Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Beware of phone charges overseas

Posted in Businesson Jun 13, 2011

Here is a trap that I think could catch many unsuspecting victims.  A man went to Japan, and brought his new iPhone with him.  While he was there, Verizon sent automatic phone updates, costing him over $600 in data charges.  That is a pretty steep price considering that he wasn’t actually actively using the phone.  You can read the whole store here.

Recently, the new CEO of HP, Leo Apotheker, told the BBC, “I hope one day people will say ‘this is as cool as HP’, not ‘as cool as Apple’.” While I know nothing of Apotheker’s plans to be cool, I suspect he is focused on making cool products, while not understanding the source of that cool.

The style of any product line comes from the culture of the people designing the product. Apple has a culture that cultivates “cool,” while HP does not. HP’s culture is more scientific, focuses on doing more, and is more conservative. That is why products from Apple are simple and elegant, and products from HP tend to have too many buttons and too much bloat without bravely crossing into cutting edge.

I suspect that Apotheker doesn’t realize that “cool” must permeate through the company as widespread culture, instead of being a goal in product design. For example, I’ve seen some of my friends receive job offers from Apple that come in a well designed stylish folder with organized papers. My HP offer came as a poorly formatted email.

Once while I was working at HP, there was a contest to give a component board a cool “Apple-like” name. They had a few dozen suggestions, but in the end, the only name that was acceptable to the HP culture came in the form of a four letter acronym.

So if Apotheker really wants HP to be cool, he is going to have to start with the very difficult task of changing HP culture.

Online deals

Posted in Businesson Jan 19, 2011

You may have heard of the recent popularity boom of online deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial that offer one day deals good.  Typically they offer a deal for a local merchant where you buy a gift certificate to that merchant for something like half of the price.

These are often temptingly good deals.  This is good for the business because they get a bunch of customers that they wouldn’t normally get.  This is good for some customers because they get a good deal.  It is bad for people who are suckers for a bargain because they will spend a whole bunch on “deals” that they wouldn’t normally consider.

So normally I ignore these deals, but today (Wednesday) I found a deal that I couldn’t pass up.  It is a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com for only $10.  I was just telling Sandy this morning that we buy a lot from Amazon.com, so when I saw this deal, I went ahead and did it.

At the end of the day, it looks like they sold 1.3 million of these gift cards. I’m sure that cost someone a pretty penny, but it did end up getting a lot of publicity.

Hulu Plus is more of a minus

Posted in Businesson Jun 29, 2010

Recently, the popular on-line TV viewing site announced its Hulu Plus services which promise the following:

  • View Hulu on various devices
  • View more content
  • Same load of advertising

You get all that, for $9.99 per month, every month.

I appreciate Hulu’s desire to better monetize its service, but I don’t think they are offering enough for $10/month.  I might start considering it if the following were to be met:

  • Charge only $5/month.
  • Don’t show commercials.
  • Make shows available on the same day they show on TV.
  • Have a movie library that is as big as Netflix.
  • Shows never expire.
  • Provide off-line viewing of shows.

But really, I hate monthly subscription services.  Appreciating Hulu’s desires to better monetize their service, I might instead suggest the following:

  • Allow people to pay a buck to view an otherwise-not-available episode.  Today, most shows will post their last 5 episodes for viewing.   Instead, they should make all episodes available, but only the last 5 would be free.  The rest would cost a buck to view.
  • Distribute an iPhone app as a $10 paid app.  The ability to use Hulu on devices should be a one-time fee, not a per month subscription.

I’m a big Hulu watcher, but at $10/month, I would rather have a Netflix subscription.

Some people don’t need a full-time cell phone, and don’t want a full-time cell phone price.  These people typically make most of their calls on their home phone, and only want a cell phone for things like calling home from the grocery store to see how much milk to buy.  These people use their home phone when they want to chat with someone on the phone, and only need a cell phone when they are out and about with a quick question.

For these people, I might recommend Boost Mobile.  Boost Mobile is a no-contract, prepaid cell phone service.  Here is how it works:

  • You buy a cell phone up front.  The cheapest Boost phones start at $50 (although I’ve seen them on sale as low as $30).  This is a little more expensive than other cell phone plans, because you don’t end up paying for the phone over the time of a lengthy contract.
  • This is a prepaid account, which means you put money into your account before you use it.  If your account hits $0, then it stops working until you add more money. You never have to worry about being surprised by a large cell phone bill.
  • Each minute you talk on your phone costs you 10 cents.
  • Every three months, you log into your account from a web page, and add at least $10 to your account.
  • Minutes (your account balance) never expires as long as you recharge your account every 180 days.

