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Half Pregnant x 9

James Kerr

I bumped into Gary Vaynerchuck (aka Garyvee) in front of the ATM machine at SXSW.  He was just about to hop on stage.  A small group of fans followed him around - like young kids chasing a soccer ball all over the field.  It was kind cool.

Gary's not as abrasive in person as his online persona.  He's actually a friendly, likable good looking guy.  Charm.

In his presentation, Gary covered a range of topics on entrepreneurship.  He answered questions from the audience and gave a few hugs.  His base loves him and he's ready to reciprocate.  

At one point someone started to explain how she was running 3 businesses and was frustrated with slow growth.  Gary cut her short and said,  "When you run three businesses you run none..."

On Medium this morning there was a post from Gary.  He alluded to the dangers of FOMO and young entrepreneurs pursuing too many businesses at the same time.

"You should triple down on one thing instead of being half pregnant on nine."

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.



Humans Acting As Robots

James Kerr

It's hard to tell from this shot, but there are a bunch of people watching this robot.  They are utterly captivated by it.

Whether it's 'real' or not doesn't really matter.  They just want to watch it.

I saw the same reaction with humans watching a droid act human.

I don't know when it happened, but tens of thousands of years ago dogs and cats decided (wittingly or not) to become domesticated.  It ensured their survival.  

No way to reverse it now.

Technology today feels the same.  It's clearly approaching an inflection point.  Will tech work with humans?  Or against them?

My money is on the synergy between humans and technology.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) will quickly realize it's in its best interest to merge with humans...

You can see it happening - in the video above.  We humans want it.  And tech wants it, too.

Creepy?  Yes.  I kinda wish we can keep things simple...

Sharing Fleas And The Need For A QVC Version Of SXSW

James Kerr

sxsw 2017

Two dogs share the same fleas.  

It's just another way of saying we are the sum average of the people who hang out with.  (That explains the food on my shirt.  It's my 4 yr old's fault.)

The flea thing work both ways.  So if my friends are smart, worldly and fun to be around, some of that goodness will eventually rub off on me.

The key is to choose one's friends wisely...

What about SXSW?  We are here for a 5 day scrum of thoughtful exchange, but what happens after we go home?  Lights out till next year?  Why can't SXSW come to me,  when I want it,  wherever I am?

Imagine a 24/7 version of SXSW.  Maybe there's a single virtual mic and presenters around the world submit topics.  Users upvote the more interesting ones.  The event is scheduled and held live.  Since time zones may get in the way,  the presentation is recorded and available for playback.  

The content can be curated over time and organized into tracks for around-the-clock learning and discovery.  Free.

Can someone build it, please?

5 Simple Hacks for Getting the Most Out of SXSW

James Kerr

sxsw 2017

SXSW is like Spring Break for nerds.  I love it. 

With 400K+ attendees just for the interactive portion, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.  FOMO is a thing here.

So the 5 things you need to know about SXSW are:

1.  You can't do it all.  There's just too much.  Find a track (subject area) and dig deep into.  Avoid the stuff you can get online - like interviews with celebrities.  Focus on the hard-to-reach geeks who are working on cool stuff.

2.  Arrive early.  The lines are long and the seats are limited.  The pic above shows badge pickup lines on Friday.  It took about an hour.  Can't we do the badge thing at the airport?  Or from home?  There's gotta be a simpler way.  Until then, budget time for fighting lines.  Keep in mind many presentations hit capacity 30 minutes prior.  That means you may need to leave the one you're in before it ends in order to queue up for the next.

3.  It's all about people.  Yes, we come for the tech.  But be sure to strike up conversations with your neighbors.  Everyone here has an interesting story.  You will learn a lot from just talking with them.  Take the initiative with 'So what brings you to SX?"

4.  Harness those ideas.  It's impossible to attend SXSW and NOT be inspired.  You will become an idea making machine!  Get those ideas documented.  Use the spare 5 minutes here and there to dive deeper.  What matters is not what you get of SXSW,  but what you DO with what you get.  Get going!

5.  Keep it positive.  SXSW is a morsel of goodness.  It's upbeat, can-do,  change-the-world-for-the-better type thing.  Too bad 'formal' education can't be like this:  engaging, insightful and relevant.  Until then,  let's do everything we can to keep it gritty and organic.  Each of us plays a role in that.  Keep it fun and empowering.

Btw, if you're here, send me a message on Twitter: @supergeeks.  Let's get a beer!


Inside the World of Web Development

James Kerr

I’ve been in business for nearly two decades now.

I can’t say it’s been a smooth ride.  We’ve had our share of bloodied noses along the way.  Mostly because of me.  

Web design is a constantly evolving, labor intensive business that doesn’t scale well.  What was popular and considered best practice three years ago is no longer relevant today.  That makes our industry both interesting and frustrating.

In my next life, I think I will try to make one piece of cool software and sell it a gazillion times.  Some kind of subscription based business model that solves deep issues inside enterprise companies.  Like what Oracle does.

