Who is Gary Vaynerchuk?

Who is Gary Vaynerchuk? I asked myself that question about 30 seconds into the clip below. He is an inspiring guy without being hokey or awe-shuks. He comes across as very real and in his realness he demonstrates something I’ll call figure-it-outness. He doesn’t have all the answers, but he knows he’s going to try. And perseverance in something you are passion about will result in success.

Gary Vaynerchuk uses aggressive language so if you are uncomfortable with that then please don’t watch. But this guy is a hoot.

Track Your Pizza and Say Thank You

Today I was pleasantly surprised by two companies. One company is being innovative and the other is just being classy.

I ordered a pizza online. The deal was two topping, two medium pizzas. Supposedly, this company has a new recipe for it’s pizza. Anyway, I ordered and when I completed my order I was presented with a process time-line with updates. It’s very simple, but it allowed me to know when to expect the delivery man to show up. It also had little blurbs like “Jason is hand tossing your custom order now” below it.

This Dominos Pizza innovation reminds me of package tracking through Fedex or UPS. I love getting a link and being able to follow whatever it is I ordered. Now pizza is the same way.

The other company that impressed me is Brighton. They sell jewelry, the charms type. My wife bought a bracelet with some charms on it. About 5 days later we got a hand written thank you note from the sales person. It was a good personal touch, unexpected, and now we have some form of relationship with them.

Google and China: A Social Take

Google is led by three individuals: Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt. They set up a stock structure which allows them to maintain real power over the company. The reason they installed such caution is for situations like what recently occurred with China.

China, as a communist country, maintains tight control over the flow of information inside their borders. Information is power, so these type of decisions aren’t to preserve the innocence of children. Google for about three and half years (2006 ’til early 2010) operated in China under the authority of the state. This manifested itself as censored results on searches. In January of 2010 it was reported that Chinese operatives hacked Google’s servers and specifically went after human rights activists. One method for the intrusion was to replace computer source code with compromised source code, which has back doors coded in. This subverts the usual way intrusions are detected with IP addresses. Google, Sergey Brin specifically, said they had enough and basically pulled out of China.

From a business stand point this is a shocker. China has well over a billion people and many of those people are recent members of the middle class. The advertising revenue potential of China is immense to Google and any other company.

This is why it’s important for Brin to have huge numbers of voting shares, because just about any other shareholder group wouldn’t let this happen. But the move has many positives for Google.

For starters, Google’s algorithm and feedback loop can’t have biased noise coming back in. It pollutes the relevancy part of their model. If searches are constrained to only certain sites or types of data it begins to undermine what is really being looked for and what isn’t. The integrity of the search is eventually out the window.

Secondarily, and possibly more important, it’s generalized that generation Y is socially prioritized. They ask about topics like green energy, pollution, and human rights. They don’t want to work for companies that are seen as evil and Google preaches “Don’t be evil.”

Just earlier this year 60 Minutes ran a story about a company producing something called the Bloom Box. The story is about an invention that produces energy more efficiently and with less transmission loss than local power stations. It isn’t cost competitive yet, but the angle the early adopters are taking is that this type of investment allows them to tell talented 20 somethings that they are socially responsible. This person can work for Union Carbide or Google. Google wants to recruit them and losing a few dollars on energy production is a cost worth absorbing.

The question is: Is 36 year old Sergey Brin, as a leader of Google, really foregoing the potential profits of China or is he protecting the image and brand of Google within the US? Is this about the prospective labor pool needed to sustain Google as an innovative company in an industry where 5 years is a long time.

A Time of Year to Ask “What could I have done better?”

It’s a fun time of year. The NCAA Tournament is going on which is the ultimate pass/fail test in sports. There are no second chances. As the saying goes “survive and advance.”

This year there are several higher seeds that won two games and are part of the Sweet 16. One of those schools is Cornell, an ivy league school located in the finger lake region of NY. Cornell earlier in the season gave number one seed Syracuse a test and also took recently beaten Kansas to the wire as well. They are a good team.

I’m from the finger lake region of NY as well and have been to Ithaca, the hilly city where Cornell is located. In 1999 I went to visit a friend who gave me a tour. We drove around the beautiful gorges where trees and streams create a serene atmosphere. Plenty of hiking trails are outlined. We pulled over to a particular bridge and my buddy said this is where the Cornell students kill themselves. What did he just say? Kill themselves? In the late 1990s Cornell experienced a rash of suicides. They responded with an education campaign and it was mostly effective… well, until recently.

There are six confirmed cases of suicides over the last few months. More than one occurred where we pulled over a little more than 10 years ago.

College can be stressful: being constantly measured and perfect is so rare. Kids are now tested just to get into kindergarten, so it isn’t surprising to see mental health issues arise periodically. Perhaps the economic environment has something to do with it. I don’t know.

The NY Times is running a blog called The Choice which is written by Eric Bates. He is outlining the anxiety felt over college acceptance. He rhetorically asks “What could I have done better?”

Lists for Successful Business Growth

I run across lists of what it takes to make a business successful pretty often. And even though most of the lists are pretty repetitive, I usually enjoy them (check out my write up from just a year ago at the bottom of this post). There is usually at least one nugget I haven’t seen before. Ultimately I write them off because they are often for an audience in the “best intentions” or “I’ll start it tomorrow” group. But Verne Harnish over to Fortune.com wrote up a list of six that I liked. Here’s an excerpt:

1. Get an edge

Find an underlying advantage of 10 to 30 times over the competition to dominate your industry. Barrett Ersek, founder of Philadelphia-based Happy Lawn, innovated a way to close sales in minutes instead of weeks using a proprietary mapping and price-quoting process.

