Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Miracle of the Middle Seat
Many people are too shy, focused on work, or lazy to turn to the person next to them and say "Hello" - but often this little gesture can expose you to a new business opportunity, entertaining conversation, or just the chance to expand your own horizons.
This week I am flying to Denver to give a presentation at the annual planning session of a major professional services firm. Since hearing the term "The Miracle of the Middle Seat" I am more excited than ever about my air travel.
I look forward to meeting the person in the next seat and hope that they are an interesting soul. Who knows, maybe they will need my company's services or be searching for a keynote speaker for their next business event.
Fortunately, I am not shy -- and I am always open to networking anywhere, anytime.
Have A Great Day.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Congress, Bailouts, And Why The Average American Hates Politics
In this short piece I said:
If Americans realized that to send a real message for reform to Washington, the White House is not the target.... Let Barak Obama or John McCain take the chair (it does not matter as much as we think).... But instead lets send a whole crop of new enthusiastic and heart-powered fresh faces into the House.
Now, nearly two months later, I believe this more than ever before. The political grandstanding and finger pointing that has gone on in Washington DC in the past few days surrounding the financial market meltdown is disgraceful. Saving the economy is not a time for party games.
Both the Republican Party and the Democrat Party are working hard to make sure that their own party looks better than the other in this crisis - with no regard for the American people.
The party leaders acted as "Democrats first" and "Republicans first" this week -- Americans second.
Booooo to Congress.
Every news item or sound-bite is over run with our leaders playing the blame game for the crisis and the failure to pass the bailout. There is blame for both parties and someone had best figure this out or the system that melts down will not be the banking system.
Like a kid caught in the candy jar our Congressmen and Congresswomen are making every excuse in the book without taking responsibility.
Anyone who points a finger at the other party during this important critical time should be voted out of office in November. Alas, that would remove almost all of the members of the House of Representatives. A fresh start might not be so bad!
I am so mad I could spit. Not that the bill did not pass. I am not informed enough to claim to be an expert on this topic. However, I hate seeing our elected officials behave like spoiled children.
Enough, enough, enough. Work together people!
I wish that others would join this chorus and demand better manners from Congress.
The political parties and their lords and ladies of the fiefdoms are too focused on winning elections and keeping power. They do not seem concerned with real results that impact those of us on Main Street.
Normal people do not get the luxury of blaming others with every decision we make. We have to get up and do our jobs, pay our bills, and live life. We do not operate in a "sound-bite" world where image is more important than reality. Normal people have to figure out how to solve our problems. The time has come for Congress to get over their divisive partisan mantra and begin a new day.
Average Americans hate politics. It is time that politicians change how they behave and remember whom they were sent to Washington to serve (that would be the American people).
Shame on all of them.
Have A Good Day.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
My co-author, Marny Lifshen, and I are very proud of our new book, and are enjoying hearing all your feedback.
If you have already read the book, please write a reader review on Amazon.com.
Here are four things to think about when it comes to your network of professional contacts:
1. Are you actively growing your network?
Many people I know who have reached a comfortable level of success shut down on networking. Some forget that it was other people who gave them opportunities on the way up the ladder and stop seeing the importance of meeting new people. Others claim that they are too busy or that the quality of those they meet is no longer high enough.
Time is a limited commodity, but I think you should always be exposing yourself to new people with new ideas is an important step to staying relevant in your business community.
Many "senior" executives avoid the younger generations, but this is often the folks that is plugged into the newest ideas and trends. People matter. I suggest that everyone continue to network and expand their horizons throughout their lifetime. The other option is becoming obsolete. Remain relevant is always an option.
You never know enough people. Continue to add interesting souls to your circle of influence. Open your heart to individuals who cross your path and you might be surprised by what they bring to your life. Reach out to others and introduce yourself. They might be shy, but might desire to expand their networks too.
2. Organizational Reality Check.
Are you involved with business, civic and charitable organizations? You should be. Nobody should be so busy that they cannot support a cause. Every community organization needs to have the involvement of intelligent critical thinkers who can help them achieve. I believe that everyone can have one or two groups in which they actively participate in a substantial manner. I spent most of my time serving on the boards of business oriented groups, but have recently moved my attention to being on the board of a not-for-profit (Heart House). While making connections is part of the experience, helping others is just a good thing.
Many who have never served on a board are often disappointed that they cannot just walk into a board position with an organization. It takes time to build your volunteer resume, so start where you can and work hard. I began ten years ago by spending a few years on the board of the local chapter of several business groups. You need to participate for a while before being elevated to the board level. Once there you must honor you commitment or you will earn a negative reputation. Do not volunteer if you will not follow through. Those who volunteer will forever cross paths in the world of board participation, and if you are seen as lazy, unreliable or just there to build your resume, you will be passed over for the best opportunities in the future.
Finding the right groups in which to participate is a personal choice, but over time you will develop good instincts for the organizations for which you dedicate your time.
3. Help others.
If your only reason to network is to make contacts that will help you, you will fail. People can smell a "taker", and you will never see any of the benefits that come to those who network with mutually beneficial goals.
Do you currently review your database of contacts and see whom might want to know each other? I am often surprised when people tell me they never have considered doing this. They want others to make key introductions and referrals to advance their career, but they do not invest the time to do unto others.
Additionally, ask others what they need. Most of the time when I ask people "What is your biggest challenge?" or "Whom in town would you like to meet" I am unable to solve their quandary. However, sometimes I can. If I did not ask the question, I would have never known how easily I could help them succeed.
Some who achieve forget that many people along the way gave them a boost. But there comes a time when you must pay it forward and extend a hand to others. The most successful people I know (not just financially, but spiritually and emotionally too) have a servants heart and enjoy being part of another person's success.
4. What Do You Want?
Clearly think about what success looks like. Know how you want to treat the people in your life and how you can be a catalyst for good in their world. This clarity makes it easy for you to make the right choices when facing decisions about how prioritize your networking activities. Cultivating a network of contacts that can and will improve your life is an important way to pave your path toward success. Do not leave this up to chance.
Many people never think about the power of business relationships. They let people come and go from their life without regards to how mutually beneficial friendships can assist everyone involved.
