Friday, September 29, 2006

Breaking into new markets

There has been a lot of guff on the internet the past couple weeks with the coming of the Zune and quite a few people have been nay saying about it.

Let me just say this: 2001, Sony Playstation had 70+% market share.

Welcome to 2006: Sony Playstation has around 50%, and the X-Box is looking at between 20-25%.

In four years of being on the market that is remarkable growth for MS in the console department.

So, lets apply this to mp3 players. Funny enough, the statistics are pretty close to the same. Apple has around a 70-75% market share with the iPod brand. Now given 4 years is MS going to have 20+% market share?

At first glance I would have to say no. See, the competition to the the Zune is the 30gb iPod. The problem that I am seeing in this is this:

In the console market there is a very limited amount of competition. You can count the big players on one hand. Not only is there a very limited amount of competition, but there is not a wide product range. So we have consoles, and those producers also produce portable units as well. That means those handfull of companies are competing on a very limited play field. That is nothing like the mp3 playing field. Why not?

Go to Amazon.com and do a search on mp3 players. Refine that search to simply audio/video units, and it results in 3,895 products. That is a whole lot of potential competition for Microsoft to face. So lets do a quick SWOT of Microsoft and the Zune:

Strengths:
1. C'mon, its Microsoft.
2. Enormous capital to leverage.
3. Industry connections.
4. Well developed R&D teams.
5. Ability to incorporate functions in various other MS programs.

Weaknesses:
1. New to the mp3 player field.
2. Anti-MS crowd.
3. Bloated organization
4. Inability to limit scope and release product on time.
5. Product fills a limited category. (ie. not everybody wants a 30gb, semi-heavy mp3 and video player).

Opportunities:
1. Chance to really push into the mp3 market.
2. Get more MS products into consumers hands.
3. Increased profits (and of course decrease the profits of its competitors).
4. Further development of MS in the electronics realm... and expansion of their home entertainment concept.

Threats:
1. Competition... this is their first venture into this field.
2. Having their prices undercut.
3. Success of the anti-MS campaign.
4. Potential problems that arise from hardware they are using (can these things be hacked via WiFi?).
5. High technological turn-over. (Need to constantly innovate... or be a cost leader of course).

Okay, that is just a little bit of stuff that could go into a SWOT. There is more that can be added to the list, but that is the general idea.

So what it boils down to is: I think that MS can make inroads into the mp3 market. I really do. It isn't going to be as easy as getting into the console market though... so they had better be ready to commit a good deal of their resources and talent to back up their new venture.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are new business ventures getting smarter?

Back when I was in business school I was taught the basic general rule of thumb that 50% of businesses fail the first year, and then it gets worse from there. However, new statistics from the Small Business Administration shows that the stats are actually quite a bit better than that.

So my question is... have those statistics changed from several years ago and businesses are indeed getting smarter, or have they always been skewed? Looking a bit into it (and I am having a little trouble finding the stats on the SBA.gov site), it seems like it is actually a rule of 50% last 5 years or more. What comes to mind then is that professors were trying to convince us that if we did decide to start our own business... that we did so with as realistic an outlook as possible.

This bodes well in many ways. Those of you that are interested in starting their own business, enjoy looking at those numbers. In my opinion, 50% of the people that start their own businesses will do so with an improper outlook, with a lack of necessary skills, and for the wrong reason. The first article I pointed to from Business Know-How has 7 tips on what not to do when starting your own business, and while it is generally common sense, it certainly won't hurt to read through it and examine your own business aspirations.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Justin Show

Is it just me or is having your own PodCast or show all the rage these days? It is quite funny, because I have been thinking about doing something along those lines for a while myself. Why? Because there is so much knowledge out there to gain, and it seems like it is so limited in the manner that we can get it. The ScobleShow is interesting and has some good stuff, but I am thinking more along the lines of a show on business and management in particular.

One of the greatest benefits is that it would give me a chance to pick peoples brains. I have a ton of questions. Another show startup, ZBIZ.TV, interviews entrepreneurs to find out what is going on with smaller businesses. It just started and they are dealing with a few quality issues, but I think they will make some improvements.

Still though, I have questions and there are a huge amount of mangers/executives out there with skill and knowledge to pass on. Something to think about, we'll have to see where it goes.

Insert value here---><---

There is a really interesting video that Scoble has up on his new video news site with Shai Agassi (an executive board member with SAP). Shai talks a bit about what is going on with SAP and about the the value creation device they have in their developer community.

An excellent example of how you can leverage your business model, and in the case of SAP, do so by effectively reducing the cost to bring new functions (modules) to bear for their customers. Great idea. Thanks for the interesting show Scoble, looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Communication costs rising...

You want to hear something funny? As much as we are all going on and on about the world flattening, how technology is getting cheaper, and so on... why am I having to pay more than ever to have a decent ability to communicate? I'm not even an uber-tech geek. No internet access from my phone.. no mobile wireless from my laptop, none of that stuff. Yet I am paying close to $200 a month to access the internet. Biggest hitter on the list is Verizon. Yes, we know.. they have the best network in the US. No wonder, they charge more than almost any other network. In my dreams they charge the same price as T-Mobile. Of course, they do offer a better nework outside cities. So lets see what the average consumer can spend easily on communicating in a month:

1. Cell Phones (Family plan from Verizon), $100 a month.
2. Cable (internet + video) $60 a month
3. VOIP (Viatalk) $20 a month

So that is actually $180 a month, or $2,160 a year. 10years ago, how much did the average person spend on communications? Hrmm, probably $40-$50 a month for telephone service and $30 a month for dial-up or thereabouts. So, on the high end we're talking about $80 a month, or $1,200 less than we pay now. Okay okay, I understand that in a way I am comparing apples to oranges. There aren't cell phone charges in there. However, I'd argue that those things were not NECESSARY. Then if you had those things you were cool... today if you don't have those things you're considered abnormal. So today we have a greater ability to communicate than ever before, but it has certainly come at great cost.

