The Case Against Social Media – Part I

August 18, 2009 at 10:24 am (Internet) (, , , , )

Updated: 9-15-09 Changed “business tool” to “advertising vehicle”

I have been an opponent of social media as a business tool advertising vehicle because of the lack of ROI and the time and effort it takes. It’s a time suck and as a business owner you only have so much time in a day to do the things you really need to do.

Social media has a huge opportunity cost.

 This was my belief until I sat in on a seminar by Kurt Ballard of Zig Zag media. He used an example that may change my belief, or at least refined it.

 I still hold fast from the small business perspective. However, I might have a change of heart for the mega giant company’s point of view. But I still have some research to do so don’t quote me on that.



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Webinar: Interpersonal Effectiveness for Project Success

August 13, 2009 at 2:44 pm (Webinars) (, , , )

Updated 9-24-9. This webinar has passed. Click here to view the archieved Webinar.

Join me as I fatten my brain up with this Webinar from Corporate Education Group and Boston University.

The Missing Link: Interpersonal Effectiveness for Project Success

“Do you have any idea why project success rates are at the lowest they’ve been in over a decade? One reason may be that many project managers and project team members need help with building, leading, and positively influencing unified, high-performing project teams. In this session, hosted by Corporate Education Group, you’ll learn why interpersonal effectiveness delivers project success…and how you can have both!”row of computers

Key learning points from this webinar include:

•Increase buy-in from team members and stakeholders by understanding the connection between trust, conflict, and accountability

•Understand how to develop and maintain accountability with project team members and stakeholders

•Learn to influence project participants on all levels of the project who do not directly report to you including: clients, team members, stakeholders, vendors

About the presenter: Eileen Twichell is a dynamic and accomplished presenter and is highly regarded in the project management community for her expertise and knowledge of the field. She brings to you over twenty years of project management training and design experience and has developed and facilitated classes in project management, time management, presentation skills, coaching, and communications.

Register Here

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Birth of Ravin Graphics LLC

August 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm (Ravin Graphics) (, , , , , , )

My first real project was the Ravin’ Graphics Collegiate Day Planner.

cover-altIt was last year in college when my best friend came to visit. He graduated a year early and was working for the once internet giant America Online. Tim was excited to show me his new Franklin Covey day planner which featured pictures of famous golf courses as background images on each page. I immediately said (as with my second business), that would be cooler if it featured pictures of our University on each page. I was already making my own day planners on my home PC and so the idea of Ravin’ Graphics was born.

I originally used Franklin’s day planners, but they were expensive (for this poor college student) and didn’t have the features that I’ve seen and liked in other planners. In addition, I had to drive an hour away to pick up a new one. Once my Franklin planner was “consumed”, I started making planners on my home pc with Page Maker saying that “next month, I will pick up a new Franklin planner”. But that never happened.

As I used my printed planners, I could and did tweak my templates, further customizing my planner. This template is what I eventually used as Ravin’ Graphics initial design.

So I had an idea for a product. I knew I had the resources and knowledge to bring this concept into reality. But could I make any money doing it?

As an entrepreneur this should be your second step before advancing further. First step is realizing an idea or unmeet demand. Most clients I consult with go from ideal to manufacturing, whether that’s in their garage or outsourcing to China. What I love about PMI’s project methodology, is that you cover every conceivable angle of making, producing a product, or running a business before any real work is done. More on that later. But your second step should be defining your customer.
Wish I still had my book on Ravin Graphics, I had all my numbers there. Found my 1987 Middle School year book, but not my accumulated notes and formulas on the Ravin’ Graphics project.

Personal-info-pageOf the top of my head, SWTSU, my university had 25k students. Can’t think of the Alumni numbers, but the school did not have a solid Alumni following. Large school, but not a large market. One percent was my rough guesstament on the number of students purchasing my product. If I couldn’t make it on 2.5 k purchases, I figured I couldn’t make it at all. The risk was too high for my own university. Only 25 miles away was the University of Texas, one of the largest universities in the country, 48k students and a very robust alumni following. Again, I had solid numbers at the time.

Now my 1% purchase requirement was looking pretty good. In addition, I had a very robust secondary market. The numbers were telling me to move forward.

Reasons Ravin’ Graphics should have been successful for the following reasons.
1. Compelling competitive advantage
2. Realistic financial projections
3. First to market, but no doubt would I have others on my heels.
4. Firm and easily identifiable customer base.
5. Flexibility to make swift changes to business model or product to over come unexpected problems.
6. Fully developed business plan
7. Working prototype.
8. Funded to completion.
9. Scalable

Does your product or business idea fulfill these requirements? If not, you still have work to do before you start manufacturing (or asking for money).sept-dailies

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Trent Reznor is also a marketing genius.

August 7, 2009 at 5:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

It feels good when an industry giant echo’s your own words.

