Oct 22, 2007

Tying It Together With Twine: Semantic Search

About a year ago, there was some chatter about Web 3.0 coming soon. We all know what Web 2.0 unfolded: a vast strength of websites built around social networking. Top sites have included www.YouTube.com (purchased by Google in 2006 for $1.65 Billion) and that one transaction, alone, put Social Networking on the map as serious business. But www.YouTube.com isn't the only success in Social Networking. Career Networking has been big with Ryze, LinkedIn.com, and ecademy.com. Music and personal networks have thrived with GarageBand.com and MySpace.com. It is to the point where if you're a band and you DON'T have a MySpace or GarageBand profile, you're not even on the map. Other social networks have popped up like Zaadz, Ojeez, Facebook, and more.

So, what is Web 3.0? Early indicators point to the idea of taking all of this information we search for, and putting a savvy AI (artificial intelligence) engine behind it so that our search results or social networks get ramped up on steroids. For example, rather than just telling you "what's popular now" on your home page when you log in to your network at My Space, the 3.0 version present "here's what YOU would find popular now, based upon YOUR tastes and interests." Cool, huh?

What's really great about 3.0 search, though, is the promise of future advertising spots. See, the web is driven by advertising. Many of the blogs out there making money aren't making ANY money by selling product or even offering e-books. They're just WRITING. And they WRITE a LOT. One blogger I know experienced a traffic surge from zero to millions within two years by simply writing intelligent articles every 1.2 days. He wrote over 300 article posts within the first year, alone. However, a QUALITY article post is worth more than FREQUENT posts, according to this blogger. My experience is that QUALITY is more important than quantity; however, without writing a lot or posting a lot it is hard to tell which articles will be "hits" without more material.

Advertisers love blogs and content rich websites. Why? Because they are targeted to specific content and ideas: All about auto-sports racing might be one blog idea, whereas another blog is all about gadgets. If you can then target your demographic, you have better advertising than a general ad posting to a general site.

Web 3.0 makes this more of a reality.

And, apparently, it's here.

On October 19, 2007, Radar Networks announced Twine™, a revolutionary new service that helps you share, organize, and find information.

Radar Networks, led by Web visionary Nova Spivack (who co-founded EarthWeb and Dice.com), is pioneering the Semantic Web (sometimes referred to as Web 3.0) with a new platform for the next-generation of Web applications.

The first application released on this platform is Twine, a new service for sharing, organizing and finding information with people you trust. Use Twine to better leverage and contribute to the collective intelligence of your friends, colleagues, groups and teams. Twine ties it all together.

The idea behind the SEMANTIC WEB is to provide a way to search data beyond the first string. I consider it more of a search concierge with stronger hooks to what I want. I've developed a model and working on more tools of this nature for organization empowerment (contact me if you're curious), so you know I consider it useful.

You can view some screenshots of the intial Beta from TWINE where TWINE is reviewed.

I just reviewed the description for the initial version of this platform and have to say it looks promising. I'll be reporting more on Web 3.0 in the near future after more beta-testing.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions.

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Oct 17, 2007

Top Rated Website and Blog Designs

Why I Like Designers

Have you ever noticed a website that you really liked, but couldn't put your finger on it? In fact, I'm pondering what to do with the design of the ARRiiVE: More Customers, More Cash, More Quickly BlogTM. Frankly, I like simplicity. And, I also have a lot to say. Putting those two things together in one site creates the challenge to appear PROFESSIONAL, SLICK, and HIP -- while avoiding sounding like an elitist snob. This type of work might just call for a professional designer.

Do you ever worry about your website design? The reason I study designs (and hang-out with artists and designers) is, well, first-off, because I find they think a little differently than I do. I'm very auditory, somewhat visual, and like to put my hands on things to feel them. That's how I learn. I have to write it down, or it just might get forgotten.

Designers are VISUAL. They think in pictures. I enjoy the company of designers, because they help me see the world in new or different ways than I might see it with my own eyeballs. Now, in case you're saying, "What does design have to do with building teams, increasing sales, or improving my marketing?"

ANSWER: Design has a lot to do with sales and marketing success. I'll get to team-building in a moment. But, yes, if your marketing is good, your sales ought to follow. Then, it is up to you to deliver the service that matches the marketing.

How can I say this without blinking an eye? Because, while on a search for the TOP BLOGS in the world today, I came across a post that features some very hip and smooth blog designs. Not surprisingly, these blogs were built mostly by photographers or graphic designers. But, what impresses me most, is these site designs are not only sexy web designs: they also draw HIGH TRAFFIC, too. Google PR 7, Google PR6, Google PR8, Google PR5, and so-on. Those kinds of numbers are worth money. So, yes, sales follow good design (a component of excellence in marketing).

Here are some of the examples I chose to share with you:

Odd-and-ends.net Clean & Nice. Excellent navigation. Not too slick, but you definitely get engaged to want to view the portfolio. And, if I'm selling photography, that's important. I had to take away a point from my 9 score on design for the CafePress products (I dumped them years ago for being too greedy and too expensive). I was touched by several things at this site. My Score: 9 for Design, Google PR5. Overall 7.

Design: Clean, simple, with tons of white space. Large Fonts, bright, smart use of simple color-scheme. Black, white, and red links always has a cutting edge feel, to me. This site exemplifies one way designers think about presenting information. This blog is not yet getting what I call "Google Juice" but it sure has potential. They're getting a lot of comments on their posts (add mine to the list). My Score: Design 9, Google PR4, Overall 7. I wouldn't be surprised to see this go up...

