June 24, 2014


castle 960x540 water-96591
How many newsletters do you receive without noticing?

You may notice due to the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which takes effect on July 1, 2014. Email lists are already meant to be opt-in already but some senders are asking subscribers to opt-in again.

Before you do, re-examine the value of each newsletter. You have the opportunity to reduce inbox clutter, focus your attention and boost your productivity.

Better Ways?

You get instant information whenever you want via a web search or social media. Those channels may be faster than searching through your email, especially if you have multiple accounts. In addition, you may find newer information or fresh sources.

If you’re following an organization in other ways (e.g., LinkedIn Company Page, LinkedIn Showcase Page, Twitter or Google Plus) you’ll often get the same information in an easily shareable way.

27 Typical Requests For Permission

Having to give permission feels like work. Notice the sameness in these subject lines:
  1. Request for consent – time sensitive
  2. LAST CALL – newsletter confirmation request
  3. Stay informed. We need your consent.
  4. Updating our email list
  5. Reminder – Consent to Communicate
  6. IMPORTANT – requesting your consent
  7. Help Us Keep You Up To Date
  8. One Minute Ask: Your Consent Is Required (CASL)
  9. [COMPANY] requests your consent
  10. [COMPANY] needs your consent!
  11. [COMPANY] requires your consent
  12. Consent requested to contact you by email
  13. Stay Connected.
  14. Keep us in your inbox
  15. Email consent request from [PERSON’S NAME]
  16. CASL – What you need to know
  17. Update your e-mail preferences! Don’t miss out!
  18. Deadline approaching
  19. We request your consent
  20. ACTION REQUIRED: We require your consent
  21. Request for consent - time sensitive
  22. Anti-spam is just around the corner
  24. [COMPANY NAME} doesn't want to lose you
  25. Say Yes To Stay Connected
  26. URGENT: [COMPANY NAME] Requires Your Consent
  27. Don't lose out on great business information
The content suffers from sameness too. For example: “July 1 is approaching and we have not yet heard from you. We value our relationship with you and would like to stay connected, but we require your consent in accordance with new Canadian legislation.”

A Simple Way To Keep Subscribers

There’s a simple way for senders to entice subscribers to accept marginal newsletters: offer incentives like prizes or something useful for free. Even big companies aren’t doing this when they easily could. They must think their content is very special even when it’s really about them.

The Exceptions

Some senders aren’t asking for permission to continue sending their newsletters. Perhaps they feel they already have permission. Perhaps they’re reluctant to ask because they fear mass unsubscribes. Perhaps they interpret the laws differently. You can still unsubscribe.

The Sneaky Ones

Some senders are not asking for permission (and never really had it). One doesn’t even have an unsubscribe option. Instead, you’re to send them an email.
One company is saying
“if we don't receive explicit consent from you, in limited circumstances, we will continue to provide relevant communication to you under the implied consent provisions.”
The oddest example is Expedia, which just added me to a list without permission:
“As a subscriber to Groupon Getaways by Expedia, we are happy to start providing you with special travel deals and promotions. As a part of our ongoing commitment to bring you the best experience, we want to let you know that you are now automatically enrolled to receive emails directly from Expedia.”
The last Groupon email arrived on September 8, 2011.

Change Your Mind?

Chances are good that you won’t miss what you’ve stopped receiving. If you change your mind, you can always re-subscribe to a mailing list.


PS I’ve unsubscribed from 30+ lists and feel lighter.

June 11, 2014


Jack knocks 'em down
(This post will make more sense if you're familiar with the TV series 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland as terrorist-fighter Jack Bauer. We’re new viewers currently watching season three on Netflix.)

Jack Bauer is a specialist you hope you never need. He feels that how doesn’t matter when there’s a why. When he thinks he's right, try stopping him. He may not ask for permission now or forgiveness later.

As Your Boss

Imagine Jack on a routine day. Picture him answering emails or folding the laundry.

If you work for Jack (or Steve Jobs), count on ever-changing priorities with unrealistic deadlines. Don't count on going home on time or maintaining personal relationships with your family.

Jack has your back though. He protects his team by taking responsibility for their mistakes. That's leadership. That's a way to build lasting loyalty. Jack doesn't hold grudges (though will make exceptions if his family members get threatened or killed). He doesn’t keep reminding you of your past mistakes.

As Your Employee

Jack and rules
Jack works hard for 24 hours (without coffee or yawning) and then takes long breaks. He's moody. He's unreliable. He doesn't follow orders. He plays favorites. He ignores social conventions like politeness. He's demanding of his bosses, giving them orders of the "Just Do It" kind. He shouts. He — here's a shocker — uses violence against co-workers following their orders.

Jack doesn't follow the chain of command. To save time, he talks directly to the President.
Jack uses employer resources for personal reasons like picking up daughter Kim from the police station (and not just once).

What Saves Jack

We forgive a lot if we get what we want. Jacks track record saves him. He's versatile. He adapts. He delivers results on mission critical projects. He takes calculated risks. His personal interests (like staying alive) don't get in the way of making the right decision for his employers and society.

Even Jack's non-supporters know there are times they need him. They'll tolerate him because he goes beyond the limits of what anyone could reasonably expect.

Be Like Jack

Let's take lessons from Jack.
  1. Keep learning: go beyond the "10,000 hour rule" because the next 24 hours won't be like the last. Jack knows how to set the email signature on his smartphone and finish a 30 second infomercial in 30 seconds.
  2. Keep delivering results: Jack doesn't rest on his past achievements. He keeps proving himself, which prompts others to stretch themselves.
  3. Work on projects that matter: Jack isn't who you'd call to a routine staff meeting
  4. Go beyond your limits: that's how you find your limits and stretch them
  5. Take chances: Jack doesn't know what might happen in the next moment but proceeds anyway
  6. Act on your convictions: there are things Jack refuses to do because they're wrong. What about you?
  7. Have a compelling cause: Jack fights to save innocent lives. What are you fighting for? How much do you care?
Just don't stay up for 24 hours. Leave that to Jack.


PS Jack works by the clock but doesn't quit after 8 hours.

June 4, 2014


what are you reading?
When you read, what do you have to show for your efforts?

You might be educated or entertained --- and kept away from TV and Netflix. Regardless of where you get your content, you’re a consumer, part of the audience. If you borrow books from the library or a friend, you may feel pressure to finish.


