December 08, 2009
Life has been pretty tough lately. I'm finding I've had no time for things I really need to make time for. I run a company, handle every facet of my dads affairs, including his loony girlfriend, and I have a long commute every day before getting home often times after my kids are in bed. I'm not complaining... I could be in Iraq.
As life gets me down, I try to find purpose in everything I do, especially if it takes a significant amount of time from my life. I have often asked myself why I run my own company when instead, I could be working for the man, getting off at 6pm and forgetting about everything until I arrive the next morning. I reasoned today that the answer is because I want to have a bright future and the closer I am to a position where I can directly affect it, the better. It takes a lot of extra effort, and time, but being an optimist, I still have some in me.
As this economy gets you down (and I'm speaking here towards other business owners and entrepreneurs) you have to be real about what is what. We are either engaged or disengaged in the things we do. To be engaged, we must see meaning and purpose in our daily work. When we are truly engaged, big things happen.
In the current economy, when there is not a lot of meaningful work to go around, then we become disengaged. We are now tasked to bring more meaning to our work.
At my company, we refine processes, pay closer attention to what ails the customer, revisit forgotten tasks, fix legacy problems and invent. Yes, invent! We think about ways to make our standard processes better and faster. We did this in 2001, so why wouldn't we do it now? We sturdy our foundations, and position ourselves for that sudden launch. All this with the optimism that when the days get brighter, the cream rises to the top.
Now as a business owner, it's easier to see this vision, and that's what keeps me going. But how do you get your small team to rally behind the vision? After all, the company is the sum of all its parts. Most of the answer, I think, is to help your team visualize their position in your organization. Show them where they can go from where they are now? Make clear what our goals as a company are. Doing this will enable them to see how they will achieve their own dreams and goals [what matters to them]. When they find the true purpose in their daily work, it will help them connect to the same vision you have.
Maybe it's theory... but consider this. If I myself do not see the meaning in a task, then why would I expect anyone else to? A health and fitness guru doesn't go through the motions for fun, they do it to see results and the thrill of controlling those results. If I took a job as a janitor, I may work diligently and be happy for a stint, but after a while, I'm bound to ask myself, "where where do I go from here?" Would I really ask myself each day, "what could I do today to help move the company closer to its goals?" There's no chance if there is no purpose or vision. It is our challenge as a leader to get our team asking themselves, "what can I do today to advance the company vision," or "what can I do today to make myself a better person?" Should the janitor expect to advance to a more senior janitorial position? The more likely scenario is that he'll take a similar job for better pay elsewhere. For many, like myself, we need to be able to visualize our next step upwards.
This is my Tuesday contribution to society. It's a dump of experiences from the day that came to a pointed culmination during my commute home. Happy holidays, and may all our futures be bright, and meaningful.
October 08, 2009
I missed HighEd Web this year. But, I didn't *really* miss it. Here's the classic web 2.0 scenario where by following the tweets and rants of attendees and checking out the online presentations of the speakers, you pretty much get the ideas for free :) Lemme see... it's my guess that someone named Jared put on a REALLY bad presentation? Sorry buddy... I really do sympathize.
Innersync also had Steve Williams representing and his debriefing was a really positive one. We don't think of HighEd as a mechanism to net new customers. Sure, we go as sponsors, with a booth, but we never expect to walk out with a signed contract. We look at it as more of an opportunity to talk to customers, attend the sessions and stay on top of the latest trends.
Campusuite again turned heads because of the new features we've introduced since the 2008 HighEd conference. Most of those features were a direct response to the woes and needs of the people we spoke to last year. Like many products, our product evolves via the needs of our customers. "Less, really is more." I say it so much, co-workers roll their eyes. But when we set you up a demo and let you in to kick the tires, you immediately begin see how these tools let you do stuff... fast! You do it in a clean, easy-to-understand system and that's really what it all boils down to.
Steve caught up with several Campusuite customers, including Xavier University and Ross University and got some good feedback. He also, again met up with old colleagues that we look forward to seeing at each years conference. New partnerships were discovered and the latest ideas in the collegiate arena were shared. This is big for us, because now we have a pocket-full of new direction. We will more responsibly leverage the social movement, take a second look at customer and application security, and always keep the customers experience in mind. Each year, HighEd truly allows us to fill up with what ails the collegiate customer the most. And there's what drives us towards the next years conference.
