Discourse and Improvisation ON Entrepreneurship And…

September 28, 2006

“You can’t fire me, I quit!”

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 12:18 am

I fired a service provider yesterday.

Or, did they fire me?

It was pretty clear that we weren’t happy with each other. We brought them in to do some specific work on our IT infrastructure. As a software company we pride ourselves on being capable of solving most any computer-related problem, yet recognize that some problems have bigger learning curves than others, and are well worth throwing some paid expertise at.

Our attitude probably invited conflict from the start. When we hire experts, we expect expertise. We also have a pretty good sense for how to troubleshoot a problem. So when the expert is lost in the weeds, it’s pretty obvious, and our annoyance only increases as the hourly meter keeps running longer and longer.

I’m sure we were an atypical customer for them all the way around: in company size, system configuration, and technical background.

I thought I hadn’t completely slammed the door when I said we wouldn’t be returning, so half expected them to try to win me back. Their reply back was a complete termination, so I guess it was mutual.

While it’s sometimes all to easy to fire a vendor (except when switching costs are high!), it’s hard to fire a customer. But I’m generally very appreciative when a vendor tells me up front that although they’d like my business, we’re just not a good fit.

September 23, 2006

Launching cool tools category

Filed under: Cool tools,Uncategorized — dionea @ 9:27 pm

With this post I’m going to launch a new blog category: Cool Tools. Cool tools are anything and everything that make my business or my life run just a bit easier, provide good value, and may even be a delight to use.

Today’s installment: free conference calls on http://www.freeconference.com.

That’s right, free conference calls. The only cost is the long distance charges from your and the other participants normal carriers. (If you want 800-number dialing, they do offer it as a paid service.)

The first time I used it I thought, where are the ads? Where’s the upsell to 800-service? How else could they possibly be making money?

The second time I used it I thought, uh-oh, I hope this doesn’t make us look cheap.

The most recent time a well-heeled business strategy consultancy initiated the con call, so I don’t think I need to worry about appearances any more.

So, how do they make money? Is this just some ploy to win “earballs” before they go down in the next equivalent of the dotcom bust?

I assume their model is similar to FreeConferenceCall.com (a service I haven’t used and can’t vouch for). According to the New York Times, “it routes calls to portions of the phone network that don’t get much use. The phone companies pay FreeConferenceCall.com a fee, and they recoup it through long-distance charges on portions of their networks that are idle.”

Brilliant.

September 22, 2006

Public vs Private

Filed under: On Blogging — dionea @ 7:15 pm

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for quite a while, but have held back for two reasons. The lesser reason is simple: will I commit to regular posts, or will this turn into yet another dead site? I endeavour to not make promises I can’t deliver on, and I loath ghost sites (except as evidence of other human folly ;-)).

The primary hesitation is the title of this post: do I broadcast my identity for all the world to see, or disguise myself behind a pseudonym. I am blessed (or cursed) with a unique name — Google my “firstname lastname”, and you will find me, and just me. But I am not alone: near the top of the search returns is my father’s obit. Now you have not just me, but the names of my entire family, and guess what — that magic password of my mother’s maiden name.

Besides the very real issue of identity theft, there are other reasons to stay private. I own a business and live within a community, and I want to talk about my business, my competitors, my vendors, my family, my neighborhood and my town. Disclosing my identity effectively discloses the identity of everyone associated with me — and I don’t have their permission. It’s that simple. Could I go get most everyone’s permission? Possibly. Is it worth it? Probably not.

Although you may not know who I am, I will stand behind everything I write.

Help me buy from you

Filed under: It's just business — dionea @ 5:54 pm

Terry Gold has a great post, Help me, help you on making it easier for other people to help you. I want to riff on it, about making it easier for customers to buy from you. Unlike Terry’s great positive, demonstrative show-you-how-to-do-it example, mine are show-you-how-not-tos.

Like the cobbler’s children

A local print shop has a published price book. Great, some transparency! I can take the book and get an idea how much it’s going to cost me to produce some fairly large graphics. So I get started, then get the graphic artist involved, now we’re reaching deadline. Back to the printer to make final material decisions. After 45 minutes of chasing around the shop digging up samples, I learn something that wasn’t obvious to me. Although the price book says “up to 60 inches wide”, not all materials listed are available in that width. Uh-oh, now I’m in trouble, and am not such a happy customer.

What could the print shop have done to make it easier to buy, and save themselves tons of time on the sales cycle? Simple:

  1. A simple *Available material width may vary in the price book would have notified me to ask instead of assume.
  2. A sample book. Printed. With the names of the material, and a cross-reference to available sizes and notes whether it’s a stock item or special order.

Believe it or not, the saleswoman has been trying to get a sample book produced for months. My question to other entrepreneurs: does your staff have the simple and obvious tools they need to help them help customers?

I need to write the owner an email. He’ll never know otherwise.

I am a cobbler’s child
Somewhere I read recently that software companies are generally the worst with their own software and IT infrastructure. Mea culpa. What that means is that we’re dropping stuff because we don’t have a good way to track it, or it’s just too hard. Support renewals? Uh-oh, customers have been asking us for them. I’ve been burning it at both ends trying to fix this. I’ll definitely blog about the solutions we have, and will, put in place.

To HRT or not to HRT, that is the question

Filed under: Personal Biology — dionea @ 5:03 pm

Gentlemen, you may leave the room, lest you get uncomfortable.

I cracked up today. DB, 6 years my senior, asked about night sweats: but don’t you have to get up anyway to pee? My retort: there I am sitting on the pot, covered in clammy sweat, and I don’t even know which woke me up!

Maybe it’s the curse of the hips. Some study correlated lower-body fat to hot flash tendency. My mother and sister claim they didn’t go through this, but then I’m the pear in the family.

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