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Bestselling Author John Mackey – Conscious Capitalism 2013 Book Tour Chicago Stop

conscious capitalism jacketJohn Mackey came to Chicago Wednesday and gave a powerful , paradign-shifting soul-awakening speech about his new book Conscious Capitalism to the Economic Club of Chicago. The event was led by John A Canning Jr., Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners. Question and answers were moderated by Mary Ann Childers. Later, I attended a second event with him at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market location.

John Mackey is a wickedly smart and passionate businessman who has created a flexible organizational structure at Whole Foods Market designed to create great connection with the customer. It is very much like the business philosophy I was raised on at BlackRock. It needs to be more common place in our society.

As I’ve stated previously, proper business acumen needs to become a mainstream, highly discussed issue in our society. Sadly, the people that need to read this book the most are the ones most likely to never see it. It is time for a global renaissance in business practices around the world. For that to ever have a chance of occurring, these issues need to migrate from business to mainstream.

I did manage to get a few minutes with John Mackey as you can see in the Youtube video below. He was in a rush so I turned a six minute interview into three minutes and my one of my on the fly question mashups got a little overwhelming regarding the nature of business and media change. I would have liked to have also asked about the Board of Directors stakeholder issues at Whole Foods. Looking forward to getting that the next time I get to interact with him or Raj Sisodia someday.

The book, co-authored by Raj Sisodia whom I need to learn more about, tells the story of the founding of Whole Foods, the amazing and unlikely comeback from a devastating flood in 1981, the unique relationship it creates with stakeholders and the ability to educate business leaders and others about these principles.

By reading the book and seeing two speeches by John Mackey yesterday, I also learned surprising facts:

– Reading books played a large role in creating John Mackey’s education. He never took a business class while he attended college but has read voraciously over his lifetime.

– John gets that marketing is not a logo like I do. On page 80 he says, “At Whole Foods, we think of marketing as enhancing the quality of our relationship with our customers.” Every company should view it this way.

– Paying vendors on time is critical to success of the ecosystem. He discusses how big companies tend to be the worst offenders here. You’d think that with today’s cash excesses on balance sheets that they’d change this.

– After witnessing John Mackey make two speeches, I can state that Whole Foods appears to be a unique learning organization. There is decentralized and delegated authority at the regional and individual store level to make investments, acquire local products and interact with the local communities as the stores deem appropriate.

– Later in the book, he discusses measurement and the need for change there. I’ll leave you to discover that in detail on your own as you read Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.

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Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google : Aaron Goldman Book Blog Tour

I’ve known Aaron Goldman since 2006 and he stands out as someone who has made himself accessible and friendly in the search engine community. Every few months we share a conversations about what we are both up to and aspire to, it is always fun. Aaron has encouraged me to continue evangelizing my message about the strategic and structural changes in marketing and how they will continue to profoundly impact business results and economic distribution realities – whether businesses chose to engage in them or not. It will impact them positively or adversely based on their course of action or inaction.  For that continued encouragement, I’d like to take a minute to thank Aaron right here and it’s a great honor to be the first stop on this blog tour for his new book “Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google” (McGraw Hill 2010).

In the introduction, you discuss how many have a love and hate relationship with Google – at the same time. What it is about Google that allows these emotions to exist mutually at the same time?

Aaron Goldman: Well, I wouldn’t call it a love/hate so much as a love/fear.

I love using Google as a searcher and as marketer. As a searcher, Google helps me find what I’m looking for. And, as a marketer, Google helps me get new customers.

But I’m definitely afraid of Google too. As a searcher, I’m afraid it of what it could do with my data. And as a marketer, I’m also afraid of what it could do with my data but even more afraid that it may one day change its algorithm and leave me out in the cold.

I think it’s general human nature to fear the things we love the most. Once we become reliant on something or someone, we fear that it one day may be taken away.

You discussed relevancy and intent in the book at a few junctures. How do you like to explain these issues to people and why are these concepts challenging for people to understand?

Aaron Goldman: It’s difficult because, by its very definition, relevancy is relative. What’s relevant to you may not be to me. Too many marketers make the mistake of thinking that what matters to them also matters to their target customers.

From a Google perspective, relevancy is the key to search. If Google’s search results aren’t relevant to each individual searcher, he or she will stop using it. That’s why Google looks to collect and keep so much data. It needs to personalize the results to make them more relevant.

For marketers, it’s critical to give off signals of relevancy if you want high rankings on Google. This includes content geared towards specific search queries as well as links from relevant websites.

As for intent. I really think it’s the reason search marketing works so well. People come to Google with the intent of finding something. And, often, that’s something to buy. It’s one of the few places in media where people raise their hands and specifically ask for products, services, etc. It’s the whole pull vs. push thing.

You mentioned how AOL values content differently than most organizations and how Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation, owner of The Wall Street Journal or Fox News accuses Google of stealing content. As content channels become infinite, isn’t media monopoly power also changing and/or even declining?

Aaron Goldman: The point I was making with content is that there are certain topics that are highly commercial and others that are not. What I mean by commercial is that the people consuming the content are in a commercial mindset — they’re thinking about buying something.

