There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.

In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants. (more…)

I came across a wonderful quote from Steve Jobs on how great people and teams solve problems. What caught my eye was a tweet from user experience expert Jon Fox linking to a picture with text from Jobs’ quote overlayed on the photo.

The caption for the photo, and the body (if you will) of Fox’s tweet reads: The very definition of #UX Wisdom from #SteveJobs. Let me explain…

UX refers to user experience. According to Wikipedia, “User experience (UX) involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.”

Here is the quote from Steve Levy’s book, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything:

When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple with all these simple solutions, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. And your solutions are way too oversimplified, and they don’t work. Then you get into the problem, and you see it’s really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle, and that’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep on going and find the key, underlying principle of the problem. And come up with a beautiful elegant solution that works.

Source: Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything

What’s the Point?

The reason the tweet—and subsequently, the quote—caught my eye is that I am using a similar concept in the launch of a new brand and a new company offering project management or owner representation services to property owners that are designing and constructing new buildings. The theme of our new campaign: “The very definition of what an owner’s representative should be.”

Stay tuned…


Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010

Image courtesy Wikimedia

Colleague, friend, and leading economist, Alan Nevin, wrote a fascinating article for the San Diego Daily Transcript on the relationship between apartment construction costs and rental rates.

The analysis shows the difference in the costs of developing three different types of apartment projects in San Diego County. The three types are a three-story garden walk-up, a five-story with two decks of above-surface concrete parking (known as podium parking) and a 22-story high-rise.
Each assumes current land costs, construction costs, the price of money and each assumes a 200-unit project with apartment units averaging 850 square feet.

I won’t spoil the results of the analysis, but will say that it certainly shows the long-term investment potential of apartments.

Source: San Diego Daily Transcript

Checking off one item on my bucket list, last week I had the sincere pleasure of seeing Gary Vaynerchuk speak live at PCBC 2014 in San Francisco. As usual, Gary covered a number of topics that are incredibly relevant to businesses everywhere. I want to highlight just a couple of those concepts here.

Gary Vaynerchuk is highly in demand as a speaker at business conferences, even though he regularly challenges the status quo. Plus, how often do you see an explicit content warning for a keynote speaker at a professional conference?

Stop being romantic about your company

In the clip below, from a previous talk, Gary tackles The Innovator’s Dilemma—the idea that once innovative companies lose their edge when they stop innovating. Businesses resting on their laurels, celebrating previous success, are ripe for disruption from others:

Most companies using social media act like a 19 year old dude…

…trying to close on the first transaction:

This is covered in much greater detail in Vaynerchuk’s latest book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Are you marketing in the year we live in?

One of the number one points that Gary makes—really the primary thesis of his talks—is that you have to go where your customers are. Perhaps more to the point, you have to go to where the customers you want to have are. In 2014, that means using social media. It means mobile, first. It means always looking to the horizon to find out what medium your (prospective) clients are heading to next.

The difficulty, of course, is justifying the time and money spent in such pursuits. This is the dreaded ROI of social media issue that so many marketers must unfortunately deal with. Here is a slideshow from Gary on the topic:

What’s the Point?

With his brother AJ, Gary has established an incredibly successful social and digital media marketing agency called VaynerMedia that caters primarily to large enterprise companies. VaynerMedia’s value proposition isn’t so much about the content produced, as much as it is helping brands understand the context within which it exists.

During the brief Q and A following Gary’s talk, one gentleman mentioned probably the number one topic on everyone’s mind. (PCBC is a builder’s convention, so everyone in the room is connected to the real estate/construction industry in some manner.) Here is roughly what he said:

Let’s say I want to connect with the president of Wells Fargo. I don’t think he is sharing what he ate on Twitter or SnapChatting away with his friends. So how am I going to reach him?

To which Gary replied, “what were you planning to do—take out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal hoping that he’ll see it?” Then Gary told a story about how he and the VaynerMedia team landed a multi-million dollar contract with an executive that was fairly old, and definitely not a big social media user. However, this executive’s children were active on social media and VaynerMedia targeted content at them with the hope that they would in turn share it with the old man.

The gentlemen in the audience asking the question then said to Gary, “that story was worth the price of admission for this whole conference,” and then walked away.