After this years visit, we confirmed we're on the right path. We have a solid product that provides a positive experience, a well-documented support site, a base of loyal users driven by the desire to build a better web site. We want to thank our loyal patrons and partners and we look forward to a bright and prosperous future.
April 09, 2009
I co-founded my company, Innersync Studio, in 1998 with the desire to build a better web site. We recently celebrated our 10-year anniversary and over these last 10 years, I realized we have evolved into a completely different animal than the one we were when we started. Whether it is the nature of our business, or the economic down-turns we have seen between 2000 and now, we are different. We think differently and we do things differently. When we started our company, we neither had established processes, nor an employee handbook. Heck, we didn't even have insurance. We formed our LLC and got right into the lifestyle.
But as time went on, the lifestyle turned into a liability. Instead of making money, we may as well have been burning it. But now, we have a process. We have a single way of doing something and we do it at a very high level. When we hire a new employee, we show them the process and ask them not to tell anyone. When the person understands the process, a lot of things can go without saying. Eventually, that same employee can show another new-hire the process.
You catch my drift... without an established road map, you are blind... or at minimum, wandering aimlessly... and burning up my money. It's my job as an employer to tell you how I want something done. If someone deviates from my process, I have a basis to scorn them. If I didn't have a process to begin with, I just need to shut up. So I now arrive at the main point I wanted to make. As an employer who has hired and fired my share of helpers, I have a thing or two to say about who I consider a good employee... and more to the point, when we realize we are exiting this recession, the type of person I will look to hire.
I consider the stage we are in as a natural cleansing. When the economy picks up again, it's true that web designers and programmers will again be sought after. However, what it will NOT be for me is business as usual. I will not be looking for fancy resumes with certification labels. I will not be basing my decision on someone's experience... and believe it or not, I will not even base it on the quality of someone's portfolio of work. Sure, these will all be considered, but here are a few of the things I'll be looking for:
- I don't always mind training someone in the software and technologies we use if I they are someone who will take notes and learn it without making me have to explain it again after a weekend of partying.
- Someone who knows how to manage their time. In a small company like mine, you will have a lot to do. Your successes and failures will be very noticeable and they directly impact profits and losses. I will admit, I am still climbing this mountain myself. I am hard on myself for this and sometimes, I find myself making up lost time in the evenings.
- Someone with a strong work-ethic... where without any suggestion from me, will go back and tweak it one more time to make it right before they bring it back to me. Someone who takes charge and accountability for their task and they will check things and make sure they look and work good so I do not have to come behind them and clean up. This person is aware that sloppiness costs someone money, and it's usually the company.
- I like creative and thoughtful people who will make suggestions to me about a better way of skinning the cat. I'll point out my process again. I put it in place so that everyone can use it as a road map. I demand that everyone follow it. However, if someone wants to change the process by suggesting a better way, I want to hear it and in fact, I will begin to favor a person who is thinking about the good of the company like this.
- Clock watchers tend to be the types who overlook the details. They have come from big companies where their efforts have been buried by those around them. Overlooked details ultimately come back to me as a customer complaint. If it's approaching 5pm and you are on the last leg of a project, I ask, would it be time to pack up and bolt and lose that momentum, or might it be better to finish the project and make it right so that you are done and fresh for the next project? This type of person has my attention, and most-likely, a promotion coming.
- Someone who has a genuine interest in being great and making big things. They will go the extra mile to make the latest project better then the last, despite having a full schedule. This is where desire and time-management come together as one. This to me signifies a person who is growing... intentionally.
These are only my ideas. It represents a paradigm shift in the way I look at and evaluate potential employees. I may go as far as... it's me voicing what most small business owners might be thinking. To some, it might sound like I run a sweat shop, but big success allows for much fun and celebration. To the right person, it's an opportunity to grow and feel like a contributor. Success can come as fast as you want it to in a company as small as Innersync. When there are only 4-8 parts, movers and shakers are needed to make it run like a well oiled machine.
March 30, 2009
With all the networks and tools emerging in the web 2.0 cloud and competing for your attention, do you find yourself challenged by sorting out the options, making the most of, or simply keeping up with them all? There sure are a lot of social networks popping up these days, and for every social network, there are a dozen more free tools just waiting to be utilized. How you choose to use these networks and tools should be considered your blank canvas... your picture waiting to be drawn.
Even novice web users are familiar with Facebook and Twitter, but you name the theme, and there's a list of social networks to support it. Some networks are more professional than others. Some more playful.
