t i m – s p e a k

Ten Things I’ve Learned
  1. All great things grow out of need.  The success of a product depends on how well it solves a problem, and this should be the starting point for every project.
  2. Doing business shouldn’t hurt. The environment.  Employees.  Consumers.  You can make money without doing evil.
  3. Pull is better than push. As analytics engines quietly gather information, and social media networks connect like-minded people together, it’s getting easier by the day to reach the people who are passionate about what you are doing.  Why be annoying, when you can be engaging?
  4. Nobody cares about you! That’s the first rule of marketing.  People are going about their busy lives, and could care less about your Board of Directors, or the fluctuating silicon market.  Focus on the client, and always see things from their perspective.
  5. Simple is best.
  6. Be truthful. While it’s easy to make small gains from manipulating statistics, embellishing facts and leaving out details, the cost can be huge.  People are smart – remember.
  7. People are more important than profit.  The term “human resources” is a horrible way to refer to the people who devote their lives to a business.  When people are treated in a fair, respectful and encouraging way, they accomplish great things.
  8. Give generously. Encouraging everyone to give 3% of their income and volunteering 3 hours a month to charitable causes is the right thing to do.
  9. Slow is better than fast (except online). In a world which seems to always move too fast, and with stress leading to unprecedented health problems, it’s no wonder the Slow Movement is catching on.  The return to local foods, home schooling, and work-to-live approaches is the path to a healthy life, and a healthy business.
  10. Give people what they want. While sometimes attributed to P.T. Barnum, it’s not clear where this adage actually came from, but it’s amazing how many square products companies are attempting to drive into a round market.

December 30, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today is garbage day.  I don my slip-on shoes, and repeat the weekly tradition:  break down the cardboard and sort the recycling, attach the municipal numbered tag to the garbage bag, and carry the whole affair to the curb, hoping none of the neighbours notice me in my pajamas.

But today is different.  The usual one or two bags have become three or four, and the pattern of blue boxes is heaping with packaging from offshore toys.  Today is the first garbage day after Christmas, and my street is a textbook example of why “Reduce” is the first of the 3-R’s.

I was recently pitched an idea by a brilliant and enthusiastic man in a bar:  we need to invest in Post-Consumer Gassification…  we need to burn our garbage, and create electricity.  This isn’t a new idea – in the early 70’s there were incinerator generators going up in major cities all over, and this practice has evolved into a very efficient and clean-burning alternative to dumping our garbage into a hole we dug.  In fact, I think the guy even said the words “carbon neutral”.  In some of the places where I hang out – them’s fightin words!

The part of the pitch that got me thinking, and made me notice the great wall of garbage on my street this morning, was the way the money would flow.  Basically, the tables would be turned:  instead of being taxed on garbage removal (my garbage tags are $2.10), you would be paid for the “fuel” you send to the generator.  More garbage, more money.  Hmmmm.

Is this really the direction we want to head?  This week in the newspaper, it came out that in York Region (Toronto area) they were spending $80,000 a month more than they needed to on a “green” plan to turn garbage into fuel, while truckloads of the garbage were simply being dumped in landfill.  I also read that if England doesn’t smarten up, they could be out of landfill space in nine years.  My friend at the bar would see that as a lot of fuel – and he’d be right.  I see it as a lot of room for improvement.

So I am left with my thoughts as I take my garbage to the curb.  This bag will not be turned into low-carbon-gassification-generated-electricity.  It’s going to be buried in a landfill on Romeo Street, and I don’t feel great about that.  I also feel that it’s wrong to provide incentives to produce more garbage – but I’m not about to get into a bar-fight over it.  I’m just hopeful that if we put some thought into our purchases; buy reusable instead of disposable, “vote” with our dollars on items which have less packaging, and forget about the dollar-store (the stuff just breaks anyway) – maybe we’ll be able give the garbage man a break.  I bet he hates Christmas.

the untouched cafe
November 16, 2009, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Cafe Culture, Marketing, Social Media
Cafe Connection

Connected at Starbucks

What if  there were a place where age, social class, race and career came together on an even level?  What if there were a place where business and pleasure both happened at once?  And what if the membership were as cheap as a cup of coffee?  Welcome to the world of the corner Cafe.

Since the days of the walking traveller, local taverns were the community networking hub of their day.  All matter of business, gossip, politics and friendly talk were shared over a pint of ale, and the barkeep might well have been the most connected man in town.  The importance of the tavern to townspeople, and even more-so to travelers for the interchange of news and opinions, and incidental sociability made it the Facebook of the  middle ages.

Eventually, as news became available in print, people connected by telephone and began traveling in cars, the local tavern became less important.  The boardroom is the new bar – and that stiff pint of ale has been replaced by water.  After all – we’re “civilized” now.

But a funny thing is happening.  The boardrooms of the world are increasingly empty, and the proverbial “coffee-break” has become something much bigger.

Walk into your local Starbucks, and you’ll see what I mean.  Here is the new town tavern – where gossip and news are shared, business is conducted, and travelers are once again meeting.  You’ll find every social class here – every race represented – and people young and old are Tweeting, blogging, IM-ing and making the wi-fi neighbourhood coffee house the most connected places on the planet.  Don’t believe me?  Walk into the place dressed as Chicken Man – and see how quickly your photo appears on thousands of users screens.  Even the 13 year-old kid in the corner has an iPhone with a direct feed to YouTube.

So what does all this mean?  What can the most connected 800 square-feet on the planet do for us?  Well for Joss Stone, it means that 50 million people will see her iTunes song-of-the-day.  For Chicken-Man, it might mean 15-minutes of viral fame.  For me however, it seems like the biggest un-tapped market of our time.  If you think a grande-low-fat-double-pump-vanilla-mocha-latte is why the girl with the pink MacBook came here, you’d better think again…  she just told 700 Twitterers that your fly is open.