September 22, 2014

The Number 1 Rule of Any Meeting

The Number 1 Rule of Any Meeting

It seems like weeks since I last wrote something on here. Oh wait, it HAS been weeks. Work has gotten hectic and I’ve been running meeting over meeting, to the point I started to notice where is that most meetings fail, and how to improve them to a whole new level with focus on just getting things done. Time and task management is a real, solid need in my company so we can’t really waste any time with meetings which are less than straight to the point and time-efficient.

So, picture this in your mind: you’re sitting in a meeting which, on paper, makes totally sense, but sooner than later you notice how things start going off track, things fall into chit-chatting and you suddenly find yourself sitting back at your desk with the same doubts you had at the beginning of the meeting.

You do remember the reasons of the meeting, but you’re not so sure all the answers have been given. Who’s to blame? Well, not sure about that, I believe it’s a mistake which is very common in startups or generally unexperienced entrepreneurs / managers. One thing though worked for me and my company, and that’s the #1 rule of each of our meetings since several months:

Before the start of every meeting, decide what problem you want to address

I strongly believe a meeting should be focused around one single subject, even if you “attack” several sides of it. For example, we had a meeting just today about an eLearning platform we are developing and even though we discussed many aspects of it, the main subject remained the same. If you include too many things to talk about in a single meeting you’ll end up sitting for hours and having your head fuzzy when you’re done. Is it really useful to do it like this? I don’t think so and this way proved itself much more time-efficient.

With this approach, it’s not uncommon to have 2-3 meetings in a single day, but when they are all 20-minutes meetings you really don’t feel them as a burden.

In our eLearning meeting the “problem” was deciding how to do things, in what timeframes and who to assign each task to.

Before the end of every meeting, ask yourself: has the problem been addressed?

This is the key point! Too many times we used to get back to work with a sense of “vagueness” (not sure that’s even a word) and uncertainty. Now I ask this question, and if the answer is “yes”, we can go back to work, otherwise, something’s wrong and we address it immediately.

In the eLearning example, the answer was an enthusiastic “yes”, and everyone’s merry and happy.

Mind you, this is a very practical suggestion which I am sure many of you won’t agree with (especially the “one-meeting-one-subject” part) but I can assure you it works.

Just give it a go and let me know.

The Importance of Being an Intern

The Importance of Being an Intern

During the years we have been particularly lucky with our interns, even if we didn’t really have many due to how things work here in Italy.

I have read a lot about how it is like in the US and the “traps” many entrepreneurs fall into when dealing when internship, and thanks to that I always managed to be quite ok at it.

The big occasion to write about this is the successful graduation (with top grades, I add) of our latest intern, Giulia Borri, who I also featured in a previous video we released (and she did much better than the other guys, too!). And since her final dissertation is about one of our projects, it was actually pretty nice to attend to.

When talking about internship, there are several keypoints to consider and quite some pitfalls to avoid in order to make the whole experience profitable for both ends. It’s far too easy to fall in the temptation of abusing your interns for the stupidest tasks or just end up giving them far too much responsibility, ending up in a huge mess.

Learn to Recognize the Value

It’s essential to understand what kind of advantage your business can have from interns in first place, beyond the simple concept of having 1 more person. In fact, if you don’t know how to use this new person, it will be exactly like not having him/her in first place.

Since most interns we had came from universities, we learnt to put the emphasis on what they know rather than assuming they are clueless, which is a typical mistake many managers do. Interns aren’t some mass of clay you can shape, but they come with a luggage of knowledge you might find useful, especially if you – as you should – get your internship deals done with university courses compatible with your niche of business and if you have your ideas very clear about what you want.

They are a valuable external opinion on your business, and believe me, if you run your company since year like we do, you kinda lose track of what it looks like from the outside. Entrepreneurs often commit the capital sin of believing everyone think like them, so external eyes are extremely valuable in order to overcome this common mistake.

Additionally, interns can become your best evangelists, if they learn to understand, appreciate and love what your company does, trust me, it’ll show in what they do, and every additional person talking awesome about you and your business helps a lot nowadays.

