How lying on your back changes your view.

OK so I have been sick. I mean really sick for just over 2 weeks now, hence why there was no post last week.

In my entire working career I have never haad more than three consecutive days off, not even for holidays (don’t laugh). So to not be able to function for this length of time was a major frustration for me, luckily I wasn’t able to focus on anything other than breathing and just staying alive.

There was times of high fever when my mind went just a little ‘crazy’, but for the most part I was staring at the ceiling and running stuff through my head.

And sure enough, just like Homer Simpson when he is in the smokehut in Alaska in the Simpsons movie, I had an epiphany.

Well, I think it was anyway… I guess we will find out soon enough.

I started to remember the old days, when I first started in this industry and how much I had enjoyed it, how each new enquiry was like a shining star leading me on a path to web glory, and every job we launched was exciting. Where had that gone? We still have that sometimes, and a project we are currently working on has been one of the most rewarding of my career, however a lot of times people are just plain unreasonable in what they expect and how much they expect to pay for it.

We have been reworking the structure and nature of our business for the last 18 months and we are nearly at the point where it is exactly how i want it so we can go and tell the word.

The epiphany was this… The business that I have been busily shaping and creating over the last 18 months after 10 years in business, is almost exactly like the one we had back in the beginning, just with a few added extras.

Therefore the moral to my story… your first idea is usually your best, back yourself and follow your path, even if the business books and coaches tell you it is the wrong one.

Now… let’s get back to work.

Is your website suffering from Comb-Over syndrome

iStock_000000788955XSmallLet me tell you how my brain works…

This morning I was walking to an appointment in the city. I found myself waiting to cross the road and an older gentleman walked up beside me. He had impeccable dress sense that showed that he was really interested in his appearance, and for an older dude, he was doing OK. Then there was his hair. it was an architecturally sculpted creation that wound from the back of his head, around the side then over the top. Gravity seemed to not exist in the region of his head because if it did, this do would not work.

I asked myself, why would you bother, just lop it all off and go cue ball. Surely?

Then immediately after that, the idea sprang to me for this post. A lot of people have comb-over syndrome as far as their websites are concerned. Just because it used to work, does not mean it works now. Let me explain.

When a small business decides to invest in getting a website it is usually a reasonable sized investment in proportion to what they would normally spend on marketing. If Someone pays $5000 for a website development and strategy, they want to get good value out of it, and so they should. The trouble arises when it is either not the right strategy to begin with, or it is not the right strategy any more. Things change in business, constantly, and unless your business is growing it is starting the slow decline into obscurity.

I have spoken to many clients in the past who tell me “we paid so much for it we just want to keep what we have, but we want more business”

Ummm, sorry, you want me to drive more traffic to your crappy flash site that doesn’t work? All you are going to have is a lot more people that don’t want to or can’t do business with you? That is comb-over syndrome.

Or sometimes, customers have the even better “but we used to get so much from it, I know that it just needs some tweaking and we can get back to where we were 4 years ago” Sorry son, that ship has sailed, time to start again. Comb-over syndrome.

Which brings me to the next point. Don’t be scared to tear it all down just to build it all back up. The worst kind of comb-over syndrome is when you are doing just enough to fix a solution up that it never quite gets bad enough to notice.

As an example. We built a system many years ago for a company to automate their business process. The system we built was a prototype, meaning, we did it quick and cheap for them to test in one location to see if it worked. Then they decided that prototype would be fine, they just want to bolt this little bit to it, that little bit to, and so on until what we have now is the ultimate comb-over because to the untrained eye, this system works.

However, if just one little hair falls out of place, this whole thing would come crashing down around their ears and never be able to go back to the way that it was. The over head is that it takes more time to manage than a better more flexible solution would, just like a comb-over must take forever to construct in the morning.

So here is the moral of the story, when you notice a little thinning around the edges, or the hairline of your website receding a bit more than you would like, consult a professional, and take their advice, even if it is time to shave it all off.

Cheers
Rich

What REALLY matters in online/social/digital media…?

Let’s set the scene.

