Category: Team Culture and Performance

Horizontal Management – Mobilizing team and networks: Ready for action

A team that does not work well not only is not a team; but is a blocker towards any success. It is a team (not) that does no work. – yes the not is from Borat.

We must be able to organize teams and networks to be ready for action as this helps the team get off the ground and moving. In order to help get things going as smooth as possible we can focus on a few key elements that can build teamwork and networks, these are leadership, teamwork attitude, common understanding and trust.

Leadership: In my experience, I have always enjoyed working on projects when I was able to be the leader, I think this is inherent to our nature that most of us want to be leaders instead of followers as it makes us feel important and think that we have make a significant contribution to the project. When working as a team, one of the great benefits (that most do not realize) is that the leadership can be shared equally among the team members, it can and should shift from person to person depending on what is required and the person’s strengths, this gives everyone a feeling of accomplishment and an equal and important say in the processes (even if it may not be). When working horizontally team members should be allowed to have debates, open discussions as they are key methods of identify opportunities and resolve conflicts that may arise….. so long as you can focus and move forward.

 Teamwork: Rewarding team members to play nicely as a team always gets peoples motivations up. Teamwork makes a horizontal partnership cohesive so management should encourage early team building activities and open engagement that help develop a sense of collective ownership. This can be encouraged by giving incentives to work successfully as a team, such as recognizing members for their team efforts by giving awards and rewards.

Common Language: Recently I worked on a project where I was using the phrase “data entry” to describe an action where “any user enters data using a graphical user interface”. One of the team members was having a very hard time following the discussion because to him “data entry” was specific to “data entry personnel” (people hired to do data entry), who used a specific data entry user interface that was different than the user interfaces used by others, this was because they didn’t need the pretty features as all they did was repetitive data entry. This is why it becomes very important that the team members have a common mental model and have developed a vocabulary that is understood by all as this helps develop a working culture where misunderstandings or unclear terms will be kept to a minimum.

Trust: Trust is very important in maintaining relationships, it is the glue that holds a team together, if someone does not trust other members in a team, or does not fully place their trust in the team they will not be completely open and might not want to take part in discussions or coordinated efforts. The need for trust makes it important to invest in relationships and build credibility, this can be done by undertaking small tasks, being open and honest with others and delivering what was promised. When team members trust each other they will be willing to risk more together.

[Source: Moving from the Heroic to the everyday: Hopkins, Couture, Moore]

Working Horizontally (agile) & understanding Horizontal Management (work/team structures) and its issues

In line with the content on SDLC and ALM, along with today’s needs and desires for teams to be more flat.. or vertically structured: My next few posts are going to be about working horizontally, or horizontal management (work/teams/structures), or. let me throw in a buzz word .. “working in a more agile manner” 🙂

Horizontal management is: about working collaboratively across organization boundaries. There are no hard and fast rules to horizontal management it is an art more than a science. This type of management is pervasive, occurring at entry level in an organization. It involves bringing people from diverse organizational and occupational backgrounds together into teams and networks with a common purpose and shared culture. Group thinking is encouraged, but this can be seen as a risk because it cuts lines of accountability and authority and pursuing consensus at the expense of serving the public interest.  [*]

In a nutshell, working as a team/group is working horizontally. One might think that working as a team is an easy task as we all have done so at some point in time, but this is not the case when teamwork is the bases that can make or break the success of an initiative, especially when used in complex processes like software engineering and process improvement and we are in a teamwork state for long periods of time. There are various dynamics that come into play when working as a team, for example some might not get along or trust other members, some might not be motivated or good team players and others might forget their individual responsibilities. Working as a team requires that everyone get an equal part so that everyone has an equal interest in working together, towards a common goal, build long term relationships and be equally motivated for the long run. An interesting relationship between horizontal structures and software development is that working in a horizontal structure is viewed as an art, which is the same way that software development was viewed as before it was realized that it needs to be a manageable process, our focus will also be to help make horizontal management a manageable process.

