizing to enable a different financial model) seems unique. What other brands might want to anti-brand? Some airlines? Some banks? Some newspapers? Other restaurant chains (like, say McDonalds)? Some car companies (Saturn didn't work out so well for GM). Interesting to see how this goes.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cedarvue: Those Pesky Independent Directors

"The new Independent member has asked for a lot of background material about the company, our shareholders, suppliers, accounts receivable, contracts, payables, risks, issues and opportunities, personnel files, incentive plans - the list was long and the more I provided the more information I was requested to deliver."

Really good insight from my friend and relatively new blogger Dave Pasieka. Dave knows a ton about governance and running businesses.

No question strong governance depends on the kind of depth and effort that Dave describes here. And with training, more Boards and Directors are demanding it. What's a challenge, especially in smaller companies is being disciplined and organized enough to provide it. Finding the time to balance governance demands with day to day operating priorities can become a real challenge, especially for smaller company CEO's. My experience in dealing with this is that having the right help makes life a lot easier - a management team that's also well versed in the objectives and processes of good governance, and someone in particular - usually the CFO - who spearheads much of the information gathering, pre-meeting set-up and post-meeting follow-up.

Understanding, supporting and fulfilling the needs of good governance is important for the CEO. Doing it all is impossible.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Got a comment? Keep it to yourself - The Boston Globe

By the way, don’t bother posting any comments directed to me when this article appears on the Web. I won’t see them. Instead, go start your own website or blog or buy a legitimate newspaper, or write a letter to the editor, or an op-ed (and sign your own name to it). If you really have something interesting to say, I’ll find you.

Wow. I thought the Boston Globe had gone out of business. It employs people like this and survived? How?

On a separate but related topic I see this author sharing a point of view that others in the traditional media seem to be hanging on to. That somehow they are more credible and trustworthy than other forms of media. That they are 'real' journalism. I swear, not getting this one is THE major miss that is sideswiping newspapers, with TV following right behind. Audiences learned something really important over the past 5+ years - they learned that the traditional media and many traditional 'journalists' are lazy, biased, frequently wrong, and in the business for one thing - to appeal to their own particular market niches. The Fox's and the Lou Dobb's have done more to devalue traditional media than the internet and goofy commenters combined. If traditional media has any hope, that hope would be to truly return to unbiased perspectives and quality reporting. That seems especially important given the new pay-for-content business models being floated about for newspapers that can only work if audiences find something that is good enough - and unique enough, to pay for. The odds of that happening seem pretty slim right now.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Naked girls plow fields for rain | Oddly Enough | Reuters

Farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plow parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday.

rain? just rent a cottage or book a two week family vacation with your in-laws.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Board Governance Best Practices Assessment

Over the years, this Board Governance assessment

has proved very useful and popular with Directors and Boards. Comprehensive and straightforward, it enables Boards of Directors to create an accurate snapshot of how their Board is performing in key governance areas including:

- Board Composition, Nomination and Sucession

- Responsibilities and Processes of the Board and Committees

- Code of Conduct and Board Ethics

- Board Orientation and Development

- Director Assessment Process

- Audit Committee characteristics

- Responsibilities and Activities of the Chair and Directors

- Board Information and Communication

Go here, if you'd like a copy to download.

Full disclosure before you get there. I'm charging for it. Judging by its usefulness and popularity, I believe it has significant value and the charge is a pittance for Boards and Governors who are serious about governance. The fee is fully refundable if you are dissatisfied in any way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Liveblogging The Jeff Bezos Zappos Video | This Week in Lidsky | Fast Company

3:30 "Listen to customers." Really? I mean, really? I practically have a Twitter app implanted in my brain to communicate with customers and this guy doesn't even have a published phone number.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Best Management Technique

Being honest.

Being able to tell someone they're going to fail if they keep up what they're doing.

Getting them to face the reality of who they are, what they're doing and what the consequences will be.

Having the guts to pass along bad news. Early. And swiftly.

Having the credibility and the compassion to do it thoughtfully. Articulately. And with impact.

Having the confidence that passing along the truth is a selfless act aimed at helping not hurting.

Failing to be honest is a failure to manage. It wrecks careers. It sabotages results.

Honest feedback is a gift. Providing it isn't easy. Knowing how isn't ordinary. Doing it takes courage.

