5 Lessons From Baseball for Business Owners

On my 50th birthday, I thought about calling it 50 Baseball Lessons for Business Owners, but let’s just stick with 5 shall we?

5  Lessons From Baseball For Business Owners

I love baseball. You may have heard the cliché, “Baseball is life.”  Well, I believe that Baseball is Business.  And, according to Dr. Art Markman in his book Smart Thinking, analogies are powerful tools we can use to reveal new insights into old problems.  With that in mind, I want to share my thoughts on Baseball and Business.  Your mileage may vary.

  1. Baseball Has No Clock

Despite the addition of Pace Of Play Rules to the sport, professional baseball does not have a clock.   A baseball game ends when all twenty-seven outs have been recorded and there is a clear winner. No winner? Play another six outs.  No clear winner?  Keep going until someone wins. No matter how long it takes.

Baseball players don’t go home until the work is done!

Running a business is the same.  Sure we have deadlines, but most of the time these are arbitrary and self-imposed.  The real deadline is more like baseball.  You can not quit until the work is done (and sometimes not even then). Erroneously, many people focus on time-management strategies, but in reality, the “Get-Things-Done” strategies have the greatest impact.  It is easy to be “busy,” but unless you finish, the game never ends.

Business, like baseball, doesn’t end until the work is done.

  1. You Strike Out A Lot

Man, I hate to fail because failing sucks.  More than that failure is shameful!  Remember how your parents reacted when you flunked a test or failed to turn in a homework assignment?  (If you’ve never had that pleasant experience please switch to another blog – I don’t know you.)  I remember and I never wanted to fail again.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from screwing up, but holy cow, for a long time I avoided failure like the plague, which ironically only seemed to make it harder to succeed.

Then I observed how baseball players step up in front of thousands of fans… every night… and strike out.  Over, and over again.   I am quite sure they don’t want to fail, but it happens and they never stop trying!  

The best hitters fail 7 out of 10 times.  I’m in awe of the kind of internal fortitude that it take to face that kind of humiliation and keep coming back for more.  With this high-level of failure, it is difficult to imagine that these guys are the best, but they are and I believe it’s because they never stop trying.

It turns out business is more like baseball than school.  Maybe that’s why no one calls school “the real world” but people call baseball “life.”  Zig Ziggler famously said most sales happen after the 7th “no.”  Think about that.  Seven failures in a row before you get to success.  Sound familiar?

In Business, like in  Baseball, you will strike out a lot, but the success comes to those who keep going until they get a hit.

  1. Winners Face the Toughest Hitters First

Competitive baseball teams put their best hitters at the front of the order.  Pitchers don’t get to ease their way into the game, they start off facing their biggest challenges.  To be a winning pitcher, they must figure out how to get those guys out.

In my business, I have learned to tackle the hard problems first.  Avoiding them, is a lot like pitching around tough batters.  And the results are usually the same.  Pitchers who walk a lot of batters don’t stay in the game very long.  Entrepreneurs who don’t face their toughest problems early often wind up working for someone else.

If you want to stay in the game, face your most difficult problems first.

  1. Your Last Hitter May Be Your MVP

One thing I have observed about playoff baseball is how often Most Valuable Players come from the bottom of the lineup.  On my son’s team, we won our first little league championship when the last batter in our lineup hit a game winning homerun.  

Why does this happen?  Because when the competition is fierce, the strengths balance each other.  This means small changes loom large and it is your weaknesses, not your strengths, that make the difference.  This is how great teams distinguish themselves: by building upon their strengths, but also working on their weaknesses.

Too many teams do one or the other.  Either they ride their best players, putting everything on them.  Or they try to shore up their weaknesses while losing sight of their strengths.  To build a winning team you have to do both.  

In Baseball and business, good teams have great players. Exceptional teams improve all of their players. Build on strengths; work on weaknesses.

  1. Success Is A Chain Made Of Execution.

There are tons of sports analogies with business, but in my experience, no competitor ever comes crashing through my front door to tackle a developer.  No one blankets my sales team so they can’t receive a lead.  In short, no one is allowed to interfere directly with my team.  My team’s success depends almost wholly upon their ability to execute, effectively and efficiently,  in a way that allows the next team member to do their job when it is their turn.

That’s the number one reason I like baseball.  While it is extremely competitive, opposing teams are not allowed to interfere with each other.  If they do, it’s a penalty (yes there are a few exceptions).  Not only can opposing players not interfere with each other, players on the same team really can’t even help each other either.  There are no double teams in baseball, no pick-and-rolls.

Success in baseball comes from talented, well-trained players doing their job then passing the ball to the next player who does the same.  A successful play is a chain of well executed individual efforts.

What a beautiful metaphor for business.   Do your job.  Do it well.  Do it to the best of your ability.  And then, most importantly, finish so the next guy can do the same.  Set your teammates up for success.  We call this execution.