How to figure this out? Look at your industry’s biggest cost and time constraints and challenge the conventional thinking in those areas of the business.

2. Own a phrase

Brand is about owning a word or two in the minds of your market. No confusion about what niche Trench Safety & Supply Inc. owns. J. Darius Bikoff, founder of Energy Brands, coined “enhanced waters” as a new multibillion-dollar beverage category. Chris Krause is focused on “athletic scholarships” for high school athletes.

And how do you know if you own the phrase? Google it and see if your company shows up.

3. Hyperfocus

4. Control your cash

5. Write!

Flood the digital market space with blogs, white papers, YouTube videos, and Twitter messages that align with the phrase you own (check out The Shipping Bloke blog). Then enhance your authority by writing a book like Chris Krause’s Athletes Wanted.

Published content is king in driving education-based marketing programs and in establishing you and your company as the authorities in your industry.

6. Pulse faster

Working Thoughts 3/18/09
Three Requirements for Entrepreneurs

Working Thoughts 3/18/08
A Brief Answer as to “Yes” and “No”

Open-Book Management, Motivation, and Progress

For the last three months I’ve really been focused on motivation in the workplace. I’ve settled on a few main themes with particular emphasis on the ability to make progress. When people are committed to a goal, every step toward that goal is rewarding. It’s kinda like football. For every offensive possession the goal is to score a touchdown. Those six points are an emotional revelation.

However, the path to a touchdown is rarely one play. Usually, the score is a series of plays, gobbling up portions of the field chunks at a time resulting in first downs. It could be a running play, a pass play, or a creative trick play. These first down benchmarks are rewarding as well. They show progress to the overall goal of a touchdown.

On nytimes.com is a blog in the entrepreneur blog called You’re the Boss. Today I read an entry by Jack Stack titled Starting Over in Lexington: Turning the Plant on Its Head which describes the success of an implementation of something called Open-Book Management. I probably should have heard about it prior to now, but I’m fascinated by the idea, especially as it pertains to motivation.

Open-Book Management is a management style where the financial aspects of the company – costs of good sold, revenue, profit, cash flow, and so on – are made available to the employees of a company for consideration as they perform their tasks. The theory is that when people know how what they are doing affects the bottom line of a company, they will become more invested in changing the bottom line: they won’t be simple hired hands. The referenced blog post provides some great anecdotal evidence of this.

As Rob and I walked the shop floor, he told me story after story of how people in the plant — not the management team – were making the biggest difference. Because managing the cost of parts and materials is so central to the success of a re-manufacturing business, the associates were completely rethinking how they went about their jobs on a daily basis. They kept coming up with new ways to save and reuse materials – a savings that goes right to their bottom line.

Tony Johnson, a machinist, after learning how much it cost to outsource the machining of engine blocks, found a way to do it himself. Rick Draper, another machinist, figured out a way to use scrap material from used engine cylinder liners to make sleeves used in repairing transmission parts — rather than buying new sleeves.

In fact, the employees figured out so many ways to avoid using new parts that they created a whole new problem: They were buying and returning too many new parts, which was becoming a big hassle for the planners and parts-handling team. Through the efforts of assemblers like Paul Carrico, who cut his returns down to two or fewer per job, overall returns have now been cut by 70 percent over the last three months – reducing costs, increasing efficiency and improving cash flow.

Awards, when they are genuine and sincere, they are highly motivating

Last weekend was the Academy Awards and I don’t normally watch them, but little else was on so I flipped around and found myself taking it in. The Oscars are probably the most popular awards on the planet. There are others like the Nobel prize that are also well known, but Hollywood’s reach is stronger than nuclear physics.

The stage welcomed one show biz magician after another and each was humble and overjoyed. There is nothing like earnest gratitude. And that’s the thing with awards, when they are genuine and sincere, they are highly motivating. Recognition by ones peers is a powerful reward. We are social beings after all.

Awards are often overlooked as a source of motivation. Dan Pink calls them out in his book Drive and I ran across a paper written by Bruno S. Frey and Susanne Neckermann called Awards: A Disregarded Source of Motivation which talks about different aspects of Awards. One note I jotted down was that people value status independently of any monetary consequence. Why this is important is because in a rational – yet fictional – world rewards can be viewed as amounting to future compensention, but the statement argues against that. The authors did a review of the International Who’s Who to see how they stack up in terms of awards. They chose an international list because awards are not unique to any particular culture. Their findings are that awards are central to business, academia, and the military, and not solely the province of monarchies. Perhaps that goes without saying, but it moves the dial toward understanding the major task of more closely analyzing the incentive properties of awards and to compare them to monetary payments.

Side note: Calem R. Hoffman, a gentleman from my high school, was recognized for his dissertation describing the investigation of neutron-rich isotopes at the dripline, and, in particular, for the identification of a systematic reduction in the effective p-sd shell gap, indicating a weakening of the gap as neutrons are added.

Working Thoughts 3/13/09
A Review of The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You

Working Thoughts 3/13/08
Interpersonal Skills and the Brain – a study