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Timothy Vasko

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Finaeos: Entrepreneurship, Equality & Access

July 1, 2015 11:37

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During President Obama's first election I said to my son, who was just old enough to vote in the United States, "he's taking on a mess in that country, let's see how he pulls it off..." That was nearly eight years ago.

Today, in my opinion, President Obama has masterfully made many of the changes the nation has needed. His latest push supporting the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on equality in gay marriage is a capstone to a tough job – but one well done. Politics and all policies aside (which I do not pretend to speak upon with authority nor seek agreement on), in the realms of finance, health care, innovation, and access- President Obama has left an indelible mark on the nation, and in my opinion it has undoubtedly been for the better. Of that I am certain - I speak with first hand knowledge and conviction.

There can be no denying that many sectors in the U.S. were a mess after decades of failed policy and approach – in particular finance and health care. The economy was decimated - I saw it coming 18 years ago, when I immigrated to Canada. Untold times during the last few years people have asked me, "how did you know?” It was obvious to me, that the fraudulent practices some of the biggest players in the economy employed, could not last and would not lead to anything but economic instability, massive debt and recession. I had experienced first hand the impact of one of these massive corporations on the brink of failure, and I did not intend to stick around to see this replicated on a national scale.

So, as a single Dad, lacking options and seeking direction, I decided to start again in a country that seemed to be more accepting, more open and more in line with my values and beliefs. Back then.

 

I have been proud to be a Canadian citizen for years. The Canadian government has done much to support my dreams and my work towards creating an equitable financial and technological environment through the many grants and government programs I have received and participated in. For this support I will be eternally grateful.

But today, I can equally proudly say that I no longer see the U.S. the way I did when I decided to leave my home nation. It has turned the corner, as demonstrated with the historical decision on gay marriage equality this week. Although recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and too many cities across the nation demonstrate there is still far to go in terms of racial equality, I believe the United States is on the path to true equality and access for all. With the JOBS Act working to reshape finance, and Obama Care, much like LBJ in the 1960s, President Obama has left a legacy. The foundation, the opportunity is set - the rest is up to us. As history reminds us, the "old guard" won't just give up. But now we have the tools to work with, tools that were lacking for far too long. This is a new era and a new country, again. This is the United States I grew up believing in - not the one I left with my kids.


Thanks to the JOBS Act, I believe America is once again on the path to becoming the land of opportunity and plenty that it once was both in the collective imagination and in reality for so many new immigrants, like my grandfather who passed through Ellis Island. With the barriers to finance for smaller businesses broken down through the JOBS Act, I’m proud to see that the American Dream can once again begin to thrive. That’s why I invented Finaeos, to help entrepreneurs and small businesses in both the U.S. and Canada recapture that dream, and attain it.

To be able to provide Finaeos to support American and cross border entrepreneurs and SMBs, to be able to next launch FinaeosConnect to share these opportunities to investors, and to be focusing our efforts in helping drive financing and healthcare innovation and connectivity - well, this could not have happened without the recent advances in American policy. I’ve spent my career trying to break down barriers for entrepreneurs and small businesses. This began with my invention of an affordable, customizable CRM platform and hybrid cloud environment that provides more functionality and power than Salesforce to organizations a fraction of the size and without that massive budgets traditionally required for this kind of automation. Now, I’m proud to say that I can provide more than just a technical leg up to small businesses. With Finaeos, we’re simplifying and reducing the cost in terms of time and money for businesses seeking the opportunity to grow and scale through funding.


I've never believed in money for the sake of money, I did not become an entrepreneur simply because I wanted to become rich. I believe at the root of entrepreneurship lies creativity, innovation, and a desire for true autonomy and freedom- an independent spirit that seeks to control its own destiny.


I believe these new financial legislations on both sides of the border, whether the JOBS Act in the United States or the CRM2 amendments in Canada, help eliminate the kinds of loopholes only the financiers (and their high priced lawyers) have had for centuries.


To see governments supporting Entrepreneurship, Equality and Access, to see the albeit belated recognition that these are some of the most fundamental things in a healthy society, is nothing short of galvanizing.

Now it's my mission, and every entrepreneur’s obligation, to help make sure it sticks. That's what these new laws are there for - setting up for the generations to come through innovation and access.

I am starting with Finaeos - and I look forward to working with, and helping others who have the motivation to do the same.

Follow me @Finaeos @TimSVasko - let's do this together !

Tim

No More Excuses: The Cloud, Big Data & CaaS (Compliance as a Service) How to use the Cloud to Eliminate Fraud

May 5, 2015 08:55

No More Excuses: The Cloud, Big Data & CaaS (Compliance as a Service)
How to use the Cloud to Eliminate Fraud & Ensure Compliance

19 years ago all of my data was on my thick and heavy Toshiba laptop. It was 1996, and this was the smallest device money could buy. Back then, I remember thinking having all your documents in one place was a great idea- it would improve organization, efficiency, and even protect in case of a fire or some other disaster. And it was great, that is, until the SEC seized that laptop as a part of an investigation into my business.