Teams are only successful if each person does his job.  Success is a chain built of execution.

 

I love baseball for a myriad of reasons and I hope my simple comparisons give you a new way of looking at your business.  

Do you have a different way of mapping a sport to your company? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

5 Hard Lessons For Employees-Turned-Entrepreneurs

 

img cred: Critter for opensource.com

5 Hard Lessons For Employees-Turned-Entrepreneurs

The popularity of entrepreneurial books, podcasts, and television shows like “Shark Tank,” give the impression that everyone is starting a business. The truth is that while many people are, not everyone who does is successful.  If you are making the jump from corporate America into full-time entrepreneurship, you are likely to find that there are some hard lessons that you must learn.

The following five lessons are some of the most difficult for many business owners to master and are surely at the forefront of the reasons why employees-turned-entrepreneurs are unsuccessful in their new ventures.

Lesson One: Become a Real Negotiator

In the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury,  and Bruce Patton, the authors clearly explain how a “hard negotiation” style will destroy a “soft negotiation” style every time.

If you have spent any time in corporate America, the chances are that you learned how to get along well with others. You use phrases and words like, “Win-Win” and “Partnership” when you think of negotiation. You want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and you yield quickly to the demands of others to keep the peace. You are a “soft negotiator”. While this is valuable in a corporate context, most likely you were shielded from the myriad of aggressive negotiation tactics, “hard negotiations,” used externally, and in some cases internally, by your company.

The reality is that when you are first starting out as a business owner, you are playing a game whose rules are vaguely familiar. Furthermore, you are probably unaware that the game even exists in first place. Your opponents are well-equipped, and they are looking for fresh meat.  My intention is not to frighten you, but not everyone in the free-for-all that is the modern global economy is thinking about creating “win-win” situation. “Hard negotiators” are not as easily swayed and will stop at almost nothing to get what they want.

The most important (and possibly expensive) lessons you can learn are:

  • How to effectively negotiate when you no longer have the resources of a large corporation to give you leverage by understanding the various negotiation tactics.  
  • If you think you are a good negotiator and are not an attorney, you need help.

Lesson Two: Make Your Accounting Useful For YOU

I admit upfront that I hate accounting because it makes me feel unintelligent. Many of the small business owners to whom I speak say the same. There are many reasons for this but here’s what you need to know:

  • Develop a system for tracking your real cash (not just profits) that you can manage daily. Learn enough so that you can design your accounting system to be useful to you in the way that you will use it.
  • Tracking your cash must become a habit. You will be shocked at the number of people who will confidently do their job with absolutely zero understanding of your financials even when they have access to them. They are counting on you to know what is going on.

You cannot delegate having a firm grasp on your financials to anyone else. If you do, then you will not be running a business, you will be working for someone else wondering where all the money went.

Lesson Three: Create a Culture

What would your front yard look like if you never paid attention to it, never watered it, never mowed it, in short never cared about it? Can you imagine that? Can you picture it?

Now know this: Your company culture will look worse if you treat it the same way.

Any system composed of living organisms will grow and evolve, constantly. Moreover, it will do so with or without your permission. That is what they do.

Your business is a living organism. It is a system made up of people who are very different. The behaviors of those people will define its culture. Now you might get lucky, and that group of people may produce an incredible culture without much effort.  However, and this is common, they could produce a cancerous growth that kills their host. There are two lessons here:

  • Recognize that it is your responsibility to create the culture you want. When you become an employee of a company, chances are the owners or employees previously established the office culture. However, now you have to create it yourself.
  • Learn the skills necessary to establish a culture on purpose.What happens if you do not? Remember the image of your untended front yard? You will get a culture, but it will happen by default. In my experience, very few business owners are happy with the culture they get by default.

There are tools and techniques to build the culture you want. Look for them. Learn them. Use them. It is hard, but it can be the difference between feeling like you cannot wait to get to the office every morning and dreading what awaits you when you get in. Learn how to cultivate the culture you want.

Lesson Four: Master Your Marketing

Unless you are starting a marketing company, chances are you have no idea what marketing entails. Moreover, you are probably unfamiliar with what the word means. You might think you know, but you probably don’t. Why? Because the word is so overused and abused, it is hard to understand what marketing is, why it is necessary, and what to do to create an effective marketing strategy. Further, so many people want to sell you “marketing” that the real purpose and nature of it gets lost in the weeds. For example, we have deeply fixed terms like “sales and marketing” as if sales can precede marketing.

Here is the hard lesson: Marketing is lead generation.

That is it!

Those who will profit from confusing you (and many people do),  will disagree with me. I do not care!

A marketing plan is a plan to generate leads on a budget, in a given time frame.

If you do not generate leads, you will not get sales. It is that simple.

So no matter how fun it is to buy beautiful pictures or sexy ads, the hard lesson is to stay focused on what will grow your business. Leads. Leads. Leads.

