Monthly Archives: March 2005

Greetings from Sunny California

DSCF0133

My daughter Grace, ready for the beach.

The Most Amazing Basketball Game I’ve Ever Seen

Illinois 90

Arizona 89

OT

New Design Tweaks

As I get caught up on blogging, I’ve made a bunch of minor changes here at the blog.  First, I’ve revised the heading to make it a bit more readable.  I’ve also taken Dennis Kennedy’s advice and “branded” this blog with my name.  Finally, I’m adding a small footer to each post for a while to see how it works.  I need to keep a few steps ahead of the RSS bandits.

 From Matthew Homann’s [non]billable hour blog.

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Even more useless stuff today!

http://robmanuel.blogspot.com/2005/02/notepad-invaders.html

Let’s try that LexThink! Fun again.

 

L E, Seattlescrabble xThInformationNkCronulla beach warning

More Ridiculousness – Not Family Friendly

Since I’m on a roll posting a bunch of non-nonbillable hour related stuff, here’s a hilarous conversation answering this question:

How many 5 year-olds could you take on at once?

The specifics:

- You are in an enclosed area, roughly the size of a basketball court. There are no foreign objects.
- You are not allowed to touch a wall.
- When you are knocked unconscious, you lose. When they are all knocked unconscious, they lose. Once a kid is knocked unconscious, that kid is “out.”
- I (or someone else intent on seeing to it you fail) get to choose the kids from a pool that is twice the size of your magic number. The pool will be 50/50 in terms of gender and will have no discernable abnormalities in terms of demographics, other than they are all healthy Americans.
- The kids receive one day of training from hand-to-hand combat experts who will train them specifically to team up to take down one adult. You will receive one hour of “counter-tactics” training.
- There is no protective padding for any combatant other than the standard-issue cup.
* The kids are motivated enough to not get scared, regardless of the bloodshed. Even the very last one will give it his/her best to take you down.

(Link from alltheseideas.com).

Gotta Have More Cowbell!

When life gets you down, and you don’t know where to turn, just get yourself some more cowbell.  (Thanks to Emlyn.net for the link).  And if the cowbell doesn’t do the trick, maybe a Schweddy Weiner.  

Edit Your Selection

Andrea Learned writes about how women appreciate an edited selection:

Not every laptop known-to-man needs to be available at your consumer electronics store.  Rather, do some research and reflect that you know your customers: deliver the top 10 sellers or the ones about which your customers requested most information in the past few years.  …   If your camera store, clothing store, appliance store or computer store has done its work, you will have discovered the “top 10″ of your women customers’ favorites and those will be the ones you provide and the products for which you train your customer service staff to know EVERYTHING about.

For me, the takeaway quote for professional service providers:

Sometimes limits aren’t bad.  In a retailer’s situation, narrowing product selection can just reflect an excellent understanding of the store’s core customers.

Getting the Budget from a Client

Jason at 37 Signals shares this tip he received from his friend Carlos:

First you should just ask them for it. Be blunt: “What’s your budget or budget range for this project?” If you have a good client they’ll tell you (and trust me, you want good clients — finding the right clients is 90% of this business). If you have a reticent client they may say “we don’t have one yet” or “we’re just looking right now” or “we want you to tell us how much it will cost.” Truth is, everyone has a number in their head. They have a good idea of what they can spend or they wouldn’t be shopping in public. If they don’t then they shouldn’t be asking you to invest your time in writing a proposal — and you most certainly shouldn’t provide them with one.

So, how do you get the number when they won’t tell you? Try this: When they tell you they don’t have a number say, “Oh, ok. So a $100,000 solution would work for you?” They’ll quickly come back… “Oh no, probably something more around $30K.” BINGO: That’s the budget.

Zip Decode

Another very, very cool idea.

I couldn’t have said it better myself

Will Keller tells us Why Hourly Billing Sucks.

This is what happens when you move across the country.

Jeff Beard beats me to the punch and blogs about a great article on networking.  Read them both.

What came first, the customer or customer service?

Tom Asaker, at A Clear Eye, asks this question:

Should banks and credit unions try to develop a community of like-minded people by creating a more personal and aesthetically appealing experience, al la Starbucks and Barnes & Nobles. Will customers forgo the percentage points – however small – required to create such an experience? Or should the value innovation be to reduce the emphasis on people and place and focus instead on information, choice, hard cash, and value for time, a la Amazon.com and Progressive Insurance? Perhaps the market could sustain both? Or neither? Something in the middle? Please let me know what you think/feel?

