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Imagine the typical "harmonious" organization -- 99% of companies, if we could guesstimate. Most hate conflict. Most seek the go-happy "let's-sing-kumbaya-because -we-all-love-each-other" workforce -- so they avoid conflict. Blah. What's wrong with a culture that seeks harmony? It hurts your organization in 3 ways:
  1. You create a culture of politics.

    Where flying back-stabbings run rampant. Where Receptionist Sally is talking about how customers hate you. Where Joey in the next cubicle is talking about your mama. Yeah, you can discourage your people from voicing their opinions -- but human nature won't allow that. People will find outlets to voice their opinions -- and if they can't do it in a controlled environment (such as in an office meeting), they'll take the back-stabbing approach. When this goes on, the trust you need -- to build a kick-ass organization -- among your employees disappears.
  2. You uncover the true feelings of nobody.

    A culture without conflict causes people to stop in their tracks before they could voice their opinions. Imagine the scenario: Joanne has a grand plan to transform a loser widget into a profitable widget. Yet, her manager Billy Bob has a different plan and voices it to Joanne before Joanne can chime in with her ideas. Because the culture actively discourages conflict, she decides to keep her mouth shut to stick with cultural norms. Two years later, the company loses millions, becomes the laughing-stock on Wall Street, and goes belly-up. Welcome to the 1999 dot-com era.
  3. You encourage group-think.

    Reaching the teenage market? You'll probably find no good ideas among your team: A culture devoid of conflict creates a culture where "getting along" is expected, and conflict is condemned. When your culture discourages people to actively argue for the best ideas, you get: people who think the same, talk the same, voice the same, etc., etc., etc. Instead of finding the best idea, you're seeking an idea where "everybody agrees" -- when more likely: it's just the idea of the person dominating the discussion, which rallies the others around the idea because they're afraid of voicing a different perspective.
The moral: Conflict is good. Embrace it. Here's a template that will get you started:

Billy Bob, I hate that idea. Here's why.


Posted on July 19

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Our response: so what! Sure, you hear about "overnight" success stories on CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, and the rest of 'em. Yet, when those guys weren't watching, something else was going on: Those "overnight success" companies had been plowing the fields all along -- working their butts off before anybody cared. A big-business "guru" would term them as "sucky" -- but folks, we use a different perspective:

We affectionately call it the "sucky" stage.

Companies never become great overnight. Study any great business, and you'll see calculated growth during its beginnings. They started with one key customer, then gradually but surely and smartly expanded their customer base.

Just starting a company?

Use this sweet three-step approach inspired by those great companies. It's the "sucky" stage that you might be experiencing:
  1. Start out sucking, but conserve cash.

    No, you won't land on the cover of Forbes tomorrow for your "great" idea. So, forget landing the "perfect idea" before you start your company. A perfectionist attitude kills you from ever doing anything. Instead, do what we do at Trizzy: embrace that you suck. That mindset drives you to produce something, anything. When you're feeling lower than Paris Hilton's biophysics test scores, you have nowhere to go but up. You'll be like the underdog that's gunning for Goliath and has nothing to lose. The mindset tells you that failure's okay -- and helps you learn, and improve. Failure (a.k.a. sucking), as our philosophy goes, is the only way to breakthrough success. And in the process: Keep cash close to your booty as humanly possible as you progress to the next stage. Without it, you can't survive.
  2. Get one customer, know that you still stuck, but still: conserve cash.

    Truth is, to keep yourself afloat, you better be providing value to somebody. Otherwise, why be in business? (Also, another truth: there's a 99.99999% chance somebody needs your expertise; so be on the lookout.) When you do find a customer, know this: you won't provide the "perfect" service to your customer. You'll make mistakes. Who cares? Deal with it, embrace it, and learn from it. You'll be much better next time. And the next. And so on. Michael Jordan became an astronomical success because he embraced failure every step of the way toward his six rings. Without that mindset that says failure's needed, you won't ever succeed. Cash tight: check! Next.
  3. Expand from that one customer. Embrace your sucky-ness. Conserve cash.

    (Cash should almost be tattooed to your behind by now.) If you're providing a somewhat memorable experience to your first customer (and s/he's not suing your butt), you'll probably get a good referral. Don't just expect one, however: ask for one. If none exists at the moment, leave some business cards. More than likely, you'll receive a good referral in the near-future. Usually, you'll receive more than one. In the meantime, improve. The whole "we-still-suck" attitude drives you to do just that -- and will further solidify your infrastructure to serve two more customers -- then four -- then 20 -- then 400 -- then a gazillion. (Then you'll land on the cover of Forbes for your "overnight" success story. Blah.)

Folks, that's the secret to starting a great business.

