July 29, 2009

Whoa Nelly. Summer is Flying By.

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 10:39 pm

By the beard of Zeus?!  Summer is going, going gone, baby, ghandi–Mahatma style.  All benevolent and whatnot.

Turns out I’ll be working an extra two weeks at my internship, which is the teh awesome.  Still, I can’t help but feel this is ultimately the fastest summer I’ve ever experienced.  Quite possibly one of the best aside from my adolescent meandering with little to no responsibilities or concerns.  Frankly, life is good.  Great coworkers and fellow interns.  Fun weekends and an incredible experience overall.

Tonight I’m going to watch the Twins sweep the Chicago White Sox (ultimately my second or third hated team on the planet after the Yankees and potentially the Packers) in a sky suite!  Gravy.

Time to write has been somewhat low, but a lot of my inactivity stems from outdoor jubilation acquisition.  Tradeoffs.  It’s all about the tradeoffs.  We’ll catch up soon.  Promise.


July 25, 2009

Corporate Marketing Is Great, But Can You Do It Yourself?

Filed under: Marketing Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 7:34 pm

I was thinking about corporate marketing the other day.  It’s like an iceberg, moving slowly (so slowly) and it takes incredible coordination with all the other facets of the organization to steer it in the direction you’d like.  There’s also more to it than meets the eye.  Professional marketers on these teams are very talented, they have a lot of skill and they use it on the daily.  They also have a tendency towards hubris.  The very fact that you work for one of the largest companies on the planet and make decisions that have a great effect are bound to do so.

My opinion?  Small business marketing is harder.

There’s no where to hide in small businesses.  It’s all on you.  And what’s more, it’s often all your skin in the game.  Life’s good in a corporation when things are going well, but even if they aren’t, it’s not your life at stake.  Small business owners have to market themselves an do it well in order to survive.  The professionals working for larger companies don’t have to deal with that pressure, and my guess is that most never will.  They’ll continue on that path because it’s easier or they just don’t really want to start a business.  Both perfectly logical decisions, imho.

This post had been on my mind some time.  Yesterday, the types of classes we take together were brought up.  The thoughts on marketing classes were that “you could learn in yourself” whereas finance and operations need real structured learning pattern.  That may be true.  Still, I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that everyone really knows how to market a business at a small scale.  I’ve had to do something very similar, but it wasn’t my skin in the game, and I can say that it’s tough to market well on a shoestring budget.  That’s where the real innovation and importance of “getting it” come in.  Getting that every customer is your lifeblood, that you can’t treat people like numbers and expect to win in the real world.  At a corporate level, I’m sure there are a great deal of people who kick ass in their jobs but would struggle mightily with being on the front lines 24/7.

As a corporate marketer, it’s important to remember that the people who went out and built your business are the REAL marketers.  They are the ones who had to figure it all out in the beginning.  I’m not trying to take anything away from corporate marketing departments, I belong to one and am great friends with many people who work at them.  Filled to the brim with undeniable ability and ingenuity.  I just realize that those that stray from the herd eat what they kill are the real lions.


10k and a Shuffle

Filed under: Gadgets, Healthier Living — Robert John Ed @ 6:43 pm

Running and listening to music has been less than ideal for me over the last few years.  I don’t do anything exercise without tunes, so that was an issue.  My old 5th generation iPod has been a godsend overall, I’ve used it a ridiculous amount for trips, kicking it at school and exercise of all kinds.  The problem is that the holder for it clips on to a waistband and it jostles all over the place.  It’s just not a good running player.

So a few months ago, the new Shuffle came out.  I was really intrigued and almost bought it a couple times.  Then I read the reviews on Amazon and it changed my mind.  I don’t want to deal with anything that so many people have found serious flaws in.  The last generation of Shuffle apparently was pretty good though.

There was a Heart of Summer 10k & 5k this morning that I participated in.  I needed a music player that wouldn’t slow me down, so I got an old 1G Shuffle for $50 at Wal-Mart.  It works well and once again Apple has come through in the clutch.  My guess is they fix all the issues with the new Shuffle next Macworld.

I biked down to the race (at Lake Nokomis) and back.  My legs are very tired, but it was a nice run.  I finished in about 46 minutes.


Business Chess Analogy

Filed under: Marketing Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 3:48 pm

I’ve referred to business as a chess game once or more times in the past.  If only there were more time to play chess.  Alas.