Sounds too simple? OK, go ahead and try it.

Here’s a bonus lesson: Simple does not always mean easy. I had personally witnessed people waste tens-of-thousands of dollars before they learned this lesson.

Lesson Five: Making Money is Not The Same As Earning Money

This last one is the craziest lesson of all. Most employees have years of conditioning which reinforce the entrenched belief that it takes personal effort and application of skill to earn money.

It is not an unreasonable perspective for someone collecting a paycheck, but it can be a serious handicap for an entrepreneur. You will work hard. By the measure of income, the most successful business owners I know work very long hours. However, there is an enormous difference between owners who believe they are earning money and those who are working to manage systems that make money. Here’s the difference:

  • If you think you are making money, you  will focus on your business as a way to collect a paycheck. You are working x-amount of hours to earn x-amount of dollars.
  • If you are managing a system that makes money, you focus on creating a system of generating cash-flow. You become the leader those that operate the systems that run your business.

To explain further, working for a paycheck will hold you back because it constricts you in two dimensions. Focusing on the all mighty paycheck will drain precious cash that your business needs to fuel its growth. Of course, you should get paid, but you will have to determine what is the BEST use of that cash- saving or reinvesting in your business. Moreover, most detrimental to your company’s growth is that you cannot imagine working hard enough to be worth what people are willing to pay.

It sounds crazy, I know, but the salary/earning mindset can interfere with your business growth because it leads you to sell your cost instead of your value.

The truth is that most salaried employees people do not personally experience the kind of exponential income growth that a business can produce when it is marketing, sales, and operating systems are well-tuned and working together to reach a concrete goal. Typically most people can only grow their income incrementally over the course of many years. A business, on the other hand, can leap forward and double or even triple if the conditions are right. Most former employees do not have the experience to recognize that kind of jump is even possible even when they see it first hand!

The hard lesson here:  

  • Understand that your job is not to earn a paycheck
  • Know how your effort improves a scalable business model which makes money

Conclusion

Most of these lessons are not complex, but they do fly in the face of our working experience.

  • We learn to play nicely, which gives us a false sense of our negotiation prowess.
  • We rely on accounting departments, so we never learn about setting up effective financial systems.
  • We join companies whose cultures are already in place, so  we do not learn how to create a beneficial one of our own.
  • Our personal experience with the biggest brands hides the exact function of marketing, so we do not learn its real purpose.
  • The most important skill, the one that drove our career – earning a paycheck – can ironically hold us back. The career that made it possible for us to start our company can make it difficult for us to imagine systems that can generate income out of proportion to our personal effort.

Business owners can master all of these lessons of course, but they require a new perspective and a new context. To build a business, you have to transcend being an employee. You have to become something more. You need to become an Entrepreneur.

The ABC’s And Some Times D’s of Success

When I was in college my Dad told me this story. Now just because I site my source does not mean this story is not apocryphal. Apocryphal in this context means anonymous, legendary, and slightly mythical. So does that mean it is not true? Like all good stories this one bears enough truth to be worth retelling.

The real question is this, “Is the story true for you?”

Only you will know the answer to that.

abcd_of_success

My father was the first child in his family, possibly his gene pool even, to get a college degree. Growing up in Detroit in the 60’s, my father attended the one school which would not only admit him, but pay for his tuition to become an engineer; General Motor’s Institute in Flint Michigan.

Now named Kettering University, GMI was founded in 1919 as the School of Automobile Trades. It was renamed to GMI in 1926. General Motors allegedly hired 80 to 90 percent of GMI’s graduates for decades. As my father relayed the story, it was this prolonged hiring from one institution that inspired someone at GMI to ask the question, “Was there any correlation between grades and performance on the job?”

In other words, did success at school predict career success? In the book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman conveyed that “success in education only predicted success in education”. There was very little correlation between grades and life. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discussed a similar study done by the University of Michigan Business School. The Michigan study revealed that selection criteria (high school results) did not predict B-School graduate life success. Most people took away from Outliers that you need 10,000 hours to master any skill, but I took away that the opportunity to achieve 10,000 hours of mastery is more important than the skill or the time spent getting it. If we use grades to determine who gets an opportunity to succeed, we might be missing some of our most valuable and talented people. What’s more, if you are disqualifying yourself from trying something hard because you don’t have the grades or the qualifications, you might doing yourself an enormous disservice.

Predicting human future performance is always tricky. The GMI situation however study was unique because so many people from the same school went into the same company and stayed there for so long. What’s more, they performed mostly the same job. That is an unusually high number of variables to remain constant for such a long period of time.

GMI also had one other unusual distinction, at least as far as modern day college graduates are concerned. GMI awarded degrees not only to A, B, and C students. It was also possible to receive a degree if you earned a D. That’s right, they gave degrees to people who were below average. Apparently, below average was still not failing, and therefore worthy of a degree.