Setting someone on the right track is worth it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Doodle Your News

Bored? Not confused enough? Check out DoodleBuzz - the doodling news reader. Put in a search term (I used Lance Armstrong). Doodle (I doodled a mountain). Watch the associated results. Doodle some more. I went from Armstrong to Stewart Cink (two old guys) in two doodles. Click to get to actual news story.

Product Management Checklist

Scrolling fast through my Google Reader on the 'How to be a Good Product Manager' Blog. Only reading the post titles. Smiling. There's some good advice here.
  • Define the problem before solving it
  • Decide go / no-go before buy vs. build
  • Differentiate to avoid being a “me too”
  • Reinforce your product-related communication
  • Reconsider your Jack of All Trades strategy
  • Consider all details of add-on features
  • Lack of complaints does not equal success
  • Adapt your product management practice
  • Technology is not better if it does not add value
  • Choose your strategic alliances carefully
  • Take a cautious approach to problem-solving
  • Measure the impact of product changes
  • Deliver customer value, not product features
  • Stop gathering requirements
  • Delegate tactical responsibilities
  • Be comfortable being uncomfortable
  • Plan for the present and likely future
  • Work effectively with sales
How many of these could be applied to upgrading your marketing/PM approach?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

General Motors Value of a Customer Update

General Motors gets the value of a customer.

I'm a loyal GM customer. I've done the Honda, Toyota, BMW, Volvo thing but discovered years ago that GM had finally figured out how to make cars and value-wise they were difficult to beat (too bad about the business model and the terrible public perception).

Yesterday I posted that the car I brought home last week had hail damage. Not that I noticed it, but someone else did.

My meeting with the dealer's General Manager went exactly as any valued customer would have hoped: "you're a loyal customer. we'll look after you fully".

It's that simple. It's what I hoped. I'm happy. Again.

Jim Crocker
CEO, Boardroom Metrics
Blackberry: 416-573-9396
Website: Boardroom Metrics
Contact Me: LinkedinFlickrTwitterYoutubeFriendfeed

Posted via email from Jim's posterous

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Helpstream Blog Yes, A Customer Really is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Common sense thinking on the value of customers and how not to blow it.

This has turned into my summer of service headaches.

Last night, I discovered that the GM car I brought home less than a week ago has hail damage. Apparently it came from the dealer that way. A friend noticed it...."check out my new car! are all these marks in the roof?...damn..."

Over the past 2 months I've purchased 2 cars from the same dealer and 5 cars over the past 6 years or so. I'm loyal. But now I have questions - like how the hell did I end up getting sold a car with hail damage? How dumb was I not to notice (it's really obvious in certain light, invisible in others)? What now?

I'm seeing the dealer manager this morning. We'll see how the new General Motors thinks about customer value.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Friday, July 10, 2009

United's Charity of Choice?

Here's a follow-up statement from Dave Carroll of the band Sons of Maxwell. His video has over 1 million views and United really had no choice but to respond. I'm sure this will become a customer service, social web case study.

Dave's not done with his videos yet either. Two more are on the way.

Dave handled his service issues way more creatively than I did (and I only had problems with a bagel; United broke his expensive guitar). However, it's the potential of the web to spread these stories way beyond anything a front line service rep could ever imagine that could have leaders thinking seriously about two things:

1) the training, tools, processes and support front-liners have to consistently provide excellent customer service and

2) whether they can afford to continue ignoring the relevance and potential impact on their businesses of the web and tools like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube (this video got help from all 3 in going viral).

Based on what I see every day I have some very simple advice for a lot of leaders out there. TRY THESE TECHNOLOGIES.

At least learn the basics of how they work and the communities they serve.

If you don't at least do that you're missing some basic knowledge. Knowledge that today is fundamental to understanding a key risk - and opportunity - that your business faces

By the way...if you type 'United Breaks Guitars' into Google you get over 13 million hits. The story is only a couple of days and one video old.

Viral Advertising Baby Skaters

LOL. Get a diaper load of this video from Evian. One of the top 3 videos on YouTube this week (after the body painted Air New Zealand flight attendants ad - find it yourself :))

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Best Advice I Ever Got...from Tiger

Just reading Fortune's 'Best Advice I Ever Got' (July 6, 2009 issue).

Overall, the advice seems pretty mundane - work hard, follow your dreams, perception is reality.