These were the early days of consumer computing. No one knew what they were doing or what risks were involved. External drives, backups, the “cloud”; all the places that data is protected and available today were, at best, an afterthought or a luxury. In most cases, they were not even possible – not readily anyways.
When my laptop was sequestered, never to be seen again, so too was the story that I was about to tell about FINOVA. For those who don’t know, FINOVA was a major corporation providing commercial financing back in these days. And my business was one of those being financed by FINOVA. Unfortunately, FINOVA was successful not because of their track record successfully financing commercial ventures, but because they were defrauding smaller companies, and using their extensive legal department to bury the evidence. FINOVA had my laptop sequestered four years before somebody finally got wise. At the time of their bankruptcy in March 2001, they were found guilty of committing the largest fraud in the history of the United States. But as we all know, 2001 was a tumultuous year. With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September, and Enron’s epic meltdown in December, FINOVA largely escaped notoriety (although several of their top executives ended up in prison).

Fraud has profoundly affected my life. Whenever I hear stories of people and businesses being defrauded, I feel my gut churn. I know exactly how helpless a person can feel when it’s not the truth that matters, but how good your lawyer is.

Since my own experience with fraud, I’ve sought to help change the fact that with big money and clever lawyers, cover-ups can prevent the facts from emerging, sometimes for decades. We’ve seen this from Madoff, to Lehman, to Bear Stearns. It has taken me nearly twenty years to overcome my “afraid to talk about it” phase. But for the better part of those 20 years, I’ve been looking, watching and building ways to help prevent others from going through the experience I had. I’ll detail those in the next installation of this series.
More to come ......

My Thoughts on Being an ‘Inadvertent’ Feminist

October 14, 2014 11:08

"However gifted an individual is at the outset, if his or her talents cannot be developed because of his or her social condition, because of the surrounding circumstances, these talents will be still-born." - Simone De Beauvoir

This morning I was forwarded a link by my eldest daughter to the speech that Emma Watson (best known for playing the character Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise) gave to the UN. I was struck by the label she gave my son and I in the message that accompanied the video. “Inadvertent feminist.” What exactly did this mean? Naturally, I had to listen to find out. I played Watson’s speech over our car stereo while I drove my three youngest daughters to school. I told them, “you could be speaking at the UN someday too.” As Watson began to explain the aforementioned term, I got choked up, as a flood of memories came into my head.

I came to Canada as a single father of two children nearly 18 years ago. They were so small then, a boy and a girl. I was Dad, but by necessity, I was also Mom. Their birth mother had become estranged from them. I had left the US because I had been bludgeoned by media and larger forces than I, at my young age, realized existed. I was faced with a situation in which my opinions suddenly had to turn into actions. So, I left my homeland, and immigrated to another country with my children. I wanted a place for them to grow up that was open to ideas, to new ideals. A place that would nourish their individuality and promote their development as empathetic, conscientious people rather than a place, that I felt made aggression and monetary interests and power the major priorities.

When my family and I arrived in Canada, I was broke and unemployed for the first time in my life. I headed to the University of Victoria, hoping for a chance to work on my Ph.D.. In my doctoral research I wanted to explore the relationship between human rights and globalization, and opportunities to improve quality of life and increase autonomy in developing nations through entrepreneurial small businesses. But mostly I needed a job and income to raise my family on.

My children and I survived off a student budget, for a time, until, by circumstance, the University offered me a role as an adjunct professor. It was a God send for a single father. And while I accepted eagerly, I couldn’t help but consider the women out there by the millions, who were raising children on their own. These were women who by and large did not have the inherent privileges my gender, race, and middle class upbringing afforded me. Nor did they benefit from the material manifestations of my socioeconomic status. My education and my pursuit of further schooling allowed me a way out of a hopeless situation, yet there were so many women in the same predicament with far fewer opportunities than I, to change their circumstance. No matter how much they might want to.

Around this time I fell deeply in love and got married, and eventually had three more daughters. All of this only deepened my opinion that people are people, and should be treated the same no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or otherwise. This belief my eldest daughter pointed out, has in a sense made me an “inadvertent feminist”.

A feminist, as Emma Watson defines in her speech, is “someone who believes in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.” An "inadvertent" feminist, I suppose, is a person who does this without thinking of themselves directly as feminist. That being said, I don’t want this label "inadvertent" any longer. I am proud to say that I am a feminist, and proud to raise my daughters with feminist ideals. This has been a deliberate choice.

I read a lot while playing the roles of Mother and Father about “how to” raise kids. I read Reviving Ophelia and How to Father a Successful Daughter. I also read a book, Real Boys, which described the pressure young boys feel to appear stereotypically masculine, objectify women, and be aggressive. My son was no jock, but an intellectual and deep thinker, passionate and loving. The ideas I read in these books made me look deeper, first, at myself, as a young boy raised in a generation where gender roles were still rigidly codified. These books helped me understand “how” to get beyond some of the ingrained cultural paradigms I’d been part of, and break them down.

Today, I'm proud to say two of my children are university graduates. My eldest daughter now works for me and just graduated from McGill with an honors degree in Cultural Studies and History. My son is working on his Ph.D. in political science. Both ended up in fields where they were actively challenging oppressive political, social, and economic structures and constructs, and patriarchal practices that have persisted for centuries. I also have a daughter who, at 13, recently visited South Africa with her school, to collaborate with youth from around the globe seeking to create a better world, marked by sustainability and tolerance. With two younger daughters on the way, I could not be more moved, and supportive of the efforts of the UN in “He For She”, or respect more the words of Ms. Watson in her passion and involvement with this important issue.

