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Monthly Archives: January 2008

Perhaps the stars were aligned for me yesterday (I guess that is a little impossible since this occurred to me during the day and not the night, but you get what I mean), I read a blog post by my friend Noah about life and then I spent the afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of one of my best friend’s father. These two events, seemingly unrelated, were actually very related in the sense that they gave me great cause to reflect upon life and how precious and special it really is. While attending the funeral (of which I had never attended a military funeral before) I realized that I was fortunate, that my life is what it is today in large part because of all the many brave men and women who lay to rest on the hallowed grounds I was standing on. These brave men and women gave their own lives for whatever their reasons were for our country, they fought for our freedom so we could live our lives today with all the many freedoms that are afforded us.In return for their bravery, upon their passing the military honors their lives by performing a ceremony that is steeped in tradition, that exudes respect for the very precious thing that we call life. The priest that performed the ceremony related my friend’s father’s ranking in the military of Major to his life in the sense that he was a Major contribution to his family, his country, his friends. His life was precious indeed, and he decided to dedicate it to those that he loved, he lived his life to provide for others.

Life is not something that you arrive at, it is not a destination. Instead, life is a journey, it is a series of twists and turns, ups and downs, it is what you make of it. Whatever path you choose is up to you, but life can take a turn at any moment and come to an end. Life is indeed precious, and we should cherish every second of it, and be thankful for our experiences.

I am where I am today because of the twists and turns that I have taken, along with the twists and turns that others have taken that came before me. To them, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart, and to those that are still out there taking twists and turns to provide comfort for me, thank you. To Rob’s father, thank you for your twists and turns, for serving your country, for raising a wonderful son that I can call a best friend.

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Dick Costolo of FeedBurner fame and Ask the Wizard fame (that is his blog if you did not know, I suggest putting it in your reader, although he does not post often) is owning up to his New Year’s resolution by blogging more often. So today, he got in his first quarter quota (I am hoping that was tongue in cheek on his part and we can expect more, but if not, this post was chock full of goodies). He laid down some knowledge today on the purpose and need (or not) of business models in this day and age. The post was very verbose, which is typical of previous posts ( perhaps the verboseness is a byproduct of the fact that he does not post that often, or perhaps it is simply because he has so much good stuff to say, who knows).

You can read the whole post if you like, it is worth the read, but he sums up the post nicely in his last sentence:

“When do you need to figure out your business model? Before you run out of cash. “

So the first obvious question you ask yourself is, well how do I raise the cash in the first place to where I find myself in this position? Great question! My experience has been that the investors I have pitched to want to understand how the money they are about to invest in you is going to give them X in return. So without a business model, how do you answer that question or defend your stance? If you are bootstrapping the whole shebang, then this does not apply, you answer to yourself so you better figure it out before you run out of your own cash or you are screwed. For the rest of us that are trying to raise money, what in the world do we do? Dick gives an example about Google and how when they were funded they did not have a clear business model, but investor John Doerr is rumored to have said that with that kind of traffic, we will figure it out. Another example is Twitter, they raised somewhere in the neighorhood of 5 million without a clear business model, and the same attitude that was taken towards Google was taken towards them, we will figure it out. That is fine if you are Google or Twitter, but for every Google or Twitter, there are hundreds if not thousands of startups out there that need that initial funding to get the traffic going.

I believe that a formal business model is not necessary for raise funding, but you need to have a clear path to generating revenue in mind when you are out pitching to investors or you are severely limiting your chances of getting the funding that you are looking for. There are exceptions to the rule, like the one mentioned above. Another exception, and you see it often, is if you are a serial entrepreneur and have a track record of success, but if you are a first time entrepreneur, when the VC says “show me the money” you better be able to show them how it is going to be made (thanks Cuba Gooding for that line, it still stands strong 10 years later).

Recently, my wife and I purchased a new vehicle (well it was new for us, so that is all that matters). The experience started off fantastic, then hit the bottom, I walked away, but ultimately came back and sealed the deal. The hitting the bottom part was largely in part due to expectations, but the fantastic part had to do with the start and the finish.

Like most car dealerships these days, they have a room set up for the kids to play in while mommy and daddy are busy looking at cars, test driving and signing their lives away (well not really). What most car dealers do not expect is a family to roll up in there with almost 4 year old triplets and have them cut loose on them. Needless to say that is what happened with us, and the whole staff their catered to our children’s every need. It was amazing, they were extremely busy, but too the time out of their work schedule to entertain my kids. Now I know that each and every person there touches the sale in some way shape or form and want to do the right thing in making it happen, but getting my kids snacks ( I mean cutting up an apple and pretzels) to giving them each their own water bottle to coloring books, they really went the extra mile.

This was almost too good to be true, and when things headed south, they still entertained my children even though there was a good chance I was headed out the door in the same vehicle I came in with, which I did. Several phone calls later and a trip back to the dealership, this time with all 4 children (yeah, brought the baby for good measure), we were back in business and the staff picked right back up in entertaining the triplets where they left off the last time. The children were entertained, we bought the vehicle, everyone got what they wanted and everyone was happy (especially the dealership since they got my money).

The finish part of them going the extra mile came a day or two later. Out of the blue, we received a phone call from the president of the dealership, we were unable to get to the phone in time, but he left a very long and sincere message. He thanked us for purchasing a vehicle from him, but more importantly, he thanked us for affording him the opportunity to spend time with our children (was he sure he had the right kids I thought, but I knew he did). It was something that I have never received from any car dealer, let along the president. He went on to say how he was so enamored by them and even offered up his and his wife’s babysitting services if we ever needed them (they have a 5.5 year old). He did not know me from Adam, but he went that extra mile because that is who he is and how much he cares about his customers.

Moral of the story here is that even though it may seem like you are not going to get the sale, it does not mean that you should treat your customer any differently. You should treat them the same regardless and you may be surprised by the outcome, who knows, you may have landed a repeat customer when you thought you lost them.

Although I never saw the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow (it is on my list of movies to see, but I have not gotten to it yet). But from what I understand, the basic premise is that given a decision, based on which way you choose, it has a profound impact on your life, whether you realize it or not. I often find myself thinking about this exact thing, that a decision I made at some point in my life could have drastically changed the outcome of my life and where I am today, whether or not I realized it at the time or even if I realize it now.

This is some pretty heavy stuff, if you believe that you life is a series or paths and based on what you choose, you may end up somewhere you did not expect. If you believe that everything is predetermined for you, then what I am saying you can just dismiss as poppycock (did I just say that, OH yes I did). The poet Robert Frost speaks to this in “The Road Less Traveled“, about coming to a fork in the road and choosing the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.

I was reminded of this last night as I received an e-mail from a colleague of mine from my days at AOL. A long time ago (well not really that long ago) she suggested to me that I take up reading a few tech blogs to get both of my feet back into the Web and the goings on in the industry. Mind you, I was heavily involved with the web at the time, but I was not as involved as I could have been. I took her advice and started reading those blogs (I can’t remember all of them now, but they were the bigger ones of the time and still today) and from a career perspective, the doors started opening. I was presented with opportunities that were never there before, I met people that I never even knew of, but were movers and shakers in our world. All of this because of one small piece of advice that I chose to take.

Life is mysterious, both personally and professionally. Running a business is chock full of decision making opportunities, some seem much more impactful than others, and they very well may be at the time, but sometimes the small decisions have the hugest impact in the long run. So the next time you are making a decision and you think who cares, it is meaningless, think twice, it may change the future of your business, for the better or worse. Choose wisely 🙂 !