Giving Thanks

November 26th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

Today I received an email from a good friend of mine that included a video one of his associates made regarding the things we should be grateful for in life. I preempted the post I had already prepared thinking how much more appropriate this one would be, given the upcoming holiday.

We’re so blessed to be a part of the business community and to have the capability of making an impact on the world. It is especially nice during this time of the year to have a reminder to reflect and acknowledge the important and joyful things in our lives. My mentor, Alan Hall, frequently asserts that giving all credit and acknowledgement to God is one of his most profound and vital principles. I think one of the greatest attributes that we need to remember and apply in our lives is to not think that we have achieved all these things ourselves, but to look around and to be really grateful for the beautiful things that God has given us. Oftentimes even the challenges are growth opportunities where we can experience gratitude. I want to thank Alan for sharing this message with me. I now share it with you with the hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Giving Thanks

November 26th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

Today I received an email from a good friend of mine that included a video one of his associates made regarding the things we should be grateful for in life. I preempted the post I had already prepared thinking how much more appropriate this one would be, given the upcoming holiday.

We’re so blessed to be a part of the business community and to have the capability of making an impact on the world. It is especially nice during this time of the year to have a reminder to reflect and acknowledge the important and joyful things in our lives. My mentor, Alan Hall, frequently asserts that giving all credit and acknowledgement to God is one of his most profound and vital principles. I think one of the greatest attributes that we need to remember and apply in our lives is to not think that we have achieved all these things ourselves, but to look around and to be really grateful for the beautiful things that God has given us. Oftentimes even the challenges are growth opportunities where we can experience gratitude. I want to thank Alan for sharing this message with me. I now share it with you with the hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Giving Thanks

November 26th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

Today I received an email from a good friend of mine that included a video one of his associates made regarding the things we should be grateful for in life. I preempted the post I had already prepared thinking how much more appropriate this one would be, given the upcoming holiday.

We’re so blessed to be a part of the business community and to have the capability of making an impact on the world. It is especially nice during this time of the year to have a reminder to reflect and acknowledge the important and joyful things in our lives. My mentor, Alan Hall, frequently asserts that giving all credit and acknowledgement to God is one of his most profound and vital principles. I think one of the greatest attributes that we need to remember and apply in our lives is to not think that we have achieved all these things ourselves, but to look around and to be really grateful for the beautiful things that God has given us. Oftentimes even the challenges are growth opportunities where we can experience gratitude. I want to thank Alan for sharing this message with me. I now share it with you with the hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Giving Thanks

November 26th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

Today I received an email from a good friend of mine that included a video one of his associates made regarding the things we should be grateful for in life. I preempted the post I had already prepared thinking how much more appropriate this one would be, given the upcoming holiday.

We’re so blessed to be a part of the business community and to have the capability of making an impact on the world. It is especially nice during this time of the year to have a reminder to reflect and acknowledge the important and joyful things in our lives. My mentor, Alan Hall, frequently asserts that giving all credit and acknowledgement to God is one of his most profound and vital principles. I think one of the greatest attributes that we need to remember and apply in our lives is to not think that we have achieved all these things ourselves, but to look around and to be really grateful for the beautiful things that God has given us. Oftentimes even the challenges are growth opportunities where we can experience gratitude. I want to thank Alan for sharing this message with me. I now share it with you with the hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Finding Value Deep, Deep in the Well in the Middle of Nowhere

November 19th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

Several weeks ago I posted a blog article about Ray Bard’s model of where to fish called “Ponds, Oceans, or Wells of Water“. If you recall there are four segments where you can fish. The first is a puddle. You will not find any fish in a puddle. This is a low-felt needs small market. The second area is a swamp. This is a larger market but is still low-felt need. All you catch there is catfish and carp. The third place you can fish is the ocean. You can find big, big, big fish but they are usually pretty difficult to locate and catch.

The best place to fish, as you’ll recall from the article, is a well or what I like to call the fish hatchery. Here there is a strong–felt need and a tightly constrained market.

Now keep all this in mind as I tell you about a trip I took this past week to the middle of nowhere. 

If I were to define the middle of nowhere it would be Sidney, Nebraska. After landing in Denver we drove for almost three hours, finally arriving at a little Podunk town on a windswept plain.