A List Apart. The best of the lot. Not just visually attractive, but totally rich in content, without overwhelming me by any means. There's a lot any person developing a website could learn here from this site, alone. Simple control and navigation. Beautiful use of primary labels. Small, focused ad box. They pay for publication contributions, which encourages other authors to submit content. So, this is a collective - not a one-man shop, from what I can tell. I even like their shirts. Scores: Design 9. Google PR 8. Overall: 9.

SIDE NOTE: A List Apart featured the web's first ever panel of web designers, called The Web Design Survey, which surveyed almost 37,000 designers and came up with quite a large compilation of tips (over 33,000) that might serve as a somewhat bloated guide for many aspiring web designers. Kudos, again.

gizmodo.com. I know, I know. It's a geek site. But, you know what? They're probably the number 1 blog in terms of geek traffic. Every time I go there I find something new and cool that I like. Yeah, I like gadgets. And gizmodo is the king of online gadget info. They provide easy feeds, as if almost begging you to feed content off their RSS, which many, many tech sites, take advantage to gain cutting-edge content. They use a wide-format design which some users like and others don't. For their format, it seems to work. Design 7. Google PR 9 (traffic is off-the-hook). Overall 9.

Speaking of Google, how can you question the appeal in the massive use of white space and simplicity in their home page design? But Google also delivers on their promise: fast, quick, highly efficient search results. Google has captured the search market because of their site design. Sixteen words plus the search box is about as basic as it gets. It's what happens behind those words/links and the search box that matters most. Google's design is as much in their words and layout of the words and multi-colored logo. The layout conveys an inverse-pyramid (and implied pyramid underneath). This is a similar model to my own Diamond-Circle. Design: 10 Google PR10. Overall 10.

The Morning News. Clean design. Get out your reading glasses (small print). Black & White with some Red. Wide format makes me think "newspaper" when I read it, although they claim to be an "online magazine" published since 1999. Has an old-time feel in a modern approach. A pretty damned good site for what I think is a two-person shop. Succinct at what it's trying to do. Design 9. Google PR? Overall 8.

SimpleBits. This site is SIMPLE. They hit the nail on the head with their name and visual appeal. The logo I saw that they designed was nice. They've done work for MTV. Totally a pro shop. The bits are actually little fragments of articles, snapshots, books, speaking, and so forth. I don't quite understand why some of the elements are where they are... perhaps they can explain to me if I email. Design 9, Google PR2 Overall 7.

Where can you find a site where you might find a good designer? Well, any of the design-oriented sites I just mentioned might have resources for you, and if that isn't enough, here's another possibility: www.cpluv.com/.

I've used more than a handful of designers over the past eight years and don't regret any of them. I've gained designs or design ideas from each of them that I still use at AspireNow, Body, Black Market Trio, and ARRiiVE Business Solutions. Hopefully you can see the merit in shelling out some duckets to get a higher quality site and designer eyeballs on visualizing what you are doing with your blog or website. Your image might be the first (or last) thing your site visitors remember. What do you want to leave them with?

OH. One last thing: I bet you thought I forgot about teamwork, right? Remember the question? "How do designers impact TEAMS?" Simple. You gain someone who thinks in terms of elegant simplicity. You gain a visual thinker. Every team ought to include at least one designer. You're bound to see your project in a whole new light. And, who knows, maybe you'll get a new product design, logo, or website concept from them that boosts your team's results from survive to THRIVE.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions.

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Oct 16, 2007

Want To Stop Getting Treated Like A Number?

1324FU#4. Is that how your company sees you?

This article is aimed at employees, as well as employers, to help do something about employees getting treated like a number, rather than a fully-functional, smart, loving, spiritually-based human being. I'm writing this to share that I've been there and I care about changing how business is conducted in the world around me. Here's the burning question nagging at me:

Have you ever worked for a company and felt like you were just a number to them?

Examples of how companies make employees feel like a number include:

1. Your ideas are put-down, stolen, or put aside by management.
2. The company only utilizes you for one core function (sales, HR, engineering, operations, administration, etc.) when you have more expertise and many more talents to contribute. Why can't they see you for who you really are?
3. All the company ever asks you about is numbers.
4. In an annual employee review (if you ever got one), your general contributions were overlooked. Instead, "highlights" focused on how you could improve numbers.

I could go on. I've had each of these things happen to me as an employee. Frankly, it's one of the reasons why being your own boss is pretty cool. Of course, on the flip side, there's the numbers. Being your own boss is great, but you have to make money and often deal with the pressure of bootstrapping to be able to sustain being the boss. So, maybe you're not as excited as others about taking the path of the entrepreneur. And, you know what? That's okay. Entrepreneurialism isn't for everyone. If that's you, what can you do?

QUESTION: How do you make a difference in getting the company you work for now to treat you more as a valuable PERSON than a NUMBER?

ANSWER: By suggesting innovative structure and value of contributions through collaborative teams.

One need I've determined is that we need to build databases of our strengths, and then build teams based around those strengths.

Another problem I've magnified is that top-down management is going to become more and more archaic as people start to grasp the concept of SQ (Spiritual Quotient) in the workplace. When I founded AspireNow in 1999, I was a pioneer in the concept that we are spiritual beings AT WORK and not just AT CHURCH or in our spiritual discipline.

