Thursday, March 30, 2006

Anti-Bacterial Everything – Musings from my first visit to Target

On my last trip to Phoenix I made the crucial packing error of forgetting undershirts. Since I was on-site with a team of people from my company and we were sharing a rental car everyone came along on my quest for some undershirts.

We successfully navigated our way to a Target and proceeded to shop. This was my first time to a Target which was certainly interesting. It reminded me of the Caldor (RIP) in Bridgehampton, NY.

After successfully locating my undershirts, my co-worker needed to buy a paper hole punch. This lead us to the office supply area of the store where I spied FlexGrip Elite pens with Anti-Bacterial Pen Protection. I had to buy them and share my findings with my small group of readers.

So what exactly does anti-bacterial pen protection provide?

The package states: “Anti-bacterial technology is designed to protect the pen’s surface and does not extend protection to the skin.”

What does that mean?

My pens are protected from bacteria?

I’ve never heard of any kind of flesh eating bacteria jump species over to attack pens.

Is this a ploy to sell more pens? Make their pens standout in a era of Anti-bacterial everything? It certainly worked to catch my eye and my purchase.

There are some concerning articles about potential persistent anti-bacterial chemicals showing up in the eco-system. Are we setting ourselves up for a super bug?

Those who know me know I have a large container of hand sanitizer at my desk. Luckily it’s uses jellied alcohol to work. Have we oversantized our developed world to the point where our immune systems have been compromised?

I wonder what would happen if I started chewing on these pens.

Buying Gas on the New Jersey Turnpike

I haven’t posted in a while, due to my travel schedule. Hence I’m writing this piece on a plane back from Phoenix.

I’ve always been fascinated by consumer behavior more so after reading Why We Buy by Paco Underhill.

This past weekend my wife and I drove back from Long Island via the Jersey Turnpike, of course I waited to gas up in Jersey since they usually have the cheapest gas as well as full service. Since it was late Sunday afternoon we were one of about a hundred others waiting to buy gas at one of the rest stops.

What never ceases to amaze me are the lines to the pumps.

The consumers automatically line up with the gas cap facing the pumps. This usually results in a massive imbalance of lines between the different pump facings. What’s blows my mind is that the hoses are actually long enough to reach the other side of the car. I always take advantage of this fact and avoid the lines, but even as people in line watch the attendants pump my gas they don’t move. There can be a line of twenty cars for a particular side on a row of pumps while the other side has no line.

Maybe people are afraid of the hose scratching their car.

Maybe they can’t read the sign saying, “hoses can reach the opposite side of the car.”

Maybe they are completely zoned out rocking out to the radio.

My personal guess is that this is due to the need to conform. At Disney World where most rides have two parallel queuing lines I always found the left line shorter when you can’t actually see the line (meaning its hidden inside the ride etc.) My conjecture is that people are used to driving on the right side of the road. This tends to drive their choice in which line to choose.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this consumer behavior because it personally saves me time. I’d love to read your thoughts on why this anomaly exists.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 - Check it out

A friend of mine tipped me off to a new website - It's a more mature Myspace. It employs much of Web 2.0 functionality with tags, AJAX, blogs, etc. Right now there is no advertising, but I've got to believe there will be at some point. Something has to pay the bills.

Here's a funny cat video they have on the site.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Fraternities Are Outdated

There is a stigma attached to fraternities due to the bad press regarding hazing, drinking, etc. Even my wife had a negative view of fraternities, until she met me.

This post is why fraternities are not outdated. I can personally attest that the leadership and management training my fraternity provided was invaluable to my business career. Chuck Miller can verify this as well. He is the former CEO of Avery-Denison, who took the company from $30 million in revenue to $5 billion.

My chapter shut down a few years ago due to some unfortunate incidents, but it’s coming back. Delta Upsilon International is helping a group of undergrads to resurrect the chapter. Last night I participated on a conference call with the International consultant, Chuck, and the undergrads. Chuck spoke for about 20 minutes and was truly inspirational. I’m hoping to meet him in person some day, as I hope to accomplish a similar amount of success.

