Net Neutrality Friday

A couple of things happened this week that I want to write about.

First, LightReading was sold again. That online publication came about just as the dot.com bubble was about to burst. It has been around ever since. It was founded by a gentleman named Steve Saunders. He sold the publication in 2005, when telecom was at its lowest point. He bought back the site in 2014 and has sold it one more time! We shall see how things evolve. The publication started in a much more cheeky fashion and became a more business oriented publication over time. I recall the first time I was quoted there. I was at a conference called “Turning Copper into Gold” and I noted that the State PUCs were more concerned with the costs of telephony than in the deployment in broadband. The quote on the site sounded like I was attacking Grandmothers. I called the author, Phil Harvey. He and I became friends over our time working in Telecom.

The other event was Verizon buying Yahoo! for over $4B. That is added to the purchase of AOL earlier this year. I have done some due diligence in this space and thought I would add what I think is going on. There is a lot of money in the infrastructure of the Internet. Yahoo! has some excellent content (Sports for example). Yahoo! is the default Search Engine for iOS devices and has a significant mail engine. Many of these capabilities are great opportunities for advertising. If you haven’t noticed the advertising in Gmail, then you probably just not looking.

These older companies have businesses with significant cash flow if managed correctly and are a lot cheaper than buying Microsoft or Google (the other primary search providers). If Verizon can get Yahoo! to be the default search engine on its phones, I think the purchase will pay for itself. All of that leads to greater advertising possibilities. Advertising has great margins and can be a significant revenue and profit gain. Verizon will have to optimize the businesses to make them useful in its future.

The positive thing for Verizon is that they have recognized that they can not make these businesses organically. The way Telcos work is just not conducive to the way that Internet companies work. Has Verizon chosen good properties to buy and exploit? I don’t know if it will work out for them. But I think their head’s are in the right place. The future is in content and applications not hardware. You can’t turn a Telecom company into one of these new firms. But you can use the money that they make to buy into the right spaces. The question is how do you buy companies and how do you operate them to make them work in your future?
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!

 

 

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Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Why am I using my tagline as the title of this today’s article? It is again about one of the differences between Coaching and Consulting. Coaching is about Change and Consulting – generally – is not.

When somebody hires me, they have something in their business that they do not like. Most often it is in the bottom line results. Sometimes it is that they spend too much time at work and can not take time off. There is another group that is having problems hiring, managing and retaining employees. They want something in their business outcome to change. What they are much less interested in is changing themselves or the way that their business works. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results.

If you have ever watched one of the many business turnaround shows, you see people clearly doing things wrong and not even considering doing something different. Why is that? The reason is that change is hard. The future becomes unclear. If you think about the saying “The Devil you know”, it represents the way many people work. It is easier to muddle through with little to mild success than it is to take a risk.

One of the biggest challenges is with clients and prospects who are being impacted by changes that originate outside the organization. They get stuck in a mindset that what they have done worked in the past and it should work today. It is why I have talked about Digital Transformation of businesses. The broadest based change has happened because of Internet Technologies. The Internet has changed the way we work, the way we buy and how businesses operate. Most people don’t examine carefully the way that the outside has changed and adjust their business to meet these external forces.

How does Coaching fit into that? Simply put it is all about Perspective. When I come into a business, I do not show up with a lot of preconceived notions. My mind is always Zero-based about what the business is about and how it should operate. This makes things clearer to me than to an owner who is living day to day in the business that they have created. Change based Consulting can be part of this process if owners wish to have me create/manage part of the Change that will go on in the business.

So, think about your business. What are the things you are unwilling to change about it? Why is that? What would you do differently if you were starting it today?

These are great ways to start thinking about Change!

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

Last week I talked about my reasoning for why I think Universal Broadband Access was a more important issue than Net Neutrality. I said that even that the phone network had eventually required Universal Service regulations to make it ubiquitous. I want to provide a bit of history here.

For most folks in my generation, AT&T was the phone company. That was not true at the time but it was for most people in the United States. What was true was that some communities did not get serviced in a timely fashion by AT&T and decided to create their own company or were serviced by other providers to build networks. Example of this would be (and these are old names) Rochester Telephone, United Telecom, and GTE. In fact, there were 1,100 or 1,200 local phone companies in the United States going back over 75 years. The vast majority of them served rural towns in the Western half of the United States. As a counter-example, Rochester Telephone served the Rochester, New York area and is now part of Frontier Communications. United Telecom ran Las Vegas and eventually became part of Sprint Local Telephone Division and is now part of Centurylink.