In one of the comments to the post, a woman named Susan writes:

i think its interesting that people discount the need for branches by saying that they “only walk in there once a year.” this may not be a cause but an effect. it is the RESULT of bad banking practices not from lack of necessity to speak with a human being related to your financial needs.

Is this the same reason people don’t go to lawyers more often? 

Hell freezes over first.

AJ Levy, at Out-of-the-Box Lawyering points us to a law review article (not online, I’m afraid) suggesting law school professors have an obligation to engage in law practice.  The cite is here — Bluebook be damned:

"The Dangers of the Ivory Tower: The Obligation of Law Professors to Engage in the Practice of Law."  50 Loyola L. Rev. 623 – 673 (Fall 2004) by Amy B. Cohen.

The author, a professor herself, came to her groundbreaking conclusion after taking a one semester sabbatical to return to law practice!

I’m not going to take potshots at Professor Cohen, because I totally agree with her argument.  But one semester, come on.  If she had taken five years to rejoin her law school brethren (and sistren) in the trenches, she would have gotten a better picture of current law practice, but may have penned this article insead:

“What the Hell was I Thinking:  The Obligation of Law Professors Never Ever Ever to Leave the Ivory Tower.”

Low Cost Marketing Strategies

Michael Cage offers seven great Low-Cost, High-Impact Marketing Tools.  Here are my favorites:

#4. Call your clients. Yes, call them. On the phone. In today’s rushed and hectic world, a little human attention goes a long way. If you want to turn spare minutes productive, keep a list of clients who bought from you in the last 30-90 days nearby. When you have free moments, call and ask how the solution you sold them is working. Aside from generating enormous good will (”they actually care about me!”) … some will have new needs or questions that will lead to new sales.

#7. Ask everyone for referrals. People who buy from you? Ask for referrals. People who don’t buy from you? Ask for referrals. Here’s a simple, no-cost way to increase your referrals: Before you deliver a solution, tell your client that you prefer getting new business by referral. Less money spent on advertising means better deals for clients like him/her, and you’d like to work with more people like him/her. Ask them, “after we’ve delivered this and you are thrilled with how things work, would you refer us to your friends/colleagues?” After you’ve delivered, make sure they are thrilled, and only then ask for a list of friends or colleagues who would want the same service and expertise.

Some business-building lessons

Dan at Starting It shares some lessons he’s learned building his business into a great company. 

First, the company must have a never-ending commitment to being the best. Every decision must be bounced up against the question – “What would a truly great company do on this issue?”

Second, you’ve got to say you are going to be the best right from the start – when it sounds funny to do so. Then, you’ve got to say you are the best before most people can even see that it has actually happened.

Third, you’ve got to be committed to measuring how good you really are on a regular basis and then putting a plan in place to improve the weaknesses. We recommend an annual survey. It can certainly be painful to learn the truth about how you are doing – but that’s the only way to get better.

Fourth, you’ve got to have a core set of principals that you follow on a day-to-day basis.

At Dan’s company, Digital Grit, those principals are:

1) A clear and compelling vision for the future and a demonstrated willingness to make the tough decisions required to turn that vision into a reality.

2) Action vs. inaction – make things happen.

3) A culture of excellence – success, growth, innovative “want to change the world” solutions, hard work, attention to detail, refuse to lose, planning, financial management, and fun.

4) An unwavering respect for each individual. Loyalty, commitment to diversity, accountability, empowerment, recognition.

5) A never-ending desire to learn and a true willingness to be humble.

6) Open, honest and frequent communications at all levels in multiple forms.

7) A commitment to hiring only the best.

What are your company’s core set of principals?

Ask Mr. Science

Now, the last thing that I am is a scientist, but I found this article in the NewScientist.com fascinating:  13 Things That Do Not Make Sense

Dim the lights, put on some music, and make some dough.

Ankesh has  these great suggestions at Marketing eYe for retailers:

2 very important small changes that lead to big profits:

Lighting: Change the lighting and you’ll increase your profits. If you have a lot of women shoppers, use non-glaring white lights. Direct lighting makes skin look 5-10 years older. Indirect use of soft non-glaring white light makes women look younger.

Restaurants who have changed their lighting have seen profits increase by as much as 20%! Just like that! Indirect lighting changes the context and makes the food more delicious – magically!

Music: Soft classical music makes customers stay longer and spend more in your store.

Classical music changes the context and makes people believe that your store is an upscale one. And thus they spend more time and don’t hesitate to buy even if your prices are higher than the competitor’s.

