Saturday, March 31, 2018

The AppsJack Way

Image result for team building

My first real business project was in 1996 when I built a marketing website for my dad's business, Anacortes Brass Works.  ABW sells large runs of belt buckles to businesses, primarily, and the website was a real boon.  It was a fun project.

Through the nineties, friends and I built a lot of websites to learn the new medium. 

From 2000 to present, I work by day in the Fortune 10 as a business advisor.  My skills are technology and transformation.  I work with some of the largest brands in the world to figure out how to use more data and education to transform and mature their businesses efficiently.

On the side, I love helping local entrepreneurs advance their causes.  There is Chris, Pete, Lee, Ted and many other friends who I've been lucky to help  move the needle on their ideas and their careers.

I'm not a coach, exactly, but I think I am motivational; at least I've been told so.  I have master's degrees in Information Systems (business + the internet) and Business Administration.  I am a certified Project Management Professional.  I have been doing business consulting professionally since 2005 when Siemens Corporation made me an internal consultant.  And realistically I have been helping businesses grow and advance since high school when I first started to understand my parents' businesses and their associated challenges.

Last year, on the side, we helped a local businessman named Ted Clark reinvent his data service business.  Ted was  providing a variety of services to people but with no real direction or theme and found it hard to build up a pipeline of clients.  He wanted to figure out how to better market himself.  With a partner, Steve, who was good at marketing technology, we worked with Ted to devise ways for Ted to target clients.  We selected users of the popular Shopify online store and refined the market even further from there.  With that project, we helped Ted identify his target audience, hone is products and services and provide a unique service that scaled.  Ted's sales increased greatly and he's been able to grow his business much more easily from that point forward.

AppsJack's latest project is working with a Woodinville-based friend, Lee, to scale his new business called Shape My Grip.  SMG has a patented grip for bicycles that will hopefully eventually move into other sports and healthcare applications.  A partner, Sebastian, and I are coming in as business consultants to sell more of his products faster, using Amazon and Fulfillment by Amazon.

AppsJack is best at providing product management services to its customers.  We help them understand their market and defined products and product releases aimed at capturing A) money and B) knowledge about what people want.  We drive hard to advance product development and innovation. 

We partner with business owners to accelerate their sales and advance their careers, all in the name of fun, partnership and profitability.

Many people are not very confident marketing themselves or their products.  It can be nerve-racking and stressful.  We partner very closely to support our clients, make them feel good, make them feel confident and help them make the right decisions to mature their products and move their businesses ahead.

AppsJack works with a very high sense of urgency and the latest technologies to define and advance the agendas of our clients while skillfully mitigating key risks.

The requirements for pulling off this kind of services business at scale are:

  • A great team.  We have a network that includes some of the most amazing talent around in all fields of business development from hard to soft skills in all industries.
  • Technology.  None of this would be possible without technology.  We stay abreast of the latest technologies and implement where and when we can with out clients.
  • Clients.  Our clients come from a variety of walks but are generally seasoned business people who are ready to go out on their own or advance a product or service they have already started.  We work with them to help set the vision, understand the impediments and give a huge boost toward their goals.
  • Contracting and compensation.  We are willing to work for profit-sharing, for example.  So that clients don't have to stomach huge up-front costs as we get going accelerating their business or project, we help align on incentives for everyone to win.
  • Business development.  AppsJack organizes regular meetings and spends a lot of time out in public, including volunteer work with great causes.  

Contact us today if you'd like to hear more about our project and what we're building here in Seattle and the Eastside.

~ Eric

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Latest in e-Commerce Tools, Tech and Techniques from Pros in Seattle

Image result for e-commerce

We showed up at an e-Commerce Meetup in Seattle last night and learned a lot.  The group is called Seattle Profit Pirates Mastermind Group - Ecommerce & Amazon Entrepreneurs and was meeting at a coffee shop on Capitol Hill.  We got a lot of tool and tech recommendations and met some thought leaders in the field.  Here are some details for all you e-Commerce and digital marketing people out there.

Terapeak shows you what to sell online.  MerchantWords helps you find more buyers.  Google Adwords is a classic and key tool.  Many people use Facebook to create ads and funnels.  Text / SMS is another technique for capturing emails.  Shopify was considered to be the best e-Commerce tool.  James who runs Wooly Clothing and was telling us about Amazon's practice of  Brand and Category Gating.  Benjamin, who runs the group, was asking about Liquidation services.  He said he's tried FoxBox.  I mentioned Alternativeto.net as a method of finding technologies in a category to support a business process or function. 

We didn't talk about but I was reminded of Mautic, HubSpot and my buddy with Conversion Wizards.  Benjamin says it's important to consider Cost Per Email as a metric.  He also mentioned that MailChimp has an advanced, for pay, feature that provides additional metadata for email addresses to extend marketing.