SQ Matters, as much as EQ matters, as much as IQ matters. In fact, to me, SQ means more. Why? Because when CEO's talk about how they made their greatest decisions, most of them will talk about a "gut feel" above the numbers. The numbers mattered, but the GUT mattered more. Q: What is our gut? A: Our body's physical tie to our spirit. We come into the world through our belly button.

A formula to help overturn being treated like a number is to suggest to managers implementing the following mantra in the workplace:

Success = IQ + EQ + SQ.

If our SQ (Spirit) is most important, then we ought to build organizations similar to how we, ourselves, are organized. Gut (spiritual core) in the middle, Heart near the gut, eyes and ears (field, sales, customer service, website, etc.) touching prospects, arms and legs touching customers, and so forth. In other words, we need to build organizations that are INSIDE-OUT, rather than TOP-DOWN. And, sometimes, people who are NOT the C-Level are the heart and soul of a company. Those people ought to be tapped as part of the SQ collaborative team, to make sure more opportunities and challenges are discovered and addressed most efficiently.

I am bringing a model to organizations to help them implement INSIDE-OUT Structure and help create collaborative organizations that recognize the ability to move, shift, and go to the hot-hand in order to capitalize on opportunities and the challenges facing the organization. This type of model will turn Top-Down problems over and demonstrate added value in structuring to capitalize on cross-functional skill sets.

What are your thoughts on this matter?

I believe the time is now to get the word out. If you agree, share this article with as many people as you can - especially those in Human Resources and Upper Management. Let them know they'll have MORE success by being real than by treating you like a number.

Once more people see the light, the shift will take form just as the as the snowball gains momentum down the hill until this concept hits critical mass.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions and host of the ARRiiVE: Innovations In Business radio talk-show. ARRiiVE helps executives improve sales, launch products and services, and build dynamic, cross-functional collaborative teams. For more information, contact info (at)ARRiiVE (dot) com.

Oct 15, 2007

Semantic Search Engines: Closer to Reality Than You Know

I was just browsing over at WebWorkerDaily.com and found a post by Samuel Dean on new search engines. Samuel Dean put together a list that was helpful, because I've been seeking new ways to search information as both a frequent web surfer and as marketing savvy.

I already knew about Dogpile but did not know about Freeality. Some of the other alternatives to Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Business.com, such as Clusty, offer different ways of searching that will save time or offer efficient ways to display your search results.

When I produce music, I often search music production forums to find sage wisdom from people with professional production experience. I can now search forums better with Omgili, with their focused results based entirely on digging through forums. Or, I might search for Magazine articles while seeking out Aspiration Advocates to join AspireNow. So, using MagPortal allows me quicker access to this type of article or author. The idea of a human assisting in search, as with ChaCha, is interesting, but when I searched for an article I recently published on Bootstrapping 101, ChaCha delivered first page results, whereas my article on Bootstrapping 101 ranks #2 out of 289,000 on Google. Score one for Google.

I'm starting to search for video more and more often, and noticed that Truveo displays down to categories and enables a drill-down even into categories like "iVillage videos". Truveo offers an alternative to YouTube and Yahoo Video.

The search engine that caught my immediate attention most out of Dean's list, though, is Kartoo.

According to Dean, "Kartoo is a very interesting way to have your search results come back as a large graphic. Hover your mouse over components in the graphic, and you’ll see Flash-based visual representations of sub-topics relevant to your search pop up. You also see images that accompany individual search results which can help you drill down to exactly what you want."

Kartoo is basically a search result displayed as a mind map or idea web; a similar concept as Visual Thesaurus, but applied as a search function.

I like seeing a picture-map of my search results. Want to see it in action? Go to Kartoo, and then in the field, type in AspireNow. Check out how they profile this unique and helpful self-help site. You can see the PICTURE links to several related links from AspireNow, just as you would have received from a Google search; however, with thumbnails and text choices mapped as choices to drill-down into next.

This form of search ought to appeal to visual learners.

The only downside to Kartoo was the length of time required by the search genie to return data took longer than a Google search.

Search 3.0 is here: there's BIG NEWS in SEMANTIC SEARCH coming up this week. I still remain very curious to see what is coming from Radar Networks. On October 14, 2007, Radar Networks posted a blog article from the Guardian Unlimited Observer: "This week Radar Networks will emerge from 'stealth mode' and give the first public demonstration of its technology. It will launch a website combining elements of social networking with an 'intelligent' search engine - in effect, a site halfway between Facebook and Google.

Chief executive Nova Spivack said: 'It will be one of the first examples of Web 3.0. Imagine a tool that intelligently and automatically shares and organises knowledge for you. If, for example, you are researching a health condition, you might find all sorts of information on the web and you might also want to find people who know about it. All this information goes in, we run artificial intelligence on it and organise it for you.'"

Radar Networks is due to showcase the search engine on October 19, so stay tuned, as I'll keep you posted on search methods offering more breakthroughs to save you time and gain information more efficiently.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions and host of the ARRiiVE: Innovations In Business show. ARRiiVE helps executives improve sales and build interactive marketing, launch products and services, and build dynamic, cross-functional collaborative teams. For more information, contact info (at)ARRiiVE (dot) com.

Oct 11, 2007

Bootstrapping 101: Get It Together, Then Get The Word Out

It amazes me that out of all the companies started each year, less than 1% are backed by a venture capitalist or angel investor. Yet, out of all the entrepreneurs I've talked with over the past year, when asked about their biggest problem, over 80% of them will say either "funding" or "raising money" for their enterprise.

