Monday, August 29, 2005

Local Boy Does Good!

BYU computer science professor and tech guru Phil Windley has cracked the Feedster 500, a monthly listing of the top blogs on the web, with his Technometria blog. You'll have to scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find it.

Congratulations, Phil! Way to represent Utah in the blogosphere!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

VoIP Question

I'm going to set up VoIP accounts for FundingUniverse.com's online ad sales team members this week. The only people I know with VoIP use Lingo, and they all report that it is common to experience occasional glitches.

Are any of you using a VOiP service that hasn't given you any trouble?

If so, let me know. I need your recommendations.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

"Hustle, Passion, and Resiliency"

Firepoll CEO Will Allred had a great post on his blog, commenting on the Jason Calacanis theory that business is all about three basic elements: 1) Hustle 2) Passion 3) Resiliency. These are definite must-read articles for entrepreneurs looking for a secret to success that doesn't require an MBA.

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Dell hotshots Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins support Calacanis' theory by suggesting that their company's success is due mostly to consistent, disciplined execution -- the natural byproduct of the three virtues mentioned above.

Here's the quote from the article:

"HBR: The elements of the Dell business model are no secret: going direct, information over inventory, world class manufacturing, and superior customer information. Everybody knows these, so why haven't other companies been able to copy your model or beat you at your own game?

Rollins: The same reason why K-Mart can't imitate Wal-Mart. What Wal-Mart does isn't rocket science - it's retailing. Why can't everybody be Wal-Mart or JetBlue or Samsung or whatever the best company in their industry is? Because it takes more than strategy. It takes years of consistent execution for a company to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. So while Dell does have a superior business model, the key to our success is years and years of DNA development within our teams that is not replicable outside the company. Other companies just can't execute as well as we do."

Remember, Michael Dell didn't graduate from college. He used hustle, passion, and resiliency to develop a simple plan and execute it with disciplined precision.

I think most entrepreneurs (including me) need to focus more on simple execution. Sometimes we spend too much times in meetings talking about how great our idea is and how it's going to change the world, when what we should be doing is putting the rubber to the road, reaching strategic goals, and making money.

Any ideas on how to make a company execute with Dell-like efficiency?

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Cinderella Man Metaphor

Just watched the movie Cinderella Man. Fantastic movie! With all due respect to Hoosiers, Rudy, Remember the Titans, and the rest, Cinderella Man is the best sports film I've ever seen.

The central character of the movie is James Braddock, a washed up boxer who made an improbable, if not miraculous, comeback during the depths of The Great Depression. According to the film, Braddock's ascension became a source of hope to the masses of broken families searching for a reason to keep trying. At the same time, Braddock found strength in the people who looked to him for hope, knowing that his performance affected so many people.

I usually don't get too worked up about movies, but this one struck a nerve because Braddock's struggle taught me that every entrepreneur who has started with nothing has the potential to be a James Braddock to the rest of us.

Each time I read about a young entrepreneur who is finding success, it gives me strength to draw on when I'm having one of those "I-should-have-listened-to-my-mother-and-gotten-a-'normal'-job" moments. I know that may sound cheesy, but it's the gospel truth.

At the same time, I draw strength from the fact that there may be others out there like me who are looking for inspiration when the going gets rough. My success may give a couple of guys in their garage the energy to squeeze out the idea or strategy that ends up putting them over the top.

So, to all of you garage-dwellers who are looking for inspiration -- I'll try not to let you down.

To all of you who think the only people who depend on your success are your family, employees, and partners -- Don't let me down.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Omniture CEO Luncheon Notes

Josh James, CEO of Orem web analytics giant, Omniture, spoke this afternoon at a luncheon co-hosted by the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum and the Mountain West Capital Network.

A couple of highlights --

Just say "No." James said that he "truly became a manager" when he learned to say "no." When employees requested extensive time off, extensions on deadlines, and other small favors that were cumulatively destructive to Omniture's goals, James began saying "no." He called the first year of his new-found assertiveness, "The Year of No."

The story was not meant to encourage dictatorship management or unreasonable management. On the contrary, Omniture has what James calls a "No Jerks" policy. James' point was that the best leaders will not always make everyone happy. A manager is duty-bound to do what is best for the organization. Sometimes, fulfilling your duty as a leader will require you to make decisions that will upset some people.

