Looking for the company Steady CRM? We have our own web site now at www.SteadyCRM.com.

The very personal mass email

Heads up... I'm starting a quarterly update email. 

Most of you are too young to remember the Holiday Newsletter. Thousands of women (most with families) used to type them up every holiday season, have them copied (mimeographed or xeroxed), stuff and mail them to a dozen or a hundred people. Family news was the focus: who graduated, whose Little League team went to regionals, new hobbies, and the occasional divorce announcement. Once email newsletters became a thing, I had a friend who did an annual "what happened this last year" email that was wonderful to read. Then she found Facebook and now we get more frequent but less considered updates. I prefer the annual perspective... 

But annual seems to make things too important, so after reading the article excerpted below, I'm going to try the quarterly version. I will try to be entertaining. 

Fast Company: The Networking Secret That Only Requires Writing Four Emails A Year, 2017-Apr-30 by Jason Shen

For the past eight years, I’ve sent quarterly personal updates. Every January, April, July, and October, I send out an email to about 200 or so of my friends and colleagues. It’s a mix of what I’m doing at work; where my side projects have taken me; interesting books, movies, and articles I’ve enjoyed; and personal things like travel, events, deciding to move, feelings about an election, and sometimes even relationship or dating info.

Here’s the thing, though: These updates aren’t short. My last one came out to around 1,200 words, plus photos, videos, and links. It’s taken me a long time to find the right balance between thoughtfulness, familiarity, and polish when putting an update together...

 [He uses Mailchimp. I'll be using Vertical Response. Jason has lots of good tips...]

2. Decide how you’ll add people to your list. This means setting a few ground rules to make sure you’re only contacting people who you actually care about and are valuable to you. My rules are that they can’t be someone I just met last quarter, and they should be someone I’d like to be friends with forever, not just for “right now.” It can be a nice courtesy to give people a heads-up to new additions before the next update goes out.  ...

4. Don’t be shy about promoting something that’s important to you. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, or looking for tips for your trip to Peru, don’t be shy about asking for help, advice, ideas, or connections. This is your update, and the people reading it care about you and want to help you!

5. Be humble, personal, and presentable. I’ve found that it’s really important to keep it real when writing updates. No one likes a braggart (or a humblebragger), so lay off the overenthusiastic tone. Imagine you’re throwing a house party. The vibe should be personal, and it should feel personal, but that doesn’t mean you don’t pick up all the socks and underwear you had lying all over the floor beforehand.

6. When in doubt, just start a conversation. Don’t overthink it. Your first few updates might feel awkward, and that’s okay. It takes time to find your voice and tone. All you’re really doing is conversing with people you already know. Ben Bechar’s work modeling and quantifying networks suggests that developing more connections between people in your network strengthens the overall community.

So make introductions. Initiate discussions. Ask a question or bring up a topic, then start a smaller thread with the people to weigh in. As Becher explains, “the more you make yourself a bridge builder for others, the more they will value their relationship [with] you in return.” The more connected your readers are with each other, the more likely your update is talked about or brought up with someone who didn’t open it. You end up with more people keeping you top of mind for longer. “The stronger your community,” Becher adds, “the more you gain for the same amount of work.”  




The real key to customer centricity: people taking care of people

When people inside a company are kind to each other, they will be kind to the customers. 

Harvard Business Review: Trust Your Employees, Not Your Rule Book, 2017-Apr-20 by Bill Taylor (new book, Simply Brilliant)

The entirety of the Nordstrom Employee Handbook fits on a single 5×8 card and involves exactly one rule. Here is Rule #1: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

No wonder Nordstrom’s image and brand is built on heroic stories of above-and-beyond service and problem solving. Sometimes those stories even involve the airlines. In one case, an employee discovered that a customer had left her luggage (along with her flight itinerary) in the parking lot of a Nordstrom store in Connecticut. So he hopped in his car, drove her luggage to JFK, and reached her before the flight left. There’s no rule that can foresee that kind of problem or response!

Truth be told, life inside most giant organizations is much closer to the rules-obsessed culture of the big airline than the common-sense freedoms of a high-end retailer. Have you ever tried to explain your special family circumstances to a health insurance provider?


Why the strategies of Google, USAA and Vanguard have been so effective

When we decide how we want to compete, we have to look at how we're going to fit into the market, both from our customers' point of view, as well as from our internal capabilities. 

Harvard Business Review: Strategic Choices Need to Be Made Simultaneously, Not Sequentially, 2017-Apr-3 by Roger L. Martin

The only productive, intelligent way to generate possibilities for strategy choice is to consider matched pairs of Where to Play and How to Win choices. Generate a variety of pairs and then ask about each:

  • Can it be linked to an inspiring, attractive Winning Aspiration?
  • Do we currently have, or can we reasonably build, the capabilities that would be necessary to win where we would play?
  • Can we create the Management Systems that would need to be in place to support the building and maintenance of the necessary capabilities?

