Archive for September, 2008

Jumping into the medical market

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

This month marks a milestone for Pure Incubation in the medical market – we just launched our first directory-based site: Orthopedic Product Guide. The site features more than 400 product categories with 1,200 companies, 6,000 products and hundreds of orthopedics resources, including white papers, surgical techniques, case studies, videos and product literature. Come on over the site and browse around if you’re interested; and if you’re really interested and have any feedback or suggestions, those are defintiely welcome, as well.

Orthopedic site 

Up next – 16 more sites focused on various medical specialties.

Signs that your start-up could go bust

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

My latest article is up on The Industry Standard - Five warning signs a tech start-up is in trouble. In the article, I highlight five symptoms that are sometimes indicative of a start-up that’s about to fail.

Caution sign

Of course, there aren’t always warning signs that a company is in trouble. This is probably stating the obvious at a time when Wall St. is considering a $700 billion bailout of some household names – AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. These are companies that were so big that they seemed infallible, but yet here we are, and those companies are struggling so badly that they might not recover.

It’s not very fun to focus on the negative. I would much prefer to tell the stories of start-ups that succeeded, made millions and helped save the world. But hopefully by looking out for some of these warning signs, you’ll be able to head them off before they happen to your company.

Photo by adselwood

Text search head-to-head: Google vs. Cha Cha

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The first time that I heard about Google text search I was at my sister-in-law’s parent’s house in Rochester, NY, and we were discussing how you can send a question to Google via text and get a quick response. Just sent a text to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) with a question, and Google will text you back with the answer.

My brother was there for that conversation, and was equally impressed, so when I got the following Twitter message from Matt a couple of weeks back, I was very interested:

Cha Cha Twitter

Cha Cha bills itself as a mobile search service. To get answers from Cha Cha, text your question to 242242 (spells ‘ChaCha’), and wait.

This sounded a lot like Google, but Matt claimed that it was better than Google, and I had some time on my hands (I was actually sitting at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA, at the time), so I thought I would do a totally unscientific head-to-head comparison sending random questions to both Google and Cha Cha and seeing what I got back. Here’s what I found:

QUESTION: Who sings It’s a heartache?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Janis Joplin’s version of “It’s a Heartache.”

QUESTION: What’s the water temperature in Gloucester, MA?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: These are the only 2 I found for water temperatures in MA. Boston, MA 66.9 degrees F/19.4 degrees C Woods Hole, MA 72.0 degrees F

QUESTION: Who sings I need a hero?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: I Need A Hero is sung by Bonnie Tyler.

QUESTION: Weather, Gloucester, MA

REPLIES:
Google: Weather: Gloucester, MA 72F, Clear Wind: W 0 mph Hum: 90%  Sat: 56F-79F, Clear Sun: 65F-79F, Mostly Sunny  Mon: 56F-81F, Chance of storm
Cha Cha: Gloucester, MA 76F, Fair Sat: 57F-77F, Sunny Sun: 66F-80F, Slight Chance Rain Showers

QUESTION: Circumference of the earth

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 mi, but, if you measure through the poles it measures 24,859.82 mi.

QUESTION: Distance to Mars

REPLIES:
Google: Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: The average distance to Mars is 48 million miles.

QUESTION: Movie theaters in 01915

REPLIES:
Google:
Movies: MA 01915  1. Tropic Thunder 2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars  3. Death Race  4. Mamma mia!  5. Pineapple Express  6. The Longshots  7. The Dark Knight  8. The House Bunny  9. The Rocker Send 1 to 9 for showtimes or NEXT for more movies. <I sent 5> Movies: Pineapple Express 1hr 45min, Rated R Drama 3.5/5 CinemaSalem 2:35  5:00  7:30  9:45 1 East India Square Salem, 01970  978-744-1400  AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall 20  1:50  4:30  7:40  8:40  10:20  11:25  100 Independence Drive Danvers, MA  01923  978-750-9019
Cha Cha: Cabot Street Cinema on Cabot Street and Larcom Theater on Wallis Street.

QUESTION: How many calories in a donut?

REPLIES:
Google: Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Calories range from 200-300 calories, is there one in specific you want the calories for?

QUESTION: Score Patriots

REPLIES:
Google: NFL *Philadelphia*: 27 New England: 17 Final, Aug 22  Recent game: Aug 17  New England: 10  *Tampa Bay*: 27  Next Game: Aug 28 7:00pm EDT New England at NY Giants
Cha Cha: Aug 22, 2008 Philadelphia VS Patriots lose 17-27. That is not good. They need to pick up their game before the season starts.

QUESTION: Who is the quarterback for the Patriots

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Tom Brady is the QB for the Patriots.

In my experiment, the overall winner was definitely Cha Cha. This is how I would break it down:

Cha Cha

Cha Cha logoPros: Cha Cha dominated the random facts categories. I was able to get more answers to more types of questions from Cha Cha than from Google.

Cons: Speed – Cha Cha sometimes takes quite awhile to reply – the longest reply actually took 57 minutes. Most answers came in about 5 minutes. Also, the reply to movie theaters in 01915 was not exactly right – the Larcom Theater is no longer a movie theater although it was at one time.

Neither pro nor con: One thing about Cha Cha is that it is real people looking up the answers to your questions. This felt kind of weird to me as I was sitting in my beach chair sending people on information missions, but you might like having people at your disposal to do your bidding. It was also a little odd to get occasional editorial comments with my answers (see the Patriots question, above), but I kind of liked that and thought it was fun. Again, some people might find this annoying.