It’s a good feeling when you only have peripheral knowledge of an industry put you hit it square on the head and get confirmation from an industry heavy weight.

I’ve been medaling with a friends musical act partly uninvited, but I can’t help myself. When I see or hear about a practical business model problem, my brain starts seeking solutions.

My two friends are having a problem making money as an independent label. It’s the music industry’s old catch-22, you have to have an agent or label if you want to make money, but you need to be already making money to attract an agent or label.

These guys are already turning out really good music in quality and volume, even more so than some of the already established artists. But they are young, creative types not concerned with business side applications and processes, but I am! So I give them this spill about how they can make a little money while they are waiting for the big. A few months later I read this from Trent Reznor the leader of the band Nine Inch Nails.

ORIGINAL POST: [by Trent Reznor]

nin-logoMy thoughts on what to do as a new / unknown artist

I posted a message on Twitter yesterday stating I thought The Beastie Boys and TopSpin Media “got it right” regarding how to sell music in this day and age. Here’s a link to their store:

Shortly thereafter, I got some responses from people stating the usual “yeah, if you’re an established artist – what if you’re just trying to get heard?” argument.

If you are an unknown / lesser-known artist trying to get noticed / established:

* Establish your goals. If you are looking for mainstream super-success (think Lady GaGa, Coldplay, U2, Justin Timberlake) – your best bet in my opinion is to look at major labels and prepare to share all revenue streams / creative control / music ownership. Good luck with that one.

If you’re forging your own path, read on. (This is what mimics my own opinion.)

* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters.
To clarify: …build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this – give your music away as… Collect people’s email info in exchange … and start building your database of potential customers.

Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods.

Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special – make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them something YOU would want to have as a fan. Make a premium download available that includes high-resolution versions (for sale at a reasonable price) and include the download as something immediately available with any physical purchase. Sell T-shirts. Sell buttons, posters… whatever.

The point is this: music IS free whether you want to believe that or not. Every piece of music you can think of is available free right now a click away. This is a fact – it sucks as the musician BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS (for now). So… have the public get what they want FROM YOU instead of a torrent site and garner good will in the process (plus build your database).

The database you are amassing should not be abused, but used to inform people that are interested in what you do when you have something going on – like a few shows, or a tour, or a new record, or a webcast, etc.


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Bad Risk Management (Picture)

August 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm (Risk Management)

Requirements: Must get 100% of crumbs.

Documented risks for procedure: None.

Known, unknowns: May get head stuck in bag.

Bad Risk Management

Bad Risk Management

I came home from dinner one night to find my dog head deep into a bag of potato chips. He was facing into the wall with the bag completely covering his head.

Have you ever been working on a simple project and failed to do risk management and then get tied up longer in an easily avoidable risk than the entire project should have taken?

Don’t be this guy (or girl), do your risk analysis.

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Metrics – 10% percentage of U.K. PMs who say they would leave project management

August 3, 2009 at 11:51 am (pmp)

10% is the percentage of U.K. professionals who say they would leave project management to avoid the downturn*.

 That’s a pretty low percentage. I’d say that that number is the standard percentage of pm professionals who would leave the industry anyways, for some reason or another and not just because of the downturn.

 So if there is really no change in the statistic, then project managers must really like what they do.

*source: 2009 Associate Survey PM7. Hat tip, PM Network July 2009 Volume 23. No. 7

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Think Out-Side-The-Box

July 31, 2009 at 12:14 pm (Thinking Outside-The-Box) (, , )

Thinking Outside-of-The-Box is a weekly feature item. If you are familiar with it skip the next couple of paragraphs and go to the next Bold sentence.

Thinking out-of-the-box doesn’t mean thinking differently. Thinking out-of-the-box means thinking with out boundaries or limitations. It means pure thinking, seeing past the road blocks and patterns our minds make.

 These “boxes” prevent us from seeing the easy and best solutions.

 One way to train yourself to think outside-the-box is when you see something that is just brilliant, new, yet old, analyze the thought process behind it, and then immediately apply this new insight to similar items.

Friday’s Out-Side-the-Box

Equate Contact Solution

I noticed on the side of my bottle of Equate Contact Solution that there is an ad for 1800- CONTACTS. Why is this Out-of-the-box Thinking? Because every time I pick up that bottle of contact solution, which is a daily occurrence, I see and think, 800-CONTACTS. In addition, I bought this bottle at a brink and mortar store and not from the 800-CONTACTS website.

Thinking Outside-of-The-Box

Thinking Outside-of-The-Box

 There is a marketing adage that you have to see something five or seven times before it is ingrained in your mind. This is branding 101. Well, how many times will I see that 1800-CONTACTS ad over the life of the bottle. Once? Five times? A hundred times?

The Economics of It All.