Take your time when hiring key team members. James likened hiring management team members with marriage. "You'll be spending more time with your key team members than you will with your spouse," James said. "You wouldn't get married after two dates, would you?" When he hired his sales VP, James interviewed him nine times, took him to dinner several times, and met his family.

Have fun. Throughout his address, James laced in entertaining stories about office antics that make working at Omniture fun. A crowd favorite was one he told about how team members were given silly words like "tighty whities" and "grasshopper" to use during important client presentations.

Monday, August 15, 2005

My Own Truman Doctrines

Just finished reading McCullough's, Truman.

Here's what I learned:

Patience is Still a Virtue

During the aftermath of WW II, the Russians created a military blockade around Berlin. No food or medicine was allowed into the bomb-riddled city, so it had to flown in by plane -- an extremely expensive endeavor that would leave the Germans constantly on the brink of starvation. President Truman faced heavy pressure to engage the Russians and break through the blockade .

Wary of a conflict that could have easily provoked World War III, Truman patiently waited for the Russians to keep their end of postwart agreements. During the airlift his popularity suffered tremendously, yet he waited.

To make a long story short, his patience paid off and the Russians eventually eased up, allowing sufficient supplies to finally get to Berlin after over 120,000 supply drops by U.S. planes. While engaging the Russians would have solved the immediate problem, it would likely have been catastrophic in the long run.

Business Application

The ability to make a good, quick decision cannot be overvalued in the technolgy sector. Innovation is the name of the game. However, there are times when it is best to use what I call Truman's "Airlift Approach."

A while back, I was feeling quite a bit of pressure (mostly from myself) to create a department that would help FundingUniverse.com increase revenues drastically. However, for various reasons, the best people for the job would not be available for a couple of months.

Rather than go out and hire a handful of good, but underqualified employees to patch up the problem and relieve some of the pressure I felt, I decided to use the Airlift Approach and get by on minimal resources until the time was right.

I'm still in "airlift mode," and it has been tough to scrape by. But when all is said and done, it will certainly have been worth it. Later this month, the personnel that I need will be available and I will be better prepared to bring them into a situation where they will be able to succeed.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Not-so-empty Numbers

In Guy Kawasaki's Art of the Start, the author urges entrepreneurs to "make meaning" as they make money. His suggestion is that we all work harder and are happier when we are working on a project that brings us deep and abiding satisfaction. Once we have found meaning in what we do, we can dedicate ourselves completely and financial success will soon follow.

I have found meaning in what I do because I know that my company's success stimulates the economy, provides jobs/healthcare for the people it employs, and help entrepreneurs finance their dreams. I truly feel like I am part of something that makes the world a better place.

But what about other employees who perform much more monotonous tasks than I do? What is deep and meaningful about selling advertising on a website? Where is the meaning in updating the news section of the website? Perhaps they (the employees) see the big picture -- More sales = more revenue = increased ability to help others succeed = meaning. -- but I don't think that is what gets them through their day.

I think the key to finding meaning in the monotonous is recognizing it as an opportunity for self-mastery and self-improvement.

Keeping regular statistics helps employees find meaning in what appears to be insignificant work.

When salesmen use stats, they know that an unsuccessful call only means that they are seven unsuccessful calls away from a sale. And, more importantly, they know that if they make a sale in less than seven calls, they have improved and overcome their natural tendencies that prevent sales. That's intrinsically meaningful.

When website copy editors can see how many conversions their page has generated since they worked on it, rearranging the wording of a paragraph becomes a contest between how they have achieved in the past, and how well they know they can perform. When stats imporove and we outperform ourselves, we come one step closer to reaching our potential and we achieve meaning.

I'm going to do a better job at helping everyone at FundingUniverse.com find meaning in self-mastery and self-improvement by creating better, more meaningful statistics for every position that I am responsible for, including mine.

Note: Check out The Game of Work for more on how keeping statistics creates meaning.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Day One

Like many people in the internet/high tech industry, I've always wanted to publish a blog. However, I only recently began my career in the internet industry and don't have the wealth of knowledge that my favorite internet entrepreneurs have to offer. I have always felt a little apprehensive about publishing my naivete for all of the world to see.

Until the other day I remembered reading a rookie diary by former BYU basketball player Travis Hansen, who, at the time, was with the Atlanta Hawks. The diary was a simple record of lessons learned during Hansen's rookie season in the big leagues.

During the periods of my life when I have been a truly efficient learner, I have always taken notes. Hence, I am starting my "rookie diary" today.

Enjoy.