Onward.

On Friday, I was given one of the best gifts I can ever fathom.

It was not merely a material possession that I highly desired, but it meant, and means, much more. No, it isn’t a white iPhone. It’s actually better.

Friday was an impossible day for me. One that I never thought would happen, and avoided for almost seven years. I’ve moved to a new company, a new opportunity, and a new team. On my way out, I realized that I left as I came. My first day at the job, they clapped as we walked in, welcoming us to the team. Friday, I was happily clapped out, all wishing well as I crossed the threshold one last time. Not only that, but a good friend of mine also wrote on my Facebook wall saying she was clapping me out from the West Coast.

It was surreal, and fantastic. But it wasn’t until I was in the car with my wife and daughter that I really got something special. In a bag that was given to me was a book. The book that I almost bought that morning as I bought my usual “medium Pike with room” from Starbucks.

Onward, How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul – by Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon.

Appropriate and exciting were the immediate words that popped in my head.

And then I opened the pages.

But these pages had been opened before.

Inside, several of my friends (I refuse to call any of them coworkers, as they are far more than that) had written their own inscriptions. Not only inscriptions, but they highlighted phrases throughout the book that meant something to them, and to me. They wrote quotes from other great leaders, and cleverly left me messages throughout. I have turned page by page, and I’m sure I have not yet accounted for all their notes. From my boss’ boss’ boss, to someone who just got hired part-time, many signed. Even my wife snuck her own comment in. (She usually does…Love you hun…)

And for that, I cried.

Onward I go. Onward I read. But the greatest gift was truly their words of friendship, inspiration, and yes, even humor. I’ll never forget my time working with such great people, and I’ll never forget the moment I started to move Onward.

Thank you.

 

A Sad Week in Tech

Ok, so maybe it’s been more than a week. But in the recent past, we’ve seen a few major “glitches” that have affected the real world.

Yes, websites can go down. Sometimes that happens. Usually most people don’t notice. But when several major sites (and services) go down all at the same time, and don’t come back up for a few days, that’s a big deal.
The first “downer” was Amazon’s EC2 service. If you aren’t familiar with it, that’s ok. A rudimentary overview is that it is a cloud hosting environment. Essentially, a cloud host is different than propagating your own server because a) it’s offsite in a large data center, and b) it is not reliant on one server, but the data is spread across a cluster which affects (positively) scale and speeds. Cloud based hosting is far more efficient for small (and even large) businesses at times. It’s not just that these clouds are built to be far more resilient, but also it shouldn’t require a company to employ as high level of IT staff as those organizations who chose to remain in house.

Now Amazon is very reputable for this service. A substantial portion of their revenue as a company comes from these hosting options, not just its retail operations. Some pretty big names use their service. Ever heard of Foursquare? Notice that they were down for a few days? Well, now you know why. HootSuite, Livefyre and many others were also affected.

But Matt, why would anyone invest in a technology that can obviously fail?
Don’t be stupid. Everything CAN fail. I’m a big believer in failure – I have quite a bit of experience with it. I would have no question or hesitation recommending a cloud based service for a company. Even Amazons. Naturally, there are other options out there. Just like everything else, there are several places, even locally, that can offer you the same stability, scalability, and efficiency. This outage merely gave us an opportunity to learn how to best invest in IT resources. Sure, the cloud may have gotten stormy for a bit, but the resolutions came from Amazon – not Foursquare. That aspect has some comfort for me. Knowing that someone way smarter than me (and my staff) has the ability and experience to engineer a solution quickly makes me at ease. I’m a believer in doing what I do best, and letting someone else fix what I know I can’t. I’d prefer getting back to work.

The other big outage is actually a little scarier.

Sony, the media giant, had it’s PlayStation network compromised. Somehow, their game player network (which also has a store associated with it) was hacked. After realizing this, Sony turned off their PlayStation Network indefinitely awaiting a post-mortem and rebuild. I applaud Sony for taking down the network – this is at no small cost. Most games rely on (or are far enhanced by) online game play. With this outage, Sony’s customer information is now out in the wild, and they’re not even sure if credit card numbers were compromised yet. Lucky for me, I’ve never purchased anything off my console. The most anyone could get of my information would be the goofy looking avatar I use. Sadly not at all important to me.