James was asking about managing multiple channels and Benjamin swore by Skubana, a multi-channel inventory management system, which is $1,000/mo.  He says it's well worth it if you have the volume. 

Flexport, a freight forwarding method, and Keepa, an Amazon price tracker, were also mentioned as useful tools. 

Thanks to all attendees.  Great event and lots to learn.  A whole new domain and area to explore.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lindsey Coen-Fernandez of Advantage Performance Group Shares Some Wisdom

We just caught up with Lindsey Coen-Fernandez of Advantage Performance Group.  Lindsey is an inspiring entrepreneur and leader in the area of organization development.  I went to one of Lindsey's workshops just before Christmas and had a great time.  Here's our follow up items based on the call with her:

Lindsey has an upcoming workshop she'll be putting on around the May time frame and stay tuned for that.  She believes the will likely be "The Neuroscience Behind Decision Making".  I had never heard of an "analytic network coach" and that's her specialty.  Sounds good.  I can see how helping people with decision making is a very key skill for facilitators.  I typically list options with pros and cons and a recommendation or argument, for example.  David Slight's BDN model and our causality conversation topics for this year sound similar as well.

Lindsey's target market is $100M to $500M businesses: not yet enterprises but rather well established.  She is seeking more business in the NW and has traveled extensively, globally for years.  She also produces webinars.

I plan to connect her with my friends John and Toni from the US Forest Service who run the National Facilitator Cadre when I worked with them back in 2012.  Also, I will connect her with the new Environmental subgroup that formed out of Indivisible Eastside.  Check out IE!  

Lindsey recommended a meetup to me (I shared my involvement in the Corruption subgroup for IE) called "Let's Talk About Race" from DNDA.  I commented to her how Race and Security topics coincide a great deal.  I have a list of local Security experts that I maintain it would be fun to get them together and involved.
Lindsey also recommend Andy Storch who has a podcast called Entrepreneur Hot Seat and a company called "The Hustle", which produces a daily newsletter about the latest tech and business info for millennials and are making good money with their business model.
Thanks to Lindsey to all of her great wisdom.  Check her out! 


Sunday, January 7, 2018

The yin and yang of content and its consumption

I had an interesting thing happen to me the other day that has given me some new ideas and inspiration.  I was at work and was talking to a coworker who had heard about my food blog (French dip sandwiches) and he said that it was his plan to go and eat some of the best ones.  I thought it was funny that he would do this, good for him, and I guess I was a little proud that he'd do that at all.  It will be fun to hear about his experiences and whether or not he agrees with the reviews.

But this idea of his made me realize that I was missing something.  "Recommendations" are an interesting thing.  I know the founder of this project Take Action Network and he's working with political action organizations to help them promote the political actions that people can do and make it easy for people to find, sign up for and do actions that are meaningful to them.  I run a meetup group and I want people I meet to be able to find our activities and events and sign up for them.  And I want people to be able to do this thing that Reed plans to do which is signing up for and eating a bunch of sandwiches (and then providing feedback).  In all, this leaves us with the following activities that people need to be able to do in a couple of roles.

  • Role: content creator
    • Actions
      • Make content
        • Event
          • A meetup
          • A podcast recording
        • Recommendation - like French dip sandhiches
          • People could sign up for it / say they want to do it
          • They could do it
      • Be a content consumer
  • Role: content consumer
    • Actions
      • Look for / at content
      • Sign up for things
      • Give feedback
      • Create content (become a content creator)
Yin yang, yo!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What AppsJack Could Be

AppsJack is exploring ways to take the AppsJack Podcast and Share IRL events to the next level.  Simply, both offerings have topics, hosts and guests.  Blog posts get written and tweets get created and released.  People get invited and RSVP to participate in the events.  People take photos, have a good time and learn, they share contact info.

There's a problem in the market now between compliance (companies requiring applicants to have great resumes, educations and experiences) and capability (what a candidate can actually do).   Our employers are screwed up right now with this issue and are mismanaged, too.  There are many talented candidates out there who are finding it hard to win jobs.  And there are many talented consultants who aren't connecting with potential paid clients for a variety of reasons.

Hosts, organizers, writers and guests of the AppsJack Podcast and Share IRLs are good for:

  • Learning from others
  • Showing skills
  • Practicing skills
  • Demonstrating excellence and expertise
  • Growing an audience
  • Make your resume and story more compelling and relevant
  • Promoting ideas and individuals
AppsJack is committed to helping members of the community grow, learn and develop.  AppsJack creates free events and opportunities for ambitious individuals to get out there and change the world.  Join us today.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cool Event: Culture Counts - Event Recap

I attended an excellent, uplifting event with my friend Hsuan-Hua Chang on Tuesday called "Culture Counts".  It was led by a very fascinating woman, XXX.  The leader was from South Africa originally and has lived in 15 countries.  She has gathered many principles and practices that she now shares with organizations to help them create environments and experiences that help people be their best and perform optimally.  It was an inspirational topic and very professionally led.