The drone of conversation can be heard as soon as I enter the ‘venue’ (bar) where the event I am attending is being held. This is a collection of the top people and interested parties in social media in Sydney. Obviously we are a little early as people are not yet liquored up enough to have real conversations, it is all very networking as usual.

My good friend @mistressmia is with me, so at least I am not alone, and Mia knows the people in the room so we are quickly whisked off to sit with a group of people.

Thankfully I met some really nice people who were interested to talk about things like wives that watch too much SATC & iPhone vs Android, which of course i would happily debate that the iPhone reigns supreme… but that is for another post.

As the night gets underway, a few things are evident…

I think the speakers are hard pressed due to the venue to hold the crowds attention, but even in a better venue, I am not sure they would have. The audience seems to be content to talk amongst themselves as much as listening to the presentations.

The first speaker is amusing to break the ice, the second speaker loud and confident and the third speaker decides to go for shock value and drop the f-bomb on his first slide…. then his joke bombed right after.

Now I am not having a go at the event, the speakers or the organisers. I know how hard getting the right mix is for an event and everyone did a great job.

My question however is this, who benefits from the sorts of conversations and presentations they were giving. If the presentations are intended as conversation starters then they did that, but for the most part for the entirely wrong reasons.

The focus of the evening was measuring social media engagement. My hope was to learn some practical information to be able to pass on to my team and clients. After all, we know it is important, but how do we know if it is working.

What I quickly realised is this… what matters to a business owner, does not necessarily matter to a agency/corporate.

Why would I say such a thing?

As we were presented the expert opinions on the subject on their far too complex hard to read slides (hint people: stick to your main points on your slides… you don’t have to make each one a mini essay) they seemed to pussy foot around the question.

As my friend @mistressmia put it so eloquently at one point “can i get it in 140!”

They presented some great technologies that will measure the inside diameter of a ducks patooty, but in terms of dollarising the benefit to a business, they do little. This is fine if you are an agency salary employee or a giant corporate and all you need to do is impress your client, but if you are spending money out of your own pocket, i.e. the average Australian small business owner… if you screw this up, you are taking food out of the mouths of your children.
(Note: I intend to research these further and may change my mind in a later post… it has happened before)

There was a question from the audience, posed as a hypothetical that really demonstrated the issue. The question was “If I am a marketing manager and I say my budget has been cut, where do I spend my money for the best return, tv, print or this internet ‘shit’ what would you do to get in my door”

The panel was truly flummoxed it seemed. They treated it as an exercise to see who had the best pickup lines and sales techniques, but i don’t think any of them would have convinced a savvy marketing manager to divert his budget to this new internet … stuff.

However that question was really the one that was the most important… and the answer should have been… we do not know what this will deliver, but we would love to help you find out.

In this early stage of social media, we do not have enough case studies to be able to say this is the ROI (one presenter seemed to think that this shouldn’t be a key metric?) you can expect based on what we did for someone else.

You are dealing with niche, you are dealing with passion, you are dealing with people and inherently, people are all different.
But isn’t that the issue with social media… do we actually need to measure it?

The relationships and connections that are made through social media are stepping stones, ways to begin conversations. Because at the end of the day, people like doing business with people. So if you have a strategy for starting lots of conversations in your business, no matter how big or small you are, then you stand a chance of having lots of outcomes.

The outcomes are the sales, the engagements and the things that can be measured on the bottom line. This IS what matters to the majority of business owners in Australia, the small business owners who keep the economy running and are the backbone of our nation.

So small business owners, start talking, big businesses start listening and responding.

I look forward to the comments this post may receive, open and honest debate is what this is all about as without it we cannot learn and improve.

And I would like to reiterate, the event is not to blame, the people were great, the venue was not, but the organisers did the best they could and I look forward to attending again… if you will have me.

When opportunity knocks… don’t run away

IMG_0295
My book on the shelf next to Tim Ferris... good company!

A lot of people have been asking me over the last couple of months how ‘hard‘ it was to write my first book. How did I manage to ‘pull it off‘. I have had the odd person say, “I would love to do that, but I will never get the chance”.

To most it seems like something that is almost impossible, a daunting amount of work, but to me, it was just another thing that looked like a good idea at the time.

