Monday, October 30, 2006

How to Really Scare Away Business

Skype provides a cheap way for people around the world to make phone calls through the Internet. So a move by the United Arab Emirates to shut down the Internet phone provider was greeted with outrage.

The crackdown was unannounced and prompted by Etisalat, the primary telecom and Internet provider for the Emirates. The company was losing money to Skype and other Internet phone companies. Its rationale for the shutdown was that Skype and other Internet phone companies had no license to sell phone service in the Emirates.

The local press went wild. An editorial in a newspaper considered to be pro-government, Gulf News, complained that the ban would stifle technology that should be embraced. Expatriates railed against the shutdown and complained it hurt foreign businesses and families.

Predictably, Etisalat’s profitability rose after the ban. Its second quarter profits jumped $403 million, 30 percent more than the same period a year earlier. Its third quarter profits were even more spectacular at $427 million, a 41 percent increase.

But the UAE is far from the only country to ban Internet telephony. Bahrain is the only Gulf state that has not made the service illegal.

Harvard law professor John Palfrey, who has studied Internet censorship, says he has received several reports of Internet telephony blockage or censorship in a wide variety of countries from North Africa, China, Southeast Asia and former Soviet republics.

Palfrey says blocking efforts by countries ultimately fail because people will always find ways around a ban. He advocates finding ways to monetize the new technology even at the expense of the “old industry”.

Unfair bans may kill competition, but they also prevent the betterment of business. If you have competition, there is constant pressure to improve your services and technology; the customers win and so do the best businesses. As with any decent service, if it’s good enough people will find a way to use it. If you learn to compete with strong competition, you’ll build a stronger business.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Greatness is within reach if you're willing to pay the price

The cover story of Fortune magazine, What it Takes to Be Great, validates the message of hard work in a chosen area over a period of time.

Greatness is within reach of those who are willing to pay the price of discipline, hard work, focus, and applied effort. Talent helps, but it's not the barrier to great achievement that many make it out to be.

A book gets written by creating hundreds of thousands of characters on a page, one after the other. There's no shortcut.

A company gets built one customer at a time, one employee at a time, one product at a time.

Tony Robbins observed that most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade.

Focus on what you can do today to build a stronger business and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish over time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Catalog Crisis

If the catalogs you receive in the mail are piling up higher than your interest in them, it may be time to call in the specialists.

Instead of taking the time to write to each catalog firm to cut you from their mailing lists, several companies provide time-saving devices to cut out the catalogs. You can save time on your letter-writing campaign by visiting website which provides free letter templates that users can download.

Abacus Alliance lets users request removal from their database – run for mail order companies. The Direct Marketing Association also has the power to remove you from its direct mail listings. You can either request the deletion by mail or at its website If you shell out a $1 registration fee, the catalog deliveries will stop.

By using your time for busywork efficiently and effectively, you will have more time for higher priorities and you’ll build a stronger business.

Reduce with Vitamin C

Taking 500mg of Vitamin C can help you burn more fat when you exercise, according to a study published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

People who took Vitamin C supplements while exercising burned 39% more fat than people who took less Vitamin C.

Supplements are necessary because mere fruits and vegetables do not provide the Vitamin in sufficient amounts.

If you take the advice of medical experts you’ll improve your health and you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Retaining Customers is Everyone’s Business

People departmentalize companies for the sake of efficiency, but by doing so they lose something in the process. People need to think of the company as a whole business where everyone understands each other’s roles and shares a common goal – the success of the business. They also need to grasp that having a vested interest in each other’s success is to the company’s benefit.

  • Share Goals
Shared goals are critical for encouraging people to be on equal footing. If one department’s staff feel subservient to another it creates friction and competition which run counter to the objective. But establishing shared goals takes time. For a mid-sized company of 1,000 to 2,000 employees it can take 18 months.

  • Understand the company
If your staff doesn’t understand the company they work for and the internal mechanisms that make it hum, how on earth will their customers? Effective communicators will be able to transmit what clients’ expectations are and what promises can realistically be made.

  • Improve relationships
Make sure the message of shared goals does not simply become a director vs. support staff issue. Otherwise your company will be divided by the perception that there’s a disconnect between the executives and the rest of the staff.

  • Make the most of current data
It’s estimated that most companies lose 10 percent to 30 percent of their established customers each year. Listen to your current customers and respond to their needs. Every company needs prospects but it’d important not to lose your customers once you have them. Listen to what they tell you. Measure current customer retention, review account goals and referrals. It may take two or three years to reverse the trend, but stay with it.

  • Sell results
Do you research and get figures from middle management to get executive level support. If you can demonstrate to them that there are problems affecting the bottom line, but ones that can be corrected to the benefit of the company, you’ve got their ear.