I’ve stopped reading books for six months (which in my case means no longer listening to audiobooks while driving). Instead, I’m listening to E Street Radio and comedy on Sirius XM. They’ve given me a free six month trial.

Afterwards, I’ll return to books (generally nonfiction). At the start of my sabbatical, I had mild angst. There are so many books to read and I was falling behind. Within two weeks, I was enjoying the break. Stepping back is refreshing.

Other Sources

Books are time consuming to finish. You’ll find their ideas condensed online in excerpts, reviews, videos or interviews. For instance, if you’ve seen the Start With Why TEDx Talk, you don’t need to read Simon Sinek’s book or see him live. You might want to but you already have the highlights.
You’ll also find related content through your social networks and mainstream media.

A Quota

If you’re an avid reader, another approach is to limit what you’re reading. Rather than racing to read more books, consider getting a deeper understanding of fewer books. Maybe you read or re-read one book per quarter. You now have time to apply what you’re learning.

A Different Use Of Time

Instead of consuming, start creating.

We learn better by explaining to others. Perhaps you publish a mind map, blog post, video. We build character and show consistency by sticking to a schedule. We improve our skills. We also help others.


PS Conversely, if you don’t read regularly, maybe it’s time to start?

May 27, 2014


A still from a video
We live in a visual world. Video makes a big impression. You can make nice recordings with your smartphone or a basic camcorder but are they good enough for business today? Let’s look at how you can create your own quality videos in full high definition (1080p).

The Equipment

For the best results, get the right equipment and learn how to use it. I did lots of research and also talked to video expert Nikola Danaylov of the terrific Singularity Weblog.

A DSLR camera works well most are optimized for photography. They have annoying limitations. For example, with the Nikon D5300
“Recording times are relatively limited, unfortunately, with only a 10 minute maximum recording time for High movie quality at 1080/60p (this increases to 20 minutes at Normal quality setting). ” — Imaging Resource
Consider a Panasonic GH3, a mirrorless camera optimized for video (review). You get
  • a separate record button for video
  • unlimited recording times (subject to the space on your memory card)
  • full HD (1080/60p) at hard-to-match bit rates as high as 72 Mbps
The GH3 is easy enough for a beginner and capable enough for a professional. Since the GH4 with 4K resolution is now available, the GH3 is an even better bargain. You might be able to find a used one. Use the savings on other equipment.
The lens is very important. You may change cameras but can keep using the same lens (unless you change systems).

The Panasonic HX025 Leica DG Summilux lens, 25mm/F1.4 ASPH is an excellent choice. The lens is a 50mm equivalent (review). That’s roughly what the human eye sees. There are two potential drawbacks
  • no optical image stabilization: not an issue since you’ll be using a tripod
  • no zooming: not an issue since you’ll move the camera closer, which also helps with sound quality
Comparing aperture sizes (click for article on Wikipedia)The lens aperture is f1.4, which allows lots of light gets in. That lets you get great results in situations with lower lighting. You also get a shallow depth of field: the background is out of focus, which puts attention on the foreground. You’ll see this used in movies and commercial photography.
You’ll need a tripod designed for video. When you’re working in a controlled environment like an office, you needn’t spend extra for a lightweight tripod or even the latest model. I picked up a discontinued tripod from a camera clearance outlet.

As you gain experience, you may want to get an external microphone. A shotgun mic is a good choice (e.g., the Rode VideoMic Pro). Another option is a wireless clip-on lavalier mic (e.g., the Sennheiser EW 112P G3). To get more sophisticated, get a second camera and more lens!

The Editing

Editing is easier if you have good video, good audio and few mistakes. There are many editing tools. I’ve used Adobe Premiere Elements but don’t find it intuitive enough. I switched to Cyberlink PowerDirector. You’ll find good choices at TopTenReviews. Using the trial version will help you decide.

The Publishing

YouTube is an ideal place (e.g., my channel). Your video editor may even do the upload automatically.

The Result

Here’s a short video recorded in my office in a single take. The frame rate is a cinematic 24 frames per second and the light is from a window. The script took several days to finalize and memorize. This is not the first take.

What do you think?


PS The GH3 also takes great photos.

May 21, 2014


In a successful small business, you don't have the expensive "checks and balances" (translation: redundancies) possible in larger organizations. Using the right tools helps assure quality while saving time.

When you're working with more than one other person on a project, communicating becomes a challenge. Email adds noise and wastes time. How do you manage your projects?

Many Options

You've got lots of choices for project management but no perfect solution. Your personal preferences matter. I seek solutions which are inviting and well-equipped for free users.
Asana stands out. It’s free for unlimited projects, each with a team of up to 15 people. The pricing for additional features and larger teams looks reasonable.

Why Asana?

Over the years, Asana has become more powerful and flexible but stayed simple. Your shared project can have sub-projects (called "Sections"). Your tasks can have subtasks. You can add descriptions and notes. Your tasks appear in an inbox.

Isn’t that enough to make quick progress?


This screenshot shows two of my important priorities: Taxevity (the insurance advisory where I work) and Money 50/50 (a financial education initiative). The projects are underneath. The example under Networking shows the task of creating a permanent nametag to wear to events (no pins or adhesives to damage clothing!). Click to enlarge.
real-life example (click to enlarge)

Other uses

Asana fits work-related projects well. For context-based tasks (e.g., remembering the bread), a smartphone app is more useful. You may find other uses as you become more familiar.
For client-related tasks, you might want to use a CRM like Contactually for tracking.

Since Asana is free, why not try?


PS If you’d like more choices, Lifehacker compares five (including Asana)

May 15, 2014


work-in-progress on a new slide deck (replacing bullets with visuals)
Creating a presentation is easier if you’re familiar with the topic. What if you aren’t? What if you’re creating an all-new presentation? That’s the situation I’ve been in when preparing my talk for The Global Change Initiative on how to profit from doing what’s right.

This five-step process helps. It also works if you’re familiar with a topic.

1. Create An Outline

You may already have many ideas. A mind map helps you capture and organize them. I especially like iThoughts HD for the iPad. I haven’t found a comparable choice for Android.
When your mind map is with you, you can capture fresh thoughts as they strike you (provided you’re not driving!).