Invest the time to run a networking diagnostic this fall and review how you network.
One reader of this blog will receive a 30-minute networking diagnostic consultation phone call. Email me at thom (at) thomsinger (dot) com to enter. All names will be entered into a drawing and the winner announce on Friday, October 3rd.
Have A Great Day.
Line Item Veto
Imagine the president having the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress and being able to approve the bill for topic of the legislation while being able to line out the unrelated pork spending projects.
All but seven states grant their Governors some level of this power and it helps eliminate the ridiculous items that individual politicians attach to important bills. If the president could do this it would help stop many of the earmarks.
The Congress hates this idea, as they use earmarks like their own personal magic wand. Without this they could not get the government to pay for stupid unnecessary projects for their own districts. Often the president is held hostage to sign legislation or look like he is rejecting the main topic of the bill.
If Congress cannot deliver the free cash, then they would need to do a better job in their roles in Washington DC. Pork is the easy path to re-election.
I think Barak Obama or John McCain should make this a big deal before the election and put Congress on the spot that whomever wins the election - it is NOT business as usual.
But much like the Electoral College will never be changed (small states would never ratify the changes that many people want because it would strip them of their importance in the presidential election process) - no congressman or congresswoman will ever pass the Line Item Veto, even if the people want it. It takes away their own power.
I do think that one of the candidates could gain a lot of attention if they took on this cause, as it would make a lot of people say "YEAH!". But they would risk making their own parties mad at them, since it is really Congress that has the control, not the President - - But shhhhhhhh nobody seems to know that. Certainly the party leaders do not want anyone to look behind the curtain.
Have A Great Day.
Update: Apparently this was deemed unconstitutional in 1996 and affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1998. Clinton was the only president to ever enjoy limited Line Item Veto via the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, and used it 11 times to strike out 82 items from the federal budget. The Line Item Veto could be implemented by a constitutional amendment. I still love the concept of Line Item Veto. ***Thank you to Ryan G for the email explaining this to me.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Chronicles Of An Undecided Voter
I wanted John McCain or Barak Obama to say something that resonated with me and helped clarify my confusion over whom to vote. Instead it was Kabuki theater.
I am being very guarded not to make my decision based on something negative that is said or done. I do not want to vote against a candidate, I want to vote for a candidate (Pollyanna attitude? So I have been told recently!).
Well, it is just one debate. There are two more.
I have learned one very interesting thing from being an "undecided" that I have been guilty of in past presidential elections: Someone who supports a candidate overlooks their candidates mistakes and flaws while exaggerating the blemishes on the other side. It is just human nature.
What I don't like is when people are hateful. I believe when hate creeps in it is a much deeper problem. It clouds everything and divides.
Look at last night --- everyone I know who supported McCain rationalized ways he was superior to Barak Obama. My Obama supporting friends also saw their guy as the champion of the debate. Meanwhile, as an undecided I saw the exchange as a hard to follow oddly moderated discussion that will never be remembered in any historical tome penned on presidential elections. But those who want their guy to win are spinning the chat up. Yawn.
Have A Great Day.
Friday, September 26, 2008
TechCrunch Austin Party
I was unable to score a ticket to the afternoon panel discussion on the University of Texas campus where some of Austin's top tech entrepreneurs participated in a panel discussion on "The Web Starts At The Grassroots". I was able to catch part of the program on a live webcast, but with 20 panelists it was a bit hard to follow via streaming video.
I did get an invitation to the party. Over 500 people packed the downtown Warehouse District venue and a good time was had by all.
A short list of some of the cool folks I talked with at the party included Jason Reneau (and his crew from MindBites), Bryan Jones (CEO of Moximity), Brett Hurt (Founder and CEO of Baazarvoice), Bill Leake (Founder and CEO at Apogee Search), Kim Hughes, Jenny Murphy and Tom Ball (Austin Ventures), Sam Zabaneh (partner at DLA Piper), David Lee (Sentient Ventures), Kimberlie Dykeman (Author and Media Personality) Ryan Pitylack (VP marketing at Profit Fuel), Matt Genovese (Door 64), Zach Anderson and Randy Cohen (TicketCity) Rob Adams (UT Professor and business advisor), Todd Barr (VP Biz Dev at FiveRuns), Jason Black (CEO at Boundless Network), Andy Meadows (CEO of Live Oak 360) , Bryan Menell (serial entrepreneur and the man behind much local tech community stuff), Angie Menell (Bryan's much much better half!), A bunch of nice folks from Vertive, CJ Romberger (Wildwood Interactive), Bryan Person (Social Media Evangelist), Chris Garrigues (IT Entrepreneur), Ted Nitka (biz dev at Spiceworks), John Erik Metcalf (Co-Founder of Conjuntured) and many many more folks whom I only know by their Twitter names (sorry to anyone I left out whom I encountered -- some of you did not have nametags or business cards!).
The networking and interesting discussions were tops. I was unable to make it to the Moximity After Party at The Belmont, as I had to get home to relieve the babysitter (my wife is in Chicago to see a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show today. YES - this is the same wife who was at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday. She is having a great "birthday week" and I am so thrilled for her that she has had the opportunity to do these cool things!). I heard the good times went on until the wee hours of the morning.
My only disappointment of the evening was the John Erik Metcalf was giving away free T-shirts that boasted about Austin's "Start-Up District". If you recall my post about the Austin Tech Happy Hour two weeks ago... for some odd reason I love free T-Shirts! It's okay John Erik, I am sure there is an XL waiting for me somewhere! (just kidding!).
With all the bad news in the financial markets, I do like the positive feelings that are running through the Austin business community and the tech scene. I am reminded that in downturns many great companies are born. Thus, even with the stock market and banking industries going through crisis - all is not lost. In the mix there are several entrepreneurs who will still start and grow successful businesses.
Have A Great Day.
My Lessons In Venture Capital and Banking All In One Day
I also wonder if the financial crisis will shut down angel investing as people circle their personal finances.
