Know Your Numbers

As a US based tech company, if someone were to ask which language we would use to be able to communicate with the most people around the world, “English” would probably be the expected answer. While English is second only to Mandarin Chinese (the most spoken language in the world), communicating nonverbally through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) would serve as a more universally effective method. Regardless of whether the person on the other end of the conversation can speak the same language, anyone can relate through numbers.

In business, numbers are considerably more important. From margins to revenue and analytics, companies live and die by their numbers. Some of my favorite businesses have closed, not due to a lack of quality in their product or service, but because they failed to understand how to properly manage and utilize numbers. Sadly enough, companies with millions of dollars in revenue can still have little to no profit. Likewise, companies can often easily fail to deliver on the value proposition of their product or service.

As I continue to help Talixa develop and grow through refining our business processes and my own social media processes (specifically twitter for the time being), I constantly am looking to see what the numbers can tell me. Experimenting is one of the best ways to learn, because it leads to a wider range of experience. Individuals, businesses, and organizations can develop and grow simply by taking action upon an understanding that numbers are a priority.

Looking for advice based on anything I’ve said? I’m happy to give it, free of charge. Reach out using any of these methods:

DM Talixa on Twitter: twitter.com/TalixaSoftware
Message Nick on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/nick-gordon
Email Nick: nick@talixa.com

Organizational Aspirations

Throughout my life, I have observed that there are two types of people out there – those who aspire to excellence and those who are content to get by. This extends to businesses as well. For example, consider Chick-fil-a. Just like McDonald’s or Burger King, Chick-fil-a is a fast food joint.  But unlike their competitors, it’s apparent that Chick-fil-a aspires to be something more. You see it in the quality of their staff and the quality of their food. As far as fast food goes, Chick-fil-a is the gold standard of excellence in all that they do.

Unfortunately, there are too few businesses out there striving for excellence. Companies try to cut corners, find the cheapest bidder, outsource their call centers to people who struggle to speak English, or engage in other practices that show anything but excellence. These companies try to gain our confidence but they never will. We may use their products and services, but only when we’re looking for a cheap solution. Indeed, these companies have turned their products and services into commodities differentiated by nothing but cost.

When people look at the goods and services your company offers, what do they see? Are you an organization demonstrating excellence in all you do, or a another in a long list of organizations content to push the mediocre?

Making Money

We all want to make money. While we know that “money can’t buy happiness”, it’s a whole lot harder to be happy when you are struggling to get by. So, how do we make money? As a business owner, I have been forced to think about how money is earned – not only by me but by those in my organization. I concluded these are current three ways that money is generated within my small business.

Perform Billable Work. The first and simplest way to make money is simply to perform work that will be paid for by someone else. In the software industry, this means writing code. In other businesses, it means performing the work that defines the function of the organization. This is the most visible way to generate revenue. These are also the easiest to consider hiring as their efforts directly generate revenue.

Bring In New Customers. Organizations can only grow and thrive if new customers are coming onboard. The best software staff in the world can’t work if there’s no work to be done. While bringing in new customers doesn’t necessarily generate revenue, it fills the pipeline of billable work that is needed to keep a business moving forward. As these staff members don’t directly generate revenue, they are more appropriate to hire based on commission.

Free Up Time of Others. The third way to generate revenue within an organization is to enable others to accomplish their mission unimpeded. Secretaries, assistants, human resources, accounting, are examples of this. They perform work that frees others do to billable work. This is even more apparent in a small business. My personal assistant does all the little things that need done so I can focus on billable work. These staff members are the hardest to hire as they must be paid from the money generated by other staff. However, the time they free for billable staff can make them easily worth well beyond the salary they receive.

As an employee, where do you fit in within your organization? How much revenue do you generate for your organization? Is it directly or indirectly generated? If you know the answers to those questions, you can better understand your value within an organization.

New Year New Me?

After Christmas each year, many people begin a process of introspection in order to help determine their New Year’s resolution. While resolutions generally aim to improve oneself or a particular aspect of life, few actually survive very long. In my own experience, the promise of change on New Year’s Day was more of a novelty than something that I truly considered and took seriously. In all honesty, thinking about becoming a better person is vastly more fun than actually taking action to make it happen.

Regardless, most people admit that they do, in fact, want to improve in certain areas. My greatest criticism of New Year’s resolutions and phrases like “new year new me” comes out of the premise that in order to effectively develop and grow, people need to constantly focus and reevaluate. Quite frankly, bringing others along into the process to create a feedback loop and accountability serves an essential purpose as well. When change is important enough, it should be implemented immediately rather than wait around for the first of January. Further, if a person needs a holiday to change, then how genuine is that desire?

