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August 31, 2009

Re-Incarnation and The business lifecycle

There were two throught provoking articles in the New York Times magazine this weekend. The first, “Facebook Exodus
by Virginia Heffernan, was a great read as it articulated why many members are moving on.

Heffernan profiled several members who left facebook for reasons that included the discomfort of having facebook knowing too much about you, overexposure about your life to others, a waste of time, and a feeling that facebook is stalking them.

Facebook is still a growing giant, attracting 87.7 million unique visitors in July. The article made me think about the lifecycle of businesses and wonder if facebook, like other business that grow very quickly and have a lot of hype will be sustainable in the long run.

I then flipped the page to find that Rob Walker’s article, “Cleaned Sheets” continued this line of thinking. Walker’s profile of Linens ‘n Things is an insightful view into a fascinating business model.

When LNT filed for bankruptcy in 2008, they closed 586 stores throughout the country. They also had assets that creditors purchased during liquidation including a database of 5 million email addresses, the Linens’s and Things name (= brand), and trademark.

They formed a new online company called lnt.com and opened a few months ago with the same concept but exclusively online. Imagine opening a company online but starting off with a database of 5 million customers that already know (and perhaps trust) your brand. Genius!

Taking these two articles made me think that in some cases, re-incarnation is the most important step in a business’s lifecycle. Even if Facebook would lose some of it's novelty, their database and information would most likely be repackaged.

Perhaps you can look at your own business and evaluate if it is time for a re-incarnation? Or what your possible reincarnations might be?

Map Mania - different ways to see familiar places

I was reminded of Ork Posters, which illustrates cities according to neighborhoods (see Manhattan, left)

by the very cool and quite humorous New York Times OpEd Smell Map by Jason Logan, which profiles manhattan according to summer smells (check it out if you havent seen it yet).

I made me think of several other interesting maps that I have seen recently and how they all represent cool ways to see familiar places.

Most recently, OneFloorUp introduced me to the Seven Deadly Sins Map- our nation mapped according to each of the sins (ahem, Greed featured below):

…which reminded me of a Social Explorers Interactive Demographic Map that I saw a couple years ago that demonstrated demographic changes in the country and NYC region according to census information. An interactive map, visit the site to experience!

…which reminded me of a post I saw on Oh Joy! About Famille Summerbelle’s paper cut out maps of London and Paris (pictured below)

…which all reminded me of the more practical (read: less pretty but waterproof & easier to manage – no crumpling) Fabric Rand McNally maps that I recently read about in The Week Magazine.

August 28, 2009

Creative Funding Models Let You Be Part of the Story

We all like to be part of the story. Interestingly, many creative funding alternatives are removing some of the typical barriers (large sums of investable money, personal relationships, specific business or industry expertise) that exist in sponsoring projects and initiatives that we find compelling, and creative ways to contribute that work for busy schedules, and cash-strapped budgets.

A recent entry to the peer-to-peer funding space is Brooklyn-based Kickstarter, who has gotten a lot of press this week, including mentions in
Springwise, the New York Times, and the NYT BITS Blog. With a ‘choose-your-own’ project model (similar to that of Kiva, Rosa Loves, or Small Can Be Big), donors get to contribute to the funding needs of a creative or enterprising person/project. (Wedding Chapel image represents an early project submission).

The difference with Kickstarter is that the contribution is neither an investment (donors don’t get equity) nor is it a loan (donor’s don’t get paid back) nor is it a charity donation (donor’s don’t get a tax deduction). What they do get is some part of the product and to be part of the story, be it a copy of the book, CD, or t-shirt, a lesson, or some experiential benefit - i.e. wedding ceremony. According to the Times article by Jenna Wortham, one donor participant calls says he sees Kickstarter as micro-patronage, - a great way to describe it because it really does appeal to our desire to be connected and involved with the progress of something we like or believe it.

Similarly, Drue Kataoka and Svetlozar Kazanjiev took a slightly different creative funding angle. The created the first “Start-Up Wedding Registry” for their wedding guests…that’s right…instead of traditional fare you can visit their PayPal linked list of Start Up needs and decide what you would like to contribute to the couple’s new start up Aboomba. Maybe you’d like to pay for an hour of legal counsel or buy their team pizza for a week or buy them MS Office or fund a day of Google ads @$.15/click. How creative. And what a meaningful way to really make their guests part of the story. See their video here


While it is really interesting to note that there are a growing number of creative funding platforms and sources, it also worthwhile to really think about the importance of patronage.

* How/when/where/ and why do you take patronage seriously as a patron?

* What businesses do you have a relationship with?

* How do you get to be part fo their story?

* How, as a business owner, do you allow and encourage your clients be patrons?

* In what ways are they able to participate as part of your story?

August 21, 2009

A Calm Force in the Social Media Storm

(photo courtesy of
Lisa Slifko)

I have really taken a liking to Alexandra Samuel’s blog posts on social media.

Perhaps that is just because I have been secretly dying for someone with some authority (Alexandra is of course a social media expert and founder of Social Signal) to tell me “Don't Keep Up With Social Technology”!

