A little bit of everything

Delivering happiness by being happy yourself

I didn’t know Tony Hsieh or Zappos. Actually, I have never heard of them before. But last year, I was surfing the web and found a video with an interview of some crazy guy to Barbara Walters on 20/20. I became curious by the strange business concepts he was pushing forward during the interview, and it lead me to buy this guy’s book the next day. And I read it in 24 hours.

Obviously, the book was “Delivering happiness” and this was my introduction to Tony and his very different approach to company culture, business strategy and entrepreneurial mindset. The book is not great in terms of literary competency, so no Nobel Prize in the vicinity, but the concepts and the ideas amazed me. I guess you can tell that, along with the book, I bought Tony’s concepts about businesses and life. And by “I bought”, I really mean it took me.

When I first saw the interview I was skeptical (to say the least) about this managerial approach. Actually, what interested me the most were not all the concepts in themselves (which I though were just another hype), but the fact that someone made a successful company in spite of them! More than that, something was there, because Amazon decided to acquire that company for a billion dollars (and this was 3 years ago…).

So about the book. First the critiques: as I told you before, it is not a literary master piece as Tony Hsieh himself will inform you in the Introduction. But it does the trick. On the other hand its rhythm is not constant. What I mean is, half the book is an auto-biography. A cool one, about an Asian-American, with an entrepreneurial spirit, business driven from cradle, who wanted to do nice things and enjoy himself while developing his own businesses. Then, you have a second part, which is the implementation of the business philosophy he was developing. And he did so, applying all his concepts at Zappos.com and succeeded. And so far, so good. The book made sense. The organization of it was logical, too. But there is a third part, on I couldn’t figure out as part of the same book. It was a list of things companies should do (according to Tony) to become great and how to do it. But this feels kind of weird inside this book. It almost feels like a strange body that is not correctly fitted in there. But that’s enough with the critiques, otherwise you’ll think the book is not good at all. Which is not true! It is a good book and it is definitely worth reading, because the ideas of this guy are pretty interesting!

Tony argues that a company should run the extra mile for its customers. And that means actually doing whatever it takes to make sure the client gets satisfied. Even delivering a pizza to someone, although your company is about selling shoes… but if that’s what it takes for that person to be happy, you should do it. It’s pretty much assuming the concept of “defaulting to yes” that many authors (Guy Kawasaky et al) are proclaiming but giving the next step and, not only saying yes, but doing yes.

On the other hand, Tony says that if you want a company to completely commit to its customers, you have to make sure that company has its staff committed with each other and with the company itself. And to do so, you have to make sure your employees are happy. Completely happy. And ready to do the extra effort for the company. And they should do it because it’s not going to fell like an effort at all. To achieve it, Tony argues that all the staff should be as a family. And, yes families have problems, and arguments, and fights, but people try to keep it and solve it within the family. And as if that was not enough, he proclaims that excellency (in terms of this concept of the company as a family) is only achieved when employees want to spend all their time with other co-workers.

Bringing all this together, Tony Hsieh built Zappos.com and made it the most successful online shoes retailer by far. And it was so successful that in 2009 Amazon decided to acquire it for a sum around 1 billion dollars… Yes, a load truck of money, right?

I’d say that’s a pretty convincing argument about, at least, giving these ideas a chance. In the end, they might take you. They sure took me.

In the book you’ll find these ideas, but better thought and better explained (it took him a couple more characters too…). Don’t loose the interest because I didn’t argue for these concepts well enough. He does it way, way better. And it’s by far more interesting, because it’s full of funny episodes of his own experience. So, definitely worth to read.

 

Tell me what you listen to, I’ll tell you who you are…

Update of the week: Tell me what kind of music you listen to, and I’ll tell you who you are.

These were the words I used to comment an entry on Facebook from an old friend of mine, where she linked to the video of a great music. Obvisously what I meant was to make a relation between the good music my friend was proposing and who she was – a good person, according to the statement above.

Today, as I was listening to a very good music while walking to the office, I began thinking if it wasn’t a two way road: yes, I can tell somethings about some one by the music she listens to; but one can also change herself by listening to different kinds of music. I’m pretty sure we all have examples of our mood changing because we heard a great vibrant music on the radio that made us happy, or powerful, and that boosted us for the day, right?

I guess, I’ll have to change my saying to:

Tell me who you want to be, and I’ll tell you what music to listen to.