Fraternities are similar to businesses
Below are a few examples

1. Hiring/Rushing – “Selection” is critical to the success of an organization. You need to find the right people for your chapter. My personal opinion is that you need individuals, because there are plenty of followers out there. Too many of these people can lead to group-think and if you get a leader who makes poor decisions- there goes the chapter. I’d rather have the experience of building consensus of varied opinions than blind following.

2. Budgeting – Without a budget both are in deep trouble. There are financial obligations for a fraternity just like a business. Both need insurance, facilities, supplies, etc. Imagine the experience you get from managing a chapter budget- you’ll have plenty of real life examples when you’re interviewing for a job.

3. Revenues – Without revenue (namely cash flow) a business is quickly out of business. A fraternity needs to collect dues and rent for their house. Businesses have to earn the revenue from their customers- fraternities have to do the same. Is your chapter resonating with students enough so that they want to join and stay on?

4. Public Relations – Look at the trouble Walmart is in and you’ll see similar issues with some fraternity chapters. People can quickly demonize a business or a fraternity. A chapter needs to stay ever vigilant to ensure that the surrounding community and the school see the positive contributions.

My intention is not for everyone to walk away thinking that a fraternity experience is the only way to go in college. It doesn’t fit for everyone and I’m sure plenty of clubs offer similar experiences along the four points above. For myself, I’ve got lifelong brothers I can count on in any situation and a solid management and leadership foundation.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

On An Island Video

Check out the extended edit of the 'On An Island' video select your preferred format & connection speed from the following links:

Windows Hi | Lo / Real Hi | Lo

Chasing the tail through the tar sands

Jay Weintraub has written a great post on the economics of lead generation. The key take-away is that the prices of leads will increase overtime as the lead market matures.

I will make one conjecture about the tail Jay writes about. The tail is made up of people who aren’t in the mode of becoming a lead yet or not interested in the services you are marketing. The trick will be how we identify those people who aren’t in the mode of becoming a lead yet or will go offline to find their goods or services. The continual advancement of targeting will eventually help in this effort. Using behavioral targeting as an example, if we can identify people who are starting to research mortgages and capture them as a lead online instead of them going offline for their transaction.

As Jay mentions oil extraction is similar to online lead generation, we need tools to extract offline leads from the tar sands of the Internet.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

On an Island

Just purchased David Gilmour's new album on iTunes this afternoon.

Definitely amazing, pick it up. Can't wait to see him in concert.

Also enjoyed the recent Vh1 Pink Floyd video block. Without TiVo I would have missed this (I was in Phoenix all week), luckily I've set it up to record anything with Pink Floyd in the description. I'm can't wait until my series one dies so I can upgrade to the series two.

Celiac Entrepreneurs

Those of you who know me know that I suffer from Celiac disease. What is Celiac? It means I can’t eat gluten which is present in wheat and barley and other grains. You might ask why this is a problem. To start, if you take a look at the ingredients found in most things you eat, you’ll soon see why. Being Celiac means different challenges over time and these challenges can represent opportunity for entrepreneurs.

In elementary school I was the guy with peanut butter on rice cakes. Back then they weren’t cool; kids thought I was eating Styrofoam.

In college, besides the normally terrible cafeteria food, I was not able to drink beer. Being in a fraternity and unable to drink beer was not easy. I was stuck with hard liquor. Not a bad alternative, but drinking games were definitely out of the question. Chugging a strong Bacardi and Coke doesn’t make too much sense.

Now my challenges are business meetings- what foods are they going to serve? Usually it’s a platter of sandwiches or pizza, both aren’t too satisfying. I either have to remove the bread from the sandwich or scrape the cheese off the pizza. Recently with the South Beach diet popularity people ask, “Are you on South Beach?” Then I have to explain what Celiac is and its prevalence. I don’t really want to stand out as a freak, I’m usually just very hungry.

It looks like my college problems have been solved. Thanks to my Google News Alerts I received a link to an article the other day about a gluten-free beer company. The entrepreneur has secured funding to expand his operations. While this may sound very exciting for me, I’m not too excited. I’ve made it 29 years without drinking beer until the day before my wedding when I tried some of his beer. It tasted terrible. Apparently that’s everyone’s response to the first beer they have. I’ll stick with Bacardi and club soda or maybe I’ll drink enough of his beer to start liking it.