At Ampd mobile I can get 500 minutes for $30 a month, and they have quite a few plans. Doesn't sound too bad when you add up all those costs.

Supply Chains N More

Okay, so I have to admit, I've been lagging in my reading of "The World is Flat". Today I hit up about 50 pages while at Orientspiration(more on Or later). Let me just go ahead and say wow. Many of us have had some inkling of what was going on with outsourcing and the impact it has had via the flattening effects it has on the world. However, somebody stepped in and slapped me when I read the #8 flattener. As a bit of a spoiler.. it is about UPS revitalizing the concept of the Supply Chain, and any companies ability to outsource it these days. This was new information to my ears.

For many companies, in fact most around the world, they are not able to create the best supply chain possible. Why? For one it takes talent, knowledge, and a good deal of skill. Without those things, it is easy for a supply chain to become antiquated, slow, and certainly lagging behind what your competitor is utilizing to pump their product out at the cheapest price possible to the farthest reaches of the globe. So what to do if you aren't a specialist in supply chains? Or in another instance, what if you are a small company and an attempt to create a supply chain would be inefficient? Instead of leveraging something that you don't have to leverage, rather turn to a company that will leverage it for you. That is what UPS has done... and instead of being limited to simply pushing packages around the world (which they do exceptionally well), they realized a core competency that they have (er, supply chains of course) and now sell that service to customers. So at the UPS hub you can now find departments devoted to providing warehouse and shipping, customer support, repair, etc for a variety of companies that have realized that supply chains just aren't what they do best. However, it is something that UPS does best. And they can do it for you.

That to me is amazing. If I had a fantastic business concept that required me to stock product... I could call up UPS and with a little capital they could help me with my supply chain issues. Now that's a business concept that has a nearly unlimited potential. Now, I just have to think of something to sell, and they will help me with the rest.

Today I tried a new local place that differed a little from the regular java joint. Orientspiration is a retail store that sells Chinese products for an extremely low price, but on top of that they have a variety of great teas. One of the best aspects of it though is that its quiet. See, when you go to a coffee shop there are often quite a few customers... many a times customers with children. If those aren't there, then it will be customers there for meetings. All of that can get quite loud and when I am trying to sit around and relax with a good book, I just need some peace and quiet to be able to absorb it. Or (as I call it) has a peaceful environment and generally soothing music in the background. So, if any of you are in the North Raleigh area, I definitely recommend giving it a try. It is aesthetically appealing and a nice place to stop for a cup of tea or two.

In summary: Is your supply chain a core competency? If not, would be it more effective to outsource it?*

*Friedman refers to it as "in-sourcing".

Monday, September 25, 2006

Is it just me or are scammers getting lazier?

Today I received an e-mail from a kindly man named Alhajia Tzouflas that lives in West Africa and wanted to share his incredible wealth with me. Or well, involve me in an illegal transaction ripping off a deceased fellows family who survived him after a plane crash. Of course he wouldn't need my help, but it might raise a few eye brows in his country given a little time.

I was really quite worried about it all though as it could very well be a scam, but he was kind enough to prove to me that it wasn't. He finished off his statement and calmed my fears by telling me: "I WILL NOT FAIL TO INFORM YOU THAT THIS TRANSACTIONÂ IS 100% RISK FREE".

Thank you Mr. Tzouflas, I might have been worried if you had failed to inform me of that.

Seriously people, we all know the scams. If you aren't going to watch your money, there is definitely somebody out there that is going to watch it for you. That is personally as well as in the corporate world. Way too many people out there that treat corporate spending with flagrant disregard.

A little introspection

I have been thinking about a certain interview I did a while back and of course there is always a little introspection involved in that. Certainly of the interview itself... Such as,"they said this, I responded this way, but this other thing is more accurate or is a better representation". You know the drill, we have all done it when looking back. Even more though, it made me realize that I hadn't spent enough time in introspection of my past. Sure, the cursory examination, but I haven't spent nearly enough time thinking about it to really grow from it as much as I can.

So in my interview, the four people I met with (back to back, not en mass) each had their own little sheets where they were to ask me pre-defined questions and then jot down whether my answer was good, bad, a little crazy, or John Travolta in Grease "hello I'm singing in a musical" whacky. Just kidding, it's a fun movie. Back to the story. So the third person I met with had their fair share of sheets and asked me: "What was a situation when you felt really out of control".

My response, though accurate, did not put me in a great position. See, I grew up in the Fiji Islands. Around the age of 14 my family and I were stuck on a boat during a hurricane. I'm not going into that more right now as I think it's going to be in my Dads next book. Hrmm, or was it the last one. Dad, if you're reading this, you still haven't sent me a copy yet. Don't worry, I'll call and nag you about it later today. Well, so of course I told the interviewer that being in a hurricane was pretty much at the top of the list.

However, that put me in a very difficult position for a follow up question. Which was of course,"What did you learn from this?" Ummm, well... After the first storm hit I quickly jotted down a 13.5 step guide to preparing for a vacation, and it included checking the marine channel for inclement weather warnings. I am still rather surprised by the question, though I should have anticipated it. What exactly SHOULD I have learned from it?

I didn't learn anything from the hurricane except that raw fish won't kill you (yes, I do love sashimi still)... but I learned a lot from his question. When walking into an interview, you need to have some certain things fully developed in your mind because somebody will probably ask you about them. Your job isn't to just answer the question, it is to give an answer that can be fleshed out and lead back to what you are interviewing about. Here are just a few:

1. How you would respond to a certain action.
2. What kind of past stressors you have had in your life.
3. Skill sets that you learned and applied at your last job.
4. If in management, you will undoubtedly get a lot of questions about how you handled people at your last job, what you felt was difficult about working with them, how you learned and applied those things.
5. Why do you want this job? (you do want it don't you?)
6. What are your 5 yr/10yr/20yr goals.
7. What mistakes you have made and how somebody (you?) dropped the ball.