It is hard to even conceive of such a thing today, and technically speaking they did not use letter grades. My father translated the old GMI point system into letter grades to make it more understandable for my sister and I. However, they definitely had four clear demarkations which could result in your earning a degree; A-Excellent, B- Above Average, C-Average, and D-Below Average.

So what did the study discover? Did grades accurately predict career success? The short answer was yes, but not the way most people would expect. Convention says the A students would be top executives, the B students would end up in middle management, and the C students would be in the rank and file, and the D’s, well surely they must be sweeping the floor or no longer employed right?

The actual results were somewhat surprising. The top performing group (by career success) did not come from the A students. The A’s were good employees, but did not prove to be exceptional in the work place. The C students proved average was average. No the top leaders came from the B’s and the D’s. What? How could that be? It seemed the A students excelled at applying proven solutions but could not seem to develop them while the B students tended to be the most socially active and therefore possessed valuable skills that were not easily captured by grades.

But what of those D’s? How could they be successful?

The answer comes from two ungraded traits they demonstrated. First, they were so creative they barely fit the constraints of a rigidly formed education. They were non-conformists. They chaffed at the rigors of school. But they did not flunk out thanks to trait number two. They were so stubborn they wouldn’t quit. Imagine someone intelligent, creative, and relentless. What kind of person barely gets by but refuses to quit? That kind of stubborn determination in the face of incredible odds proved to be exactly the ingredients GM needed to solve the kind of problems no one had ever solved before.

When you had a problem with no answer in the back of the book, you needed a problem solver who was creative, and unwilling to quit until they worked it out. Enter your ’D’s.

But is it true?

I never tried to find the study or any evidence of it, but in my own experience, the story rang true. Some of the most brilliant and successful people I have had the privilege of working with in the video game industry fit this template. Many had a GED, but never graduated from college. They are creative, intelligent, unconventional, and easily bored. But more than anything they were tenacious. They created technologies other people could barely comprehend. Perhaps most important of all they were not too proud to learn from anyone or anything. They were driven by their vision for what must be done, tirelessley committed to making it happen.

My father once told me that he got a C in high school, a B in college, and an A in life.

I would add, “the grade you give yourself is far more important than any grade handed to you by someone else”.

An E3 Story

We are in Los Angeles for E3. E3 is always exciting and fun, but it has had a strange history.

Here’s what I experienced as a video game studio executive.

When I first got to Rainbow we were the kids at the back of the pack. Jumping up and down, we were outsiders. People knew who Rainbow was, but no one really wanted to see us. Then, Rainbow Shipped Motocross Madness and things changed. People wanted to speak to us. So we were invited to go to E3.

People started bringing us into closed door meetings. That we were working on Motocross 2 didn’t hurt. Microsoft treated us well and showed the game off for the press. E3 was a gas because you always needed to produce a working version to impress people. In some ways, in many ways, E3 was more stressful than launch. You had to take all of this stuff months before it was ready and make it look gorgeous and fun. The playable part was the hardest.

Somewhere along the way, we went from the back of the pack kids to the front of the pack. Publishers wanted to see us before we got to E3. They would fly out to meet us. Yes we would still have closed door meetings at E3, invited to every party at E3, but now people were talking about buying the studio. Eventually the studio was sold to THQ and then we became insiders in a different way. We watched as THQ would setup their million dollar booths. They would create these elaborate stages and platforms to show games. It was all exciting, it was all cool, but what was it all for? As developers we never really asked that question. We were just excited to be there. We wanted to show off our game, win some awards (hopefully), impress the press and win some fans. But most of all we wanted to have a big party, geek out on our favorite games (the ones we weren’t making) and check out what everyone else was going.

E3 was nothing if not electric.

Then a funny thing happened. Right about the time I left development to start my own company, E3 STOPPED. Cold. They just stopped doing it. I have heard a lot of rumors as to what happened, from too many fan boys were coming, to the show got too big. On the day of E3 I will now add my own speculation to the mix.

By 2006 a couple of interesting things were happening in the industry. First you have to ask yourself, what is E3 for? What purpose did it serve? E3’s primary purpose was to sell games to retailers. It’s secondary purpose was to build demand via the journalists attending the event.

If you have ever been to Toy Fair in New York, you know what I am talking about. It is a massive exhibition to help the many thousands of retailers know what to buy in the coming months. Much like video games, the toy industry is an industry that makes the lionshare of its revenue in the 4th quater.

Even today Toy Fair caters to many many retailers. Even my company, GameTruck qualifies as a specialty retailer. We have meetings with toy companies. But in the video game industry Walmart changed everything. While E3 was getting bigger and bigger, the retail industry was consolidating.