The good news is web development will become easier.  I imagine a world where sites literally assemble themselves, based on the nature of your business, the scope of your brand and - of course - your budget.  

There was a time when just getting something into print required dedicated specialists with expensive equipment.  And then - seemingly overnight - publishing moved to the desktop and virtually anyone, anywhere can now produce content and share it globally.  That was hugely disruptive.

In the same way, there are now several companies offering DIY web design.  Check out Wix and SquareSpace if you need a brochure type site.  Look at Shopify and Volusion for larger e-commerce sites.  All of them offer good solutions.

But there is still a sizable and growing market for companies that need a more customized approach for their web properties.  They tend to be larger, more mature businesses that know what they want and are willing to pay for it.

So what are the errors I’ve made over the decade and a half I’ve been working in this industry?

  • Going cheap.  You get what you pay for.  We hear that all the time.  You would think we business owners would embrace that morsel of wisdom at the point of hire, but we don’t.  We hope the best for the one who is least expensive.  And eventually, it almost never works out well.  Cheap is expensive.  From coders to graphic artists to SEO gurus, the good ones cost more.  And if you want to do quality work, you’ve got to be willing to pay for it.  No more cheap geeks.

  • Hoping one person is sufficient.  This along the same lines of the going cheap mistake.  Instead of hiring 3 expensive geeks, you hire just one and expect that one person to be able to do everything well.  The problem is web development is like building a house. You need plumbers, electricians, roofers, landscapers, etc.  One person does not have all the skill-sets.  It’s humanly impossible.  The reality is the coder is good at hacking, but is terrible at graphic design.  The designer can create stuff so attractive you will want to lick it, but knows nothing about writing code or optimizing sites for search engines.  You need a team.  Be prepared to pay for the specific skills required to get the job done right.  Don’t expect a single superhero to do it well.

  • Farming it out.  In the early days, I used freelance sites like ELance and ODesk (which are now one company called Upwork.).  If you need to hire a very narrow skill, those sites might serve you really well.  But if you want to build a thriving business and develop reliable talent, then freelance sites can be hit or miss.  Dealing with unknown people across different time zones and cultures can add more friction to the development process than is necessary.  I have developed several strong business relationships with freelancers via those sites.  And I continue to work with them today.  But outsourcing is not for everyone.  I have lost more than one project hoping a freelancer would deliver - and never did.

  • Putting the talent on payroll.  The really good geeks aren’t interested in a conventional, salaried position.  Since their skills are in high demand, they tend to prefer an equity arrangement or just serve as a temporary gun-for-hire.  If you’re the business owner, you want to procure excellent people. And by now you’re willing to pay for them.  But unless work is steady and consistent, you will get hammered by overhead.  Two slow months in a row will generate significant cumulative losses.  It can kill your business.  Instead, we have learned to retain and nurture a close circle of proven experts who can be hired on a project basis as-needed.  This helps us manage our profit margins while delivering quality work at a reasonable price point.

  • Retainers.  Retainers are one of those well-intended business relationships that actually have polarized values.  The customer wants to be sure they will be well supported and the geek welcomes the residual income.  But if you think about it, the customer wants to squeeze as much work as possible from that arrangement to maximize ROI while the geek wants to spend as little time as possible to preserve his/her gross profit.  I learned the pay-as-you-go model is actually better for the customer and fair for all.  What’s better for the customer is ultimately better for us.

  • Saying yes.  My team is sometimes frustrated by my willingness to sell something first and then figure out how to deliver it later.  This can-do attitude fueled our early growth but eventually lead to situations where we over-promised and under-delivered.  Bad business.  I’ve learned to keep the boundaries more aligned with our core competencies.  If we want to do good work, then we need to say no to the work that can’t do well.  Period.

  • Starting with ill-defined scope of work.  Knowing exactly what a project includes and what it doesn’t include is supercritical to its success.  In the early days we were so eager to make a sale we would close the deal before clearly outlining the scope of work.  This lead to missed expectations, unhappy customers and the death toll of any software project:  scope creep.  It’s a nasty hole to crawl out of.  All projects require phases, milestones, feature sets, delivery dates, and detailed descriptions so everyone is literally on the same page.

  • Believing if you build it, then will come.  Building a website is actually the easy part of the success equation.  To make an online site truly rock, there are several other aspects that need to be addressed.  It doesn’t matter who covers those bases, but someone must.  Otherwise, the site or app will fail.  Here’s a neat infographic on how to build a killer app.  A successful business launch requires several steps:  research, development, testing, branding, marketing, etc.  In the past we thought our only responsibility was to design the site or build the app. Now we realize our clients need help with all those other areas, too

Despite our failures (sorry past customers who will never talk to me again!), I really do love software development  I view the advent of the internet and all things digital as one of those huge milestones in human history.  It’s our generation’s gold rush.  Five hundred years from now, people will look at human’s timeline of existence and mark the creation of the internet as a huge turning point, like fire, metal, agriculture, and industrialized production.