There are a ton more, Google has a whole slew of them. So prepare yourself, and flesh out some of your answers before hand. When somebody asks you a question in an interview, don't just give them an impressive answer... give them an answer that you can do something with.

So, instead of saying "Umm, I was stuck on a boat in a hurricane", my best answer would have been "When I was in the military during 9/11 and had all the stresses that came with that and the demands that came after." Now that we could have worked with.

So off I go as there is a whole lot more in my life to contemplate. Not just for interviewers, but because in 27 years I've had so many experiences that it is easy to let them slip from memory. I had a girlfriend when I was younger that told me her life was boring... and to that I had to respond,"Nothing is boring if you pay attention to what is really going on."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

1000 hits!

Wow, just checked my site stats and I've had 1,000 hits since the web site has opened. I know, for a big site that would be about an hour worth of hits, but for a blog that's not too bad after a week of being open. So, thanks all for stopping by and visiting. I guess the next update will be the 10k hit mark.

So, with that... a little update:

CNN Money has an update on the HP scandal. How do higher execs and board members fail to understand exactly what the repercussions are for their actions? This negative behavior certainly doesn't make the job of management any easier.

Also on their site: Is Wal-Mart working to change their image? Lowering the cost of generic prescriptions and cutting packaging used.. hrmm.

With the economy slowing a little, the construction industry is beginning to lag a little as well. If mortgage rates keep going lower the public will definitely keep spending on new housing for a while longer yet. Housing prices are still going up in Raleigh, NC though.

When innovation is replaced by shady politics.

Is it just me, or do European countries (as well as the EU at times) seem to utilize their laws and fines as a way to skim off the top of the succesful US tech companies?

Beating MS over the head was a little nasty, but they were glad to do it and would do it again in a second it if allowed them to penalize the worlds largest OS company.

Along with that, the game that has played out in Belgium. Here are several shots that the politicians over there have taken at Google of late:

Google / Beglium News fiasco - Google sued by publishers... which wasn't so bad in itself, but the judge required that Google past the judgement on their google.be web site. Now, that would rather ruin their minimalist appeal wouldn't it? Read the article though, it is quite funny and points to the hypocrisy of some of these people.

http://www.ogleearth.com/ - Angry at Google for images it considers should be secure.

So whats the deal? Do this many lawsuits take place against Inter-European countries, with fines as stiff as have been offered to US companies? Or is the EU trying another method to subsidize their companies?

Microsoft's record fines.

Thank you mommy may I have another?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Say no to Starbucks...

You can take a literal and figurative meaning from that. What am I talking about? Starbucks in many ways brought about a revolution in the business with its social/store concept. It created a place where you can go, and no matter if the store is in San Diego CA, Washington D.C. or Boise Idaho, you are made guarantees. They hold up to the guarantees they give you in an amazing way... they have great product, great service, great atmosphere (which one could say is wrapped up in their product), and so on.

So amidst all of this what do I think is wrong with them? They are the 800lb gorilla and know it. Today I am posting this blog entry from a small coffee shop called "Wake up Wired". And you know what, not only do they have a great atmosphere, great service, and whatever else... they also take the initiative to offer me wireless internet access for free.

To access wireless from Starbucks you have to sign up for an account and pay a fee. So if I spend $7.00 a day there, 3 days a week... which works out to $84 a month, and a little more than $1,000 a year. Thats right Starbucks, if I get a latte for my wife and I 3 times a week (alot of people go there much more often!), then I am spending over a grand a year just at your store if I don't buy your merchandise as well. Starbucks, realizing their position though, knows that they can convince most people to pay the additonal $30 a month to access their hot spot via T-Mobile or in Canada Bell. That is right, and so in addition to the grand in coffee that I buy, they know that they can bilk another $360 a year out of me. Know what the funny thing is? Thats the same cost for my cable pipe that comes into my house from Time Warner Cable. A business connection that would support the users at Starbucks would run under $100 a month.

I totally understand that a business needs to make money. However, it should beware of trying to do so continually at the expense of their customers. Starbucks knows a good thing when it sees it. So do I, that is why I am down the street at "Wake up Wire". Where the grand a year I spend on coffee is enough to get me wireless access too.

Sometimes being great at something isn't enough. Sometimes you just have to show that you care about the customer wants and needs to keep their business.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Some simple concepts...

Alright, got a few free moments now... it has actually been quite a busy day.

So as a business, what is the number one thing you need to do? Focus on the customer... who they are and what they want. Lets be realistic, if you don't have a product or service that somebody needs or wants you have no place trying to sell it. That is a wheel that has been reinvented a million times and it just doesn't work out. If it's not there, you need to develop it.

Capture your process via blueprint. A blue print is going to allow you insight on where you can improve processes, where your lines of interaction take place, and so on. In the case of IKEA, by examining their strategy and customers expectations they were able to realize the value of using those customers as coproducers. So their product is sent from where it is manufactured in a box, and it is warehoused in a box, and it is sold in the same box. The customer takes part in the process and does a good deal of the manual labor themself. Many other businesses have realized the potential of using the customer as a coproducer (car wash stations, buffets, and so on).

So the question I leave you with tonight (and there will be more tomorrow)... is:

How can you more effectively leverage your customer in the service process to create value for both of you?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Telling stories..