I recently found Plinky, where you answer a weekly prompt to spark digital discussion in your own creative way. All these tools are just other ways to express yourself. From Google docs and webmaster tools that support business on the web, to sites like Aviary that bring you Photoshop and Illustrator-esque functionality for next to nothing or totally free, these cloud tools are coming out of the woodwork or falling from the sky. Now the question is, "which ones should I use" and "how can I leverage these?" The answer is simple: use the ones that work best for you. Only trial and time will tell you for sure.
Here's how I manage my own time when it comes to qualifying, utilizing and not being ovewhelmed by these tools, which if you're not careful, can become a full-time job in just keeping up with them all. The first hour of my morning consists of the following:
1. Hit Google Reader where I have all my subscriptions to my favorite feeds. These feeds consist of tech news, design trends, individuals blogs... the list goes on. I have over 100 subscriptions that consolidate massive information into the reader for my quick scanning.
2. I will 'favorite' or 'share' the best entries in Google reader, and it will automatically update my Facebook account. I also add links to Delicious so I and my team members can see what I'm pushing to the front. In fact, we use a common company account for Delicious so that all of the people on our team can collaboratively add relevant links ranging from hot design trends to the latest jQuery snippets.
3. If I'm really excited about an entry in Google Reader, I'll Twitter the link, which shows that I'm sharing knowledge and could create some followers. This in turn, also updates my Facebook account. Do you see where this is going?
4. In turn, for that brief moment on Twitter, I might respond to a few @replies or contribute to some conversations I see going on. After a while, you will notice your name showing up in the #followfriday lists (where fellow Twitterers suggest to all their followers the recommended people to follow)
5. I also have Flickr, YouTube, Last.fm and a couple other sites that I frequent and that add activity updates to my Facebook stream. So, in reality, I don't actually spend a lot of time in my Facebook account other than to upload the occasional photo album. However, it sure looks like I do!
6. I set up Google alerts to scan for my name, my company name, or any of my product names on the Internet. If something is being said, I want to know. I also have these alerts set up in my reader. So, while I'm purusing my morning news, I can see any of these alerts as well.
7. Next up, Twitter search. Arguably one of the most valuable tools on the net. I type in my name, company and products here as well. This lets me see who's talking about me NOW. While I'm there, I might see what's being said about my friends... or maybe my favorite wines. At this time, I might share another link on Twitter, that again, updates my Facebook account.
8. I manage my own personal blog and I contribute to my company blog. These RSS feeds can be set up to syndicate into a variety of places. I have a combination of my personal and company blogs being syndicated into my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. This goes a long way. While I'm keeping my company site up to date, this valuable information is being recycled as it heads to my various other accounts. Other team members on my team do this as well so that our reach is increased even further.
9. Do you use a CMS to manage your website? We do, and our CMS is considered a Web 2.0 CMS that allows us to syndicate pages, blogs, RSS feeds and more. When we write a blog, we do it in our CMS. Of course, whatever blog tool you are use should have an RSS feed that can be syndicated. This is important. It allows you to move your ideas further from your site, which draws people back to your site.
This is only a smattering of what I'm doing now. When I dicover a new social site, I see it as my obligation as a web developer to take a test drive and understand how it works, and how it could integrate into my morning regimen. I tend to change it up here and there. Some networks, I let fizzle out so I can spend more of my time on the networks that work for me. Remember, I try to keep this consolidated to the first hour of the day and some of these tasks might be relevant to do on a weekly or monthly basis.
Take some time yourself to leverage the new media and turn it into a systematic approach that broadens your reach, sharpens your mind and strengthens your brand.
February 18, 2009
I commend Facebook for realizing that the power and success of their social network is driven by the user-community. No one likes to be told what to do. They will turn on you just out of spite. As an internet developer who is passionate about technology, I love making my applications work with the social networks. Facebook has been a well-developed service and when MySpace was the craze, I admired Facebook. They have managed to tuck away the "porn-like" scum that you can happen upon on MySpace and it is actually taken as a serious service by professionals too.
A lot of people I know were smashed by the new TOS and claimed they were "done with Facebook." It was sad to hear. With all the other stuff in the world and economy, this was the last straw for many people. Reverting to the previous terms of service that didn't claim the very content that makes Facebook what it is... was smart. Good job, Facebook.
C O N T A C T
- email me at krullion at hotmail dot com
F R I E N D S
P R E V I O U S P O S T S
A R C H I V E