I’ve said I identify as a feminist. However if I am considered an “inadvertent feminist”, I suppose, too, I am an “inadvertent health care” proponent . I believe people should be able to access health care no matter what their location, demographic or political status. I am an “inadvertent living wage” proponent too. I believe people should be paid equally for their skills, efforts and talents, regardless of their gender or race. And, too, I am an “inadvertent financial reform” proponent, where markets and access to market capital, should not be controlled by incumbent structures of financial powerhouses, but by the market forces and “crowd sources” that enable innovations.

When we are "inadvertent” in our actions or beliefs, we are not going far enough. May we all become aware enough of the ideals and opinions we already feel strongly about, so as to enforce them with determination. I believe women should to be treated equally. I believe a man can raise his children and be as loving and responsible for them as a mother. I believe men have the right be vulnerable and open in their feelings. And so I actively work to reflect this belief in the most important aspects of my life. In my family, my profession, and my personal relationships.

As Emma Watson said at the UN, quoting Edmund Burke, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men and women to do nothing.”

It should not be the gender we are born with, but the passion we are given to become who we are. It should be each individuals right to participate in the world in the ways we may help and effect change, as individuals – woman or man.

Planes, Subway Trains & Convention Centers

July 9, 2012 08:56

This July, I've been traveling- a lot !

I'm in Toronto at the moment, at the Microsoft WPC (World Partner Conference) 2012, along with "16,000 of Steve Balmer's closest friends..." as the CEO of Microsoft put it in his Keynote address this morning. The Air Canada Convention Centre and subways of the Toronto Metro are a far cry from the Haro Strait I was sailing upon yesterday. As our sailboat glided along calm waters, crossing the border from the US to back to our home port in Canada, I realized, no matter where I am- in the middle of the ocean or a metropolis- I am in the Cloud and connected.

From my 1to1Real login screen this morning (which I shyly observed while Cirque Du Sole was trapezing around to open the conference) I Tweeted, generated an EFT to pay corporate bills, checked in on my collaborative activities with my Team on our virtual "Cooler Wall" - and overviewed reports and analytics from our latest marketing and customer service Cloud Business Coach communications. I never logged off my single dashboard, I did it all right on the same screen (including this blog post:-).

I can say now like never before, I have 100% confidence that the 1to1Real Cloud can handle any business and whatever that business may throw at it- anywhere, anytime. This, I think is pretty cool (I'd say "sick", but my 21 year old daughter who is editing this post would chastise me). When I finally put my iPad away I was amazed, not only at the acrobatics on stage- but at what my brain child could do- and I've been at this for a decade plus! I thought to myself "We could literally do this for any business owner, any CEO, or entrepreneur, any manager of any organization". The Cloud has arrived- the world has changed and we're here to be part of the new driving force of the internet!

More to come from the road - next stop Baltimore and Washington DC :-) Tim

PS: Did I mention I didn't use email even once !

Small Business Master or Disaster: Which Are You?

June 22, 2012 08:55

Small Business Master or Disaster: Which Are You?

Our good intentions actually become the cause of our failure.

Paradoxical Intention, Victor Frankl

How can you avoid becoming a casualty of "paradoxical intention" in your business, projects and goals?

We all start our projects, set our goals, and define our mission with the best of intentions. We intend to succeed. We seek to acquire the best tools to assist us, and put all of our energy towards efforts to "make things happen" - this statement is cliched for a reason. Whether on the football field, at the kitchen table of a small business owner, or in the steely boardroom of a corporation, the means may be different, but the lusted-after end is the same. We all are driven to succeed in our respective fields. But with all this desire for success, why do the statistics of failure continue to hold strong decade after decade? Why are our good intentions, our most sincere efforts, never enough?

"Every year in the United States, 40 million people change jobs, 600,000 new businesses are formed and 500,000 companies fail. Companies with less than 500 employees make up 99 percent of businesses. 50 percent of today's start-ups will be out of business five years from now."

 

Dr. Alex Pattakos, author of "Prisoner of our Thoughts" puts it like this:

"We all know how it works: our nervousness and anxiety about getting it right keep us from getting it right. The higher our expectations about something, the more disconnected we are from the actual process..."

95% of business's now believe that technology is the key determinant of success. And yet, most end up senselessly chasing technology, never bothering to actually consider what system may be best suited to their needs. For example, I recently had a CEO of an investment firm that has struggled with everything from legal regulations in the financial industry, to a lack of cash flow state to me that "I can do everything I need to do with technology for $19 a month...". This is only one laughable example of the kind of irrational thinking that makes the aforementioned statistics so pervasive. When you're managing anything, any size business, does it make sense to try to do it for less than you're spending on your weekly lattes? This is the same CEO who spares no expense with for instance, his office's physical location, paying astronomical rent for fancy downtown offices. So why does he believe that when he elevates his business to the Cloud, he can do it successfully for $19 a month?

The myth of the internet era is that it would be a space which would be "free". And although the evolution of the Cloud and technology hosted upon it has opened the doors for smart small businesses and start-ups to compete with the giants of industry unlike ever before, the idea that it is cheap or free or easy to do is what keeps 99% of the small companies from succeeding. That being said, spending millions, even if you have it as a large organization, doesn't necessarily ensure success either. 70% of all ERP and CRM implementations fail at the enterprise level to meet objectives or achieve a return on the investment associated with their cost.

