Net Neutrality Friday

There were two large items in the news this week.

The first piece of news was hinted at last week. The FCC is in the process of re-regulating Business Services markets for Wholesale where there is not competition. On top of that Cable MSOs were included in the mix for this. I think this seems to make sense as regulation should be the strongest where competition is the weakest. One thing is that actually very few markets have competition to the level that will exclude them from this regulation. You can imagine it is only in the largest metropolitan areas where this is true. As a consumer, I think that this should be an ongoing signpost about regulation and the Internet. I would predict that in the long term we will be back to a fully regulate set of Internet Services the way that Telephone Companies are regulated. On top of that, technology will not be part of the equation: Cable, Copper or Fiber will all be treated the same. I would say at some point you can add wireless to that mix.

Before folks get hung up on Wireless, I want to point out that we have been spending a lot of money on installing new generations of equipment in a race. Now people are talking about 5G services sometime next year. 2G (the first Digital Technology) became available in the 90s. That means that we will have put 4 Generations of equipment in place over about 30 years. That is a lifespan of 7 years for the technology. Over time this will slow down and technologies will be introduced about 1/2 that rate. Once that kind of stability happens, it might be time to start imposing more regulations. The question in the US for 5G is how will T-Mobile and Sprint do on their roll-out. These roll-outs are expensive and one would think that each generation gets harder to deploy for these companies. Unlike the larger players, they just don’t have the capital base to keep going. In some ways, this seems like the US versus the USSR at the end of Cold War. Spend your competitors out of the market.

In a different kind of story Comcast announced a $3.8B acquisition of Dreamworks. This is in the same direction as Comcast’s purchase of NBC-Universal. It should be noted that Comcast is the only major US ISP with premium content properties like this. The thing that would be worrying would be if Comcast would somehow lock specific content to their network. They are highly unlikely to do so. Comcast is the largest player in the US market but not quite 1/2 the market is held by other players. Comcast would leave a large number of customers hanging if they did not offer their content broadly. This would mean that advertising revenue would decline for those properties. On top of that, Comcast must know that the regulators would slap them down for locking content to their network. This is something to keep your eye on, but is probably not going to change much in the near term.

Have a great weekend!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Advertisements

Time and Employees: Delegation

When it boils down to it, you are hiring employees to scale your Business. The way that this happens is that these employees take on tasks so that you don’t have to. In order for that to happen, you need to delegate tasks to them. Delegation is a skill like any other and can be learned. But it is not something you can generally do well until you have thought through how it works.

There are two aspects that I want to convey today. The first is that employees will end up making lots of small decisions while they are doing their work. Many of these (the 80%) are no brainers. They choose A over B or B over A because one is “better” than the other. The rest (20%) are toss ups where either A or B will work. Your first job in delegating is to arm your employee to be able to weigh the factors between A and B the way that you want them to. By doing this, the employee chooses between A and B the way you want them to – the way you would choose. And I want to be clear that you should want them to act the way you do. I talked to a CEO that wanted to hire me because they wanted me to model behavior that they could not model. In the short term, this can provide some leadership support. In the long term, it is a failed strategy. The CEO needs to be able to act in a way consistent with their employees. If they can’t then who is involved will make a difference to the customer/partner/employee. The impacted party will escalate more challenges to the CEO if they don’t get what they want out of the employee. That will just add more work to the plate of the Owner/Executive.

The second part is that Delegation has a trust curve just like any other human interaction. People that are not comfortable with Leadership often go one of two directions. They either over Micromanage or the perform Fire and Forget.

People don’t like to talk about Micromanagement in a positive way. It connotes a lack of trust and ability for an employee to contribute as an adult. To me, this is all about degrees. I am not talking about the equivalent of Helicopter Parenting. But early on in a new employee’s term, you will want to make sure to have regular check-ins. At these check-ins you can ensure that the decisions that are being made are being weighed with the correct factors. Owners and Executives can also be available to answer questions that are likely to arise because of imperfect task description. Over time, these check-ins will decline in frequency.