Some of the issues that horizontal structures bring with them that need to be addressed are:

  • Working with others as a team slows down fast paced, ready for action members
  • Members are sometimes not motivated enough to work as a team, which damages team effort and progress
  • Members usually trust their own judgment and find it hard to put that trust in the hands of others
  • Each member may have their own vision and own motive, maybe a goal they want to accomplish as part of their job function and have their own priorities.
  • With everyone on the same level, who provides direction and leadership? Who is held responsible?
  • People need to be assured that their time and effort is resulting in progress.
To understand and address these issues, we need to have a look at the various “dimensions of horizontal management”

Key Dimensions of horizontal management

Working as a team rather than working as an individual does bring with it a few issues that need to be addressed:

  • When we work alone it is easier for us to switch gears and start making progress because we don’t have to wait for others to be ready, progress begins when oneself is ready, in a team progress begins when “everyone is ready”.
  • When we work alone we know what our goal/vision is, we know what we want and know how we are going to get there if we start straying away its really easy to pull ourselves back; When we work as a team, its possible that not everyone knows that the common goal is, they might have their own goals or own ideas of how things need to be and what takes priority over the other, when working as a team its important to make progress by combining all efforts towards a “shared goal/vision”.
  • Working alone means that you are responsible and accountable, you need to get the work done and you need to manage your own time, when working as a team, who does what gets blurred this is why a “support structure” must be in place (depending on the requirements) so that vertical roles and responsibilities are not forgotten.
  • When you work alone, since you are in control (and responsible) of the progress, it is easier to maintain your momentum, you know how much progress you have made, you know how successful you have been and if needed can make changes to help maintain momentum; Teamwork introduces attributes that may effect momentum such as meetings that go on forever, goals that seem unrealistic or far fetched, not knowing if all the effort in working as a team is paying off or not and so on. When working as a team, we must be able to “maintain momentum” on a daily bases.

Hence there are four key dimensions for horizontal management that revolve around horizontal structures and keep the horizontal structure/movement intact: [*]

  1. Mobilizing team and networks: Ready for action
  2. Developing shared framework: Working for the same goals
  3. Building support structures: To keep Horizontal team in check with Vertical roles
  4. Maintaining momentum: Keep progress moving

Each section would detail a significant amount of content so I will break it up into 4 posts to cover this topic….. eventually.

[*] = Hopkins, M. Coture, C. Moore, E. Canadian Centre for Management Development, 2001. Lessons learnt from Leading Horizontal Projects

Thought it was obvious, Tech Support is not Customer Support

To me, I am stating the obvious when I say “Tech Support is not Customer Service”; but it seems that not everyone is on the same page.

Recently, I ended up having to contact “Customer Support” over at discountasp.net; basically I wanted to re-purpose my account and host a different domain since I was not using the other one. They stated they would be glad to do it, for $15; I felt, being a customer with them for 7 years, I should not have to pay $15; also, the account yearly renewal was in 10 days.

After doing the math; If i cancelled the domain and simply created a new hosting account, they had a 6 months free offer. I would end up saving $75. Not very smart are they? I stated my intention, and the response I got back was “well, you can do that, but you wont get any partial refund since you been a customer since 2005″….

Great… so because I have been a loyal customer for 7 years, you want to punish me?

So I cancelled my account, and in the cancellation form where you get to send feedback, I wrote in “Customer Service is an important investment”; esp since it had my very recent communication history.

I did get a response 🙂

Image

 

So, a few things.

1. They messed up my last name (It was right there in the same email in the submitted form)

2. They believe customer service is an important investment. so they hired certified “Technical” resources?…..

Wow…isn’t that an Oxymoron…. I laughed at their response… my first instinct was to shoot back a quick snappy response to it… but then i realized… They so do not know what customer support is that they REALLY don’t know what they don’t know.