So I thought I would share with you my thoughts about the experience of writing the book, getting it published and the euphoric feeling of seeing it in the bookstore the first time (and every time since if I am honest…)

I have always been able to write. Over the years I have written poetry, music, short stories and even completed a novel one christmas as something to do. In fact as long as I remember, I have been doing this. I remember writing stories on pieces of A4 paper when i was younger and making little books out of them. I also tried to sell them to my family and friends  (age 8 ) so I guess I have always had a head for sales as well.

I had written a number of ‘Information Booklets’ at one point as marketing tools for my business. At the time I had no intention of developing a book, I just wanted to educate the people that we worked with so they understood what we did a bit better. Ultimately I thought a better educated client would be easier to work with.

I then started using these booklets at speaking events and started developing more and more information, that people seemed to enjoy and get great value from. However, I was too busy concentrating on my business and day to day to see that I had a potential product in my hands. Last year, a friend of mine was in a meeting and he mentioned that I had an idea for a book to a publisher, and thought they should have a look at it.

I got the subsequent phone call to show them what I had, so I sent off some files and waited with baited breath to see what happened. That publisher decided it was not a book for them. I thought that’s OK, I’m not really an author anyway, so it doesn’t bother me (but really, i was a little cut).

I just put that idea up on the shelf and got on with life. Then in January this year, the world’s nicest publisher called me to ask me about my book. It was January, I was just starting to get into the swing of the year and it was shaping up to be a good one. I was already starting to take on some great projects, so did I really need to go through this whole process again. Hell Yeah! It looked and smelt like an opportunity. My good mate Justin Herald explains an opportunity like this…

“An opportunity is something you have never had before, that being the case, how will you know what it looks like when it comes along?”

I sent off the sample chapter and all the stuff they wanted again. Then an amazing thing happened. They loved it. They wanted to move straight away, and when I mean straight away… I mean straight away. Ask any other author and they will tell you it takes about nine months for a book to go through the process of writing/editing/proofing/printing/marketing.

Well I got 3 months. Yep, as soon as the ink was dry on the contract I committed to getting the book completed by The end of February, so we could edit in march, print in April and have it in stores by June. That was 3 months for production but just 40 days for submission of a full manuscript.

The day after I signed the contract I also landed the largest project I have ever done.

Dilema. Have to write the book. Have to get the project done. What was going to give. I’ll tell you what gave, sleep.

For the next 40 days my schedule was like this 7 days a week:

  • 5:30am, get up and do 2 hours of work before my family got up
  • 7:30am, spend time with my son and drop him to pre-school
  • 9:00am, work on projects and client work as necessary (including lunch at my desk)
  • 4:30pm, take a 1 hour break to play with Tom
  • 5:30pm, work for 2 more hours till dinner
  • 7:30pm, spend 1 hour talking to my wife
  • 8:30pm, head back in to the office and write until my eyes burnt. (usually around 2am)
  • 2:00am, fall into bed, pass out for a few hours and then repeat.

Was it different on weekends? sometimes as I could get away with not having to madly rush a client job… sometimes… but most of the time the weekend just meant the phone didn’t ring as much.

So I sacrificed, but I tried not to sacrifice my time with my family. This was my choice and my sacrifice, not theirs.

At the conclusion of that period, I had finished what I believe is a very important book, as it is a simple to understand book that any business owner will get value out of. I am proud of what I have done.

That opportunity would have been passed up by a lot of people, as they would prefer to watch the biggest loser, or they need their down time. I need my downtime too, but as my dad always said to me, “You have to make hay while the sun shines.”

Here are some answers to the questions that people ask me about the process of writing the book

Am I glad I did it? Yes.

Was it hard to have the discipline? For me, no. That is something I pride myself on.

Was it hard to come up with the ideas? Not really, it is a subject I know very well, so I just laid out the foundations and built upon them.

Was it hard to get published? A mixture of being able to give them what they needed and being in the right place at the right time helped. But I was also very appreciative to the people that helped me through the process (special mentions at the end of this post).

Would you do it again? Absolutely, in fact I am getting started on my next book soon.

What else would you like to know? Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section of this blog.

I have never been adverse to hard work. I am quite prepared to work smarter AND harder which I believe will ultimately win the battle for me.