Build your customer base exponentially by embracing your sucky-ness as a sign to improve constantly during each phase of your rock star business. Walmart, Starbucks, Apple, Microsoft all started out in the same stage. They used that mindset as a fuel for improvement to serve a crazy number of customers. If you feel your startup's sucking right now, it's all good: Google, HP, IBM, and Wells Fargo went through the same stages as you are now.
Posted on July 18

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It's a big week for the tech community: Google, Intel, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ebay, Apple, and IBM will report earnings this week. Yet, among the thousands of tech startups started in the last decade, only three have major influences on Wall Street. The reason? Most "technology" companies suck.

"But aren't you a technology company?"

Yeah, we admit it: most people consider us a "technology" company. Yeah, we focus on building sweet business web software; we're into the Web 2.0 buzz, the AJAX goodies, Ruby on Rails's simplicity, validating CSS/XHTML, using curvy corners, and doing whatever else the tech community loves.

But...

We think we're far from a technology company. (At least, we hope so.) For instance, Trizoko -- our journal -- rarely focuses on technology. We want it that way. Here's what most "technology" companies forget:
  1. Technology sucks. (Yeah, we said it.)

    To paraphrase one stance of the "gun control" argument: Technology doesn't improve customers; customers improve customers. Technology for technology's sake kills your company. Technology can't create your company's earnings. It can only improve whatever you're doing without technology.
  2. Customers don't buy technology.

    AJAX. Ruby on Rails. MySQL. Blah, blah, blah. Blah. Our clients couldn't care less. Just try to "wow" them with it. You won't. And, that brings us to...
  3. Customers buy solutions.

  4. If your technology providers wants to improve, make sure they understand this: People don't buy plane tickets; they buy transportation. People don't purchase lamps; they purchase light. People don't buy iPods; they buy music (w/ style). People don't buy technology; they buy efficiency, quicker sale cycles, marketing exposure, etc. Most tech companies forget what business they're really in.
Ironically, Google, Yahoo, eBay, and even recent up-and-comer MySpace rarely focus on technology. Most are notorious for not having valid CSS/XHTML code, curvy corners, or AJAX on every page.

"You mean you're telling me eBay doesn't have a TAGGING feature?! They're Web 1.0, dude!"

If you're selecting a technology company among your various offers (now or in the future), here's our best advice: choose the one who most understands the solutions to your problems -- not the latest tech buzz words. Technology for technology's sake burns your resources. Use caution when dealing with a technology company.

Most suck.


Posted on July 17

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Forget the veteran. Forget the Harvard MBA. Forget the McKinsey consultant. They're too expensive. Worse, more than enough feel entitled to everything: The perks. The posh hotels. The exorbitant bonuses. The first-class treatment.

Instead, look for potential.

Hungry college students, humble workhorses, the best curb painters in the neighborhoods, and the most-detailed landscaper in town. They seek greatness in everything they touch -- not perks.

We affectionately call them Poperstars.

Yeah, it's another cheesy way of saying: Potential Superstar. If there's one major thing we learned since we started Trizzy, it's this: the veteran-employee can't hold a candle to a Poperstar.

Why Poperstars?

You can't teach values. You can't teach determination. You can't teach intelligence. You can't teach persistence. You can't teach humility. However, you can teach skills. And folks, that's where you'll guide your Poperstar to a Superstar (corny-ness intended). Poperstars are cheap, but amazing workhorses because:
  1. They lack experience.

    Experience is overrated. Experience can't complement the values of you and your business. Most importantly, experience is expensive.
  2. They're humble.

    Entitlement sucks the living crap out of an individual. Just imagine a multi-billion-dollar-trust-fund-party-kid who gets a Porsche for breathing in front of Daddy. That's an extreme, yes; but it paints a pretty good picture of the so-called executives we met some time ago.
  3. Excellence motivates them. Not money.

    Here's the most important part. Yeah, money's important; but it's like water: it's not the point of life. Poperstars understand that. Instead of being motivated by money, they're motivated by seeking greatness in whatever they do.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, or [insert any major Fortune 500 superstar here] didn't rise to stardom by million-dollar executives. Instead, they first caught the Poperstar virus. Word.
Posted on July 16

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Most big businesses horribly overuse the concept "Customer Service" in their mantras:
  • Overused ^1: "We provide the best service in town."
  • Overused ^2: "Our competitive, lethal advantage: You will love our customer service."
  • Overused ^3: "We absolutely, totally love you. Come be a part of the our lovable experience. We love you."

Words != Execution

The problem with most customer satisfaction mantras -- it's just that: words. It's on paper. Great. That's just planning. Where's the execution? How are you enforcing customer service? More importantly, how are you measuring the improvement of your customer satisfaction?