With your mind map, you can brainstorm.

As with a speech, a presentation has a beginning (hook), middle (details) and ending (call to action). As your ideas gel, you can arrange your points in a suitable structure with branches and sub-branches. Your presentation is now taking shape.

You may have too much content. That’s fine since you don’t need to use it all.

2. Collect Information

Once you’ve got your outline (and perhaps while you’re creating it), look for information. You can add links to your mind map. That’s what I used to do. Now I’ve started using Evernote to capture web pages. There’s an excellent plugin for your Chrome web browser. Evernote lets you categorize the information, which is very useful. The free plan is a great way to start.

You’ll likely have too much information. That’s fine because it’s organized and might prove to be useful as your presentation evolves.

3. Draft A PowerPoint Presentation With Bullets

Yeah, we know about death by bullet points but they are helpful in drafting a presentation. They’ll be removed later. Bullets are quick to create. The slides are easy to move around to create a good flow.

4. Replace Bullets With Visuals

Bullet points are boring. You won’t win an audience that’s snoring. Now’s the time to add images and move the bullet points to your speaker notes.

Finding the right visuals takes time but isn’t your audience worth the investment? I generally get free photos at everystockphoto.com and often use screenshots taken with Snagit. I also use Snagit to resize the images (e.g., to 960x540).

5. Refine

This part can be the most time-consuming. You’ll see what works and make adjustments. This is the phase where you work on your speaker notes and how you’ll transition between slides (visually and with your words).

It’s tough to remove a visual or segment you like. I’ll put them at the end of the slide deck in a section called Outtakes. That lessens the pain and preserves the content in case you find a need (perhaps for another presentation).

Do record yourself to check the timing. Listening to the playback helps you remember your content.


We can’t be objective about our own presentations. Practice in front of a test audience, if possible. A Toastmasters club is ideal since the members know how to give feedback. If that’s not possible, ask for feedback on segments from people whose input you value. 


PS How about recording your presentation and posting it on YouTube? That’s a nice memento for your digital tapestry.

April 29, 2014


Attention is very difficult to get these days. Digital piracy helps spread the word and offers free access. Studies show that piracy is not harming the entertainment business. In fact, Netflix uses piracy sites to gauge what’s popular and worth adding to their service.

The record-breaking piracy of Game Of Thrones doesn’t concern HBO (see Forbes and The Motley Fool). Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said this about piracy:
Our experience is, it all leads to more penetration, more paying subs [subscribers], more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising… If you go around the world, I think you’re right, Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. Well, you know, that’s better than an Emmy.

HBO’s Advantage

HBO gets credit for each pirated copy. Downloaders want the original. A variation — say  Games of Thrones — might fool people temporarily.

If what you do gets pirated, the recipients may not know they getting the original. They may not even care unless they believe you’re better (and know you exist).

What you create can be copied whether text, audio, video or photo. With 3D printers, physical objects are getting easier to duplicate too. If you can’t stop piracy, how can you benefit? Let’s look at three steps.

1. Make Something Worth Stealing

What are you creating that’s worth stealing in the first place?

What you do is likely similar to what your competitors do. You may follow standard procedures and have learned from the same teachers (for example, to sell investments, life insurance or real estate). Do your terminology and processes differ enough for a buyer to notice and care?

What makes you truly different? Maybe you have expertise in a niche. Maybe your background gives you an edge.

2. Demonstrate Your Ownership

Getting attention is a big challenge even if you’ve got the best solution. Invisibility hurts you. People with lesser ideas but more visibility have an edge.  You need to take steps so that you don’t disappear.

When you put content online, you establish a timeline. You show you were first. A web searcher can see you were the originator. For this to work, you’ll need to publish on sites where users can’t change timestamps (e.g., on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+). A blog or website may allow manipulation.

3. Keep Creating

If you’re a thought leader, you won’t run out of ideas. You’ll likely have too many. As you share your current thinking, you’re getting further ahead. The pirates can copy faster than you create but they can’t copy what’s going on in your head — your creation process. They can’t have the same understanding. How can they get ahead?

Our Fears

We don’t want our ideas stolen. Fear of our competitors may hold us back from sharing content that would attract buyers. Is that prudent?

I’ve had ideas stolen. Once, a vice president at a bank branch in another city sent out one of my blog posts under his name. How did that get through the Compliance department? I found out because a connection asked for my opinion on the ideas. I responded saying I agreed 100% and linked to my original post. I didn’t contact the plagiarist who ended up losing a client.

You don’t have to give everything away. Be selective. You wouldn’t publish your “secret recipe” or post your source code. What can you lose by showing your processes at a high level, publishing case studies or sharing your ideas?

Related Links

PS Even if you don’t get pirated, you’ll be easier to find online.

April 23, 2014


The Global Change Initiative
Words like “global change” sound good but what lasting results are possible? We’ll find out at The Global Change Initiative, which takes place at Toronto City Hall May 30 – Jun 1, 2014.

The Curator

Dev RamsumairDev Ramsumair is leading the initiative. He has an impressive background and vast connections. For instance, here’s what Paul McCartney told him:
“I’m going to give you one piece of advice for the rest of your life: You need to go somewhere where there’s just wheat and trees and you’re going to be forced to create something that no one’s ever seen.” — Entrenomics interview
The Global Change Initiative looks like a result. I’m glad we won’t be meeting in wheat fields! Dev’s enthusiasm and energy are contagious.  He’s doing much of the work himself. Normally an event of this scale would require longer preparation and a larger team. 

We’ve yet to meet but have chatted on the phone. I got introduced by peer mentor Carol Roberts of Stellar By Choice Consulting. She’s a speaker. I got selected too. I’m talking about a win/win: how social justice (doing what’s ‘right’) boosts profits.

The Global Change Initiative supportersThe Supporters

The supporters already announced are quite diverse.
Besides the City of Toronto, MaRS and the Centre for Social Innovation, there are surprises like UNESCO and Reddit. And the Avenue Q puppets. How is that range even possible?

The Format

As with many other events, you’ll find multiple speakers for variety. The difference is that they aren’t crunched into an exhausting single day. The Global Change Initiative takes place over three evenings and two days. That allows more time for mingling and thinking — and a greater commitment on the part of the delegates.

The SpeakersThe Reach

How do you reach the people around the world who aren’t attending?