The profit on a bottle of contact solution is probably pretty high, since it takes a couple of months for you to go through one. For those with 20/20 vision a bottle of contact solution runs between $5 for generic and $8 for the good stuff. But all of it is simply saline solution.  But as a business owner, it’s a low turnover item so you aren’t making a lot of money on this item in the short term. This is bad for cash flow.

Daily wear contacts on the other hand is probably a low profit item, but high turnover item, so for the short term, it’s a great cash flow generator.

Let’s add advertising to the mix. Advertising is expensive and it can be hard to track if it’s working, especially radio and television.

The power of 800-CONTACTS out-of-the-box thinking would really multiply if they are also the maker of the Equate contact solution. There is no additional cost for the ad since they have to have the label printed anyways. No additional contracts (i.e. costs) to negotiate with the maker of the bottle to place the ad. They may have to pay the retailer some kind of promotional cost or simply reduce the wholesale price to increase the retailer’s profit as an incentive. Remember, I have already said that this is a low turnover item for the store, so anywhere they can increase profits is advantageous.

In addition, 99% of retails don’t sell contacts at their location so 800-CONTACTS is not cannibalizing the retailers profits in any other areas.

So, in what areas can you apply this advertising model?

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Why Hire a PMP (or me for that matter).

July 29, 2009 at 5:51 pm (Why Hire Me) (, , )

Why hire a PMP?

In the March 2009 issue of PM Network, Skillsoft reports that 26% of U.S. and European IT workers said they were without proper training to take on the project management tasks for which they were assigned.

 Hiring from within is the most cost effective method of hiring. However, over the long term, the cost over run associated with a delayed project or run away costs may not justify such a hire unless more expensive training is invested into that employee to bring him or her up to the project management level.

 By hiring a PMP (project management professional) you increase the odds that your projects will come in on time and under budget which saves you money. The PMP cert says that you are getting personel with atleast a minimuim standard of project management methodolody training and atleast 4,500 hours of project management experience.

 Why hire me?

 Enrique Sevilla Molina, PMP of Indra Sistemas said in the March 2009 issue of PM Network.“We believe project managers must understand and look at their projects as if they were running their own business.” It’s my belief that engineers and business execs see projects differently.

Having started and run two small businesses I come from the understanding that projects attempt to add a competitive advantage to your company in one way or another.

 The Skillsoft study (from above) said that 72% of the respondents believed that BOTH business and technical skills are equally import for the success of IT projects. Simply put, most programmers don’t have business knowledge or skills. It’s easier to learn the high level technical knowledge of say Oracle, than it is to understand the business motive behind the IT project. I have the business aptitude. The technical side, I can quickly learn that. What it takes to run a successful business (or project)? You have to live that.

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RG Life Cycle –Lessons Learned – Stakeholder Analysis

July 23, 2009 at 9:16 pm (Ravin Graphics)

Ravin Graphics Project Life Cycle

Ravin Graphics Project Life Cycle

 With Ravin Graphics I did more doing than planning, even though I had a complete business plan with pro forma statements, original consumer research, and a long lead time (I was still in college when the idea came to me). You might say I had the WBS complete, but beyond that I was rolling wave planning.

 The chart shows exactly how I went about the project. Blue events are major milestones. The red event is the project due date. As you can see this date was missed and missing this date was detrimental to the success of Ravin’ Graphics.

 My Uncle always said that anything that goes wrong is your fault. From the PMI perspective I did not consult enough stakeholders to ensure a successful project completion.

 I see now that I should have hired on a consultant who had gone thru the collegiate licensing process already. I had the money, but not the wisdom (I was just out of college.). But someone who had already been thru the process licensing process could have told me that it was loaded with red tape and delays. Lessons learned.

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Spend Time Wisely

July 23, 2009 at 9:10 pm (Uncategorized)

The reason investing early works is because time is on your side. The same thing is true in your self development. The earlier you start, the more you know, and the richer your life experience will be.
As any project manager knows, a large project is easy to do because you break it down into smaller and smaller pieces.
If you got time, use it. Since I have been laid off, I’ve had lots of time. Write a book, make amazing videos, get your dream job, I’ve been working on it.

What I have been doing since I got laid off.

So far I have…

  • read the PMBOK
  • read Rita’s PMP Prep Guide
  • enrolled in a PMP Exam Prep Class
  • earned my PMP
  • learned Visio
  • learned MS Project
  • learned Adobe Premiere
  • brushed up on Abobe Photoshop CS3
  • started a Marketing Blog
  • started a book (writing one, not reading one)
  • joined several job clubs
  • joined a blogging group
  • joined and lead hikes in a hiking club
  • help a friend write a book
  • facilitated a 10 week self development group
  • shot video(s) for an up and coming musical group
  • refined my resume (work which is never done)
  • planned a fund raising event for safe place 

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