…and it’s becoming flatter and flatter everyday

The World is Flat was one of the first books I’ve read on the changes produced in the world by all the possibilities of the modern age and the web 2.0. Here you can find the 10 flatteners or, according to Thomas Friedman, the conditions that allowed the world to become flat. On the other hand Mr. Friedman also explains how those 10 flatteners work together to allow the world to become flat.

It is quite common nowadays to read or listen the idea that today, as never before, it is easier to produce whatever you want, wherever it is easier, when it’s cheaper and the most appropriate way. You can design something in Italy, define the standard in Germany, produce it in China, establish the support in India, market in the US and then sell it all over the world!

Obviously this idea is not new anymore. And it Thomas Friedman was not the first one to notice all these features and situations. However, his book has three features that put it above all the others on the same subject.

First it is well organized and structured. It is very easy to read and comprehend all the concepts and ideas Mr. Friedman puts forth.

On the other hand, Mr. Friedman’s experiences are very well depicted in the book and he can actually fit them very well on each of the concepts creating a more interesting and entailing story for the reader.

Last but not the least Mr. Friedman’s writing is very easy to follow and entertaining and with very good rhythm.

Ok, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t read the latest edition, I read the original “The World is Flat”. The current one is a new and revised edition with new chapters and updated with new stories and examples. I’m anxious to read it too, because if the two new chapters are half as good as the previous 15, the book is still amazing.

If you want to buy the book, just follow the link on the image bellow.

Why do kids swear?

I recently wrote a post on how kids see the swearing restrictions we impose on them. This post was written on another blog where I try to reproduce kids voices. What I write over there doesn’t aspire to be serious nor does it intend to even represent my opinions on each subject.

Disclaimer done, so I need to say I obviously think parents should impose language limitations to their children.I do believe in good-manners and I try to raise my children to be well-mannered. I think we shouldn’t impose ourselves on others, and that’s what being well-bred is about.

On that post in Limetree Kids, I (intentionally) used a fallacy. I assumed there were words which purpose would be lost if they were not used currently. The assumption was that all words purpose was to be used on regular basis, which obviously is not the case. I won’t go in much details about swearing, the benefits of it, how it evolved through years and so on… I’ll leave it to another post. I promise I’ll come to this later.

But what interests me right now is to understand why do kids swear? What moves them towards it?

I guess there are two reasons that push kids into swearing, especially during their second / third year of life: first thing, it’s a new thing to them. You can almost sense their savoring the words as they say it, particularly because they understand by the adults’ reactions that they shouldn’t be saying those words at all. Secondly, it’s their defying attitude. Many times, they are testing us; they want to see what’s our limit. And so, they are doing it to make sure we notice them. Because they feel noticed when they do bad things and you have to scold them.

Should we let them do it? I don’t think so.

Do I overreact when my kids do it? I try not to. I’ve come to understand that the more you rise up against it, the more they’ll do it. So I try not to make a big deal out of it. Yes, I’ll tell them it’s wrong. Yes, I’ll let them know I don’t like it and make them stop when they start saying it (and little kids don’t use the word once. They repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it, until they make it impossible for you to ignore it). But in the end I try to wave it and change the subject, ask a question about something else, or deviate their attention into something different.

What do you think? Is this a good solution? Let me know…

Instagram and the bubbles…

Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine about the internet bubble.

Is there a bubble? What’s causing it? What effects of it are you seeing? Why do you think it’s a bubble?

Obviously the topic came to the conversation because of Instagram… There’s nothing more spoken of these days than the grand acquisition by Facebook. And we were coming around some of the same questions that are being formulated by many:

Is Instagram worth that truck filled with money? Do you know they don’t even have a business model? At least one everybody can see?

What the hell does FB wants Instagram for? Is it for the mobile? Is it just to keep it out of someone else’s hands?

And we discussed lots of other deals done or not done, that changed or should have changed the internet, the way we do businesses, and our world as we know it. And how many of them didn’t.

And we kept discussing if people were once again looking at the internet and all “net related” businesses as the new Nirvana. And wether internet traffic or “web” traffic was being over considered and over evaluated.

And hence came the question:

It’s all about marketing, commercials and advertising. – my friend said, and continued – For the past decade or so, commercial money is ruling the world. Brands make products and want to sell them. To do so they need to advertise. And they look for the best place to do it, where the most people are. And that’s the internet. Therefore, whatever the bubble is – and he didn’t understand the Instagram acquisition – , it won’t affect the ad industry or the internet businesses based on ads. Brands will have products to sell and will have to sell them to people, wherever they are. And whatever happens people will still be there (on the internet).