Many events have live tweeting. The Global Change Initiative has support from news sharing site reddit (“the front page of the Internet”). You may be familiar with the reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) where guests have included Peter Dinklage, Barack Obama and Harrison Ford.

I knew reddit was big but didn’t know the scale. According to Alexa, it’s the 60th most popular website in the world. In the last month, reddit had 114.9 million unique visitors  from 190 countries who viewed 5.4 billion pages (see current stats). I’ve opened an account.

The Vision

The goal of The Global Change Initiative isn’t just to create a stimulating event where life returns to normal by the time you get home. The goal is to create global change. When communities, businesses, institutions and governments collaborate, imagine the possibilities.


PS There’s nothing wrong with local change either.

April 15, 2014


For the sweetest deal in real estate, call me!
Part way through a coffee meeting, a real estate agent gave me a tiny box the size of a business card and the thickness of a deck of cards.

The page on top was more like photocopier stock than card stock.
It had two messages:
  • “For the sweetest deal in real estate, call me!” and
  • “Oh, by the way … I’m never too busy for any of your referrals!”
One business card was taped underneath. Below that was a small box that held three small football-shaped Lindt chocolates that looked nothing like the photo.

What Effect?

The agent’s intentions were good but was this approach effective?

Virtually anyone can use the same message: “For the sweetest deal in (fill in the blank), call me!” and who would refuse referrals?

If you get the sweetest deal, doesn’t the other side gets the bitterest deal? Maybe a sweet deal is better and leads to less cavities.

The Perfect Gift

The perfect gift is significant, personalized and unexpected, according to Robert Cialdini. Does chocolate qualify?
  • significant? No since we have lots of chocolate at home. Besides, I got a normal box of Lindt truffles at another event.
  • personalized? Partially since my name was added to a pre-printed sheet. I would have preferred a fully handwritten card.
  • unexpected? No since I saw the box the whole time and knew the purpose (best to hide it)
The chocolate was probably on sale at the nearby Lindt Factory Outlet. I paid for our coffees, which probably cost more. Also, I was spending something much more valuable, my irreplaceable time. I felt let down at what looked more like unsubtle manipulation than generosity.

The Ask

A tiny box of chocolates from an outlet is cheap. Real estate is expensive. How does one small gift lead to a big commission? Repetition helps but are we likely going to get chocolate on a regular basis. Do we even want more?

Besides, there are lots of real estate agents that look interchangeable. How do you pick one? Chocolate gives no indication of skill (e.g., in negotiating).

A Better Approach

Timely ongoing information makes a much more useful gift. The content could be about the area of specialty, real estate. Not the generic articles that come with the junk mail every month. But something original that shows a genuine desire and ability to help prospects. The value and name recognition builds with consistency.

Emailing information via a newsletter allows tracking and cost-effective scaling. Buying and delivering chocolate does not.

Standing Out

We've dealt with real estate agents for ages. Not a single gave such a small gift. Not a single one gave useful ongoing information either. There's an opportunity to stand out.

Asking for a referral when giving the chocolate is bold — too bold for a first meeting. Would small bait land a big referral?

How was the chocolate? I don't know. I gave it to a child who might appreciate something that small.


PS Another gift, is paying attention to what your clients are doing and helping them succeed.

April 9, 2014


baseball - cancel a pitch?You’re ready for your important meeting. You arrived early. You dressed well. You printed the slides in case their projector doesn’t work. You have your presentation on a memory stick and your computer. You’ve got nice packages to leave behind. You practiced and practiced. They expressed interest in what you offer.
Then things start going wrong.

The meeting starts late. Some of the planned group don’t attend even though they are in the department. The ones who do show up seem distracted. What do you do?

Keep Calm and Carry On?

It's tempting to push ahead. After all, you’re ready. They need your help. Your presentation is powerful. They’re bound to be swayed and able to convince the decision makers who aren’t there. Maybe … but you're taking a big risk. You can't tell how receptive they are because you don't know what else is going on in their heads.

If you're giving a pitch and they're not listening, stop.

You gain little by continuing. Maybe they never really wanted to see you. If they agreed to meet, that seems unlikely because their time is valuable. It’s more likely that something unexpected happened.
We can't tell what's going on in someone's life. There could be a personal emergency or a work crisis. You don't know. Maybe they decided to buy from someone else.

Another Time

They may tell you to proceed anyway and ask for handouts for the ones who aren’t there. Is complying in your best interest? You risk diluting your impact.

Consider rescheduling. This is difficult if you flew in from another city but easy if you're local. Yes, you wasted your travel time but you’re giving them a valuable gift: unexpected free time. You invoke reciprocity, the #1 universal principle of influence. They’ll likely agree to meet again. They may even reveal why they’re unprepared at the moment.

By rescheduling, you show that you’re observant, generous and considerate. Isn't that the sort of person they want to do business with?

Next Time

What will you do differently next time? If potential clients tend get distracted by the bustle in their office, pick a different location. If they get answer each phone call, pick a quieter time. When they're out of their environment and deviating from their normal routine, you have a better chance at their attention.

When do you get the best results in business meetings? Maybe mornings early in the week beat afternoons late in the week. If you're not able to schedule a meeting at an optimal time, maybe you're better off waiting until you can. If they're busy in the morning, how about meeting for breakfast before their normal day starts?


PS By rescheduling, you gain free time too. Maybe you beat the traffic back. And get an idea for a blog post.

April 1, 2014


If you want people to trust you, be wary of using humor. That's because a joke is a trick — things aren't what they seem. There's a twist in meaning. If they’ve heard the joke before, you risk looking like a copycat — or a plagiarist if you create the impression that you’re the author.

Do you want to be associated with trickery? Do you want to leave a slight doubt about your truthfulness. Maybe you’re a master and people have trouble instantly telling whether you’re serious or funny.  Congratulations, but what have you really accomplished?


Your humor might not be understood or appreciated. We meet people of different ages, cultures and experiences. We don't know what's going on in their heads. What if they’re dealing with personal pain. Maybe they need to laugh but you add to their anguish by being insensitive by mistake. How does that lead to business?
Example: Toyota
At a Toyota dealership, we asked to test drive a Highlander. The sales rep said "No" and then after seeing our surprised expressions added "just kidding".

