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How This Keynote Speakers Bureau Hit The Inc 5000 And Nearly Doubled Its Revenue In Just Four Years
June 18, 2018 6:04 am|Comments (0)

Executive Speakers Bureau is one of the most successful speakers bureaus in the U.S. and one of the only speakers bureaus to ever hit the Inc. 5000. Founded by Angela Schelp in Memphis in 1993 (husband and partner Richard Schelp joined as president and co-owner in 2001), Executive Speakers Bureaus offers and books hundreds of keynote speakers nationally and internationally and continues to grow at a pace rarely approached in this competitive industry, nearly doubling its overall revenue and number of bookings in just the last four years, while maintaining a reputation for customer service and community involvement that is widely viewed as second to none.

Micah Solomon, Inc.com: You’ve spoken in passing about the importance of your vision of success.  Can you explain what this means specifically as it relates to commercial success?

Richard Schelp, President and Co-Owner, Executive Speakers Bureau: In order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, you need a true plan or strategy.  Our ability to anticipate some of the challenges we have had to face in the industry and our understanding of how to address those challenges has kept us ahead of our competitors and driven our success in revenue and profitability.

Solomon: I’ve heard you and Angela speak about the power of your company’s culture and the pride you take in your employees.  Can you speak a bit about this? 

Schelp: From the beginning the culture of Executive Speakers Bureau has been built around respect for each other, a true sense of team, and the fact that both what we do within our business and in our community affects many people’s lives.  Very few work environments can promise its employees this kind of value.  

Our employees are some of the best you will see in any industry, and certainly in ours.  It is not just a job to them.  They are proud of where they work, and they truly feel responsible for the success of Executive Speakers Bureau.  This is the reason why they want to stay.  They want to see this thing through to the end.  

Solomon: What in your and Angela’s prior background led you to be able to take this approach and succeed with the culture of your company and your relationship to your employees?

Schelp: Both Angela and I have a wealth of corporate experience (IBM, AT&T, and other big firms) in which we have both managed and worked for a number of people.  When you have seen a lot of examples of great and terrible management, you start to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.  All of the previous managers that I respected established environments in which I felt comfortable going to them, and they were the primary reason for me enjoying my job

 Solomon: Your bureau has grown quite quickly. How is life different now that you are an agency of significant size and pull?

Schelp: Life at Executive Speakers Bureau is definitely a little bit different now that we are much bigger.  With that does come a level of responsibility and respect.  Because of our increased size, we now have a larger role within our industry association.  As a matter of fact, I will become the president of the association next Spring. 

Also, in the early years of our bureau we used to base our decisions about processes, documents, fee recommendations, etc. on what the larger bureaus were doing.  Now we don’t check with others.  We make our decisions based on what we know and what we think makes the most sense.  Surprisingly many bureaus are following our lead, and they are calling us to ask how we do things. 

Solomon: Many of my readers are entrepreneurs and business leaders themselves. It’s very helpful and enjoyable (!) for them to hear about mistakes you’ve made or tricky situations you’ve endured in the past, what went sideways and how you either dealt with it or learned from it.

Schelp: A few years ago I faced an extremely tricky situation that taught me so many lessons as a business owner in our industry. A high-profile sports figure was supposed to speak for me at a large convention in New York.  He decided to fly in on his private plane the morning of the event.  However, there was a terrible electrical storm that morning, and his plane was grounded, leaving me without a speaker.  I received the call at 6:30AM and the speaker’s presentation was at 10:30AM.  I had four hours to find a replacement for a great speaker and get him to the event on time.  Immediately I went to work by calling all of the speakers and agents who were high quality and could get there-and, ultimately, I was fortunate enough to find a speaker who my client absolutely loved.

The lessons from this incident were numerous, but most importantly I realized just how crucial it is to have access to many resources, so that an emergency situation becomes doable, otherwise it is impossible.  Also, I learned that as long as you are determined and efficient any task can be accomplished.