Customer Surveys Suck

Surveys don't work because they rarely provide the real opinions of the customer. Instead of uncovering what customers think of your service, they usually tell you what you want to hear -- for fear of customer punishment (e.g. you spitting on their food the next time they visit you).

How to Really Measure Your Customer Service

Forget surveys. Focus instead on customer actions. Harvard's Das Narayandas says the following indicators show your customer's true feelings toward your business:
  • Grow the Relationship. The customer will want to buy more products or services at this stage and expand the scope of its relationship with the vendor. It costs very little to serve the customer, because the supplier has already incurred customer acquisition costs.
  • Provide word-of-mouth endorsement. The customer is likely to promote the company by talking about it positively. The vendor incurs lower costs for acquiring new customers.
  • Resist competitors' blandishments. By this time, the customer is less likely to switch to rivals, even if their products are superior, because it expects that the preferred vendor will develop similar products. It costs the vendor very little to retain the customer.
  • Pay premiums. A customer this loyal may be willing to pay higher prices for the vendor's products and services.
  • Collaborate. The customer believes that the feedback it provides will foster future improvements and wants to help the supplier develop new products and services.
  • Invest. Loyal customers often invest in their vendors. In addition to creating an exit barrier, such investments reduce vendors' risks.
If you're seeking to have the best customer service in town, the first step: Know what you're measuring.
Posted on July 15

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Day 1: I've got to plan this out. Day 30: I'm almost there. Year 1: Just need to refine this. Year 30: Just....almost. Deathbed: Blah. Most of us may talk a good game, but when it comes to executing and making decisions -- we blow.

Why Planning Sucks

At Trizzy, we were victims of that catastrophe when we started. Like most of you entrepreneurs, we had great plans and big idealistic dreams. So, we did what others with huge ambitions usually do: we took out a notebook; then with a cocky attitude: put down our plans to conquer the universe. 365 days later? We're still on our notebook. That went on for another 2 years. Imagine going a good 700 days without executing a thing.

And the worst part?

We threw away our grand-master plans when we finally jumped in. As Lincoln once said, plans are useless once you go into battle.

All the planning in the world won't build your great business.

Making quick decisions will. Even making bad decisions drives you to learn more about your situation -- and adapt accordingly. Says New Millennium Chairman David N. James:

One of the great executives of Ford, where I worked 35 years ago, used to say: "If you've got ten decisions to make and you spend all your time making just four, then you've made six wrong decisions." In fact, not taking a decision is worse than making the wrong one because it is often easier to manage your way out of a bad decision than to recover from the consequences of delay.

If you're looking to build a great business, stop planning. Instead, start cramming as many decisions as you can within a day. Then, start dreaming of your future Fortune 500.

Posted on July 14

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First: everything you need to learn about productivity: Pick a kick-butt goal. Shorten the deadline. Gather the best people around you. Then chase down that goal, and beat it into submission. That's how Remi Frazier plans to make $1 million in a month.

Here's his grand plan (although, flawed):

To achieve his goal, Frazier, 27, planned to build a volunteer network of business consultants, conceptualize and design a product, conduct market research for that product, and finally manufacture and sell it on a wide scale. He would have 30 days to complete what a startup usually takes years to do. Earlier that morning on the plane ride in, Frazier had decided on his product: a multipurpose utility tool he dubbed the Mantool, which he describes as similar to a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman, the real difference being that a customer will be able to customize each element through a Web site.

Sidenote: Yes, we too think he's crazy, but...

Regardless if he does make $1 million, he's shining a bright-freakin' light on the business industry. That is, get moving quickly toward a major goal.

Now, here's what he should really do

In three sweet tips:

Forget the loooong scratch-to-sell process. Think short sales cycles.

Going along with his original idea: first, he'll need to contact folks to set-up his website. Then, debugging. Then contacting customers and educating them about the product, about the site, about the benefits. etc. etc. etc. Here's our tip to him: why not cold call -- which is, importantly, free with Skype? Sure, it's unwise to cold-call individual purchases, so we'd recommend calling businesses or non-profit groups to buy the knives in bulk. Cold-calling before product development also serves another useful purpose: market research. But also...

Know that you can't convice a thousand customers overnight.

When you work on a low-price widget, you better have your butt in gear. You'll have to concentrate on educating a number of customers, selling to a number of customers, supporting a number of customers, etc, etc, etc. Volume is certainly not your friend. Which brings us to...

Spend time getting huge clients by selling high-priced items.

You think multi-million-dollar transactions happen everyday? You betcha. And what's the beauty of focusing on high-priced products? You'll only have a convice a couple of customers. (And as our motto at Trizzy goes for unknown small businesses: convincing somebody to buy a $50 product is as hard as getting them to purchase a $1000 product.) So in a sweet summary: Start selling high-priced items by first cold calling businesses or other organizations.