Just in case everyone is wondering, I am not going to just leave you with the story that I see in IKEA. Tomorrow (if all my plans work out) I am going to draw a few conclusions from what I see in their business plan and how it is applicable to others. I was considering a SWOT analysis as well, but truth tell, that is merely going to be indicative of what is going on with IKEA and really wont benefit most people. So I'll ignore the impulse.

In the mean time, just for fun, I decided that since I have so much free time right now I am going to put it to some good use. That said, I am going to put together a list of things that I want to accomplish while I am job hunting. Don't laugh, but the first one is to learn HTML. I have been studying over at the W3C, which is the World Wide Web Consortium. You know, the people that set the standards for the languages that dominate the internet. They have some stuff on their site, but another great site is W3 Schools. Why learn HTML? The same reason for learning so many other things. It gives you options.

So one of these days I will put together a list of things I plan to do while I am unemployed and contemplating life as a janitorial service technician. Then you can laugh at me as I scramble to do them and try to get a job.

I'd like to say thanks to Charles from the Multiple Sclerosis blog for dropping by and leaving the excellent comments about Project Management. That is a field of management that I am trying to work into and learn more about, and it is always interesting to talk to somebody that has played the role for some time. Good luck with your blog and podcast Charles!

With that, its off to do a bit of reading and planning for the next couple of days. Thanks for dropping by all.

IKEA continued

Okay, so back to the topic at hand. Lets break down what we have with the IKEA experience:

1. Presentation - First off, unique building! Outside and in.
2. Enormous selection - They have what you want.
3. Easy assembly - Who couldn't put this stuff together?
4. Excellent warehouse concept - Find what you want, then get it from a central location.

Starting off with presentation. You cannot mistake an IKEA. They have the big blue and yellow building that is just off a main roadway. Every time I drive by I smile and say, "Hey, there's IKEA!". Once someone decides to give them a visit, they can expect ample parking (and indeed, tons of other customers). Entering in, you notice that they present their products in a way that is different from other businesses, especially ones of that size. Everything they have you can find set up in various settings show-casing their attributes. That is one of the things that makes them really stand out. At the prices they charge, their competitors are certainly not offering that. So you get to see what you are looking for. You know what else? You see it in a context with quite a few other products that go right along with it. So why not pick up a few other things that go so well with it? Along with those things, the isles are wide, everything is spread out so it doesn't get too congested in one area, etc.

As hinted at before, IKEA has a great selection. If you want a desk, you can see 30 varieties of it. If you want water glasses, you will find 5 to 10 designs, but all that look good and are extremely affordable. Enough said on that, they have a lot of great looking product.

You know, as a man... I have learned to move past my forefathers fear of using/asking for directions. You know why? I tried to put together a book shelf when I was younger without looking through the booklet first. IKEA makes it easy. Almost too easy. The directions are well laid out and easy to understand. That alone is more than most companies do for their customers. On top of that though, the tools they give you make their products easy to assemble and result in a sturdy final product. Somebody should give the person that developed that latch system a pay raise.

Lastly, their warehouse concept is great. The IKEAs near where I lived in Chicago were three floors and at any time there were several hundred people shopping there. Imagine having to effectively coordinate the warehouse to deliver new boxed product to all three of those levels.. Then on top of that to have shoppers running around with huge flats of heavy boxes. Not good. So you don't have to do that. Instead, just write down the number of the item and head down to the bottom floor. Not only can you hold off on picking up furniture until the end of your shopping trip, but it also makes the restocking system that much more efficient.

So we've gone over all that... We know logically why the system sounds good. To top it all off though, IKEA isn't just selling you a product or an easy to navigate store. They are selling you an ideal. That of Sweden. When one thinks of Sweden, what comes to mind? Beauty, cleanliness, Scandinavian design elements, nature, class. When shopping there, who doesn't include that in their experience? This totally differentiates them from their competition. So you know what? Wal-Mart, you make your products ever cheaper. Target, you keep trying to sell yourself as a designer superstore. It isn't going to have any impact what so ever on IKEA. They've managed to differentiate themselves from you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What makes IKEA great?

Earlier tonight my wife and I went out and purchased some things locally. We don't have an IKEA, or we would have shopped there. While I was putting everything together I was reminded of what makes IKEA great. Don't get me wrong, there is alot to it... but lets look at what they do best:

1. Great prices.
2. Great quality / design (at least pretty good for stuff you put together yourself).
3. Interesting store concept, with tons of household goods.
4. EASY to put together.

The furniture that I put together tonight had a great price... and sure, the store I bought it from had lots of different goods to check out, but the quality is a bit low and it sure as heck isn't put together. Tomorrow I'll talk about this a bit more, but rest assured that in the mean time I wish that IKEA would expand faster over here in the US... and for goodness sake, stop opening stores in Chicago, we don't live there anymore!

Monday, September 18, 2006

CEO blogging

I just wanted to post a quick note regarding CEO blogging as there was an article today appearing on CNN. It is actually quite interesting and points to many uses of having corporate blogs.

Heres the article, I'll post more about it later when I get back from coffee with my wife.

CNN article on CEO blogging (with Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems).

*****
Alright, coffee is delayed, so I have some time to go into this a bit more. First off, let me point out that I am not, nor have I ever been a CEO. The opinions I have are from standing back and looking at my own thoughts and feelings, and those that have been expressed to me by others.

What are some of the largest problems facing CEOs today?
  • CEO disconnect between employees and society at large.
  • Inability to influence through the organizational cloud.
  • Reliance on traditional forms of communication.

The traditional CEO in so many ways is seen as that man/woman at the top of the organization. Who can relate to them? Who trusts what they say? (since they are just about the Benjamins right?) Who understand where they are going? Why are the only people that really seem to get them are the board of directors?

