Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Do you Love your Customers?

Why are people so uncomfortable with certain words? I guess it is because words can hold so much emotion. I have seen the face of a wife or child as her husband or father becomes verbally abusive. I have seen the face of elation when certain phrases are uttered. As a matter of fact, as I was driving home for lunch I was listening to the soundtrack to the Phantom of the Opera and found my self so moved by the words that I was nearly to tears. How about the emotions aroused by Rush Limbaugh through his words?

Recently, as a company, we have been formulating a motto of sorts that we can all buy into. Many different phrases were suggested. Some were canned some were meaningless, some were riveting. Finally we decided on "Passionate about People" We felt like this best described the way we felt about our customers and how our product changed their lives.

A few days later I received an email from one of our team leaders stating that a few of the people who were not in attendance at the meeting were not comfortable with the word "Passionate." I thought this was a shame. Not only had this great phrase been vetoed by those who did not even show up at the meeting, but that we would lose a word that held a lot of emotion.

This morning I was thinking of another word that I feel holds much more emotion than "Passionate"... Love.

Love is so poorly defined in the English language. If I say I love my wife, then one thing is implied. If I say I love my mother, than other is implied, if I say I love one of my staff, than another (and sometimes a lawsuit.) But what about if I say I love my customers... Do I love my customer? As I thought about this some universal laws of love started popping into my head. First of all, if I love someone I am willing to make sacrifices of myself for them. That is true either its my family or someone across the world whom I have not met who is starving or has some other affliction. I am willing to sacrifice something either time, or money, or gain, or whatever I deem worthy of my love. Secondly, you do things for those you love which you would not do for other you don't. I may pull some strings for a person to get them a job if I love them, when a person I don't love, I wont even return the call.

In the next few days I am going to put together an article regarding "the challenge to love your customer" In this discovery I hope to learn a greater understanding of what role love can play into making me a better person. Also I will keep with the definition of the three part customer. 1. My Clients 2. My Co-Workers 3. Myself.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Is the guy in the glass my friend?

How is it that we pay thousands of dollars on books or seminars to tell us how pure our motivations are or how worthy the struggle for pelf is. Yet the greatest challenge we face is how we see ourselves at the end of the day. Or maybe we are so concerned with how life is treating us rather than how we are treating life. I came across a poem several years ago that I have stuck under the glass of my desk so it stares up at me as I am in my "struggle for pelf".

"The Guy in the Glass
by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgment upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Why Google will rule the world

This was an awesome blog by Paul Allen today.

"7 Reasons Google Will Rule the World
Once again Google surprised the street with much higher than expected earnings. The stock price has jumped $20 today to more than $210 per share and the market cap is almost $58 billion.
I will not be surprised to see consistent positive earnings surprises coming from Google for many years.
I believe that Google is on track to being the most valuable company on the planet. I blogged last year my prediction that within 10-15 years Google will surpass Microsoft in market cap. Here are 7 reasons why it won't even take 10 years for this to happen:
Google Philosophy. Google has the right philosophy for our time--they want to change the world by helping everyone in the world have access to the information they need at any time. By giving us all access to extremely valuable data and tools, they are amassing the largest customer base in the world. After providing a service and attracting an audience, they figure out smart ways to monetize it. But that is not their first priority--changing the world is.
Efficiency of Advertising Model. Once they have eyeballs, the Google self-service model allows hundreds of thousands of businesses to manage their own accounts. New advertisers can set up an account and have traffic coming to a site in just a few minutes. Overture's staff of humans often takes days to approve a new campaign. Google pays almost nothing to get new customers and almost nothing to generate this revenue--the customers themselves do all the work. The profit margins here are breathtaking.
Good Partner. Google is unbelievably generous with partners--content sites who accept Google ads in exchange for a percentage of the revenue. Because Google is not evil, and they want all sites to accept their ads, they share most of the revenue with their content partners.
Employee Pet Projects. Long term, this is the #1 reason why Google will become the most valuable company in the world. I have read that every employee at Google is allowed (or maybe even required) to spend 20% of their time each week working on a pet project. Most companies operate from the top-down. Managers tell employees what to do. Executives make all the resource allocation decisions. But Google has embraced a philosophy which I think can revolutionize the business world--if other companies are smart enough to adopt it. While the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial people leave companies like Microsoft in frustration in order to start their own enterprises, Google has created an environment where the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial employees can play in their own sandbox, attract attention and support from top management, and have their pet projected funded within the company. I understand that Larry and Sergei keep a list of the top 100 pet projects in the company. Many of the existing services which Google offers (including Orkut and Google News) were developed by employees. I expect to see hundreds more innovating and exciting free services coming from Google in the coming years. I see more innovation here than from almost all the other top internet companies combined.
Speed of Decision Making at the Top. Once a pet project or an outside company catches the imagination of Google's founders, its maybe only a matter of days before they make a decision to invest in something or make an acquisition. Consider Google's acquisition of Blogger and Picasa. I don't think a dozen MBAs took weeks or months to build extensive financial models to justify the decision to get into blogging or free photo sharing. Google's founders' instincts are so good and they have the ability to make decisions so quickly--that the rest of the world--slow and beauracratized as most of it is--better watch out as Google makes big moves and does business at the speed of thought.
Cash Flow Funds Pet Projects and Acquisitions. Google's cash flow is so amazing that anything the founders want to do in terms of funding employee pet projects or making acquisition, they will be able to do. While Microsoft is distributing tens of billions of dollars to its shareholders through dividends (signalling the end of their ability to generate high returns from investing the cash internally), Google will be investing more and more in its world changing strategies--like scanning millions of books from the major research libraries in the world and offering free voice over IP (free telecommunications) to people around the world. No doubt they will become a leader in instant messaging; they will launch a browser to steal market share away from Internet Explorer; they will be prominent in blogging, online photo sharing, and in online communities. Eventually they may even offer an operating system or network computer with application functionality that will compete head on with Microsoft Windows and Office.
Open Source and Declining Hardware Costs. All the services Google rolls out are being launched on cheap hardware using open source software. The costs of providing services to the world are declining at an astonishing rate. And Google is there at the right time, investing like crazy. I heard a Berkeley professor in 1999 talk about how CPU, storage and bandwidth costs were approaching zero over time. I don't think most companies understand what this means. Google is on track to having a million or more cheap computers configured into one great network computer system that will store our personal data, host the knowledge of the world, and provide us with tools for communicating with each other. And the cost of deploying such a world-wide network is decreasing all the time. Which means profit margins at Google will be breath-taking for years to come and the street will continue to be surprised.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I've sold my Google stock and invested the profits in Infobase Ventures' own startup companies. Even if Google increases in value over the next few years and passes Microsoft in market, the return on equity for a good startup company should be much higher than the 5-6 fold returns that Google might provide, the way I see things.
The main risk I see in investing in our own startup companies is that the thousands of smart Google employees might beat us to the punch in executing on most of our good ideas. They seem to be everywhere these days; and I see their pace of innovation only accelerating. "