The other alternative that people often choose is Fire and Forget. A task is handed out with little to no direction and little chance for the employee to be able to get additional support in performing the task. What happens here is that the task will get done, but often in a way that makes the Owner/Executive unhappy. Without guidance, people will perform tasks in a way that makes sense to them. Everybody works differently. Things that are perfectly obvious to you are not to others. It is imperative that employees have a feedback mechanism to make sure that the Owner/Executive gets the results that they want.

So either extreme is bad, but how to do this effectively is for next time. Have a great day!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Net Neutrality Friday

To catch up on some news this week. The Frontier takeover of Verizon properties was not glitch free. I think that is to be expected and was not as bad as the Frontier takeover of the Connecticut lines from AT&T. I am not sure if anything will come of it. It didn’t sound like their was anything that could cause fines. There will be some customer loss, but I am sure that Frontier planned for it. Will have to see a year or so from now how this has gone.

Verizon had a couple of things happen this week. First, they announced that they had decided to extend FiOS into Boston. This would be the first extension of FiOS for almost 10 years. FiOS was built out from a construction standpoint very fast and then sold over time. There were issues with Video Franchising in particular with Boston. I wonder what cities are going to do when Video Franchises are replaced by OTT video. In fact, I wonder if that will be one thing that pushes folks moving video OTT. They can offer Video anywhere that they have network, irrespective of any license.

Then, there was a strike announced involving nearly 40,000 Verizon workers out of the Wireline Division. I am not going to comment on the politics or issues involved directly, other than to say that one reason that FiOS was created was to restrict union jobs. The problem was not really the wages, but the lack of flexibility. It took 4 different union job categories to install a copper phone line. When FiOS was created this was simplified into a single job category. The savings from this kind of change is extensive and the unions disliked FiOS. At AFC, we rode with union employees on installations who told us flat out that they were doing installs at a slower pace than they could to get overtime and save jobs. If you want to understand why Verizon is not expanding its residential wireline network (and selling off large chunks of it), look no further than this issue right here. This probably won’t slow down Boston, since Verizon would probably outsource the construction in that area anyway.

There was also some talk about updating regulations on Special Access for Business to simplify things for Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs). There was originally a lot of thought that CLECs would focus on residential service, but it turns out that they have really been primarily after business customers. There was a lot of complaint that the regulation and pricing had not kept up with the market realities on the ground. This is mildly interesting to me, but in the end I think focusing on physical connectivity is going to not work for these companies. I believe the money has moved into services and applications. I think a company that focuses on physical access is not going to survive in the long term. They are depending on a competitor to make significant capital investment for their business to thrive. That seems like a really bad idea for a business as a change in regulation or business conditions might make it untenable for them to continue their business. Now the last interesting point here was that Cable was expected to be included in the regulatory changes.

Which is what I will close with. In the deep past, call it 15 years ago, Telephone Companies and Cable Companies built completely distinct network and operated services that did not compete with the other. As the primary service moves to Broadband Internet over time having the companies regulated separately makes less and less sense. I hope that gets resolved at some point.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Sonoma County: News and Notes

Apologies that I am late with this post. I had lots of clients yesterday and got tied up. Lots of people are really interested in my Small Business Mastery program. It is designed for people that don’t have extensive Business Education and are running their own Business. 8 sessions every other week discussing a full range of issues that an Owner should have expertise in.

Last week I said I wanted to talk about housing in Sonoma County. I know some Residential Realtors and I know they are constantly looking for inventory. In other words, they are looking for houses to sell. The market has not been so good here since the bursting of the housing bubble in 07 – 08. This, first, should give you pause as it is likely we are in some sort of mini-bubble. If you are buying today, you should make sure that you can pay for what you get and question any additional value you will earn over the next few years. According to Realtor.Com, the average home price is $619,500 with the average transaction around $500,000. The percentage of homes for sale is about 1%. All of this is good news if you bought a house in 2010. You are now able to sell your house and make a lot of money.

The rental market is also very high. Average rents have increased over 10% per year over the last 5 years. Occupancy is very high and property managers are shooting for 97% or higher occupancy. Lake County residents who lost their homes last year added to the pressure put on rental units.