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Gary Vaynerchuk on stage at PCBC 2014

Mitch Joel, podcaster, blogger, and digital marketing agency thought leader, recently featured the incomparable Nancy Duarte on the Six Pixels of Separation podcast. She leads the world’s greatest presentation design firm, Duarte, which has been responsible for producing such noteworthy presentations for folks like David Allen (of Getting Things Done fame), ESPN, Twitter, Citrix, Michael Pollan, and most famously, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

Here’s Mitch’s introduction of Nancy for the podcast:

When people ask me what is the main skill required for success in life, I think of one thing: being able to present an idea in a cogent way. When I think of people who understand the dynamics and intricacies of giving great presentations (and telling better stories), I think of Nancy Duarte. Along with running one of the most prestigious agencies, Duarte, for helping brands to create better presentations by crafting better stories, Nancy is also the author of several amazing books including, Slide:ology, Resonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. Nancy has a new book out and it’s called, Slidedocs… oh, and it’s free. A slidedoc is a hybrid of a presentation and richer content mixed together so that you’re reading (like a book) but enjoying it, because it’s more visual. I think Nancy is on to something. Slidedocs can either be the perfect leave behind or a whole new way to publish books. Either way, me likes and I wanted to dig into the topic deeper. Enjoy the conversation…

Source: Six Pixels of Separation Episode No. 411

If you were paying attention, you’ll notice that Nancy’s new book is free. You can get it here: Slidedocs. It has completely changed my perspective on sharing information and has been infecting my thoughts for nearly a month now. Check it out, as I’m sure you will learn something valuable.


Nancy Duarte - Slidedocs

Image courtesy Duarte, Inc.

I recently started a new job at a consulting firm that is heavily invested in Microsoft products. It has been nearly 13 years since I’ve worked in such an environment. While one would have to pry my MacBook Air from my cold, dead hands, I still have to use Windows on occasion to perform certain functions.

After years of using Apple OS X as my primary operating system, I decided to approach my return the “PC world” with an open mind. Microsoft has had years to address their hostile approach to users, and to steal ideas from Apple for improving the functionality of their software. I figured that I was in for a pleasantly surprising experience.

I was pleasantly surprised, but not for the reasons Microsoft was likely hoping for…

Buy a new PC? Hell no.

Starting my new job, I was asked if I would need a new PC. Sorry, quality is kind of my thing. So a Dell or an HP or ASUS is out right off the bat.

Instead, I opted to set up a virtual machine on an external hard drive using VMWare. There isn’t a need for me to be working full-time in Windows — I just need access to it occasionally.

The process of installing Windows 8.1 Pro onto VMWare was fast and easy. Previous experiences with clean installs of Windows have not been nearly as pleasant as this experience proved to be.

Next, I entered in my personal Microsoft Office 365 account credentials and crossed my fingers. And guess what? It worked! I was able to instantly download the latest and greatest full version of Microsoft Office and it all worked just fine. Maybe Microsoft has changed its approach to end users?

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.

Authenticate this.

When I was given a username and password for my new account at work, the first thing I did was sign in on my iPhone, iPad and Mac. Simply go to System Preferences (OS X) or Settings (iOS), click on Internet Accounts, and then Exchange. I entered my new email address and then my password. Instantly my email and calendar were connected, allowing me to not just send and receive email, but all the contacts from the company directory were synced, and I could even accept and/or reject meeting requests.

Should be a similar experience on my brand new (virtual) PC, right?

No. Not even close.

I opened up Outlook, added my account details and got errors. I tried every variation of my username I could think of. I tried manually entering in server details. I looked online. I tried everything!

Several hundred dollars of tech support later…

In the end, I had to contact our outsourced IT help desk. They used a remote access program to connect me to the company network. Here’s the thing, though — it took the Microsoft-certified expert multiple attempts on multiple sessions to get me connected. Since I was watching while he took remote control of my computer, I was able to see as he repeatedly failed to get the settings just so.

Once I got connected, everything was much better, but I still have a hard time seeing the vast improvements that the latest version of Windows supposedly offers.

Windows_8_Launch_-_Steve_Ballmer_(2)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

What’s the Point?

When Steve Ballmer announced Windows 8, he said that it was a bet-the-company moment. Since then, analysts say that the Windows 8 launch was the biggest commercial failure since the launch of the Coca-Cola Company’s ill-fated “New Coke.”

This was Microsoft’s opportunity to win me over. I mean that quite seriously, too. I was actually halfway considering following my friend Sean Kabo’s lead and switching to a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet as my primary work machine.

Instead, not only did Microsoft underwhelm, but Apple did a better job of connecting to Microsoft’s products better than Microsoft did on its own home turf. Are you kidding me?!

I watched most of the Apple keynote from the recent Worldwide Developer’s Conference announcing the latest versions of both OS X and iOS. There was one slide that really spoke volumes. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) has only been adopted by 14% of users. That means that 86% of Windows users are using seriously outdated operating system software. Considering that Windows 8 was launched on August 1, 2012, that is positively frightening, considering that older versions remain much less secure than current versions.

Contrast that number with another fact that Cook shared: 51% of Mac users had the latest version of the operating system, OS X Mavericks, just eight months after launch.

Oh, and one more thing… the latest version of OS X (Yosemite) will cost the same amount as the last version did: $0.


Windows_8_Start_screen_UI

Image courtesy of Wikimedia