Regardless of our hateration...

The best ideas (tangible or not) -- from the first PC to eBay, and countless others -- were dismissed as whacked-out ideas. It's happened then, it's happened recently with Skype, and it will always happen. Despite Frazier's approach, we do have high hopes for his goal -- and wish him the best of our wishes. If his progress picks up steam by various media outlets -- who knows -- maybe some crazy media business out there will offer him a $1 million movie deal.
Posted on July 13

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Most of us ignore our inherent talents. Instead of employing our strengths, we use our weaknesses to move mountains -- or try to. Eventually, we figure we suck -- yet, because motivational gurus tell us to never give up, we persist. Blah.

Give up, already!

And we mean that in the nicest way, possible. If you're doing something that takes your blood, sweat, and tears -- and you still suck -- you're probably more suited to do something else. "Don't give up" -- and most motivational "gurus" apparently don't know this -- really means don't give up on success. Most of us could never play in the NBA, even if we persisted like maniacs. Here's the key to the "Don't give up" concept: Don't give up on success, but be prepared to change directions to get there.

The Cheesiest Example in the World

You're trying to reach New York (sucess point) from San Francisco (starting point) in two weeks on $100. You try your hardest to get plane tickets. It appears you can't. You research Amtrak route rates; no success. Tour buses; no cigar. Then you try Craigslist; it works! The moral? Find different ways to succeed using what you have.

Do What Jewel & Jordan Did

Folk singer Jewel tried Pop once; she bombed, and reverted back to the style where she excelled. Jordan played baseball wearing the "45"; his minor league batting average couldn't hold a candle to the average pro player's, and he fortunately went back to the NBA (winning another 3 championships). Those two understood where they sucked; instead of persisting in their "failures," they embraced their strengths.

"So, how do I know what I should do?"

Says legendary management guru Peter Drucker:
What should my contribution be? To answer it, [you] must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?
You've been Drucker'd! (Sorry. We had to throw that sucker in.) In other words, focus on what you do naturally.
Posted on July 12

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Peep this: Forget everything you know about team management. Forget the books, the articles, the sweet-talking business authors who talk a good game -- but never managed a day in their lives.

The Myths Debunked

Myth: "Managers must find ways to motivate people."

Nope. People are self-motivated. You can guide them, yes; but, it's fruitless to make decisions for them.

Myth: "The most productive teams need planning stages."

That kills time to execute. A kick-ass productive team doesn't worry about planning; instead, it chooses a tremendous goal, then chases it down and beats it into submission. Execution rocks.

Myth: "You need to buy our 'bestselling-attention- whoring-top-10' motivational ebooks!"

Crap. Most authors base their books on theory, and on what "sounds good." Your team would laugh. It just doesn't end there, folks. If there's one thing we can teach you, it's this: before you accept anything as fact, make sure they can prove their assertions to you. (Most likely -- and sadly, they can't.)

So how do you really boost team productivity?

Simple: Get the right people. Then, don't manage them. Instead, start managing your business processes. What are we talking about? Here are three sweet tips:
  1. Set astronomical expectations.

    Expect your kid to be Michael Jordan, and he'll strive to be like Jordan. Expect him to be like Zidane (head-butting aside), and he'll strive to be "the Scientist." He probably won't play anything like Jordan or Zidane, but we could promise you he'll work his butt off to be like them. When you set high expectations for your team, and the individuals within the team, a weird thing happens: they start believing in themselves to reach world-class expectations. The key, then, is to steer them where they can achieve world-class results.
  2. Set short deadlines.

    Have you ever procrastinated on a term paper in school? (We're talking the night before it's due.) What happened? If you're like most of us who procrastinated, you worked your butt off. You had 12 hours to turn in a 10-page paper. Did you watch TV? Did you lounge around planning? Probably not. You were hyper-focused on completing your mission. Those last 12 hours were more productive than the first 1000 hours since your teacher assigned your paper. When you set short deadlines for your team, you drive them to kick ass.
  3. Exploit individual strengths.

    Dwayne Wade shouldn't coach. Shaq shouldn't play point guard. Pat Riley shouldn't play center. Instead, the Miami Heat maximized the strengths of each player toward winning the NBA Finals. The best teams have the best people in positions where they excel -- where they're better than anybody else on the team. Know the individual strengths of each player on your team. Then, tap it.
Word, y'all.
Posted on July 11

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In business (or in anything else in life), it's wise to leave your emotions at the door before you make any decisions. Your emotions drives you to act impusively by clouding your judgement. Case in point: The 109th minute of the 2006 World Cup Final. When you're feeling a little emotional in a board meeting, remember this:

Keeping your emotions in check stops you from knocking the $^@% out of someone:

Who knew the French could fight? (We kid. We kid.)
Posted on July 10

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