When Walmart entered the video game industry, they told a friend of mine, “We will be 30% of the video game industry revenue in three years.” He laughed. Who would go to Walmart to buy video games. The answer? America. Within three years Walmart represented 40% of video game industry sales. And Walmart buyers rarely leave Bentonville. In short, they don’t go to E3.

In a very short amount of time, nearly half the buying capacity of the industry did not travel West to Las Angeles for a video game show. Those buyers expected you to pay them a visit. The story I mentioned about how Publishers started to come visit us ahead of E3, played out with all the major retailers, and the journalists as well.

If your sales team was going to make a trip to Bentonville, then they had better hit Minneapolis the homeland of Target to pay them a visit as well. In the mid 2000’s 80% of video game retail counted on just 10 accounts. Woa be to the major publisher who did not lavish attention on those accounts before E3.

But there was more. The rise of the successful movie video game meant that the really large licensors had to bring more properties to bear to get shelf space for their video games. DreamWorks would make custom videos featuring Shrek for the Walmart Channel. Those efforts were not cheap or easy.

And they did the same thing with the Press. For the making of ATV OffRoad Fury 2, Sony flew out journalists from every major magazine, we rented race quads (not an easy task) and fitted everyone out in custom uniforms from our gear sponsors that went into the games. This was not a cheap day, but it was an absolutely blast riding quads in the desert.

If you are spending time at the retailers office, and you take the press out on fancy junkets with the developers to get early playable looks at the video games… what exactly are you doing at E3? And who exactly are you talking to?

That became the core problem with E3. Companies were spending millions, and I mean, Milllions of dollars on booths, and demos, and space to show their games… to fans? To the smallest possible buyers and the press not important enough to visit?

I heard that EA was the one who pulled out first. Followed by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. With the anchor booths gone the whole show evaporated nearly overnight. That lead to the year of no E3.

I think most people realized pretty quickly that was a mistake, but the reasons were not so obvious. So the show organizers went to the big dogs and said, what do you need? On the one hand, they felt they needed to return the show to a true industry event. It was becoming like comicon, but the costs had also grown way out of control.

So they arranged the event at Santa Monica. That addressed some of the problems, but from what I could tell – it did not address the real problem created by the absense of a big E3. Excitement. The video game industry as an entertainment industry thrives on excitement. E3 was the one time a year when the entire industry came together and companies like Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft could throw their corporate muscle behind having fun.

Having one place where virtually every developer, every executive, every staff member of every level shows up to look at everyone elses games – was valuable, but perhaps the single most valuable thing? Auditoriums full of cheering video game fans to announce your products to. There is an energy around a large audience anticipating a major announcement. You just can’t get that kind of energy from a conference room with 30 people or an auditorum full of staff told they have to be there.

E3 has become a cultural platform, a stage where the industry tries to convince themselves they have created something that will entertain the world. While expensive, the feedback they get from this process is invaluable. No in store demo, no card board merchandising rack can generate the level of excitement a well constructed booth can create at E3.

In many ways, E3 is where video games are really born to the world. They come out of hiding, they are dressed up to be as beautiful as possible and they tell us the future is bright. And I don’t know anyone who travels to E3 not expecting to buy that bright future.

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The One Thing And Impact Areas

Jay Papasan presents The One Thing.

This week I was able to attend an amazing presentation by Jay Papasan about his latest book, co-authored with Gary Keller called, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

The associated website http://the1thing.com has some great resources where you can download, including most of the graphics from the book. I had the chance to ask Jay why they felt their was room for another time management book. He explained they were creating a course for the Realestate business and that Gary had written an outstanding 12 page intro to the course. “When I saw it, I thought, this needs to be a book.” Five years later they were on the New York times best seller list.

The One Thing and Impact Areas

When I compare this book with the time keeping advice in Chet Holmes “Time Management Secrets of Billionaires,” I find a useful tool for staying on task. For me, the key is to have a clear list of impact areas, key areas of your business, personal, and community life. It is a bit like keeping 6 or 7 different lists, but the within each list do you have a top priority.

During his presentation, Jay talked about having 7 bubbles, or domains you need to keep in balance. But for each one, do you know the most important thing?

Prioritizing lists is not new, but I loved the way Jay said put it. “You can not live in complexity.” Extraordinary success can be achieved through exceptional focus. The ideas in the One Thing help me focus on my Impact Areas. These impact areas help me (and my team) focus on what is important to drive the success of my business.

Having spent time with a number of time management strategies, including Getting Things Done, Stephen Covey’s weekly time blocks, and Chet Holmes Time Management Secrets of Billionaires, I have found the process I am able to apply most consistently is:

  1. Make a list of 6 things I need to do daily.
  2. Prioritize my daily list.
  3. Do the hardest thing first, early in the day.

How do I keep track of ALL the things I need to do? Two steps.

  1. Weekly check my list of impact areas and goals.
  2. Keep separate notepads for each impact area.

— Scott

How To Shoot Video That Does Not Suck – doesn’t suck.