Is it possible most of them are wrong? I think so.

Here's why: not that lack of money is not a problem, because it is. But, many entrepreneurs start out their organization before they fully realize what they're into. Hey, I did, I ought to know. They think to themselves, "well, I've got enough money in my bank account, or with stocks, and a last resort, with credit cards, to pay the bills until this thing takes off." What they don't realize is that their timeline might be off: by YEARS. And that is when they get into the money scramble game of trying to pay bills and trying to keep their company going.

How do you stay out of this dangerous lack/fear game with money?

First of all, start by taking the amount of time you think it might take you to launch your firm, and triple it. Or, take the amount of money you think you need, and triple it. Either way, you're probably closer to reality with this new budgetary figure for cash (lifeblood) than the number you first assumed would cover your start-up.

Second, get your act together. Most executives starting their venture are so blinded by what they know that they don't realize what they DON'T know. Their business plans suck. They lack marketing. Their products are a mess. They aren't selling properly. And so on. So many entrepreneurs I've talked to know they need help, but when you say, "you need help with this aspect of your marketing, or your logo, or.." they'll turn right back around and say "oh, no, we've got that covered." But, just two days earlier they had admitted, in writing no less, that they did NOT have that covered. What gives? The problem is our inate ability to bullsh*t ourselves. Seriously. The only way to cut the bull is to get real and realize that we DON'T have it all together. A ship cannot sail if it's leaking too much water. For our business ship to sail, we need the next step, finding help for where we have holes.

Third, find professional help. An example of this is with patents, trademarks, and copyrights. There's no way I am going to recommend to you that you do your own trademark from a box. Get professional help. Do it right. There's no way I'm going to tell you that you can buy Quickbooks and you'll have your own built in accountant. No, hire a professional and meet with them on a quarterly basis. Pay them for their time. It is worth it to have your financials in order. Not only that, but how many executives consider getting outside professional assistance to help write sales scripts, website copy, structure teams, build sales presentations, and develop ways to market to their clients outside the norm?

Wait - let's take a step back. Are you making any money? If not, you need to look at why not. Most people are not making money for one of the following three reasons:

1. Product/service poorly defined: you have not fully created what you do.
2. Product/service poorly articulated: sales pitch, graphics not professional.
3. Product/service poorly marketed: not enough people know about what you do.

It's almost always one of these three blunders. If your problem is money, as in making any money, then you need to examine these three critical areas of your product lines and MAKE DAMN SURE you have your act together on these, or you've got a partial company, at best. (To me, I see holes in the hull of your sailboat.) I made this mistake when I first launched AspireNow (http://www.AspireNow.com). Rather than get one product really well articulated, with tight sales copy, dynamite graphics, packaged right, priced right, and then communicated through the various channels of marketing, I missed an opportunity to make money earlier by focusing on an online service and networking. And, it cost me a lot to run my business without that income coming in.

Mistake made = lesson learned. Fill the holes, right the ship.

So, I've been there. Don't do what I did. Do it smarter. Get your act together with your products and services. Don't skimp on product design. I've been redesigning all of my products to include classier pictures of people enjoying the product or solution. We buy from emotion, justify with logic. Don't skimp on sales copy. I've been selling and marketing long enough now that I can offer sales copy expertise to people who need it. Is your sales copy written to dig into people's guts and make them thirst for what you offer them? Good copy will provoke the curious prospect to buy. How complicated is it? Many products are now sold on the web with three page websites. Do you know why? One of my websites has an average page view statistic of 1.5 pages per visitor. That means, that if I don't get an order by page two, I'm not going to get an order from that visitor. And, although they MIGHT become a repeat visitor; then again, they might not. So, I figured out that I need to sell on the FIRST page they visit. Not *hope* the visitor decides I'm so wonderful to just click on over to the products page and buy all my stuff. It just doesn't work like that.

Last, if you're not getting the word out properly, you've set yourself up to fail.

What are you doing to get the word out? I'm joining professional organizations, cross-linking, blogging (to create backlinks and position my expertise), hosting a radio show, speaking as an expert on professional panels, speaking in person at professional events, and more. Notice I didn't say that I'm flooding the market with press releases boasting about what we can do? I didn't say pay for an expensive advertising program. Hey, you're boot-strapping, right? But you've got to find creative ways to get the word out and not drain your bank account.

One sales tool worth spending money on is gifts.

One of my philosophies in sales is that *you have to gift your prospects* much like a man ought to gift a woman when they are dating. Frank Sinatra said "you gotta gift 'em." From a man who once had a drawer with 200 toothbrushes stacked in it, he would have known, right? Anyway, if you're not gifting your prospects, you're not seeding them to like you. I have one company I'm helping get in the door of a major distribution center right now. My approach: gifting. I'm gifting each of their top managers, the product tester, the buyer, and several distribution center managers with a generous amount of product. I will include a simple one page letter explaining the virtues of partnering with my client's firm. And, I'll include a packet of marketing brochures to show the glossy material to back it up. Last, I'll include a page or two of client references, with testimonials.

Do you think I'll get in?

Many companies are now approaching ARRiiVE Business Solutions to serve as an "Acting VP of Key Accounts" to enable them to get into their top prospects. Now, they have a team of 10 salespeople who can't do it. But we can. Why is that?