Technology, especially Cloud Business Operations (I'll call them "CBOs") need, more than ever, to have a process based approach - a guiding mechanism which functions in line with "HOW" you plan to get there. Most of us know the "why" - we pretty much all want to succeed. It's time to stop asking "why" and start focusing on "how". If we didn't know "why" we wanted to achieve something, we'd never start in the first place.

There are Four Pillars of Process that define "how" we achieve every goal, whether it be business or personal. When the Four Pillars are clearly understood, we can avoid the "paradoxical intention" that leads to failure. With this understanding, instead of focusing on the anxiety a situation causes, we can focus on the situation itself. When we are free of our anxiety, we can focus on what we should be doing and how we can collaborate with others in order to optimize our performance. With this knowledge, we will better understand when it's time to take a "Time-Out" to reflect on how we are doing. When we remain conscious of ourselves and our surroundings, we are focused on the present moment. Only in this "Zone" can we better understand the efficacy of our choices.

Technology moves fast. So does business. But, with the ability track our own movements and activities, as well as that of our team, we can begin to create a Hub of Understanding, - a place where activities currently in process are monitored and displayed. We designed the 1to1REAL Cloud to help direct a path and learn the process of what individuals and teams do best. When we re-group, and take time outs - it is like looking at ourselves from the sidelines, or on video. In his book, Dr. Pattakos calls this "looking at yourself from a distance". When we seek to understand the the steps we have taken, our process can be seen, defined and improved upon.

We all have a unique way of approaching things - that is our unique "Zone", where we are our most genius. However, we must put a process around those unique approaches and find the technology that can match our approach - rather than attempting to match our approach and goals attempting to technology. The problem is, historically, that's not how software development has worked. Typical software delivers "functionality and features" defined by engineers and designed by software architects. The problem? Software has attempted to be "all things to all functions" with a specific goal. We can not add leverage to our best efforts with technology, until we can have technology that understands our best efforts. Unfortunately that approach does not often match the way traditional software has been delivered and designed.

I've studied business success and failures, alongside technology for well over fifteen years. One of the missions I had in building a piece of software for the Cloud, a dozen years ago, before it was called "The Cloud", was to stop the crazy approach where a technological platform was dictating how things must be done. Most people do things best with their unique flavor. Most successful business have a "secret formula" - almost like their own Coca Cola secret recipe.

So, just as a professional athlete combines their natural talents with the skill they've acquired through practice, a successful technology should take into account your organizations strengths as well as its weak points, and begin to structure itself from there. Just as an athlete must practice more those shots which they would typically miss, in business, we must find a system, a piece of technology, designed to assist us in the areas we require improvement, and perfect the areas in which we generally succeed.

Take Michael Jordan as an example. The arena, the rules of the game, the other players, were all the moving parts that increased in complexity as he moved from the backyard to the NBA. Just like a growing business - Jordan had to focus on his natural process to improve it. What Jordan was doing with all those hours and hours spent repeating the same action, was consistently improving in his "Zone". He also worked with his team making sure that they were included - which brought in win after win. It was a process that created the maximum results. Nike would have you think it was the Air Jordan's, but Michael learned how to leverage his talents with a team and the resources around him

When approaching our business's, when moving onto the Cloud, we are simply changing the arena. We need to think of the Cloud as our new "office building in the sky" - it is the place where we will spend our time, pay our rent and meet with our customers, as well as work with our team, play our best game. The magic of the Cloud is that it scales to any size business operation - the software platform you choose needs to do the same. Every basketball court, an NBA arena, or a grade school gym, has the same court. But the processes surrounding them are totally different. With 1to1REAL we built technology to support any size game- whether rookie, amateur, or professional. We discover "how process" and match the tools to the goals.

Our mission is to deliver the services of the 1to1REAL Cloud we've spent over 1.5 million man hours to build, to change the odds of the game in the favor of small and medium sized business - with the Four Pillars that every business can use to find their How - right Now. The present intention of every business and entrepreneur should lead to success, and help avoid the paradox of hyper-intention that can, and too often, leads to failure.

Tim Vasko The Cloud Market Coach Founder & CEO - 1to1REAL Cloud Solutions

Airline Lessons Learned from the Million Mile High Club

April 12, 2011 08:35

Editor's Note: This blog post is an edited version of a blog post Tim put up in 2006. Unfortunately not much has changed since then in the airline industry.

I was recently sent a link to this video - a humorous take on the folly of discount airlines: Cheap Flights

Most people would agree that it hits a nerve, but for me, it's more like hitting the entire spinal column.. I know this pain. Personally.

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. I'm in the Million Mile High Club: I've accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to take a family of six around the world at least seventeen times. People like me are known as "Road Warriors" we are the people who pay homage to the airport bars on Friday afternoons with circles under our eyes, glasses of beer in front of us, cranking out messages on our smartphones while muttering into our Bluetooth headsets.

While traveling, I've had time to collect some of my thoughts about airline travel. Most of them start with "@$#&!!"

However, the ones that can be printed online represent the very distillation of my wisdom. If you're an airline who wants serve your customers and make money, heed my words. I've flown with them all.