Other than pure numbers, I want to point out the impact that this can have on our local economy. We are dominated by Agriculture, Tourism and Hospitality. These industries generate a large percentage of low paid, if not minimum wage jobs. In Silicon Valley, technology dominates and graduating Engineers often earn $100K per year coming out of college. The question is going to be, where are the workers for our economy going to live?

Like the HUD complaint about Marin County, we are not overstocked with low income housing in Sonoma County. If you made $15 an hour (the new minimum wage), how would you live in a $1500 a month apartment? The goal is that housing should take no more than 30% of your income. Minimum wage puts this number at $774 per month. My quick Craigslist search showed 2 properties in Sonoma County at that price level. Other than that, you are likely living in Lake County and commuting. Think about living in Lakeport and commuting to Petaluma 5 days a week for minimum wage. Gas alone will make that untenable.

So, something in our whole housing policy here has to be looked at in these terms. How will we sustain and grow our economy if the majority of the jobs in our county do not allow people to live here? This is not a call for unrestrained growth, but we are in a bit of a quandary. The funny thing is that people are now focused on Art as the next part of the local economy to grow (via the Economics Development Board). Again, this is not helpful in generating a big number of well paying jobs.

Do I have any answers? Not today, but it is something we need to think about and figure out a path forward together.
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

Time and Employees: Onboarding Context

Last time I posted about Onboarding. This is the process of taking a new employee and integrating them into your business. Many business owners that I talk to think this sounds like a lot of overhead. To me, it is simple expediency. To that end, I want to provide a couple of pieces of context around this.

First, is your Brand. If you look back through my posts, you will find a significant number of them that deal with Branding a Smaller Business. Large Enterprises spend a lot of money on Branding. Smaller Businesses need to rely on how well they execute their Products and Services. Think about going to a fine restaurant and having a great meal. Now imagine that meal coming with terrible service. Would you go back? What would you think about that Business. Your employees are likely to be your front line to your customers and prospects. You need them to represent your Brand to the outside world. Is investing time in people post-hire to help them add to your Brand seem like a good investment in that context? I hope so.

Second, is the cost of recruiting and hiring the right people. It takes a long time to get new people to come on board. It will take more time to integrate them to be effective in their new role. That time is a resource expenditure just like cash. And hiring probably had some cash expenses as well. By having lots of voluntary turnover (the term that means that people leave on their own), you are spending time hiring. Assuming those positions are productive and producing money for you, then by having them open you are losing momentum in what you are doing. Plus, you are spending more time and more money in recruiting people to replace those that left.

Third, is based on what I call the 3Ps of Management: Products, Processes and People. Products are what you are selling today. They drive today’s revenue. But for many companies, they will change over time and be replaced by other products. Processes are the way you do business. As most of you know, it costs more money to operate a business each year. There are raises, rent increases, insurance price increases and other increases in general. When I was at AFC, we used to estimate it was 7% per year. That means that you need to generate 7% more Gross Margin (the direct profit on goods sold) to keep the same level of profit. That is without hiring or expanding. Just doing what you are doing. So, you need to constantly update your business processes to be more efficient. Finally, there are People. When it comes to making new Business Processes and creating new Products, they are the folks that are going to do it. It means that in the long term the vitality of any company is the People. You want to hire, retain and grow great people.

Given these motiviations, does it make sense to pay attention to your new employees and make sure that they become productive and happy as soon as possible? I hope so.

Have a great day!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

Sonoma County: News and Notes

As we roll through Spring and the rest of the year, I have been thinking a lot about housing in our area. I will spend posts over the next few weeks talking about that. But this week, I want to tell you that I spent some time with Ken Kelly of WSI Smart Marketing. WSI Smart Marketing is a family owned business in Santa Rosa that provides Digital Marketing support and tools.

Jim Sackman: Hey Ken, so what is new in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Ken Kelly: Well, Jim that is a funny thing. Google is always doing new things but that is really not our focus.

JS: I am in your BNI group and I don’t know your focus?
KK: That is partly why you are here. Yes, we are SEO experts and Google Partners. But our focus right now is Conversion Tracking. From our perspective, it is most critical that companies get value for every marketing dollar that they spend. Without the proper tools and methods, they simply won’t know.