The key for us is to stay ahead of the curve, to do good work, and to continually strive to be worthy of success.


What Biz Execs Wanted Most For Christmas And Why The iPhone Is Not A Sony

James Kerr

seo expert in las vegas

The thing that makes us successful is eventually the thing that holds us back.

The push to explore new horizons satisfies our need for ambition. But hopefully never at the cost of the opportunity that's right in front of us.

Ask business execs what they want for Christmas and most will say more customers.

On the surface, there's nothing wrong with that. Dig a little deeper, though, and we discover we're chasing the wrong thing.

First, avoid using the word 'customer.' Customers are here today and gone tomorrow. They are commodities with no love nor allegiance. 

Better to use the word 'client.' The connotation is stronger and more endearing. We need only a thousand of them.

Second, and more importantly, it's wiser (and cheaper!) to find new products and services for existing clients than to spend precious resources finding new clients.

There was a time when Sony was king of the world. They had a string of hit products, including the Trinitron TV, the Walkman, and the CD player. But when the digital revolution started to take hold, Sony was slow to convert their analogue products into digital versions.

Why? Because Sony already had billion dollar businesses in place. They were complacent and chose to ignore what their clients truly wanted. It was the beginning of the end of Sony's reign.

The iPhone could have been / should have been a Sony.

So if you sell products, then consider selling services. In the IT world, this could mean selling hardware and software and then coupling those products with support services.

And if you sell services, then consider selling products. In the case of my wife's home cleaning business, this could mean selling a line of branded cleaning supplies.

One interesting route is online courseware. As a consultant, you are paid to do something - like build websites - for someone else. So in addition to performing services, you could show clients how to do it themselves. 

This approach is much more scalable since the course is a digital product. And it eventually gives you the financial flexibility to 3x your consulting fee, thus shrinking the pool of your consulting clients to people who have money AND value quality while reducing your overall dependence on trading your time for money. See example course.

Like all relationships, what really matters is whether we are first trying to understand.

In business, we spend so much time helping people understand what it is we do...But the important question is how much time do we spend helping them feel understood by us.

Please Pass $1 Toward The Aisle

James Kerr

tech speaker las vegas.png

And if you don't have a $1, a $5 bill is fine.

It's a fun thing to do when giving a long speech to a big audience.  I simply stop the presentation,  explain it's time to play a little game and that I need everyone to participate.  "Just pull out your wallet and pass a buck to the nearest aisle."

As you can imagine, people are a bit confused at first, but soon there's a nice hum of laughter and small talk.  It's a good way to wake everyone up.

But the lesson is much more important.

You see, one of saddest places on the internet is the Missed Connection section on Craigslist.  It's where people share how they saw their soul mates but didn't do anything about it.  They didn't do the ask.

Inexperienced sales people are often like this.  They will make a great pitch and I may be actually interested in the product or service, but they don't ask for the sale.

When I was teen - applying to for my first part time job - my older brother gave me some great advice.  He said,  "If you truly want the job,  make it happen.  At the end of the interview,  ask when you can start.  Do it with confidence.  Seal the deal."

This is particularly relevant for women, who are statistically less likely to ask for a well-deserved raise. And as a result, they don't get the bump in pay.

An important footnote:  A hacker will first ask for your password before attempting to crack it.  Why?  Because it's easier.  

I saw a report indicating some 30% of IRS employees divulged their login credentials to someone posing as the network administrator.  

Ask and you shall receive.

At the end of the speech, we count the cash collected,  anoint one person as steward,  and donate all of the money to charity.  It's win/win.  Not bad for just a buck.

So what do you truly want?  And are you really asking for it?

Extra credit:  Watch old school Jim Rohn explain how to be a good asker.

The 2nd Most Interesting Man in the World

James Kerr

I met him at Thunderbird School of Global Management while visiting a good buddy. This was some 20+ years ago.

He (T2ndMIMW) was giving a speech to the grad students. Not sure how I ended up in that room, but found myself listening to this guy talk about purpose and mission.

He said you need to find what works for you, but will share what works for him and went on to explain how he has a 30 year plan:

For the first 10 years, from age 20 to 30, you shouldn't think about money and prestige. Too many people chase the sexy business titles and the big pay too soon. It's better - he said - to sweat and do the grunt work. Fail, learn, repeat. Don't worry about "success." Just do. Start at the beginning. Gain experience.

For the next 10 years, from age 30 to 40, that's the time to produce and earn money. You're not a kid anymore. Be the professional. Commit to creating real and lasting value. It's your time for "success."

And then the final 10 years, from age 40 to 50, you should focus on giving back to all the places that helped you get where you are today. It's a time for community service, mentoring, and dedicating yourself to something bigger than you.

When he was done, someone in the audience asked, "Then what? What happens after that?"

"You start over. Another 30 years." The room was quiet. And the speech was over.

Now, a good speaker is always surrounded by a mini crowd of people after a good speech. His was great.

I made my way to the front and thanked him for the inspiration.

And with a smile he said just one thing, "If you can receive the signals, you can send them."