Google:

Google Mobile logoPros: Speed – answers came to me lightning quick. No waiting, or maybe a couple of seconds wait. Google also has the lead in pretty much any question that it answers – if Google has the answer, it’s thorough and complete, and I trust the information. Google also definitely takes the lead in local search.

Cons: Limited types of questions can be answered by Google. There is also a way to send questions to Google that ensures a better answer, this convention can take some getting used to.

Pure Incubation's surprise party

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

The beginning of September was the one year birthday of my company Pure Incubation. And last week, my friends surprised me by throwing me (and my company) a surprise party to celebrate! I had no idea that they were planning this party (who would?!) but it was so fun to have a bunch of my friends, some of my family and a variety of egg-themed food to celebrate.

Everyone wore a Pure Incubation label on their shirt, and some of them (like Moe and Kim) wore blue and white.

Moe and Kim

The egg cake was as delicious as it was cute.

Pure Incubation cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five reasons to start delegating more today

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

It is a simple fact that I am terrible at delegating.

I have a very hard time giving work to someone else to complete. Even when I’m trying to think of tasks to delegate, when I am purposely trying to trim down my workload, I have trouble delegating.

But now I have a secret weapon.

Last week, on my company’s anniversary, I hired my first full-time employee. Cara doesn’t have an official job title yet, she is a jack-of-all-trades. I hired her because she is smart, flexible, likes variety, and because she is the best delegator I have ever met in my life.

Pointing finger delegatesCara takes delegating to a whole new level, not because she is lazy, but because she is efficient. She is willing to do anything if it has a purpose, but if it is useless busy work, she’ll be happy to explain why. If she’s working on a project that can be outsourced to someone else who is not fully occupied with work, she’ll demonstrate how that makes sense. She is also excellent at training other people (which is a big part of delegating). Cara is a master delegator.

In the one week since Cara’s worked with me, her delegation skills have already begun to transform my business. And watching her thought-processes has given me some really good insight into why every person in every business should start delegating more today.

1. Teaching a job to someone else shows you where there are holes in your logic or where you’re taking too many steps. As I’ve begun to explain process-oriented work to Cara, she asks me questions that point out unnecessary steps or reveal a better way to do things. Today I was explaining how to check something from the admin section of a Web site. To do so involves a separate URL, login information and instructions on how to access the data. That process works, but Cara asked why we couldn’t just find the information from the public Website. Turns out we could, and that saved us about 10 unnecessary steps. Just by explaining the steps and having someone ask a question, we saved time and streamlined a lengthy process.

2. Feeling like you have to do something is a lot of pressure; it’s easier to think more creatively when you aren’t stressed with looming projects. I have a to do list that stretches for pages in my notebook. There are many items on that list that have been there for months. They are always on that list, always in the back of my mind; projects that I need to tackle but haven’t been able to get to. If there is a project that has been on your to do list for more than two months, think about delegating it. You aren’t getting it done, so at least some progress will be made if you give it to someone else.

3. Giving away something old and established makes way for something new and innovative. I have a number of repetitive projects that take up a portion of my week every week. These things are always there; kind of like during college on the weekends when I could not ever relax because I knew that there was a book to read or a paper to write. By delegating those kinds of projects, your mind has more room to be creative and to spend time on less process-oriented problems.

4. Establishing processes allows you to delegate and to increase your output in multiples. It’s fairly obvious that it is much easier to outsource something if there is a process for how it gets done. By creating processes around work, and figuring out how to get other people to help do the work, there is another benefit – the total amount of work that you can get done increases exponentially. An good example is the human powered search engine Mahalo. The site employs Guides who help to create pages that can be searched. There is a process to creating those Mahalo pages, and by making sure that everyone who works on the site knows the process, the site can grow faster as new Guides are added.

5. Freeing up extra time will allow you to write that blog post that you’ve been putting off for a week (or longer). More time for other work is the most obvious reason to delegate.

(BONUS) 6. Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work. And in most cases, it’s better to get 80% of the work done at 80% skill level than 40% of the work done at 100% skill level. On top of this, it’s usually not true that no one else could do the work.

When this article first came out, I printed it out and tacked it to my bulletin board at work because of this section:

“Moving into any new position requires that you get rid of the stuff from your old position. This means delegating. It means getting over the idea that you were indispensable on any of your old teams. You can’t do you new job well if you’re still doing your old job.

Delegating your old job should take three days. You find people who are taking a step up when they accept pieces of your old job so that they are excited. You give them an explanation of how to do it and tell them where to go when they have questions.

You are going to tell me that one day is not enough, that you have a very complicated job. But think of it this way: If you died today, your job would be delegated in a couple of days.

Delegating is not enough, though. You have to stop caring. If you are no longer on a project because you got a promotion, then you have to stop obsessing about how the project is doing.”

I try to keep that advice in mind, but I’ve already admitted that it’s a challenge for me. If you’re bad at delegating, try these seven tips to becoming a better delegator. But whatever you do, start delegating more today.

Photo by Mykl Roventine

Celebrating milestones

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I am a firm believer that it’s important to celebrate milestones. Anniversaries, birthdays, project launches – in my opinion, they all need to be marked and noted, with proper gift giving, eating & drinking, and celebratory toasts.

Birthday cupcakeToday is the first birthday of Pure Incubation. To celebrate, I’ll have a glass of wine with dinner. But perhaps the most fitting tribute was that today was also my first full-time employee’s first day of work. Today I spent four hours out of the office in meetings, but even so, we got more done today together than I get done in most days of working alone, even when I put in 12+ hours.

The timing was coincidental, but it turns out that a new employee was probably the best gift that I could have given Pure Incubation on its first birthday. Here’s to many more (birthdays AND employees)!