Here are the 7 cardinal "what-not-to-do" lessons from an extremely frequent flyer. Want people to love your airline? Recommend you to their friends? Want to travel with you? Then please don't follow these rules:

RULE #1

Make your customers life as difficult as possible. Try hiring a special force of employees (or Gestapo) to harass your passengers at every possible point in their journey.

This is an actual encounter with the Air Canada Carryon Bag Gestapo while I was standing in line at security 40 minutes before my flight was to leave for home:

Gestapo: "Excuse me. I see you must do this a thousand times, but I don't believe your bag will fit on the plane." Me: "Chuckle. Yes. I have done it at least 10,000 times, and this is the latest TUMI bag ($450), guaranteed to fit, it fits just fine thanks." Gestapo: "Sir, I'm hired by Air Canada to reduce the number of carryon bags, Air Canada doesn't want you to take a bag that size carryon." Me: "Thank you, I'm sure you're doing a good job, but I can assure you this bag fits, or I'll send it back to TUMI and bonus you the $450 it cost me. After all, I got it here on an Air Canada flight!"

If you want your airline to be as successful as Air Canada, I suggest you hire even more people to harass and micromanage your passengers. After all, having people working for you whose sole job is to annoy your clients is an excellent use of company money.

And yes, the bag fit.

RULE #2

If your "streamlined technology" fails to support the customer's convenience, make sure you delay your passengers and argue with them. Passengers love to argue and delays allow them to extend the travelling experience.

On two occasions now, I've made the mistake of going up to the Air Canada counter agent to get a ticket I should have been able to get at the computer kiosk. After the usual check in process, I had to argue to be allowed be allowed to take my specially designed, perfectly sized carryon luggage, carryon. This took almost 30 minutes.

Finally they relented. After clearing security (which is thankfully very fast in Victoria), I know I'm cutting it close - it's only 10 minutes before my flight will leave. I arrive at the Air Canada gate and see the same Agent that kept me arguing for 30 minutes at check in.

Agent: "Sir, the flight is closed; it's 10 minutes to take off."

After realizing I'm now in a Saturday Night live episode, I watched the plane sit on the tarmac for 10 minutes and then take off. I then rescheduled my entire trip, canceled meetings, and stayed overnight in Vancouver.

So, if you want to be as beloved as Air Canada, make sure you train your employees to argue with your passengers at every turn. Make sure your customers know your business better than your staff does! However, if you want to be a successful airline, perhaps do what the Westjet employees do, and help me with my compliant roller bag.

RULE #3

Charge for everything. In fact make it unbearable for your passengers. Starve them, freeze them, and then make them BRIBE you to solve the problem. It doesn't matter how much you're charging just make sure they're so uncomfortable they have to crack open the wallet.

We've all been there. Pay $2 for a bag of nuts, $8 bucks for a stale sandwich, $10 to watch movies.. some airlines even charge you money to stay warm. A real exchange I witnessed:

Elderly Lady: Excuse me, could I have a blanket? Flight Attendant "We have a blow up pillow and blanket in a packet. You can keep the pillow, but its $2"

So, if you want nickel and dime your passengers to death to try and make up some of the money you"re losing, charge for everything. OR try trimming the Gestapo from the payroll and hand out some peanuts, some food and God forbid, a blanket for an old lady.

RULE #4

Scold your customers, oh those bad, evil people who pay your salaries, pay your equipment leases and buy your fuel. Scold them like children and treat them like they've never flown before. Then storm off as the jingle begins on the safety announcement drop down screens.

We know that we can't use our Blackberries and iPhones after the warning goes, but if you can see we're just trying to hurriedly finish our email or answer a question, let us finish. Then trust us to put the device away like you asked us to. We are adults and we can follow rules if asked politely.

How about this approach? Trust your customers and say something like, "sir would you be able to please turn that off just after you finish that quick message; I'd really appreciate it, thank you."

I'm sure there's no FAA regulation saying that flight attendants can't say "please" and "thank you" when asking passengers do something. However, if there is an FFA rule I would like to report Southwest, Westjet and Alaska Airlines for using these contraband words.

RULE #5

Create an "alliance" and share the misery so your customers have a miserable experience wherever they might be. After all, you're aiming for consistency!

The Star Alliance deal between United and Air Canada is a true alliance between equals. After all, they both filed bankruptcy, both are major carriers in their countries and both try to make their customers as miserable as possible.

I"m sure Canadians reading this are thinking "I hate Air Canada" and Americans are thinking "I hate United". This is actually an incredible achievement. Most brands struggle endlessly to maintain a consistent image and deliver a standardized level of customer service. To coordinate something like this across two different, unconnected companies is REVOLUTIONARY.

RULE #6

Spend lots of money on sending your messages out to your "frequent flyer's" (aka, everyone dumb enough to sign up for your program) because people want spam in their inbox. Make sure you send it regularly too - at least twice a week. You want to be able to irritate your customers even when they're not flying with you.

While you're planning out your email strategy, make sure you only send confirmations in glorious HTML, with all kinds of links and pretty pictures, so it takes a long time and lots of bandwidth to download your emails on their smartphones, even if they're out of the country and roaming.

I do this computer stuff for a living, but it took me at least an hour on a few separate occasions to figure out how to opt out of all of those boxes I missed. That kind of marketing just gets me angry. Stop talking at me, and talk with me.

