Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oh, Twitter

So a month after I lost Twittering ability on my old account, I've finally decided to just open a new account. I am annoyed, but I liked tweeting and I missed following what others were doing. So I've given in, since the Twitter help desk was NO help at all.

If you'd like, I'd encourage you to follow me on Twitter: koreenolbrish

Isn't technology great?

Finding time versus making time

For years, I used to commute an hour each way to work. I hated it, and after I had the opportunity to work five minutes from home, I couldn't believe that I had commuted like that for so long.

But last night, after a long conversation about feeling overwhelmed with work and guilty about any decision I made (spend time with family, work not getting done--work, miss time with the family), I realized that what I really miss is time to myself. I actually miss my commute time, time to decompress, think about things, catch up with people on the phone that I owed a call. I don't have that time anymore and I'm shocked that I miss it as much as I do.

I've been relying up to this point on finding time for myself, or to catch up on things. I'm now convinced that I have to make time for these things, because I'm not finding the time anywhere.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's about you

I have no intentions of writing a political blog, but in watching Barack Obama's speech tonight accepting the Democratic nomination for President, one of his messages was that his campaign was not about him, it was about "you."

Its brilliant sales messaging. "What I'm selling, I'm not selling for me...I'm here selling this for you."

There's always a risk of believing your own hype. It's much more effective to think about and describe how what you are doing is helping others achieve their goals.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Winning and losing

I hate losing. I've already discussed the competitive/perfectionist issue, and let me emphasize that I squarely fall into the competitive camp. For me, winning, or succeeding, has become more and more important over time. And that has made me more and more competitive.

This week wrapped up a couple loose ends. A few of them wrapped up quite nicely. A few of them didn't. For the ones that didn't, I was really upset. I had to take a step back and think about why. Each situation is a little different, and there were different emotions involved with each of them, but the overarching theme for all of them was that I felt like I had lost.

I have a few people to talk me off the ledge. I think their advice is worth repeating.

* Sometimes when things don't work out the way you wanted, its actually for the better.
* Don't expect someone else's behavior to change just because you'd like it to. In fact, you shouldn't expect anyone's behavior to change.
* Just like in dating, in business, if he doesn't call back, he's just not that into you. If he was, he wouldn't be too busy.
* Sometimes its worth the money.
* Sometimes its not worth the money.
* It's better to be open up front then surprised later on.

So, there will continue to be successes and set backs. This week helped more clearly define the path to the successes and some of our risks for set backs. Luckily for my competitive streak, the path to success is much less cluttered now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fast or big?

Can't remember if I mentioned that the first draft of my first book is done. We're deep into editing mode now, but the completion of the book has prompted a big decision to make: how to publish it?

Before the first page was even written, I had assumed that I would do some sort of vanity press, self-publishing, POD option. I've checked into Lulu, Lightning Source, and Booksurge as some viable options. Each of these would allow me to get copies of my book relatively quickly and provide them to prospective clients as a form of education on virtual worlds, and of course, as a marketing tool. Speed seems to be the key factor in this marketplace right now, and as quickly as the book has gotten done, self-publishing seems like the fastest way to get it into people's hands.

So what's the problem? I really think the book is good. It would be nice to actually have it published and promoted by someone other than me. It would be nice to have the credibility of a publisher behind all of this hard work. Somehow, I think it would be more legitimate.

But it will be a lot slower.

I still haven't decided which way I should go yet. Another day, another big decision...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Competitors defined

One of the tricks successful businesses use is gathering competitive intelligence. Industry conferences are one source, as are relevant associations and organizations that collect and disseminate industry news. Another great source, if you can get them to talk, are your prospective clients. One way or another, you need to find out who else you'll be bumping into in the lobbies and what their story is.

I have a philosophy about competitors (if you haven't noticed yet, I have a philosophy about lots of things...). They are only competitors if you allow them to be. Sure, you may be selling similar products or services. But are you really? What you are selling are your ideas, your expertise, your customer service--basically, you are selling your talent and the talent of the other people of in your company. That's what your competitors are selling too. All the more reason to aim to hire rockstars and not accept mediocrity.

If you don't think you're better than your competitors, close up shop and cut your losses. If your ideas or talent aren't as good, your only hope is to be able to position yourself better. That may work for awhile. Eventually, though, the truth will be revealed.

