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June 30, 2006

Corporate partnerships at Legoland

I took the kids to Sea World and Legoland this week and came across some interesting corporate partnerships.

Does it really make sense for a bank to sponsor a shark encounter?

I did like the idea of reserved spots for Volvos...

…though I wonder if Legoland actually tows non-Volvos that park there.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 10:05 AM | TrackBack

June 29, 2006

Great customer service fixes everything

I’ve been Avis Preferred for ten years.

Last week I rented from Hertz, in order to get a specific car my wife wanted to try. I had my assistant set up a Hertz #1 Club account in advance, so that I wouldn’t have to waste any time at the rental counter.

When the Hertz bus dropped me off, my name wasn’t on the board. At the counter I learned that first-time #1 Club members have to check-in at the counter even though avoiding the counter is the point of the #1 Club. And that the car I asked for, listed on the web site and specially noted in my reservation after I phoned to check, is not available at this location. And that no car in that class was available. ("It’s a sunny day. People return cars late.")

At least I'll get a blog entry out of this, I thought.

And this is it. But this isn’t the angry customer service rant I imagined. Because the team at the counter was fantastic. They were sympathetic. They scurried around to find me a vehicle. And, when they couldn't find what I'd reserved, they gave me the brand new, just arrived, premium leather Ford Explorer with their apologies.

Using Hertz was a hassle. I didn't get the vehicle I requested. But Hertz's staff still left me feeling good about the experience.

Even the best systems will fail your customers sometimes. Great customer service is the backup that fixes everything.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 6:21 AM | TrackBack

June 28, 2006

BusinessPundit reviews Fire Someone Today

Rob May reviewed Fire Someone Today at BusinessPundit (a daily must-read for me) and got right to the heart of what the book is about:

Fire Someone Today is not like most books. Usually when you read a book by a CEO, it is all about the things he or she did right and how you can learn to be just as brilliant. While Bob's book talks about his successes, it also focuses heavily on his mistakes. This book is valuable because it is a refreshing and honest look at the errors that many people make when running their own businesses. By learning from Bob's mistakes, you can minimize your own.

I couldn’t agree more; we don’t read enough about failure, especially in business.

Summer is here and most of you will be looking for a good book to take on vacation. I recommend you pick up a copy of Fire Someone Today.

And I am agreeing again!

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 8:38 AM | TrackBack

June 24, 2006

Business inspiration from unusual sources

Back in 1997 my business was going through a difficult period. I was feeling low because it seemed everyone else had a bigger, better business model. Dot-com’s were popping up with plans to reinvent whole industries, and we were doing old-style software in a niche market without much Internet pixie dust.

Forbes magazine arrived with the story of Wendell Murphy, billionaire pig farmer, and suddenly I felt better. I was encouraged just knowing that you could start from mud (literally) and build a huge business in something as low tech as pig farming.

The Unusual Business Ideas That Work blog is full of that kind of business inspiration. (Thanks bBlog!)

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 5:51 AM | TrackBack

June 23, 2006

Market Poetry

Chapter 6 of Fire Someone Today opens with the line:

If there were a book of business poetry, it would be full of odes to cash.

I haven’t found the book yet, but I did get an email about the Market Poetry blog, "an attempt to (mis)apply literary creativity to investing."

(I like My First Real Estate Poem.)

Update: Check out The Wall Street Poet, who has penned The Wonderful Cash Poem.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 5:00 AM | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

No, you can't cancel your service

By the time someone calls to return a product or cancel a service, they probably already feel like they have gotten a bad deal exchanging their cash for your product. It’s a great time to apologize and ask, as you help the customer, what you could do to serve them better in the future.

Or, if you’re this rep at AOL, to refuse to cancel the service, because "Well, what's the matter man? We're just, I'm just trying to help here." Caught on tape.

(Thanks, PunditGuy. Follow the saga at Insignifcant Thoughts.)

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 5:00 AM | TrackBack

June 21, 2006


GirlAtComputer.jpgTwo more interns started this week. I love interns.