With that being said, if you have been thinking about how to change going into the new year, might I suggest that you start now, instead of waiting for Tuesday to roll around. Whether you want to make changes to improve your health, family, work, or something else, be mindful of why you really want to change, how you plan to get there, and what consequences will result from your success. Every morning presents a new opportunity to become someone different than you saw in the mirror yesterday. Be encouraged, and feel free to save and return to this article to refocus throughout the year.

Opportunity Awaits

Timing is everything, and managing time properly is extremely important as well. Tim Ferriss might say it best, “If you don’t have time, you don’t have priorities.” Assuming people read the big letters that make up the title of this content, they may be asking “Why all this talk about time and timing instead of opportunity?” The simple answer becomes quite clear by taking a look at the second word: Opportunity AWAITS.

Now take a moment to think of some opportunities that impact life. Whether it’s a first date, a new job, or a college acceptance letter, these opportunities, regardless of magnitude, contribute to the direction of a person’s life. Smaller opportunities can lead to greater opportunities, and over a short period of time, life can radically change. While it’s impossible to anticipate every opportunity, people can prepare to capitalize on any opportunity, good or bad.

As a company, our preparation is critical to the success of both our clients and our business. We know that success does not happen by accident, yet we also do our best to put the needs of others above our own. In reality, we understand that the value of education far outweighs a pushy sales pitch, so we spend our time and money educating ourselves and others who express interest in who we are and what we do. In doing so, we hope that the friends we meet along the way appreciate what we do for them and help spread the word.

If you have interest in learning more about why we continue to work with new businesses to develop and grow, simply click on the “Contact” tab and choose your preferred method. Opportunity awaits!

Limit[ed/less]

Over time, there is an infinitely small likelihood that I would be capable of talking about this blog individually to everyone who will ever be interested and invested in the content. As more content meets more people, time would inevitably run out. Fortunately, with the help of technology, here we are. The limitations of the internet are not the same as the limitations of my mouth, and building upon this foundation brings some game changing ideas.

While the internet provides much better potential to reach more eyes and ears, nobody wants to give up the benefits of using their mouth to speak. Nobody wants to upload their entire life to YouTube either. If humanity would become incapable of speaking, however, the way we think about even the smallest aspects of everyday life would change, similar to how the internet has impacted how we interact with the world. This leads into what we can learn  and apply to tech and business.

Regardless of individual circumstances, people have areas where they are presumably limited more or less than others. For instance, the fact that I am 6’4″ implies that my height is much less limited than most. But how would things change if we alter the conditions? You might be pleasantly surprised at the result if you consider questions like this in a variety of circumstances.

When applying this thinking to finances and business growth, the effect becomes clear. Say a business operates on $200,000 per year. What would be done differently (and why?) if the business had an annual operating budget of $100,000? How about $400,000? Putting businesses into these hypothetical situations will inevitably help foster a mindset of growth by overcoming presumed limitations in a practical way.

Circumstances will certainly change over time, for better or worse. By asking these questions now, you can gain a better understanding of why you might choose to take one course of action over another. Hopefully this entire process will help you more adequately prepare for your next big decision. After all, with preparation and execution people develop and grow.

“Best” Sales Tactic

As someone with a B.S. in Business Administration, I can say with confidence that most people with a considerable level of business education and experience would argue the importance of a top notch sales person. While sales is an incredibly important role to fill, I would suggest a more practical and important focus, particularly for small businesses. Investing available resources into ensuring the highest quality of a relevant product or service often yields far greater returns than overemphasizing hiring for a sales position and shifting the focus from what’s most important, creating value.

Rather than finding the “best” salesperson, why not concentrate on being the best at what you do by a considerable margin? Quality sells, and more importantly, paying attention to the issues that are relevant to clients and consumers will take your business to the next level. Too many times business owners fail to prioritize their endeavors properly, prohibiting optimal growth both short-term and long term.

How can your business implement this advice? Perhaps you were planning to hire too early. Nobody knows your own business better than you. Focusing more intentionally on bringing your best to the table will, in turn, yield a substantially better product or service allowing your business’ competitive advantage to sell itself.

Microsoft AppCenter

Several years ago, I needed to find a way to distribute mobile applications to test users. Ideally, the solution should allow for anyone to access the test application. This would include internal users as well as key stakeholders within the client organization. The distribution channel should support Android apps as well as iOS and, optimally, any other application type I would like to deploy. After searching, I found HockeyApp. What an amazing tool HockeyApp was. Not only did it meet those requirements, but it also allowed for integration of their API to include advanced features. For years, I used HockeyApp without issue. Apps are built by my automated build platform, pushed to HockeyApp, and users are notified of new test versions.