Interesting to me is the fact that Austin still gets 53% of all venture investments in the state of Texas. The entrepreneurial spirit in Austin still has access to cash, but I think we still need more fresh investments in new companies in order to fuel the future we are counting on in Central Texas.
I went on to have lunch with some great folks from one of the major banks (wont name them, as I assume nobody in the banking industry wants to have their private conversations appear on a blog!). While the evening news focuses on the woes of the banking world, these seasoned bankers have seen ups and downs before. They were not excited about the near term future (it sucks).... yet they seemed to have the experience to know we will come out the other side. The bank / S&L crisis of the 80's was a painful time for bankers.... but there eventually did come a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
The announcement today about the collapse of Washington Mutual is not a good sign. Fasten your money seat belt, as we are seemingly again in that gloomy tunnel.
I am worried that we have a long, long road ahead until the credit markets un-freeze ---- regardless of what Congress does this weekend. Sad, but probably true.
So my nuggets of knowledge from yesterday: there is still money out there if you have a good company with an appealing idea. Venture funds have cash and want to do deals, but if you are more established and have any hiccups on your balance sheet... beware of getting a LOC anytime soon!
Have A Great Day
Thursday, September 25, 2008
A Tardy Thank You Note Trumps No Thank You Note
Sending a "Thank You" note when someone does you a favor or makes a referral is important. The best time to do this is right away. The longer you wait, the more likely you will forget to send the card. Additionally, your prompt response shows the other person that you value their graciousness and appreciate their efforts.
However, the facts of real life are that sometimes you forget for a few weeks, or even longer. One day you realize, "Dang-nab-it, I never followed up to show my gratitude to that person!".
I think that it is never too late to say "Thank You". If you believe that too much time has passed to still be fresh, own up to the tardy nature of your note and tell the person that you should have acknowledged them sooner. But even late, remember that the person being thanked will still appreciate your note.
To never say "Thank You" might leave you looking selfish. One pet-peeve that I hear from those who make referrals and introductions is that they never hear back from those whom they have helped. They wonder if how their favor panned out and what was the impact. This limbo of never being thanked makes many folk weary of making future efforts on behalf of those who never respond.
Your best way to get future favors is to say "thank you". Even late, a Thank You Note is amazingly powerful.
Have A Great Day.
Washington DC Finger Pointing and "The Blame Game"
My mind is on. I thus I am now awake and catching up on reading and writing, hoping the urge to sleep will return before my morning alarm clock.
And what is on my mind? All the politics and related Wall Street News. One would think some random guy in Austin, Texas could sleep...but if I can't sleep, I assume (and hope) that our leaders in Washington DC are awake too trying to figure out the issues that face them (and us all).
I am sick of all the finger pointing. The crisis in the financial markets is serious. The President spoke tonight (well, last night, as it is now technically tomorrow) about the need for congress to take action. It is clear that something must be done. Major financial institutions are teetering on the edge of collapse and the credit markets have frozen up. Not good.
Yet while they search for a solution, both the Republican and Democrat partisans are actively looking to serve their opponents a double dose of the blame. From what I have read there is plenty of blame to go around, and one who lives in a glass house should not throw rocks.
I see folks on both sides trying to pin the cause of the crisis on the other side and ignoring their own party's role in government. Sorry people, both parties have been running the government and setting policy for decades. And the failing financial institutions have donated large sums of the beloved cash to politicians in both camps. Leaders and their talking heads will have credibility with me if they take responsibility.
Big pill to swallow here, but this is not the time to score a partisan blow...this is an American issue...not a red state / blue state chess piece.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Does Your Competition Scare You That Much?
He noticed that one of the sponsors of the lunch was a competitor, but this was an event that cost $30 to attend, so he did not see it as an issue...as they were not paying for his meal (It is common for companies to sponsor all types of business events, and that sponsorship traditionally does not create exclusivity when attendees pay their own way. It is different when the sponsors are covering the costs and attendance is free).
Additionally the CEO of his company had received the same invitation, as well as another co-worker...thus he assumed it was an open corporate event.
While the invite said "Invitation Only", he was invited, as the invite came to his email box with a cheery message of "You're Invited" in a large bold font.
The day before the luncheon he received a phone call from the marketing manager of one of the other sponsors. She left him a voicemail informing him that she had seen his name on the RSVP list, but that the event was "by invitation only". She was very nice, but clearly told him that he could not just sign up without being invited.
Well.... he was invited. He still had the original email, and it had come from the same company that was calling to "uninvite" him. He was confused.
Turns out that the three sponsoring companies had not scrubbed their lists properly to delete all the other sponsor's competitors. Several folks at my friends company had gotten legitimate invitations.... but their competitor was adamant that they must be "uninvited". In fact, he was told that they "specifically do not want you there!". OUCH. Fortunately he was the only one at his office who had been available to attend that day, or they would have had to have called the CEO to make the same un-invitation.
How awkward for everyone involved. Nobody looks good in this story, except my friend, who is very good natured and laughed about the whole thing. He felt sorry for the young woman who called him, as her company had invited him and now had to tell him "no go". She was very nice, and he understood that the problem rested with his insecure competitor.
I had a similar situation happen at the company where I work back in August. Several of our competitors were invited to a private reception by one of the co-sponsors of a private event. The reality is that we would not have intentionally invited them to attend our private party (duh, why would we do that!), but once they had been included in the email blast, we would NEVER have called them to say there were not welcome (or worse, made our co-sponsor make such a call). Our response was to say "Oh well - let them attend, as they were invited" (and next time we will tighten up the screening of the invite lists!). And this was not an event where the attendees paid their own way, we were covering the costs of all food and drinks!
The reality is that every company would enjoy having private time with prospects and referral sources far away from our competition. However, the business world is not always perfect, and when things like this slip through the cracks, you have to go with the flow and be welcoming rather than rude. One person at a lunch with seventy people would probably barely be noticed anyway. One should never pretend to yourself that your competition is not out there.... They are... and they are already friendly with your clients, prospects and referral sources. You have to have faith in your own abilities or you are in the wrong business to begin with.
