Apple Support

I really have to give a shout out to Apple support for making my day better. I had a screen issue with my 13″ MacBook Pro and it was still under warranty. Called support folks on Friday the 16th. They sent me a box on Monday the 19th and I shipped my computer to them that day. They were able to fix my screen and have my precious computer back to me today the 22nd. I’m a happy customer. Just disappointed there isn’t an authorized Apple repair store closer to my location. Doesn’t matter, I’m happy I have my computer back and it’s just like brand new.

Thanks Apple.

Software Implementation

We are now in the process of implementing a large scale document management system for a construction company. This is an experience that shows the value of good training and documentation as well as setting expectations. The software has been installed and is functioning and now comes the training of the users. We are the reseller of the software not the actual developers, so we base our knowledge on what we’ve learned from installation, use, certifications and documentation provided by the developer.

When training the customers we need to be experts and provide effective recommendations on how to use the software based on the customer’s business needs. Fit the software in the business processes wherever possible for optimal integration. In order to do this we need good resources to educate ourselves on the details of the product. The integration will fail (or not be as effective as it could be) without this knowledge. Your customer will have questions that may get too detailed for your knowledge. Answering these questions with guesses or knee-jerk reactions is dangerous and at that point you are no longer the expert in the customer’s eyes. To prevent this from happening the best thing to do is table the questions you aren’t sure about for a later date until you can do more research.

Documentation for the product is very important as it can provide you and your customer for a base on best practices and detailed information on the functionality the system provides. In our case, the documentation was written by the developer. At this point, it would be beneficial to have documentation up to date when the product is released, not during or after the release of the product. This will eliminate confusion in the future. It is also important that before your reseller can sell the product they need to receive certification for sales and service. If these certifications are not available…wait to release the product. It is far better to have the reseller trained and certified on the product before the implementation cycle begins. This will ensure the developer has passed on key knowledge to the reseller in order to not only sell the product effectively, but to support it as well.

Setting customer expectations in the beginning is important no matter what. Set the rules of the game in the beginning. No one likes changing the rules in the middle of the game. Large scale implementations such as the one we are working on now can be complex and confusing. The thing to practice most is communication. Communicate your responsibilities and requirements to all parties and visa versa. This way everyone knows their role and what they need to accomplish in order to achieve a successful rollout.

Capitalism

Read this HERE

Yup. I’ve thought about what I’d do if I lost my job. Me and the rest of the world, I’m sure. These people in this article are a prime example of what happens in a free market capitalist economy. Work is hard to find right now so people start sticking to what they know and just running with their own business ideas. Or, using what they have learned from education and experience in the workforce to create opportunities for themselves. Can’t find work? Make your own!!!

Part of the reason behind starting Calico Information Systems (previously Calico Technologies) was the fact that I can rely on my own skills as an IT professional to make my business successful. When it comes down to it, I can always rely on my self for employment. So, when I was just out of college and looking for work I told myself that I could make a living on my own if I needed to. Then, I started developing documentation and business models. Setting this all up on a budget of course, considering I had little to no income. The fact is, I’m ready and so are these people.

Always be prepared to lose your job and always have a backup plan.

Tips:

Know how much your life costs – create a budget / expense report. Prioritize your purchases and investments. Read. Bounce ideas off people you know.

I was part of a startup once (not my own). Lessons learned there: don’t get used and don’t be the user. No one is happy being used and using people only makes them go away.

Symbiosis in Business

Settling for what you have is not necessarily what drives me (or others like me). I’ve found that success comes with wanting to achieve more than you’ve achieved already. Continuous improvement is the idea I’m aiming at. I know that if you either a person or a business you need continuous improvement to stay competitive.

At work, when you raise the proverbial bar you are expecting the same from your company. Correct? You’ve shown commitment and dedication to your job and your company should show commitment to you. In other words: you get out what you put in.

Let’s set up a scenario:

You have worked harder and harder each day to provide the best possible services to your company so the company can sustain growth. The harder you work the more your company grows (this assumes everyone is working as hard as you and your hard work is not in vain because a good percentage of employees aren’t productive). When the company grows, your hard work and dedication are rewarded (for the most part) by increases in your compensation package, etc. Keep in mind I said compensation package, which could range from 401(k) to healthcare to base salary. So, you work for the company and the company rewards you with compensation. This can be called a symbiotic relationship if you will. You need the company to provide you with compensation and the company needs you to help it grow and achieve success.

