Saturday, 1 May 2010

Time for a separation of concerns…

I know what some of you are thinking – and no it’s not that kind of blog post :)

Reality check

As cozwecan.com gets closer to launching, it’s getting more and more obvious to us that the target audience of this blog is not going to be very technical in the programming sense. Rather, the audience will more than likely comprise of those people interested in the world of photography (technical or otherwise) and/or whatever other verticals we end up pursuing, as well as

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Nobody’s Perfect

One of the things I am reminded of daily is perfectionism and how it works for me and against me. I strive to ensure that everything is in perfect balance, runs perfectly smoothly and is perfectly timed. Every now and then I am assaulted with the bald face truth that I am not perfect and neither is anyone around me. This is especially prevalent in my dealings with employees, but also in dealings with the most challenging of people - myself.

How it serves me

In the communications industry I am often proofing documents, ads and general correspondence for the companies that pay me to make sure their stuff is perfect. I am not talking in a factual sense as I am not a lawyer or an accountant - but rather in the finer details of what it looks like, making sure there are no typos or misaligned elements on a page etc.

It also helps me tremendously with caring about what I do and how I do it. I can’t stress enough how it disturbs me when people slap things together as quickly as they can, without a care in the world as to how it may be received. This applies to both clients I have and staff I have employed or seen in action. A person does not need to be a perfectionist to care – although, that being said, even I find that hard to believe sometimes, given my experiences.

The cons

Disappointment, disappointment and more disappointment. I had a good laugh with a friend the other day, who often gives me sage council with regards to staff, about perhaps hanging a sign around a new employee’s neck that says “I am not perfectionist”, just to remind myself that they are not me and I cannot possibly expect them to be. I’ve had to learn to manage my expectations in order that my disappointment levels are kept in check. Expecting too much of other people is most certainly a potential downfall to being a perfectionist.

‘No-one can do the job as well as I can’ is another pitfall that is best side stepped. It’s not possible for one person do everything. If I cannot delegate duties to qualified people and be confident in the outcome, I’m going get stuck pretty quickly. I believe it is possible to find ‘me’ in amongst the sea of people out there looking for a job. It just requires patience to find someone that fits, but finding the right people for the right job is for another blog post though.

Expecting too much of myself, dropping the ball and beating myself up about it, is another classic. One micro example would be signing up on Project 52 which is a challenge to complete a blog post once a week for the whole of 2010. I’ve already missed one week due to completely unforeseen circumstances and I was quite upset by falling short so early on in the year, but it also gave me insight into what the challenge is actually about - making sure I do my best whenever and however I can - without killing myself.

Final Thought

I’ve learnt that my desire for everything to be perfect is a major asset if used correctly. Always strive to do your best at whatever you are doing and you will inevitably be content with the outcome. If you hate your job or project, wishing constantly it would move from work into play time - you are in the wrong career. Make the change – it will leave you feeling younger, happier and more in control of your own life.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Power of Words

“Words start wars and end them, create love and choke it, bring us to laughter and joy and tears. Words cause men and women willingly to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour. Our world as we know it revolves around the power of words.” Secret Formula’s of the Wizard of Ads.

A Personal Perspective

I Love words and always have. I play word games as often as I can because I find it simply riveting. When I chat with good friends I can often get captivated in the conversation and find it hard to sleep afterwards. When I read the opening paragraph for the first time, it resonated with my very core because I have experienced the charisma and repulsion that words have to offer.. both written and verbalised. I’m not sure who ever said “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me”.. but it’s completely inaccurate in my opinion.

I believe an inescapable fact is that the leaders of our world are not consistently remembered for how they laughed, paged a book, walked into a room or their visual appearance but rather for what they said. So many quotes have touched lives of those who are not wordsmiths by nature, and even some that are. History also reflects the need to keep it simple.. the shorter the quote, the more effective the impact. It’s the choice of the combination of words that make it ripple into our subconscious.

In Advertising

A vital cog in any advertising agency’s team is their copywriter. Funnily enough they are often overlooked, especially by clients. An Account Manager from a firm is so often assaulted with the ever so tedious question: “why should I pay this much for some writing” and every so often it comes down to an even less palatable statement “I will write it for you and then you can just edit it”. It would be a phenomenal sight (yet to be seen by mois) where a client can actually write something truly worth publishing. They may be intensely qualified to run their business, but they are painfully unqualified to write copy.

