How to fix traffic jams forever without spending a dollar on roads

Traffic Jam Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn, the Golden Gate, the Sydney Harbour….. name a bridge leading to a major city and anyone who drives over it during peak hour will know the pain. In fact driving on any major roadway towards a Central Business District is generally a horrible experience. I read this article today about Australia blowing its luck as the lucky country largely due to traffic and transport issues. The pending urban congestion disaster. Well, as far as I can tell, the congestion disaster is already in most large cities. The reason it has never been fixed, and will never be fixed by wider roads and more public transport, is that transport is not the problem.

The real issues are two fold:

  • People starting work at roughly the same time each day.
  • People working in the same place.

The resulting transport issues are symptoms.

If governments wanted to solve the problem, they wouldn’t waste billions upgrading roads and bridges, they’d be creating corporate and personal tax incentives to work from home, and create a cultural shift away from ‘official’ business hours. Problem solved with a near zero infrastructure expense.

It’s times like this we need to remember why these problems arose in the first place. When officework first arrived as an addendum to industrialization, we didn’t have the ability to telecommute and office equipment was very expensive. So we centralised. When office hours first arose, it was because we needed the sun to literally shine in the windows so we could do our work in a pre-electricity era. The last time I looked, we all had electricity, we could work any time of the day, and telecommuting now comes at near zero cost. So I’m wondering why we let yesterday’s technology define how, when and where we work today?

The average city worker spends an entire work day travelling each week – that’s 48 work days a year in a car. Having to go to the office every work day is legacy thinking with very high social and financial costs. I’m hoping it’s something we can overcome by simply trusting employees and leveraging the technology anyone who is reading this blog post already owns.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

How a Youtube video with 566 views made more money than one with 7 million views

Here’s a simple question: Which one of these two videos below is more successful?

Youtube video success comparison

A smart answer is that It depends on what the objectives were. But the more common answer is the one with the most views.

I can tell you first hand, that if the objective was profit – it is the one on the left with 566 views. I know this because I was one of the people that made the lego car video with more than 7 millions views, and paid for most of it and I made a loss, a significant one. A mate of mine sold the house – and his commission was 10’s of thousands. His profit per viewer was crazy good. Mine is still running negative per person.

When it comes to digital forums, success can only be measured against the purpose of creation. We should avoid the social media millions myopia. Collecting fans, followers and views is a bit like chasing rainbows, there probably isn’t a pot of gold at the end of it.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The 1 question we must ask before we ever send a business proposal

Business Proposal

If you’re in the business of selling, and you’re in the business to business game there is no doubt you’ve had someone ask you this:

Can you send me a proposal?

Happy days, right? No. In fact, this is the time that we must ask the question before we send them anything. And in case you’re are wondering, this is the question:

Sure. What has to be in it for it to be a ‘Yes‘? 

The reason we have to ask this, is that the proposal question is very often a friendly way of saying, go away, not right now, or we don’t have the budget. It is a nice way to say ‘No’. But let’s be honest that it is just a waste of time and resources for both sides. But if we ask the question instead, we can circumvent a lot of pain for both parties. After the question is asked, one of two things generally happens:

Situation 1: ‘Well, we can’t promise anything…..’ or any other number of excuses arrive. This tells us if they are serious about doing business with us. It forces them to tell the truth now. This is a good thing, very quickly we know where we are at. It informs the work to be done, or it cuts down a dead lead. Any good sales dog or startup entrepreneur hates wasting time on a false positive.

Situation 2: They open up with their real needs, tells us about some internal constraints, disclose budget parameters, or that there is a lot of work to be done to get their boss to approve it. It creates forward momentum, and a collaborative approach. It builds truth and trust which leads to transactions.

Time is our most precious resource. It’s better to live in the real world and have the courage to uncover the truth early.