The harm was already done. We weren't there for a laugh (or to be laughed at).

We might have been receptive if we were in a different mood. We were visiting our third vendor that evening. The first place didn't have a Highlander available (even though I drove one that afternoon and made an appointment). The second place didn't have a Highlander in the showroom and no one was available to talk to us. We were at the third place and already tired.

We eventually got our test drive but were discouraged to save time by not going on the highway. The rep joked again: we should go to another dealership for a proper city/highway test drive and then return to buy from him. Really?

Related: The best buying experience revisited


You needn't be 100% serious either. Please don't! You can’t bore people into buying. I’ve tried!

You don't need to tell jokes to show you see the lighter side of life. You exude your personality by what you say and especially by what you do over time. A good sense of humor is one of the seven components of dynamic personal influence.

April Fools Day Classics

When I was in university, the London Free Press ran a BMW ad showing their latest innovation: an engine which ran on fuel extracted from raw potatoes. As a non-chemist, the details looked semi-plausible. The conclusion? In the future, we’d fill up at the grocery store rather than the gas station.

I'll (now) admit that I was fooled, but no one knew.


PS Save the chuckles for your buddies at the bar, especially if you use banker jokes — the ones where only the tellers laugh.

March 25, 2014


Holding a 400 ounce bar of gold courtesy of McEwen Mining
How do you make an event memorable? Tweets are fine but they vanish fast. Photos make nice reminders but who sees them afterwards? Recordings help. Novelty does too.

Here's what happened at a RUBAA Business Alumni Exchange. RUBAA is the Ryerson University Business Alumni Association. They were raising money for the RUBAA / Ken Jones Student Bursary.

Two speakers spoke for 10-15 minutes each. They didn't take audience questions but did stay to chat afterwards. They each brought great gifts.

Lindt trufflesCyndi Culp

Cyndi Culp (1979) spoke about her squiggly ride to a position she's held for 19 years: CFO of Lindt & Sprungli (Canada). The company has grown from 10 employees to 500.

Cyndi brought boxes of Lindt gourmet truffles for everyone. What’s not to like? I took mine home unopened, which my family liked.

Related: Mitch Joel’s 8 keys to getting a job today

Ian Ball

Ian Ball (2004) is President of McEwen Mining. His career path was squiggly too (see mining’s golden boy).

Ian didn't give us gold but brought a 400 ounce bar. That's about 25 pounds and worth about $525,000 (US) based on today’s price. Photo op!
We were allowed to have a photo of us holding the gold under the careful supervision of three guards. Normally at events you ask someone to take your photo with your smartphone in questionable lighting. Not here. There was proper lighting and a professional photographer.

There's more. We each got a high quality colour print in a sleeve on the spot. The sleeve was branded for McEwen Mining. The background was too. Who’s going throw that photo away? No one. Who’s going to spread the story? Everyone.


When you go to many events, they blur together and fade away.

Organizing an event is expensive in time and perhaps money. How do you create a lasting memory that even non-attendees can enjoy?


PS At events, talk to the speakers. I talked to Cyndi before her speech and Ian afterward.

March 19, 2014


home office helperWhen you're working in a corporation, time gets wasted in less productive activities like meetings and memos. The best results come when you have time to think. That might be before co-workers arrive at work, when they’re at lunch or after they go home. Maybe you’re most productive at home before your family wakes or after your kids go to bed.

There’s more to life than extending the workday.

Enter the home office. You get many advantages but your productivity can suffer because you face many distractions too. Is that the fridge calling? In Part 1, we looked at basics of setting up your environment, tracking your time and stopping. This time we look at other tips for better results.

Have Morning Rituals

Do you touch your smartphone or tablet before you brush your teeth? Don’t. Leave your radio and TV off too. Control the way you start your day. Defer distractions until you’re ready for breakfast. Let the news, weather, traffic, sports, email, and tweets wait.

If you use your gadget as your alarm clock, get a real clock instead. Let your gadgets sleep in silent mode in another room, if possible. You don’t need to wake to a clock radio either.

Put Health First

Have a health regime which you ideally follow before breakfast. Since you've eliminated commuting, you have time (say for the seven minute workout). I allocate 30 minutes for ashtanga yoga, with a focus on breathing and stretching.

A proper breakfast helps too. We often eat leftovers from yesterday’s dinner – quick, nutritious, hot.

Ditch The Entertainment

You might think you’re more productive with the radio or TV on. Are you? We are not good at multitasking and get distracted easily (a reason to use time tracking tools). If you prefer background noise like a coffee shop, rain or birds, try soundrown.

I’m currently watching The Shield on Netflix. It’s tempting to sneak a peek over lunch. I don’t because it would be tough to return to the right frame of mind for work. Instead, I tend to read business articles or listen to a nonfiction audiobook.

Plan Your Activities

Plan your week and day in advance. Putting key activities into your calendar looks like the easiest way to schedule your priorities. That’s part of the first things first approach in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. There’s also the Getting Things Done process. You might find an amalgam works best.

Stay Accountable

When you’re working from home, who holds you accountable? Consider getting a private peer mentor. You help each other for free. That’s a win/win if you find the right person. If that’s not enough, you might want to hire a coach.

Use a CRM system

Are you following up on commitments and opportunities? The ideal CRM option helps you organize, take action and track results. It’s like having an assistant (or boss) — without working in a corporation.


PS When working, dress for a video call. That means look presentable from the waist up. You can still wear your slippers.

March 12, 2014


clock (490x255)
Spring forward. Fall back. We adjust our clocks for Daylight Saving Time (DST) without much thought.

We're tricking ourselves when 7 AM [PM] magically becomes 6 AM [PM] or is it 8 AM [PM]? We accept the change because we benefit. During the short winter days, we’d rather have light in the morning than the evening.  During the long summer days, we have enough light for the mornings and evenings.

Our clocks and smartphones might switch instantly to the “right” time but our bodies don’t. There may be more accidents after we “spring forward” because we lose an hour’s sleep. Or less because we’re driving with better lighting. There are also effects on productivity. 


Suppose you move your turn signal to a different location (say to 8 o’clock instead of 9 or 10). Customers will make mistakes especially if they drive different vehicles. The wiper settings mess me up. How do you spray the windshield? This is easy enough to figure out if your first guess is wrong. The harm is minimal. Imagine what would happen if the gas and brake pedals were not standardized.

