October 25, 2011


Rogers cable beats Bell fibre ... according to Rogers (click to enlarge)Bell, Shaw and Rogers are charging consumers between 10 and 50 times what it costs them to deliver data.

Rather than ensuring consumers receive fair Internet pricing, the CRTC seems content to line the pockets of Cable and telecommunications companies by forcing Canadian consumers to pay Internet data rates that have no basis in reality.
Globe & Mail (Feb 2011)

We demand reliable Internet access. When the services work, we don't notice. When there's a problem, we gripe and spread the negative news (see What’s up with Roger’s high-speed Internet? from four days ago). Criticism is predictable since Canadians pay very high prices.


Bell beats Rogers ... according to Bell (click to enlarge)Marketing makes the problems worse. Click to enlarge the latest Rogers ad which attacks Bell Fibe directly. Naturally, Bell claims that Fibe Internet rules because of fibre optics. According to Digital Home, “you will never receive the true benefits of a fibre optic network until you have a fibre optic cable inside your home”. That’s not happening anytime soon.

The Claims

Rogers beats Bell ... according to Rogers (click to enlarge)Making outlandish or subjective claims give us more reasons to be cynical. For instance, Rogers offers SpeedBoost, which temporarily gives you free faster downloads when capacity is available. What an amazing idea. That's like getting bumped to first class when there's an empty seat. What's not to like?

The fine print says that the boost is only for the first 10 MB of a file. If you were downloading the 700 MB iOS 5 update, there would be no noticeable benefit. More fine print says "Actual speed may vary based on network traffic, amount of data transferred and the length of time since the last boost and other factors."

Conclusion: SpeedBoost is of no real benefit (beyond the marketing hype).


The perfect smartphone (click for article)Attacking your competitors directly is risky. Even if they don't respond, you're setting yourself up as a punching bag for the day something goes wrong.

Look at RIM. Why would you tolerate a behind-the-times smartphone with a miniscule keyboard, tiny screen and very few apps? Because of the security and reliability. The recent multi-day, multi-continent outages may have changed your opinions of the perfect smartphone.


There is another solution: understand your customers and give them increasing value. For Internet access, we want
  1. 100% uptime
  2. ever faster speeds
  3. unlimited bandwidth
  4. reasonable prices
  5. friendly customer service
For years, the answer has been Fibre optic To The Home (FTTH). That would boost speeds to 100 Mbps and skyrocket customer satisfaction:
Internet Source Very satisfied
FTTH 74%
Cable 54%
DSL (phone) 51%
In the US, 18% of homes already have FTTH capabilities. Neither Bell nor Rogers has even announced plans for a rollout here. That would be news. Instead, we get claims and counterclaims instead of world-leading Internet access. The target for Google Fiber experiment is 1,000 Mbps. Wouldn’t that be something?

What about you? Are you making real improvements that benefit your clients or just advertising that you are?


PS Are you satisfied with your Internet service?

October 18, 2011


extreme military cutbacksSaving money is worthwhile unless you hurt your results. Your clients often have other options. They could hire someone else, wait, or do it themselves.

Here are examples of scrimping that affect a reputation for quality:
  • a generic computer, netbook or tablet
  • a name brand computer (e.g., Lenovo) but a low end version (e.g., not ThinkPad)
  • a name brand but an outdated model (e.g., computer without built-in Wi-Fi antenna
  • out-of-date software (e.g., Office 2003)
Pirated software is a nonstarter too, even if no one would notice.

Scrimping Says

When you're scrimping, you're saying
  • cutting corners is acceptable: prospects may wonder about other shortcuts and whether they are saving from the shortcuts
  • you can't detect the difference (e.g., fresh orange juice vs. frozen) but you want prospects to see you as the “right” choice
  • you don't value the difference: a salesman replaced his Mercedes S-class with a Hyundai Genesis with better specifications

Show Your Ingredients

If you're using excellent ingredients, how would anyone know? For instance, you could be reading the latest books in your field and related fields.

I told a consultant to put brief summaries on her LinkedIn Reading List. She was afraid that her competitors would see. So what? Even if they read the same books, they would not apply the lessons in the same way (if at all). It's much better to focus on your helping your prospects choose you. They benefit from knowing what you're reading. They may even be willing to pay a premium for your current and extra knowledge.

Blogging shows your ingredients and how you combine them.

Same Ingredients

If you're using the same ingredients as your competitors (e.g., US FDA Blue #2), you might use them differently. Maybe you add a different amount or use a different method (e.g., frozen instead of liquid). Your process might differ (e.g., add 1/3 at three separate times). Maybe you include extra steps for quality assurance. Do your clients may care if you tell them and why your way matters.

Same Process

would you pay BMW $149 for snow tire balancing and installation?Even if your process is identical, your expertise may make the difference. For instance, installing winter tires is probably done the same way everywhere: remove summer tires, inflate and inspect winter tires, install winter tires. Prices vary from free to a "special offer" of $149 at BMW (including rebalancing).

I always go to the dealership, which costs more but gives peace of mind. BMW explained that when changing tires, they removed residue from the brake calipers using tools and techniques that other places wouldn't have. That seemed plausible and worth a premium. I didn't want to gamble with my tires or brakes — especially in the winter.

Your clients may not take the time to call you. Why not be proactive and tell them?

Same Price

Even if you sell at the same price as your competitors, spending more on quality in the right places will benefit your clients. Perhaps they get more reliability and less rework.

If you're taking shortcuts, your clients may notice. If you're over-delivering they may not. Either way, you're losing. What good is that?


