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Monthly Archives: July 2007

I do not know about everyone else, but I get asked this question several times a day (or something very similar like how are you, etc.). It is usually occurs in the hallway as I am passing that person. I often wonder, do they really want to know how I am doing or is it just something that we say because we do not know what else to say?

I am going to guess that it is something we say because we do not know what else to say, so I want to encourage those that do this to just say “hello” or “hi” instead. I know that you do not really want to know how I am doing, and if I stop and try to explain how I am doing, you look flustered and cannot understand what I am doing. You just asked me how I was doing, was I supposed to know that you really did not care, you were just saying it to say it? This is a frustrating experience that happens on a daily basis.

This same sort of experience happens in th business world all the time, but instead of two people passing each other and exchanging “how are you doings”, it is a company interacting with their user base in a unilateral conversation. Typically, companies submit press releases or send newsletters or any other sort of communication and it is a one way street. They may ask for feedback, but what do they do with it, do they really digest it and make changes based on what you are saying? Most likely not, it is just their way of making sure that they include you, but not really. Instead, companies that do create a two way conversation with their users, engage them in what is really going on, being transparent, those companies are the ones that really care. They have figured it out that by actually caring about their consumers and treating them like humans can actually be beneficial to both the company and the consumers.

Why can’t we all just take a little more time and be a little more sincere. If not, stop asking “how’s it going” and just say “hi”.

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Like many other Americans, I made my weekend pilgrimage on Sunday to the local Costco to load up for the week (with inevitably things that I do not need). One of the items I picked up was a bunch of apples, like I do every week. When I got home, I washed off one of the apples and bit into it anticipating that sweet taste, instead I was greeted with a rotten, sour taste. I took one look at the apple and knew what the problem was, it was rotten to the core (in this case, one bad apple did ruin the bunch).

Given that Costco has the best return policy known to man (one of the many reasons we shop there), I packed up the bad apples and headed back intent on returning them and getting better ones. When I walked through the door, I was greeted by one of the nicest guys. I have seen him there before and always say Hi to him, but today he really stuck out. He made a funny comment and I responded, and then was off to return the apples. What made this experience even better is the fact that on my way out the door, he remembered that I had returned bad apples, and commented that he hoped the new apples I had just purchased turned out to be better.

Now that is what I call good customer service. He made an otherwise mundane experience personal, and for that I remembered it (which is always a good thing, especially in the context of customer service) and I will always strike up a conversation with him every time that I see him. In the world of customer service, you always hear about the bad experiences, but you seldom hear about the good experiences. This good experience has stuck out in my mind, and I thought it was worth sharing. By making my experience personal, he solidified an already frequent customer into a loyal customer. Costco has done a very good job about stressing that the customer comes first, and by so doing, they have built a very loyal customer base. It is the small things that stand alone do not have that much significance, but on aggregate it is what sets Costco apart from the competition.

I had the pleasure of attending a talk that Guy Kawasaki gave the other day at my work. Now I read his blog, am friends with a friend of his (you know who you are) and know of him generally from the industry. I can honestly say that he is one of the best presenters that I have ever heard speak and his talk was one of the best I have heard in a long time. If you have not had the opportunity to hear him speak, I suggest you figure out when he is coming to a town near you and get a ticket.

He spoke about th art of innovation, and a lot of what he said really grabbed me and was truly inspirational. One thing in particular that has stuck out in my mind since I heard him speak (it was Tuesday for those keeping track, so the fact that I have retained it until now means that it must be really good) was the topic of jumping to the next curve. At first I was not sure where he was going with it, but once he got into his examples, it was painstakingly clear what he meant. When you are so entrenched with your current product set and so concerned with being on a level playing field as your competitors, you are in a constant state of improvements. Now this is not a bad thing, especially if your product(s) need to catch up to the competition in order for you to keep your head above water. What Guy is talking about here is not looking at your needed improvements, but rather taking a step back and looking at what you are not seeing, what is going to get you ahead of your competition. This is what innovation is about, thinking ahead of what the competition is doing, zigging when everyone else is zagging (thanks Noah for that one, and you are welcome for 2 links in one post), thinking outside of the box. Whatever you want to call it, it is what you need to be doing if you want to be on the bleeding edge.

As Guy points out, there will be naysayers that tell you it cannot be done, that it does not make sense, that there is not enough money in the world to achieve what you want to achieve (and he admits that he has been one of them on occasion), but whatever they say, you have to be in denial. You have to turn a deft ear to what they are saying and keep moving forward. Use their negativity as fuel for your fire. Whatever it is that you want to do, just go for it. There is never a better time than the current to take a chance, and you will never know if you do not try.

If you want to change the world (or some small part), you need to take the blinders off and jump to the next curve.

Following on the success of the first Startup Weekend in Boulder, Andrew Hyde has decided to take the concept on a national tour, and it is coming to DC on Oct 26-28. In case you do not know what Startup Weekend is, it is is an idea, an experiment, a chance gather the tech community and create a company over one jam packed weekend.

Myself, Matthew, Brian and Andy are coordinating the effort along with Andrew’s guidance. Some of the details have been worked out, but not all of them, it is still a work in progress. We have already met once to discuss some of the logistics, and will be meeting many more times to iron everything out. Some of the things that we have decided on: there will be schwag, Andrew has got some things in the works already; food will be provided, we are lining up sponsors as we speak to cover that; everyone who signs up will be able to submit and idea and we will vote on the top 10 two days out and then pitch the ideas and narrow it down to 3 then pick the final and we are off to the races. Those are the known details for now, and like I said more are to come. To stay up to date on what is going on, check out the DC Startup Weekend blog and make sure that you register (if of course you want to participate). It will be fun times, and who knows, we may build the next greatest thing.