What impresses me most is his entrepreneurial drive to solve a problem for Celiacs.

It’s a great target market, with 1% of the U.S. population. The majority don’t even know they have it yet and find out later on in life- which means they have to give up beer. I predict they will crave his product and Bard’s Beer will be wildly successful.

Good luck Bard’s Tale Beer Company!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Another day without accidents in Phoenix - almost

My last post was about the number of accidents I've been seeing in Phoenix. Today we almost made it without incident- until I received this email from another team member.

Sent: Thu Mar 09 22:08:41 2006
Subject: Another car wreck
Driving home on 202 east, there was a white van on the shoulder that had been crushed, right side of van pushed all the way over to the left.


I'm actually a bit sad tonight because I have to turn in my Lincoln Grand Marquee rental car. It's very empowering to drive a car that makes people think your undercover cops. What's even more fun is to drive around with perps in the back seat.

More accidents in Phoenix?

This week I'm enjoying the warm weather in Phoenix, AZ.

What have I noticed being out here?

I have seen more car accidents in the past 3 days then I have in the past year in Baltimore. Yesterday I saw three car accidents within 10 miles of my hotel. All of them were major accidents where the cars were totaled. The last one of the night involved a four car pile up on a regular 30 mile per hour road in the left turning lane. It looked like the SUV just slammed right into three cars waiting to turn.

Doing a quick search online I found that based on red light running, which I'll use as a proxy for accidents in general, Phoenix was #1 92-98 based on census data of cities > 200,000 people. Click here for the data.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What Should Google Do Next

I just read a great post by Tom Evslin advising Google how to run their business with regards to their stock price.

His advice - Don't try to do anything about the stock price focus on the business because that's what will drive the stock price over the long run.

Definitely give this a great, it's great advice for private companies as well.

Click Here

Friday, March 03, 2006

In control of your own destiny

As I’ve written in previous posts I am a big fan of Southwest Airlines. I was just recently reminded by a friend of another reason why they are popular with me. He was on an American Airlines flight where he was seated in front of a mother and two small children along with a her sister. What ensued was something you normally see on a plane.

2 adults, 2 children, 3 seats - do the math

Crying, screaming, etc. Not a big surprise. Kicking the back of seats.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not anti-kid, but I like how Southwest allows kids to board first. They tend to then cluster at the front of the plane and all of the screaming can occur in a contained area. I can decide how close I want to sit to them. Of course this is predicated on the fact that I have an A boarding pass and the plane isn’t coming in from a connection.

Could the airlines with assigned seating try to place young kids near each other? I wonder if they even ask for ages of passengers. What I do know is the people flying without kids would enjoy the flight more and the parents might be able to find solace sitting with other people in a similar situation.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How not to get a referral bonus

This was inspired by a great post by Fred Wilson about “hiring from within”.

I couldn’t agree more with using personal networks to find new hires. At my present company I was able to recruit a great analyst and receive nice reward for it.

Where did I find such a great candidate?

Through B-school, he was a team member of mine through all of the core classes. I experienced his work ethic and skills first hand.

What made him a great fit?

1. His career goals fit with a new role created in our company.

2. His personality and work ethic was a perfect match for our culture.

So everything is great right? Referrals work? Not Always.

Anytime you create an incentive for something you need to remember the potential side effects. Compensate people for new hires and you might end up getting lots of resumes of poor candidates because people are looking for the $$$s. With this in mind I have a few points of advice.

1. The interviewee is a reflection on you. If you recommend someone who is a bad cultural fit it illustrates how little you understand about the company’s culture. People might question your motivation.

2. The new hire is a reflection on you. You recommend someone who isn’t good and he/she gets hired. Great you’re on your way to getting a referral bonus, but if that person turns out to be a real problem it will reflect poorly on you.

3. Remember the people who are interviewing your candidate value their time. If you knowingly bring someone in who is a poor fit you’re sending the message that you don’t value their time.

How can you make sure you don’t make any of the above mistakes? Ask yourself the following two questions:

1. Would I want this person working for me on a critical project?

2. Would I want this person to work on a critical project for my CEO?

If you can’t answer “yes” to both of these questions be careful because you might be damaging your reputation.