RULE #7

Charge A LOT to change travel plans, and don't compensate your customers when you have a problem. Making airline travel expensive preserves the glamour and mystique of the experience.

Hey, things outside of our control happen, but only to the airlines - customers don't do anything important or have lives. Thus, you can charge the heck out of them. Charge them to wait on standby. Charge them to change flights. If you have to credit them because you screwed up, make sure the credits are hard to use so you can keep their money anyhow.

The more expensive it is for them, the less likely they are to change their plans, and the more inconvenient it is redeem credits, the less likely you are to see them again. After all, your airline would be far more efficient if it didn't have all those pesky passengers to deal with.

We Road Warriors are fine with having our flights cancelled due to mechanical troubles. Nobody wants to risk a faulty plane, but sometimes we have time sensitive plans. Meetings we can't miss. Personal matters to attend to like birthdays or funerals where it's important that we need to be there, but not everyone can afford to pay hundreds of dollars in change fees because there has been a problem on your end.

I've waited in Winnipeg for three hours because I couldn't switch to a stand by without paying the $500 difference in fares. At the time I had a $3,500 credit with Air Canada, but couldn't use that credit to pay the stand by fees, because it was Air Canada policy not to allow flight credits for standby fees!

These are the 7 rules that you can be sure NOT to follow if you want to be a popular, well liked, profitable airline.

Take them to heart, learn the lessons from them, or consider adopting the Air Canada slogan for your airline: Air Canada - we're not happy until you're not happy!

PS: Here is a great link to a travel expert that talks about the industry - subscribe to the news letter; get the books by Chris McGinnis - business travel advisor extraordinaire: www.travelskills.com

Tim's Top 10 Tech Frustrations That Drive Business Owners Crazy

November 25, 2010 08:13

Tim's Top 10 Tech Frustrations That Drive Business Owners Crazy - My list of "frustrations" that I've heard most during the last decade (plus) from business owners about technology!

  1. It costs me money, how will it make me money?
  2. What does social networking do for me?
  3. How does SEO work for me - is it important?
  4. It takes too much time to learn!
  5. It takes too much time to put in my data!
  6. My In-box is always full!!
  7. What are techies talking about - LINUX, SQL, CRM,ERP,ASP,IM,SMS,3G,IP,HTML,CSV - It's like foreign language I'm being asked to pay for!
  8. What is Open Source really? Should I care?
  9. Apple vs. Microsoft - does it matter?
  10. When will it be done??!
Most of the time I've spent has been in dealing with these pressing questions from non-technical entrepreneurs and CEOs. While business owners recognize the possibilities and need for technology today for their businesses, at some point, they just get frustrated with technology, and rightly so. It's complicated, it often takes more time and expense than was ever expected and trying to use it can be daunting.
During a ten year hiatus from being a university professor, I've pulled together teams of developers, web designers and engineers - from whom I've learned a bit about what they knew, and a LOT about what they don't know. Each of these Top 10 Tech Frustrations, all of which I've had myself have pushed me closer to find an answer, and to fund a "real" platform for entrepreneurs and business owners. Entrepreneurs want to use technology to run their business, not only because it's smart, because it's the only way to survive and thrive as a business today. So, after eight versions and lots of my own frustrations and expense, the 1to1Real platform and related families of cloud based solutions like 1to1Pharmacy, 1to1MD and 1to1IPM (Investment Portfolio Management) was born.
There are two types of entrepreneurs and business owners when it comes to technology. First, there are those who want to run their business and use technology to become more profitable, more productive, get more customers and keep those they already have. Secondly, are the people who get starry eyed about the possibility of technology and start down the "in-house, I can and will develop it myself, so I can sell it to the world" type. The first type is realistic and they will eventually succeed. The second, the "would-be technology developers" type usually spends tens of thousands (although I've seen a few spend well into the millions) and almost always fail. Once again, "why?" seems an appropriate question.
Each of these Top 10 Frustrations is actually a complex software development, real world challenge that comes along with inventing software. To some of these frustrations there are scientific answers and to others, only trial and error will give you the answer you need for your business.
For small and medium sized businesses the cost of failure is high, and likelihood that a home grown solution will yield success is low. It usually looks like this when we've gone in to a company: A pharmacy/ investment manager/ real estate company (choose a core business) finds a "programmer" who can build a database (the truth is anyone can build a database today). The ideas flow, the system is laid out; the dream has begun. The problem is tools like relational databases, web sites and code can look and function fine; but only to a point. When the system gets a lot of users, data, needs for more functions, the code that was typically generated through these tools becomes what the software industry calls "spaghetti" - it gets all tangled up. Why? Because there is a lot of it, all trying to do pieces and parts of something and then the programmer (business) asks it to do another thing. I've seen this happen time and again, because when it comes down to it, the business developing the solution is not a software engineering firm.
It has taken us a decade to invent, make errors, make changes and to find out how to avoid this technology tangle at any level of load. When you see success in technology you give it a name: Microsoft Outlook, Windows, Apple iPod/iTunes/iPhone, Google, Facebook... When you consider the billions of transactions and processes each has to handle, you appreciate the sophistication.
So how can a pharmacy build a set of transactions that will integrate within a 1.5 trillion dollar health care system, in-house? They can't, but I've seen them try! We worked on the Alberta Health Care system, at the time a $350 million project in the province. We had a small role to come in and help "make it work" - because after $350mm spent, there was an 85% failure rate. We devised a solution that was called "elegant" by the lead engineers. Why were we able to see the solution when they weren't? We've never had big budgets to work with! We work with small businesses who had limited budgets and even more limited time, so we've learned to get from point A to Z as fast and as efficiently as possible.
All of these hold-ups and technology frustrations that cost money, time and drive business owners crazy are going to keep getting worse because technology and its use is getting more complex, not less.
So, for the businesses that want to use technology to be more efficient, and more profitable, we offer the Connected Market Coach program in conjunction with our 1to1Real solutions to get them from A to Z faster and more efficiently. The Connected Market Coach is a solution for entrepreneurs and business owners who love their business and want to do more of what they do best. For those who wish to face their challenges by "figuring it out" and building it in-house, I wish you well. It is a long road. From Harvard to Wharton to MIT, studies show a 70% - 90% failure rate - "the road ahead" has already been paved with tough lessons learned.
Our Connected Market Coach program is by qualification only for one simple reason: priority of your business objectives is the most important success factor. If you'd like to visit us and discuss your goals and how you can use The Connected Market Space to automate, connect and transform your business - visit us at the Connected Market Coach and complete the application.
Here's to overcoming frustrations and the shortest path to connections for success.
Tim