 

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Are Flags Just a Piece of Cloth, or Are They a Powerful Symbol of Something Greater?
June 14, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

This week is Flag Day, June 14. To Americans, the US Flag is an evocative image. It’s a symbol of our freedom, and of what others have sacrificed to ensure it. It can also be a symbol of protest. The US Supreme Court famously confirmed the right to burn the flag as an act of free speech, and nearly no one has missed the recent debate over standing versus kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events.

Non-national flags are powerful symbols, too. They represent ideals, movements, and aspirations. Even national flags can come to represent controversial issues, as the recent kneeling controversy in football reminded everyone.

No one can deny that flags are powerful symbols. Here are quotes that reflect on the power of flags to rouse passions, one way or another:

1. “The stars and stripes were fluttering bright against the rain, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

2. “I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love.” ― President Barack Obama

3. “I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.” ― Senator John Thune

4. “A true flag is not something you can really design. A true flag is torn from the soul of the people. A flag is something that everyone owns, and that’s why they work. The Rainbow Flag is like other flags in that sense: it belongs to the people.” ― Gilbert Baker

5. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” ― Colin Kaepernick

6. “Every red stripe in that flag represents the black man’s blood that has been shed.” ― Fannie Lou Hamer

7. “I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars.” ― Joshua Chamberlain

8. “I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.” ― Craig Washington

9. “The American flag represents all of us and all the values we hold sacred.” ― Adrian Cronauer

10. “Standing as I do, with my hand upon this staff, and under the folds of the American flag, I ask you to stand by me so long as I stand by it.” ― President Abraham Lincoln

11. “I don’t judge others. I say if you feel good with what you’re doing, let your freak flag fly.” ― Sarah Jessica Parker

12. “There is a strong tendency in the United States to rally round the flag and their troops, no matter how mistaken the war.” ― George McGovern

13. “America has been the country of my fond election from the age of thirteen, when I first saw it. I had the honour to hoist with my own hands the flag of freedom, the first time it was displayed, on the Delaware; and I have attended it with veneration ever since on the ocean.” ― John Paul Jones

14. “I just bought a Jeep painted like an American flag. No one better question how patriotic I am.” ― Blake Anderson

15. “When I see the Confederate flag, I see the attempt to raise an empire in slavery. It really, really is that simple. I don’t understand how anybody with any sort of education on the Civil War can see anything else.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates

16. “I’m proud of the U.S.A. We’ve done some amazing things. To wear our flag in the Olympics is an honor.” ― Shaun White

17. “Burning the flag is a form of expression. Speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words. It could be semaphore. And burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea – I hate the government, the government is unjust, whatever.” ― Antonin Scalia

18. “I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way.” ― Megan Rapinoe

19. “If a jerk burns the flag, America is not threatened, democracy is not under siege, freedom is not at risk.” ― Gary Ackerman

20. “I savored my time on top of the podium by watching the American flag rise up out of the crowd as the anthem played, thinking about how every single second of training I’ve done was for this minute and how many people played a role in my achievement.” ― Hannah Kearney

21. “In most countries, you have a monarch or some other principal person to whom its officers and its military swear their allegiance. Our officials in this country and our military swear allegiance to the Constitution. We say that when we say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag”. ― Edwin Meese

22. “For any athlete growing up, the Olympics is the one thing you watch with your family, and it’s the one thing you dream about. Seeing your country’s flag go up as you get a gold medal is the best thing you can achieve.” ― Abby Wambach

23. “I can take the steel guitars and fiddles off, we can make it a little more pop, cover ideas that are a little less cowboy. But you got to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, whose flag you are under? For Garth Brooks, I’m steel, fiddles, red, white and blue.” ― Garth Brooks

24. “If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him – it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known – the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

25. “Our flag means all that our fathers meant in the Revolutionary War. It means all that the Declaration of Independence meant. It means justice. It means liberty. It means happiness…. Every color means liberty. Every thread means liberty. Every star and stripe means liberty.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