Don’t Be Shy

Especially, don’t be shy about using your interns. Don’t underestimate them or assume they won’t be up to the task, and don’t assume they don’t care and they just want to get it done to get their course credits.

This of course doesn’t mean they are good for ALL tasks. You should evaluate carefully how much responsibility they can take, and in what context. Don’t exaggerate, but also, if they do screw up or severely underperform, hold them responsible and don’t just go like it doesn’t matter – it’s not kindergarten anymore.

This is the best advice I can give you: an intern is never going to be a substitute for an employee. Don’t give them tasks they have to complete on their own just because they are employee-class tasks no one wanted to get done, in order to do it they will need to be supervised at least initially, something that’s too often forgotten. Interns shouldn’t be recipient for boring tasks, so to say.

Last but not Least, Help Them Out!

After all, they need your help in order to succeed, so by all means, give it to them. If they choose to base their final dissertation on something related to your business, all the better, that can really be an important marketing tool for your company.

Eventually, just remember this simple motto: let’s not both waste our time. If you can help your intern and your intern can help you, that’s the perfect relationship and one you should facilitate as much as you can.

Why Your Business Deserves to Party Once in a While (And How to Make a Kick-Ass One)

Net Style 10 Years Party Music Mixer

That’s the second post in a row I dedicate to our 10 years birthday party, ok maybe I am exaggerating but what the heck, I managed to make something useful out of it so I am gonna share it.

If you run a business, chances are you don’t have much time to celebrate, go out, party, generally have fun outside of your work environment. We are the same, that’s why every now and then we throw parties in our office space (which kinda resembles a lounge bar, if you haven’t noticed).

Last Friday was the 10th birthday of our web design business unit, so what better chance to organize something epic?

You’re probably thinking organizing a party is something futile, an unnecessary waste of money and resources, but I am here to prove you wrong!

Why You Should Party More Often

Remember that in business it’s always important to celebrate the smallest of victories, mainly because you won’t win every day, and also ’cause small celebration can boost the performance of your whole team. Meeting your work colleagues in a non-work environment (or in a non-work mindset, if you share the same environment like in our party) is good to cement the bonds between the various team members, and it’s good to loosen up those stiff dudes you never see smile.

Additionally, if the party is important enough and you will invite clients, prospects or partners, you have a chance to befriend them beyond the working relationship, which can prove very beneficial to your future affairs.

A party can be an awesome chance to present a new line of products or services, like we did during our opening party last year. It will boost your brand especially locally (which never hurts, particularly since Net Style was born as a local brand anyway, and has most of its current business based on local companies). If done right, it will also show the eclectic side of your company, not just able to get the job done professionally but also to apply its organization skills to something more frivolous.

Be Careful Though

Not every party is born right and some can end up pretty badly, depending how you do things, and what kind of people you end up inviting. If you invite only your close friends and they all take the chance to get some free booze, things aren’t gonna be quite as professional as you’d hope for.

Realistically, any reasonable party will have a less than reasonable amount of alcoholic drinks. I know it’s easy to be tempted and behave like you’re at a night out with friends, but resist! Limit your drinking or the clients/prospects/partners you invited aren’t gonna be much impressed with your social skills. Remember that in these modern times it’s very much likely that a lot of people will be taking pics on their phones or cameras. These pics will broadcast you and your business on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and whatnot. You really don’t wanna appear drunk out of your mind in any of them, it’s your business organizing the party and “branding” it, so to say.

Another thing to avoid is to fall in the “good memories trap”, where most of the following days are spent discussing how awesome the party was and how good everything went. I remember that we talked about our opening party for 2 weeks afterwards, and this had dramatic side-effects on our productivity (ok I am dramatizing the situation here, but I made my point clear I guess).

We learnt from our mistakes and now we limit the post-party chit-chat to the morning after, with the occasional laugh in the following days but no epic gathering to see pics and videos for weeks, we’re over that fortunately (and anyway everything goes live on Facebook practically in real-time).

The Perfect Guide to the Perfect Party

I am sure this is the part of this post you were all waiting for – if not, please keep feeding my illusion.