Being an x-programmer, and knowing my kind. TECHNICAL resources SUCK at CUSTOMER support. You NEED to sheild your customers from us technical people, because we cannot communicate. If its not 1’s and 0’s (for you non tech people, that equates to, a yes or no answer), we don’t know how to relay it to you.

Its that simple. Which brings me to my point, discountasp is not at fault for being stupid at customer support, that would just not be fair…. they just don’t know.

So I did not write all this, to bash discoutnasp…  the purpose of this post is to share and focus the last 2 seconds of the thoughts that went through my mind as I read, understood and mentally reacted to an email… the focus is on that tinny 3-6% thought process that almost got away… the thoughts that made me go “aha” and choose to respond and react differently.

Some would state “it was just an email, why is this post going on about an email”; its not about the email, its about “How something so small, can make you understand”. It is about “reacting appropriately” and to bring it all home, its about “being savvy”.

I have been reading and listening to this over the past few weeks and while this is geared towards office politics; the knowledge is applicable to many generic everyday events in your life. It helps you realize, that not everyone is as knowledge, as smart, or as “savvy” as you. Just because you know something, doesn’t mean the other person does.

So before, you quickly respond to an email, a statement, or something with a witty and emotional response; take a break, think about it, do you know something that they don’t, or do they know something that you don’t?

Your “smart” response could turn against you….

 

Leadership and Followship – your twitter followers don’t count.

In my opinion, Followship is the single measure that can tell you how great of a leader you are.

A leader has the ability to motivate, collaborate with, and influence others to commit to and do what is on his/her agenda. For this to happen, you need people who will commit to following this leader.

A leader would have followers who are not just his/her direct reports; followers would be from other teams who will do whatever they can to assist this leader be successful.

How do you measure followship? Is someone doing something for you because they fear they must? Or because they want to?

True followers will be engaging and will continue to challenge the leader by providing constructive feedback. Followers who follow because they have to will not be engaging and will simply do what you ask them unwillingly with negative comments and attitude.

A leader must have followers; without followers you have no one to lead.

The super hero characters we play

I feel that similar to the characters in the movie x-men, we all play different characters at work and have different attributes/powers. I however like to think that there are just 4 main characters….

Promoters: This is entrepreneurial-ism at its finest. These types of characters need no reason to introduce change that improves the lives of others around them. They simply walk in, look for something they can help improve and go at it. They promote change, new ways of thinking and mentor by example and strive to do exceed their own expectations. There is no fear of accountability or making a decision, be it right or wrong, they will act regardless of being asked or not. They are also overly positive and negativity does not demotivate them in any way.

Workers: These are your dependable characters; you want something done? They will get it done for you and not let you down. They will invest hours, sweat and blood to deliver what you ask of them; however they still need a little nudge from someone else; someone like a promoter. They are accountable to the tasks that are assigned to deliver on by someone else. In many cases they go over and beyond just to make sure they have met the expectation by a 100%. These characters have a positive energy most of the time; negativity gets them and their motivation down.

Watchers: These are characters that walk around, see what’s going on and assist when asked. They prefer to keep their necks low, blend in with the decor, and wait around for the next check. They would prefer do the minimum to meet what is expected of them. These characters have a neutral personality, neither negative nor positive, but will tend to appear more positive than neutral.

Negators: These are the toxic characters that not only are negative but will attempt to derail the promoters, be in the way of the workers and try to solicit the watchers to join the negators in their quest to make no progress. It wasn’t their idea, so it must be wrong; these characters fear change, do not want to be accountable nor do they want any new expectations set. If it was up to them, they would crawl under a rock and stay there forever. When they do come with a good idea, they cannot deliver as it requires them to actually do the work, be accountable and deliver; it is at this point they look for the workers to push their workload onto to get the task(s) done.