I learned this lesson from a senior partner in a large law firm in 2001. I worked as the Director of Marketing and Business Development for his largest competitor, but we were friends. While in Dallas attending an industry conference he had pre-planned a large private dinner for several of his clients and other VIP's. At the end of the conference sponsored cocktail hour, most the crowd I was talking with were headed off to the dinner, when the partner invited me to come along. I laughed (thinking he was kidding)...but his response was that his offer was legit.
He said "look, you are friends with almost everyone who will be at dinner. I am never scared of my competition being around, because they know you already. If having you at dinner is a threat to my business, then I am not good enough at what I do for a living". WOW. I have never forgotten that night. I had a great time, and gained a new level of respect for this lawyer, who has continued to find success in his career.
While I am not recommending inviting your competitors to all your private corporate events, uninviting them with such aggressiveness when a co-sponsor has already invited them speaks volumes.
Are you that scared of your competitors? Yikes. Maybe then you should be.
Being rude is never cool.
Have A Great Day.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Hey! What's The Big Idea?
In an oversimplified way, this is what has made America great. The Declaration of Independence is an example of a "BIG IDEA". Sure, the United States has made mistakes and our government continues to have faults,.... but it is the grand thought that we can do more good for people than has ever been done before that inspires so many. The founding fathers had huge dreams for the future. We need to continue to be on the outlook for giant opportunities.
My grandfather boarded a boat from Ireland to New York in 1900 at age sixteen. Both his parents were dead and he was responsible for his four younger siblings. He never looked back. His "BIG IDEA" was that his siblings, children and grandchildren would have a better future in his new country. While his life was hard and far from perfect, but his goal was achieved. I hope I live my life in a way that honors his.
I want our political leaders to challenge their constituencies. I want to know that they have a vision and a goal for what can be accomplished if they win the election. I want to see and feel that dream, but more important, I want to believe that they will work to achieve it. Too often our politicians say one thing when they run for office and then get caught up in the whirlwind of partisan politics and their own desire for legacy when they govern. I want their "BIG IDEAS" to be beyond themselves and their political party. I want them to commit to a real plan.
I see this spark in the eyes of the entrepreneurs that I know. While our current financial market situations are certainly serious, entrepreneurs are optimists by nature (thank God). They do not see the sky as falling, but instead know that success is always around the next corner. If we roll over and kill our ambitions, there is no future. In every down market there are people who succeed, and do so ethically. These are the people with "BIG IDEAS". These are the people who have a plan. Sure, some fail, but that risk is what it takes to discover real victory.
How about you? Do you have big ideas? I bet that you do, even if for some reason you keep them hidden from the world. Our current political and financial uncertainties cause many people to pull in their hopes and dreams. I think that you should do just the opposite. Pour the water of hope on your desires and sprout your ideas. Have a plan. So what if you don't achieve it exactly how you intended. Many of my most successful friends have had their wins come in ways they did not script, but instead discovered something new while enroute to another success. Sitting still brings nothing.
Nobody can predict the future, but your safety net to recession proof your career is to be open to all possibilities and to have a vision for what you want to accomplish. Expand you network and meet new people who might hold unforeseen opportunities for you. Identify those who work in and around industries that excite you. Meet them now, before you need them. Ask them questions and learn. Create real relationships and you will find amazing opportunities.
Ask yourself "what is my BIG IDEA?". Think about and let the seeds grow and find where it takes you. And do not forget to enjoy the journey. You don't need to have an idea....but isn't life more fun when you have something you desire and work toward? Better to strive than to just let things happen to you.
Have A Great Day
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Happy Birthday, Sara
She is cool, fun, a great mom and a very supportive and loving wife.
Happy Birthday, sweetheart.
She is not here today, as she is celebrating her birthday with one of her close friends who took her to the Television Emmy's in Los Angeles. How cool is that? Her friend had a contact who offered two tickets, and she took my wife as a B-day present!
Yep, I am sitting at home with the kids watching E! Television Network, and in the background we just saw her entering the theatre on the Red Carpet. That was cool. Granted, she is not famous, so Ryan Seacrest did not stop her to talk... but to the kids she was more famous than any actress on the red carpet. And to me the most beautiful! The DVR allowed the kids to replay the shot about 8 times.
Have A Great Day
Friday, September 19, 2008
Make A Donation To Help Breast Cancer Research
One of my lifelong friends has a sister-in-law who is raising money for her participation in the Susan Komen Race For The Cure (Inland Empire, California).
She set a goal of raising $200.
While a great start, I thought it would be fun to have anyone who can spare $5, $10, $25, $100 or more who believes in the cause to jump in and make a donation. The power of social media, blogs and word-of-mouth on the internet has the potential to explode her goal. Monique's brother-in-law sent me the link to her donation page.... but he had NO IDEA that I would write about this on my blog.
My mother and mother-in-law both lost battles with breast cancer, and as the father of two daughters I find the Susan Komen Foundation to be a very worthy cause.
When I logged onto Monique's fundraising page this morning she had raised $147.00. I made a $53 donation to help her reach her goal. Now I ask you to make a small donation to put her way over the top.
I do not know Monique very well (although I was the photographer at her wedding to her husband Billy!). She and her husband are both elementary school teachers and both are dedicated to helping and teaching others. However I have been friends with the Homan family for longer than I can remember. Cool people who care. They have always been there for me in good times and bad. And Monique is a very nice and fun person with a good heart.
I hope she is surprised and amazed when she goes way beyond her $200 goal because of the good nature of some donations for the readers of this blog!
CLICK HERE to donate.
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The Smart Money Is On Austin
Click Here to see full story on SmartMoney.com.
"Is Your Company Anti-Social?" - TEXCHANGE Tackles Social Media
Most of the audience was very knowledgeable about the use of social medial tools, but it was interesting to see the faces of some whose hands never went up when he asked the participants about their involvement with Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and beyond. There was a since of "Hmmmm, what am I missing?" that plagued those who were not in the loop.
While it is still very early to know where social media is going in regards to business, it is clear that the number of users is growing. There is something very intriguing about being connected to others that keeps people coming back to these sites. Dachis joked that nobody knows why they want to know that their old high school friend ate a burrito for lunch, but everyday on Twitter they go back for more. While from the outside it seems like a waste of time to follow the mundane activities of others, the stories of people's lives become very interesting and it keeps people engaged.