And seeing my book in the shops has been a amazing feeling that I never tire of. The feedback has been amazing and I am glad to hear stories from people who have started implementing little things and are already seeing results.

Even though I was already busy and any sane person would not over commit… do what I do and grab every ‘opportunity’ with both hands and run with it.

Opportunities fall in your lap every day, it’s just that most of them look like hard work, don’t be scared roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

As it says in the book The richest man in Babylon, by George S Clason:
Men of action are favoured by the goddess of good luck.

Have an awesome week.

Rich


This post is not intended as a blatant plug for my book, however, here is the link to the site if you would like to know more.

There is also a collection of videos and information posts growing over there adding to the content that is in the book.

http://www.clickherebook.net

Click on the buy link for details of how to purchase.


As promised the special mentions:

Mary Masters is the nicest, most amazing publisher a first time author could have wished to work with. Thank You Mary.

Jana Adzic helped me sound a lot more educated than I really am, you can tell she does not edit this blog…

And to the people that have been great supporters of my book since it’s release. You will all go by your twitter names as that is where we commune.

@mistressmia – the ultimate person to prop you up in moments of self doubt (like 1 minute before I went on stage in Canberra)
@mattyzee – the worlds nicest guy and a gr8 supporter of pulling my book to the front of shelves!
@heidiprice – a very generous woman who is happy to help all however she can and the best retweeter ever, because you don’t have to ask
@digigifts – another very generous woman who is making her own way in the world, and again supports through her retweets.

There are many others, but if I thank you all this week, who will I thank next week?

But there is one last mention… my mentor and mate Justin Herald. Without his inspiration and support, I am not sure where I would be. Do yourself a favour and check out his site if you are just starting on your journey or are halfway through and not sure what comes next. www.justinherald.com

You say it best, when you say nothing at all

RichShirt

Ok, so I started this blog by putting a lame line from a lame song in your head… sorry about that, but stick with me and I will explain why.

I will be the first to put my hand up and say that I am no social media guru. I am learning all about this from the interactions and connections I make each day. Thankfully because I am just being ME in this online world, I am crossing paths with great people who I can learn from, work with and even enjoy new friendships.

My area of expertise is really more in design and communication online, and lets face it, social media is so new, that everyone is trying to work it out.

So I want to share with you what I have learnt so far. It may not be unique, it may not even be the first time someone has said any of this, but here goes…

I want you to picture this in your mind. A young 23 year old upstart with a pair of jeans, tshirt and sportscoat walks in to a room. First thing he notices… everyone else is in the standard grey/blue/black business suit. Their ties are as bad as their combovers. He sees someone he knows, walks over to say hello and the object of his targeted introduction into the world of business comes back with “how’s your dad?”

That was my very first networking experience. I went to a local chamber of commerce to meet ‘like minded’ business people and see how we could find opportunities to work together. I had entered the night with a goal of getting three new leads, I mean I was the hot new web developer in town and everyone needed my services if they wanted to succeed.

But after that initial interaction my goal was to get through dinner without spilling food on my shirt so I didn’t draw attention to the fact that I did not have a tie on…

People who know me now are not going to believe this, but, I am actually a naturally shy person. Being in that networking event was WAY out of my comfort zone at the time. I had two choices. I could try and be a hawker/canvasser and go around to each table sticking my face in and trying to get ‘IN’ with this crowd or I could sit back and say nothing at all, just listen.

That is what I chose to do, and when I did, a strange thing happened. I started hearing need. I heard a guy at my table saying he was having all sorts of trouble with his computer. Now that is not what I did, but I know a bit about computers so I figured I could help him. So at the end of the night, I went over to him, gave him my card and told him to give me a call, I can help him sort out his issue. I didn’t tell everyone “I AM GOING TO SOLVE THIS MANS ISSUE” I was helping because that is my nature, not as a strategy to become the helpful guy.

The next day I did fix his problem, and I got talking to him and we ad a good conversation. So I was just me, and I had made a new connection. By helping someone with something. Next thing I know, I am getting referred to his friends for what I really needed as a startup, new work opportunities. The next time I went to that event, I was invited in, but I still treated every event the same way and always have done at any networking event. I listen, meet new people, see if there is anyone i can connect together, see if I can help anyone. I never go with the intention of getting new business. But it is the by product of good human nature.