We should all strive to be Promoters that reward, mentor and recognize the workers, making them fellow promoters; motivating the watchers to become workers and pushing aside the negators if they cannot be changed. This may be a lot of work for an individual, but a piece of cake for a superhero………and thus; we should all let out our super hero identities.

Making Changes: Change Cycle

To stay ahead (or on top) of the game, we must recognize that change is good and that we must be continuously improving the way we work. While reading a book “90 days” I realized that I had been through these stages multiple times, fortunately walking away successful. It also made me realize how close I was to a possible failure in some of the changes I had made and because of this realization; the Change Cycle will always be on the back of my mind when I attempt to drive Change.

I took the concept that was in the book and modified the terms as it was easier for me to relate the “change cycle” to something I already knew, the “process cycle”.

Here is what I do and have to say about process:

Good process should be well tailored to the organization that intends to benefit from it. Process is much easier to implement when its implemented in stages based on a feedback loop; When improving or introducing process, a big concern is usually how fast and how much? Well, too much too early generally results in resistance to change and too little too late results in process loss.

So what should be done?

A rapid agile approach should be taken when implementing process. Process is implemented and/or improved when the lack of process has been identified. Once an idea of what process needs to be implemented has been formed, the cycle starts with

  • Introducing the process as a pilot, if the pilot is successful
  • It should then be verified that it’s repeatable. If the pilot is successful and repeatable
  • It should be formally defined and shared among the team as the formal process.
  • The process should now be managed and measured to obtain metrics to figure out how successful it is, its ROI, etc. These metrics should then be used to
  • Optimize and continuously improve the process.

The concepts of the “process cycle” for introducing a process are very close to the concepts of a “change cycle” for introducing a change.

In a change cycle, you:

  • Introduce a change and if the introduction of the change seems successful you then
  • Maintain the success to obtain stability. Once stability has been insured you
  • Optimize and introduce other changes as needed; this is your optimal success cycle.
  • Should the change not be maintainable, you will need to
  • Adapt the change to make it maintainable; this is the adapting cycle.
  • If you cannot adapt your change to be maintainable, you might have to
  • Change direction and counter the change; this is the Counter cycle.
  • If the change cannot be countered and be made maintainable, you will end up with a failed change. You can also end up with failure if your introduced change is not successful. A change can easily be unsuccessful if it’s too large; rubs people the wrong way, inappropriate, incorrect, etc.

Sometimes we start in this cycle at a completely different stage, for example we may realize that we have inherited a change put in place by someone else (different team, a VP, etc.) and we now need to act and adapt their request, or counter the change, making it successful. The 90 days book does a good job of giving a more general view of the change cycle; for me, the stage comparison of the two cycles makes sense.

The change cycle for making changes is just a small piece of the puzzle. How you go about obtaining buy in from your team, peers, and higher ups is another big part of the puzzle that will either result in success or failure. That will be a topic for another day.

eCommerce Tech- When sucess is the reason for failure

Success is always welcomed; we always work towards success, and preferably in most cases we can track towards it and see it coming…

But what do you do when success comes and you are the least bit prepared?

In the eCommerce world, your ability to evolve will make or break you. If you don’t rush to ensure you are prepared, you will end up with failure. I learnt an important lesson in eCommerce and startup almost a year back, may 2010.

Most tech based startups, start lean, and thats the appropriate approach. You do not want to go out and get dedicated hosted, or even get on a cloud host that costs a few hundred $’s a month when your revenue is $0 or already in the negative.. on that train of thought…

We were hosting our Blanklabel website on a shared host. Our provider was discountasp.com and I had (and still do) used them for years for many other projects/websites. I have always known the benefits and drawbacks of using a shared host…. and at 60k visitors per month and no set bandwidth limits, it was a great home for a “start up”….

That was until the New Your Times published an article on us.