So how can companies take conversations that seem meaningless and make them valuable. Smart companies are seeking ways to take the invested dialogue of their constituencies and make them relevant. People have a passion for communication, but few companies know what to do when they capture customers dialogues and other feedback. Too many just have their toe dipped into social media pool.
Companies need to adopt comprehensive strategies for their online interactive activities. If they build it, they need to make sure that people come and that it is relevant. If nobody shows up, there is no value. Companies must "seed, feed, and weed" their social media efforts. Somebody must be monitoring and responding. Social media sites by nature are a two way street and are not just an extension of the marketing department (a common mistake that is being made by many corporations).
Additionally, many companies have adopted internal policies that block access for their employees to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, MySpace, etc... This is short sighted. At the table I was seated at people talked about how the younger generation of workers are unhappy in work settings where such access is blocked. The best among them will not stay in such an environment, and it is already leading companies to see a revolving door of their younger workers. As the baby-boomers retire, these younger "digital born"employees will become more important. Eventually they will have trouble attracting these workers if they are not allowing them access to their online worlds. For many it is like breathing.
Your employees, customers, vendors and local communities are already using these tools, your company should be as well. Companies must embrace the open ecology and realize that conversations are taking place in several places online and bring all that feedback and information into their company. The more information to which you have access, the better your company's results.
Mr. Dachis did not share the details of his new venture, but my guess is that it will be breakthrough. Big things are to come, I am sure. I appreciated his presentation, as did the whole crowd.
Again, TEXCHANGE proved to be an amazing place to spend an evening. I always learn and I am always challenged by the people in attendance.
Have A Great Day.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Austin Technology Council - "After Series - A Funding" CxO Best Practices Seminar
The panel was moderated by tech industry veteran Michael Cation, founder of NovusEdge. He did a great job of questioning the panelists, engaging the audience and sharing personal anecdotes from his 25 years of experience.
The panelists were:
Michael Barrett, Partner - Fulbright & Jaworski LLP
Corey Blahuta, Managing Director - vcfo
Jeff Sunshine, Managing Director - The Bank Street Group LLC
The first phase of the program covered ways to protect intellectual property, and the pros and cons of NDA's and the strategies for filing patents. While all of this is important to technology companies, sometimes the price of patents can outweigh their effectiveness. The best advice was that people should not get so worried about others ripping them off that they forget to focus on running the business. Many an entrepreneur has been overly paranoid about patents (some with less than stellar ideas) that they never got their businesses off the ground!
The next section covered how to tackle a company's post funding expenses such as office space, key hires (should you use a head hunter?) and other expenditures. The consensus was to keep it frugal when possible to conserve cash, but to also consult the boards of directors and advisers for their counsel and perspective. They might have access to sublet office space, know people you could hire or have vendors with whom they have a track record. An entrepreneur should avoid making early tactical expendatures that go contrary to the board's / investor's philosophy.
The last part of the discussion centered on how to cultivate a positive working relationship with the board of directors. The entrepreneurs were told to get out of "sales mode" after they get the funding, as they need to have a realistic working relationship with their board. Be pragmatic and grounded in setting expectations, as the only expectations your board will have about your company's performance is the ones you set with them during your meetings. All agreed that investors see the entrepreneur as the greatest assets in the companies they invest, so nobody should get seduced by the "coolness" of the product or service. The business plan will change over time, and that is expected.
They closed the discussion by pointing out that the current headlines around Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae should not effect Series A funded companies in the short run. They have their money and need to execute on their business plans at this point and not freak out about the markets, headlines or political conditions. History shows that many successful companies have been born during economic downturns.
It would be harder at this point for companies looking for mezzanine funding or pursuing an IPO, but a funded start-up should buckle down and work to add customers and reach investor expectations.
Additionally, Austin, Texas is still a great place to start a company, as the technology ecosystem has lots of experienced employees, advisers, service providers and other talent which .
Have A Great Day.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
What Is Your Perception of Me ????
As humans we all have a self-images and egos that can cloud our perspective and limit our ability to create real relationships. A true desire to grow and bring about positive change requires you to step outside of the fear of hurt feelings and understand how others see you and what you bring to the world.
Thus I ask everyone who reads this to respond to my question:
WHAT IS YOUR PERCEPTION OF ME?
As I am committed to challenging myself to make more of an impact, this question is important. Your response can change my world.
You can answer this in the comment section or by email (thom [at] thomsinger [dot] com). Anonymous is okay. It need not be nice, just true.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I have always been fortunate to have friends who see more inside of me than I sometimes found visible in myself. They have consistently pushed me (or carried me) to higher levels.
I am at my best when I am challenged to push myself to to new heights.
I work for a dynamic company that is growing. Being part of this team keeps me excited to succeed. Working at vcfo allows me to encounter the most inspired entrepreneurs who operate the companies that we serve. These companies are outstanding examples of inspiration and success...and having the opportunity to observe these business leaders stretches me even further. Working for a great company makes everyone better.
Writing books and giving speeches is something I am passionate about. I always feel the huge responsibility to my audience and want my words to touch others while helping them in some manner. At my core I desire to deliver something of value. Having a purpose makes everyone better.
Even strangers challenge me. I received the following email from someone I just met in the past two weeks. He is a well respected thought leader and business legend in Austin (and beyond), and I look forward to getting to know him better. I can tell that he is one of those people who come along at just the right moment to help clarify the path.
Our first correspondence include this challenge to me:
I want to stretch you to begin thinking about how do you create a business network that impacts business today. How companies grow networks to impact their bottom-line today! These are the areas I work in as well as dealing at the highest trust levels in global business. How do we impact countries and people in crisis!
I know we will become great friends, but I definitely want to stretch how you view relationship building.
Wow. Not many people would so positively, yet bluntly, challenge a stranger to expand their horizons following an initial encounter. It is people like this who make me challenge myself to become better. Taking my career, writing, speaking, community service, networking, family, spirituality, and all areas of my life to a higher level is the goal. Having others believe in you makes everyone better.