26. “There is not a thread in it but scorns self-indulgence, weakness and rapacity.” ― Charles Evans Hughes

27. “We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth, peace, security, liberty, our family, our friends, our home… But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done.” ― Calvin Coolidge

28. “‘Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag,’” she said. ― John Greenleaf Whittier

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All The Fighters We Just Saw In 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' On Nintendo Switch, With Three New Ones
June 12, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)
Most read

, I write about video games and technology. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Credit: Nintendo

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Here’s how you know if a Smash Bros. character is coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch. You ask yourself: have they ever been in a Smash Bros. game before? If the answer is yes, then that character is in the game. That character might be in the game even if the answer is no. Nintendo’s tagline from the direct was a succinct “Everybody is Here.” That means that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will have the biggest roster of any Smash Bros. yet, complete with formerly cut characters like the Ice Climbers, Wolf and Pichu.

Lots of these characters are updated to reflect their most recent appearances in other games: Mario will have Cappy, for example, and Link now sports the blue tunic from Breath of the Wild. There are also a ton of alternate costumes as well as “echo fighters,” which are fighters with a very similar style to another fighter with slight differences, like Peach and Daisy. I can’t imagine these are all the characters that will be in the final game, and Nintendo has likely saved a few announcements for later down the road. Maybe a tennis Mario? Shovel Knight, please? The Space Marine from DOOM?

All told, this doesn’t look all that much different from Super Smash Bros. on Wii U, but this is an iterative franchise, after all. Even if it were the exact same game, the simple fact of a Switch release would expose it to a much wider audience and give it a whole new lease on life. Here are all the characters we saw today, along with three new ones in bold:

  • Mario (with Cappy)
  • Samus
  • Kirby
  • Bowser
  • Link from Breath of the Wild
  • Donkey Kong
  • Fox
  • Falco
  • Marth
  • Zelda
  • Sheik
  • Villager
  • Mewtwo
  • Metaknight
  • Sonic
  • Peach
  • Pikachu
  • Ice Climbers
  • Inkling
  • Captain Falcon
  • Zero Suit Samus
  • Wii Fit Trainer
  • Pokemon Trainer (Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard)
  • Ness
  • Lucas
  • Ryu
  • Ganondorf
  • Ike
  • Cloud
  • Snake
  • Jigglypuff
  • Pichu
  • Roy
  • Olimar
  • Diddy Kong
  • Lucario
  • Lucina
  • Robin
  • Bayonetta
  • Mr. Game and Watch
  • Greninja
  • Dr. Mario
  • R.O.B.
  • Duck Hunt
  • Pit
  • Dark Pit
  • Palutena
  • Corrin
  • Bower Jr.
  • Toon Link
  • Young Link
  • King Dedede
  • Rosalina and Luma
  • Mii Gunner, Sword and Brawler
  • Wario
  • Little Mac
  • Pac-Man
  • Shulk
  • Wolf
  • Megaman
  • Luigi
  • Yoshi
  • Princess Daisy
  • Ridley

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You Can Pilot Larry Page’s New Flying Car With Just An Hour Of Training
June 6, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

Kitty Hawk, the flying car company founded by Google’s Larry Page has a new personal car model coming to a sky near you. The Flyer, a single-seat vehicle operated by joystick is fully electric and has been described as a mix of a pontoon plane and a drone, though it’s not remotely operated, CNBC reported.

The flying car will start at a speed of 20 miles per hour, and will be able to fly up to 10 feet above ground, with pilots ready to take the skies after just an hour of training, according to Bloomberg. The quick training time makes the flying car more accessible, according to Sebastian Thrun, a self-driving car innovator and CEO of Kitty Hawk. “If it’s less than an hour, it opens up flight to pretty much everyone,” Thrun told CNN. He hopes the cars will one day be able to reach a speed of 100 miles per hour.

