Sunday, April 27, 2008

Irish Blessing - Or Is It A Curse?

I'm fortunate to live exactly one mile west of the Atlantic Ocean - and I love my morning runs to the beach. But the other day I ran right into a little problem...

Normally I leave the house, run a mile east to the beach, a mile south along the Atlantic, and then retrace backwards, for a total of 4 miles.

On Wednesday I left the house late and so I knew I'd only have time for 2 miles - one out and one back. So I head out, run due east 1 mile (going very fast, I was feeling great) and turn around.

Uh oh!!! I'd been running with a west wind at my back. I was wondering why everything seemed easy… too easy.

When the going was good, I'd used up all my reserves with no thought to the future. Now, with the wind in my face, I was suffering.

I have a feeling there's a business lesson here…

The Irish blessing says "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back."
Sure, go full out if you know that wind is never going to die.

But in the real world, sooner or later it will - and you better be ready for that.

So whether you are Dutch, Italian, Irish or anything else…

Make sure to use the good times to do a little bit of planning… for the bad ones that sooner or later surely will follow.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to Save $50 on Your Next Airline Trip

Looking to save $50 on your next airline trip?

Here's how...

United Airlines and others are now charging an additional $25 for a second bag.

MSNBC reports "Five of the seven major U.S. airlines (Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Air) plan to charge most customers $25 each way to check a second bag starting May 5. Of the largest carriers, only American and Southwest have decided not to go along — for now. Airtran is adding a $10 second bag fee for travel on or after May 15. Spirit Airlines already had a $10 fee if paid online, or $20 at the airport."

The motive behind it? From Fortune Magazine:
"United has also made some moves that, while they may not be popular with customers, are at least mitigating the effect of fuel-price increases... "We will continue to build on this work charging customers for services they use and products they value while rewarding our best customers for their business and their loyalty," CEO Glenn Tilton said... "An example is the $25 fee for a second bag that we initiated, which we expect will generate over $175 million annually for United."

Everyone's shopping for low fares, so airlines will continue to look for non-fare based incremental revenue.

But even if you're going on a long trip and even if you're mixing business and pleasure, do you really need that second bag?

Not if you follow this advice from Michael Masterson and Early to Rise. Here's what Michael, a VERY frequent traveller has to say:

Pack Faster and Travel Lighter - By Michael Masterson

I travel a lot. So does K. Neither of us ever checks luggage. And I, at least, never spend more than 15 minutes packing. Here are some tips to make preparing for your next trip easier and faster.
1. Choose one or two colors. Reducing your wardrobe to a single color (and one contrasting highlight color) greatly reduces the number of items you need to bring. My choice is black and white or black and gray.

2. Pack only one pair of shoes. Shoes are the most space-consuming item in your bag. If your main color is black, bring black shoes. Wear one pair on the plane - a comfortable pair that can double as gym shoes - and pack a dressier pair that (1) will look fine with a suit/dress, and (2) you can wear to walk in the city.

3. If you're a man, you only need one jacket. A blazer or conservative sports coat is best. Wear it, don't pack it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Time of Inconvenience

I’m having a great time this weekend at ETR's Profits in Paradise conference in Orlando.

The weather's gorgeous, the speaker's dynamite, and the attendees are having a BLAST picking up TONS of great wealth-building advice.

So it's all been good so far. Except, that is, for one MAJOR disaster...

Morning room service doesn't start until 6:30AM.

You see, I'm up at 5 (hey at Early to Rise we practice what we preach)… And as a certified caffeine addict, I need an immediate fix. Sure, I can make one of those mini-pots of Joe in my room, but that mystery brown liquid doesn't really even deserve the "c__fee" designation.
So what's up with that 6:30 "mid-day" breakfast time???

Is our hotel setting this time for the convenience of their guests? Or is it for the convenience of their staff and management?

Here at ETR we try our best to keep our reader's convenience in mind. A few examples:

* We heard complaints that folks couldn’t print out our newsletter. Some prefer to read on paper. So we went to considerable time and expense to make it easy to print out the daily eletter.

* When we plan our conferences, instead of timing them during the week (handy for us), we build them around weekends (convenient for our readers).

* We’ve upgraded our customer service desk to ensure faster and more accurate help with any issues.

Make sure your business decisions are about (and convenient for) your customers and not YOU.

Of course I’m no so na├»ve as to believe you don’t have to keep expenses in line and optimize and streamline processes and procedures. But…

Don’t have early arriving restaurant staff park in the best parking spots.

Don’t close down bank teller windows at lunchtime.

And please don’t start room service in the middle of the morning!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nietzsche versus the Harvard Business Review?

I'll admit it.

I'm sometimes suspicious of academic business commentary.

Just imagine how often this scenario plays out: A bright, well-off high-schooler gets accepted to a top Ivy League college. He majors in (say) economics, graduates and goes on to post-grad work and eventually moves into academia as a professor.

Next thing you know, reports on business are coming out from "respected Harvard professor so-and-so".

Sure, he's STUDIED business for years, but the sum total of his hands-on business experience? Zippo!

Nietzsche called this the difference between “wissen” and “erfahrung”. Rough translation: the difference between book-smarts and street-smarts. At Early to Rise we've found that the street smart advice usually ends up with a higher correlation to actually making money and being succesful than theory and academics.

And so I was pleasantly surprised to open this month's Harvard Business Review and find good “street-smart” advice on managing hypergrowth from Alexander Izosimov.

He’s not a professor but the CEO of Vimpel Commuciations, Russia’s second-largest mobile phone company.