How Every Marathon Runner Wins the Race

November 20, 2010 08:11
I was recently in New York during the famous NYC Marathon. The city was packed with runners from all over the world. What struck me was that many of them didn't look like they could walk to the end of the block, much less run a marathon! Yet, there they were, ready for a grueling 26 mile race.
In the elevator of my hotel, I overheard two runners talking after the race. There was a sense of relief and euphoria in the lobby of our hotel; so much so that I was energized as a mere casual observer of all of these people. The conversation was about the second place women's finisher, a woman who came in just 40 seconds behind the winner. Consider how tiny a 40 second lead is after a 26 mile race. Wherever they finished personally, these two runners were ecstatic. They were just happy to have finished the race. One runner who was a bit rotund, and didn't look at all like a marathon runner said to the other sleek gentleman, "I kept thinking after the 10 mile mark about my friend who told me 'pain is temporary, losing is forever".
This situation is such a far cry from 30 years ago when Katherine Switzer snuck into the Boston Marathon in 1967 registered as K. Switzer. During the race, an official tried to pull her from the pack as women weren't allowed to run marathons, they were thought too fragile! Whoever made that rule had clearly never met my wife (or my four daughters, two sisters, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton or [fill in the blank yourself]). Times were different then, but what hasn't changed is people - women (and sometimes men) are determined. If someone wants something badly enough they can do it “ they can push through 26 miles, or gain a mere 40 seconds to win a race.
Business today is a lot like running. Entrepreneurs are pushing harder than ever to succeed, and there are more people than ever going it alone. It doesn't take an MBA or a fat bank account to start a business -most are started with nothing but pure determination.
However, unlike running, where the situation is the same for everyone, much of today's technology was designed for existing operating companies, not ones just starting out. I received an email the other day from a friend that said, "well I tried Salesforce CRM, it was disappointing and hard to use, not even as good as Goldmine. I'm going to try Sugar CRM." This friend is just like the thousands of would be runners who never made it to the NYC marathon. They run and run, imagining that they could run a marathon, but never commit fully to the effort it takes to be a real participant. When running a race or a business, choosing a goal and seeing it clearly, finishing something and sticking with it - that is what makes up a real participant, an entrepreneur and a winner.
The one thing about every runner in the NYC Marathon whether they were 40 seconds away from first place, stuck in the middle of the pack, or just happy they finished, is that they all had a gold medal performance that day. Everyone had done their personal best and shown up. Everyone had achieved something that differentiated them from the rest of the world of runners - a dream to run in one of the biggest, toughest competitions in the world.
When I think about entrepreneurs, business owners, small and medium sized businesses and talk to our customers and users, I see the same type of determination those runners have. They don't just run down the same old roads, they connect to a cause that they have chosen - and run toward that with a passion. Every one of the companies in the Connected Market Space is unique and a driving force. They are overcoming the limitations of disconnected ideas and technology, and connecting with their market. Some will be at the front of the pack, some will be the pack, some will be happy to have completed the race. All are unique because they do their personal best and their customers love them and connect to them for that reason. No matter what size their business is - they are connected.
My friend is one of the millions looking for a CRM solution that will never work for his business. He will struggle, not understanding that he doesn't need a sales force - he just needs to get connected to his core business - his core mission and dream. Those two runners made it across the finish line because they understood something that many people never get - it's about the steps, the pace and the commitment to train. Success isn't about the fancy running clothes, watching videos or going to clinics about running technique. Each and every one of those participants did one thing the same: they ran, they put in the endless effort and they had a goal. That makes them different and unique from most of the rest of the world, and runners in the world.
In business, what you do differently and what you're willing to commit to drives your success. It's not about dressing up in new features (like new running garb) as the software firms would have you buy. It's about getting into the market, with social networks, with connections; it's about getting on the road and running.
Think of the Connected Market Space in your home town, your market of customers. It's like the road you run down to train for whatever you goal is, be it just good health or a marathon in the future. We built 1to1Real so you can run down that road with confidence and with us behind you as support. 1to1Real works like your personal trainer; we help you so you can become the best in your Connected Market. If you have a goal in mind, and you're running toward it, on the right path, with the right commitment you will succeed.

