I quite like much of the content on Forbes. Often edgy business reports with fairly strong opinion pieces. The site looks good too. Good enough that we used the raw skeleton for one of our more successful client news sites.
Sometimes I comment over there. I’d even share my comments on Twitter as per Forbes request. Take this perspicuous story about American companies are losing their production capacity by focusing on the patent wars and litigation: Apple Will Lose Friends And Markets With Its Patent Strategy. But every time I think about sharing a Forbes story on Twitter, I get this warning screen.
Modern scientists as well as centuries of Chinese doctors assert tea increases health and vitality and concentration at little cost sleep or nerves. I’m going to try to move back after an extended coffee phase (coffee does disrupt sleep). Coming off a week of cold and fever, anything to increase health and vitality is high on the list. In line with cutting coffee and improving health and still enjoying delicious hot beverages, I bought a bunch of new teas on the weekend while I was out.
The Teas on Trial
Here are three Marks and Spencers teas I tasted:
- Luxury Gold Loose Tea: Exceptional Quality, Fresh from the Tea Garden
- Darjeeling Loose Tea: Premium Grade Large Leaf Teas, Picked in the 2nd Flush for Exceptional Flavour
- Earl Grey Loose Tea: A Traditional Recipe Made Using Slightly Smokey Large Leaf China Teas, Infused with Natural Bergamot Oil
In November 2004, after having seen some of Foliovision’s successful real estate websites, Lorne S. Marr contacted Creative Director Alec Kinnear and offered him a unique problem to solve: how to start and build an insurance business online.
Kinnear initially turned down the offer. “I knew real estate inside out. I’d grown up with it. My grandfather was VP of commercial real estate at Royal LePage, my mother, her husband, his mother, my aunt Mo, my own sister Julie were all successful real estate agents. But I didn’t know anything about insurance.”
What slowed down Kinnear was his own experience with insurance. “When working in Russia, I’d had a private health insurance contract with a big operator. When I had a scooter accident in Turkey, they didn’t want to pay as I hadn’t been treated in an official hospital. I was in the depth of Anatolia: there WERE no official hospitals.”
“But after talking with Lorne Marr, I realized he was one of the good guys. Using his ties with local Toronto lawyers, Lorne was willing to put together a free service to help people collect on their insurance policies. At that point I was sold on working together: I could help Lorne develop his business and help people get a better shake from the insurance companies.”
That initial idea is still running at LSM insurance claims page where lawyer Andrew Suboch has answered hundreds of people’s insurance legal questions confidentially for free.
We hire lots of designers, many of them from the local technical university. I’m always surprised at how many of them have really crappy technical skills. It seems to go with the underlying meme in society that computers are for guys. Invariably, these designers are very concerned with doing creative work and being seen as creative.
Here’s how bad it can get. Our latest hire (with a Master’s Degree in technical design!) could not even do a scan properly. She handed back jaggy 700 px x 1000 px scans of 12 x 18 photos with bad black and white points.
Wake up ladies. Design is a craft. There is no more excuse for you not having first rate technical skills than for a carpenter not to be able to use a lathe properly.
Perhaps they could make the argument that they are more sculptors than wood workers. Did Rodin have to know how to use a lathe (actually Rodin worked mainly in bronze)?
On LinkedIn, have you seen the message?
Full profiles for 3rd-degree connections are available only to premium account holders.
The first couple of times I saw this I thought it had to be temporary glitch. At a time when everyone else is adding useful features, LinkedIn is taking them away.
Most of the time you cannot see what LinkedIn call 3rd degree connections. But not all of the time.
Foliovision were recently contacted to provide $500 of technical work by a firm called Visiomente. A simple Typepad to WordPress content move. Normally we would never write about an inquiry but Visiomente made such an effort to screw us and wasted enough of our time that a look at their business tactics is widely instructive about what’s wrong with American business these days.
Our hopes are this post might help other small businesses protect themselves against Visiomente and their ilk in the future.
Visiomente appears not to do anything themselves except run around and subcontract experts to provide work to high end clients. It appears Visiomente’s sole business model is to contract at the lowest possible prices and then charges on the work at the highest possible prices under their own name.
“people who buy iPhones are image-conscious fad-following idiots”.
The words of Apple pundit John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame, not mine. But a pretty good summary of the situation.
Gruber was complaining about the brilliant Samsung Galaxy S II ad making the rounds. Here is the long version (1m25s) which you might otherwise miss. There’s lots of additional clever repartee not in the airplay version: “I guess this is what adultery feels like,” says one of the Apple fans in the queue with the Samsung Galaxy in his hands.
long form version of the brilliant Samsung ad
I’m one of the people who moved from iPhone to Android and is really happy about it. Here’s why. I owned an iPhone 3GS. After the initial thrill of ownership wore off, I became very tired of:
- being forced to update to the latest version of iTunes every week
- having my mobile phone tied to my credit card and personal account at Apple, sending all the info in my mobile phone to Apple anytime Apple chooses
- fighting with a virtual keyboard which fills most of the screen when you are using it
- really slow network switching (I live on the border between Slovakia and Austria and need to switch networks often), usually requiring turning the iPhone on and off
- having to hack the iPhone to be able to share the internet connection from the iPhone even to a Mac: and then to be worried that any given update could kill my tethering set up
- looking at really lousy photographs, worse than my two year old Nokias
This post is a continuation from a recent post about Scientific Management and the Toyota Way.
Something we are working on is some additional capacity in peak periods (as auto manufacturers have additional suppliers they can bring online if a sudden surge in demand appears). Gradually we are getting there. In the meantime, I take great care not to take on more work than we can handle. There’s at least a $100,000/month of business which I’m not seeking as we just couldn’t maintain quality standards yet. We are working on increasing capacity first and then slowly adding those additional clients.
My girlfriend is shocked and horrified that we are leaving this kind of money on the table. Her shock diminished when I explained that every day Foliovision leaves millions on the table in Slovakia alone:
A new order for some advanced Basecamp features came in. I checked the weblog of the client to see where they are coming from and ran into a new term: neo-Taylorism. Taylorism apparently had very negative connotations. My only acquaintance with Taylor is with the sails manufacturer and the association is positive. I decided to go digging and in the process ran into the concepts of:
- scientific management
- human relations movement
- Toyota production system
Running a company is
a pain in the neck tremendously challenging.
If you are in the knowledge business, there are two major challenges:
- managing people
- managing process
You are spared the pain of managing inventory. In a sense, time becomes your inventory but it does at least take a third dimension out of the equation, in comparison to auto parts production where you really, really need to manage raw materials and parts.
What’s cool about business theory is that it’s all been invented before.
Scientific Management: neo-Taylorism
This Taylor is Frederick and he died in 1915, before Henry Ford’s factories were built. Frederick Taylor came up with something called Scientific Management. The basic idea was to improve workflow (hey I need some of that) and labour output (work faster!).
The basic idea is that best practice methods should be documented and taught: all workers should produce quality work. A good start. The problem remains that with equal pay, there is no disincentive for workers not to dog it or goldbrick. Taylor called this slow working “soldiering”. Many workers call it “getting through the day”. I’ve got a friend like this. Once someone approaches work like this, that person is nearly unemployable at Foliovision or anywhere else where enthusiasm, productivity and quality of work are valued.