Archive for the 'knoxville' Category

Have you been KNOX’D?

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I saw that two guys here in Knoxville I’ve connected with via email and twitter in the past couple weeks, Patrick and Casey have launched a new project. It’s called Knox’d.

I’ll let Patrick’s description stand on it own.

Information seekers in Knoxville, TN have a new way to get the latest headlines and information from the best of the city’s Web sites. It’s called Knox’d, and it is my latest side-project I developed in partnership with soon-to-be fellow Scripps project manager Casey Peters.

Knox’d has one goal: to aggregate the latest news and information (including jobs, real estate and classified listings), in one location. It seeks to fill the technology gap between the folks that use RSS (me), and the folks that don’t.

The site uses a format very similar to one like Popurls, or Alltop.

Eitherway, it’s very cool to have our own local feed aggregator and I’m fortunate they’ve chosen to include my blog in the listing (thanks guys).

Check it out!

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I’ve got a new business card

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As I was writing my last post about Kip Knight and eBay, I noticed it was just about a month to the day between my posts.  I consider this a bad revelation as I’ve really been trying to post at least once a week, if not more.

I’ve had a lot less time to blog recently because of a new development in my life – new business cards.  These new cards have a pretty significant change that indicate the new development; I’ve accepted a new position at Abunga.com as CEO. It’s quite the jump as far as work, and I’m really in a trasistion period working to re-allocate current responsibilities  to make room for the new ones I’m taking on.

For those interested, our previous CEO Adam Slack, made the decision to return to his other companies.

Anyway, exciting times ahead, but sorry if my posting gap starts to grow.

Have a great day.

npr

Down here in Knoxville, WUOT our National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate just finished it’s fund raising drive which has raised my awareness of NPR’s website.

Their website is great, no more then great, it is awesome!  It’s also got a contemporary feel that many news sites are looking for, but just haven’t gotten quite right yet.

What I mean is it’s easy to get around, easy to listen, easy to find out more information then they mentioned on the show.  Which is perfect for my knowledge hungry self and others like me.   I like to listen to the show again at work, or delve deeper into the stories.

What strikes me as crazy is that NPR isn’t the newest kid on the block by any means.  Which also means there is hope for everyone else that’s been around for a while.

NPR is using their radio platform in conjunction with the web, way better then any radio station I’ve come across.  The great thing is that they aren’t annoying or turning away listeners.  If 80% of the people that listen on the radio never go online, that’s not a problem, because the radio content isn’t shortened or minimized.  And those that ONLY go online get the national content, and those that do both get a great amount of local and national information.

The way I see it NPR is playing the game right.  I say well done.

But that’s just me, what do you think?

Have a great day.

What an experience

I just got off the phone with a customer service rep. Now, prepared to be shocked.

IT WAS THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE I’VE EVER HAD.

Yes, it was that good. I’ve been searching around for a new bank account and a friend mentioned ING Direct. It turns out they offer 4.5% APY on savings accounts, which is a lot better then what I was getting at US Bank. What’s important here was the service. I was trying to set my new account up with my direct deposit and I just couldn’t find the information I needed online. (I know it’s there too because I’ve seen it before, so frustrating)

So as a latch ditch effort I called the 1800INGDIRECT (1-800-464-94198[2]) and was anticipating being on the phone for 15 minutes or so before I was helped, or at the minimum legions of menus for me to go through so could “route my call to the correct representative”. The phone rang once, and then a very cherry voice greeted me and thanked me for calling and asked what she could help me with. ONE RING (that alone blew my mind) I asked my question and she took verified that I was a customer which is normally pretty boring and long but she was very quick and friendly about walking me through the correct steps. What impressed me the most, was not her friendliness (although important), nor her efficiency (though she was) it was the fact she was human. Yep, human. She didn’t sound like she was part of a scripted process, she even mentioned that a lot of people call in to get the information I was requesting. In making the process real, in responding like a person, I felt like one when I was done. She was pleasant to work with, and it was a great experience. I won’t hesitate to call back. You shouldn’t either.

So this begs the question, what are the crucial elements to great customer service?

Have a great day everyone.

sliding off track

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The weather down here in Knoxville has been gorgeous, sunny and in the high 60s. Yesterday I took advantage of this weather and went mountain biking for the first time this year. It was a great ride, good traction, a slight breeze and they’d done some trail improvement from the fall so the loop was much faster. On one downhill switchback I went sliding off the trail into the the leafs and subsequently that led me into a tree which stopped my slide. Now sliding into that tree hurt, not only my hand (which connected solidly with the trunk) but my pride as well, I’ve been riding for a few years, I don’t think I should be sliding off the trail into trees. I got unclipped and untangled and hopped back up on the trail. Then it happened again, different curve, different tree, same pain. This time it happened I thought about it a bit more. As I rode away I realized that I was forgetting a crucial element, I wasn’t steering. As soon as I saw I was going off track I would neglect to point myself in the right direction and I would focus only on stopping. The next time I came around a switchback I made the decision to turn the direction I wanted to go, regardless of the consequence. Surprise, surprise I stayed on the trail, now it wasn’t the most controlled turn I’ve made, but it got me around the corner.

Now how often in our business or interactions do we forget to steer? We are so focused on maintaining speed, we get caught up in our daily actions and forget to steer. Creating new products or improvements of existing improvements are crucial, but sometimes the trail changes direction. We can steer better by learning from our customers, to talking with them about the product/service. If not our customers directly, then our salespeople who are the next closest. On my ride If I would have looked ahead I probably could have seen that the turn was coming and prepared for it (and not hit a tree).