If there is nothing else you take from this blog post, let it be: words are worth paying for! A copy writer knows how to make the most of as few words as possible. If they can arrest someone’s attention with electrifying words, their job is done! If you want someone to remember your ad and message, make it simple, clear and captivating. As a business owner or production person, you are not equipped with these skills – leave it to the professionals.

Scientifically Speaking

Without going into detail on the factual and technical side of how we tick, which as an aside is often my favourite part, here’s a small insight into what makes words work for us. Read chapter 5 of Secret Formula’s of the Wizard of Ads for a more in-depth explanation. Wernicke’s area is purposefully positioned in the brain where the association of auditory and visual signals meet to fulfil its function of naming objects. It rules the nouns of our vocabulary.

Broca is on the other side of the auditory association that links into the motor association cortex. This cortex is the centre of all physical action and Broca’s area is the hub for action words..a veritable verb manufacturer. It energetically generates verbs, passionately formulates sentences and waits with baited breath to hear what others have to say. If you present Broca’s area with a predictable sentence, write up, description etc, it will - as sure as the sky is blue - ignore what you have to say. If you manage to engage it with your opening gambit, you’re on a winning wicket!

On the Web

cozwecan.com intends to harness the true power of communication and more simply words. Our challenge is to keep it simple and understandable even to the man on the street, yet arresting enough to engage the more cognitively affluent of society. I believe that words have the potential to make or break any site in the end.

Conclusion

Make use of undoubtedly the most powerful force there has ever been. Use explosive and energetic words in work you want to make a statement with. It will reap benefits that you’ve never imagined.

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind ~ Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Inbound Marketing – It’s the New Black!

 

I’ll start by saying: “What a book”! Everyone should get it! In my first blog post I expressed a keen interest in learning much more about online marketing. This is a completely new avenue for me, being traditionally orientated to TV, radio and more than anything else, print media. I was forwarded a blog post a while back in which Dharmesh, a co-author of the book ‘Inbound Marketing’, spoke about overcoming the ‘barrier to entry’ obstacle for start-ups. I was so inspired by the end that I went straight to Amazon to buy the book. If you’re planning on interacting on the web in any way, shape or form – this book is a fantastic down payment.

The Advertising Industry Today

For a while now, I’ve been hearing the increasing rumble of rumours flying around about how advertisers need to change their strategy because of the clutter, saturation and ability of the human mind to ignore ‘what we have to say’, no matter how many times we say it. I’ve seen the decrease in ROI (Return on Investment) growing rapidly as clients’ budgets shrink.

It used to be a game of the frequency of relaying a certain message/feeling/visual to the correct market in order to grow a brand. Not only does this require a healthy budget, it is not even working any more to the extent of its past successes. Many (if not all) of the smaller companies are not in a position to go head to head with the conglomerates when citing dollar for dollar spend, nor should they want to.

Television is by far the most popular medium for maximum reach and emotional impact. An ad can make most of our senses come alive, if executed correctly. It saddens me greatly to see how many companies produce low budget ads only to go forth and spend an absolute fortune flighting it over and over again resulting in transmitting a less than adequate message repeatedly. Regardless, the impending danger to television advertising spend is actually the ever increasing number of Personal Video Recorders hitting the market. Translate that to radio and you have iPods taking over.

People are adapting to our strategies, creating ways of avoiding listening to our messages, and we have only ourselves to blame. Everybody, including marketers, are tired of being bombarded from morning to night with advertising messages. Even if we don’t own a PVR or iPod – we have just simply become accustomed to blocking it out.

Print media is what interests me most, as it is where most of my experience lies. This is slowly starting to revert to the World Wide Web. I am not suggesting that people will stop reading magazines and newspapers just yet, but the time of a paperless society is no longer a dream, it is becoming a reality and we shouldn’t be too far behind when that day dawns. As a small (yet large) example, look at Wikipedia. I bet Britannica are not too happy they started up! Wikipedia is eating rapidly into their market share.