If you follow norms how do you stand out from competitors? Android has a Back button but iOS hasn’t (except for the Safari web browser). Both systems are workable though you may prefer one. Apple stands out but companies making Android devices do not.

The Price

Changing your norm forces your current clients to undergo minor relearning (how do you heat the steering wheel now?). Your new clients skip this step, especially if you’re following conventions. Best to make the “right” decision at the outset.

How much as you asking your clients to change?

Windows 8 asked for too much. No START button!?! That was another reason to avoid Windows 8. Sales suffered. There were also reasons to avoid upgrading from Window 8 to 8.1.

The Speed

The ideal speed of change varies:
  • fast: e.g., to/from DST by an hour rather than 5 minutes a day for 12 days, a chiropractic adjustment, removing a bandage
  • slow: e.g., removing training wheels, shrinking snack packages without cutting the price, cheapening ingredients
What can you do to help your clients adjust? We don’t have a choice about adopting Daylight Saving Time but your clients may have a choice about switching from you.


PS Have you seen the 2013 posts on this blog?

March 4, 2014


imagePreparation takes time.
Preparation takes money.
Preparation causes disruption.
Preparation takes planning.
Preparation is essential.
Customers demand preparation.
While Toronto is a major city, we suffer from inadequate upgrades to infrastructure.

Rogers Ultimate Hi-Speed InternetInternet

Our Rogers Ultimate Hi-Speed Internet tops out at 150 Mbps (a review), even though others pay the same price for 250 Mbps and four times the data. Why? The preparation isn’t in place.

We can’t switch to a competitor. Bell Fibe Internet reaches 175 Mbps but we can only get 25 Mbps.


Toronto Hydro is replacing the electrical system in our neighborhood. They’ve installed new taller street poles and new wiring. That’s taken weeks  of elapsed time. Perhaps the new system would have spared us 90 hours without electricity during the latest ice storm. The height of the poles makes damage by tree limbs less likely.

It's another extra-cold day. We may be without electricity for 3.5 hours as the wiring switches over to the new system. The disruption is annoying but necessary. That's how preparation is.
We can’t switch to a competitor because there are none.

Google spending on infrastructure (click for article on CNET)Your Situation

Your car reminds when maintenance is required. Your business doesn’t. The costs may not be large.

What preparations should you be doing? There's never a good time. If you plan, at least you have control over the schedule and disruption. You can make arrangements to minimize the impact.

Maintenance is necessary, especially if your customers can easily switch to your competitor. Maybe that’s why Google has been spending heavily on infrastructure — even more than GM.


PS You might even get the credit you deserve for being proactive.

February 26, 2014


buying a carHas the process of buying a new vehicle improved online? We looked at experiences with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz three years ago. This time we’re looking at more companies.

Make An Offer

Have you been asked to make an offer? How annoying. How are we supposed to know what to offer, especially on a used vehicle? Can’t they make a fair offer and compete on factors like service (e.g., free loaners, work completed on time), location, facilities (cappuccino anyone?) and hours (open on Sunday!).

Acura (MDX)

We test drove an MDX around 3 PM on a Tuesday. We weren’t able to stay for a price quote. The advisor said he’d send us the information later that day. He didn’t. No call until Thursday evening around 8 PM while I was driving in bad weather. He offered to call on Friday but never did. Would you return or give this dealership your business?

Audi (Q7 Diesel)

This experience was fine. The advisor answered our questions and phoned back as scheduled. However, the only vehicle we could test drive had the wrong engine and trim. Do you feel comfortable buying without trying?

BMW (535i xDrive GT)

We test-drove two well-equipped 5-Series Gran Turismos. One dealer’s had a loud rattle at some speeds. The other dealer was worse. The car stopped running on the way back. The warning light said the oil pressure was low and shut the engine off. Luckily we were at a traffic light and the warning blinkers worked. The dealership didn’t send anyone to our rescue quickly. After 15 minutes, I braved the chill, snow and slippery sidewalks to walk back to the dealership. Would you want to go back?

Hyundai (Genesis)

We got a test drive but not with the trim level we wanted. We were given misleading information. We were told that buying was better than leasing because we could return the vehicle anytime and get a new one. Really? How was the value set? By appraising the vehicle. You can do that anywhere anytime but will likely lose during the process.

The salesperson was talking to other people while I was there (a phone call, a person walking by). While waiting, I sat in the rear seat of a Genesis R-Spec and closed the door. It wouldn’t unlock! I tapped on the glass and called out. The rescue only took a minute but felt much longer. I returned the next day and this time my wife got locked in. Why hadn’t the childproof locks been deactivated?

At a second dealership, we were told there were no vehicles for test drive but to wait. This wasted time and didn’t change the outcome. Perhaps the salesperson wanted us to think he tried … before pitching a different vehicle. This guy also talked about himself a lot.

Neither advisor followed up. The dealerships were scrunchy and didn’t build confidence in the level of service they’d provide.


We had a bad experience with Infiniti in 2005 and have never returned. That’s unfair but that’s life. At the time, we went on a test drive and the license plate that hangs from the trunk fell off. The salesperson was with us the whole time and knew we hadn’t opened the trunk. He made us feel that we were to blame and left to retrace the path. Would you feel like returning?

Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler (Grand Cherokee Diesel)

This is the worst experience ever. The doors and windows were plastered with signs saying we’d be treated like VIPs because of the big autoshow underway. We told the receptionist we wanted to test drive the new diesel Grand Cherokee. She called a salesperson. He declined to help, saying he had a meeting in 20 minutes. She said she’s find someone else but didn’t. There were other advisors around but no one offered to help. After minutes passed, we told her we were leaving. No one made an attempt to stop us. Would you like to get your vehicle serviced here?

Land Rover (LR4, Range Rover Sport)

The website calculators don’t give a clear understanding of the cost of leasing. We drove to the dealership … but it had moved. Even with GPS, we couldn’t find the new location. How long would you search?

Lexus (RX350)

The first dealer didn’t have the trim we wanted in the showroom or available for a test drive. We tried a lesser version. During the test drive, we heard the clink of glass from the back. We later found out this was from a case of beer. Maybe that’s a bonus for buying? The salesperson asked good questions. Why did we like diesel (which he didn’t sell)? How does Mercedes service compare with BMW?

