Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pickens Plan

Gas prices getting to you? I will enjoy watching T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire hedge fund manager and independent oilman try to facilitate changing America's energy plan. In a brief video, Pickens summarizes his energy plan. While it faces some tough hurdles, it certainly sounds more promising than anything Congress has come up with recently. He is also having town meetings in various areas of the country.

Click the image and review Pickens' idea to help free the United States from its increasingly burdensome reliance on imported oil, an expense he puts at a staggering $700 billion annually.

Will his movement have the same impetus as Al Gore's and global warning. I dont know, but we certainly do need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. It will take a lot of work and money to change, but energy policy needs to change. Pickens certainly does have a good marketing team working to help promote his ideas.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cliques -- good or bad?

Cliques or informal groups are found in every organization -- not just in school. Cliques are prevalent in the workplace. People who have similar interests will stick together regardless of any formal organization. People who form cliques or informal groups are often not even aware that they are members of such a group. They are just accustomed to hanging out together or IM'ing alot, or other such behaviors. People drift in and out of the informal group.

People who like to talk about movies will hang out together while company "old-timers" will lunch together and work together out of habit. This appears harmless, but to the "outsiders," these groups may be viewed with suspicion, fear, or even envy. For example, "old-timers" may "know the ropes" concerning company procedures, so may seem to get more privileges than others. Others who try to link up with this group may be accepted or rejected after being observed by that particular "in" crowd.

As a employee (whether or not you are a supervisor), you might as well accept the existence of informal groups. Mature people recognize that there is much to be gained by an expanded network of people. Extend yourself to others, especially to others who may also feel left out. Say hello to everyone, and don’t worry about who says something back. Try to sincerely connect with everyone, including those in the clique. Look for ways to include yourself. Ask questions and gain knowledge about the interests of the informal groups. So, when the time is right for you to influence change, you can sell the cliques on YOUR direction or agenda, rather than attacking or ignoring them.

Are you new to an organization, trying to fit in or break into cliques? Perhaps you might wish to read this posting. If you wish to read about junior high (middle school) cliques, my reflections are here, or about cliques and groupthink, read here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Ending, New Beginnings

Friday was my last day of work. I was given 2 months notice and I thought towards the end that the day would never come. The last 7.5 years in a start-up definitely was a roller coaster ride.

My life changed dramatically through my experience, due to the people I met (employees, investors, customers, other entrepreneurs and vendors), the things I did (help create business plans, structure deals, recruit, prepare contracts) and the lessons I learned.

I just read a post by Roger Ehrenberg about the ending of Monitor110 that is very intriguing. The author tried to summarize the main points of his experience:
The Seven Deadly Sins

While we certainly made more than seven mistakes during the nearly four-year life of Monitor110, I think these top the list.

The lack of a single, "the buck stops here" leader until too late in the game
No separation between the technology organization and the product organization
Too much PR, too early
Too much money
Not close enough to the customer
Slow to adapt to market reality
Disagreement on strategy both within the Company and with the Board

I really appreciate the author's blog. It helped me bring closure to my experience and makes me think so much about my past few years.

I'm going to create something else, start my own company (probably without investors). I'm still in the planning stages, but who knows what I'll end up creating.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Scientific Advertising circa 1923

David Szetela and Clix Marketing have a blog from early January that has a download link for a public domain book called Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. The book was first published in 1923--long before online advertising.

Hopkins's book is short by todays standards (57 pages) but it's filled with classic advice about topics such as salesmanship, headlines, samples, pricing, content, ad copy and much more. His thoughts apply to online marketing and sales and is well worth your reading it. I've not finished reading it yet, but the last paragraph of Chapter 3 is worth pondering:

People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves.
Many fewer mistakes would be made in advertising if these facts were never forgotten.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2008 401K Contribution Limits

OK, since I have such a VAST amount of readers (you know who I am), you will forgive me for writing a note to myself. I keep forgetting the IRS limits for 401K contributions. So, I thought I would write a note for myself and others. For 2008, the maximum amounts you can contribute to your 401(k) plan, as set by the IRS is shown below:

2008 401k Contribution Limit: $15,500
2008 Catch-Up Contribution Limit (if you are over 50 years old): $5,000

These are the IRS limits, but you are also subject to the limits imposed by your company’s 401k plan. Matching contributions, if any, provided by your employer do NOT effect these limits. Check with your employer to see if they have any contribution limits.

Now, I wonder how many start-up companies offer 401 (k) programs. They are incentives that are valuable to some, but not necessarily all. I wonder how rare it is to provide any matching funds, and if data is kept on these sort of statistics.

You can find 2009 401k contribution limits here.