Are you challenged? Are you taking steps to grow as a person or are you just going through the motions? Whom do you have in your life that you can turn to for those friendly nudges that make you check your personal ego at the door and contemplate how to set up your game. Athletes do this all the time. Their coaches actively help them find their weakness and build their strengths.
We all need to challenge ourselves. Embracing personal growth makes everyone better.
Have A Great Day.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
What Do You Like About Your Candidate?
My friend Eugene Sepulveda (who always challenges me to think deeply about this election) wrote a positive article on his blog about WHY he supports Barak Obama.
I wish we saw more people publicly tell us what they like about candidates instead of what they hate about the other side.
Have A Great Day.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Where Homes Are Selling The Fastest
Wish I could tell you I am that smart. Just lucky.
Facts and Politics Need Not Be Roommates
I had a republican friend try to convince me that they stretch the truth less than the democrats, but that they had to because of the media. Ha. Meanwhile I am sure democrats would claim the opposite logic. Usually both just point out the flaws of the other side, which leaves me more confused than ever in this election.
Too bad nobody can run for president without embellishing their strengths or lying about the other side. I wanted a "different type of campaign" .... but apparently neither of the candidates on the top of the tickets feel they can win without smear. That is a shame, but it is the facts.
If you have never spent any time on FactCheck.org.... get a cup of coffee and go read the achieves. It is fun.
Be yourself. Stay focused. Put yourself out there. Serve others. Work hard. Communicate your desires, ambitions and goals. Serve others (yes, I know I said that twice). Be true to who you are in your soul.
Yes, some days you will shine like a star. Other times you will just get through the day.
Over the long haul there is no amount of PR or flashy advertising that will speak as loud as your actions.
Live your life. Be true. Triumph.
Have A Great Day.
Happy People At Happy Hour. September Austin Tech Happy Hour Makes A Mark At The Marq
This monthly event continues to attract the young and old from the tech business community. Over 300 people packed The Marq at 5th and Congress. Fortunately I found a great parking place less than a block from the venue. While some I know purposely stay away from these types of events, they missed out on one heck of an evening.
I chatted with several folks from a variety of cool start ups. The team from Moximity gave me a t-shirt. I don't know why, but I loved getting that shirt. I will wear it this weekend. Sometimes the little things make a big impression. They have the coolest new technology, but I am not sure if they are talking about what they do to the world.... so shhhhhh, I can't it say here. Stay tuned.
I also met several people whose blogs I read regularly, whom read my blog, or I knew from Twitter. I am a big fan of putting a name with a face, and the Web 2.0 social media crowd in Austin is comprised of inspiring people who are fun to talk with and exchange thoughts and ideas.
The Seedstage.tv crew was there interviewing many of those in attendance. I look forward to seeing what they all had to say, as it all looked very smart (no, they did not interview me). Video is powerful.
Author Sarah Lacey was there selling and signing her book, and I had a short conversation with her. I like to meet authors and discover more about them as a person. I purchased a copy, as I have a rule that if I meet someone who wrote a book, I buy it and read it. I expect to dive into it over this upcoming rainy weekend, as Austin is expecting the effects of Hurricane Ike. The whole family has new books. I will discover her "Once Lucky, Twice Good" theories... Expect a report in a later post.
Those of us old enough to remember 1998, 1999 and 2000 have some pleasant memories of the Austin Tech Scene during "The Boom". Sure, there was that whole "Bust" thing that followed, but it was packed with good times and a great opportunity to witness the entrepreneurial spirit in action. Few are willing to talk much about the positive parts of those heady days, as the crash was bitterly harsh for many. But I am not shy to say that it was a great time to live and work in and around the Austin technology industries.
There are hints that some of the good parts of those days are back. I welcome this new surge of entrepreneurial endeavors. The difference today is that nobody has crazy amounts of unchecked venture capital that they are using to sell vintage rubber bands on the internet or purchase Super Bowl commercials staring sock puppets. It all seems more grounded in the realities of operating under sustainable financial models.
There is a desire for excellence that is naturally inside of people. I love it when you see leaders exposing this move toward achievement. It just makes you smile.
Have A Great Day.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Have Heart: PLAY!
While I am always a HUGE fan of the power of a hand written note, this one particularly caught my eye because of the message on the front of the card. Printed over the photo of a beach ball perched on the shore basking in the rays of a beautiful sunset were the words:
Live and work
but do not forget to play,
to have fun in life and really enjoy it.
I was overtaken by these simple eighteen words. I know that this message is so easily forgotten by many who are actively chasing their dreams, goals and aspirations.
Take a moment today to play. That can mean any one of a million things, but where there is joy, there is a heart. Connect with your heart and truly feel.
Austin Tech Happy Hour - This Thursday
This months event will feature Author Sarah Lacy, who will be selling and signing copies of her new book "Once You're Lucky Twice You're Good -- The Rebirth of the Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0 " .
Sarah writes the Valley Girl column for BusinessWeek and co-hosts Tech Ticker on Yahoo! Finance. Sarah has not been back to Austin since her keynote at SXSW (one may remember it caused lots of people, including me, to criticize her abilities as a live emcee... but alas, she is famous and I am not... so who am I to be critical?).
There will be a big crowd, so get your tickets in advance!
Have A Great Day.
Monday, September 08, 2008
He Who Owns The Most Brain Cells Wins
Your words and actions must be aligned and clearly visible to the outside world. If you are not paying attention to your image and how you position yourself, be warned that your brand will suffer. Many people make the mistake of just being head down and producing good work, but this alone does not let your audience really hear the message.
Sometimes people are surprised when they hear that they have a less than stellar reputation. However, they have never invested any time or effort to establish the reputation they desire. If you do not actively take control of what is being said about you and your company, like the childhood game of "Telephone", all can get distorted.
Take charge your brand and construct a network of cherished professionals with whom you can mutually assist each other in getting your name into the community. In the end, we all need others who will be our evangelists, or all the independent efforts are just wasted. No PR firm can spread the word about you, your company or your services if real people are not on board. Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful tool that you can harness. However, it has to be real, as you can fake "BUZZ".