Because we GIFT. Not only that, but we also have a strategy and structure to the process of the approach, the pitch, product demonstration, company demonstration, financial demonstration/trial-close, relationship implementation that wins business. But it never happens if we don't get the word out, first and then gift, second.

I recommend you utilize this approach to your marketing:

Blast small freebies to your mass marketing approaches.
Seed larger groups with a trial, but inexpensive gift.
Gift larger gifts in larger ways to your top prospects.

What I mean is when you run a press release, post a new blog article, send an email newsletter out, those types of marketing methods can be blasts that have a small hit but are large blasts of targeted people. After all, a blog may be hit by thousands of people. Put up a post at Squidoo and thousands may see it. Send out a press release, thousands my see it. You could even run an adwords campain, and thousands of impressions will see it. Offer people a free report to come to your site or to call you and learn more.

But when you're targeting your initial prospect list, where you could actually name the companies or individuals you want to do business with, seed them with something larger. For example, a website may not know who this prospect is, but they know they are on a website page. They could seed with a free workbook, white paper, or small product for visiting a page that creates interaction. That's what I mean by seed larger. If you're trying to sell to The Gap, maybe the first thing you want to do is send a sample of the fabric you use, complete with intricate stitching, to their top executives and buyers. You've got the list, right? So, seed larger, with a small gift, that shows your capability. Or, perhaps, make it more fun, send them the seed, but let them know that you'll create a free patch for them with their kids name, spouse's name, friend's name, or slogan, with your material as a fun way to see how well you can respond to their demands. Different, huh? Be different. Add value. Be personable. These things help you get their attention.

Then when you have their attention, gift larger, with product they can try and possibly even sell to their client-base. Put it in their store. Make it easy for them. And, when it sells (because you've already tested that it will sell, right?) then you can ask for the price you want, because you've built a relationship that fostered trust.

If I were to do it all over again, I'd follow the advice in this article like a Bible. If only I could go back, right? Well, I can't, but you can. You have the opportunity in front of you to launch your dream, and create success. Bootstrapping doesn't have to be ultra-stressful. It can be a lot of fun. And, you can make a lot of money, if you do it right. Go after your dream, but get your act together, then get the word out the right way. Don't forget to gift 'em. And watch your sales skyrocket, too.

Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE, heads up professional panels, offers keynote speaking, and leads professional services helping executives start a company, launch new products and services, improve sales and marketing, and empower teams through dynamic collaboration models and tools. Find out more at http://www.ARRiiVE.com.

Oct 9, 2007

Great Leaders: Building An Organization Utilizing The Wisdom of King Solomon

Note: this post is copyright protected Copyright © 1999-2007 AspireNow, and used with permission. Do not reprint unless you've been given specific written permission to do so by http://www.AspireNow.com.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, King Solomon, son of King David (who wrote most of the Psalms) demonstrates wisdom rarely seen among today's leaders. Among Solomon's writing credits are most of the Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and perhaps Ecclesiastes. Solomon ruled the kingdom of Israel during the era of approximately 970 – 930 BCE. He is credited in I Kings 4:30-34 with wisdom greater than Eastern mystics and Egyptian scholars. He wrote more than 1,000 songs (or poems), most of which are no longer available to us. Solomon likely wrote Psalm 72 shortly after becoming King. While the book of Proverbs contrasts wisdom with folly, Solomon reportedly spoke 3,000 proverbs, and various kings all over the earth sought out Solomon for his knowledge. And Ecclesiastes contains some of the strongest philosophical insights into the human condition contained in the Bible. Any number of these writings can serve as inspirational texts for anyone aspiring to leadership positions.

Regardless of one’s beliefs and religious practices, Solomon’s ideas about how to build a kingdom form a relevant metaphor that we can easily apply to society’s secular world. Today, special interest groups, in the name of freedom of speech and plurality of all religions, are intent upon corralling religion into certain religious centers and away from government, business, and society. However, the path to building a kingdom, according to Solomon, is quite different. No matter what religion a person may or may not hold sacred, peeking behind the veil of knowledge possessed by Solomon illuminates ways to lead during a time so desperate for true leadership.

This article describes the methods Solomon utilized in taking power, the political savvy he demonstrated in allying with key leaders and countries, and the swift yet fair way he dealt with dissidents. Learn how to build your own organization with the wisdom contained in this Great Leader series article, by AspireNow.

Read more here: http://www.aspirenow.com/leader_0902_king%20solomon's%20wisdom%20to%20building%20a%20kingdom.htm

Oct 4, 2007

Crossing A Chasm? Go For It!

I had a conversation with someone today regarding "is it possible to hit higher plateaus for people who are aspiring to higher levels?"

The truth of the matter is this: no matter what you have achieved, how high the plateau you feel you have reached, you will always be somewhat frustrated that there is something that could have been a little better. We always know this. At times, we will do it perfectly, and get it just right. But, nevertheless, there is always a new development, a new way to play, a new design, a new idea, a brighter methodology, whatever, waiting for us around the corner. It is as if no matter how good we get, there is always another level beyond where we are that we can aspire to grow towards.

An example of this for me has been playing the saxophone. When I was in 4th grade, I saw the jazz band come to my school. All the other kids said "I want to play trumpet. I want to play the drums." But not me. I said, "Next year, I'm going to play the saxophone." I always knew I wanted to play the sax, you see. I loved the sound. I thought it looked cool. I just loved the way the saxophone bell curved and how the keys looked so shiny when fingers played them. But, mostly, I loved the sound of the sax and the "voo-voo" sounds the musician made with it.