To be fair, I did know that we were getting an article published in NTY; but it was a day or two before and there wasn’t much we would have done in preparation for it mainly because we did not know to expect. Our website was functioning, the order and payment system was fine, everything looked good…

Within a few minutes of the article showing up… we went from “functioning perfectly fine” to the brink of failure! How? Why?…. I live in CA so below is a time-log in PST of the sequence of events..

3:00 AM – I was coding Away… decided I needed to get some sleep so I closed shop…
3:30 AM – My phone rang, went to voice mail, woke me up,
3:35 AM – Checked my email, saw some questions about performance, looked at the website, seemed fine, sent an email in response, sent an email to discountasp went back to sleep
4:30 AM – Phone ran, answered, heard something like “It seems to be fine on my end, but customers are saying that the images are not loading”., I said “How many? just a couple? Call me back if its more than couple, could just be their connection, its working fine for me as well”… checked email, discountasp responded with the same “looks good here”, emailed them again “We are getting more complaints”.. back to sleep
6:00 AM – Phone rang again, Panicking person (you know who you are) on the other end “I have 22 chat sessions open with customers who are trying to buy, there is something definitely going on”.. This time, I got out of bed, I cleared cache, refreshed the pages a few times, tried to place and order, and there it was, random images were missing, email went out to discountasp again..
6:15 AM – I decided it was time to start looking at the logs… and there it was… As people started their morning on the East coat and were looking at their NYT print and web… our hits were rising… we had gone from a few hundred per day… to 35,000 per second… yes PER SECOND.
6:15 AM – Emailed discountasp again! asking if we could increase shared resource or get some sort of load balancing and pay for multiple servers… and also decided it was time to look for a Plan B
6:16 AM – Started looking for my Rackspace contact….
6:17 AM – Started to chat with Rackspace
7:00 AM – Signed up for Rackspace Cloud
7:19 AM – Started to download the current discountasp FTP snapshot
7:20 AM – 6 month old daughter woke up, so I was entertaining her while i did the rest below…
7:30 AM – Response from discountasp “Yea, we cant help you”…..
7:35 AM – Started to prepare a mental migration plan.. aka Plan B…
7:40 AM – Plan B was ready! Created SSL request at RackSpace, MS Sql server provisioned
7:45 AM – Download database backup file
8:00 AM – Restored Database file at RackSpace… Decided I should account for the orders that will continue to go over to the discount house so that no orders are lost and that I can migrate them over later… So I put in a 1500 order jump in the identity seed
8:XX AM – The rest of this hour went towards uploading the website to Rackspace,updating code to ensure that things worked fine on Rackspace, doing a few test runs…..updating DNS, generating and applying SSL,
9:XX AM – Started seeing orders come in on the new Database…. not just 1 or 2 here and there., but 15-20 every few minutes minutes. Was still chatting with Rackspace support to see if we could get some sort of stats, but since we had just signed up, it was not yet setup.
10:00 AM – Started to see discountasp log show traffic had reduced, server was now able to process requests that it got while the DNS updated globally.
10:XX AM – Declared Victory, while all the above was going on, My daughter was entertaining me.. or was it I who was entertaining her?…
11:00 AM – Continued to see things progress… orders still coming in… in hundreds… Called it a day for now… needed a break from this..
11:30 AM – Some more emails came in from discountasp ….. I wasn’t too happy with their lack of customer service and commitment… I guess the name does fit it well… its a discount store.. nothing compared to Rackspace’s fanatical customer support… I would not say they are really that “Fanatic”.. but… its better than discountasp and they are usually helpful.
6:XX PM – Due to the large # of orders, outgoing emails got blocked because the Rackspace servers saw it as SPAM/Flood. after an hour or so of going back and forth, Rackspace unblocked the email and thousands of emails went out to customers.
———–