How to shoot video that doesn’t suck – doesn’t suck

It is quite the opposite in fact.  Another audio book from Audible, author Steve Stockman does an amazing job of reading his own every entertaining and informative work.  He brings it alive with clever pauses, smart tonality, and lively emphasis in all the right places.  The man knows how to deliver entertainment.  However, more than that he knows how to give you quick smart tips that will make your video shooting, editing, and final product immediately better.
 

My personal experience applying Steve’s tips is that they made an immediate impact on my own videos in a relatively short period of time.  Here are just a few of the suggestions that made the biggest difference for me:

  • Think in shots.
  • Keep your shots short.   I have found 2,3,4 and 5 seconds are best.  He suggests nothing should be longer than 10 seconds.
  • Shorter is almost always better.  In Everything.
How did that effect my videos?
Steve tells us that the eye is constantly scanning, looking wherever our interest takes us.  However, with video you can only look where the camera points.  Therefore we get bored quickly.  Using many short shots to show even the same information from different angles can stimulate the eyes and the brain in the way a long static shot can not.  
 
My experience was that when I handed my first couple of “short shot” videos to friends, they did not look away.  They watched the entire thing through without taking their eyes off the screen.  I can’t say I’ve ever had that happen before.  By giving my audience lots of different views of largely the same scene, they have more visual variety and they were more entertained and engaged.
 
His book is loaded with many many more tips, and his first dozen key ideas alone are worth the cost of the book, but if you don’t have a subscription to Audible you should check it out now.  Steve is extremely entertaining and worth a listen.  
 
— Scott
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Stars and Strikes – Good Read

I just finished reading stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein is an interesting tour through baseball history. Recommended to me by friend and fellow baseball fanatic John Bodow, Stars and Strikes tells the story of Baseball during Americas Bicentenial.

Stars and Strikes

I find it gives me a strange feeling to have lived long enough to read about “historical” events that occurred during my own life time. As I read the book, Dan recounts popular music “I loved Boston!” and popular players – I recallgoing to see The Bird pitch. I realize Mr. Epstein also grew up in Detroit and through his book we are sharing memories of our childhood. Well, I am not sharing mine with him, but he is rekindling mine.

He is also adding more background, flavor, and perspective than I would have had at 10 years old. Yes it is hard to believe the Bicentenial was nearly 40 years ago. I still vivedly remember putting red white and blue crey-paper in the spokes of my bike and hand crafting a long coat. I don’t know where my mom found the triangular hat – but they were every where that year.

She probably found it at K-Mart (No one had heard of Walmart or Target in 76). There were parades, and fireworks, and picnics. That was the summer I learned how to cut through a cheap steak on a paper plate with a plastic fork.

As for the book it is a pleasing blend of baseball and history. I will grant you that it does get a bit tedious when he recounts much of what was happening in some games. I just don’t enjoy reading baseball statistics for players I have never heard of. However, I found it easy to skim those parts and get to the real story – my story, the story of growing up in the mid 70’s.

Seventy Six was important for another reason. This was the last year of the reserve clause, the year before Free agency became a thing. This was the last time baseball players made salaries people could relate to. Personally I am glad for the athletes. There should be no cap on what someone can earn.

However, this book puts a perspective on an era that is otherwise impossible to remember or relate to.
If you are a fan of baseball, and you can recall the Bicentennial then I highly recommend this read.

Franchise Concepts – Pizza 585

Clever Concepts – Pizza 585

I have no idea if this is going to work, but that is beside the point. When I first started GameTruck one of the first things someone asked me when we started to talk about franchising was, “Is it Pizza?” I was taken aback. “No,” I replied quickly. “Good,” The advisor replied. “I never want to hear another Pizza Pitch.”

That question reminded me of a time when I was sitting in a meeting with a very young vice president of Autodesk in England. At the time I thought the guy was ancient as I was only 24 and he was… like 30 or something. One foot in the grave.

We were peddling a software add on to AutoCAD called GTXRasterCAD. It let you scan your drawings and convert them into editable blue prints. At the time that was like magic. But the Vice President demanded, “It’s not a tablet is it?” He had seen a thousand tablet pitches. There was zero chance of standing out.

Every day entreprenuers face the impossible challenge of creating something new and familiar. If you make something that is too far outside peoples everyday experience, you have built yourself a problem. It’s called “Concept awareness.” Tivo suffered from this. People loved the device – the digital video recorder – but they could not evangalize it. Customers would say things like, “It lets you watch more TV!” Who the hell wants to watch more TV? The people who would most benefit from a Tivo did not understand what it was. They were not familiar with the concept. Today we take it for granted that you can pause live TV and rewind it, or skip the commercials, or record a thousand shows, but when Tivo came out, concept awareness was a major hurdle.