Fast forward to today, and HockeyApp is now owned by Microsoft and being moved to AppCenter. To be honest, I’ve never been much of a Microsoft fan. I could point to countless reasons such as lack of good native development tools, poor support for scripting or automation, their hatred of Linux (even calling a cancer), Internet Explorer which worked differently from every other browser for developers, and now I can add their horrible transition to AppCenter to the list.

Today, I received a notification from Google that one of my apps was removed from the store. It appears to be a mistake on their end, but I need to verify and respond to Google. So, I uninstall the copy of the app from my phone and go to AppCenter to download the app onto my phone. The first thing I notice is that I have multiple copies of the app but none of them are tagged with the appropriate build type. I can’t tell free version from paid version or beta version or anything else – just a bunch of apps with the same name. After clicking on the individual versions, I find out that none of them are available for me to download. After digging around, it appears I need to release the app to a distribution group. It had been setup properly for years, but now it’s broken. So, I go to the website to check the distribution groups. Guess what? There is no way to change them in AppCenter. I can see that I have a few groups, but I can’t even tell who is in them. So, to fix the problem, I will need to go to every single app I have (a total of 28), add them to a new distribution group (with unknown members), and rerelease them (generating 28 emails to each member of an unknown distribution group). What a horrible experience for both me and my team members. As a small business owner, I don’t have the time to waste to make all the necessary changes, updates, reconfiguration of continuous development pipelines, etc. What an absolute nightmare.

Maybe my experience will be better once I get everything transitioned to AppCenter. Perhaps these are just short-term growing pains. Regardless, this is just another example of why developers have always been skeptical of Microsoft – and another reason I’m glad I use Bitbucket instead of GitHub.

Navigating the Unknown

Difficulties often come alongside making important decisions pertaining to business, profession, and life. While some choices can be made with ease and peace of mind due to their simplistic nature, others demand more time and attention, and rightly so. Every person has twenty four hours to spend each day, which is one of the most fascinating and terrifying aspects of constantly receiving new meaningful opportunities. We can say yes to good opportunities, even great ones… until we can’t.

These more complex decisions commonly occur when people exceed their presumed capacity to put more on their plate, because the resulting consequences inevitably alter day to day life. This is one of the reasons why I place such a high value on flexibility. In our humanity, we cannot fully know, understand, or control everything that will happen over the course of any given day, week, month, or year. As such, we need to readily make room for the unknown, carefully evaluating and reevaluating how we spend our time, energy, and resources.

If you find yourself in this position in life, don’t worry; you’re doing something right! Do everything in your power to hold on to the amazing things you have managed to accomplish, while remaining open to new opportunities that will help you continue to develop and grow.

On the other hand, if you still have plenty of room on your plate, don’t be afraid to pursue new endeavors. There are people out there who NEED your gifts. We can always accomplish more today than yesterday, and we can manage more tomorrow than we managed today… until we can’t.

Competent Investing

Regardless of social or economic status, as human beings we have the ability to invest our time, energy, and resources into a wide range of opportunities. Whether we invest in people, projects, or something else, there exists a responsibility and an importance in exercising reason and assessing our own competence beforehand. Using a bit of common sense, this should go without saying, though emotions can often cause people to overlook sound logic in many circumstances.

While this may seem obvious, people should address and assess competence when investing so that they can be prepared for various outcomes in light of uncertainty. Take cryptocurrency as an example. About a year ago, cryptocurrency news stories were finally flooding the mass media. Everyday people heard stories of investors who gloated a twenty fold (or more) return on their initial investment. Without understanding much of the history of cryptocurrency or its benefits and flaws, people started investing their life savings, mortgaging homes, and other unthinkable decisions based simply on their fear of missing out. Absolute mania.

In all honesty, a case could be made that these same people backed out on their investments when the market took a rough turn. In most instances, our investments fluctuate, growing sometimes and shrinking others. The difference between investing in stocks versus cryptocurrency, however, is that cryptocurrency investing is much more volatile. An increase or decrease of ten percent in a matter of hours is fairly common, whereas with stocks, it generally would take months, even years to see a price change that significant.

The reason I write about this topic today is not to influence anyone to invest or pull their investments from cryptocurrency. Rather, I simply hope to help people sincerely think about why they choose to invest or not invest. What do we value most in life? Do our investments align with these values? If not, it begs the question of whether or not we are acting as good stewards of our influence. On this Thanksgiving Day, we should consider what we’re truly grateful for. After we’ve done that, there’s only one thing left to do. Appreciate it.