The only thing going for this town quite frankly is the company Cabela’s. Cabela’s was actually formed in 1961 by Dick and Mary Cabela who were selling hand-tied flies at the time. Their big break came when they began offering five hand-tied flies and charged twenty-five cents postage and handling. It took and the company known as Cabela’s was born.

As I spent time with Cabela executives it became very evident to me that strong values permeated their culture. I’ve said it many times, but let me say it again: What you say ‘No’ to is more important than what you say ‘Yes’ to in the long run. It is easy to define success based on values and the easiest way to do that is by screening and sticking to your values.

I started exploring this about an hour or so into our meeting with Cabela’s and I was able to discover Cabela’s core values. Here they are:

1.    Superior Customer Service
2.    Respect for Individuals
3.    Quality Goods and Services
4.    Integrity and Honesty
5.    Excellence in Performance

These are Cabela’s value statements. You have to ask yourself, “How can a company be three hours in the middle of nowhere in a cold, desolate climate and still rock an entire industry? After all, Cabela’s is the leader in this industry.” After talking with them I found that the answer is very simple.

1.    They fished in a well. They specifically went fishing in a strong-felt need area in a very tightly controlled market.
2.    They declared their value constraints and have not deviated. And by not deviating from it they’ve been able to be a dominant force in the market on all levels.

I gained a lot of respect for Cabela’s and realized at the same time that we can follow their lead. It takes time but us bootstrappers and zigzagging entrepreneurs need to make sure that we cleanly and clearly define our core values and then stick to them. This is what gives us long-term durability in the market. Go forward, Zigzaggers and find your own success in the middle of nowhere.

Finding Value Deep, Deep in the Well in the Middle of Nowhere

November 19th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

Several weeks ago I posted a blog article about Ray Bard’s model of where to fish called “Ponds, Oceans, or Wells of Water“. If you recall there are four segments where you can fish. The first is a puddle. You will not find any fish in a puddle. This is a low-felt needs small market. The second area is a swamp. This is a larger market but is still low-felt need. All you catch there is catfish and carp. The third place you can fish is the ocean. You can find big, big, big fish but they are usually pretty difficult to locate and catch.

The best place to fish, as you’ll recall from the article, is a well or what I like to call the fish hatchery. Here there is a strong–felt need and a tightly constrained market.

Now keep all this in mind as I tell you about a trip I took this past week to the middle of nowhere. 

If I were to define the middle of nowhere it would be Sidney, Nebraska. After landing in Denver we drove for almost three hours, finally arriving at a little Podunk town on a windswept plain.

The only thing going for this town quite frankly is the company Cabela’s. Cabela’s was actually formed in 1961 by Dick and Mary Cabela who were selling hand-tied flies at the time. Their big break came when they began offering five hand-tied flies and charged twenty-five cents postage and handling. It took and the company known as Cabela’s was born.

As I spent time with Cabela executives it became very evident to me that strong values permeated their culture. I’ve said it many times, but let me say it again: What you say ‘No’ to is more important than what you say ‘Yes’ to in the long run. It is easy to define success based on values and the easiest way to do that is by screening and sticking to your values.

I started exploring this about an hour or so into our meeting with Cabela’s and I was able to discover Cabela’s core values. Here they are:

1.    Superior Customer Service
2.    Respect for Individuals
3.    Quality Goods and Services
4.    Integrity and Honesty
5.    Excellence in Performance

These are Cabela’s value statements. You have to ask yourself, “How can a company be three hours in the middle of nowhere in a cold, desolate climate and still rock an entire industry? After all, Cabela’s is the leader in this industry.” After talking with them I found that the answer is very simple.

1.    They fished in a well. They specifically went fishing in a strong-felt need area in a very tightly controlled market.
2.    They declared their value constraints and have not deviated. And by not deviating from it they’ve been able to be a dominant force in the market on all levels.

I gained a lot of respect for Cabela’s and realized at the same time that we can follow their lead. It takes time but us bootstrappers and zigzagging entrepreneurs need to make sure that we cleanly and clearly define our core values and then stick to them. This is what gives us long-term durability in the market. Go forward, Zigzaggers and find your own success in the middle of nowhere.

Pandas, and Penguins, and Google! Oh My!