We returned two days later within 30 minutes of closing. No receptionist. No one there bothered to talk to us. This time we noticed the small showroom didn’t have the F-Sport, GX or LX. Would you buy what you can’t see or compare?

I visited a different Lexus dealer between other meetings. The experience here was good. They had all the vehicles indoors and I got a test drive (though on a model with a lower trim). I didn’t have time to discuss price. However, I did chat with the sales manager who emailed a proposal which met all our requirements.

Mercedes-Benz (ML350 Bluetec)

We were sent on a test drive on our own on icy roads during a storm. No advisor. We didn’t mind. Maybe they knew we already had a Mercedes? Our usual advisor likes to demonstrate the vehicle first and always comes with us.

Mercedes has corporate stores in the Toronto area. This is ideal because all the inventory is consolidated (no need to visit different locations). There are also lots of demonstrators. I have an advisor in their head office and an advisor in the dealership of my choice (the downtown flagship).

Despite these resources, I never got an answer to a basic question: if we buy our current vehicle at lease end, what’s the scheduled maintenance for the upcoming years and how much would that cost? I asked several times. Instead, I was told that maintenance could be very pricey after the warranty. The problem is with the reliability of the electronics. Replacements are pricey. That’s not reassuring. It seems that the focus is on selling or leasing new vehicles.

Overall, the experience here was the best. Have you visited a corporate store?

Toyota (Highlander Limited)

The trim level I wanted wasn’t available for a test drive. I drove a more basic version (no heated steering wheel!) which only had fuel for 17 km. Unlike the experience at BMW, we made it back. The experience was good. I said I’d return after dinner with my family and asked that the Highlander be fueled.

When we returned, we waited only to find there was nothing to test drive. Apparently the vehicle was in for repairs. How reassuring. Why hadn’t the salesperson (who just started a week ago) saved us a trip? We couldn’t test a 4Runner either because the advisor who drove the demo truck left 15 minutes earlier (probably while we were waiting).

Toyota dealer 2 had no receptionist and no Highlander in the showroom. A salesperson offered to help us “in a minute” after finishing with another customer. We left after the minutes passed. The Sienna on display had a broken door hinge.

Toyota dealer 3 had the Highlander but only with a lower trim level without a heated steering wheel or blind spot detection. The vehicle took a while to heat up and the steering wheel stayed chilly throughout. Could we go on the highway? No, that was discouraged to save time. Customers were encouraged to do that at a different dealership and then buy here. Could we drive the 4Runner? Nope. No test vehicle because the model didn’t sell well. Could the lack of a test vehicle be a reason?

We went back inside and got tired of waiting for the salesperson (who only had three months of experience). I wanted to tell the receptionist we were leaving. She must have seen me but continued talking to a co-worker.


There are still huge opportunities to improve the experience of visiting dealerships and the quality of the advisors. Overall, corporate stores feel best and reduce the need to visit multiple dealerships that sell the same brand.


PS We’re on the verge of making our decision and ending the shopping process for a few more years.

February 19, 2014


Hyundai Sonata vs BMW 525i (click to see)In 2007, Hyundai commercials suggested the Sonata was better than a BMW 5-Series at half the price (see the rationale for irrational behavior). Who would really believe that? There's a difference between specifications and real world performance.

I sat in a Hyundai for the first time ever, the 2013 Genesis sedan. The interior quality is comparable to a BMW 5-Series or Mercedes E-Class but you get more space. That's especially welcome in the rear row. Legroom! The Genesis costs much less than a comparably equipped German sedan. Value! What about the ride? It's good — well-suited to day-to-day driving in the city or on the highway. The coming-soon all-new 2015 is even better. I saw one at the Canadian Auto Show.

The Surprise

I didn’t expect Hyundai to create something as good as the Genesis (and more recently the Equus). Then again, who expected Toyota to succeed with Lexus? The first model, the LS 400 outsold the competition from BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. The Genesis launch had impact too, winning 20+ awards including North American Car of the Year.

The Genesis isn't as good as a German vehicle but so what? Vehicles keep improving. Think of the Genesis as an older German car. There's much we can learn for our own marketing.

Lesson: Get Started

The first launch needn’t be perfect. You learn lessons which make the next version better. Momentum makes progress faster. The key is getting started. Keep waiting and the competition gets further ahead and harder to catch. Look at the too-little-too-late attempt to rejuvenate Blackberry.

Did the world need another premium car? No, but the success of the Genesis shows there’s room for new competitors and that catching up is possible. Hyundai already is a top manufacturer which gives them money to experiment and succeed.

What’s holding you back? You don’t need to be perfect in the beginning.

Lesson: Create A Halo

Developing a new vehicle takes years and in the case of the Genesis, $500 million (according to Wikipedia). Is the investment in a niche car worthwhile?  Yes. By creating a standout,  Hyundai raised the credibility and appeal of their entire line up. They got lots of free publicity.

What brings positive attention to you? Maybe you're associated with a cause (e.g., a charity). Maybe you're doing something relatively rare (e.g., blogging). 

Lesson: Just Listen

2015 Hyundai Genesis at NürburgringWhen launched, the Genesis was very credible. Certainly an A for effort. Hyundai identified an underserved market niche: premium cars for people who care more about value than the emblem on their quickly depreciating car. Current Hyundai buyers and brand switchers.

The all-new 2015 Genesis addresses criticisms of the first generation. There is now All Wheel Drive and a better ride. In addition, there is more value than ever at their price points. Horsepower is down but torque is up. There’s innovation such as the first-ever CO detector as a tool for driver alertness (adds more fresh air as levels rise).

What does your market want?

Lesson: Keep Moving

The next battleground is the user experience. Premium vehicles like BMWs and Mercedes have their own dealerships. This helps meet the expectations of more affluent buyers. Hyundai looks committed to getting better. Using a separate brand would help but cost $2.5 billion and take 13 years.

The competition keeps moving. You eventually compete with yourself. Take the iPhone. Other phones are arguably better (e.g., larger screens, better Google integration) but there are dedicated iPhone buyers. Apple is really competing with Apple.

Right now, Genesis is competing with other brands but that will change, perhaps with the third generation launch in a few years. You can’t get there without getting started.