Many of the smaller companies still exist. Examples might be Valley Telephone in Texas or Consolidated Communication in many places in the US. Some of these companies were and are community based. They were started by the town and still really support only one town or a few towns in an area. These companies may have a few hundred or a few 10s of thousands of phone lines. There are much smaller group (like Consolidated) that are collections of these smaller companies and have 100s of thousands of phone lines. But essentially the smaller companies started because AT&T did not reach out to lots of small, out of the way communities and deliver phone service. For a long time, phone service was not mandatory so AT&T only went where it would make the most money.

In order to keep prices low for rural Americans, the US created the Universal Service Fund to help make these remote phone lines less costly to operate. I recall one line that we had that supported a cabin 80 miles from the Central Office. Imagine that line breaking and having to drive sometimes hours to figure out what was wrong to repair it.

My point in Broadband is that we have reached this kind of penetration. The large providers see no gain in expanding their broadband footprint compared to other possible investments. Small companies have great broadband networks, but very rural subscribers have few, if any options. By making Broadband a Universal Service then all Americans would get Broadband Service.

Anyway, think about the choices we have in front of us!

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!

 

Coaching or Consulting:  Which is right for you?

I get asked about the difference (in my terms) between Coaching and Consulting.  Often times, people are trying to understand which they might want buy.  Many folks are unclear on the Return on Investment (ROI) Model as well.  So, I am hopeful to clear this up here at least using my usage of the words.

The difference between Coaching and Consulting is who does the work?  If you are hiring me as a Coach, you are doing the work.  If you are hiring me as a Consultant, then I am doing the work.  This might be clearer as I get more expansive in my explanation.

Consulting is easier to describe so I will start with that.  I get a call and visit a prospect.  They have a specific package of work to be done.  I write a Statement of Work that describes my output, the cost and the timeframe.  The project gets approved and I perform an amount of work.  The Return on Investment is based upon the value of the project within the business.  There are things that are worth a lot more money than others and really you are defining the ROI that is possible.  If you are sure that you have a task that needs to be completed, then this is why you hire a Consultant.  Make sure you are hiring an expert in the field that you are having them work in.  Make sure that there is reasonable Project Management to ensure that the outcome is what you want.  Other than that, it is pretty straightforward.

There are a couple more variables in Consulting and that has to do with the scope of the task and changes.  I am generally hired for a task that does not have a clear path to the owner, and part of my job is to define the work that is to be performed.  On top of that, I will define the inputs I require before I can complete my task.  I find it challenging to get people to be clear on the status of the prerequisite work and that causes some scope and task creep.  I try to be clear about this, but things happen.  The better the input and the freer my path, the better the output will be.

Coaching is all about the Coachee.  The reason someone should buy Coaching is that they are not making their goals and are not sure why.  Coaching is all about diagnosing the challenges and creating new paths that the Coachee would not discover on their own.  Sometimes it is a perspective issue.  Sometimes it is a skill set.  Sometimes it is accountability.  Sometimes it is setting the right priorities.  Each person is different.  The job of the Coach is to help define the Goals and a plan to achieve the Goals.  From there, the Coach will hold the Coachee accountable for doing the work necessary to meet the Goals they have defined.  The Return on Investment is really created by whatever your Goals will allow.  When I was Coached for the first time, we over doubled our Revenue in a span of 4 years.

The question you need to ask before entertaining Coaching is: Am I interested in Change?  If you are then Coaching likely is the right solution for you.  If not, then you probably want Consulting.

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

Last week I wrote about the prioritization of issues in the Telecom Regulatory World. I wrote that I prioritized Universal Broadband Access over Net Neutrality. I want to explain why I do so and hope I can convince you of it. I normally write factual pieces but this piece is pure opinion. You should view what I write with your skeptical hats on here.

So, what do I mean by Universal Broadband Access? To me, Broadband ought to be under the same rules that we set up a long time ago for Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). POTS is the only Universal Telecom service that we have. It is mandatory that if you build a dwelling that your Carrier of Last Resort (generally the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) give you a phone line. To help this in what are considered High Cost Areas, we all pay into the Universal Service Fund. The goal of the fund was to make sure that the cost of a phone line was not greatly different for rural users and urban ones. Since the costs of rural phone service (and broadband) are higher than urban, this was used to help defray the costs of construction and maintenance of these networks.