Business really does lend itself quite well to chess.  In chess, the players must be able to memorize moves both present and pending in order to outmaneuver, flank and flog the opposition.  What makes chess so difficult is consistently memorizing pending moves and the potential implications of them while simultaneously balancing what ACTUALLY happens.  Having an impeccable memory can only take you so fare in chess, there are a great deal of other things important.  Risk taking and time/move balance are also large aspects of the game.  Creating a viable position on the board and pressing advantages also play a role.  The smallest piece on the board can often make the difference between winning and losing.  The list goes on.

Yet the ability to see into the future and predict moves, predict your opponent, is what I’m focusing on here.  Regardless of your ability, the future cannot be predicted.  It can be estimated, stabbed at, ballparked, but it won’t come out how you thought.  It never seems to work out that way.

So I’m reminded of my finance class and my professor saying that any proposition that doesn’t have a great NPV or IRR shouldn’t be invested in.  My thought process on proposals is to get where the ROI can be made and hittem’ where they ain’t.  Sometimes (hopefully very few times) I believe that means investing in technologies or processes that the market may well be working toward.

Huge clarification here:  YOU CANNOT PREDICT THE MARKET.

I believe that “strategic reasons” are a good enough reason to invest in certain projects.  And by “certain” I mean “very, very few but especially at the time of a potential market rift.”  My finance professor thinks that a bunch of crap.  Maybe he’s right?  I don’t think so.  It’s unfortunate that not everything can be quantified and put into a model that represents an adequate picture of what the market will look like in a few months or years.  But it can’t.  Not everything can be quantified.  Those things that are quantified well happen to be based on particular assumptions of the analyst.  They are usually good forecasts, but what about those things that don’t have a track record?  The fact of the matter is that projects are meant to get an ROI in the long term, but in the short term they can’t be proven.  To say that a company should never do a project without adding to shareholder wealth is to assume that companies must have some idea of the market and acceptance.

There are A LOT of companies that don’t know if their projects will turn heavy ROI in the short term.  Look at Google.  They develop a copious amount of projects and how many have made money?  Extremely low, but they want to own the space.  They want to become a fixture of online search and advertising.  Look at venture capital.  If a portfolio of 10 has 2 winners that cover the spread of the others, isn’t that naturally an argument that certain projects warrant investment despite the risk?  I feel that a lot of companies seek to build the technology, service or product first and develop a business model after.  Building a business is contingent on a product that the market wants, so what happens if the market isn’t there yet?  If the product needs alteration or improvement before any relevant NPV could be analyzed?  It just seems that too many HUGE companies today started with nothing but a few bucks and a dream.  If everything had to have a certain NPV to invest in, most of those companies don’t make a dime, much less change the world.

Of course, this is merely my opinion.  Most corporations know their competencies; they should stick to them.  No arguments here.  But when a market is shifting and strategy is paramount to understand that shift.  You better have a wet finger in the air and be ready to invest in new ways of doing things, even if they are ambiguous in terms of forecasting NPV.  Businesses can only see so far into the future, they can only predict so many moves.  Even then, with an impeccable memory and intellect, things usually turn out far differently than expected.


July 19, 2009

Worry Wart & Dreamer

Filed under: Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 5:25 pm

Over my entire life, worrying has been a constant.  Worrying about stupid things as well as pragmatic potential occurrences.  It’s ingrained into my personality to consider and fret about the unknown.  It’s certainly overt in comparison to the average persona in this atmosphere, at least that’s my take.  The majority of instances don’t warrant the merit bestowed on them.  Worry is a waste.  Things are what they are and will continue to be so.

As I get older, the ability to differentiate between warranted and whimsical worry is improving consistently.  In my callow youth, the fret would overtake my sensibility; hours and day were routinely lost due to frequent sessions of rumination.  Maybe I just didn’t have much better to do at that time.  Now, the ability to simply put off thought processes on hinged eventualities is direly necessary to function; there’s way too much going on to worry any more.  That skill set is important for anyone, but especially for people predisposed to concern.

Just like any other scenario, there are trade offs or silver linings.  The same energy that had me fraught with worry as a youth also galvanized my resolve to think big.  Time spent worrying had a counterweight of dreaming up large pay off scenarios and ideas.  I still think big; don’t know any other way.  And that may be as important as any other skill set.  People and organizations NEED people who want to do incredible, outrageous and impeccable things.  People that want to change the world for the better.  People that believe their work and ability to harness others’ ability will build something to revolutionize an industry, a way of life, a world.