JS: Yes, Marketing is all about Measurement.
KK: We won’t simply measure what we do. We will measure the effectiveness of all their marketing tools and campaigns. This includes Digital, Print, Radio or TV. WSI Smart Marketing can provide the feedback for a company so that it gets the same level of knowledge about its Marketing that Large Enterprises do. We treat this kind of consulting as the most important thing that we can do for a client.

JS: But you still implement people’s Digital Marketing Campaigns right?
KK: Absolutely. We consider ourselves experts in SEO. My son Ryan Kelly has given many talks here in Sonoma County as well as at WSI conferences on the topic. Proper implementation of SEO is important. It is how we became such experts in Conversion Tracking. We found that our customers were not receiving the same quality of feedback from their other Marketing spends. It made it hard to compare how well each tool was working for a customer. We spent time working at becoming great at measuring effectiveness by all the Advertising Mediums and now present a consolidated view for clients.

JS: What is Conversion Tracking?
KK: Well, as you know a Conversion Rate is the percentage of prospects that move along each step along the way to becoming a customer. We look at their spend and track dollars per becoming a lead, then dollars per customer acquisition, then eventually dollars per average sale. All that tracking means that our clients can become the master of the critical CCA versus LFC equation.

JS: CCA and LFC are what?
KK: Cost of Customer Acquisition and Life Value of Customers. For a business to be viable Customers Need to be more profitable than it costs to acquire them. Unless you know how much your spending to get how much out then you will not build a thriving business. By measuring each Marketing channel, we all get to learn what works for the business and what doesn’t. It allows them to spend money and thrive!

I would like to thank Ken and Ryan Kelly for opening up their business to me. If you have any questions about Conversion Tracking, SEO or even Advanced Paid Seach, think about calling WSI Smart Marketing.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

Net Neutrality Friday

This week I engaged in a debate on LightReading about Comcast’s Stream TV Service. This service is in Beta and contains a relatively minimalist channel lineup available as a streamed service for $15/month. I want to be transparent about this and so I need to say the following:

1 – I am a Comcast customer.
2 – I am interested in being a Stream TV customer.
3 – If I do become a Stream TV customer, I will explore cord cutting and dumping my linear TV service.

I have done what I think is a reasoned cost study of this and think I can save over $100/month and get all the content that I want including what are considered premium channels like HBO. The debate centered around the idea that Stream TV would not count against a bandwidth cap from Comcast. Today, bandwidth caps in my area (at least) are not enforced so this debate is hypothetical for me. This is being debated as a Net Neutrality issue. My position (and I will outline both sides) is that this service SHOULD count against a bandwidth cap.

So, let’s set the technical background. Cable Service is transmitted in several frequency bands using a modulation technology called Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). It is an old technology and has been used in cable for decades. Each QAM contains a number of video streams or uses a standards called DOCSIS for Internet Service.

The argument against counting Stream TV against the bandwidth cap is as follows. There is nothing new about the information that is being shipped down the cable. All the bits that Stream TV is sending is exactly the same as they would be in QAMs that were sending it as normal Cable TV. Since the information is already being shipped it should not count against the cap.

The argument for counting Stream TV is that it should be counted the same as any other Over The Top (OTT) video service like Netflix or Hulu. There should be neutral carriage for bits that are being sent in the DOCSIS stream no matter their source or their content. For example, if one was Streaming “The Big Bang Series” via CBS Live at the same time the show was on this is an equivalent of getting it via Stream TV. To be source neutral, one should have both services treated the same economically.

There are precedents for this in the wireless world where bandwidth caps are real. T-Mobile today offers streaming for certain kinds of content but not all. There are two differences here: the services are separate from T-Mobile’s service and some of them cost the consumer money and more importantly T-mobile is a wireless carrier. Wireless today is not under Title II which requires common carriage for consumer services. If it was, then there might be an argument that T-mobile should not be doing its free bandwidth offers today.

So, this is just one more thing to think about as we go through the debate on Net Neutrality. Have a great weekend!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!