There are a couple of problems with the definition alone. We would have to identify what is meant by Broadband. It is likely that we would have to estimate future definitions so that companies can pick technologies that make sense. We also now have at least 2 wireline (Telco and Cable) as well as wireless as a possibility. Being a Carrier of Last Resort has not been popular in the past, so I am not sure that folks will fight to have that title. But it is possible.

The reason that I believe this is so important is that most people don’t realize why we don’t have 100% Broadband Coverage today. Like many things in our world it is all about money. Service Providers evaluate network construction and expansion projects based around Return On Investment or ROI. Many of these rural projects are just low ROI. Nothing really changes that, including low cost loans for construction. Service Providers have so many things that they can invest in that they never get to these projects. They are not just playing these projects off against other rural infrastructure. They are compared to all projects. Do I do rural broadband for that small town or do I do fiber installation for that business park? My opinion is that we will never reach 100% coverage until we make it mandatory. Remember that phone coverage did not get to be 100% until we did so. It seems likely to be required again.

My view is that Net Neutrality violations would always come from the hue and cry of the public. If Netflix was shut down or some other popular service was interrupted, the FCC would intervene. That is why I think that converting to Title II was less important. We had a problem that might happen in the future (remember the Netflix/Comcast issue was really caused by Cogent – a Netflix vendor) versus one that is still happening today. I always pick today first.

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!

 

 

Sonoma County: News and Notes

As we head into the heart of the summer, business tends to slow a bit for many folks. There are lots of people on vacation and it takes more time to get things done. I would encourage you to visit my BNI chapter the Best Networkers In Town. Come have breakfast with 50 other local businesses. You might find that partner that you need to grow your business. You don’t have to join to visit. We meet every Friday at 7AM at Legends at the Bennett Valley Golf Course. Come by and see who is there!

I want to talk a little bit this week about economic diversity. The North Bay and particularly Napa and Sonoma Counties are dominated by a single industry – the Wine Business. I am somewhat concerned by that as it means we are putting a whole lot of eggs into a single basket. Imagine what would happen if that industry collapsed. It would be a disaster for those that live here. Jobs would go away overnight and people would have to pack up and leave.

I know that some of you are thinking that this can never happen. I grew up in the small town of Schuylerville, New York. When I was little, the area’s economy was dominated by the Paper Industry and Paper Mills. There were some farms (mostly dairy) and General Electric Plants as well. When I was around 10 New York State changed the environmental regulations and the Paper Mills all moved to the South. Our area was cleaner but a lot of people became unemployed very quickly. Things got so bad that a New York Times Column was written about the town. You can find it HERE.

So as we head into the summer months, I think we can all think about ways that we can build our local economy well and not so dependent upon Wine. Wine is a great business for us, I just want it to be not the only business for us.
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!

 

 

Employee Performance

Clients have had a rash of issues lately with performance challenges with their employees. The biggest problem that I have seen with this is that employers become “frozen” when this happens. They are not sure what to do. So, I want to provide some simple advice.

For all performance, whether good or bad, timely feedback is what is best. Don’t wait to either correct an issue or give a pat on the back. By linking your response to the performance, the feedback is more powerful. In particular with poor performance, it is best to get it corrected right away. If it is not, then the employee assumes that what they have done is okay and may do it again. So if you want to make sure that things are done right in the future, make sure that you fix the problems today. The same is true of great performance. You want people to know that you noticed and appreciate great work. That way they know to repeat it in the future!

The second piece of advice is to be specific. Don’t be general and say you are doing good or bad. Tell them exactly what is wrong and tell them what you want them to do instead. This removes the person from the equation. You are talking about their action, not about them as people. Again when you are specific about good performance, you can demonstrate how they have stood out from the crowd. Your employees want your feedback. If you want them to remain, then give it to them straight. This is one reason it is easier to manage Sales than most other things. In Sales, it boils down to quota. It is a cold number and you either met quota or you didn’t. See how specific that is and how easy it is to talk about. If you and your employee could judge their performance based on a number that you both agreed to, it would be easy to give performance reviews right?

Finally if it comes time that somebody needs to exit, don’t make it a surprise. You want to have a trail of written evidence that you have worked to try to change the employee’s work to suit your needs. That way they will not have a leg to stand on if they retain an attorney. It is cheaper to settle than to go to court even in an At Will employment State. It is even less expensive to document performance so that people do not have a leg to stand on.

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!