Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crazy and Not in a Good Way

Consider me the Anti-Carly.
Being a business person exposes you to lots of people.  Most are hardworking attempting to a make a living and support their families.  Others seem muddle along in a lazy haze and others are so cutthroat you would be nervous if you left children in their presence.  It just comes with the territory.  Still, it amazes me to this day how many mentally ill, damaged and just plain mean people I meet in the course of my career.  Usually they wind up as my managers or as a client.  These individuals take all the joy out of doing business.  In fits of despair, I cry to heavens and ask why. 

Business week gave me a little insight into this existential problem.   According to author Jon Ronson, many people who are business leaders fit the operational definition of psychopathy.  In fact, many corporate leaders score “alarmingly high.”  I suppose this is because many business leaders crave power and strive to be in charge; just look at Ken Lay, Al Dunlap and Carly Fiorina.  All of those individuals tended to view others as mere tools to be used, were concerned about their personal brand over what best for their organization and when the stuff hit the fan, abdicated any personal responsibility for what happened.  I encountered similar behavior in the advertising and gift card business. 

Business schools for the last ten years have been railing against this kind of behavior.  Two of my favorite books on the subject are Primal Leadership by Daniel Goelman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee and The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton.  Both books illustrate the damage to the bottom line jerks cause.  Still when I go out in the business community, I see an abundance of people who exhibit this kind of deviant behavior and consider it an acceptable way to conduct business.  Again, I ask why. 

I turn again back to the business week and they say researcher David McClelland divided workers into three groups:  those who need power, those who need to achieve and those who want to be liked.  The ones who excel at achievement and being liked wind up as customer service representatives while those who crave power get the corner office.  In the Social Darwinism of the office, those who need power often get their fix at the expense of others.  More troubling, when these individuals are held accountable for their actions by employees they have the power to hire and fire.  This is creating a feedback loop of fear and repression at the office.  It stinks and it explains why innovation takes place at startup companies which are purchased by larger corporations. 

I know I will be forced to be a jerk from time to time starting up my own business.  I will have to fire people for poor performance.  I will also have to make some difficult decisions but that does not mean that I have to become like Lay, Dunlap or Fiorina.  Being an entrepreneur is a touch crazy but I hope that it is crazy in a good way rather than the psychopathic fashion that is all too common in business. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Times Are a Changing

Amateurs market software, pros sell software.
Back in the good old days of the internet, say between 1998 and 2002; if you had a dream and some venture capital you could found a company, hire a few friends, and play business.  That is until the money runs out and you have to file bankruptcy.  Many of those early start ups were huge vortexes of cash and bad management.  Many of them resembled fraternity houses populated with engineers and developers who attempted to have the fun they couldn’t have in college. 

There were a lot of great flame outs; comes to mind right away.  Still in the aftermath, Amazon became the destination for one stop shopping on the internet and Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world.  This is the nature of business.  The strong survive and the weak are culled to make room for other attempts at innovation. 

I talk about this because another wave of internet companies are offering IPO’s on the stock market.  The professional marketing site LinkedIn is now said to be worth nine billion dollars.  All of that worth is investor enthusiasm; sales are but a fraction of that market capitalization.  It is easy for an amateur to look at this situation and think that they are ready for another gold rush.    
I am not an amateur. 

I have been in the trenches during the Dot.Com boom and bust.  I know what it takes to put together a good product that works on the web and mobile devices rather than in marketing presentations.  I am going to grow the business with sales and reasonable application of money.  Yes, a time will come where I will have to get some venture capital to grow the business but I want to be smart about it.  People are counting on me to manage their logistics and warehouse data.  That is trust that is earned through hard work and good engineering. 
My hope is the sales will take care of itself.  If not, I am going to be making a lot of cold calls and sending out a lot of mass e-mail. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tags are Going to Make the World go Round.

Found a great article on the Procurement Leader’s website.  The general theme is that most ERP and Supply Chain Management systems are too complicated.  The most shocking statistic was the following snip:

“…More than 65% of respondents age 35 and younger would be at least somewhat likely to change jobs due to negative experience user their company’s enterprise software. 

In other words, bad software equals employee turnover.  We have something to correct that situation.  We have an easy to use web based interface which works over the cloud.  We have provided a way for you to look at information with your smart phone using the Microsoft Tag technology so that at any time you can view a Bill of Lading or piece of inventory. 

Go and click, you know you want to!
E3 systems wants to promote easy to use software that solves real world problems, we think that Microsoft Tags are going to make life around your loading dock easier.  Now you don’t have to type or lookup information.  Now you just scan the information and it shows up on your smart phone.  Tags can be incorporated in sales materials and are easy to use and reproduce.  The best part about tags is that they hold more information than a standard bar code so they can be hooked into web pages and other systems. 
Once you see tags in action you are going to be surprised how they will make the world of logistics go round. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Liberty of Being an Entrepreneur

The grand experiment gets another year older.
I hope that everyone has had a good Independence Day weekend.  I would think our founding fathers would be pretty impressed with the nation they created many years ago.  We are in the midst of political problems and economic challenges but I still think that we are the grand experiment of western civilization.  We are the example that other nations strive for and I look forward to the future as the 21st century becomes another American Century.  

One of the reasons for American exceptionalism is we are able to take abstract ideas and convert them into concrete solutions to problems.  The cotton gin, telegraph, telephone, electricity, transistor, and internet were American inventions which we were able to adapt to the real world.  Seven years ago, Facebook was the product of a sexually frustrated young man.  Today, I have to promote my company on his service or face bankruptcy.  America is one of the few nations where this kind of story can take place.  You don’t see many entrepreneurs coming from France or Spain.  China seems very good at undermining human rights and violating patent regulations but they still do not have the track record of innovation we have in the United States. 
I am part of that tradition.  I created a company called E3 systems.  What we provide is a means for small to medium sized trucking companies to use the internet to manage their inventory and bills of lading.  In the future, I will have features which use the Microsoft Tag Technology to track items and inventory with smart phones.  I also plan to make it possible to view truck driver log books and fuel charges in real time.  I plan to do this at a reasonable cost and over the web. 
No software to install and nothing to purchase.  You lease it over the web.  I think it is a reasonable means to address the challenges that the smaller provider faces. 
If America is going to recover from this recession, then it is going to take the efforts of Entrepreneurs to make a difference.    I think I am up to the challenge.