The next year, I started to play the saxophone. I noticed that in 6th grade, the lead player got to play two solos. COOL. I decided that I would practice so I could be the lead player. I played my saxophone more than any other student, and became the lead player in 6th grade.

In 7th grade, I noticed that there was a Jazz Band. I tried out for the jazz band and got into it. It was so much fun. There was a cocky sax player in 8th grade who told me I'd never be as good as him. He was pretty good. He won the Louis Armstrong jazz award that year for 8th graders. I decided I would win the Louis Armstrong jazz award in 8th grade, if I could. It wouldn't be easy. We had another good sax player, my best friend, and also a good trumpet player and trombone player. It was not a cinch. I'll never forget winning that award how happy I was!

It continued this way, until rather than awards, I started looking at WHO I could play LIKE. This was totally different. I was now listening to music and different sax players, like David Sanborn, Frank Foster (Count Basie's sax player), the guy from Supertramp, and others. I started playing along with records. And, I got better. But there was always someone better than me. I remember trying to play David Sanborn songs for years, until, finally, in college, I told a friend "I can play Sanborn note for note." He said, "you're kidding." I said, "No, I'm not, listen." Then I played a Sanborn song pretty much note for note. He was blown away. He said, "Scott, you JAM on the SAX!!" Coincidentally, this was the same cocky sax player who was better than me in 8th grade. Sadly, he quit playing, last I'd heard. I wasn't though. I knew that Sanborn wasn't as hard to copy as other sax players, like Ben Webster, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Wayne Shorter.

Wayne Shorter, as a saxophone player, is simply amazing. Of all the greats still alive, I rank Shorter as the best. Coltrane died some time ago, and although he was great he doesn't move me the same way that Shorter does. I set, as a goal, to play Wayne Shorter note for note. But after trying to play Shorter's solos year after year I sadly came to the conclusion in my early 20's that such an ability was impossible for me to attain. In other words, that I'd never hit that level of playing. Perhaps, Wayne was impossible to copy. Or, so I thought.

Well, isn't it interesting how we grow? There clearly was a level beyond me then, wouldn't you say? So, in my late 30's, I was playing in a band called BODY, which I still have alive and kicking today at http://www.myspace.com/body. We were playing funk, Afro-Latin, jazz, and other fusion songs. One song I decided would be fun to play was Black Market, a song by Weather Report from the 1975 album of the same name. Wayne Shorter played the sax on Black Market. Well, while practicing for the rehearsal to bring this song into the band, I found myself playing for a friend when I suddenly stunned myself while playing along with the solo Wayne played on the CD track: I hit each note almost exactly the way Wayne played it! Later, in rehearsal, I did it again. I was so excited. I remember my bass player, Joe Duran, saying, "you're not going to copy that, are you?" (Joe and I like to tease each other.) And I just laughed and said, "No, I just wanted to show you that I can do it." He said, "Nice. Now think up your own solo." Which I did. Was it as good as Wayne's? I suppose that was for the listeners at our gig to decide. I remember Matthias, my guitar player, grinning at me more than once and saying, "Awesome solo, Scott," back in those days.

Later that night, I went home and listened to a more recent recording of Wayne playing with Herbie Hancock. I realized that Wayne has grown since the recording of Black Market, and to play like him now would actually be another level or two beyond where I am now (or three or four). The point is this:

No matter what we have accomplished, there is always seemingly another level of skill, knowledge, and growth to be achieved in our future.

If you're reading this and saying to yourself, "Man, that is true!" Then, why not use this as a moment to dig deep and aspire to the next level in your own skill, talent, or vocation?

As somewhat of a polymath, or Renaissance Man, I've always seen myself as someone who aspires to be knowledgeable on multiple subject matters. I remember back to 1994, when I'd been selling for DSI, and my company merged with Bell Atlantic. When we bought BABSS, the new company blended the resources of the old, so that my team now was managed by the former Bell Atlantic Business System Services Group Manager, Dick Bomely. Bomely, or "The Bomber" as his team lovingly referred him by for his brusque manner of managing his team, looked at my business card from DSI and frowned eyebrows. "Senior Account Executive, ha!" he exclaimed. "I'll show you a senior account manager. I want you to meet Bob Wood." He got on the phone at that instant and scheduled me to meet with Bob the next morning for breakfast. At first, I was taken aback. After all, I thought I was a good salesperson. I'd had success with my accounts, respect from my peers, and had won a few large deals in my past. But I knew there were people better than me. I just didn't know who. Well, I was about to meet him.

I recall the next day when I came home from work, and I told Patti, my girlfriend at the time, "I just met the next level today." I was talking about Bob Wood, the Northern California Region's star salesman. When I met Bob earlier that morning, I remember there were several things that impressed me about him. First, he was sharp, dressed impeccably. Second, he was sharp as a tack and funny. He was quite clever. Third, He knew his clients and knew his company well. He was also a little cocky. He'd also gained quite a reputation for signing huge deals with Chevron and other firms in the Bay Area. But, all of that said, he was also human. I'll never forget that Bob put a $20 bill on the table, then freaked out when he thought the busboy took it! I never saw him pull the $20 bill out of his pocket, so as far as I was concerned, it wasn't substantial. But, if a busboy can make off with your Andrew Jackson, you're human, right? But I sure was impressed by Bob, anyway.