An Epiphany of Note

What this book has taught me so far, I’m only just over half way through it, is how imperative it is to change our mindset without delay around how we market ourselves, products and services. We need to talk to people when they are ready to receive our message and this book illustrates this so spectacularly.

I’ll get more into the details on my next blog post, once I’ve finished devouring the book’s contents in its entirety. Please don’t let that stop you from getting it in the interim. It shall be an invaluable tool for anyone – not just marketers.

Till Next Week

A quote the book starts with and is indubitably a truth most people forget:

What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so ~ Mark Twain

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Inspiring the Contributor

If there is one challenge that perturbs me about phase 1 of our new project – it’s how to get the contributor (in this case – a photographer) inspired to do what’s required to help us make it a success. I find photographers particularly difficult to coerce because they are creative people who have very little interest in the administration of their work. I’m aware that is a sweeping generalisation, but I feel more than qualified to make such a statement, so will happily duck if the stones are hurled.

Contributor Importance

I fear that so many online ventures go bust or don’t maximize their potential because they bully their contributors into submission or simply make it a “don’t like it – lump it” scenario. This has been acceptable in the past because it was the developer and/or business that had the skills, so contributors just had to follow suit or get left behind in the dust. With the steep growth of internet users year on year, it is now almost imperative to hop on the band wagon, or face missing out on the opportunity to be noticed. Few are prepared to come on board when critical mass is imminent.

I am, and always will, remain adamant that the contributor is just as important. Now let’s just be clear on this – the contributor is not important when it comes to layout and interaction, nor do they contribute to how the business model is set up and a few other areas I may have been remiss in mentioning. Where they reign supreme is when it come to their goods – i.e. the saleable items. I’d even go so far as to say that I believe they should have a more than fair say in the assigned price tag.

We have the technical, marketing and business angles pretty much covered – but tell me – what would we do with this if we had no contributors? It would lay to waste all of our efforts and talents. Never underestimate the value a contributor can bring to the table – listen, take heed and act when they speak – they are their product and should be accounted for.

Part and Parcel

So how would I aim to inspire the contributor? I would start by looking at the basic psychological habits we all develop as a child. If one wants a child to take part in a game and the child is important (not made to feel) in the game – they will happily engage – that is simple deduction. I don’t believe that there are many human beings on the planet that do not enjoy a sense of camaraderie and belonging – it’s what religion is based on. If we can keep the contributor “Top of Mind”, they will understand that this is for them as much as it is for us and should be inspired to help us make it work. After all – this is for the greater good of us all. Should we choose to neglect their opinions, thoughts and feelings – we can still do it the old fashioned bullying style – but reaching our maximum potential will be but a pipe dream. This will naturally be coupled with physical incentives because I am all too well aware of the importance of the material plain we exist upon – no matter how young or old.

Wish me luck – it shall be a challenge I relish!

In Conclusion

Remember that everybody – even and probably especially a child – has something of value to offer. Don’t ignore gems in favour of egotism.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, 4 January 2010

Year++ and Team members++

Happy new year to everyone following our progress and here’s wishing you all fantastic success for this, the last year of the decade i.e. 2010! Controversial I know – it’s a geek thing ;-)

We’ve been cracking the whip on cozwecan.com publically for a good 6 months now, formulating ideas, getting our ducks in a row etc. but the idea came to us a good solid year before that. You’d think we could get something out the door by now – well that’s hopefully coming one small step giant leap closer! Whilst the incubation of a start-up definitely hinges upon effective time management, a huge portion of it effectively boils down to “actual time spent” working on the project. As I said right at the beginning, we all have day jobs which keep us pretty busy and putting time in has always been a labour of love – and strictly part-time.

Until now that is…

Without further ado, I’d like to publicly welcome our first full time team member on the project. I’m very happy to announce that Scott Galloway has agreed to join our team to help speed up our development efforts. Scott joins us after spending the last 4+ years working at Microsoft including 2 years on the ASP.NET team – you know…the platform we’re building this entire thing on?!

You can find out more on his blog or contact him on twitter.