Quiksilver – How big brands with short memories go broke

Quiksilver store focus on clothing

As a surfer I was interested to see how Quiksilver has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA. A once formidable and dominant player in the surf industry, one of the Big 3 – Ripcurl, Quiksilver and Billabong. The Big 3 surf brands have all had their troubles in recent times; Billabong is currently valued at less than 5% of what it was at it’s peak on the share market ($14.06 vs $0.60 today) and Ripcurl has delayed a public float more than 3 times. Without sounding like an armchair expert, this financial outcome for all these brands was clear to see many years ago. The reason I’m not an armchair expert is that I’ve been a customer of theirs since 1985 – which is also how long I’ve been surfing. If anyone ought know about a brand, it’s a person who feeds it – yes, those who spend money on it – the true owners of any brand. And that happens to be me.

So here it is in one single sentence, why the big 3 surf brands are struggling:

They alienated the customers who made them what they are – surfers.

Put in other words, real surfers wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a Quiksilver t-shirt. It basically means your are not a surfer. Once upon a time wearing a surf brand was a clear indication that your surfed. Now it means the opposite. The only surfers who wear surf brands are those who work for them and are sponsored by them. The tribalism that once existed with surf brands has gone out the window with their success. All surfers, me included still buy their surfing equipment, it’s the best money can buy, but it now stops there, our money goes no further into their pockets than that. We buy clothes that are mostly unbranded and are just cool because they look cool. The days of giant logos are over and have been for some time. Seems the Big 3 surf brands didn’t get the memo. But here’s why this results in a financial disaster for these brands. Their infrastructure is set up around the clothing side of their business. Yet, the people buying it simply don’t have the same emotional investment in surfing that real surfers do. So it’s easy for them to lack loyalty and go shopping at Asos, Zara or other fast fashion brands, which are mostly cheaper too.

Just walk into any big surf shop and you’ll see the issue starring you in the face. The store is 90% about fashion and 10% about surfing. A few boards up the back of the store with some wetsuits. Or they’ll be on the on the untouchable roof like the header pic to this blog entry, an ironic picture indeed. While Ripcurl claims in their advertising that ‘Surfing is everything’ – clearly it is not.

Ripcord Surfing is Everything

They lost focus on what made them great. I wrote about this inevitability of Quiksilver’s decline here on startup blog back in 2009 when Quiksilver started making bedding & doonas – WTF? Sure, I know they can’t be a giant brand just selling boards and wetsuits, but they did also miss most of the tech pivots available that came with the growth of surfing. Here’s a whole bunch of things Qucksilver, Ripcurl & Billabong could have invested in to enable financial growth without damaging their brands:

Waterproof cameras (We love documenting our surfs – GoPro did it instead!)

Surfing Resorts (Why not own the resorts we surf at? Instead other entrepreneurs did it)

The World Surf League (Where we watch the worlds best compete, instead they ‘pay’ to sponsor events)

Jet Ski’s (Instead specific surf craft got built by other motor companies)

Drones (Instead we buy other brands to film surfing that come from china – where their clothes get made)

I could bore you with another 30 ideas…. but your get the picture. A brands growth should only ever come through things which enhance its core user proposition, not those which opportunistically mortgage the brand. The reason I Included these categories above, is that they are real companies who take money from surfers by facilitating surfing. Something the Big 3 surf brands should have realised many years ago The only innovation I’ve seen from a surf company in recent years which is great is the Ripcurl GPS watch. The first move into the IoT from a surf player. While other opportunities like 3D printed surf boards and specific board printing printers remain open for entrepreneurs…. Who wants to start that with me?

So the question any brand or startup should ask themselves is this:

Will this revenue source make the people who made us great love us more, or alienate them?

Worried your job might disappear? This taxi driver isn’t.

taxi driver - travis

I spend my fair share of time in taxis and Ubers in order to get to the airport. One of the topics I find interesting is to ask the drivers what they think about changes in the taxi / private driver industry. Sometimes I ask them, but I’m also finding they bring up the topic before I do. So here is the tale of 3 drivers in the same industry.