2:00 AM – Discountasp hosted site was at 0 hits; Did a global DNS check, found all routes leading to Rackspace host.
2:XX AM – Started coding scripts to bring in the orders that ended up going to discountasp servers while DNS was still updating
3:XX AM – Executed the scripts after verification.. was impressed to see that my buffer of 1500 served me well., we had 1393 orders that ended up saving on the old database… once these were broight over with the same Order Id we had a gap of just 107 orders!
4:XX AM – Realized that I forgot to put in a buffer for the User Id, had to resolve this as we now had two users with the same User ID’s because of the split servers
5:00 AM – Emailed out the #’s of shirts we sold to the team!…
———-
7:00 AM – “Shut down the website, we cannot process any more, we are over capacity”…. I will leave this one for another day..
———-

In the time-log above, I have highlighted take-aways in bold that will help you prepare and execute a “Live Migration” from one host to another host AND ensure that all your data comes with you, with no additional negative impact to your customers. Today, we are still with Rackspace and are content with their service… We have however grown and believe we are ready to take the next big step in cloud hosting.

This blog post is just one of the many examples where potential success can take you down if you do not know how to prepare, execute and evolve in real time.

You are a worthless customer

Artscow.com, Thank you for telling me how worthless I am and giving me something to write about.

While this post is a dedication to artscow.com, the major focus of this post is “What is a customer worth to you”.

I am aware that there are more than a handful metrics and formulas you can use to figure out a $ amount; but this post is directed more towards the ethical and monetary value of a customer.

So let me start with a series of events…. Which were actually related to my wife’s interaction with an ecommerce purchase:

We have been long time customers of shutterfly, we love their customer service, product quality and the variety of products and services they offer…

Shutterfly does entice us with special offers and discounts and many times we pay full price for their products, which compared to professional studio and/or printer are a steal with as good or greater quality. Whenever there is a need, we have obtained products from them…

However; every now and then, you come across an offer that doesn’t cost you anything, and you say why not… One of these offers was artscow; they were offering 30 8×10 prints for free; all you had to pay was standard us postage, roughly $3.

My wife ordered the prints; a decent looking website.. The eCommerce/cart was slightly underpowered compared to shurterfly (boy is that an understatement) but it was a Fairly painless process.

A week or so went by and the prints showed up in the mail. We noticed that these shipped out of china (nothing wrong with that) and upon opening then, the print quality was decent; I.e nice color and gloss… However upon inspecting the images, the pictures were cropped left and right. From the 15 prints, 2 were usable.

My wife got on gmail and contacted customer service; a day went by and the response we got was instructions on placing items in cart and ordering them. None of the content in the response addressed the issue with the print.

Now I had to get involved; I took pictures of the pictures and emailed them over along with what it should have looked like. Also took a screenshot of their webpage that showers thumbnails of what was being ordered.

What I was expecting was a “Thank you for the details, please use this coupon to reorder your prints. While reviewing your images, we notices that the image is slight larger than what 8×10; even though it would have fit as the proportions were correct, out tool does not resize/shrink. Hence the cropping”…..

What I got was, “you didn’t adjust the image, so your got that”..,., and that was it…

I guess, we have been spoilt by shutterflys tool that notified you of any potential issues you may run into if your image is larger than the print or the image resizes, or crops.. but is that really our fault?

Here is where my “You are a worthless customer” statement ties in.
1. We were given FREE prints
2. We paid about $3 in shipping

How hard would it have been for artscow to say “Let us fix your experience, here is a coupon for another set of free prints” and maybe they could have even thrown in a “and you don’t even have to pay for shipping this time”… keep in mind, we still had coupons in our account for free prints which artscow.com would have been aware of… so I guess, we were not even worth $3 to them 🙂 what does it tell you about such a vendor?… so what is their official policy? “ArtsCow.com offers 30-day money back guarantee on all products. If you would like to return or exchange an item, please contact us to fill out a request form, and we will instruct you on how to send the item(s) back. Please keep in mind, shipping charges are not refundable”…. go figure…

Let me compare this to similar situations with shutterfly, at one time we ordered prints using low res images instead of the high res ones. When they got printed, the pictures were pixelated, obviously customer fault; however, shutterfly reprinted and shipped for free! I believe our order was worth $65; doing a comparison on “how much a customer is worth” I would have to say that we were at least worth the $65…. Now should the order have been $600 and it had been customer error; I do not know if shutterfly would have given us the same “let’s fix it for you”… eventually it tapers off and vendors will only pay so much to hold onto customer loyalty… however, their policy “If, for any reason, you’re not happy with a purchase, we’ll replace your order, at no charge, or give you a full refund.”….