Meeting Bob Wood was the event that triggered me to decide to push my sales career to the next level. I went out and bought new suits (not just $300 suits, but $1000 suits). At first, I went into debt to do it. So, at least I LOOKED better than Bob. As Tony Robbins says, sometimes you "gotta fake it til you make it." It's true. People noticed, too. I got compliments all the time in those days for my suits and ties. They treated me with more respect because I treated myself with more respect. I then subscribed to Harvard Business Review and Strategy + Business Magazines to step-up my acumen and skill-set. None of my peers read these magazines. I revamped my sales approach to include starting at the top FIRST. I started learning how to sell at a higher level - even to the daunting C-level of organizations. I was determined to learn how to get in the door of these difficult prospects. Three months later, I had the opportunity to win a large support contract with Tandem. Bob told me that I'd never get it signed, because Tandem wanted us to service equipment without a database of the serial numbers, and BABSS wouldn't approve such deals. I called the Vice President of Operations in our company and asked him if he wanted another $2 Million revenue for the company. He said, "Yes, with who?" Then I explained my problem about the serial numbers. He gave me a solution to survey the assets on the first service call in each location, which was a win for everyone. I won Tandem, my first multimillion dollar deal of that year, and went on to attend every Summit Club the company held from then on. Could Bob have been my inspiration?

Later, I met another guy who was "the next level" through interviewing with Arthur Andersen. he didn't dress fancier than me. In fact, he looked like he was on his way to a night club when I met him. But this guy wrote $20 Million dollar deals on a routine basis. He'd earned the right to dress however he wanted. Wow, here's a guy who is another next level beyond Bob. You see, no matter how good we get, there is always someone a level up the scale who might know something we don't. Even if you are the top-rated cardiovascular surgeon in your country, there may be someone in another country who discovers a breakthrough surgical procedure that makes your skills pale by comparison. There is probably something greater in every person who reads this article.

And that is what I am urging you to go after. Whatever it is you want in life, go for it! Go from being good at it to being GREAT at it. Do what nobody else is willing to do. Go for it with all you've got within you. Because you're the one called to that special interest, that talent, that vocation. If you don't do it, what then? Who will do it? Anyone? And if someone does do it, and you didn't, how would it feel THEN?

I remember a former manager, Greg Ficke, who once said to me, "You know, Scott, you will never regret the thing you try and failed trying to do. You may always regret not trying to do it." I think Greg is right. But I'd go further and say you'll regret not DOING it, for sure. But you might regret failing, too. Learn from your failures, get up, refine your process, again, and again, until you WIN. Don't just TRY to DO it, DO IT.

The author of this article is Scott Andrews. Scott is the Founder of AspireNow and CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions. ARRiiVE helps executives launch companies, improve sales and marketing, and empower the employees within their organization through unique models of collaboration and team-building. If you want to learn more, visit http://www.ARRiiVE.com, or call Scott directly at (805) 459-6939.

Oct 3, 2007

Duo-function Retro MP3 AND Cassette Player

(photo credit: Chinavision)
This is from the site, Popgadget: "I haven’t seen the retro look blend better with any product in a long time than it does with the Cassette MP3 player. This gadget looks like a normal cassette tape on the outside but is actually an mp3 player. The camouflage design is not without functional advantages too – not only do you get the cool retro look with the cassette casing, but you can also use the player as a car cassette, or with any cassette player, or as a normal mp3 player.

Expect no frills with this gadget – no expensive LCD screen, no built-in memory (you will have to use your own SD cards in the card slot provided), and PC interface is via USB. Which obviously means it will also go very easy on your wallet (well, the upfront investment at least). Summary – if you are on the lookout for a cheap, no-frills player and are not too particular about the specs or the brand, this one is well worth trying." Cool, huh?

I might just have to buy one of these, myself. I've been looking at MP3 players, but I have this cassette deck in my truck that I don't want to get rid of, because I still like being able to listen to audio tapes sometimes for recordings of the band and some of the older programs I listen to. But, this solves two problems: being an MP3 and inexpensively solving the plugging to the car audio system, while being retro and cool. Like it? Let me know if you'd like to see more posts like this.

~Scott (http://www.ARRiiVE.com)
In addition, we're looking for people with up-and-coming cool products who want to plug them and get them more exposure. We're happy to do so as part of our business launch services. Contact info@ARRiiVE.com for more details.

Oct 2, 2007

Under Commit, Over Deliver

If there is one sales mistake that has to be the biggest mistake you can make, it is this:

OVER-committing on a product capability, service offering, distribution timeline, or price. Actually, the bigger problem comes when you UNDER deliver. So, I want to talk about this critical component of sales and operation teamwork that builds company success: the concept that you must UNDER-COMMIT and OVER-DELIVER.

The fact is, it is human nature to want to commit to what prospects request - even when their request is unreasonable - because we WANT to make a sale. However, committing to a customer when you cannot deliver on that commitment will cost you more than an order: it may cost you a customer for life.

I once had this happen to me when my company's service collapsed. I had committed to my client, Home Express, that I would take care of them if something happened while we emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. She signed with us. Then, six months later, it just so happened that my two-day vacation coincided with when my company filed Chapter 11 again as part of a sale proceed to become Decision Servcom, Inc. I could have cancelled the skiing trip because I knew we were going to be purchased and going through a merger, but I knew tough times were ahead and it would be the only vacation I was likely to get for a couple of months. So, I went anyway.