Another Kitty Hawk venture includes the Cora aircraft, a two-seat electric pilotless taxi aircraft. So far, the vehicle has been tested in New Zealand. The company’s plan is for its flying vehicles to become “part of a service similar to an airline or a rideshare.”

CNN reporter Rachel Crane, who tested out the Flyer said, “The joystick is so intuitive, but it’s not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in. You definitely feel the vibrations.”

It’s still unclear when the vehicle will be released—and at what price—but according to Thrun, these cars could take to the skies in the next five years.

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The Warriors' Draymond Green Just Taught a Wonderful Lesson in Reacting to Criticism (Yes, That Draymond Green)
May 28, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

If you’re not a Golden State Warriors fan, you likely don’t warm to Draymond Green.

The power forward might seem to you like an arrogant, big-mouthed bully who, just as many bullies do, whines when he doesn’t get his way.

As far as former NBA whining bully Charles Barkley is concerned, well, he offered that Green annoys him so much he’d like to punch him.

The actual quote was: “I want to punch his ass in the face.”

Which conjures too many awkward images for my taste.

I fancy, though, that Barkley’s fist-swing is about as good as his golf swing — uglier and more ineffective than espadrilles in a rainstorm.

However, the former so-called Round Mound of Rebound was suddenly confronted with Green face-to-face after Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Saturday night.

Would he take a swing? Or would he merely choose to insult the Warriors star a little more, in that adorable joking-not-joking manner?

And how might Green react?

Well, Barkley cowered somewhat. It was left to fellow TNT panelist Kenny Smith to point out that Barkley, in his dim, distant playing days, wasn’t dissimilar in style to Green.

Barkley claimed this was all “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

The only criticism he could articulate was that Green never admitted to committing a foul. 

And then, perhaps, well, there’s all the physicality — some borderline, some even worse — that Green brings to his game.

For his part, Green could have reacted to Barkley in so many different ways. 

He could have offered a politician’s bluster. He could have offered some bland statement that avoided the question. He could even have snarled.

Instead.

Instead, he just admitted that he knew precisely why some people don’t view him with kindness.

He said that he didn’t think anyone in the NBA thought they ever committed a foul.

But.

“I can get bad with that at times,” he said. “My mom always reminds me of it, my grandmother will say it, my uncle was really hard on me about it. So, I could understand that.”

Criticism is hard to take. The problem is that, occasionally — very occasionally — it’s true.

If you recognize that a criticism is true, there’s something glorious in admitting it.

It’s not easy.

Your ego is vast and vulnerable. Admitting fault feels like losing — or, even worse, exposing an ugly truth about yourself.

Oddly, though, you might find that people respect you more for showing that you at least know how you’re perceived by others.

I confess that, even though I’m a Warriors fan, I’m occasionally exasperated by Green’s highly sensitive reactions to alleged injustice.

Yet seeing him react with poise and honesty was a refreshing reminder that we’re all desperately imperfect.

Privately, we beat ourselves up over these imperfections.

To admit to them in public is the first step to a sane redemption.

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Southwest's Apology to Passengers on Flight 1380 Is Brilliant, and It's Not Just the Cash. Here's Why
April 21, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

For the passengers who survived the emergency landing on Southwest Flight 1380 this week, on which Jennifer Riordan died, the flight must have been a horrifying experience. 

The pilot and copilot have had been hailed as heroes, and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was praise for the fast apology and condolence statement he offered via video. But you can imagine that the airline might want to continue to respond to the affected passengers quickly.

Apparently, it has. Even as the federal investigation into the incident continues, Southwest reportedly sent letters with personal apologies and quick compensation to passengers from Flight 1380 just a day after the emergency.

Obviously, any big company that faced a debacle like this needs to do something similar and quick.  Many do, but only in exchange for people offering to drop all claims against the company (more on whether that’s happening here, in a second).

But there’s something interesting in how Southwest handled the issue–a combination of what they offered, and how they worded the apology letter, as reported, signed by Kelly:

We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. … In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $ 5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs.