I don’t find it to be so straightforward. And this is my euphemism for: I don’t agree…

I think there’s definitely a bubble. Although I think the bubble is exactly because / around / with the commercial / advertising industry. And therefore, yes, I think when the bubble bursts, it will definitely explode on the hands of all those who where solely basing their business on the ads and commercial strategy.

The free strategy, which was so much in vogue on the internet in the past few years, might be good for the few successful ones. But it’s not the solution as a whole for the content producers around the world. The concept that I can offer whatever product I have, and in return I’ll have millions of users doesn’t strike me. And that I can “distill” those millions of users in dollar bills and monetize my business… doesn’t look like a very good model to me. And yes, there will always be those who live on that, and can build a business on those assumptions. But the majority won’t. If you create something (a product, a content, a service) it costs you, and most of the times it has to be paid for. Directly! If nothing else, and if you can’t sell your product to anyone, maybe that’s a clue your product is not that good after all… I’m not saying you have to charge for everything. I’m not saying some free goods cannot be the lure for other stuff your selling. That’s different than just offering everything for the sake of the number of users…

Yes, there are great examples of some who succeeded doing the opposite… Yes, Alexander Magnum conquered half the world, and look at what happened to most of those who tried to do the same after him…

Although there are many critiques to the free model these days, one can still found several examples of businesses gurus making the apology of these model. And many of the over evaluated social networks or pseudo networks are being built (and financed) on this assumption: if you have a large base of people following you, you can “sell” those numbers to ad companies and that will monetize your project.

I have my doubts… but then again, what do I know about this, right?

What do you think? Let me know…

Buzzword Bingo

The idea is not mine. I placed an order from moo.com, and when it came it brought a “meeting companions collection”.

I’m not a big fan of meetings. That doesn’t mean I don’t value face-to-face, I do, but usually what people do in a meeting can be done without the physical presence of the attendees, or at least without most of them. On the other hand, meetings are one of the most expensive operations within a business. Just sum the cost of all those present at a 2 hour meeting and you’ll get what I’m saying.

Nonetheless, sometimes I do find myself in meetings. Oh boy, and now I long for those.

One of the games moo.com proposed on their “companion kit” is very simple. You pick a card with several words (like the one in the picture) and during the meeting you check the words as you hear them. And then it’s just like playing bingo. There are even some great variations proposed, like shouting “awesome” when someone says the magic word “monetize”.

I’ve loved this game, and I am looking forward for the first time I’ll be able to use it. My guess is, if you’ll attend “new economy” meetings in the next few days, take this card and you’ll love it.

Come back when you do so. I’ll love to hear the stories 🙂

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Kids and luggage

It’s always a war when we decide to go somewhere with our kids. And I know, from my empirical knowledge gathered from hundreds of conversations with fellow parents, that it’s the same with every family in the world. Deciding on what to take with you when you’re taking you’re kids somewhere is always a thrill. And usually ends up with either me or my wife saying “ok, forget it. Take whatever you want, I don’t care.”

So it’s a problem, which means it bugs me and I would like to be able to fix it. It can even bring all kinds of “great ramifications” to add complexity to the situation, like when you don’t have suitcases big enough, or a car big enough, or when your back hurts and you don’t want to carry tons of luggage around…

One alternative I have already discussed with my wife is the “travel light option”. She doesn’t quite agree and we’re still in the process of me trying to convince her, but we’re getting somewhere. And I’ve already discussed this option with some friends who have decided to adopt this “travel style” when going with the kids.

Last week I read a great post on how to do it. If you want my advice, I’d leave this post you’re reading and jump right at that one. It’s more educative and I’m quite certain you’ll find it better written than mine. However, if you’re my parent, my relative, my friend or whatever, and have to stuck with me because you know I’m pulling the quiz on this in a few days: here is the link so that you can go there later 🙂

The logic of this “travel light option” is very simple: there’s nothing your kids will really need that you must take with you when traveling. Nothing. Ok, except that pacifier my daughter can’t live without. And that Tiger my son needs to be able to go to sleep. And the blanket I have to carry everywhere, so that my baby daughter doesn’t cry at night. Except these 3 articles, there’s nothing your kids will really need that you must always take with you. You can always get a new t-shirt for them if you come to the conclusion you didn’t bring enough shirts. You can always wash the ones you take. Kids don’t need 100 different toys for one weekend. They don’t have to take all their closet because it might be warm, or cold, it might rain, or be windy, or whatever. You don’t have to consider you might be invited to a glamorous party with them so you must take that beautiful dress you once bought for your princess, although she never used it. Or that special shirt you don’t even allow your kid to wear regularly because it might get… used (!?). Look, this joke is not on you, it’s on me! I’m this guy (well, my wife helps a tiny bit).