My first real job was an internship at Microsoft which led to a full-time position. Once I left and started my own company I knew we needed interns as soon as possible. We hired two our second year, even though we could barely afford them. (We couldn’t fly them out. They came 2,000 miles on a bus. And brought their own computers.)

Identifying talent from a resume and interview is difficult. We use summer internships as a 12 week interview that helps us smoke out the winners in next year’s graduating class. This gives us a chance to make offers to the best candidates nine months before they hit the job market. We get in front of other potential employers, we know exactly who we’re hiring, and once they graduate our new employees already know their job, their co-workers, and the location of the restrooms.

We have hired 10 of the 35 interns we have had in software development, and all but one of our application developers started as an intern. Sometimes we don’t have an opening for a great intern, but we try to keep track of them. When a position does open up we know who to call, and we know what we’ll be getting with our new hire.

Internships are great for the company: even though only half of our intern work product turns out to be useful, interns still get a lot done. And we find out who we do and don’t want to hire full-time.

Internships are great for the intern: real world experience helps interns decide if they really are pursuing the right career, and if we are a company where they want to work. And they learn a lot.

Intern tips:

Offer passion a chance. Students without significant work experience often don’t have a compelling resume. An internship is a lower risk way to give a chance to someone whose passion for your business is high, even if their paperwork is weak.
Don’t segregate. Seat your interns in ask-a-question-out-loud distance of their full-time coworkers. Include them in meetings and planning sessions with the regular team.
Throw them in the deep end. Give interns real tasks, not secretarial drudge work. It’s worth a few disappointments to find out who can step up to the challenge.
Make it fun. Feed your interns well and take them on occasional field trips. Use them as an excuse to do something fun with the whole team.

If your business is growing, you need interns. Internships aren’t just an investment in a student; they are an investment in your business future.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 5:00 AM | TrackBack

June 20, 2006

Work / Life Balance

In church Sunday a verse caught my eye and reminded me again why the Bible is still the ultimate business book:

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money,
nor he who loves wealth with his income;
this also is vanity.
11 When goods increase,
they increase who eat them,

and what advantage has their owner
but to see them with his eyes?
12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer,
whether he eats little or much,
but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

"Work / life balance" is on the agenda at every business or entrepreneurship conference. Solomon had the subject nailed thousands of years ago; he continued:

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
Ecclesiastes 5:10-12, 18-20, ESV

Enjoy the work and the reward, whether it be small or large. That is work / life balance.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 5:41 AM | TrackBack

June 19, 2006

Jack Covert Selects Fire Someone Today

While I was in Japan, Jack Covert reviewed Fire Someone Today at the 800-CEO-READ Blog.

Fire Someone Today is a title that grabs your attention. It's not a book about poor employees or bell curve purging in corporate America. It's about small business. ... This is a strong book in the ever-crowded entrepreneurship, small business category. Pick it up and gain something new.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 5:08 AM | TrackBack

June 17, 2006

Visiting Japan

I was in Japan on business recently, and I had a great time. The people were friendly and the food was great.

(I say that about everywhere I go, though. I am beginning to suspect that travelers’ reports of unfriendly locals and bad food reflect more on the dead palate and grumpy disposition of the traveler than on the varied destinations...)

Tokyo was full of interesting machines, unexpected automation, and clever ideas. Every day I encountered another great idea. And another Engrish sign.

A sliding tile puzzle with cars.

Aluminum bottles are everywhere.

Drain excess liquid and ice before throwing away your cup.

Why waste space on ramps when you can use a turntable and an elevator?

There is a 15 minute wait for a haircut.

Going "do not disturb" is push-button easy. And there's no need to open the door to check for the newspaper. An optical sensor detects when it is "deliverd" and flashes the message inside the room.

This is really maximizing your small building lot.

Be sure to pay the machine before moving your car.

Umbrella theft is a big problem in Japan.

Let's hope so.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at 6:24 PM | TrackBack