Those "Where to Play" and "How to Win" possibilities for which these questions can plausibly be answered in the affirmative should be taken forward for more consideration and exploration. For the great success stories of our time, the tight match of Where to Play and How to Win is immediately obvious.

  • USAA sells insurance only to military personnel, veterans, and their families — and tailors its offerings brilliantly and tightly to the needs of those in that sphere, so much so that its customer satisfaction scores are off the charts.
  • Vanguard sells index mutual funds/ETFs to customers who don’t believe that active management is helpful to the performance of their investments. With that tight Where to Play, it can win by working to achieve the lowest cost position in the business.
  • Google wins by organizing the world’s information, but to do that it has to play across the broadest swath of search.

It doesn’t matter whether the strategic question is to aim broadly or narrowly, or to pursue low costs or differentiation. What does matter is that the answers are a perfectly matched pair.


What other firms refuse to learn from Costco

Why aren't the benefits of better compensation common knowledge among business owners? 

Harvard Business Review: Inequality isn't just due to market forces, 2017-Mar-30 by Adam Cobb

For example, Costco has long been recognized as a “high road” employer that pays above market wages, offers good benefits, and provides workers opportunities for advancement. Despite these significant labor investments, from 2007 to the end of 2016, Costco’s stock price increased over 200%, far outpacing the overall growth of the S&P 500 (58%) and that of competitors like Walmart (45%) and Target (26%), which is known to pay workers low wages and offer relatively meager employee benefits. Of course, this is just one example, and there are a number of reasons why these firms’ performance varied during this period. But research shows that firms that pay workers higher wages, provide better benefits, and offer predictable working hours attract workers who are more productive and more committed to their employers. And improved worker productivity and lower turnover frequently more than offsets these firms’ higher labor rates.


Why we have to notice when capitalism goes off the rails, as in fake markets like Facebook and Uber

  • I've spent my last dime with Amazon (they would take it if they could get it). I just used up a gift card, and future gift cards will be given away to someone desperate. 
  • I'm considering giving up on Facebook, but I think I'll just do my best to avoid letting them make any money. (Also my policy toward any media owned by Rupert Murdoch.)
  • Divorcing Google will be the most difficult. They've insinuated themselves into the infrastructure of my business. But I will start using search engines like DuckDuckGo. 
  • I'm not giving up Apple products, but I will not become a 'sheeple' as my son warns. 

Anil Dash brilliantly points out that these fake markets appear to offer businesses the chance to become sustainable but then exploit them ruthlessly, driving their profits to zero. 

"I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." I'm not going to fall for the lure of convenience, and you shouldn't either. Choose to consume goods and services from people you know and trust. 

A Blog About Making Culture: Tech and the Fake Market Tactic, 2071-Mar-1 by Anil Dash

Worse, we’ve lost the ability to discern that a short-term benefit for some users that’s subsidized by an unsustainable investment model will lead to terrible long-term consequences for society. We’re hooked on the temporary infusion of venture capital dollars into vulnerable markets that we know are about to be remade by technological transformation and automation. The only social force empowered to anticipate or prevent these disruptions are policymakers who are often too illiterate to understand how these technologies work, and who too desperately want the halo of appearing to be associated with “high tech”, the secular religion of America.

It’s essential we develop a vocabulary for talking about these issues...


How things, including organizations, change

I tend to think that organizations won't change unless forced, but 'org designer' Kathryn Maloney reminds us that's actually not true. Managing and leading are more about steering change that instigating it. 

Another striking thought below: living systems (including organizations) naturally differentiate themselves. What if that need to differentiate drives a lot of change that seems useless? 

The Ready: Change as a Force of Nature, 2017-Feb-27 by Kathryn Maloney

Where change management may apply change to or attempt to manage change within a system, org designers are focused on unlocking capacity and potential within a system. We aim to leverage change as a natural, expected, and needed force. We believe in flow and emergence. We don’t actually believe in control and management....

According to modern science (biology, chemistry, evolutionary cosmology, quantum physics, etc.), living systems operate according to three basic principles:

  1. All living systems are interrelated and interdependent,
  2. All living systems have the capacity to self-organize, and without constraints, have the capacity to develop and evolve, and
  3. All living systems operate according to the principle of differentiation, in that to exist is to be different.


Unhealthy growth

We seem to have a growing awareness that unbridled growth is not healthy. 

Signal v. Noise: Exponential growth devours and corrupts, 2017-Feb-27 by David H. Hansson

As Douglas Rushkoff says, we need a new operating system for startups. The current one will keep producing the same extractive and monopolistic empires we’ve gotten so far. No, what we need is a new crop of companies that are institutionally comfortable with leaving money on the table. Leaving growth on the table. Leaving some conveniences and some progress on the board, in order to lead the world into a better direction.

The solution isn’t simple, but we’re in dire need of a strong counter culture, some mass infusion of the 1960s spirit. To offer realistic, ethical alternatives to the exponential growth logic. Ones that’ll benefit not just a gilded few, but all of us. The future literally depends on it.