By getting everyone to see they share a stake in the business by understanding how it functions, you’ll build a stronger business.

Tread Sensibly

Good advice never goes out of style, especially when it comes to footwear. For your walking regimen the shoe you buy needs to be flexible for the ball of your foot but not the arch. You should also ensure that the heel is cushioned.

Melinda R Reiner, DPM, advises in Bottom Line article “Your Fitness” that people should make shoe purchases in stores with sales staff on hand to help rather than relying on the Internet. There should be a thumbnail’s width between the end of your longest toe to the end of the shoe. When you have your shoes fitted, wait until late afternoon, if possible, because your feet tend to swell during the day.

How do you know when you’re due for a new pair? When the interior padding loses its cushioning and stability which happens when you’ve walked 500 miles in your shoes.

By shopping sensibly, you can make the best of your purchases and you’ll build a stronger business.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brother, Can You Spare Some Megaflops?

Who would have thought an idle computer could be productive let alone produce the kind of power you could only find in a supercomputer? But when a team of scientists at Stanford University called for extra power, some charitable computer owners responded.

Some linked into a screensaver website.

By harnessing the power of 40,000 Folding@Home screensaver users, the university scientists were able to replicate the power of a supercomputer. They used it to map the folding sequence of proteins to arm them with greater insight into incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Sometimes you can find help and energy from the most unlikely sources. By taking an unconventional approach, you can build a stronger business.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How to Scare Up Attention

Ghoulish stories, ghost hunters and amusements are some of the pickings of Halloween websites catering to the not so niche market of people who want to be freaked out.

A website for self proclaimed ghost hunters, reveals the proof of ghost sightings and includes an introduction to the subject through a link to South Jersey Ghost Research’s website called Ghost Hunting 101.

Reviews of horror movies and books, interviews with film makers and authors are the focus of website . This website also offers a link to horror interviewer “The Gravedigger.”

There is a website that tackles almost every aspect of the horror industry in a collection of links to the supernatural. One website offers users theatrical contact lenses. A website that caters to the vampire obsessed – Bite Me magazine.

If you have a specialized audience, you can use the Internet to bring would-be customers together and you’ll build a stronger business.

Budget Your Reading

The old-fashioned book swap is alive and well on the Internet. Two websites allow users to trade paperback books. Users of and list books they want to trade and browse the websites for new interests. The only cost to users is the postage on the books they send – less than $2.

By taking advantage of budget-minded websites you can improve your business acumen one book at a time, save money and build a stronger business.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Send a Piece of Yourself in an E-mail Message

The next time you send an e-mail you can turn it into a 3-D experience by including a video message. Springdoo’s website, offers users the ability to send up to three minutes of video or 10 minutes of audio to anyone free of charge. You need to have a web cam and a microphone set up to create the messages. Although the website will deliver your email, receivers need to follow a link to get the video or audio message.

If you punctuate your e-mails with a personal flavor, you can ensure your recipients are seeing or hearing the real you. By adding another layer of security to your e-mail, you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take Care in the Hospital

Hospitals save lives but the people who administer treatment to sick people aren’t infallible. According to a study by healthcare rating company HealthGrades, up to 195,000 patients die each year in U.S. hospitals because of medical errors. Here are some tips that you or family members can follow to stay safe.

Make sure you have a list of prescribed medications with dosages. You can get a list from the attending physician. When you’re given a pill or intravenous (IV) bag, ask what you’re being given and check to see that it’s on your list of prescription medication. It’s healthy to be curious without undermining the authority of the physicians trying to treat you. Ask them to explain what each medication does and double-check that the drug provider knows your name and birthday.

Some drug names have similar spellings – make sure you are getting the right prescription.

If you are having an organ or limb removed, write on the correct appendage “this one”, to ensure there is no confusion in the operating room.

Inform the doctor or nursing staff if you are allergic to any medication and make a note to this effect by your bed.

Avoid elective surgery in July when interns, residents and medical school students start their assignments at teaching hospitals. If you do get an intern or resident and they want to perform a common hospital task, ask them how many times they have done this task before.

Establish a rapport with the medical staff. Take a friendly interest in them and they will be more likely to do the same for you.

Save questions for your attending physician as answers received from other medical staff are less likely to be definitive. Avoid having an unlicensed assisting personnel or nurse assistant insert an IV or catheter or change a sterile dressing. If you don’t see a name tag identifying the person’s role, ask them what their training is.

Unless it is emergency surgery, you shouldn’t necessarily settle for the first doctor offered.
Find out if they are board certified using website – the American Board of Medical Specialists. Registration is required but free.

Ask the doctor how many times they have performed the procedure. Ideally, advises David Sherer, MD, you would want a doctor who has done the operation hundreds if not thousands of times; if it is a rare procedure, then at least 12 times per year.