PS Hyundai and affiliate Kia aren’t perfect. They’re settling class action lawsuits for overstating fuel economy: $395 million in the US and $70 million in Canada.

February 12, 2014


Dan Pink: Author of 5 books. Father of 3 kids. Husband of 1 wife. Pink. Yes. Just like the color.
— Dan Pink,
Six word stories can say lots

When did you discover Daniel Pink? My introduction came from reading A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future a few years ago.

Have you noticed Dan’s solid, non-trendy approach to personal branding?  Let’s explore the steps.

1. Have A Solid Core

It’s easy to torture data to draw sensational but false conclusions. What’s flawed? What’s out-dated? What’s left out? What’s misinterpreted?

Dan uses research carefully. He even calls himself a “fan of double-blind studies” on his Twitter profile. His tweets and newsletter show the quality of content he’s reading. Two other Dan’s inspire similar confidence: Kahneman and Ariely.

Starting from a solid foundation, Dan Pink finds original and believable things to say.

Q: How good are you at detecting and telling the truth?

2. Publish Content

You need to create and publish original content to sustain a personal brand. The best ways depend on you and your market. Your approach can change. You don’t have to use all platforms. You don’t even have to be consistent (but consistency helps).
Dan writes well but stopped blogging. Perhaps the format didn’t suit his schedule.
“We’re going to shutter the blog and instead expand and deepen our collection of videos, articles, and guides on working smarter and living better”. 
— Dan Pink, Jul 17, 2013
Office Hours podcastDan has a series of audio interviews called Office Hours. Episodes used to be live but are now pre-recorded. That gives more flexibility for his guests and him. The frequency varies. There’s usually a new recording every month or two.

I recently stopped podcasting after 250 episodes to focus on creating short videos, including interviews.
Public Speaking
Dan does lots of speaking. I’ve seen him twice. His messages are simple, clear and memorable. Since he's honed his content, Dan has time to engage the audience and add a surprising amount of humor.

You might not do  much public speaking but can create video in the comfort of your office.
Click to access iDoneThisAdvance purchasers of To Sell Is Human were invited to a special New Year’s Day 2013 webcast (slides with a voiceover). The surprise? Dan didn't say much about his book. Maybe he wanted us to read it.

Dan talked mainly about about other things on his mind: books, apps like iDoneThis (which I now use daily) and gadgets (e.g., a bluetooth wireless speakerphone). He reminded us that he doesn’t use affiliate links when making recommendations.

Dan’s approach works because he’s interesting and credible. We want to know what he’s found for us.

3. Build A List

Dan uses a newsletter as his primary way to stay in touch with his followers. That’s a lasting gift with wide appeal. Dan’s frequency is irregular and the content irreverent. You never know what you’ll get or when. Dan’s personality oozes through each issue. Before subscribing, you can look at his latest issue.

Q: Do you have a newsletter with personality? [I use a similar approach to Dan but make all past issues accessible and publish monthly.]

4. Remain Accessible

how to contact Dan Pink
Dan is easy to contact. He doesn’t post his phone number but his website lets you email him. You’re not forced to use a web form either.

“During the month of February, I will be dealing with a bunch of travel that will make it difficult for me to respond to email. If you need to reach me urgently this month, please go here …”
Make your contact info prominentWhen Dan travels, he uses Awayfind to screen his emails. If you think yours is urgent, you fill out a form and he gets notified. This process manages our expectations, which strengthens his brand. He looks like he’s in control.

Q: Is your contact information prominently displayed? [My sites show phone numbers (local, toll-free), an email address and a way to book a meeting. No hunting required.]

5. Be Different

People of Dan's calibre rarely allow their live presentations to be recorded and posted. Dan doesn’t seem to mind. Here’s a recording for each recent book:
What does he lose? He reaches more people, which extends his brand. He’s still worth seeing live because that experience is different than reading a book or watching a recording.

Q: What makes you different? Where is this visible? [I blog and post live recordings — both unusual for an actuary.]

Yogi Berra said “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Dan Pink makes a worthy model.


PS Add generosity to Dan’s brand characteristics. He kindly donated books for Money 50/50.

January 21, 2014


green lightYou've been working hard building a nice quality LinkedIn network. Now you have a meaningful message for all your connections. How do you reach them?

Why Not Post An Update?

Posting an update is quick and easy, but will enough connections see it? The chances decrease if their network is large and they don’t visit LinkedIn often. You can post your update more than once but risk annoying your connections with smaller networks who visit LinkedIn regularly.
LinkedIn update

Email Through LinkedIn

LinkedIn limits your message to 50 recipients at a time. If you have 500+ connections, you can be spending a long time reaching them. The process of selecting the names is a hassle too.
LinkedIn: max 50 email recipients
LinkedIn’s limits are probably designed to discourage spam but most of the messages I receive this way are spammy. Also, you lose basic formatting options like bold, italics and bullets and friendly links (e.g., this instead of http://www.marketingactuary.com/2012/10/building-trust-with-linkedin-your-30.html).

What happens if LinkedIn limits the number of emails you can send in a day?

Email Through Your CRM

max emailsYou can send email through your CRM system like Contactually (the best option for small business). Again. you may face limits on how many emails you can send at a time (e.g., 50) and in a day (e.g., 300). These systems aren’t designed for mass emails.

Perhaps they have concerns over spam even though the messages go through your own email provider (which may also have daily limits).

Your CRM likely holds non-LinkedIn connections too. Selecting the ideal recipients takes time, but is a worthwhile exercise. For instance, you might want to only reach people who live in the same city.

Email Through an Email Service

The ultimate solution is to use an email service like Mad Mimi (review). A free account may be all you need. These services give you a quick, fast way to reach your connections. You also see who’s opening the emails and what they’re clicking on.

Here’s the one-time process
You’re now ready to compose and send your email.

Do You Have Permission?

Are you allowed to send messages to all your LinkedIn connections? I’ve asked around. This isn’t legal advice but the answer looks like yes if you
  • build a quality network
  • send messages infrequently
  • have meaningful content (e.g, skip generic messages like “Happy New Year”)
Your LinkedIn connections gave you permission to establish a business relationship with them. You can’t without communication. You’re simply finding a efficient, considerate way to reach them.


PS Transparence, my monthly newsletter still requires opt-in.