If you want to spend less than $4/month for a cell phone service, you buy 100 minutes for $10 every three months, which comes out to be a 33 minute/month and $3.33/month plan.

Non-disclaimer: I wrote this post hoping that it might save people money.  I was not paid to write this post.  I am not associated with any cell phone provider.

(image credit)

Tree Meeting

Tree Meeting

I’ve been in a lot of meetings that have failed. I’m not sure sure how to make meeting work, but I’m beginning to understand why they fail.

Forget the time cost of meetings. Take the number of people in your meeting and multiply by the time of the meeting. 12 people in a short 20 minute meeting costs the same as a half a day by one person. To make your meeting fail, never consider this calculation; always have the most people in the longest meeting possible.

Have meetings just because. Yesterday’s meeting failed, so there needs to be another meeting today. Have another meeting tomorrow to keep the trend going.  We all know that meetings are essential for work, so make sure you have as many as possible.

Communicate 1-0n-1 in large group meetings. If you have a lot of people to talk to, tracking them down and talking to them individually would make too much sense.  Instead, gather everyone you need into one large meeting.  During that meeting, go around the room and have a one-on-one discussion with each person.  Everyone else will surely be bored to death while they listen in on your discussion with someone else.

Darken the room so everyone can’t see you. You prepared two whole slides to use during your hour long presentation–you better turn off the lights for your whole 30-minute presentation so people can see your slides and not you.  You want to make sure you place undue importance on that slide containing inspirational quotes that probably could be skipped all together.  Making people squint to see you in the dark will help your meeting fail.  Lowering the lights will also have the added bonus of helping people feel sleepy during the meeting.

Avoid assignments. If you want your meetings to fail, about the last thing you want to do is to ask people to prepare for the meeting.  People should walk into a meeting with no idea of what it is about, and with no ideas, topics, or research to share.  Additionally, avoid making assignments during the meeting for work to be completed outside of the meeting.

Don’t read this book: Successful Meetings: How to Plan, Prepare, and Execute Top-Notch Business Meetings by Shri Henkel.  Of all the books I found at the library to improve meetings, this one was fairly short, straight forward, and easy to follow.  Anyone looking to have bad meetings should stay far away from this book.  It is available from Amazon.com or from the Square Galaxy Store.

(Image used under CC license from Flickr).

Black Friday awards

Posted in Businesson Dec 10, 2009

I went shopping at several stores early Black Friday morning, and I’ve decided to give awards to various stores based on their performance.  These awards are in word only; no prizes or trophies will be presented.

Most Disorganized Store goes to the Lindon, Utah Walmart. While the Walmart sale was to begin at 5am, we walked into the store at 4:30 to find people already walking around with products in their carts and already lined up to check out. They had isles completely blocked off, making it hard to get through the store to the items we were looking at. We even found a few cashiers checking people out before 5am. I also observed that every laptop sold needed an override at the cash register for a serial number which wasn’t available because people couldn’t pick up a laptop except from a trailer around the back of the store only after they paid for it.

Worst Planning also goes to Walmart. The front page of their Black Friday advertisement was promoting their price matching policy. While price matching is a great way for consumers to get good prices, price matching at 5am really slows down already long lines. We were behind this guy who had to price match some DVDs, and it took like 5 times longer for him to check out.

Most Ridiculous Line goes to the American Fork Target. We casually walked in looking for sales on games, but then casually walked out when we saw that the line looped through two thirds of the store. Since we didn’t actually wait in line at Target, we give a dishonorable mention to the next door Old Navy. Although they opened hours earlier, the Old Navy associates seemed disinterested in checking people out speedily. Not that the line was long, it was just slow. They problem was compounded by the fact that they were trying to get people to sign up for an Old Navy charge card. They were telling people they could go to the front of the line if they were to sign up for a new charge card. What this was really doing was punishing the people who didn’t sign up for a card, by making them wait longer in line behind the people that did sign up for a new card.

Best Deal Hiding goes to the Staples in Orem. Sure we didn’t get there when it opened, but we couldn’t even tell if they had the items we were looking for.

Best Handing of Chaos goes to Best Buy. Although they had masses of people, they had employees available to help you find things, the checkout line was reasonable, they had maps to hand out, and they generally seemed pretty organized. Other stores might look to Best Buy’s handling to improve their performance for next year’s awards.


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