Enough about shutterfly; let’s talk about Zazzle.com. We purchased a Groupon for $50 for $25; went online, customized some invites, ordered the invites; got them in the mail; somehow the “customized text” was replaced with the “generic text” that was shown as an example.
1. Customer error? No, and even it was….
2. Cart/Website should have caught the issue as no one would be buying customized invitations and keep the generic/sample text

The total order was worth $87; I chased Zazzle customer service down on twitter and had them help me with an emailed request to customer support. We got our Groupon certificate replenished and balance refunded and we placed our order again. Customer worth? $87 in this case…. and actually, if you look at Zazzles policy “If you don’t love it we’ll take it back”..

Now let me mentioned another eCommerce vendor that i actually know more about, and that is blank-label.com.

I know that at blank-label.com we care about customer satisfaction and loyalty, on the front page currently we have “Our Custom Fit Guarantee You will be completely satisfied with your custom fit dress shirt. If not, we’ll take it back and try again–free of charge.”. We toyed with 100% refunds in the beginning and then moved onto free remakes and we have been thinking of going back to 100% refunds or remakes. We moved away from 100% refunds was because we really wanted to do a good job of making sure that we met customer expectations and simply giving the money back wasn’t cutting it for us; if we still messed up after the 2nd try, we do refund the $’s and if someone really doesn’t want a remake, we refund in those cases as well… it’s just not a published policy 🙂

What is blank-labels customer worth? I have seen transactions in the $300 range been credited back to customer service; if you have not yet tried a custom shirt from blank-label.com I suggest you give them a try.

In summary, Customer satisfaction brings customer loyalty; if you do not care about your customers, they will not care about you…. especially if you make them feel worthless.

Startups – importance of your team

As far as I can recall, I have always been trying to build something.

In high school it was a community magazine. In college it was a BBS (bulletin board system).. Then towards the mid/end of the 90’s it was a subscription based web publication system and an online food court.

Let’s just say it was the wrong county and maybe the wrong time.

But moving forward came the idea of an online community that connected people, services and things based on geolocation…. This is before twitter, facebook, myspace, groupon, etc, etc.

Re-evaluating all my projects; I had realized that it was the “lone-star”ness that should be blamed for the failures.

I decided all my projects eventually failed because I was doing everything and eventually burning out and loosing interest on my own project.

August/September 2009 I decided I was going to have a team for my next venture. Started looking at startup job postings, contacting startups, etc… Wasn’t going anywhere until on twitter I found a post from Fan, looking for a techie to help with blanklabel.com and I reached out as in the early 2000’s another idea I had toyed with was online tailoring…. A year+ blanklabel.com grows, at a rate that far exceeds the expectations of our followers and probably our competition.

At home, many times I use to find an abandoned coffee cup; forgotten, unfinished and left in place. Credit goes to the now wife… I would ask her “what the hell is this?” and her response would be “a chemistry experiment”.., hence my motivation for making the following analogy…

A team is like the tube in a particle reactor and the particles are the team members.., you could state it’s an experiment where the tube contains the particles and helps them move towards the desired direction. Why is it an experiment? Well, you hope that the constant colliding will produce the energy/effect desired and not blow up the entire reactor. So it’s also important that these particles mix well.

Without this tube and other particles, I’d still be a free radical… A lone star that would eventually burn out and have no potential of creating and being part of a “big bang”.