This is the way I am approaching twitter as well. I am finding people I can connect with, not for gain but for enrichment. My new friends on twitter mean the world to me. I am helping people all over the world if I can (like the lady from California a few weeks ago who was having a problem I had once on my mac, gave her the answer because I could, no charge/obligation/expectation to RT or FF).

Which brings me to the real reason I titled this post the way i did… My grandfather used to say to me if you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say anything. A bit of a spin on the something nice, as he didn’t believe you always had to be nice…

However there seems to be an increasing number of people that think it is proper behavior to tweet nothing but How to get more followers, get more money than you dreamed of, blah blah blah. Well i don’t want followers, i want friends, and i can dream pretty big when it comes to money so your strategy to earn another $200 per month doing what you do does not excite me.

Imagine if these people acted this way in the real world at a networking event. It would sound like a turkish market with everyone trying to out yell each other to sell their trinkets and wares. Would you go to an event like that? i wouldn’t.

The succinct nature of twitter does not mean there is no consequence to tweeting crap if all you do is tweet crap. I don’t unfollow these people as it is forming part of my research. But for this medium to be a useful tool for small business, we all need to take responsibility with our voice. Imagine if the great leaders had chosen to say useless things to their audience. Having a large following is not useful if you have nothing to say.

Many people tweet quotes and other things, and that is fine, but introduce me to you also, don’t hide behind the words of someone else forever. Everyone has SOMETHING to share, and that something may not be interesting or useful to everyone, but it will be to someone.

So here are MY personal rules for MY twitter use. If anything i have said has had you nodding yes… feel free to adopt which ever you like.

  1. I will never, never, never tweet a “get more followers ask me how” kind of tweet.
  2. I will only tweet a quote if I find it very appropriate to a conversation, or with a reason why i like it
  3. I will try to help at least one person I don’t know each day
  4. I will try to catch up with one twitter friend IRL each week (as time permits… we are all busy tweeting after all)
  5. I will send personal thoughtful messages to as many new followers as I am able to each day.

This is an experiment in progress, so i do not know if this will have a commercial outcome, but that is not why I am doing this.

I am using social networking to build relationships, and that has been what has lead to every success I have had in life to this point.

The opportunities I get a direct result of the person that I am and the people that I have met.

So be yourself, get out there and share YOU with the world.

Rich.

Can i really update my blog from my iphone

Well I guess the answer is yes. This wordpress for iPhone app is awesome.

The possibilities really are endless. Being able to take a photo write a post and publish it all from the comfort of my lounge watching TV… Priceless.

So now I can be totally free from my office and still publish… Interesting.

Head down, shoulders forward, charge

holyshiteThis week is a week for resolutions. Some big projects finalising, catching up on lots of things that need to be addressed and getting ready to bring the all new REDD into the world. I have been a bit quiet of late, and people that know me well know why, but let’s just say… i came to a fork in the road, and because I was so busy found it very difficult to actually make a decision.

So here is my point in this post.

Don’t let the whirlwind of your life keep you from making important decisions.

Being busy is great, especially in this day, but if you are TOO busy to be effective and practical about what is important, then you will find that you put off living. I have a number of important decisions to make at the moment, to do with everything from my businesses, to my health, and I have put them all off, thinking that the answer would be clear once I had just gotten through this busy period. Well guess what? It isn’t I still have to now take the time to make the decisions. The answer still isn’t obvious, but now the ‘problem’ or ‘issue’ has been able to grow just that little bit more. So today – I am going to make my decisions, because I cannot put them off any longer.

There are a number of areas where I feel like I am not in control, that others are holding all the cards, but I can tell you that I will be taking the reins back now. I am in charge of my life and my outcomes, then I can only blame myself if things don’t work out as planned.

So this morning started with a great coffee, a sit down looking at my incredible view, and a planning of my day to fit in the things I want as well as the things I am responsible for.

Live life on your terms. and as the mascot for this post says Take no SH*T! Have an awesome week.

Rich.