But in all fairness to myself, I am very interested in social media, I just get overwhelmed by all that is new and the growing number of open channels. So more than permission not to get involved, I appreciate and respond to Alexandra’s understanding and reason.

An excerpt from Alexandra’s post:

“This year it's Twitter. Last year it was Facebook. The year before it was Second Life. Zoom down from the technologies making headlines and you'll find a much longer list of must-join networks and must-have tools…There is no hope…You can't keep up…And that's great news.

Keeping up is about following someone else's agenda: the bloggers and tweeters who trot out invitations to the latest beta. The marketers, publicists and journalists who blanket us with coverage about the latest hot tech phenomenon. And yes, the tech consultants who charge tens or hundreds of thousands to add new musts to your already long to-do list.

The minute you stop trying to keep up, you open a far more exciting possibility: getting ahead with what matters to you, your team and your business.”

Yes, thank you. A call to focus on what is important to me and permission not to worry about ‘keeping up’.

In another post, Alexandra discusses
Three Instantly Effective Social Media Ideas.

What I liked about these suggestions was the format in which they were presented. Each idea is described (i.e. a suggestion box), punctuated by examples of actual companies who use the technology, and then given the following breakdown of advice: How to do it; Where to spend; Where to save; Where to get help.

It is clear to me that Alexandra is operating from a place of tremendous knowledge but is quite capable of speaking succinctly to novices like myself. The advice anticipates a small business owner's fears and concerns and quickly focuses on what you really need to know.

It is always a welcome pleasure for me to find a good, steady, reason voice amidst the social media storm. I have learned about wonderful resources and tips (like how to
properly use Facebook friend lists) from Marci Alboher and received terrific advice from folks such as Katie Hellmuth (who advised to pick one or two times a year to mess around in the social media world and try something new, and otherwise do the best you can and not let it distract you from your bottom-line business activities).

Should you be interesting in keeping up with or boning up on the latest it social media tool – Twitter – a fantastic and equally reasoned and practical resource is the newly released
Twitter Book, written by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein, who so graciously donated a copy to the In Good Company Resource Library.

Mashable's Social Good Conference - a few days left!

we wanted to share this great event with you! Early-Bird Pricing until the 25th!

Mashable is proud to announce the first ever Social Good Conference. The Social Good Conference, being held at the prestigious 92nd Street Y in New York City on August 28th, will be a one-day educational event celebrating the finale of the Summer of Social Good charitable campaign. The conference will feature presentations from well known and respected organizations and professionals within the space focused on the theme of "Social Media for Social Good". Thanks to our sponsors, Zappos and MailChimp, 100% of all ticket sales will go to our Summer of Social Good non-profit fund!

For Details, Pricing, and Speaker Line-Up

August 20, 2009

Words Speak Louder Than We Thought, Did You Hear That?

A few weeks ago, I
posted about CommonCraft, a really cool site that creates 3 minute instructional videos. That post was then followed up by another on HowCast, a user generated site of explanatory videos.

There is clearly a trend here and I really like these little videos – they are cool, short, engaging, and very informative.

So I was very pleased when CEO of Creativity Works, Martin Shovel, shared with my a video that his company made and posted on youtube debunking on of the most popular communication myths around – that the actual words you use are the least important communication vehicle as compared to facial expressions and tone of voice.

I actually remember being taught this myth multiple times in graduate school (as well as later in several professional development workshops) and while in the context of learning about cross-cultural communication the importance of non-verbal communication is critical principle, I found the video’s counterpoint to this common myth to be quite compelling.

The video has received a whopping 6,649 views and has received comments by folks such as Seth Godin and Daniel Pink.

Check it out for yourself and see what you think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dboA8cag1M

Food For Thought:

What impact does this information have on your thoughts about communication in general, and your personal style of communication?

What do you think about the impact and effectiveness of these kinds of videos as a communication tool? As a promotional tool?

August 15, 2009

Perfect Pairings - original, unexpected, and genius collaborations that boost brands

I recently read a very interesting post about employee uniforms for the Ace Hotel here in NYC on ­­­­­Cool Hunting. I first found the Ace Hotel doing a search Oyster Hotel Reviews (which we posted on a couple weeks ago here).

The Ace Hotel, which is described on Oyster’s site as “meticulously curated, vintage-inspired…cool, comfortable, and inviting in its own way”, has extended their well-managed image all the way through to their employees uniforms. (read Oyster's full review of Ace Hotel)

In addition to incorporating recognizable fashion staples from
Levi's to Uniqlo, CoolHunting reports that they have also collaborated with Converse to develop an exclusive L. Gambert to create custom fitted shirts and a housekeeping uniform - a utilitarian shirt-dress.

I think these collaborations are genius and they also remind me of BabyCakes uniform initiatives. BabyCakes the ultra-cool and much buzzed-about gluten and allergy-free bakery, first partnered with local BuiltByWendy (who is offering a great sale right now) for their season one uniforms and later with EarnstSewn.

In both cases these relationships help to further cement the companies’ brand image, cultivate consumer intrigue, and solidify the uniqueness of each company’s offering and experience.