Bottom line, you need to believe you're better than everyone else, walk the walk and talk the talk. If you're always chasing a competitor, you'll always be behind. Better to let them be chasing you.

And ultimately, YOU define who your competition is. Don't let others define this for you. Know what the differentiators are and be able to explain them. And whenever possible, play nice on the playground. It's always better to be able to give a wink and a nod to those other companies waiting in the lobbies.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yesterday was a big day. After a year of planning, six months after committing, and three months building, yesterday we demo'd our first Tandem Learning product to a prospective client.

Yes, the demo is done.

Its a bit of a surreal feeling. Everything that I had been working towards is now out there for others to see, question, comment on, and hopefully, buy. I received a lot of good luck wishes yesterday from friends, and lovely flowers afterwards from my family. And yet, its a little anticlimatic. Not because completing and showing the demo isn't a HUGE step, but because really, the huge step will be selling it, building it for our first client, then having sales reps play it. THAT will be something, really something.

A few things I learned yesterday...

** Talking about the product with the demo is easy. Its like talking about an old friend. The trick is not to leave any of the good details out.

** It's not enough to just talk about the product. We have a broader strategy for changing the way organizations train their people. Our product is one piece of that strategy. It will be helpful to talk about the whole enchilada as well.

** People who get it, get it. But most people are far removed from virtual worlds. Pre-education and understanding of that is essential.

** My team is awesome. I don't mean in a "yeah, they're pretty good" sort of way. I mean in a "holy crap, these cats rock" way. I love them more than in a corporate way. None of this would have happened without them.

I couldn't have been more proud yesterday. I can't wait to show everyone what we've done. We're working on a "for public viewing" demo, but really, we're more interested in providing interested parties with the red carpet introduction.  

In the meantime, on behalf of Tandem Learning, I happily introduce the Virtual TerritoryTM. Can't wait to show you more...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Geography of virtual world usage

I ran across this visual representation of the geographical distribution of virtual world users. Interesting for a few, it shows that the US is not the leading user of virtual worlds and that there are numerous countries that have close if not equivalent usage. I would argue that actual geography likely plays a large part in this; virtual worlds are an effective tool in connecting people together, and some of the leading countries (Australia, New Zealand) have populations distributed in a way that may make virtual worlds an effective communication tool.

This theory also holds true for the trend data in the US. New York and California were the first states with concentrated interest, but now Georgia and other states with large rural populations have overtaken them.

Please note that this data was taken from Google; because of this, Asian countries are most definitely skewed. Asian countries do not tend to use Google as their search engine, and any of these trends are only as good as the data used.

Sticking with it

A brief update on the crazy notion that I would start up an extreme exercise and diet plan in the midst of Tandem's first year. I can proudly say that I've completed 3 weeks of P90X so far and haven't missed a workout. Although I'm exhausted and haven't lost that much weight, I've really gotten toned and tightened. I actually feel like I may be in the best shape of my life, and I still have 10 weeks to go.

I still think I'm a total glutton for punishment, but I also think that maybe there's never a good time to take care of yourself. More updates to come...

Calm before the storm

I've neglected my posting lately, not because I don't have anything to write about but more because things are so hectic that finding the time to collect my thoughts has been difficult. We've completed the first product demo and have gotten our presentation deck in place. We've finally landed new office space and will shortly be moving in. We've gotten numerous client meetings set up to introduce our new product. We've been chasing down a couple prospects to hire (that's taken more time and energy than I'd like to admit). And amidst all of this action, the book that I have been wanting to write since last fall is FINALLY done. Things are moving, and quickly.

Yet, I know this is the calm before the storm...a small window to catch our breath before a whirlwind of sales and delivery overtakes us. As busy as I feel, I know that this is nothing yet. I know that things are about to change drastically. I'm sure I'll be looking back at August 2008 as the last time we could take a deep breath for awhile.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How to demo your product

A shout out to TechCrunch for this list of things you should do when demo'ing a product. Granted, this is aimed at people trying to get investors, but really, isn't it true for any client meeting?

Get to the point, back up your point with data, and show up early. Oh, and if its a conference call, use a landline.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ode to Twitter

If you haven't noticed, I haven't been tweeting lately. Not because I don't want to. But because for some reason, since I've gotten my MacBook Pro, I can't log in to Twitter. I've had a help ticket open for over a week. I don't want to open a new Twitter account. That's annoying. I just want to log in.