It is quite funny, but think about this mind-set that many have about CEOs. First off, what does it take to get to that position? How many strings must they hold without letting any slip? Who must you please? (The only people more difficult to please than employees are share holders). Can you perform ethically day after day when you have your board and shareholders demanding one thing while your employees try to push you towards another? Is it easy to be corporate cheer leader day in and day out even when things don't go your way?

The fact of the matter is that a very few CEOs out of the many have undertaken actions that drag the position down. The rest seem to suffer from the inability to differentiate themselves from that group. How is that to be done? Sure, there are always speaking engagements, the occasional article, etc. That does little to decrease the gulf that exists between CEOs and employees or customers.

Seth Godin states in his blog that CEOs should beware the blog unless they have certain characteristics: Candor, Urgency, Timeliness, Pithiness and Controversy. If they don't have that, then "don't bother" (blogging).

I agree in part with that, but well, only in part. First off, I think that almost any attempt at communication (within limits) is better than none. Even a "boring" unpleasant CEO can sit down with somebody that has PR skills and understands what the CEO wants and put together a little piece a few times a week. Sure, it wouldn't exactly be straight from the horses mouth, but we use coaching in every other area of the organization so why wouldn't it be a benefit to the CEO to receive the same attention?

In this day and age with the technology that we have there isn't much reason for a CEO to neglect the tools at hand. By utilizing a blog (and/or podcast!) a CEO is able to take her message directly to the people that want to hear it and justify who she is, what she does, and what her goals are. Many people cannot identify with a CEO and exactly what it is they do. I for one wouldn't mind if CEOs went on a PR compaign to bring the integrity and respect back to the role.

Seth is a brilliant guy, and I think that he is right in many ways. However, instead of just saying "I dont have some of those attributes" and giving up... realize what you are lacking and find someone that can help you with it. My take is: blogging is here to stay so take advantage of it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quick note..

I am heading out, but I just wanted to address a few things:

First off, thanks Cornelius for dropping an e-mail off the other day and saying hello. Those who don't know who he is, there is a link to his Project Management Podcast on the right side of my page. Its good stuff, and I recommend anybody in that field to listen and enjoy.

Second, I have been told by a few people that they are having trouble posting comments. If you don't have a Blogger profile, try doing it in this fashion:

1. Click on the bottom of the post you want to respond to that says "comments"

2. On the right side, enter the message you want to send.

3. Scroll down to other, right below where you inputed the message. Enter your name in there.

4. Scroll down just a little more and enter the letters you see in the word verification field for them. This is an anti-spam mechanism to keep people from using programs to auto spam web sites.

5. Click "preview", and if everything is correct, click "publish this comment". If not, click "edit comment" and go back through.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me!

Thats it for tonight, hope you all are having a good weekend.

Value Creation

Value creation is really a driving factor in so many parts of life... and in business it is no different. Something really isn't worth doing/spending time or money on, etc unless it is going to be a benefit and create value for the company.

That is both a good and a bad thing. For one, the concept of getting the most "bang for your buck" has resulted in much outsourcing and offshoring in the past few years. Are those companies more productive overseas than those in the US? No. What they are is less expensive and really if somebody can build a product overseas and ship it here for less than it would cost to build it here, then they are going to do so. Anybody that plans to not try to compete in this way had better have a strong niche market that is focused on their products. Say Harley Davidson for example. People around the world love Harley, the image it creates, and so on. They can still be competitive paying a premium on wages and parts.

However, most companies don't have a product that sells in that manner, and having a competitive price is a factor. If it wasn't, why would Dell be putting out desktops for $450?

So the questions that I have to ask myself are:
  1. What kind of value do I bring to an organization?
  2. How can I grow to provide more value?

When I answer these questions truthfully, it first of all lets me see just how important I am to my company (because if I don't bring value, why am I there?). Or unimportant, if I'm not producing. Along with that, it also tells me if I am doing what I need to be doing with the company. If they hired me for X and that creates value for them, if I find myself doing more of Y which they find less important than I need to go back in and refine exactly what it is I am doing to bring myself inline with what they need.

That is one of the values of using Six-Sigma, and well, several other quality methodologies. They point you to the customer and their needs. Where you go from there is an effort to meet their needs, and not what you view their needs to be. You can create the most amazing product, process, etc.. and if it isn't what they wanted or needed, what real value have you created? You haven't, and those of us with grandiose thoughts and ideas need to keep them to ourselves if tapping in to them won't bring an additional value play to the customer (internal or external).

I'm digressing a bit. The main point is value creation, and what it is that you do for your company. This is a busy world and we have so much going on that it is easy to forget what our priorities are. It is never wrong to spend a little while and think about what your purpose at work is (from your companies perspective..) and determining just how well you are accomplishing that.

Friday, September 15, 2006

No more food please.

Okay, I'm tired of food. No really. Yes, I'll be saying something different, but for tonight, well, I'm done. After eating healthy all week it was time for a nice pig out meal. Sooo, it was Chinese food (sesame chicken) followed by cookies with ice cream. Now, my stomach is hurting and I am thinking it is a mighty fine time to go lay in the bath and curse the abundance of food in this country.

Abundance to the point of being rediculous. I mean, in how many countries do people have such a huge amount of food (both available and eaten) as we do here? Hardly any.. and most places at least throw a good portion of healthy food in. Here, you can literally walk through a super market and more than half of it is unhealthy. So as I sit here, sore from over eating, I rue the fact that in our society we eat food in the way we do. Lets put down that drum stick and relax a little on the binging. Alright, enough of the rant on food, I'm just as guilty as anybody else. However, I know my cute little wife is going to wake me up in the morning and take me out and run me until I've burned these calories off... and I'm thankful for that. Thanks in advance baby.