That may sound a bit silly, but it happens much more often than you’d think.  Microsoft and Google both did it in their own way.  Ford did it.  Tesla did it.  Their are millions of us who want to change the world for the better and strive to do it.  Not everyone achieves that goal, but they often achieve change on much smaller scales that affect the ebb and flow of ideas that eventually do create positive change.  That’s how I try to get down, despite the obstacles that reappear every day.

So you see, the ones that tear me down are the same ones that build me.  Now quietly lean your head and say yes, you can feel me.


July 17, 2009

New Musics

Filed under: Music — Robert John Ed @ 10:45 pm

I had went to Cheapo a while back to find new music and was aghast at the prices.  It sucks that many of the bands I’d like to buy are SOOOO expensive at retail.  In all truth, the two CDs I walked out with could have likely been gotten cheaper on Amazon with the used section.  Many times I want the music right then and there, but I’m still financially prudent.  So the last time I went there, I walked out with something completely different than I wanted.

In steps Amazon and the tubes.  I bit the bullet and ordered 6 new albums, 2 used and 4 new.  The four new ones arrived today.  Here’s a brief listing of what I’ll be listening to over the next few weeks and potentially longer:

Rural Alberta Advantage, Hometowns:  Off Saddle Creek Records, they sound mellow and I heard about them from AVC (who happens to have really good taste in music).  Already listening to this right now and it seems very folksy and mellow, which if I owned any alley, such would preside.

Yeasayer, All Hour Cymbals:  Saw these guys live at Rock the Garden and was impressed, really want to pick up MPLS band Solid Gold too, but it isn’t on Amazon and goes for $18 at Cheapo.  Fuck that.

Okkervil River, The Stand Ins:  This is a bit of a random album I’ve been meaning to get forever.  Amazon and Apple Genius have been suggesting it forever, and the buzz on is really good.  Life’s like a box of chocolates, right?

Of Montreal, Sunlandic Twins:  I’ve had this on my list to buy for a long time.  Of Montreal just keeps growing on me, despite their latest album being only half worth listening to imho.  Everything of theirs I’ve purchased has gotten a good deal of rotation and I have no doubt that this will live up to the same standard.  It’s just really good, ecclectic electronica driven drivel making your head swivel.

Jealous Sound, Kill Them With Kindness:  Got it based on one good song I’ve heard.  Maybe a stupid move,  not sure.  Buying an entire album based on one song isn’t a great idea most of the time, but it’s a good way to get exposure to an album that you know isn’t complete fecal matter.  Buying something you’ve never heard works well at times and at times not.  But the one song is pretty good, so there’s hope.

Desaparacidos, Read Music/Speak Spanish:  A more punk sounding band Conor Oberst was in a while ago, it has good reviews and seemed worth a shot.

I’d like to put album artwork next to all these, but formatting looks really stupid with this blog as of now because I tampered with the code unwittingly.  Hopefully, by the end of the summer I’ll alleviate that situation and illustration will be included, for now, click the links.  Peace out honkeys.

UPDATE: Just one listen into Rural Alberta Advantage, I can tell this is going to be epic.  Remember the first time you heard a great band and just knew their sound was special?  These guys are legit.  They kind of remind me of an Arcade Fire/Neutral Milk Hotel style sound with a softer Billy Corgan at vocals.  Sounds like really good road music to travel by the swaying fields of wild rye.


July 15, 2009

Business is Competition, Regardless

Filed under: Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 1:41 am

Business, in itself, is a competition amongst entities with parallel resources and a zero sum potential for outcomes.  The competition is essentially for additional resources of which the entity can further invest in order to accumulate more resources.  In the mean time, the people and organizations that are in the employ of such organizations are able to create “a living” or means by which to create wealth by which to subside over our life times.

Really basic explanation.

I’ve found that many people who do not directly work within business think that people merely shuffle funds from one site to another while taking a piece for themselves.  This is somewhat of a Marxist rationale of business, but it still exists today.  Many have a poor view of business in other regards, but that isn’t the point of this post.