November 12th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

In the spring of 2012 Google released two very interesting updates to their search engine. The first was called Panda and the second was named Penguin. These two technologies combined border on artificial intelligence and I believe these updates are probably the most significant advancement in search technology that we have ever experienced. The world of Search Engine Optimization, or being able to get to the top of the rankings, instantly changed.

This disruptive update introduced dramatic and negative impacts on several businesses that I was running. The last year and a half I feel like I’ve been hiding under a rock and waiting for the dust to settle. However, during these past three or four months I’ve been working on a project, attempting to apply the new methodologies, and I’m pleased to announce that I have had the first breakthrough.

For today’s post I wanted to provide technical information for anyone who is attempting to utilize the web and get exposure through search engines. In days of old there were three major legs that propped up the stool of good search ranking:

Content
Today it is all about fresh, relevant content. While you will still want your keyword density to be at one or two percent the new updates require more sensitivity to good, solid content for humans than ever before.

On-Page Elements
At last count I went through fifty-two variables that were required they be matched in order to achieve good ranking. This includes web elements such as meta data, meta title, and meta descriptions as well as your web URL, alt text tabs, how long the domain had been alive etc. All of these elements combined helped you know where you ranked. These also factor in the updated Panda and Penguin but not as much.

Links
Links were the validation and proof that you were important to other websites. These HREF tags linking you from another website were VERY important when it came to Google determining website ranking. This now has been somewhat de-emphasized and the only value there is if you can get really good, high-end quality referrals from someone. If you’re getting a bunch of links from small, unknown sources it can actually hurt you.

Those three elements used to be the legs of the stool that held up Search Engines. Now the rules have changed. Let me add a few of the other key factors that are now  being taken into consideration.

Page Layout
You cannot use old, duddy, template designs, or old web layouts. Google looks at a website’s layout. You must have new, fresh, and open designs to achieve good rankings.

Natural Advertisement and Information Extraction
Beware if you are overusing advertising elements, especially of advertisements above the fold and if you are attempting to extract user information too quickly. Provide real and relevant content without attempting to monetize too quickly or aggressively.

Time Spent on Site
The wonderful analytics that Google gave us for years that we were so delighted in is now being used against us. How long the user stays on the site is now compared to other similar sites in your industry and is used to score your website based on that information.

Conversions
Google now measures your conversion data to see how well it performs.

Page Views
How many pages does the user go through while visiting your site? If they go to your homepage and bounce out right afterwards it is known as a bounce and you are penalized for it. It’s important that the user goes from page to page while spending time and exploring your site, floating through multiple pieces of content.

Traffic Variety
In days of old it did not matter if you only had one type of traffic source. Google is now measuring traffic variety and where your traffic comes from particularly if your traffic is related to social media. By doing this it shows if a brand or company is permeating and how well it is received.

Social Proof
Google tracks the number of times your company or name pops up in Google circles, Facebook, and Twitter. This allows them to see your reach. This is a huge factor in website ranking.

With all of these new rules it is incredibly difficult for smaller companies to compete. However you’ve heard me frequently talk about Barriers to Entry and the importance of those barriers. If you’re able to overcome these new online barriers you can put a huge gap between you and the competition. I believe it is now time to be looking at online presence and search in your online search model, albeit carefully. I wish you well in the brave, brazen new world of Panda and Penguin.

Say No With Money

November 5th, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

This past week I had a business associate come to my office and explain that one of his biggest frustrations came from his top client. This client continually asked my associate to do projects that were not only counterproductive to his company but was actually causing a lot of conflict within the organization. However, he did not dare tell the customer no because it would disrupt other lines of business.

This led me to recall a similar dilemma in my career. I was running Mitsubishi’s Electric PC division at the time and had one particular customer that was very difficult and caustic to work with. They were by no means our largest client, but they consumed much of our resources. I approached my boss, Dr. Peter Horne, on the topic and told him I wanted to fire our client. He looked at me and in his posh, British accent said, “Rich, why would you ever do that? Just triple the price on them. Let them be the ones to say no, thus saving the relationship by putting them in control and allowing you to continue being the good guy.”

It was a brilliant piece of advice. And indeed that’s exactly what I did. My mentor’s advice is as relevant today as it was when I first heard it. I was able to pass my mentor’s advice to my business associate and I want to do the same for you. You can still maintain your relationship with your customers and keep control of your business. Take matters into your own hands and say no to difficult customers by increasing your price. Be the good guy and give yourself more value.