So, what did I learn from organizing my company’s parties? Let’s divide this into steps:

1. Prepare the Place

If you make an office party, you really don’t want people near any of its operative areas. Close their access as good as you can, and make it clear that’s no party ground. Move away anything valuable you have from the actual party floor, and arrange the rest in a crowd-friendly way.

We usually split our sofa into… sub-sofas so people can sit on them. And we spread every chair of our office around as well to provide more “sitting material”.

2. Drinks

I guess you’ll want to stock up on alcoholic drinks, and that’s fine. But remember people will want normal stuff too. We usually get orange juice, apricot juice, pear juice, ice tea, coke and lemon soda. For the “soft” drinks part, we go with classic spumante wine (Italian sparkly white wine), both sweet and dry.

The alcoholic part depends on your country I guess, just focus on 3-4 popular drinks and buy ingredients for those, it’s not gonna be a real bar so you can’t expect to serve people everything they want, they will have to adapt a bit.

Get plastic glasses, the transparent bigger kind, and straws, lots of them, the rigid, wider kind that you will cut in half so they won’t stick out of the glasses too much.

Fundamental thing: ICE. Lots of ice, both to keep things cool and to limit the amount of stuff you pour in a glass. And, drinks taste just so much better with ice in your glass.

It doesn’t hurt of course to have a dedicated barman, he doesn’t have to a pro ’cause everyone can learn to make those 3-4 drinks we were talking about, plus people will soon tend to serve their own (which can lead to disasters, but it depends on you, really). And if he’s picky as our barman, he will ask you those fancy dosing caps (or whatever they are called), they are cheap so just get them and make him happy.

3. Food

I know you’ll be tempted to organize a full catered party, but don’t bother. Especially if it’s an after-dinner party, simple snacks will do. Chips and nuts come to mind, but at least here in Italy we have cocktail snacks (crackers-like small salted cookies, of all kind and shape) and they will do just fine.

Be sure to include plastic plates and lots of paper napkins and you’ll be good to go.

4. Kids

No, this doesn’t mean you should serve kids. Just be aware that, if kids will be present and the party, they will bored out of their mind following their parents around. If you have a way to keep them entertained things will go much smoother. We had just one kid at our party and he was more than happy to play with the… well I really don’t know how to call it in english, but here’s a picture of it:

Net Style 10 Years Party Soccer Kid

With THAT! Yeah he liked it.

5. Music

No party is a party without music. You can either use an iPod or have someone play the DJ and put music on. I like to do that, so I did that under my fake identity:

Net Style 10 Years Party Music

Whatever is your choice, size your speakers wisely. Of course you can’t ever go too big, but be sure not to go too small. Nobody likes computer speakers desperately trying to play decently, so don’t even think about it and get something good (of course it helps when your CEO’s dad owns a music instruments store, but sshh).

6. Clean Your Mess

Yes folks, be ready to spend the next day cleaning, or actually, starting from the after-party. You will want to at least sort out the leftover drinks, glasses spread all around ready for someone to bump on them and have the contents spilled all across the floor. You don’t want that, the floor will be messy as it is already, trust me.

Put trash cans wherever you can, people won’t use them but at least you’ll have an excuse to blame them. If you manage to secure leftover drinks and food immediately after the party, you’ll have half the job done.

But the next morning, that’ll be a battle field. We do have a cleaning service on mondays, so we could let it slide, but we usually clean the hard stuff on our own not to have the cleaning lady explode in desperation. 20 minutes of mopping and everything’s good to go.

Net Style 10 Years Party Group

I hope this helped clear your mind about the good (and bad) of organizing a company party. Did you have similar experiences? Do you have other suggestions you’d like to share? Making a “business party for dummies” eBook doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.

And if you want more pics, here comes the Flickr set for the party.

10 Years of Ideas: Happy Birthday Net Style

10 Years of Ideas: Happy Birthday Net Style

This is going to be an unusual post, but since it’s an unusual event, I would hope I am forgiven. And I hope you’ll also forgive the bazillion links you’ll find in it, but I promise they are all worth your attention.

On April 11th, 2001 the original company I worked for the first time, Net Style, was born.