While I was gone, things went bad. As a result or the company having to put all of these customers from the old company into the new company in (all in ONE DAY) the computer switchboard for our technical support WENT DOWN for a whole day (AUGHH!! Nightmare scenario if you're in the service business). But, rather than being able to HANDLE my customers smoothly by just calling each of them and having them call a temporary contact to get service calls dispatched, I was off snow skiing and unable to do anything about it. My service manager ought to have been on the phone with my clients, anyway, but he did nothing. Nobody did anything. The buck stops with the salesperson, as far as the client is concerned. And, as a result, my company fell into breach of contract. My customer sent me a letter terminating their agreement with my firm, effective immediately, the very next day. Can you blame them? I sure couldn't. I had to strike it up to a lesson learned to always have a double-contingency plan whenever any serious service challenge might occur with my company's ability to deliver. However, the worst thing about it was I lost the relationship with the CIO - someone who I really, really liked and would have preferred remaining friends and business associates with throughout my career.

See, what happens when we don't deliver what we promise is that we lose credibility. Worse than that, we often cost OTHER people their jobs, security, money, or happiness by not delivering what we commit. We force them to go to a competitor.

I remember a positive story, when I was assigned US Sprint up in Sacramento while selling for JWP/Businessland post-merger. I remember meeting the buyer for US Sprint, a guy I'll call Edward for this article's sake. Edward told me that he didn't want to give me his business because my company had missed distribution commitment dates since merging with JWP. This amounted to four months of missed commitments. That made him look bad. So, he went elsewhere. But, he WAS LOYAL to my firm, prior to the merger. Now, I recall reading from a Dale Carnegie book that if you want people to see your way of thinking, first agree with them. I knew that my company, JWP, still couldn't hit a delivery date if it had to. We just weren't shipping anything right. The customer was right. So, I decided to personally suck it up and told Edward, "Look, I agree with you. We can't deliver anything complete and on-time right now. I can't blame you for feeling the way you do, and I apologize for the problem you experienced before I took over handling your account."

Then I said something dramatically shocking to the buyer: "Edward, I'd like to ask you NOT to buy from me right now."

That's right. Those are the exact words that came out of my mouth. I'm not sure what possessed me to say it. But I just couldn't see anyway I could risk this huge account and all their business over another messed up order. I had nothing to lose, as he wasn't buying from us anymore, anyway. And, he was right: the next order simply had to get there on time, complete. And, I didn't think my company could do it, either. So, I agreed with him, and told him NOT to buy from me. BUT, I had a strategy in mind. I then asked for his FIRM COMMITMENT in return from my commitment to him. There's a rule in sales that you don't ever give a concession without getting one in return. I utilized that rule here:

"Edward, what I'd like to ask of you, in exchange for my commitment to you not to buy from us now, is that when I DO call and tell you that it is OKAY to buy from us again and that we'll DELIVER ON TIME a COMPLETE ORDER per your requirements, then I'd like you to give me back at least 80% of your business. Is that fair?"

His reply: "If you can deliver on the order you'll get as high a percentage as you used to." This seemed like a fair agreement. He smiled. The body language said, "you've got my trust, now earn it."

I remember once my company delivered two weeks of perfect orders to my other clients, I called up Edward and notified him that it was okay to order from us again, and we could meet his expectations. Notice, I didn't over commit, I just said we'd meet his expectations. Two days later, when I sent out my newsletter with the new Macs on it, Edward called me. He placed an order the same day for $60,000 dollars worth of Macs, which at the time was a decent order that made a third of my quota for the month. As a way of saying "Thank you for trusting in me" I took the client to golf. That's now over-delivering, right? We then delivered the order on time, and I continued to receive $60,000 orders for the next three months straight with that customer, up until I left the firm.

You see, you build credibility when you deliver beyond your commitments. Whether it is a pricing model, a distribution time frame, or a service quality, these are the evidence of our true relationship, from a customer's perspective. If we miss on all of these areas, we're in big trouble!

I recently signed up as an affiliate for a company who needs to ship products to fulfill their agreement. Well, unfortunately for both of us, they aren't shipping products on time. Worse yet, they are shipping completely different products due to a manufacturing defect. Their communication has been poor. And last, worst of all, they're shipping incomplete orders. Coupled with not making up for the credits they give me for the orders I place, this is about a 4-way losing scenario on their part for fulfilling their commitment. Top it off with their billing me over-zealously before they can even ship the product, and I'd throw money into the equation, too. So, I sent them an email on Friday explaining that I wanted a credit and explanation or solution to these problems. Guess what? Still no email or phone call back.

I've come to the conclusion that this company is just not ready for me to be involved with them. It's too bad, but I just cannot expose MY customers to THEIR broken promises. It is a bad reflection upon me. Can you blame me?

So, if you're in charge of an operation, be it sales, operations, or the CEO of a company, make sure you first under commit to what you CAN deliver. Make sure you are honest with people. They will respect you for it in the long run. And then, be sure you over-deliver to the requirements you sold. When you do this, you create a lifetime of happy customers. I know this because I've experienced both sides of this under-commit, over-deliver coin as both salesman/supplier and as customer.

Build stronger relationships through honoring your commitments. It's a win-win for everyone if you do.

Scott Andrews is CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions, a firm dedicated to helping executives successfully launch new products, improve sales & marketing, and build empowered teams. Contact Scott at 1-805-459-6939 or email info@ARRiiVE.com with questions about improving your firm's sales success.