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A world wandering writer booking it to noveldom in search of the story.

Makerbot at Mesh is #socool

Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Events, Tech | 0 comments

I was at Mesh last week and I got a chance to see a MakerBot, one of those 3D printers that’s making the rounds slowly but steadily becoming mainstream. Here are a few pictures of one up close. Seeing it work is pretty damn cool and knowing you can download objects and print them out is amazing. What a great prototyping tool and I wonder what form 3D printers will take a few years down the line. Will we move beyond plastics and polymers as the technology becomes more accessible to the rest of us.

You can go to thingiverse to find new stuff to print out. I guess that means you could model anything in a 3D modeling suite and create something that is printable. I look forward to printing out figures and putting them together in the future or at least if you have misplaced a piece of lego being able to print a new one out instead of make due without that one piece you need to finish your Lego masterpiece.

 

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Another LSM hits Toronto Validation through Punishment (kidding) #LSMTO

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in startups, Toronto | 0 comments

The 4th edition rolls into incubes

The 4th edition of LSMTO rolls into incubes

Just the other week another Lean Startup Machine came to Toronto, occupying the [IN]cubes office in Toronto April 26th -28th. I’m not a coder or a startup person myself. In reality I’m an observer whose seen the frustration and spark that goes on when you are forced to face strangers with your ideas and watch them either tear you a new one, confirm your hypothesis or reveal the unexpected. I’ve always wanted to get involved but I still feel like a newbie writer whose still searching for his sense of self, of belonging.

I’ve found in my own experience doing Startup Weekend and LSM that its the unexpected that really reveals a lot. Lean Startup Machine parallels the structure you find at Startup Weekend. You pitch, the best build teams and you go through the process of validating the idea. The only difference is that at Startup Weekend your team is coding from the start. I was helping out as one of the Toronto people who helped put it on, it always reminds me of the risks and rewards out there for those who are willing to head into the unknown.

At LSM you are working on the problem, seeing if that awesome idea you had at the start really has substance. More often than not what you thought and what reality says are 2 very different things. Soon enough most teams are pivoting so much they might as well be spinning. While at startup weekend once you commit to building going back and changing things becomes a tad harder.

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My Anthem of a New Start (Written while I’ve been in NYC)

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Travel, Writing | 0 comments

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I’ve walked the long road, the one that dips and turns, with barriers and locks

It’s not a single path but a maze I’ve been lost in fog as I try to find my own sense of self

I still don’t know who that Eric is, I can feel that guy but he’s been hidden away

Trapped by doubt and fear, That me is sheltered by possibilities feared will never come

 

I seek to find him, me by letting go of the dark by going with what I feel

After avoiding my heart for my head, letting my mind make the choice

When all it needs to do is understand, while the soul’s the one that owns the answer

I shall find the confidence to believe that the possibilities are still sky high not dug down

 

Let’s make that reality first in spirit, then in mind and through force of will

I believe that I am not that lone wolf, that I (we) have value and can have impact

To be a force for change, even if that’s just in our own lives to start, let’s open the door

Let’s bring about a better day for others even if its through the small things, they matter

 

So I’m outta here Toronto, I do not know if I shall return but love the city and her people

I’ve been beaten down by your grind, was made tired, frustrated but found strength in the dark

This is no white flag, this is a thirst to experience the world that makes up your soul

It’s about risk and leaving fear, hunger to live for that rare experience forged on the long trail

 

Hello world, we don’t know each other, Hell I don’t know myself but I can’t wait to

I hope you’ll help me find the spark, friends, lovers and mischief makers who live for the day

They’ll challenge me, and I will do the same, I shall have their backs and I hope they’ll have mine

Let’s break out of the bubble to feel the scale, beauty and the hurt that is the world we will change

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Brilliance isn’t Enough if you can’t Persuade via @lgeffen at #fitcto

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Events | 0 comments

Lanny Geffen, creative director at Digiflare based in the GTA, came to FITC 2013 to let this audience of designers, developers, business folks know that brilliance alone isn’t enough. If you can’t persuade the client to get on board, then you’ve already lost.

He jumped right into the meeting quagmire that occurs as you try to win new business. It is one of those sessions that those biz dev folks will especially appreciate. I previously wrote a longer piece but decided to shorten down and get to the good stuff.

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1. An exec’s success depends on finding people they can trust, hit deadlines and avoid problems and these are issues they judge you on when you are presenting.