It all started from the entrepreneurial push of two people, Francesco Marcantoni and Marcello Comanducci (now CEO and CCO, respectively, of Esimple) who decided to make a job out of something they’d been doing for a while, and that meant, back then, websites and marketing materials for businesses like business cards, ads, brochures and so on.

I got on board a couple of months later as a programmer, to start selling dynamic websites (PHP powered), and I remember we were among the first in Italy to offer a self-made CMS for clients to update their websites.

I got a lot of memories of that time, like the small (and I mean, reeally small) office we were initially stationed in, the chaos all around us, computers laying down everywhere on the floor, my initial disgust for Apple computers (I was an idiot back then I admit), the tons of promising prospects turning into charlatans, against whom we were kinda unprepared since we were very new to this world.

And then, 09/11 came, and the shock about the event itself was pumped up by the uncertainty of the economic crisis following it, making 2001 overall not the perfect year to start any business.

Moving to the new office, a relatively big open space taken from one of the meeting halls of the Hotel in which we were located (Marcello’s dad owns the Hotel, yes we were lucky like that). The countless happy times we had there, and the less happy ones (which were always ’cause of external people we met through the years and who showed up to be less than honest).

2008 came, the founding of Esimple with Francesco Gallorini coming onboard as CTO, the launch of our first Web 3D project, Virtuy, our participation as invited guests to 2008’s edition of the SMAU exhibition (the most important IT exhibition in Italy).

And finally, 2010, the new headquartersthe completely incredible opening party, new markets across Europe and Canada, and the acquisition of the poor lil Net Style as an internal business unit to keep the legacy going.

So many moments to be proud of, so much fun, more than a few tears, countless emotions. How to celebrate all this?

Well, with a kick-ass party of course, how else?

On April 15th, we are going to party hard and celebrate these 10 years of ideas, dreams, hopes, successes and why not, failures, because nothing comes up just the way you wanted, and it’s up to us to celebrate even the sad moments as a testament to our growth.

I do realize that you probably live very far away from where we are going to celebrate, but I felt like this post was kind of mandatory. I owe it to Net Style, and I owe it to all of us working hard to make our customers’, our employees’ and our own dreams come a lil more true.

Happy Birthday Net Style, and I hope to celebrate your 20th birthday with a holographic video-post in 2021 (I am thinking ahead, the world will end next year after all, but being positive doesn’t hurt).

5 Good Reasons Why People Really Need to Talk More (and 4 Things to Avoid)

5 Good Reasons Why People Really Need to Talk More (and 4 Things to Avoid)

It is very true that failing (well) is a fertile ground for improvement and personal/business enhancement. And even when you don’t explicitly fail, just recognizing something could be much better, overall, is a very good happening in the life of any business.

I have already written about planning and project management in the past, so you can safely consider this post as a follow-up, another step in the never-ending learning process if you will. One that takes into account all that’s happened around here in the latest months – all good things, no worries – to formulate some additional thoughts on how project management can be truly successful and, most of all, useful to everyone.

Let’s start from the basics.

What is a project? Well to me, a project is “people”. Simple as that, no project can exist without people behind it, otherwise it’s just some pretty writing on a piece of paper (or the electronic equivalent, if you’re modern like that).

And the best thing people can do together is to communicate. Truth is, despite social media being all around us, and everyone striving to be more communicative and open, we tend to communicate less and less in our everyday life. In fact, the biggest obstacle any project manager can face is the lack of communication: between members of the team, between clients and the team, between team and management. Many possible fail-points and each of them can potentially screw everything up for good.

Many Alternatives, Few Solutions

So what are the traditional practices when it comes down to communicating?

Email

Email is still one of the favorite methods when it comes down to business. However, it poses the disadvantage of a lack of real engagement and a poor history management – as it’s not always very easy to navigate through the various stages and replies within a project, especially with many people involved.

Collaboration platforms

I have written about the collaboration platform we use – ActiveCollab – and, while I still believe it seriously kicks ass (and you should seriously try it out), I do recognize it has some limitations regarding true communication which are more intrinsic to the concept of collaboration software itself than specifically to ActiveCollab. For example, it’s not “immediate” enough, you lose the sense of real-time, and in the long run people are less and less encouraged to use it, and tend to give up.