Find the right hospital using the assistance of guides such as “America’s Best Hospital Guide” published by US News and World Report or access its website and click “Best Hospitals”. Note that your health insurance may limit your hospital and doctor options.

Before you need one, ask your doctor which emergency room in your area he considers best, although consider that in an emergency, the closest one available may be your best bet.

Let the doctor know how you feel. If a procedure causes you pain, shortness of breath, lose feeling or makes you lightheaded, it is important to express yourself.

Encourage bedside visitors so more people can keep an eye on hospital staff and so hospital staff k now that you’re well looked after.

Inform anesthesiologists of lose teeth that could be knocked out during intubation when a breathing tube is inserted in your throat. Also ask the doctor about removing dentures or artificial teeth before you are taken to the operating room

If you protect your health it may just mean your life, and you’ll be around to build a stronger business.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Computer Whiz Wozniak Visits Philadelphia

Steve Wozniak and Bill RingleLast Saturday, September 30, Steve Wozniak visited Philadelphia and shared his perspectives with several hundred business owners, students, and computer enthusiasts.

I had the good fortune to meet Woz and connect around our mutual passion for tecchnology and pranks.

Woz is a wonderful story teller because he balances his love of detail with his enthusiasm for surprises and lessons learned along the way.

Here is my synopsis of his engaging talk:

  1. Woz never wanted to be an entrepreneur. He was happy being an HP engineer working on calculator designs because it's what he loved doing and HP was a great company to work for at the time. Electronics was a way to play pranks, and that fueled so much of his passion. He always was the one to take a prank "one step further."

  2. Even though he's shy, Woz likes being first at things. He's very proud of building and operating the first "dial-a-joke" service in the Bay area. Sometimes he would answer the line instead of his device and practice telling jokes to over come his shyness. It paid off -- that's how he met his wife.

  3. When you think of resourceful people showing their gifts at a young age, you ought to think of Steve Wozniak. As a teenager, he figured out a way to get access to technical specs on chips that were available. He and a friend would go to the Stanford Linear Accelerator research center and read the magazines in their tech libraries on weekends. Then he'd send in the reader response cards in the magazines and journals to get component catalogs, technical manuals, and complimentary subscriptions.

  4. Steve Jobs met Woz in high school and they did start their company in a garage. Jobs picked the name Apple Computer. Woz thinks it had to do with the orchard picking work Jobs had done as a teenager.

  5. As Jobs saw opportunities to work together in the early days, he'd make promises, then come back and tell Woz about it. For instance, Jobs had heard Woz talk about being able to build a "pong" arcade game, so he got a contract to do it. Woz was excited to hear that they would be paid to do something he's wanted to do for months; he figured in 4-5 weeks, he's be able to put something really elegant together. Oops, Jobs promised a prototype the next week, so Woz pulled 4 consecutive all-nighters to deliver. And he did!

  6. The Homebrew Computer Club was an organization in Silicon Valley to have an open exchange with others interested in home computers at a time when few people were thinking about having a computer in their home. The closest people came to to a computer at home before dedicated mainframe terminals and acoustic couplers became popular was having gigantic IBM punch card machines. At the Homebrew Club, hobbyists from all ages and industries came together to openly share what they were working on and how they figured it out. It was a very open community, much the way the Open Source community operates on a global scale today.

  7. To know Woz is to realize he's all about optimization. He's known for creating the Apple II and it had "half as many parts and twice the capability" of any other low-cost computer on the market at the time. Before that, he honed his skills as designing circuits in high school, than later for HP. He would spend days designing and redesigning circuits to save a chip here or there by changing the order or doing something tricky. It was his passion and an outlet for his enormous creativity and energy.

  8. When the Apple started, Woz was reluctant to take any kind of leadership position, even as an engineering manager. He said, "I really wouldn't know how to tell someone that his work was crummy. It would just be easier to do it right myself." After an airplane crash, Woz went back and finished his degree at Stanford under a pseudonym to avoid notoriety.

  9. When Steve and Woz started Apple, they needed to raise $1,000 to invest in components. Woz sold his prized HP calculator to raise his $400. (It was a three-way, 400/400/200 investment with a third partner who soon cashed out after the company was formed.) But Woz didn't part with the calculator capriciously -- as an HP employee, he knew that the next model was coming out in a month for even less money!

  10. While Woz works with former Apple executives Gil Amelio, and Ellen Hancock at Acquicor his heart is still in helping people of all ages use technology to enrich their lives and do cool things. He boasted to have bought every iPod model that Apple has produced. He's still a gadget guy to the core.

Afterwards, he stayed around and signed copies of his book.

When you connect with others who are passionate about their work, it can't help but rub off in your own work as you build a stronger business.

Special thanks to Jason O'Grady, editor of, for recording this talk and publishing it to iTunes. Enjoy!