Don’t produce a product you don’t care about

This story has a happy ending, read the whole thing.

Last year I was shocked at the way in which Sensis treated their Yellow Pages product.

In response to this, I unsubscribed from their dead tree books.

Sensis Yellow Pages White Pages Cancellation

However, this year I still received the dead tree book which was once again just thrown onto my front lawn with no care for the product itself.

Don’t produce a product you don’t care about.

… and listen to your customers’ preferences.

Update: Only a few hours after I wrote this blog post a Sensis staffer came to my house to personally pick up the Yellow Pages and apologise.

Things sometimes break and when they do the best thing is to fess up and then move on.  Hat tip to you Sensis team.

and a hat tip to the good people at Sensis and YellowPages

Is Tony Hawk a person or a brand?

Tony Hawk is one of the greatest professional skateboarders of all time, I have been following him since I was a kid. I watched him fly through the air at the Australian Grand Prix the other weekend with grace and beauty. The branding for the event was “Tony Hawk and Friends Vert Jam”.

Over the years Hawk has lent his name to video games, amusement park rides, and an expanding digital empire. I asked a young teenage boy beside me at the Grand Prix skate ramp a simple brand question:

“Which came first; Tony Hawk the skater or Tony Hawk the video game?”

The young kid shot back his answer instantly with confidence; “Tony Hawk the video game”.

Wow.

As far as this kid was concerned, the bloke spinning up gnarly tricks on the vert ramp had just adopted the name Tony Hawk because of a really cool video game.

Wow.

This week on the Beers, Blokes and Business podcast the blokes give their own first hand experiences of managing their personal and business brands.  Have a listen.

First impressions of the Internet

The World Wide Web is 25 years old which got me thinking about my first impressions of the web, the Internet and computers.

Josh Rowe Apple 1984

First impressions of Computers

I have had an interest in computers for a long time. My early exposure to computers included my uncle‘s Apple IIe (photo), my friend‘s Tandy MC-10 and Apple Macintosh, and the green screen Amstrad word processing computer that my parents owned. I was always drawn to the machines like a moth to a light. Computers were intriguing to my young, fertile mind, because they presented a blank canvas waiting to be brushed from my palate.

At eleven years of age I was programming the classic snake game in BASIC. I was the only grade six student to type up and print out their assignments. My teachers were suitably impressed. Mrs Salt, my grade six teacher, used to always make a point of how messy my hand writing was and  that if I did not get it right I would not be successful in my chosen career. Her prediction proved to be incorrect, thanks to the proliferation of computers and my decision to learn how to touch type in high school.

Through high school my silicon chip fascination continued with more software programming; this time to simulate 20,000 random spins of a roulette wheel to provide additional evidence to my mathematical proof that (a) roulette is an unfair game (on average you will lose $1 out of every $37 you bet) and (b) there is no best bet. I had so many arguments friends at university and work that believed that one type of roulette bet was better than another, that I dug out my year 12 assignment and republished it on my web site.

In year 12 I filled out my likes and dislikes into a career questionnaire. It said I should be a primary school teacher, photographer or civil engineer; I looked up the pay rates and chose the highest – engineering. RMIT‘s Business Administration and Civil Engineering was the course I enrolled in.  Not surprisingly I enjoyed and excelled at every subject in which I could use a computer. Whether it was AutoCAD to design sophisticated civil engineering designs, word processing software with laser printed reports (when my university friends only managed dot matrix reports at best) or Pascal programming.

First impressions of the Internet

RMIT University was where I first encountered the Internet. In 1992 the Internet and World Wide Web were young. At first the Internet was exciting because I was able to access the university library catalogue from home at any time of the day, while my friends were limited by the physical library‘s opening hours and limited number of available electronic terminals.

Archie Search EngineThen I realised that I had access to information that was more than academic. At an odd hour one day in 1992, I traversed the internet using my green screen text-based browser to find out that Kieren Perkins had smashed the 1500m freestyle world record and won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics.

I knew the result before everyone else; who had to wait for the delayed telecast. Finding this information was not easy though.  I think I may have used “Archie“, the very first Internet search engine.

My 1996 description of the juvenile Internet:

The Internet is a global network of over three million computers worldwide. The Internet is growing faster than any other communications market, roughly doubling every year since 1989. As many as 30 million people use the Internet with thousands of new subscribers joining every day.

The complexity of the Internet is hidden from view giving the appearance of a seamless web of interconnected resources; you can be downloading music from Finland one moment and viewing  images in Africa the next! One facet of the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW). The WWW is a software system that makes the Internet user-friendly and links documents across the Internet, through text, graphics and sound. The Web gives marketers global coverage for a relatively low cost.

According to Business Review Weekly, The key to understanding the Net and its importance is that this is a communications revolution, not an information revolution. Distributing masses of information is one aspect of the Net. On-line commerce in the future will be more about building relationships than selling … Businesses will be communicating with people, and they will be communicating with businesses and with each other (James O’Toole BRW, May 8, 1995).