You know, its funny. I am a pretty well qualified guy. I have 5 years in the Navy as an enlisted and a B.S. in Business Management. However, I've applied to about 100 jobs on Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, and you know who has tried to contact me? Some MLM and commission based sales jobs. Thats all. Certainly nobody that I have applied to. Tell me, is there such a plethora of workers that a guy that has experience and an education can't get a job. There must be! Its pretty strange, but it's actually not such a problem for me. Right now I get some quality time with my wife, and time to study some stuff and do some learning. In a couple of weeks or a month I'm not going to have all the free time to do what I like and spend so much time with Jenny. So I'm actually pretty thankful for it.

By the way... those of you that are thinking about getting a domain name, and really don't want to spend a fortune doing it, MS Office Live will buy you a domain name right now. You have to use their site controls to access it (for Basic, but you can use Frontpage with Essential version), but at least they wil pick up the domain name for you. You have to keep the site with them for two months, and then you can transfer it to another hoster. So, if you go to http://www.hatchedeggs.com you will see the site they got for me. In two months I'm going to transfer it to somebody else who allow actual HTML acccess. Just as a heads up, this is all free right now as MS Office Live is in beta. Once thats over there will be charges for the Essential. If any of you know other hosters that are offering great deals please drop a comment so we can pass that on to everyone. Oh yeah, to get to MS Office Live its at: http://officelive.microsoft.com/

Also, another FYI of those of you who buy DVDs and usually pay full price. (who does that?) There are quite a few reputable companies on Amazon.com that have a ton of videos for sale that are pre-used (but they are cleaned and polished before being sent to you). You can get many of these for $3-$5. Thats the price of renting a movie for the night, so give it a thought if you really feel like getting a movie. We just got three new movies and they all work flawlessly. Not to guarantee yours if you get if you buy any, but we have had great success with that.

Alright, off to read back to my Six-Sigma book and relax until this pregnancy is over.

Looking good Microsoft

Have any of you all seen the new MS Zune that is coming out sometime in the near future? Heres a link to it: http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/14/microsoft-launches-the-zune/

Some things that I like about it:
  • Great screen size/shape. 3" LCD, fantastic, I CAN watch a video on the go with this.
  • Decent HD size, 30GB isn't huge, but big enough. A couple movies and alot of songs.
  • Wireless? Oh yes! Plus, there is some nifty software that makes it so that you can transfer music to friends for a limited amount of days/uses.
  • TV connectivity a definite plus.
  • Radio tuner (doesn't help me much as I don't listen to the radio much, but others...)

Alright, well.. what doesn't work for me?

  • Sorry MS, I use my iPod Nano to run... your device has to be 4 1/2" in length and quite wide... it won't be comfortable to jog with.
  • No gaming? I thought you were throwing in some XBox action!
  • Whats the battery life? Stop holding off on that info guys.
  • Everything you send to others is DRMed, even stuff *you create*.

Anyways, more info can be found at:

http://www.zunescene.com/

http://www.zuneinsider.com/

I think that the Zune will do really well. For one, alot of people are ready to move away from the iPod. They are fun, but Apple has done a good job of not adding as many features as they should have (to keep cost low and profit high no doubt). Unless of course you go out and purchase an add-on piece. Well, I'm looking forward to seeing what Zune turns out to be like. Christmas launch date, so there it is.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

C'mon weekend!

Okay, are we all ready for the weekend yet or what? I am... and I really haven't been doing anything yet. Perhaps that is why I am ready for the weekend though, so I can stop thinking for a day or two that I haven't gotten a job yet and the pain it is that it is taking so long.

That is rather a new thing to me, I'm not used to having to wait for the "process" of hiring to be done. In my past, in the military of course it doesn't work like that, and in the jobs that I took during college I got them pretty much instantaneously. So this waiting isn't a really fun thing in my book.

I hesitate to put this out in the public, but my wife is a Britney Spears fan. Nothing wrong with Britney of course, just that my wife is a "real" fan. You know, if anybody ever said anything wrong she would be the first one to defend her. So she is over on her laptop next to me right now watching a movie about Britney as a kid. Haha, it is funny to watch... and when I look over at her, she looks a little embarassed about it. Ah well, what can you do. I've been a fan of music groups that I wouldn't necessarily stand up proudly and announce these days. She's just a better fan than I am.

The book I started yesterday is a bit more than halfway through. Which isn't to say much, because it is only a 50 page introduction. That said, they do make it fun, and that isn't always easy for Six Sigma. I've been looking online for some programs, but there is nothing I can afford momentarily. I definitely need to work for a company that will pay for my green/black belt. You know, you would think that as much worthless stuff as they teach you in college... that they would just throw some of this stuff (you know, something of value) into your degree. Being that it is done by many of the largest organizations in the world, that might be indicative of its value.

Interesting Sigma web site: http://www.isixsigma.com/

You know, I think that the news has its upsides and its downsides. Of course it is good to know what is going on... but it seems that whenever anything happens the press does their best to blow it up and make it even larger than life. In the case of the man that shot up the community college in Montreal yesterday, they are doing him more of a favor than he deserves. Yes, it is important to know, but at the same time, I don't need to see it scrolling and "news flashes" or "breaking news" from it that really isnt new or important. Please guys, get the information, process it carefull, and then dissiminate it to us every now and then. Not every five minutes. As long as you make celebrities out of these people (dead or alive), there are people that will find value in doing it.

So with that, I'm looking forward to a night of sleep and not having to try and read the news for another 8 hours.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Two books at once?

Thats the question... and the answer is: maybe. I've been reading "The World is Flat" by "you know who" and it is very interesting. However, in an attempt to expand my management knowledge more I recently purchased a book titled "What is Six Sigma" by Pete Pande and Larry Holpp. Now I know that most of you are thinking that I am about to embark on the most boring post ever to surface on the web, but think again. Well maybe.