Obviously all of our businesses neither involve uniforms nor would be helped by incorporating them. But it is worth considering how you could apply this same kind of thinking or approach to your own business.

What kinds of collaborations and partnership could help to further define your brand, cultivate intrigue, and distinguish the experience you offer?

August 11, 2009

Pennsylvania promotion pickle: Bears, sure. But, tax-free shopping?

I recently posted about Inc magazine’s list of Memorable Marketing Moments and criticized many of them for being about sheer shock value or clear taunts to competitors. (read more Setting a Good Example:Marketing Campaigns to Remember)

So, I feel a little torn about the debate over one of Pennsylvania’s (my home state) recent tourism marketing campaigns. It seems that the state printed posters for the Tube in London advertising its bears and tax-free shopping. The slogan actually says: Pennsylvania. Home of Bears and Tax-Free Shopping.

I, for one, love the image. It is cute and punctuated with a funny, shopping bear graphic. So what’s the problem? Well, Delaware, our neighbor, is none too pleased as they are officially the State of Tax-Free shopping and many feel like PA’s new campaign is misleading at best.

For clarification purposes, PA does have tax-free shopping on food & clothing (and BTW drugs, textbooks, resale items and residential heating fuels), but not on restaurant tabs for example. And lord knows our state has plenty of bears.

I don't think it is similar to the very negative ones listed in the Inc list, but is this campaign misleading? Or maybe just insensitive to Delaware’s reputation and tourist calling card?

Have you had the experience of another business advertising messages similar to yours? As a business owner have you felt constricted on account of messages, words, or phrases already used by other businesses?

August 9, 2009

The Business of Karma

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend who made a statement with such conviction, it has been swimming in my head ever since. He said, "everything in this world gets rewarded or punished just sometimes we don't understand - there are always consequences." What amazed me most about what he was saying was the context - he was talking about a business deal that went sour.

I have always subscribed to the Karma-esque "what goes around comes around" way of thinking when it comes to business (and I suppose life in general). As such I try to act professionally and with integrity and respect for others. Put differently I like to act in a way that makes it easy to sleep well at night. So, if this is what I already believe and how I already behave, then why did I find this statement so riveting?

Many of us have had that experience where we feel like we are plugging away and then our competitor who - fill in the blank (just launched, does not do good business, has a bad reputation, has behaved poorly, overcharges...) suddenly gets a - fill in the blank (a big media hit, lands a huge client, has a lot of buzz) and we scratch our heads and wonder what we are doing wrong.

Maybe it was just the timing or maybe it was my friend’s conviction or maybe it was the impact of hearing this philosophy from someone else, but bottom line - his statement put me at ease.

It is easy to forget that we never know the whole picture and that someone else's business feat (though it may seem like a setback to our business) is in actuality totally unrelated to our own (worthy) business and (good) behavior. If there is such a thing as Karma than we should really continue to work as hard as we can, be true to ourselves and our business, and know that doing the right thing will yield unknown rewards in the future. And if there isn’t such thing as karma, then it is still important to treat others respectfully and to sleep well at night!

posted by Amy

August 3, 2009

Getting You To Your Finish Line - Member Spotlight Workshop with Ann Mehl

Members of In Good Company WorkPlaces are invited to give a 'member spotlight workshop' for the IGC community. A recent event featured Ann Mehl - Certified Career and Life Coach. We asked her to share some information from that workshop here.

If I were asked to put my finger on the tipping point of the proudest moment in my life, it would be right before I approached Heartbreak Hill during the Boston Marathon in April, 1993. As I turned a corner on the course, I heard a spectator whisper to a friend, “She’ll never make it to the finish.” Perhaps this guy thought I was not equipped for what lie ahead? But once I heard this, I decided to "put the hammer down" as they say. I started to run faster. I had over 6 miles to go to finish the 26.2-mile distance and I was not going to give up. And that is just what I did that day. I managed to cross the finish line and prove to myself that I was courageous and capable. In the committing and the struggle and the doing, I found strength of character and it changed me.

It was the hardest thing I've ever done. But afterwards, I had such a sense of accomplishment, that it changed how I saw myself. I had accessed some part of “me” that I didn't even know existed. Since then, I've run over 40 marathons around the world, and each time I grow & learn more about who I am & what I am capable of.

This past June, I told this story as well as other “Lessons Learned From The Road” to members of IGC. I shared that I became a certified life and career coach because I wanted to help other people expand their sense of self.

With 9 years of executive recruiting experience within the tech and financial sectors, I’ve had practice counseling people 1:1 as they navigate through their careers. Every client’s need is different. For some, it can be as practical as assisting them to prepare for an interview, ask for a raise or change direction in their jobs. Usually it goes a little deeper- helping people to expand their concept of self and what is possible. Seeing someone push through a mental block, or do something they had never dreamed possible- for me, that's the greatest joy there is.
Here is a video from my IGC talk, which highlights the topics we covered:

Whatever your personal “finish line” might be, if you feel ready for change or just need help getting a jump-start, please reach out:

- posted by Ann Mehl