When I showed up at the place in Ballard after work, I was amazed by the impressiveness of the facility: it was someone's house that they had rented, but by no means your typical, run of the mill house at all.  The inside of the structure was large and sprawling and open and lovely.  It was in an industrial neighborhood but once you were inside you felt like you were in a womb.  The large, open structure was expertly decorated and arranged with beautiful artwork and laid out in a very interesting and intentional way.  Our hosts were kind and provided us with hot cocoa and warm greetings on entry; it was the week before Christmas indeed and a large Christmas tree greeted us as well. 

About 20 of us arrived and the session began as we sat around a large table called the culture table.  We were led and asked to write down three things on post-it notes with colored Sharpies: 1) the first word that came to our minds when we entered the space 2) the reason we were there 3) three things that spoke most to us when we walked around the room and took in the experiences.  We were asked to share our findings with peers and soon learned that each of our reactions, perceptions and beliefs were quite unique and different from those around us.  For example, Marc shared that he liked the exposed brass pipes which I had looked right past and still didn't mind.  Another person shared that they loved a jellyfish painting that did nothing for me.  I stated that I liked the kitchen, the velvet couches and the open space.  A third person, Russell, explained that he felt dwarfed when we walked into the space but my feeling was the exact opposite: it made me feel great since I am quite tall.  We learned that we were all quite different and experiencing things in very different ways; we were diverse.

The leader explained some of what was happening: she said that the soul of a building is not the artifacts or thing itself but rather what we, the people, bring into it: our senses, observations, selves and stories. 

It was a great event and we had a lot of good nuggets: culture could be the corresponding personality of a place or group.  We read stats about just how important happy workers are and the many negative consequences of unhappy workers.  We learned that culture always has a purpose or goal.  A culture is the soul of an organization or group.  A few questions came up for me: Is culture the sum total of the intangible benefits and beliefs of an org?  Is culture the compensation, benefits and value that people receive from a group that come for free, organically and naturally?  The goal of creating and influencing a good culture is to have people become the best versions of themselves and sustainably do the best work of their lives.  Some degree of bottoms-up, organic, authentic culture is required and we talked about the idea of leading from the edge.  The idea of an organization's edge is important and is a major place from which change can and does happen.  Yes, organizations do indeed have centers and tops and power structures but also, each person, on the edge may be armed with the same tools and power and ability to influence people and shine a light on opportunities and possibilities.  Taking steps can be risky and sometimes we just need to plunge in.  We can take calculated, planned, intentional  steps that have fallback plans, too.  Or we can just say screw it, go for it and see what happens.

We broke out into small groups to discuss ratings we created of the cultures in our organizations.  In my small group, there was one area where we all agreed was weak in each of our areas: managers.  And we talked about the role of managers and the org for creating a space that feels safe and inspiring. 

We watched a video about a non-profit in Seattle that helped the homeless and then met the star of the video, the founder of the non-profit and got to hear more about her story. 

In all, it was a wonderful, well-planned and executed event.  Thanks to Hsuan-Hua and all the others I met.  I look forward to getting to know the speaker more as well.

Monday, December 4, 2017

AppsJack TECH DRIVERS Debate Highlights - November 2017

We had a motley crew of 16 awesome people at the kickoff of AppsJack Season 2, where our topic is causality and business dependency networks (BDNs). 

Image result for the matrix

We were led on Tuesday evening by management consultant David Slight who is basically awesome. David came very well prepared with handouts for the guests and a meetup host sign-up sheet.  David led us in topic 1 of 12: TECH DRIVERS. 

The dialog went far and wide and was fascinating.   The discussion touched on:
  • The 3rd Industrial Revolution wiki
  • 5G mobile networks wiki
  • Humans are Under Rated video
  • GM says it is leaving the automotive industry - Richard Webb statement, needs source
  • Bonini's Paradox - contribution by newcomer Lucas Parker - "explains the difficulty in constructing models or simulations that fully capture the workings of complex systems (such as the human brain)."  wiki
  • "Things don't just happen, they happen for a reason."  ~ David Slight quote.
  • Drivers are things we can't change.
  • Richard spoke about the technology having been ready and done for five years but regulation and its impacts are the things holding its implementation back.
The main lessons that I took away as a facilitator and leader of this group were A) we need to tell people to create a small team of at least one other person so they are engaged and can break out if needed (and not just be quiet or disengaged in the discussion).  Having small groups is one thing that makes us identify as part of the big group.

Join us for our next gathering in a couple of weeks when we'll take the HUMAN side of the DRIVERS debate.  Details and RSVP here.