If you are not thinking about how to build your "buzz", remember that you competition is out there looking for how to buy the brain cells of the decision makers in the marketplace. That means occupying the "top of mind" position in your industry. He who owns the most brain cells wins. Never forget that plain but powerful point.
Have A Great Day.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Out of the Darkness Community Walk
It was an emotional event. Hundreds of people walked around the Texas State Capital to help bring attention to the cause. A suicide happens every 16 minutes in the United States, and the ripple effect from these goes far beyond just the immediate family. Family, friends, co-workers, clients, neighbors and beyond are forever touched.
I wish that this had never happened to my friend, or the countless others who have to face such a tragedy. As I stood watching the balloons that were released into the sky disappear into the clouds, my soul was sad.
To find an "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" in your city, or to donate to this important cause, CLICK HERE.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Embrace The Day
Each day brings with it something that ads to the stew of your life. Any one day can have a lasting impact on the future. One never knows what is around the next corner, and that is what makes living exciting. Too often we get caught up in routine and miss the delight.
For better or worse we live in a fragile world - but at the same time a very resilient one. The ying and yang pull and push all at once.
Some days are challenging. Others are poetry. I find they are almost always both, but we do not notice the small dabs of joy that are floating all around us.
Facades and preconditions of others be forgot and embrace the day and feel the energy.
People matter, as all opportunities come from people. Even when we disagree with people, we can learn from them. Society brings with it a swirl of options, and when you welcome others into your life who have a different history and points of view, you win.
Do not run from diversity. Relish in the uniqueness of your friends and neighbors. I have found it is from the friendships with those I am different are the ones that teach me the most. I think (and hope) that is a two way street for them as well.
Have A Great Day.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Extreme Centrist Politics
Thank you all for the good shows on television the last two weeks with the Republican National Convention and the Democrat National Convention.
Fun to watch, but did either side notice both events were similarly partisan in theme? It's okay (that is why you have your conventions), but please quit thinking your side somehow did something special that appealed to the center. Both shows were very similar productions when I really think about it. I am looking for something more from someone.
I am just a regular guy who wants to be inspired. See below:
I recently discovered my 8th grade social science report from Foothills Junior High School (now Foothills Middle School) about the 1980 presidential election. Our teacher, Mr. Burndt, enthusiastically taught his students about the power of the political process. He made us daily watch the television news, read newspapers and magazines, collect political cartoons, analyze the positions and determine whom to support. We had to explore our minds and develop our predictions. I suggested that Ronald Reagan would win by a small margin (well, I was right, just his margin was bigger than I predicted).
I vividly remember the fall semester of 1980 and the excitement with which my classmates and I collected our information and developed our opinions. I received an A+ on my "Election Binder" project, and have ever since enjoyed the imperfect, but wonderful, system that we have in the United States of American for selecting our president every four years.
Mr. Burndt made it very clear that throughout our lifetimes there would be candidates whom we support.... and those whom we oppose that would find their way to the White House. He wanted us all to remember to respect the process and the office (even when we did not like the individual candidate).
But Mr. Burndt also required respect for those fellow citizens who had opposing views. He said that in America everyone has the right to their candidates and positions on the issues. He cautioned us to never feel superior toward others, as everyone in our country gets an equal vote.
This simple lesson has hung heavy in my mind for nearly three decades, and it makes me very sad when people from both parties go negative with personal attacks. In the end, we each are equal to cast one vote. End of story. Disagree, but honor each other for being American.
He believed that without respect our political system was less pure. While there has been mudslinging since the days of our founding fathers, I agree that in 2008 we need a big dose of respect be spoon fed to both parties (and those far right and far left bloggers, reporters, and other self-appointed leaders). Those in the middle, who will determine this election, should be demanding that both parties step up and fight this election on the issues.... not in the gutter. I believe that voters are craving the debates this time around more than ever before. We are excited about the people, and now want to hear specifics about what they would do if granted the honor of the White House.
Twenty-eight years ago our country was divided on a variety of social, economic, domestic and international issues. My 8th grade binder included a list of the topics that I found were on the minds of those who were voting in that year. The problems of 1980 are not any different than the problems of today (except that nobody is promoting the ERA these days).
My project stated the following issues as the ones that would influence voters:
Income Tax Cuts
Equal Rights Amendment
Scary huh? The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have had both Republicans and Democrats in the white house and congress since that time, and it is still the same list of problems. This is a powerful message folks. The Republican and Democrat parties have spent so much time trying to win elections and powerful political tug of wars that they have ignored the issues that needed attention for almost thirty years ago. People should be disgusted and scream at our leaders, but instead every four years we run to the right or the left and line up behind one of the partisan candidate and blindly follow through the election.
Why have those of us in the middle not demanded real solutions instead of more partisan talk?
I have recently become disenchanted with politics. I used to get very excited about our presidential season every four years, but for the past 16 years I have watched the partisan bickering reach levels that make me sad. I think the Democrats and the Republicans are co-conspirators in this travesty, and yet the true partisans I know will point their fingers at the other camp (even though most know they share the blame). I want to see a leader who says "ENOUGH! Shame on both parties!"
While I have traditionally been on the Republican side of the line, I have always been in "the center". I want to be an "independent", but there are no "leaders" for independents, and the media and political operatives only see "red states" and "blue states". One must pick a side or be invisible.
A year ago I purchased the URL "TexansForWarner.com", in hopes that former Virgina Governor Mark Warner (D) would have run for president (that URL is parked for now with hopes for a future run by this candidate). But my guess is that he is not far enough left on key issues to win his party's nomination, so his candidacy is probably left on Fantasy Island.
There is no "ORGANIZED MIDDLE" in the United States, which means that most people end up on a side or become apathetic. This leaves many people I know feeling lost and unconnected to the presidential political process I learned to love and respect in my 8th grade year. If a candidate could capture the hearts and souls of the middle, they win a landslide. But one cannot organize the middle, because by its nature it is all over the map in an already fragmented world.