What is even worse is the weather. No, not because it’s still snowing in Minnesota, but all of the tornadoes and severe weather elsewhere. Somewhere I read a statistic that was quite scary. Only 6% of companies can actually survive as a business after a natural disaster affects their IT infrastructure. 6% is a scarily low. Yet another reason why I am, and will be, a big proponent of cloud based applications and storage. Does your organization have a disaster plan for IT? You should.

Luckily, there is good news in tech.

Starting today, the white iPhone 4 is available. For those who prefer Stormtroopers over Darth Vader, today is your day.

 

The Warby Parker Experiment

Ever heard of Warby Parker?  Well, you have now.

I heard about them through a friend, and thought it was interesting enough, but didn’t explore. Then they came up a few months later. And again. So I decided to check it out.

Being a glasses-wearing fellow, I find true importance behind the fit, feel and how long the process sometimes takes to find the right pair. Ironically, I’m not one to try things on. I can’t remember the last time I entered a fitting room at a clothing store (sorry, softliners – you know who you are). I usually buy, try, and live with my decision.

Glasses however are the exception.

So the thought of ordering online was very foreign to me. I mean, what if I don’t like them? Sure I suppose I could return them. Hopefully. Who knows with prescription lenses though. I’m always weary of buying online for that reason.

And then I went to www.warbyparker.com

Hot dang.

First, I’m used to paying a few hundred dollars for glasses. I expect it. Warby’s price? $95. Including lenses. And then I kept reading.

Secondly, they’re socially concious. Taking a page from TOM’s, they donate a pair of glasses to someone in need for any pair you buy.

Thirdly is when they got me hooked. I ordered five pair. That’s right. Five. Why? To try on. “Whoah that’s like $500 almost”.

Nope.

It was free. Even shipping.

The deal is that you get to try five pair for five days. And you’re encouraged to get the opinion of those around you – and post pictures on your Facebook account. Clever little marketing buggers.

Naturally, I signed up. I need new glasses as mine are several years old at this point, and the toddler likes ripping them off my face.

I placed my order, and waited for them to show up.

They showed up a day earlier than I expected, in a clever little box. The clever little box is also intended for me to place the prepaid return shipping label on, to send them back home.

The whole outerbox to inner packaging was uniquely Warby Parker. Their offline experience melds perfectly with their online experience. Witty, smart, and sharp.

So now I ask. Which pair will it be? Vote below, but know full-well that my wife (and I…) have the majority vote in this election. If that weren’t the case, I’m pretty sure I’d need political asylum in a friends house.

Leave your suggestions in the comment section below and let’s see what this social experiment yields.

Well done Warby Parker for giving me a great experience, and quelling those fears that were initial barriers. Plus, I know what it’s like not having glasses, so thanks for giving someone who needs them a pair.

Fast. Simple. Easy?

The other day, my wife and I were out and about. We decided to visit one of the big chain bookstores in the area.

We went, and I ventured to my areas of the store, as she went through hers. Generally, I wander aimlessly through the non-fiction areas of the store. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big John Grisham fan, but that’s about it for fiction. When I was walking through the business section, I saw something that made me laugh.

Seriously.

Writing a business plan is more than a requirement for a company. Having it be fast, simple, and easy, absolutely misses the point. A good business plan is all of those things, but not because you follow a checklist of requirements. No templates are required.

The only acceptable fast, simple, and easy business plan is the one that naturally flows. It only comes from knowing your business, competition and marketplace wholeheartedly.

If you’re doing a business plan based off of a pre-scripted formula, then it might be time to sit down and think. Think about what you want. Think about what it means to be you. Think about what exactly you want to do as a business. Think most importantly about how your business can change the world.

Start by answering those questions, then it’s time to figure out a plan. You need to figure out who you are before you can plan out a future.

My other pet peeve is that a business plan is a singular task. A good business plan is more of a living document. One that changes with the world. This world is changing faster than we think. If you need a reminder of that, check out the presentation by space150 on slideshare. It’s a good reminder of the things that can change in 150 days.

The business plan should really be about who you are, and what you want to do. Not just who you were and where you’ve been. The market changes, your brand can change, but acting without reacting can some times cause more harm than good.

Now.

Who are you? What do you want to do? How can that change the world?

*Side note, this post was originally conceived on the difference between chain bookstores. This particular book I found at the now bankrupt Borders. I’m not even pretending that the two are related, but it’s hard to ignore the difference between good products and successful businesses and those who just offer products- not always good ones.