The concept of Six Sigma is statistical in nature. Those of you unlucky enough to take Probability and Statistics in school please raise your hand. Yeah, mine is too. Back to the topic at hand. What six sigma boils down to is stepping back and reworking your processes, and doing it in such a way that you end up with oh, about 3.4 defects per million of whatever you are measuring. Step back and think about that. Thats about what I am doing to. Despite a bit of knowledge about measuring and assessing, that level of precision impresses me to no end. So I am embarking on gaining a bit more knowledge about it. I think that this is a statistically driven world. In this day and age a company really can't survive without paying attention to that. One of my primary goals in growing professionaly is learning what measuring tools to use, when to use them.. and how to interpret those measurements so that I can succesfully implement new processes and procedures and bring as much value as I can for the company that I work for.

Speaking of business related stuff, there is a link on the side of my page for Management Tools. Management Tools is a wonderful podcast about growing as a manager and improving yourself... and I definitely recommend it not only for new managers, but also for those managers that have been around for a while. At least download a podcast or two and see if you like it, its free content and worth the time.

It is funny how management really is the science of life. If you don't think so, tell me... what in life do you do that you don't manage, and if you don't manage it well, does it still typically perform well? Time management, managing people, managing relationships. There really is a right and a wrong way to do it. Don't misunderstand me, there are certainly also an infinite shades inbetween that as well, but in whatever you do measurements can be made of whether it is done well or not. I for instance grew up in the Fiji Islands. We have this thing called "Fiji Time". What does that mean? Chill and relax.. you'll get to it eventually. My time management skills were certainly hurting when I got back to the US. So that is something that I have had to and still do focus on daily to make better. I think that we all have things that we can manage better, and it can only help us to spend a little time working on those things each day. Well, I can't speak for anybody else really, but let me just say I NEED to do that. No, I'm not going to post a link to Dr. Phil here or anything like that. Just came to mind everything I have to improve on in life and how great its going to be doing just that.

The last thing I have to think about tonight is Sudoku. When I wake up in the morning I love to sit with a cup of steaming hot coffee and work out a puzzle or two to get my mind ready for everything to come during the day. Well, for those of you that want to play and don't mind doing so on a computer, drop by this site and see if it suits you: http://www.websudoku.com/ Its free, and I think the interface is pretty nice.

Congrats to Missy and Jeff on their new baby boy Beckham Tyler. We're going to set up a time to drop by this weekend so we can see your new addition. Night all!

Ahhhh

I just looked at my site and adwords has apparently crawled my site for context in displaying content. Sooo, it has anti-Bush stuff popping up. I'm going to have to go figure out how to display stuff that isn't political, because I would just as soon stay neutral in those regards.

Time to go figure out how that will work. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Career Fair? We don't need no stinking career fair!

Just kidding, I spent a good portion of my day at a career fair for US Veterans looking for jobs. It was pretty good overall, but perhaps not too exciting. They did not have a great deal of companies there, perhaps 15 to 20 total. Of course some of those were not really exciting stuff so I steared clear. Some interesting job opportunities though were offered by M/A-Com (Tyco Electronics subsidiary), Glaxo Smith Kline, amongst others. Truth tell, I also checked out Harris Teeter. I never really saw myself going into retail like that, but truth tell they seem to treat their employees well, and it might be a great opportunity to work in a fun and growing company. We'll have to see more about that next week.

The people at the trade fair that I wasn't particularily impressed with were Smith Barney, the division from CitiGroup Financial. I walked up to them and the three men they had there were huddled up in a bunch talking amongst themselves. When I introduced myself two broke off into their own conversation leaving me to talk to one of them as recruiting could not possibly be as important as talking about this weekends golf game. Sorry SB, I'm not impressed by the effort your team put out there at all. Hopefully this is a problem that they have seen and are in the process of addressing, as it certainly doesn't make them seem more professional to have employees ignoring potential recruits (and maybe even customers if they play their cards right).

So after a couple hours of doing that my amazing wife (she went there with me and talked to me in the long boring lines) and I went to Sams club to pick up some basic necessities. Chicken, ranch, yogurt, and so on.

Speaking of Grocery Stores, there is a Harris Teeter about a quarter kilometer from our apartment. One of the best new things I have seen in ages resides in the entrance there.

http://www.redbox.com/

I mean, come on, you can rent a movie for a night for $1. Sure that is a whole lot less time than we as Americans are used to. Lets be realisitc though, when you go to the grocery store alot, thats really not out of your way. If you're a day late, they just auto charge you another $1. So far the wifey and I have rented about 7 movies. Thats $7 in movies that would have costed us close to $30 at a traditional brick and mortar movie store. Plus, we don't even have to wait for a day to get it by mail or whatever else. Convenience at its best. On top of that, its a fantastic way for the grocery store to bring their customers back in for more purchases. If you have to go return a movie, you might as well pick up some goodies. A great idea, and I hope that the Return on Investment is great for all companies involved.

Thats it for today!

Monday, September 11, 2006

A day of remembrance

Wow, it is really hard to believe that it has been five years since Sept. 11, 2001. So much has happened in my life since then, but the memory is still fresh. I was stationed in Italy at the time.. and in fact was working out in the gym near my friend Dave when the first plane hit. I was running on the treadmill at the time, and Dave suddendly came up to me and pointed to the monitors on the wall, and he knew right away what had happened. So did I. Dave was from New York and the personal feeling of pain he felt was transmitted in his voice and actions. I really have not had much experience with New York outside of taking my brother there to college back in '96. Even though that was not my realm of my experience, the strike was personal to me. It was personal to everyone in the US really. Not just because of the loss of life, but because most of us really are trying our best to make the world a better place. We volunteer to go overseas and give medical aid, we give financial donations to help people, etc. Yet this doesn't appease those radicals that wish to do us harm.