2. Geffen said “there’s a difference between what you do and what your job is?” You may design or code daily but your real job is customer service, to provide quality, efficiency, service and reliability derived from your experience.

3. Include the client early in the process so you can take advantage of their knowledge and expertise, it will built trust and make them feel like an active collaborator not an overseer.

4. Don’t get what Geffen calls “execuphobia” you should never be afraid of the executives you are meeting. That’s not a fear you can afford to have at this stage in the game.

5. Geffen reminds you “not to get ahead of yourself,” be thoughtful and don’t take rush into anything without being prepared.

6. Remember even if you are brilliant make sure to never “mail it in.” Enthusiasm is infectious and if you feel it, they will to and in the battle for inches that could be the difference between a yes or no.

7. Geffen’s big says that “if your client doesn’t make time for you that’s a big red flag.” It means that they are not engaged and is are avoiding you, so keep on them to get that next meeting.

8. When it comes to magic hour make sure you know all the stakeholders, who they are, their roles within the project and what they are looking for.

9. Another thing to avoid according to Geffen is to “never leave clients to their own devices.” The risk is they can make assumptions that contradict your story which takes them off the same page.

A ways into the session Andrew Davies the creative manager at Shaw Media came in to represent what works and what doesn’t from the client side. Here is what Andrew added to Geffen’s list:

10. Andrew says to “always start your presentation with an agenda, it sets expectations for the client” about what’s to come. It helps to keep things flowing and from getting bogged down while your presenting.

11. You have to be prepared but don’t memorize the pitch, they sound very different. Being prepared makes the pitch more of a conversation, memorizing feels rigid and less dynamic.

12. Know who will be setting things up, who presents and have it worked out beforehand.

13. Andrew says that you should have a united front when you are presenting, there can be no disagreement when you’re about to pitch. That’s a signal to them of other issues that could cool their chances of giving you their business.

Then  Deepika Malik, senior manager of user experience design at Rogers Communications came up to bat going to tactics and the story:

14. Walk the client down the user’s path, what this does is provide a lot of context for the client, which in my view also shows them your understanding of their audience.

15. Deepika believes that to tell the story your “most effective tool is a linear narrative.” It’s easy to follow and “helps anchor your clients in a time and place.”

16. The client doesn’t need to understand your field so don’t try to over explain your process, they are trusting your expertise for that very reason.

17. They say when presenting always tie back to their business, this shows that you know what the end goal is.

Andrew came back up to talk about the art of having a productive conversation when the feedback faucet is opened up.

18. Try not to get defensive and respect the feedback you hear. Keep an open mind and don’t take it personally, that’s probably the easiest way stifle progress.

19. Remember not to jump to conclusions, there is no rule that says you have to comment on what you hear at the moment you hear it.

20. What you have to do is validate their feedback, it’s about reassuring them that you heard what they had to say and will consider it.

21. Show them the value of the choices you have made, use your data and research to validate your decisions will strengthen your claim.

22. You can’t assume that the client knows how to give feedback on design in a way you can use. Dig deeper and ask them questions to clarify what they actually mean.

23. It is always easier for execs to point out the negatives instead of the positives. If they say 5% of it needs work that means that 95% is good, focus on the positives not the negatives.

24. Remember to take lots of notes, show the client you’re serious about their feedback and open to change. At the end summarize your notes, the outcomes and what the next steps will be.

25. Don’t be afraid to close the deal or at least let the client know that you need an answer so that you can get started or move on to the next project on your plate.

There was a lot more that Geffen and company went through during his session. He provided insight into how he’s gone through pitches and those key client meetings while Deepika and Andrew shared their own insight being on the client side.

It was a great session. I wrote a piece about it for IT Business Canada but it was long and some of the feedback I had was to shorten it, funny enough this was my attempt but this is

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If you’re the Rainbow Fish don’t give away your Shiny Scales with Dan Mall

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Events | 0 comments

sketchnotes at FITCTO  2013

Sketchnotes at FITCTO Prototyping your Businesssketchnotes at FITCTO 2013

Dan Mall worked at Big Spaceship and other agencies as an art director, in design and also strategy. He started his presentation talking about the rainbow fish, his daughter’s favourite book. The rainbow fish had pretty scales that it gave away to make friends but it was no longer as pretty, well Mall says that you’re the rainbow fish and don’t need to give your shiny scales away.