Voicecalls

As in telephone calls, Skype calls and whatnot. Phone is still at the verge of the virtual pyramid of communication methods, but it’s hard to phone between several people (Skype multi-calls are extremely chaotic to me), and it’s hard to keep track of things and decisions in an efficient way.

Videocalls

Sure, it’s good to have some face-to-face contact with people you work with but, honestly, it’s not always comfortable to be stuck for a hour in a videocall, and the disadvantages of voice calls are not solved but even amplified.

So what’s the real solution to all these problems?

Funny enough, it’s about getting back to the basics.

Back to the Root

Let’s get around a table more often. It’s not always possible, but when that happens, a project advances SO much more than in any other way. Why?

1. Real-time engagement

People are facing each other, next to each other, they communicate in a way that’s extremely more natural than any other possible communication method.

2. Eye-to-eye contact

Watching each other in the eyes – be it team members or client-team meetings – holds a value that’s too often underestimated. Emotions, impressions, honest feedback, all those subtle “touches” that other way of communicating ideas simply cannot deliver.

3. Chill-time value

A meeting isn’t always synonymous of an uncomfortable event, it can be a way of relaxing a bit and engaging in a productive conversation, admitting you know how to hold a proper one (more on this later). Relaxing is also a very good way to be more effective and focused on what needs to be done.

4. Accomplishment

The feeling of accomplishment you have when you are done with a meeting – and you do realize progress has indeed been made – is something a simple email or phone call cannot give you.

5. Quick and easy

Nothing’s simpler than just sitting around a table, talking and taking notes. A natural method to address problems and find solutions to them in the simplest way possible.

Is it all roses? Definitely not, you have to pay attention to some key points, especially…

The 4 Most Important Things to Keep an Eye On

1. Time it right, nobody likes to feel like you are wasting their time, have the topics of the meeting clearly outlined at start (better if the attenders know them in advance), stick to them unless something extremely important comes out, and assign a proper timing to each of them, making sure you respect it as much as you can.

2. Know the roles, have the right people attend the right meeting, or you will have around you just people not interested in what you say and you will lack those who truly can make the project advance as it should.

3. Keep the right mood, if the attenders are not receptive, relaxed and open-minded the meeting will go nowhere. Of course this is easy when it comes to your own team (hopefully you have an awesome team), but it’s less guaranteed when you deal with clients, so make sure you prepare them beforehand.

4. Make it resolutive, nothing frustrates people more than a meeting ending in a big fat nothing. A meeting’s ultimate goal is to make a project advance, not just to move people’s lips up and down. A meeting needs to solve problems.

Perhaps I am being too old-school here, uh? Well don’t be too sure of it, even though I have a lot of faith in the future and I keep an eye on all those tools that are currently in the works to address all the problems of traditional communication methods.

I am especially looking forward to a project led by one of Facebook’s co-founders, Dustin Moskovitz, who left it specifically to manage his new startup.

The company is called Asana, and the cooperative software solution they are currently developing really intrigued me when I first read about it:

“In managing and contributing to projects in the past (at Facebook, Google, etc.), we felt frustrated by how much time we spent trying to stay on the same page with everyone (making sure teammates have the information they need, figuring out what everyone’s working on, clarifying priorities, …) and doing “work about work” (progress report emails, meetings, …). We’ve tried email, wikis, whiteboards, Microsoft Project, Google Docs, you name it, and while these are great for lots of things, we found everything suffered from one or both of: [..]” Keep reading here

Maybe they will solve all those problems I addressed before? We’ll see, I’ll be there to check. Or do you have a better idea?

6 Points To Make People Totally Interested In What You Do

6 Points To Make People Totally Interested In What You Do

Wow what a week!

Since last week’s post about our Kinect experiment with Unity3D it’s been a constant buzz about that video, and how we did that, and what are our plans for the future. I confess I expected a general interest to grow around that, but not this awesome feedback, so first of all I want to thank every person who took the time to take a look at our post/video, much appreciated!

This episode gave me inspiration to write this blog post, which is surely less aimed to make you go “wow” (I am sorry guys, but stay tuned next week, the 3D fairies might have whispered me about new incoming experiments coming out, who knows…) and more to make you aware of what – I think – is needed to interest people in what you do in first place.