PS What examples of scrimping and splurging have you seen?

October 11, 2011


Too much to lugYou’ll boost your business productivity by using separate devices to
  1. create content: workhorse PC or Mac
  2. view content: smartphone
  3. show content: tablet
Yes there is overlap. A tablet might be able to create much of your content too.

You could use one device for multiple purposes but as with a Swiss army knife, there are compromises. wouldn't you rather have the blade, spoon and screwdriver separate when you really want to use them?

View Content: Smartphone

Your smartphone is probably the gadget that's with you most of all. It's ideal for checking your calendar and phoning contacts. It's reasonable for taking photos and skimming email. It’s not so good for sending emails or web browsing.

Mistake: I wanted to read and compose email but the screen and keyboard are miniscule. They're usable but you waste time compared with a tablet.

Show Content: Tablet with 10+" screen

This may be all you need for business travel. You can now read and compose email easily. You can view websites too. You can do much more but you can't stuff an iPad sized-tablet into your pocket.

Mistake: I tried taking notes with my iPad. Paper and pen is much faster and easier.

Create Content: Computer

When you're creating content, a powerful computer with a large screen helps. This isn't needed if you're writing a blog post (an iPad is excellent for focus).

If you're working on a spreadsheet or editing video, you'll benefit from a large display, fast processor, spacious hard drive and lots of memory. Yet lug this machine around and you'll soon wish for something smaller and lighter.

Mistake: For the last two years, I was using a 12" ThinkPad X200 Tablet which is wonderfully portable but not ideal for creating content.


New computer: To create content, I upgraded to a powerful ThinkPad W520 workstation with a 15.6" screen and 1600x900 resolution. This workhorse usually stays in the stable ... I mean, office.

New smartphone: I replaced my Blackberry Bold 9700 with a Motorola Droid 3 (Bell XT860) for the larger slide out keyboard and 4" screen. The battery life is short, which means I'm recharging while in the car. I might start taking a wall adapter with me too.

I ditched my MiFi cellular hotspot since the Droid 3 allows wireless tethering. That's one less device to carry and one less monthly plan to pay.

Old tablet: I still use my Wi-Fi iPad most of all. It's with me when I have my briefcase, which is most of the time. Depending on where I'm going, I may leave the Bluetooth keyboard at the office. The battery lasts all day, which provides peace of mind and freedom from electrical outlets.

The smartphone/tablet combination is portable and versatile. There's also redundancy since the Droid and iPad both have calendars, email, contacts, passwords and the ability to show presentations. They both turn on instantly. During a phone call, I can check my calendar on my iPad. While creating a mind map on my iPad, I can do a Google search on my Droid.

More screens means more productivity. Which screens are right for you?


PS You can get gadgets from the same family (e.g., Mac, iPhone and iPad). I prefer the learning curve that comes from diversity: PC (Windows), smartphone (Android), tablet (iOS). Each platform has strengths/weaknesses and different apps.

October 4, 2011


proud to be a nomineeThe Business Excellence Awards are perhaps the highest honours from the Toronto Board of Trade. Winning would be such an accomplishment. [Update: I lost but of the 49 nominees across 8 categories, I was the sole candidate from financial services.]

You may not be familiar with these awards since there's very little online at present. Nominees can say they've been nominated but there's no public list as proof yet. (If I'm wrong, please leave a comment with a link.)

I'll share what I've learned about the Business Excellence Awards. How would I know? I'm a nominee for Start-up/New Business. The other seven categories are Global Reach, Sustainability, Transition, Under 30, Local Economic Impact, Diversity and Entrepreneur of the Year.

The Process

Here are the steps:
  1. Nominations: complete forms (by Jun 30)
  2. Pre-screening: to confirm eligibility (Jul)
  3. Interviews: two interviewers (by Sep 30)
  4. Finalists informed: three per category (mid-Oct)
  5. Winners announced (Nov gala)
The process looks solid and impartial. For instance, the judges don't meet the nominees. Instead, they get reports from the interviewers. The judges might remain anonymous, which is fine.

The interviews are structured. Each nominee in a category answers the same questions and gets time to tell their story as they wish (e.g., a presentation, a tour of their facilities, etc). The questions are sent in advance to allow time to prepare. Nominees can answer using notes. This step felt friendly — not like a job interview or actuarial exam.

The Quandary

These awards let you nominate yourself. That might be normal but didn't feel quite right. Requiring third party nominations seems better but that's easy to circumvent: you nominate your pal and your pal nominates you (assuming you're in different categories). The current process is probably best and lets "unsung heroes" participate.
No Deluge
The Toronto Board of Trade has some 10,000 members but few likely got nominated. The process takes effort, which eliminates the lazy. Hurray for inertia! Also, there's no point competing unless you're confident you're good enough to win. Hurray for insecurity!

The Winner Is …

I got nominated for a Business Excellence Award in the Start-up/New Business category by someone who's judgment I value. I was touched. We like to think we're worthy of recognition, but we're biased. An outside perspective helps.

Though I was delighted to be nominated, I wanted to tell my story my way. Would you expect any less from a blogger or Toastmaster? I self-nominated. Once I passed the pre-screening, I told someone who ... smirked. The implication was that I wasn't good enough for an outside nomination. I didn't say I had a credible one.

proud to be a nomineeYesterday, I got the graphics. Now, I'm publicly announcing that I'm proud to be a nominee.

Initially, I didn't think that winning would matter. Now I realize it does. The envelope please …


PS If you’re in the GTA, why not attend the gala and see local business excellence?