This symbiotic relationship doesn’t exist in some companies. Some over-achievement isn’t rewarded at all. When this happens where do you think the motivation for raising the bar goes? –Out the window– If hard work, dedication and commitment aren’t rewarded, they will eventually cease to exist. Then what can one do to keep productivity, innovation and growth in their company? Hire new people to replace the ones that have lost their motivation? At that point, you’ve created a revolving door where as soon as someone comes on staff and performs at the same level as their predecessor, before you know it, they’re gone too and you have to start all over. And the cycle continues until you have people who are complacent and don’t strive for anything more than just showing up for work. If your employees aren’t continuously improving and sharpening their skills, your company will be hard up for the fuel it needs to grow and stay competitive. Why does this concept seem basic and yet a number of companies operate this way? Are they just getting by, or do they truly not understand how people and business work together in symbiosis to achieve success?

At some point I will examine the means by which companies and employees can avoid the revolving door and corresponding degradation in performance.

Competition

Recently, my friend came across an email he’d received from his boss. The more I think about it the more I want to discuss the topic with him.

The email reads Our competition is doing it, so let’s jump in. At first, the statement sounds right and feels like it can get one motivated to get with the program and try to stay competitive. There are a few dimensions I’d like to discuss that may have some bearing on weather or not this jumping in is a good idea.

Dimension 1: Jump off a cliff
Remember that old saying If all your friends were jumping off a cliff would you? Well, that’s kind of like what this statement is answering. Yes, we are going to jump off that cliff because our competitors are doing it. Are our competitors making sustainable profits from jumping off the cliff? If so, then I’m all for jumping in and developing a plan to get some of those profits too. If they aren’t and they are all just following another business trend, then we’re all going to feel the pain.

Dimension 2: Differentiation
Does jumping in with our competitors compromise our company’s differentiation? In other words, is what we’re going to do in effect put us on the same shelf as the rest of the competition where it’s hard for a customer to recognize any difference between a large number of alternatives? (Have you ever been to the health care isle and seen the number of different toothpaste?) If our business fails to deliver a differentiated product in a saturated market how can we stay competitive? Also, does jumping in take away what makes our company what it is?

Dimension 3: Follow the Leader
This Dimension is probably a continuance of Dimension 1. The follow the leader attitude is not an attitude I would want my business to take. It says to our customers that we can’t come up with any ideas ourselves so we have to rely on what our competitors do to stay in the game. In a perfect world, wouldn’t a company want to stay ahead of their competitors, not right behind them? It all goes back to having intelligent outside of the box creative thinkers who help drive innovation in your company. Fostering creativity usually brings innovation, which can help your organization stay ahead of the game and on top of the competition.

These are just a couple of the things I was thinking about when I first read my friend’s email. There are many other things to think about I’m sure, but for starters we’ll go from here.

Halo Effect [Review]

About the Author

This book really is great if you want balance between the Follow our success plan! business management books. In the very first chapter we realize how little we really know about the business world and how it is studied in famous books such as In Search of Excellence and Good to Great. We really can’t predict the things that happen out there as much as we can predict we will be hit by a speeding train on the way to work. Well maybe that wasn’t exactly what the book was going for, but it’s true. More or less the book introduces us to several key points to remember when reading any business/management blueprint.

The biggest mistake in these types of success blueprint books are this: The Halo Effect. It’s that simple. We put that Halo on successful companies when we talk about what the company did to get successful. If you see a company doing well then it seems like a good idea to practice their management style and follow in their footsteps as much as possible.

Good idea?
No!
Why not?

Correlation does not prove causation.

There are more factors that play in the success of a company (like risk) than just internal management and capabilities. Things like competition, environment and position play a huge role in the success of a company and ultimately it’s image. This is what many of the success blueprint books overlook.

Halo Effect opens up your mind to new views on old ideas. Check it out. I know I’m not doing it justice by only touching on the topics here.