And then you go to the other extreme. We all know what Pizza is. How do you create innovation in Pizza? Or sandwhiches for that matter? This is one of the reasons I admire Jimmy John’s so much. They demonstrated there is still room for innovation in sandwhich shops. They demonstrated there is tremendous room to innovate if you can be new and familiar at the same time.

Pizza585

That brings me back to Pizza 585. A few weeks back I wrote about the Fractured Prune, a donut shop built upon the Cold Stone Cremery model. Well, welcome to Pizza 585 (much better name by the way). It is a pizza, pasta, salad joint built on the Subway model.

It is a clever innovation on two familiar principles. First, that people want choice, and secondly, that they need to move people fast. Here’s the concept. You walk up to the counter, order your pizza and you have unlimited toppings (sound fammiliar?). They take your personal 10 inch pizza and cook it in 5 minutes.

That is not a type-o. Five Minutes

How?

Because the crusts are thing, the toppings are precooked. They essentially figured out that a pizza can be little more than toast with melted cheese on top. Their oven is designed to toast and broil simultaneously. Have you ever seen toast that takes longer than 5 minutes to make? Or cheese that takes longer than 5 minutes to melt in a broiler?

But the real magic is what I could call the YC Mongolian effect after my good friend and owner of YC’s. He talked about one of the best things is how people love to share their meals. They are proud of what they make. Pizza 585 plays on that idea. By having a wide range of base ingredients, Pizza 585 makes your pizza interesting, something you want to share. “here try a bite of mine!” the kids all said after their pies came out. Everyone was different. Every pizza delicious. It was more than eating, it was sharing.

The addition of Pasta and Salads were in hind-sight obvious. All the things we love on a Pizza also taste great on a Salad, or a pasta for that matter. What is Pizza sauce? It’s Pasta sauce on flat bread!

The pricing is spot on with what you would pay for a sub sandwhich.

Does this mean they will be successful?

I have no idea. Jimmy Johns has become a national phenomena as stores explode all over the United States. Jimmy Johns “So fast you’ll freak” gives them another amazing advantage. They have unbelievable throughput. They can move people through their lines. Consequently their revenue per square foot is unbelievable. What’s more, they have conditioned their clientel to keep moving. They won’t kick out out, but the vibe is get it, eat it, go. This churn gives them a fantastic revenue model. According to their latest FDD the average store can do $100,000 a month in revenue. That’s the average.

So will 5 minute pizzas make 585 a hit?

I am sure the owners will settle for just being profitable. But it’s too early to tell. What I do know is that it is the first new concept in Pizza I have seen in a long time, and that alone makes it worth checking out.

Clunkdroid- Why does Android Still Feel Unfinished?

Is it Just Me?  Or does Android still feel unfinished?

Recently I had to switch to owning a connected a google device for one simple reason.  I needed my Google Calendar when I was on the road.  I don't know what's going on or why, but my Apple Calendar will not sync with my Google Calendar and we pretty much run our whole company on Google Apps (gmail, calendar, docs). 

While  I could use the google iOS apps, for reasons unknown I am required to login every, single, time.  This is a huge problem for me as I use a complex password with lots of symbols.  Try typing a 16 character (4×4) password with symbols and case changes on an iOS keyboard.  It's PAINFUL to impossible.

Therefore, I went to the AT&T store and they tried a couple of things, but nothing seemed to produce the consistent sync I need.  This has been made worse given a recent change in the way we operate.  Our new task management process relies heavily on Calendar scheduling.  So not having my schedule has become a very real problem.

The most cost effective mobile solution for me is the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 eight inch tablet.  While the Galaxy Note phone looks appealing, the cost is more than twice as much ($700 instead of $300) and the monthly charge is was < 1/4 – about $15 a month to add to our business plan instead of $65 for a new phone line.  So here I sit and type. 

It works.  Mostly.

Well, the number one critical feature I needed works like a Champ.  I can get my Google calendar but with one caveat.  The Samsung application does not fully sync with google either.  So the default calendar from Samsung is almost completely useless.  Changes made to the default calendar app do not propegate through the Calendar ecosystem.

Despite that, I now have reliable email and Calendar for the road.  But what about my other critical apps?

The quality of Apps for iOS really seems to outshine Android.  I have not one, but 3 decent Markdown editors on my iPad.  My favorite right now is Editorial because of the power it has to format your markdown into HTML you can paste into web apps like WordPress and so on.  ByWord is another classic editor that is extremely powerful.  What I really like about both of them is

  • They format the markdown in the text.
  • They have lots of options like setting the font size, or saving to dropbox.

These features really make these applications easier to use.  The formatting is like syntax highlighting.  It's eye-candy, does not change the actual content but helps you catch mistakes in real time. 

The options like setting font sizes let older folks like me concerned with eye strain pick a comfortable font.  The linking to DropBox gives me confidence I can get my files later from another device.