As if they read my mind, CrunchGear posted this clip today. Please, if you are easily offended, don't watch it. If you Twitter, though, I dare you to not laugh.

I don't miss you, Mr. Fail Whale...

Macro vision, micro goals

Last night's Rockstar meeting was exhausting. The final stretch of our first product demo, the final stretch of our Second Life island development, and our rebranding efforts have all converged and now is the time for some really big decisions and big conversations. Its a bit like standing at the edge of a giant cliff and contemplating flight or falling. Either way, though, you know you're jumping off.

I also think we all recognize that things are about to change in a major way. We're bringing more people into the company, which will change our work dynamic. We're moving into new office space soon, a place of our own. And more importantly to me, we're going to start the road show to introduce ourselves to the world.

We have immediate goals. We need to sell stuff. We need to get our story straight. In all of this excitement and uneasiness, it would be easy to put our heads down and focus on day to day stuff. It would be easy to only think of short term objectives and how to reach them. It would be easy to just focus on getting stuff done.

But that's not what Rockstars do. Rockstars keep in mind the end game, the big picture. Rockstars keep their eyes on the big goals and make the day to day decisions in context of reaching them.

It's hard to focus on getting stuff done AND being true to your vision. You have to do it anyway. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The tail end is the longest

Anyone who has worked on custom training projects can tell you that end phase of a project is always in jeopardy of dragging on...and on...and on. Launch delays, final approvals, changes in stakeholders can all cause a project to last weeks, months longer than the original project timeline anticipated.

The problem with this is not only in the time that you continue to spend on a project that should be over, but the costs of time and resources that are spent on the "tail" and the opportunity costs, which are almost immeasurable. It's a hazard of the business for sure, but one that can be alleviated a bit with a few strategies:

-Change orders: keep close watch on the original project scope and talk to the client early and often if a project is dragging on out of that scope. Charge for the difference.
-Don't spend time on a project if the client isn't: sometimes projects just don't launch. Yes, your ego may want to see the fruits of your labor being used, but it doesn't always happen. If the client has let something die, so should you.
-Send a final invoice: often what keeps us paying attention to the tail of a project is the trigger to send a final invoice. Just send it. It lets the client know that the project should be wrapping up and hopefully will light a fire to get them to close it.

Take your lagging projects by the tail to make sure you don't blow your project profitability down the stretch.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hey Mom, this is what I do...

I was sent this link by one of my favorite people in the world and I thought...this might actually give my mom a little bit of an insight into this whole "virtual world" thing I've been talking about. And its just really interesting to see so many different worlds compared in 7 minutes. Enjoy...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Not big enough

Perhaps all new companies with grand plans (or delusions of grandeur, as the case may be) run into the occasional problem of thinking too small. It's any easy trap to fall into. You plan to make tons of money and have rapid growth, but you get bogged down in little projects and with clients with limited buying potential. You don't step back far enough to think about the big picture strategy and tactics that you need to employ to help you achieve your goals. You stay too focused on what you are comfortable with and don't push yourself to try new things, risky things, that may take you out of your comfort zone but have the potential for great reward.

I fall into this trap every so often, although I'm lucky to have the other Rockstars around me to remind me when we're going down the "not big enough" path.

The biggest risk for me is thinking like a small company instead of a big one. You need to act and make decisions as if you've already achieved your business goals. A client asks you to do a $5k project? Not big enough. You are struggling to hit your sales goals for the year? Definitely not big enough.

When you're faced with a new decision or challenge, think about how you would approach it if your company had already achieved your goals. And then you just might be thinking big enough.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Worst case scenario

The last few weeks have been full of interesting conversations about such uplifting topics as "what happens to the company if I die?" and "what happens to my equity if I get divorced?" I'm lucky that these conversations have been relatively painless, but they have emphasized some important decisions that need to be made now to anticipate bad things that could happen in the future.

Its not fun to talk about (although I have been prone to giggling during these conversations) but its necessary. As we start to plan for rapid growth, bringing in new employees who will depend on the company to support themselves and their families, I feel an obligation to both the Rockstars and whomever else comes on board to make sure that no matter what happens to me, the company would be well prepared to move full steam ahead without me.

And while we're on the subject, have you updated your will? I mean, just in case...