So the thing is: you can’t cover all the options for all the possible situations. And so, let’s just cover the ones from the 95% percentile. What do they always need? Underwear, pants, shirts, socks and shoes. Sweaters and coats if it’s winter or it might be cold – and might be cold means the meteorologists really say it’s going to be under 20ºC / 70ºF. Otherwise you don’t need it. Yes, it might rain. It might. And I could meet Charlize Theron while we’re there, but I’m not taking that special shirt I bought for that occasion (although I might take that one, just in case).

And even those 3 articles I told you about (pacifier, Tiger and blanket)… even those ones, I think I’ll leave them at home next time. Maybe that will help my kids to grow away from them. And if we really have a great time together, I bet they won’t miss them at all…

Social networks and Pinterest

Everyday a new social network comes into our world. Some of us don’t even look at what it means, others look at it and try to understand what does it mean (business wise).

What really interests those who look at these new social networks – and try to figure out which ones will be here in one year, which ones will be sold by one billion dollars or which ones will just be abandoned – is what these new “things” can do for us: the person or the business.

Pinterest is the new big thing. Or at least it seems like it. As someone was telling me the other day, “whatever business model you can think of, Pinterest is able to implement it. It will definitely work out for them.” Maybe so…

One of the big discussions is should sellers attach (or not) the price tag to their pins? Mashable refers a study from Pinreach about this.

But what struck me was that options like this might not only harm or boost whoever chooses to attach a price tag to it. If everybody begins attaching the price tag, Pinterest will become a marketplace, right? And my guess is that’s not what people like about it…

Jeff Bezos on Invention, Creativity & Platforms

We are living wonderful times for those who want to create…

Why did I start this blog?

That’s a damn good question.

I like to write. I’ve always written my thoughts on several different platforms.

I think it’s important to write down your thoughts for you to see them flourish. I think it’s important to speak them out loud to actually understand if they’re good or bad. And I think it’s the best way to “clean the dust” out of those thoughts.

So I didn’t start the blog because I have a very important message to put through. I didn’t start this blog because I have big thoughts and it would be a shame if I wouldn’t share them with the world. On the contrary, I’m not even sure if there’s something here worth for you to read. Although I hope so, it will be for you to decide.

I started this blog out of self-interest. Sorry to tell you this, but I think I should state my interests upfront. I guess it will save me from the law suits 🙂

There are two main reasons why I think speaking out loud helps me improve my reasoning on things:

1. It always helps to share my thoughts with someone.

I usually do it with my business partner. And I’m not even talking about listening to other person’s arguments, thoughts and ideas. I’m just saying that it’s easier to evaluate my ideas and thoughts if I “listen” to them. Even when it’s coming from my own mouth. It definitely happens to me. I usually tell my friends that for this particular aspect I don’t even need them to actually listen to me. I joke that I’ll just print their silhouette in hard card and speak to their figure, because that’s just it. I just need to listen to what I’m saying. Most of the times, that’s enough to understand if there’s something on my ideas or not…

2. It’s good to hear other arguments on any thought you have.

And that’s only possible if you tell someone what you’re thinking. It enhances the good ideas. And it helps me understand why some ideas are bad. It puts my reasoning to the test. Let’s me know which are the counter-arguments. Allows me to analyze those arguments, and think about them. On the other hand, if the idea is of some value it helps me to grow its power. Others’ opinions will build on it, and will strengthen the original concept.

So, this blog is my “hard card silhouette”. In here I’ll test my ideas and try to understand if there’s some value in them or not.

This means that most things I’ll write here might be wrong. Many things will definitely be wrong. But for the sake of the blog, even when I find this out, I won’t delete them. They’ll be here, for anyone to be able to read them and comment on them. I may eventually write a new post on the same subject to clarify my position or my developments on something. Or not.

For all this, I’m sorry, and I hope you apologize me for the frailty of what you can read here… but al least I’m honest about it, right?

I also hope, you will help me with the second part – your arguments. I long for your critiques to my ideas.

I guess this is a pretty straightforward disclaimer. None of what you’ll find here is an advice. None of what you’ll read here is the word of an expert.

But in the end, we can both become a little bit more knowledgeable about something 🙂

Welcome, let’s get started!

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