When his wife was pregnant they made the decision for him to work full-time and freelance on the side. This gave him the flexibility to experiment in his business, testing how to bill, what to charge, contracts and it goes on and on. He tests his hypothesis to see how it worked and felt before he’d commit to it. Mall believes in prototyping your business as much you would any piece of software and this is what he’s learned since starting Superfriendly.

Hourly Rates SUCK!

Getting paid by the hour sucks because they incentivize you to be slower.” Hourly rates don’t factor a person’s experience and agencies know it. They’ve built these considerations into their pricing. It’s why in 2008 Ad Age had a Director of Client Services hourly rate at $533, a Chief Creative Director at $964 and it goes on and on.

Mall says “clients shouldn’t pay for time, they should pay for our expertise.” Mall says there’s a disconnect between selling his experience and getting paid by the hour. At Superfriendly he’s transparent, he tracks everything and creates an annual report that tracks how many hours he works and the number of projects.

The good and bad of Fixed Pricing

Another way to get paid is using fixed pricing which puts a set monetary value on the project but not a set number of hours. It incentives you to work faster but the down side is it will penalize your hourly wage it takes longer to finish a project. It’s still flawed because you are getting paid for your time.

And the value is…

Then there’s value pricing where you are paid based on performance. One example used in advertising is if your ad leads to a certain outcome like a rise in sales you get paid based on that performance.

Mall finds value based pricing has “little to do with the project and more has to do with the service provider or the client” and incentives performance. Mall says “it’s really about the value of you at the time and what this means to the client. Here are two types of value pricing.

Is it worth an iPad or BMW

One form of value is object value pricing which works for students and smaller projects. Mall explains it like this “if your client offered you an object instead of money, take money out of the equation because it’s really hard to quantify a project what object would be worth it for the job.”

It tells you what the project is worth to you, if it is worth a used BMW that could be worth 20k. It gets harder to do as projects scale but for students it helps give them a sense of what a project is worth. It gets you to have that gut feeling about the project, Mall says to “touch your gut.”

Empowered through Cash Flow

What Mall did was figure out what he needs to earn a month which was $6900 per month so if he made $10k in one month that meant he was ahead in cash flow. So if he took a 2 week project he would need to make $5000 and by using round numbers he kept the math real simple.

In the first 2 months he made 10k each but in month 3 he was took a project that paid 30k. This would provide Mall with ultimate flexibility which means he’s not worried about getting paid because that 30K could cover him for 3 months.

This means that he has no fear, he can prototype and experiment because he’s covered, when you’re ahead in cash flow you are empowered because you know you’re covered for a specific time frame and can find or work on projects that you choose not just based on what they pay but what you want, hopefully it’s both.

When they Pay

You can do 50:50 which means that you will be working harder because you still have a lot of money on the line and the client knows it. The same thing applies if you do it in thirds. There was only one time where a client paid him in full for a 3 per cent discount. This allows you to hire contractors without fear of impacting your cash flow because managing your cash flow is about mitigating risk.

Dan’s Magic Questions

Here are some of the questions that Mall asks clients to get more insight into the projects that he’s been pitched.

1.    Is your budget closer to 3,000, 50k or 300k? This question helps you to understand what the project worth to the client is because there are big differences in these ranges.

2.    What kind of timeframe are we looking at? Mall found that this “question lights a fire under them.” (When you want large numbers to look small use K and when you want small numbers to look large use the full number.)

3.    Is there any work already started I should know about? What this tells Mall is if they’ve had someone else on board that has done work on the project, and that he’ll have to trash or get past. It gives you an understanding of where the project’s been before they’ve offered it to you.

4.    Who else are talking to about the business? Mall asks this because if he knows one of the others and they are someone he wants to work with it may be valuable to try pitching the business together instead of separately.

5.    What team or people do you have working on the project on your end? This lets you know how important it is, if their entire marketing team is working on it, you know it’s important.

Contract Killer

Mall’s contracts with clients avoid legalize like the plague, he used the Contract Killer as a basis and just adapted it, brought it to a lawyer and to make sure it was as simple to understand as possible.

Save the Date

Mall had to manage his time well and added a save the date clause to his contacts that stipulate a client that if they booked him to start in 6 months a retainer to ensure his availability. This was all about covering his ass because if the client reneged on the deal, it would be at the expense of work he could have taken.

A client more than anything wants to buy trust, they want your expertise to help them reach their goals. He’s learned these lessons by prototyping the most fundamental elements of his business to see what works and what doesn’t for Superfriendly.

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