As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $ 1,000 travel voucher…

Our primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible.

What leaps out at me is, oddly, the smallest financial part of the compensation: the $ 1,000 travel voucher. (Although, it’s funny: psychologically people sometimes put a higher subjective value on a tangible thing valued at a certain amount, then they do on cash.)

Even in the wake of tragedy, Southwest is taking steps to try to keep these customers–as customers. 

As some commenters have pointed out, while the uncontained engine failure aboard flight 1380 was terrifying for passengers, and resulted in loss of life and injury, it’s by no means the first time a flight suffered a similar catastrophe and ultimately landed.

Commercial airlines like a 737 are designed to be able to fly with one of the engines disabled, and professional aircrew train and drill on what to do in this kind of situation. The emergency was deftly handled by Captain Tammie Jo Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor.

Part of why this story was so widely reported however, is that passengers were immediately sharing it on social media. One passenger famously paid $ 8 for inflight WiFi even while he thought the plane was going to crash, so that he could broadcast on Facebook Live what was happening and say a farewell to friends and family.

So, connect this to the travel vouchers. Beyond taking a step toward repairing the relationship with these passengers, what better PR result could Southwest hope for than some positive travel experiences and social media posts from one of them, as a result? 

I wouldn’t expect Southwest to articulate this rationale; that would actually undercut it. And, I do have a couple of other questions about how this all works, for which I’ve reached out to Southwest for answers. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

For example, I would assume that the family of the passenger who died on the flight, Jennifer Riordan, would be treated differently, and maybe also the seven passengers who reportedly were injured. 

There’s also the question of whether these are really just goodwill payments, or a way to quickly settle 100 or more potential claims against the airline. If it’s the more traditional, transactional legal strategy of just trying to settle claims quickly, then that undercuts a lot of this.

However, I’m judging based on the experience of one passenger, Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, that this might not be the case. Zilbert reportedly checked with a lawyer before accepting the compensation,” to make sure I didn’t preclude anything.” Based on the lawyer’s advice, went ahead and did so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every passenger is happy with the gesture. For example, Marty Martinez of Dallas, the passenger who became famous after he livestreamed the emergency landing over Facebook Live, said he’s not satisfied.

“I didn’t feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $ 6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don’t think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime.”

Even so, Southwest sort of got what they’d probably like to see in his case, anyway: a tangible demonstration that despite the experience aboard Flight 1380, he’s willing to fly with the airline again.

The proof? He gave his quote to an Associated Press reporter, the account said, “as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.”

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Technology Meant to Make Bitcoin Money Again Just Went Live
March 15, 2018 6:32 pm|Comments (0)

A version of the technology that’s meant to make cryptocurrency payments faster and cheaper went live Thursday.

The software, called Lightning Network, can now be used for Bitcoin payments after more than a year in which thousands of developers tested it. Lightning Labs, one of the firms developing the technology, released this initial version, which is compatible with networks being developed by other groups, such as Blockstream and Acinq.

Bitcoin has become digital gold — or a viable investment alternative — to many, but it has been harder for it to fulfill its original purpose of becoming digital money, as transaction fees have skyrocketed to as high as $ 50, while confirmation times took as long as a week at their peak. Enthusiasts say the Lightning Network will solve these problems with fees at a fraction of a cent and instantaneous transactions.

The Lightning Network rolls out, another technology meant to speed up transactions, Segregated Witness, gains traction, with the number of transactions using it doubling to more than 30 percent of total Bitcoin transactions in the past month. Bitcoin transaction fees have plummeted in part thanks to this, but the total number of transactions has also declined. Lightning Network is also meant to help lower fees on the main Bitcoin network.

The Lightning Network allows Bitcoin users to open payment channels between each other. The parties can than conduct transactions without having to post them to the Bitcoin blockchain, avoiding delays and costs that result from recording those transactions each time. Once the channel is closed, only the resulting balances are recorded on the blockchain, not the full transaction history of the channel, and only then are Bitcoin fees paid. There is no required time or transaction limit required to close a payment channel, so they can potentially remain open for months of years.