Yes, HBR does run plenty of intellectually interesting and occasionally useful articles from the academic elite. But I’ve noticed I find myself reading the ones from seasoned business executives more often.

Izosimov should know about rapid growth: He’s helped roll out cell phones in Russia as market penetration jumped to 120% (yes some have two) from 12% - and his company’s market cap jettisoned to $40 BILLION from $600 million in the same period.

His recommendations sound very much aligned with what Early to Rise and Michael Masterson in Ready Fire Aim advise when managing a rapid expansion period.

1) Sell First and Ask Questions Later. Don’t waste time on perfection or the opportunity will pass you by.

2) Don't Try Too Hard to Innovate. They call it the bleeding edge for good reason.

3) Organize Like McDonalds. Get standard structures and procedures in place so your infrastructure doesn’t bog you down.

4) Push Decisions Out to the Front Line. Paralysis by excessive corporate analysis is death.

5) Foster a Can-Do Culture. Enable an action-oriented company. Don’t punish rapid failure. Learn and move on quickly.

If this kind of advice makes sense to you, check out Izosimov's full article. And if you don't already have it, get a copy of Ready, Fire, Aim - I guarantee the best $20 you'll ever spend.

[Note: An earlier version of this post was released while it was still in draft form. Whoops! If you saw that, I apologize for any confusion and probably several misspellings, no doubt including Nietzsche. – CFB]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

JetBlue's Web Usability Mistake

Will you join me in a little experiment today?

When first planning a trip and searching for airline flights, how many passengers do you indicate in your initial search?

One? Two?

Maybe the whole family - 3 or more?

Or how about zero?

Personally, I always start out looking for 1, because at first I'm really just price and schedule shopping.

I can fine tune later.

But one number of passengers I'd NEVER book for? Zero.

So why is that the default on JetBlue's main booking page?

I'm guessing here that many folks - maybe 50% or more - are like me and start out looking for a flight using just 1 person... then change it later once they've found a good deal, right date and time, etc. But ZERO?

Hey, I like Blue a lot. Fly them all the time.

So after I enter my From:, my To:, and the out and back dates, I'm ready to see what they've got to offer:

BUT... Click Search at that point and here's what you get:

That's not very friendly!

Web usability icon Jacob Nielson says "In forms and applications, pre-populate fields with the most common value if you can determine it in advance."

I say, "Here here!"

Isn't it preferable, if you MUST "inconvenience your customers" (by forcing them to fill out a form), that you irritate say 50% rather than 100%?

If you've seen other goofy form defaults, let us know about them in the comments below.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Give Your Customers (Even "Enemies") What THEY Want

It's tough being a Florida Marlin. Maybe even tougher working in their Marketing Department. But they recently made one astute change that caught my eye...

You see, this major league baseball team suffers from a common South Florida affliction: Competition for attention in an over-saturated market.
Here amidst the beaches and palm trees, there's always "something else" to do. And so they've been drawing small crowds pretty much since they opened their franchise.

Problem "B" for the Marlins? Fan loyalty.

Nearly everyone in SFla is from somewhere else. And that means you've got Yankee fans, Mets fans, Red Sox fans... and just a few Marlins fans.

In fact, when one of these teams visits (as the Mets did this week), sometimes half the ballpark is filled with "enemy" fans (like Mr Met, yours truly).

In past years I've been surprised browsing their souvenier stands. They've got tons of Marlins hats, shirts, pens - you name it.

But wouldn't it make sense, I thought, to offer goods from the visiting team?

Given how many prime "prospects" you've got just walking past... wallets open... ready to buy.

Looks like they've finally decided to give their customers what their customers want.
At Opening Day this Monday I was glad (I guess) to see a full array of Mets merchandise. My wife even bought (yet another) Mets shirt.

Sure, love your own products - but swallow your pride when necessary - and don't fall prey to Not Invented Here syndrome.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Web 3.0 ("Semantic Web") and Microformats Preview

Interested in previewing Web 3.0 technology?

Better yet, want to create your very OWN "Web 3.0-enabled" web page right now?

OK - then just follow along with these easy steps...

1) Get latest version of Firefox browser if you don't already have.

2) Get the "Tails" add-in which lets you view Microformats (data structures embedded in the XHTML behind the page).

3) Get a Blogger account or use one you already have to create a new post.

4) Go here, create an hCard for yourself (Personal Contact Info) and paste the HTML into your Blog:

5) Go here, create an hCalendar for some future event of yours and paste the HTML into your Blog:

6) Publish your blog page and open it up in Firefox. The Tails add-on will have a separate panel on the left side. You should see these Microformats displayed there.

Below are the visible entires for the hCard and hCalendar I created for this post. If you are viewing in Firefox and Tails, you should see the Microformat Tags on the left side right now (if not, see screen shot below).

You should be able to mouse over them and see options for easily exporting into your Contact mgmt program, your Calendar program, etc.

Here's a MicroFormat hCard:

Charles F Byrne
Early to Rise
245 NE 4th Avenue
Delray Beach, FL , 33444

This hCard created with the hCard creator. End of hCard.

Here's a MicroFormat hCalendar

November 9th12th, 2008 ETR 2008 Bootcamp– at Delray Beach, Florida
This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

End of hCalendar

And here's how it looks when you open up this very post in Firefox with Tails.

Note the yellow/orange tags on the left side.

There's our Microformatted data!

Hey, it's not much but this really works.

Here I've clicked on the hCalendar "export" and now I've got a dialog box opened up.

If I like, I can now import this event into my Outlook calendar, all with the click of the mouse.