From my very personal experience, it comes down to one simple rule:

Keep in the loop

What does it mean? Well, a lot of things, actually.

First of all, whatever is your niche of interest (new technologies, in our case):

1. Be Curious

Without curiosity, you have no reason to push through. You’ll be happy with what you have, with no desire to advance, to go one step forward.

2. Keep Yourself Up to Date

Especially if you are in technology as we are, you really have to take all the necessary steps to be always up to date with relevant breakthroughs and news. In our Kinect example, it was thanks to our CEO that we started to experiment with this kind of technology. He follows industry blogs (and mind you, we are also late in that!) and act accordingly if something strikes him.

3. Keep Yourself Knowledgeable

Being up to date doesn’t mean you’ll always know what the news are talking about. If you don’t, read more. Guides, tutorials, HowTo’s, anything that helps you understand something you have no – or very little – knowledge about. That’s the only way not to stay behind, and it’s true in any business.

4. Be Creative

Even if you’re the best at your job and you know everything coming out in your market, you can’t simply do what everyone does and hope you’ll be more successful.

You will have to think different (obvious cite). If you put your own personal touch in what you do, even if it’s something not entirely new, you have much better chances of success than if you just copy others and hope to have more luck. That won’t break through in 99% of the times, trust me.

5. Dare

Simply put, if you don’t dare, you won’t go far. Going back to our Kinect video, we knew it wasn’t mature enough to be totally cool, but we chose to dare, and post some news anyway. It paid back.

When you’re not sure if what you’re doing is ok or not, my personal suggestion is: just do it. Of course not if you have STRONG doubts, but if it’s just a feeling, well, risk it. Without risks, there’s no reward, remember.

6. Build An Awesome Team

I already wrote about this, and it’s something I strongly believe in. In my opinion you can’t realistically hope to be great alone. Sure, it happens, but it’s not the normal way, it’s something extraordinary. A team will help you achieve success, and will cheer with you when you reach it, so it’s a win-win situation.

Some of this will sound pretty “duh” to you, but I think it’s important to have a clear mind before even thinking how to realize something cool, to be part of something truly important, and this is what came to my mind when I really thought about what’s behind what we do, what each member of our team believes in.

What are you doing to make people totally interested in what you do?

Plan, Prioritize, Delegate

Plan, Prioritize, Delegate

I love commenting on other blogs. I am no saint, I don’t love it just because I add value to one’s post – or try to – and I am not a total douche and do it just to build backlinks and promotion for my business/blog. I love to do it particularly because it’s a good mind exercise, it allows you to talk about arguments even slightly off your niche’s track, it forces you to structure your thoughts about that topic and to present it in a meaningful way, for everyone to interpret and, hopefully, to appreciate and comment on.

And it can provide lots of ideas for new posts, like this one.

Last week I was commenting on my friend Mike Nguyen’s blog about time management issues and a nice discussion with him started about these very same issues, not just in your personal life but in a traditional business environment.

It comes out business and personal time management have many traits in common. In both situations I can pretty much distinguish 3 main steps.

1. Plan

Despite the danger of falling in the trap of “overplanning”, you really have to lay down some strategy beforehand.

As I often mention, acting without a plan is like traveling to an unknown destination without a map: you can go on without one for some time, but not for too long.

Planning provides the fundamental advantage of being on top of things all the time, and to keep the big picture always in sight, without falling prey of the small details crowding everyone’s everyday life.

Reading a plan is a lot easier than improvising, like writing a blog post with the aid of a mindmap is a lot easier than writing on the spot.

2. Prioritize

From my experience, one of the fundamental qualities of a leader is the ability to discern the important matters from what is just perceived as important.

Mind you, it’s not an easy task, at all. You will be tempted to consider a detail more important than a real milestone, and this can be dangerous especially when your schedule is well busy.

Prioritizing is a priority – forgive the pun – if you don’t want to get clogged beyond hope.

Even if I believe this quality comes down to experience and, most important, personal inclination – some people really can’t manage this part, I am sorry – there are some suggestions I can give you. First of all, use a GTD software to manage your tasks. Writing them down, in any form, really helps you in visualizing them long enough to at least put them on a “timeline”.