Elizabeth Stark, Lightning Labs founder and chief executive officer, says merchants and especially online businesses will be the most likely users as it facilitates a high volume of payments and its near-zero fees allow for micropayments. Cryptocurrency exchanges could also use the software to accelerate deposit and withdrawal of funds, she said.

The network is currently able to process transactions in the low thousands per second, according to Stark, which is still far from Visa Inc.’s maximum of 56,000, but an improvement on Bitcoin’s five transactions per second. More than 4,000 payment channels have been opened since the technology was released in January 2017, and even though it was in testing, some merchants already started using it. Block & Jerry’s, an online ice-cream store playing on American ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, is one.

“Bitcoin enthusiasts have gotten excited about this, merchants are excited about this,” Stark said. “It feels like we’re right on the edge of mass cryptocurrency adoption.”

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In a Few Words, Marriott's CEO Just Offered a Statement That Screams a Lack of Emotional Intelligence
December 18, 2017 12:48 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I’m writing this in a hotel room.

But that’s only because I’ve stayed at this hotel for more than 20 years and I’m a sentimental fool. 

Oh, and I once had an indifferent Airbnb experience here in Miami. And the price difference between my hotel and the local Airbnb’s is negligible.

Usually when I’m booking a trip, I look at Airbnb first these days. 

I’ve now had many good experiences, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Indeed, I’ve had truly wonderful Airbnb hosts — and apartments — in Oslo and Lisbon, especially — that made me never want to stay in a hotel again.

This doesn’t worry Airbnb CEO Arne Sorenson.

I know this because he told the New York Times’s delightful Ron Lieber that he’s never even tried Airbnb.

In my naïveté, I’d always thought that one of the principal jobs of a CEO was not just to know your competition, but to get your hands on its product. 

Yet Sorensen explained that “his daughter has [tried Airbnb]. She told him he had nothing to worry about.”

What a relief.

Whenever I wonder about a product, all I do is ask one of my Starbucks baristas. If they don’t like it, I know it’s no good. 

Sorenson, though, expanded his views on Airbnb: “They were the toughest competition when they were offering a true sharing-economy product. The more they get to offering dedicated units, which they’ve done as they’ve grown, the more they look like the competition we’ve faced for decades.”

However confident you might feel, the reek of complacency can incite the flames of arrogance.

It’s true that Airbnb has strategic challenges.

It may be that ultimately it becomes something different from its current persona. 

What it surely does have, though, is millions of users who have been only too happy to get away from the disturbingly inflated pricing and the nauseating nickel-and-diming of too many hotel groups. (Hey, don’t you just love resort fees? In New York.)

These Airbnb users now have an emotional relationship with the brand. Yes, just as they might have once had with certain hotel brands.

I used to seek out the W Hotels (now owned by Marriott) in cities. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in one.

Airbnb guests are still prepared to forgive its occasional errors, partly because, as they travel the world, they find hosts becoming friends and apartment life becoming far more enjoyable.

Even if they have to make their own beds.

On my last stay in Lisbon, we had a gorgeous 800 square foot apartment in the middle of the city that was one-third of the price of nearby hotel rooms.

Still, some people at Marriott have apparently tried Airbnb. 

The company’s global brand officer Tina Edmundson told Lieber that it was “OK” and “fine.”

I know that when my girlfriend tells me something is fine, it means it’s anything from dull to disgusting, depending on her precise intonation.

Edmundson expanded on her thoughts by admitting that “her standards might be particularly high.”

Or snooty, you might fear. Or just a touch OCD.

“I like the notion that someone professional has been in and cleaned it,” she told Lieber.

Coincidentally, here’s a disturbing headline I just read: “COURTYARD MARRIOTT. YOUR BEDS REALLY BUG ME …Allegedly Bitten Guest Sues.”