This is very exciting for us indeed! Scott brings a wealth of technical expertise and ideas to the team which we’ll be exploiting utilising to the best of his and our ability! Most importantly, this will help accelerate our time to market, which is the best possible thing a start-up can do for its survival.

Watch this space!

So what now you may be thinking? Well, the first thing we’ll be aiming for is getting a private beta out to a select group of photographers and testers to play with and provide feedback. You can expect a lot of progress in this area over the next few months – as soon as we know the dates, so will you.

If you’d like to participate in the beta, then feel free to drop us an email to beta@cozwecan.com with your reasoning and we’ll be sure to get in touch as we get closer to launching it.

When will that be you may ask? Well that depends on quite a few things really. It depends on the speed at which Scott and I can write the code and it depends on whether or not Frankie and Paul like the results they see. Then there’s “legal” and “content” and “look & feel” etc. being worked on in parallel. Either way, we’ve much more than doubled our programming power now, so we should start seeing results in the very near future!

Wish us luck… Hopefully 2010 brings us a little success too!

All the best,
Rob G

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Time is of the Essence

It’s been a while since I put out a blog post and it all comes down to the one critical thing a person needs when preparing a Start-up and then even more during the process - Time Management. In light of this major stumbling block I’ve happened upon (yet again) – I thought I’d tell you about it in an effort to get back on track with weekly blog post. I’ve done one Start-up, which currently is my day to day business – but it was on the back of nothing else to do and quite simply....survival. My craving to rid myself of a boss, not sit in traffic every morning and completely do as I please, were my other motivating factors that time around. It also turned up the heat on my deep seated drive for success and my primal instinct for independent security.

This time it is different! This has nothing to do with survival – I already live a mostly comfortable life and have secured a place in my industry that will see me never having to pine for work. This is about my dream to create something awesome that is of interest to me and uses all the elements of efficiency and effective operating – just the things I love! It may also end up being a steady passive income in a few years time. So tell me – how does one put a price on that? How does a person motivate themselves to put in the time and even more importantly dedicate many hours to the project when there is no dire need? How does one make sure that their time is used effectively and efficiently to the point of basically creating more time to do even more? It’s a mindset and it’s all about passion for the project with a good work ethic. If you don’t have those – you should remain an employee.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

That's what I’ve often heard people say. And it's something everyone can learn from. I was once told by a friend of mine “You’re the laziest person I know! I have never met anyone that spends as much time finding easier ways to do things, just so you can be lazy later on!” He was serious! Since as far back as I can remember – I’ve always wanted to make things work more effectively. Take it from me - it is seriously worth putting in a little bit of extra time early on so that you can get a whole lot more out later.

There is something so magnificent about pulling everything you have into one focused attempt which can breeze past faster than you ever imagined. I am a master at pooling my resources and narrowing my concentration into a funnel for one project. The key is – how badly do I want it? How badly do you want it is something you MUST (in my opinion) assess at the get-go. Do yourself a favour and write a story about it if you have to, before wasting many hours on hard work. A second, part time, after hours, passion for life project is a great adventure – but requires discipline. Let the passion drive you to exceed your own expectations.

So now that I’ve established my want, need and enthusiasm for this project. How do I change my frame of reference with regards to time? I have found myself to be forever chasing my own tail. I work full time and more often than not after hours as well on projects for my day to day business – how do I become smarter and work less on that, so that I can pursue my even bigger dream? My favourite saying of all time – NIKE! I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this doesn’t know what it means – but just in case – NIKE is a fabulous brand that has invaded the minds of billions of people in many nations with their emotive stance of JUST DO IT with the added ‘tick’ as their symbol. It is simple genius in the world of brands. That is why it is my motto for anything that I am passionate about! So in answer to my own question – I just say "NIKE".

Just make the time. Be strict if you have to – set aside certain times and make it the same as you would ‘time to cook and eat dinner’. I will be doing this for the year of 2010 and let’s see if can also get a blog post out once a week! If you are not able to discipline yourself in this way – you may as well set a 5 to 10 year goal to get it off the ground. Time is a commodity that cannot be replaced with more – it is what you do with each unique moment that will enable you to maximise your efforts.

So let me end with this

The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in business – or in anything else, for that matter ~ Lee Lacocca