Additionally, a real project management software can bring you to the next step, especially in a cooperative environment.

Keeping things under control in this way allows you to optimize the production process, making sure each task is given the right importance at any given time.

3. Delegate

The worst part of delegating is getting past the primordial fear of letting go. Letting go of your complete, total control over a certain project. It’s very hard, trust me, you feel like it’s gonna slip away from your grasp, and seeing as most managers are control freaks, boy, trouble ensures.

The good news is, through your previous prioritization task you know what can be safely delegated and what needs your undivided attention, because you have a global vision of the whole situation.

I keep saying multitasking is BAD BAD BAD, but parallel production is a big YES. Delegating allows you to be more productive through means of parallel production, many single tasks completing at the same time to build the final goal.

Through delegation, your business becomes scalable and you’ll end up with more time to plan new projects – you want to work as well right? It’s not all delegation!

Last but not least, remember one golden rule of business:

If something doesn’t have a deadline, it will be left behind!

Even tasks which apparently seem more “abstract” can be easily re-intepreted.

As an example, the suggestion I gave Mike about the abstract task “comment on other blogs” can be rewritten as “leave at least 10 meaningful comments a day in other blogs”. That can be measured, that can be tracked.

Are you planning, prioritizing and delegating enough in your business?

The Explosive Power Behind a Simple Question

The Explosive Power Behind a Simple Question

From the apparently silliest of inspirations can come a powerful thought.

I had another post scheduled for today but then this morning, waking up, I started thinking.

Thinking about the fact I don’t have a Twitter button on my blog, but just a Tweetmeme one.

Back in time I thought it was the right thing to do. Tweetmeme was the standard back then, people were used to it. I didn’t need another Tweet button there.

Why not?

I thought, 99% of people are already logged into Twitter when they read my article. Maybe they don’t have a Tweetmeme account – rather, they didn’t authorize Tweetmeme to access their Twitter via oAuth – and maybe they don’t even want to. They are more comfortable using Twitter tools. They are better off using the Twitter button rather than a third party one, which is most likely the reason it was born in first place. But I didn’t think about this the first time, it took me a while, months, to ask the simplest, most explosive and powerful question you can ask in business: why not?

Yes, why not?

I can think of the power of this question in tons of situations, most of them related to my personal experience.

4 years ago there were tons of ecommerce portals out there, when the very term – “portal” – still made sense. Maybe there wasn’t the need for a new one. Then we thought, “why not?”. And from a company exclusively built to manage that portal, a technologic marketing agency was born years later.

The owners of a small company making videogames for third party producers at some point of their business life cycle thought “why not?” and started producing their own games, and the Warcraft franchise was started.

A garage-company rivaled the other computer giants of the time when they thought “why not?” and hand-built the Apple I home computer.

Enzo Ferrari never intended to sell road cars, as his company was born as a sponsor for amateur drivers, but in order to fund it, he thought “why not?” and started producing and selling road cars.

The business – and not just – world is full of “why nots”, and they are probably the most powerful of questions.

It pushes you to the edge.

It questions your status quo.

It forces you to ask yourself more questions, “why am I doing this?”, “what am I willing to achieve?”, “am I happy about this situation?”, “how can I change it and make it better?”.

Smart people ask lots of questions

That’s what I’ve always been told. I am sure you heard it too. Entrepreneurs ask lots of questions – the smart ones, at least.

Through questions we get to know facts, situations, markets, the status of our employees.

Without questions we go on, blindly, with the often wrong assumption everything’s fine and couldn’t go better.

No one to question the situation or to tell us “hey, don’t you see this is wrong?”.

And when someone does, some people look at him suspiciously. A question asked to us in the wrong time is enough to shock us to the point of shattering our illusion, and to make us feel powerless, lost.

That’s why it’s fundamental to ask questions before being forced to answer to them.

Today just stop for a minute, and think of something you’re not satisfied with. Something you feel is wrong in your life but you never had the guts to do anything about. Think of ways you could improve things, to make them better. And then ask yourself, “why not?”.