What does your office look like?  What music is playing?

Pick your color

Just cool.

And Speaking of Overpromising

Rob at Businesspundit directed me to this article, titled Why Do We OvercommitThe article summarizes a study that reveals that people over-commit because they think they’ll have more time in the future then they do in the present: “In short, the future is ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.” 

Mispromise and Desatisfy

Andy from Marketing Genius has this interesting take, on how great advertising can hurt business.  

The next time you create a new, exciting, cutting edge advertising campaign, take out a note card and write down the promise that you have created for the customer. …What are you saying the customer is going to get out of the experience if they do what you want them to?  Ok, now set the campaign aside.  Go and do business with the customer that you created the campaign for (make sure you take the card with you). Visit their store, go to their website, call them – whatever – interact with the client as a customers and see if you fulfill the promise you just offered up to the world on behalf of your client. . . . What if your advertising promises top notch service and a customer receives fair service? . . .Your advertising actually reduced sales in the long run because you prompted trial and offered a promise that wasn’t delivered. . . . Uh! Oh! – effective advertising actually reducing sales.  Now that’s a point to ponder.

Don’t make a promise your business can’t keep.  You could turn an otherwise satisfied customer into an unsatisfied one, only because you’ve raised their expectations beyond what your business can deliver.

San Francisco Drinks?

I’m going to be flying into San Francisco for a meeting this Friday.  I’ll be free Thursday night if anyone wants to meet for a cocktail and conversation.  Drop me a line at homann (at) gmail.com

Thinking Tool

Several months ago, I came across the Oblique Strategies web site.  I always wanted to post about it, but was never able to completely describe the point of the “game.”  Yesterday, I found this on-line version (requires flash) that makes everything a bit clearer.  In short, think of a problem you have or a decision you must make. “Draw” one card at random and use its guidance to help you approach your dilemma from a different direction.  A worthwhile look.

 

ABA Techshow Bloger Dinner

Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell have already posted a few times about this, but if you are a blogger (legal or not) and are going to be in Chicago on Wednesday, March 30, let me know and I’ll make sure to get you an invitation to the Blogger dinner.  It will be held at Catalyst Ranch, the same place we are doing LexThink, and should be a wonderful time to get to meet some fellow bloggers. 

Testing Blogjet

I’ve been using Blogjet for quite some time, but had a few issues with a recent release.  Just testing the newest version with this post. 

Something I think I knew once …

Here is my favorite thing about the web:  I can be surfing along, trying to do real work, and run across stuff like thisFifteen minutes Two hours of wasted time later, I’ve now looked at the entire site, and almost woke up my daughter because I was laughing so hard.  Now, I feel compelled to waste some of your time too.  Consider yourself warned! 

Seriously, it is just an honor to be nominated…

Fresh off my surprising win of "Best New Blawg" from Dennis Kennedy, I’ve just learned that this blog has won a "Buzzy" from the ABA’s GP-Solo section.  For those of you coming here for the first time, welcome.

For regular readers, things are not yet "normal" here in Southern California (if they ever were), but my wife and I are settling in to our "spacious" apartment in the Oakwood corporate housing development.   Our two year old daughter, Grace, made the trip like a champ, and she starts full-time daycare Thursday.  Today’s trial run ended in tears, but we’ll give it another half-day go tomorrow.

I’m starting my regular blogging schedule Thursday morning.  Look for a flurry of posts between now and LexThink in April. 

Thanks for your patience!

Dear America West

I know my call is important to you, because you’ve now told me that every minute for the 48 minutes I’ve been on hold.  Freakin’ amazing.

Postings will resume soon …

Just five more days until the insanity ends.  Here is a brief update: 

  • My daughter and I will join my wife in California this Sunday. 
  • Playing “Mr. Mom” for the past two weeks is pretty cool.
  • Thank God for Diet Mountain Dew.
  • The house is on the market.  If you want to buy it, I’ll offer a blog discount.
  • LexThink will be amazing (but taking around 4 hours per day of my time to get the details straight).
  • Packing is less than 20% done. 
  • Office work is more than 80% done.
  • Sleep comes occasionally.
  • Pulling my first “all-nighter” tomorrow.  Don’t believe me, e-mail me on Thursday at 3:00 am and see how long it takes me to answer.
  • Did I already thank God for Diet Mountain Dew?
  • The great news is that I now know that when I am under a tremendous amount of pressure, my hair just gets grayer — it doesn’t fall out (unless I pull it)!

Until Monday, resuming blog silence.