On Android?  Not only are there very few markdown editors, not a single editor offers all three of these features.  Writely Comes close, but they don't support indocument formatting.  Writer supports in document formatting, however you are stuck with their "font for 18 year olds", and no linking to an external service.

Given the sheer number of Android devices in the world it is shocking that more apps are not available.

Device Compatibility

So I have my shiny new state of the art Android device, but I kid you not, two apps I went to download right away had warnings that the apps were not compatible with my device.  Seriously?

In another review, the app maker complained that they could not garunatee their app would work in the future.  They already supported 1,200 devices.  With all the changes they had no idea if they would or could support what ever new things came along.

Nice.

Is Android a Viable Market for Independent Develpers?

The other challenge with Android devices is that because they are cheap, so are many of the clients.  Apple users pay a lot.  They expect to.  But this also means they will pay for quality.  I have never seen one, but I would love to see a comparison if Android software developers actually can make any money.  The numbers are huge so I would assume so, but I don't understand why there are so few quality apps that maximize the latest hardware.  Even Microsoft seems to understand that when you release new tech there should be marquee apps to give you reasons to buy the newer hardware. 

This seems lost in the Android space.  My Samsung tablet has an absolutely amazing screen.  And yet most of the games play at a very low resolution and look terrible.  That is hardly what I would think either Samsung or Google would want – their latest tech looking bad.  But I don't know why that is.  I think I take it for granted what Apple has built.

On the surface, they are so similar, but just below that shallow surface is a depth of features and quality that only seems to exist in the Apple-sphere. 

I can go on, the list of applications that are available on my iOS and work flawlessly that I can find no equivalent of on the Android.  There are a few notable exceptions, mostly business and productivity apps like Everynote, and Todoist, but where is Solebon the outstanding solitaire game for iOS?  Or how about Textastic?  And while it gets slammed more often than not, I would love to have Safari on my Samsung.  I long for a browser that does not freeze during page loads or jump around constantly as it rerenders the page adverts during loads.

Stanford Baseball

Stanford is an amazing place to visit and thia weekend Ryan and I travelled to Palo Alto to visit the Cardinal High School baseball camp.

Stanford Baseball Camp Impressions

So the first thing we noticed when we arrived and walked the campus is the pristine state of everything.  The color schemes, the landscaping, nary a blade of glass was out of place nor a spot of dirt appeared on any building.  Stanford is Disney quality presentation in education.  This seems consistent with Palo Alto’s understated wealth.  No SUVs and Big Trucks here – it’s Teslas and McLarens.  It is hard to comprehend the scale of wealth in this tiny community.

Perhaps this puts it in perspective for a Nationally ranked school that just won the Presidents cup for top athletic program in the country for 20 straight years (1994 to 2014), they only admit 1 in 20 applicants.  The total underclass population is just 7,000 compared to ASU’s 98,000.  And yet the campus feels larger, better maintained and everything about the place feels absolutely top notch.

Stanford leaves you with the impression that this is what excellence looks and feels like.  Palo Alto reminds you that the world will pay top dollar for excellence. 

Sunken Diamond

The Sunken Diamond is among the most beautiful baseball facilities I have been in.  Klein field is intimate and understated but don’t let the trees fool you, there are top notch facilities tucked into this park like campus just out of sight.  The coaches here had no problem deploying 260 ball players to fields, and cages around the campus.   What is more they kept them busy.

The Camp

This is a very interesting camp because of the kinds of players it attracts.  Actually, it’s also about the kinds of coaches it attracts.  More than 40 college coaches help with the camp and every ivy league school except Yale is present. 

image

I actually was able to ask the coach from Harvard how the “Call Me Maybe” Effected their program.  He explained that it was a bit of a headache for his staff because they played that song everywhere they went.  A group of seniors and juniors scripted the video and put it online and it went viral.  The University and Athletic department loved the exposure it generated, however the rival schools had fun with it too.

Big and Talented

Coach Stots, the former head coach for Stanford Baseball for nearly 4 decades opened the camp with an entertaining and energetic speach.  He pointed out that of the 260 ball players – 11% play college at a D1 level.  Of those, only 6% are drafted into the minors.  Of those, only 3% play ONE DAY on the pros.  Getting a college education from baseball is a fantastic opportunity and well worth it.

And yet, I believe a camp like this sorts for the players that are most likely to attend a D1 school and play.  And wow are these kids big.  Most of them are in the six foot one to six foot two range.  There are a slug of kids over six three and a very few below six foot (guess what?  They are wicked fast and they can hit).  But this is what division one ball players look like.  Big, fast, and talented. 

According to Coach Stots there are two kinds of recruit.  Talent and Technique.  Talent, six foot four.  Hits the ball over the fence with a flick of the wrist, throws the ball 100 miles per hour.  There are very few of those.  The rest are technique.  They have some talent.  They have been well coached, and these coaches are looking for players who can fit their program.