The Top 10 Things That Drive Business Owners Crazy about Technology

October 6, 2010 08:06
wasting moneyLast week I was at a meeting with a group of entrepreneurs from all over the world. These folks are some of the best of the best in the world at their businesses - across industries and continents. When my turn came to talk about The Connected Market Space and our recent launch of 1to1Real as a "solution for the SMB [Small to Medium Sized Business] Technology Tangle" they all listened with increasing enthusiasm and interest.
After a few minutes, one of the leaders said, "why don"t you just talk about the top 10 things that business owners hate about technology? If you can solve that, you're done!"
Great idea! So I rapidly scribbled down what I've spent the last decade trying to solve by building 1to1Real and the Connected Market Space. Once I decided to write them down, I thought it would be a great idea to write about each one in my blog. So, here you go - a series I'm going to write about each of what I find to be some of the most frustrating problems with technology.
Starting with #10:
"Technology is costing me a ton of money! If I get quotes, they are high. If I employ someone, I have to pay them a ton and don"t have a clue what they are doing! How will technology ever make me money?"
The reality is that the technology industry was built on costing a lot of money. Hordes of software engineers, consultants and development companies have spent decades perfecting the model of getting paid for writing code. They charge a lot for their work and for good reason - it's hard to do and time consuming.
As a business owner, and a tech CEO, I have troubled over this. The reality is technology is highly valuable ONLY when it is properly developed and deployed. So, I asked myself "how can we solve the technology risk problem, the time problem and the related cost problem for small to medium sized businesses?" After all, these aren't governments or major corporations. These are businesses that provide a product or service to a market, they do it well and by their own successes they grow - which causes inefficiencies. Businesses like this don't have unlimited time to focus on technology, or unlimited resources they can acquire by raising taxes or the price of a widely distributed product a few dollars.
So, let's turn the question into an answer:How can I use technology to make money - without hiring a bunch of technology people where I don't know what they do, or asking for a bunch of quotes that I don't know that are fair - without spending a ton of money?
When approached like this, the answer becomes obvious. Focus on your core business and find a way to get that to extend in 30 days or less. Clue number one: if it takes more than 30 days to get your core business out the door, you're headed for a trap!
If you're in a business that is not technology based, don't get into the technology business by hiring or funding a huge undertaking! Doing that is costly, time consuming and worst of all, it takes your attention away from your core business. People in the technology business are technology experts. We don't know your business, but we do know ours. So let us take the risk that applies to our business - technology, and provide the value to you. After all, if I'm going to buy a car, I'm not going to start my own production line. I'm going to find the vehicle brand I trust and I'm going to
Too many business owners try to become technology companies in house, and end up with a disappointing result. The people who succeed in business seek out professionals to do what they can't, so they can focus on what they can do - provide their product or service to their market. After a decade in the business I can say with certainty, the businesses who elect to find the right solution and the right professionals, who have worked with us and ask us to help do what they can't, win every time.
The businesses who try cobble together a bunch of technology pieces like CRM and email marketing are spending money trying to create a solution outside their area of expertise. Or, worse, they've created a home grown monster – complete with a home built team that must be employed 24/7 just to keep going.  Money that could be driving a market and profits for the business owner is instead being wasted on something that doesn't actually improve the core business.
Tim's Tip #10: The moral of the story is solve technology frustration #10 by putting your money where your business model is - STOP accepting the technology risk at home.

The Age of Wikipedia

September 22, 2010 08:03
wikipediaEver gotten into a good natured argument with a friend about a fact neither of you are totally certain about? For example, are Baboons monkeys or apes? This simple question, completely unrelated to anything important became a hotly contested item of debate for one CMAEON staffer. She solved the problem the way so many people in her generation do - she checked Wikipedia. Victorious in her assertion that Baboons were monkeys, life went back to normal.
Situations like this probably happen millions of times a day, all around the world. Why?
Today, people are increasingly dependent on the Internet and sites like Wikipedia for instant information. If you have a question, you don't ponder or go to the library - you Google it. Need to check some facts? Settle a bet? Want an opinion on a restaurant? Get an opinion from your peers? Internet. The quest for information isn't a one way transaction where the consumer passively absorbs it from a book, a map or a newspaper anymore - it's a conversation now.
"Can anyone recommend a good Italian restaurant for my big date?" "What's the best route to get to the train station?" "Who is a good realtor?" Our conversations and quests for information drive us online to websites like Wikipedia, Yelp, Twitter and Facebook in a way that's completely new and still evolving.
So what does this mean for businesses, and more importantly, what does this mean for a small business without the money to sink into Google adwords and expensive online marketing campaigns? How can they be successful in this business climate? It means a successful business is able to tap into the conversations that are already happening online.
People constantly want information; therefore, if a business can join the conversation and respond to people with the specific information they want, that business is going to leave a positive impression. It'll become a trusted brand. It'll become the Wikipedia of a specific area of interest. It'll be truly connected to its market and the needs of its customers. That's the power of the Connected Market Space in the Age of Wikipedia.

Photo: Cartoonist Bill Amend's somewhat sarcastic take on the power of Wikipedia - from Ross Mayfield's Flickr (licensed under Creative Commons.)

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