Strategy is important too, we must look forward unless we want to join the likes of companies that have been industry leaders at some point, and they become so myopic and focused on what they do, they neglect to look forward until they are at the turn in the trail, and all their momentum, their investment, is propelling them off the trail into a tree.

Going off the trail into a tree hurts, the same is for business. If we’ve been in our market for a long time, like I’ve been biking for a while, we expect the similar performance. We forget that our idea’s that got us started had risk, and that the cycle of change is always happening.

To avoid trees and to make it through switchbacks I think we have to steer and look ahead. What do you think? Is one more important than the other? Or is their an “x” not considered here that trumps all others?

sushi design

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This past weekend a friend and I went to downtown Knoxville for a concert. On our way we decided we’d have dinner downtown; I’m becoming a lover of sushi, so we headed to a great little place called nama. Excellent atmosphere, great food, great service, overall a wonderful time. I’d highly recommend it. When you go I suggest asking your waitress about specials that aren’t on the menu. We had two of the fore-mentioned specials and they were fabulous. This isn’t about the food though, this is about design.

So on our way out I grabbed a business card so I could put the number into my phone for future reference. When I got back to the house to put it in I noticed that the front of the card is fairly normal looking.

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A pretty clean trendy design. When I flipped the card over to put in in my drawer I noticed that the graphic continued to the back side, creating chopsticks holding a fish. Now I find that ingenious. Sure it’s just a little design kick, but it’s the attention to detail that I find intriguing.

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Which reminds me of an e-newsletter last week from a local design group, Hornsby Brand Design, who incidentally does great work. In the newsletter they quoted an interview Tom Peters did for Corporate Design Foundation’s @ Issue magazine (Vol. 6, No. 1). He had great stuff to say, but the line that struck me the most was the following.

“I think 99% of us appreciate design on a personal level. Why else do we agonize over what color car to buy and what style reflects who we are?” he said. “But we turn it off when we come to the office…Pay attention to stuff that turns you on or turns you off–and don’t worry about why. You’ll begin to find that your preferences go from the deep soul aesthetic stuff to ‘usability’ features.”

Essentially, we all care about design when it’s “Me, Inc.” that will be represented, but we stop when it’s our company brand that is on the table. Personal preferences matter, because without them we develop brands without preferences. Which makes it like sushi rice. Sushi rice has pretty much no taste, but when you add the various meats, sauces, garnishes, ginger and wasabi it comes to life.

I know I need to be more diligent in this application in my own life.

What about you?

Have a great day everyone.

maybe I need a wizard

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As some of you may know I’m in the process of searching for a marketing job. So I’ve been contacting a lot of different companies following up on job leads. This post is about closed organizations. I consider a closed organization one where the barriers to entry for getting basic information are VERY high. I’ve recently dealt with two companies that I consider closed. The first is Scripps Networks, they produce/own the TV shows HGTV, Fine Living, DIY, etc. They have some pretty on demand shows, and they’ve grown a ton. However, they make it hard for people to join their ranks. Like most people I try to do research on a position before I apply for it, I like to find out who I’ll report to, and what they’ve done, and general company info. So I was doing research on the position that was listed on the Scripps website. I couldn’t find the information I was looking for on Google so I figured I’d just call them up directly. I received at the time the curtest treatment I’ve ever received when I was asking about a job – a posted job. Basically, the receptionist told me that the information I was asking about, wasn’t public knowledge and never would be and I couldn’t know it. So you’re thinking it’s some top-secret trade secret right? Nope, just the name of the Director of Innovation. Not their email, or phone number just the name. I find that ridiculous.

The second company is Lynskey Performance Designs. They are based in Chattanooga, TN and they make great custom titanium road and mountain-bike frames. To the tune of a few thousand dollars each for the frame only. So I stopped in at their shop one day to hopefully talk with the Director of Marketing. Well attempted to. The first sign is that you can’t walk in their building. You can see in the door, but you have to get buzzed in from their receptionist. Who WILL give you the third degree before she lets you in. My session with her went like this:

Her: “Name and who are you with”
Me: “Hi I’m Gavin Baker, and I was just hoping to look at your bikes”
Her: “We don’t sell bikes, this is a manufacturing facility”
Me: “I’m sorry, I thought you made custom bike frames? I was just hoping to see one”
Her: “We don’t have any you can look at”
Me: “Oh, well I was just hoping to see a couple. I was just driving past on my way down to Atlanta.”
Her: “From where?”
Me: “Knoxville, TN”
Her: “I’ll see if someone can talk to you”

A couple of notes, I was able to talk to their sales manager, and he showed me a couple of their bikes, and they are beautiful and well crafted for sure. And I appreciate the time he gave me. But I want to break a few things down.

First she can’t see me. So she doesn’t know if I’m Joe Blow, or I am the most important client she’s ever talked to. Secondly, if I owned a company that made CUSTOM frames and someone stopped in to see them, you better believe I’ll show them a few. This isn’t the corner bike shop, we are talking about thousands of dollars per sale. Turning away dollars at the door is not a great strategy. Personally, I think Lynskey should open their shop up, say come on by. Create an owner community. It’s not unheard of for people that custom order cars to fly to the factory to drive it off the lot, or Saturn owners to show up in droves to see where their car was built. The same will hold true of people that are buying a custom frame. Would all that many people stop by, maybe not. The one’s that did, would probably be in the percentage to share with EVERYONE their great experience, and their great bike, and how awesome it is. WOM straight and simple. Maybe it wouldn’t be that many people, but they wouldn’t lose potential customers in the process.

So from my experience with these two companies I’ve become jaded. I sit here and think, these two companies want good people to work with and for them, but they make it incredibly hard for anyone to get to them. Should it be the yellow brick road? Certainly not, but should it be the Great Wall of China?

Have a great day.


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