A friend recently defined my politics as "Extreme Centrism". He was doing so with a laugh, but it hit me that there is intense passion from the extreme left and the extreme right, but passion does not exist much for those in the center. As I watched the national conventions of both major parties it was wonderful to see the loyalists caught up in the support of their candidates. I believe we all want to feel as strongly as those who attend conventions, but few ever seem to have that same level of electricity in our connection to our leaders.
I remain undecided about this election, and have been aggressively watching both sides for better and worse. The attacks and two-faced propaganda snips and slaps that take place also turn off many in the population. Both camps haul out the examples of the others inconsistencies and other problems, while blindly pretending their own candidates are above the crap. The far right and far left continue to vomit upon us because nobody can figure out a better way to win an election.
We hear a lot about change.... but real change is still elusive. Hello...we are waiting.
"The Organized Middle" and extreme centrism politics is my dream. The rule in this "fantasyland" (I know it is not going to happen, but in this country a boy can dream big!) is that respect must reign.
After all, if we want the rest of the world to respect America.... Americans must respect each other first.
Have A Great Day.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
How To Handle Friends Who Send SPAM
I received the following email today:
Thom- Today I got a electronic newsletter from someone I know. Clearly they added me to their list. It was one of those Constant Contact things -- something you need opt in for although I did not opt in. I dislike this person. He's married to a childhood friend of mine and he is a TAKER. I am not his target audience although I could certainly refer people to him. But I never would because he is flighty. That being said, how do I get off his list? I think the answer is that I can't but I'd love to get some advice from someone as in the know as you!
Wow, that is a tough one since you have a life-long relationship with the person's wife. We all know "takers" and those whom are part of our life, but whom we do not respect in a business environment. While this is annoying, in the end you want to be respectful. I don't think you can just tell him to "buzz-off", so in my opinion you have three choices:
1. Just stay on his list and delete his newsletter when it hits your in-box. While we all get a lot of junk email, and spam drives us crazy, in the end, hitting "DELETE" only takes a moment. I am sure you are afraid if you unsubscribe it will make for awkward moments when you have to see him at a friendly BBQ.
2. Set up an extra email address where you receive junk mail and then inform him that you are unsubscribing, but will sign up under this other email account, as this is where you get all of your newsletters, list-serves, etc... (actually this is a good idea, anyway. Having an address for all your subscriptions and other types of junk mail keeps it off your day to day screen). Make it clear this is how you manage your inbox, and allows you to focus on things like newsletters when you have the time to devote to them.
3. Send him an email telling him you appreciated receiving his newsletter and praise an article or link that you found valuable (there should be SOMETHING!). Then let him know that you will be unsubscribing. Inform him that you hope he will not be offended, but that you know that you will not have the time to be a faithful reader of yet another piece of email, and that to just hit "DELETE" would make you feel bad because of your personal friendship. If you approach it in a positive and friendly manner, he should just accept your actions with little or no negative reaction. If he is really a jerk, then who cares anyway. If he is that petty then he will soon by annoyed by someone else anyway.
Good luck, and let me know what you end up doing.
Any other readers have suggestions? Leave a comment.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Show Your True Self
"People show if they have class in their behaviors and actions toward life's events".
I like that.
And no, this was not being said in regards toward politics or candidates. I am again sick of politics, politicians and partisans.
I know people who are "classy", and it is true... they behave in a manner that proves it no matter who is watching. Show your true self all the time, people know anyway.
Make A List And Get Things Done
Over the weekend I announced to my wife that I have no down-time. She rightfully pointed out that I do this to myself. Even on the weekends I am busy.
I am working hard, having success, but don't seem to have any free time to get caught up on minor projects or just sit on a bench and think. And yet, I would not change anything or cut back on any of the things that are important to me. I want to do it all. I feel that I can do it all. Nobody has successfully convinced me that I cannot at least try to win the game of life. Thus, I keep plugging along!!!
My solution: just plow through. I think of the cliche "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". I believe this is true. If you feel overwhelmed the best advice is to just take action and get your projects done.
At times like this it is great to make a list. My calendar often rules my day, but a "To Do List" that is specially designed to get me to the completion of "must-do" projects helps me get things done.
Plus, I look at the most successful people I know and they are even busier than I am. And you know what, they all have great networks of people who support and encourage them to succeed. Alas, I see a pattern!
At work I have quarterly goals. As we move into the last month of the quarter I can look at my list and see my progress. I am energized to see where I have hit schedule accomplishments and can focus on getting the others done over then next four weeks. Additionally I work with a great team of people who are all there to assist each other in o0ur efforts.
Sure, there are dozens of systems and books on getting things done, but nothing beats just taking action. My list is long, but today I will shorten it before the bell rings! (there is not actually a bell...that is a metaphore).
Have A Great Day
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Fight For Your Success
The good life comes from planning, hard work, sacrifice, learning, courage, stamina, a little luck, and more hard work.
Thus, if you want success, you cannot back down. A bumpy road and detours are part of the journey. I have discovered that when you begin to gain momentum, that it just gets harder. I witnessed this recently when my daughter was completing her marital arts black belt training. She had worked hard for 3 years, but in the last few months the Master put more pressure on her. He demanded more perfection in her performances and paired her with better fighters for sparring. She did not like the heat, and there were times she wanted to quit. But she did not quit, and received her black belt in June.
The same thing was true in writing my books. The hard part was not writing the book, although it took many months of toil and tribulation. The difficult part is in promoting the book. Everyday I must do something to help sell my products, or there will not be the success that I desire.
You will also find that some people will be very supportive of your efforts to expand your personal boarders. Finding these evangelists who help you along the way is wonderful. Coaches, friends, family members, co-workers and others who see that spark inside you help ignite your fire.
Do not forget that you will also encounter the naysayers. It hurts when others question your qualifications or motivations, but it happens. You need to let it go, as if you believe in yourself, do not let people derail your dreams. Those who look for faults are out there. They find superiority in catching your typos or your other hiccups. Just let it go. Nothing speaks to a critic with more volume than your personal drive to victory.
Fight for your success. Go for it, no matter what is holding you back, or keeping you from reaching for your goals. While it will not always be easy, accomplishment feels dang good.
Have A Great Day.