Driver 1 – A taxi driver

A driver in a taxi told me that allowing Uber on the road was a travesty given he had paid so much money for his taxi license plate. One taxi licence plate currently sells for over $200,000, but has declined in value recently. It is unfair in many ways, but technology often does that – it creates change without notice. He thought the government should protect taxi drivers and that Uber should not be allowed to operate. I agree that Uber should be regulated for safety reasons, but I also think innovations should not be stifled by them. His final statement was that he thought he’d go broke or leave the industry. He said that very soon no one will be able to make a living driving a car.

Driver 2 – An Uber & limo driver

This gentleman, who drives his car for both Uber and a limousine company, said that Uber was good to provide extra revenue between jobs. But he then went onto say that he thought Uber, on the whole was good for now, but in the next few years, self-drive cars would put every driver out of business and that he would just make as much money as he could until that next coming disruption put him out of business.

Driver 3 – An Uber & limo driver

This gentleman was enthusiastic about life. Within 10 minutes in the car, he’d really been positive about everything we were talking about regarding life and business. As usual we got onto the topic of the taxi / private car industry. He told me that Uber was really working for him, but then he mentioned something I didn’t expect. He went on to say that the biggest opportunity for drivers was just around the corner, he said;  “I can’t wait for self-drive cars to arrive!” So I asked him what that excited him and this is what he told me:

“For the first time in my working life as a driver, I’ll be able to make money when I’m not in the car. I’ll buy a number of self drive cars as quick as I can. I’ll invest my time in generating business and serving loyal customers. Instead of me just driving, I’ll be at the airport every morning to great my best customers, I’ll have their favourite coffee ready, and an umbrella if it is raining. I’ll be able to build a business around the edges of the new self drive technology. I’ll be a millionaire within a year.”

Three drivers, same industry, challenges and opportunities – one very different attitude.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

What you can learn from my terrible drum teacher

Animal drumming

Once upon a time I learned to play drums. To do so I went to drum lessons and I had a number of teachers over the years. One in particular was an incredible drummer, but he was a terrible teacher. He made one fundamental mistake – He didn’t care what his customer wanted. Yep, me the student. I also happened to be a customer.

As most of us know there isn’t a best way of learning. There are preferred methods of learning by students based on a whole bunch of things. My drum teacher had it in his head that in order to learn drums it was all about learning from the sheet music (Ok real musicians you can laugh now about drum ‘music’). When I was learning a difficult rhythm he would never play it for me first so I could hear how it sounds. He’d always make me find the sound through reading it. A pretty crazy idea given music is about hearing. He also went on to say that reading music was important if I ever wanted to join a big band, orchestra and the like. Heck, I just wanted to jam with my mates in our garage band. He didn’t care if I had a better chance of learning through my ears or arms instead of my eyes. He didn’t care if I never wanted to read music at all. He was the authority, and he never asked what I wanted. Eventually I just quit and taught myself by listening to the radio.

You might be wandering why I never spoke up? Well I was a 12 year old boy, and you may remember how it feels when someone else is in charge, even when you are paying them. So here’s a few things we can remember, given we’re all teachers, and most of us teach someone every day:

  • The student is also a customer
  • The best teaching method is the one the student does best with
  • It’s hard to know what people want if we never ask
  • With authority must come humility and empathy

In times of great change our teaching ability matters more than most things. Especially given we all feel 12 years old about once a week.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Are you making money the cool way, or the uncool way?

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 11.51.40 am

There are two ways to generate lots of money – metaphorically, that is.

The first way is through service to the many. 

The second way is at the expense of the many.

Put simply, we need to effect lots of people to generate lots of money. The theme for both of these is the same, but the methods are very different.  The second way is through taking advantage of people – their weaknesses, their disadvantages, their social status, their education levels…. To this day, in this modern world I could still name hundreds of legal businesses which choose the second path. Ashley Madison comes to mind immediately. They are facilitating heart ache and pain for many married people. I’d put tobacco and poker machines in these categories too, while this startup, is simply immoral. Sure, they claim to be providing a service people want, but they’re really just making themselves money at the expense of others. Not cool.

The curious thing about doing business the second way, is that while they might make lots of money, they’ll never be truly ‘rich’.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.