I wish that I knew of an easy safe manner to end these problems. We all do... but no such silver bullet exists that I know of. All we can do is our best, and never let people such as those that struck on 9/11 have control of us in any way.

When I was younger my grandparents had told me about how they remembered exactly when and where they had learned that JFK had been assassinated... that the feeling was still fresh to them. I wondered at the time how that was possible. Now I know.

Google Maps Mania has a map set up in which you can enter where you were and what you were doing. http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/

The news has covered everything quite well today, and the ceremonies are touching. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the attacks and those that are now suffering from their heroism that day and in the days that followed.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Life is Good


Here is a picture of me with my Niece Emma. She is absolutely one of the cutest kids ever. I'd say cutest, but that would be unfair to other nieces and I'm crazy about all of them. Any of course my nephew Daniel. That kids got personality!

This was taken in Sweden this Summer when my brother came over to be Best Man at my wedding. We had a wonderful time! That was just a quick explanation for those of you that recognized the Espresso House behind us.

That old world flavor is something that I miss back here in the US. When we talk old, it is perhaps 200 years old if we are lucky. The church that my wife and I were married in was from the 1100s. That is over 900 years old (yes sireee, those college dollars were well spent). It is hard to comprehend in so many ways. Thats over 33 of my life times. Most of us don't like to think about it (well..), but as humans we really are fragile, short lived beings. Having the love of those close to us and the amazing cognitive function that humans have make it all worth while though.

Anyways, Emma, I hope you're behaving for your Mom and Dad while they do work on their new house and take care of everything else that they need to. Aunt Jenny and I will try to make it out and spend some time with you.

Flabbergasted

I'm really flabbergasted. Do any of you ever see web sites and postings by these conspiracy theorists that sprung up after 9/11?

It is really strange, and to tell you the truth I am just not sure whether to see these people as mentally impaired or delusional. Both Liberals and conservatives have put out information about just how everything has happened, from the social perspectives that caused the terrorists to take the actions that they did to the scientific proof that what happened was really possible.

I have watched step by step rebuffs of those that said that it was a cruise missle (or small plane?) that hit the pentagon... and that was well and good. The guy I just saw on Fox today though took it a step further. To say the US trained some people to take over the planes and crash them is paranoid. To say that the planes that hit the world trade center "never really hit them" is beyond that, it is delusional.

How are these people professors? How are they even over the age of 10? It worries me... not just because of the implications that it has now, but is there something really wrong in the human race? I am trying to find something tangible that would indicate the reason for these people to be insane like this. That is hard to do though. Perhaps watching the Outer Limits has taken its toll.

Alot of other theories come to mind about the origination of people like this... but theres really not much reason to spend more time on it than I already have. Only time will tell just what the long term effects are.

Friday, September 08, 2006

And life comes atcha

It's been a busy last few days... as stated before, I'm applying and what not trying to get employed after graduating. Spending part of the Summer in Sweden and the rest in Chicago I am just now getting cracking on this.

So yesterday I had an interview. Going in I was told that I'd meet with four different people and they would all interview me. No problem, sounds like fun. Then they bounced their new HR recruiting program on me that included pre-made sheets that ask questions and allow them to get a better statistical idea of just what the quality of the people they are bringing in are.

Needless to say, for the next four hours I answered questions such as, "Tell me about a time in your life where your team dropped the ball". "What did you take away from that".

And you know whats funny, most of the time you go through life in a way where you pick up and implement new things in your life without too much thought. There have been cases where the ball was dropped... on the other hand, I didn't sit down afterwards and draw up a 5 point plan on how to better my professional life from it. Perhaps I should have. What I took away was "Keep your schedule accurate and up to date, and make sure that all points are communicated so everybody knows their responsibility." That didn't seem to impress them so much, but thats something I can live with. Seriously companies, popping a bunch of these sheets might allow you to statistically compare new hires according to some pre-set specifications that you have... but in a way I think they fall short as they are going to fail to explain the full potential (or lack thereof) of a potential employee.

Anyways, enough on that rant. On the plus side, I really like the operation and the people working there.

I find it interesting that some Democrats are talking about using a "Google Bomb" to bring down the ABC docu-drama (whatever exactly that is?). I didn't see these same people talking about bringing down sites pushing Moore when he published his own garbage. People that stick to a political line simply because that is how they identify themselves... rather than dealing with new information as it occurs, are really just the new bigots of the 21st century. I think we have enough of that on both sides already, it certainly isn't helping the country to try and expand the gulf between them.

I read a really great quote in Friedman's book "The World is Flat" yesterday. I'll try and find it later on as for now I'm going to go for a run with my wife.

On and ending note: Good luck to every other job searcher out there in obtaining great employment.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Up and Running

It's about time I finally got a blog up and running. As much as everybody is talking about them these days, shouldn't everyone have one? In "The World is Flat" Friedman describes the power that blogging has on our world, and I very much have to agree. I've been watching some pretty famous bloggers for a while now such as Dave Winer over at scripting.com. Now that guy has alot going on. Except for his site, which seems to be down this morning?

Anyhow, Dave in my opinion has had his share of impact in helping the world become a flatter place. While I don't think I'll have the kind of impact that he and his blog has had, I will at least start my venture into blogging and sharing on the Internet.

So about me and my intent: I am a recent graduate from college with a B.S. in Business Management. Along with that, I got married recently and my wife (who just moved with me from Sweden, hey baby!) and I moved from Chicago to Raleigh, NC. Perhaps it was a bit presumptuous, but we moved here and are living on savings and looking for jobs. Sooo, alot of this blog will probably be about my experience job hunting, finding the right job, and growth along the way.

Hopefully growth is something that we are all looking for... I'd imagine life would be a stagnant wasteland without it. More about areas where I want to grow later.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, I'll be here updating it every day. Any comments are welcome!

Justin