Here’s another one along the same lines

Marriott isn’t, of course, the only hotel group to be subjected to such issues. Even Airbnb isn’t immune

The point, though, is a simple one. 

A new competitor comes along. It’s doing something different. People have warmed to it. Learn from that by really getting to know it and why people love it.

New competitors can be easy to dismiss. Ask then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Yes, that iPhone thing was a real joke.

Imagine what Microsoft shareholders and employees thought about those words a few years later. 

Imagine, too, what Marriott — and newly-acquired Starwood — customers might think of Sorenson’s, um, (over?)confidence. 

If you’re the boss, it’s incumbent upon you to experience, not just read or hear about, your competitor’s offering.

You never know what you might discover. 

Humility, for example.

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Burger King Just Did Something Amazing Purely To Help McDonald's (Or Did It?)
November 27, 2017 12:12 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It was a day like any other.

Customers streamed into Burger King and asked for a Whopper.

Except this wasn’t a day like any other, because Burger King’s staff told their customers that, on this particular day, they weren’t selling Whoppers.

Some customers were angry. Some even used extremely flame-grilled words. 

What on earth was going on?

This was November 10 in Argentina. McDonald’s had designated this day as McHappy Day. 

On McHappy Day, all the money made from selling Big Macs was given to kids suffering from cancer.

So in every one of the 107 Burger Kings in Argentina, staff were instructed not to sell Whoppers and to direct customers to their nearest McDonald’s in order to buy a Big Mac.

It felt so public-spirited and many were seemingly impressed.

Burger King was, though, walking an extremely thin line here.

By making a video of its apparent good-heartedness, it was clearly trying to pat itself on the commercial back.

In the video, you might notice one Burger King employee make a disparaging comment about McDonald’s: “The place where they don’t flame-grill their burgers.”

Moreover, the sight of Burger King’s King character going to McDonald’s to buy a Big Mac smacked of, well, marketing.

Clever marketing, you might think. But marketing, all the same.

Burger King could have simply made a donation of its own to the good cause. It might have decided to give all the profits from Whopper sales to the same charities as McDonald’s.

Instead, some might conclude that it piggybacked more overtly on McDonald’s day.

This isn’t the first time that Burger King has tried to engage with its larger rival.

A couple of years ago in New Zealand, Burger King suggested that it and McDonald’s share a Peace Day and jointly create a McWhopper.

At first, McDonald’s wasn’t moved. And then, it still wasn’t moved, but created its own campaign to help refugees. 

Who benefited most? Well, Burger King enjoyed worldwide publicity.

It also won a lot of awards from the advertising industry for its idea.

Some good deeds are just that. Others, well, there’s a gray area.

Especially when there’s marketing involved.

Tech

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Roku’s IPO Price Just Gave the Company a $1.3 Billion Valuation
September 28, 2017 10:30 am|Comments (0)

Video streaming platform Roku has raised $ 219 million in its Wednesday initial public offering.

Priced at $ 14 a share, the company sold 15.7 million shares from Roku and some of its private shareholders, valuing the company at $ 1.3 billion. The stock will make its debut on the Nasdaq exchange today under the symbol “ROKU.” The IPO was a success for Roku, which had initially proposed a $ 12-14 a share range.

Read: How Advertising Could Be Roku’s Growth Engine

Roku’s boxes allow users to stream content from a variety of video services, including Netflix, YouTube, and HBO. As of June 30, the company has 15.1 million active accounts, with users streaming more than 6.7 billion hours in first half of the year.

While the growing streaming trend has made Roku popular, the company has had largely unprofitable growth since it was founded in 2002. Last year, the company brought in $ 399 million in revenue, but lost $ 43 million. In the first half of this year, it lost $ 24.2 million.

Read: A New Phishing Scam Is Targeting Netflix Users

According to TechCrunch, Roku had previously raised more than $ 200 million in capital since 2008. Menlo Ventures was the largest stakeholder prior to the IPO, owning 35.3%, and Fidelity owned 12.9%.

Tech

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