I like Tiger's story the best:

When I was young, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I'd play on the Navy golf course with my pop. My dad would say, "Okay, where do you want to hit the ball?" I'd pick a spot and say I want to hit it there. He'd shrug and say, "Fine, then figure out how to do it." He didn't position my arm, adjust my feet, or change my thinking. He just said go ahead and hit the darn ball. My dad's advice to me was to simplify. He knew that at my age I couldn't digest all of golf's intricacies. He kept it simple: If you want to hit the ball to a particular spot, figure out a way to do it. Even today, when I'm struggling with my game, I can still hear him say, "Pick a spot and just hit it."

Have a goal. Keep it simple. Think it through. Execute.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On-line Customer Service Learning from Tim Hortons?

Earlier I posted about a simple, frustrating service glitch that left me bageless at Tim Horton's.

It's wasn't a huge thing. But operational excellence means non-stop learning and I always find these things fascinating for the lessons they provide.

I've already described what happened - with some thoughts. Here's the follow-up.

When I posted to my blog it got posted to Twitter. The Twitter post caught the attention of @timhortonsus - a Twitter account whose profile is described as 'Tim Hortons USA PR'.

They responded with this reply:

@jimcrocker We apologize for your experience at one of the Canadian stores. We are available for further follow up.

I was impressed. And confused.

First impressed. It was Sunday. And someone at Tim Hortons was on the ball enough to both be following Twitter for mentions of their brand - outstanding, good for them - and actually got back to me. That is very cool. When companies think about how Twitter might be used THIS IS EXACTLY ONE OF THE WAYS.

Now. Confused.

I'm in Canada. And I'm getting a response from the US Tim Horton's operation - maybe even their PR people. Why them? Do they speak for Canada? Are they the Tim Horton's Twitter monitoring service dudes for North America?

It's not clear. The very direct reference to 'at one of our Canadian stores' can easily be read as 'that stuff you're blogging about didn't happen here in the US'. Yet, there is lots of Canadian content that suggests this is Tim Hortons official North American Twitter account.

For a second or two I wondered if Tim Horton's really had it's act together. Would the US 'PR' guys tip someone in Canada to take a look at Twitter and may I'd hear from someone closer to home. I wasn't expecting it and it never happened. Further, I had already replied, saying I was cool, so why would they?

Are there lessons here? If there are, they're simple (is there anything new here?):

1. People are talking about brands on-line all the time. Tuning into Twitter and other social networking services is a good, timely way to keep abreast of - and respond to - what's being said.

2. I got reminded, that whatever the service, having a an appropriate user name and descriptive profile can be helpful. I'm assuming @timhortonsus, the "USA PR" people are exactly that - so being a little confused about why they're responding to a Canadian issue is ok - however, if that's what they do, then their user name may be inappropriate and indicating their broader role in their user profile would be clearer and more helpful.

3. Services like Twitter are about interacting, not just messaging. I checked to see if Tim Hortons Canada has a Twitter account and they appear to - @timhortonsnews. It has the look and feel of a corporate experiment - no user profile; few posts; all outbound marketing messages, eg "exclusive Sydney Crosby merchandise...". However, they do point to their Facebook page which includes customer discussions on good and bad service.

4. Finally, I also got reminded that great service is about overachieving customer expectations - and that generally expectations are pretty low. I wasn't sure what to expect when I originally posted to my blog. Getting a response seemed very professional but it was still within my 'possibility' range. Linking me from the US to Canadian operations would have blown me away.

5. There are other lessons here that need some thought:
  • the challenge of cross-border brands and who has responsibility given there are no borders on the internet?
  • the challenge of actually 'listening to customers' and figuring what to do with it - the Tim Horton's Facebook page is a mish-mash of customer rants. What does a company do with that noise (here's a suggestion: post store surveys on-line).

Bottom line I remain a big Tim Horton's fan. Being ubiquitous and busy, they provide a fascinating fish bowl operation for observing and learning about operating well - and better. How their on-line presence is managed and evolves will be just as fascinating.

Fake Shark Attack Wetsuit

LOL. Imagine if there was the same thing for business suits.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

Leadership Smeadership

Okay. I know it’s a settings thing. Sometime, a long, long time ago – probably when leadership was being invented – I must have indicat...