The point is that people who work outside of business may not necessarily understand that there’s a reason it’s called a “rat race.”  If you choose to work in business, you are always (repeat ALWAYS) in competition, and not just one kind.  You are competing against traditional rivals of your industry, substitutes for your industry, disintermediation, ongoing technology changes that usurp your position and more.

As a worker in business, you are always in competition against everyone.  Businesses are absolutely full of intelligent and hard working people looking to do right and make their way to a better position.  As they should be.  Your coworkers and yourself all perfectly understand that it’s your job to do as best you can and compete against rivals within the industry.  Simultaneously, you are in competition with the people you work with for the next promotion or what have you.  What’s more, that competitive nature that is necessary to be in such an environment is naturally going to breed conflict occasionally.

The point is that there are a GREAT deal of very cool and good people in businesses, but they always have to compete, one way or another.  It’s understandable why many would choose not to be part of such a situation.  Yet their views are askew.  There is no “taking it easy,” though my gut feeling is that’s the reason some hold businesses and the employees behind them in contempt.    I’m not pointing this out as a detriment of working in business, but rather a point of pride that business people have to always work harder and smarter in order to stay at the top.  That competitive spirit built a great many things in this country and continues to push progress.

July 14, 2009

I Dig Small, Local Shops

Filed under: Meeting Marketers — Robert John Ed @ 12:36 am

Literally about as far from my house as possible on my new bike loop (which, consequently, consists of Calhoun, Harriet, Nokomis and Lake of the Isles) I got a wicked flat tire.  I rode the flat (or the rim) back to my place about five miles and on my way up to a bike shop near Lyndale, noticed a small bike shop that happens to serve coffee on 34th.  This is about a block from my current residence.

After stopping in, the owner said he could fix it in about ten minutes if I wanted to walk to my place and grab my wallet.  Done and done.  I’d link to his biz, but can’t find an online representation.  Note, small business owners, it doesn’t cost you a dime to get some sort of presence on the internet.  It takes a few hours and a little initiative.

Anyway, he did really good, fast work and was two minutes away.  I love hyper-local MPLS and how most anything you need is right around the corner.

New Biz Idea

Filed under: Ideas — Robert John Ed @ 12:29 am

Here’s an idea for someone to make a few million dollars.  I don’t often get ideas for businesses that I think have legs, but this one seems like it could scale and make a lot.  I’m way too interested in my career at this point to think about bootstrapping a web company, so if you want it, take it and run with it.  I’m transposing it from an email I sent to a few friends to save time:

There should be a service where bloggers can upload their upcoming or current posts, along with their traffic information, to a repository that potential advertisers could read prior to or after launch.  Advertisers can read through the posts, look at relevant traffic numbers and either buy (pending a price from the author) or bid (auction system) for the right to advertise on that particular post.  Posts would be categorized in multiple ways (traffic numbers, topical data, keywords, etc.) and ranked by algorithm to predict SERP placements.  The system would rank posts on their traffic and click through numbers, as well as track records of authors and their audiences’ history of ROI/ROO for posts.  You could also develop a system where an advertiser can contract out with writers they find to be good fits or a good deal.

The authors could choose to keep discretionary rights on their posts (ie no advertising pr0n on my blog!).  Is this kind of like Adwords?  Does anything like this already exist?  I’m not sure.

It’s a free service for bloggers, until they get advertising, at which point 10% (or whatever) of their payment is paid back to the service company.  One issue I could see is that after a writer finds a good sponsor they just dis-intermediate, but my gut feeling is that it wouldn’t be worth the work to set up ancillary relationships.

This is really an alteration of the current model where sales people sell direct, but could really take advantage of the long tail of bloggers and their minuscule audiences (like mine, though I don’t plan to advertise.)  I could see it as an add on to WordPress or wherever too, it would be a good exit strategy.

You guys see any holes in this?  Companies already doing it?

UFC 100

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 12:23 am

Watched the UFC 100 event on Saturday downtown.  During one of the vicious knockouts, it struck me.  The replay was showing a combatant who had knocked the other out and jumped down to hit him one last gruesome time across the skull.  All of a sudden, the Roman Colosseum came to mind, with thousands of onlookers cheering or jeering someone with the misfortune to in the ring.

Today, the combatants aren’t slaves, but well paid misanthropes with a chip on their shoulder.  I wonder at human nature sometimes.  Can it be suppressed at all?  Or do we just give it a new name?

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