First impressions of the World Wide Web

I created my first web site in 1994.

I coded the web site by hand in Hyper Text Mark-up Language or HTML for short. The web site was titled “Josh‘s Sanctum” as a play-on-words; since sanctum means a private place and the Internet was proving to be the exact opposite. The web site address was http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/~s924603/ – which looks pretty long and antiquated now. At the time however I displayed it with pride in my electronic signature on emails and newsgroup postings.

Here’s the announcement of my first web site to an Internet newsgroup.  Newsgroups were the 1990s version of social media.

From: s9244603@minyos.xx.rmit.EDU.AU (Joshua Rowe)
Newsgroups: comp.infosystems.www.users
Subject: JOSH'S SANCTUM is online... <---- <---- <---- <----
Date: 2 Feb 1995 01:52:34 GMT

JOSH'S SANCTUM is online....

Let me know what you think of my new web page

http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/~s924603/

If you want me to add your link to my homepage just drop me a line at
s924603@minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au

--
|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Joshua Rowe~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
| Advertise s924603@minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au Perception is |
| here http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/~s924603/ Reality |
|______________B.Eng(Civil)/B.Bus RMIT Melbourne, Australia_________________|

My first Internet start up

I started a web site development business “Sanctum Internet Consultants” in 1994.  My fledgling business offered web page packages for small and large businesses. The sanctum.com.au web site advertised single text-based web sites or multi-page web sites with graphics and your own domain name.

Australia was an early adopter as far as the Internet went. There were more domain names registered under .au than any other country code top-level domain in 1991 – a grand total of 29. Some early .au domain name registration statistics suggest that my registration of “sanctum.com.au” was one of the first 2500 com.au domain names to be registered. This contrasts with over 2.7 million .au domain names registered in 2014.

2014

There are over 2.4 billion people using the Internet globally which is only 34% penetration.

The Internet is becoming a core ingredient in everything we do; social media, wearable devices, Internet of things, etcetera.  However, the opportunities for Internet service innovation and invention is boundless.  The same goes for increased penetration of Internet access around the globe.

Thirsty for more?

Read my 2008 Masters thesis which includes an ethnographic narrative on the evolution of Internet industry and policy in Australia: http://domainusability.com/

What is entrepreneurship?

newspaper boyWhat is entrepreneurship?

We throw the word around all the time, but what does it really mean?

Google says it’s “someone who organises a business venture and assumes the risk for it“.

I relate to that definition.  I even label myself an entrepreneur.

My earliest memory of my entrepreneurial behaviour was as an 11 year old when I had my first real job; a newspaper boy.

I would sell newspapers and magazines on Saturday mornings on the footpath of a busy suburban retail strip.

Vintage Leather Coin PouchThe newsagent owner provided me with a leather coin pouch with change in it.  However, this was hopelessly inefficient with all the coins and notes mixed up together.  Every time a customer purchased a product it would take time to find the correct change from the coin pouch.

My newspaper boy pay was made up of two components – base hourly rate plus a commission for unit sales of the newspapers/magazines.

Therefore, I proposed to the newsagent owner that a spring loaded coin sorter that strapped to my belt would increase my efficiency and I could sell more of his product. A financial gain for both of us.

He wasn’t interested in my 11 year old business case.

Instead, I purchased a coin sorter out of my own pocket.

Coin SorterThe coin sorter allowed me to sell more units and it paid for itself in one Saturday morning shift.

The following Saturday all the other newspaper boys had purchased their own coin sorters.

An entrepreneur is someone who takes the risk with a business venture with the opportunity to reap a reward.

I took the risk on the cost of the coin sorter and was rewarded with an instant payback.

What was your first entrepreneurial experience?

Revealed: Super Awesome Micro Project

The #SuperAwesomeMicroProject is a Life Size Lego Car Powered by Air.  Watch it in action:

I had never met Aussie entreprenuer  Steve Sammartino and Romanian whiz kid Raul Oaida before I handed over $500 to become a patron of #SAMP after spotting this tweet from Steve in March 2012.

 

22 months later Steve and Raul have created a Life Size Lego Car Powered By Air, but that’s only half the story.

The other half of the story is how 40 patrons came together using the power of the Internet to take an idea from a Romanian whiz kid and make it into a reality.

I love the way Steve describes it:

The is why I love working on and with the Internet every day as a business person and end user.

The opportunities are limitless.

Super Awesome Micro Project photo gallery

 

Disrupting Retail

Beers-Blokes-and-Business-podcastSignificant digital disruption has occurred in the retail industry.

Whilst some businesses have been quick to develop new business models with the aid of technology, others have been slower to adapt their more traditional ways of doing business.

In episode 5 of the Beers, Blokes and Business podcast Sean CallananSteve Sammartino, Jim Stewart and myself share our collective experience on the various retail models which have developed in the digital economy.

Listen to the episode or subscribe via iTunes or non-iTunes.

We’d love your feedback.