For publishers, commercial content is the easiest to monetize. Advertisers want to be wherever there are people thinking about buying stuff. AOL has done a good job of creating content on highly commercial topics — think travel or financial services — that it can sell ads against.

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are too busy covering the “news.” And news is tough to monetize. People consuming news are not in a commercial mindset and are not open to advertising messages.

All that said, you make a good point that it’s tougher to wield monopoly power as channels become infinite and distribution is spread across the long tail. These days anybody can start a blog or Twitter account and “report” news. And people tend to trust their friends more than the media.

You interlaced a bunch of URLs in the book. This is an interesting experiment. What is your hope for it?

Aaron Goldman: I wanted to make the experience of reading the book more dynamic. Rather than just read cover to cover, my hope is that people will read a chapter and then go to the web to learn more about specific topics covered and interact with other people reading that same part of the book.

With static print, it’s tough to keep content fresh — especially in the world of marketing and Google when changes are happening every day. By including the URLs, I have a way to share new developments.

The URLs also helped keep me from going off on tangents or going too deep on topics that many readers may not care about. For example, rather than recap an entire thesis that David Berkowitz wrote about “Jewhavioral Targeting” in my chapter about “Letting the Data Decide,” I just cover it in a sentence or two and include a link.

There’s a few people in the book that were mentioned considerably more than others, how did you pick the contributors, quotes and subtopics?

Aaron Goldman: Along the same lines as the URLs, I knew it was important to include a wide variety of perspectives on the lessons learned from Google. No-one wants to read 300+ pages of what Aaron Goldman thinks about marketing. But people do (I hope) want to read 300+ pages of what some of the brightest minds in the industry learned from Google as curated by Aaron Goldman.

I interviewed over 100 marketing big wigs in the course of preparing my manuscript ranging from agency types to Google employees to researchers to university professors. The ones who are mentioned more frequently are the ones that gave me insights that were the most compelling, controversial, quotable or all of the above.

The book is part history, part teacher and part tour guide…who is the intended audience?

Aaron Goldman: This book was written for anyone who has a stake in marketing. It covers all areas of marketing — advertising, PR, promotions, media, product development, etc.

And it’s written for people like me who have very short attention spans. The copy is quick and punchy. And there’s lots of fun wordplay. I put the “pun” in punchy.

It doesn’t matter if you work for a small business or Fortune 500 company, the lessons in my book are applicable to your business. In each of my 20 chapters, I share a lesson, discuss how Google puts it into play, cover mini-case studies of marketers that exemplify it, and then walk through an exercise for the reader to relate the lesson to his or her business.

This book will also make great fodder for search engine marketing pros looking to broaden their horizons or understand how their skills can be leveraged across other channels.

What knowledge do you want people to take away from the book?

Aaron Goldman: First and foremost, I want people to take away specific tactics that they can apply to their business immediately. If you read the entire book and don’t find a single thing you can do to grow your business right away, then I will personally refund your money.

That said, I also want to give people a framework for thinking about the future of marketing. I spend quite a bit of time throughout the book — and especially in the last chapter on “future-proofing” — discussing what the marketing world will look like 10 years from now and what Google’s role might be within it.

If nothing else, I hope people will find my book entertaining and enjoy getting a peek under the hood of one of the most fascinating (and profitable) companies in the modern era.
I wish Aaron the best of luck with his book and look forward to learning from his experiences as I continue to explore my book author aspirations in the future. The constant mutual learning from all of the wonderful people I meet in the digital marketing space as I speak and consult around the world is special and hard to fully describe! Looking forward to seeing the other scheduled stops on the GoogleyLessons blog tour!

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Barney Harford Now Orbitz CEO – Welcome to Chicago

For the past few years, I thought that there might be a new entrant to Chicago’s Internet scene. It was exciting to me because Chicago could certainly use some geographic diversity in it’s leadership. For a long time, it looked like that person would be Mark Cuban, but it now appears that he will not be the high bidder for the Chicago Cubs. That is kind of a bummer as it would have probably made Wrigley Field a playground for the who’s who of the Internet people like Michael Arrington, Jason Calacanis, Gabe Rivera and many venture capitalists. BTW, you are still welcome guests irregardless.

They say that when one door closes another one opens and apparently Barney Harford is the gentleman that was actually meant to darken the doorway. He’s had extensive experiences in Asia and elsewhere for Expedia and more recently as an advisor to and eLong. As mentioned in the article linked to above, I strongly believe that geographical diversity is important to high performing corporate cultures and I praise the Board of Directors for this choice. It is my hope that this will effect Chicago’s landscape in a positive way far beyond Orbitz. Time will tell.

Continue reading Barney Harford Now Orbitz CEO – Welcome to Chicago

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TECH cocktail CONFERENCE Chicago – Creating Change For The Future

Wow! That was tiring, I stepped on the L at 7:30AM and didn’t get home until 1:30AM the next morning! 18 hours of pure madness! Most people noticed the great speeches by Gary Vee from Wine Library TV and Dick Costolo (aka ask the wizard) and others. But what I really appreciated was the other things that the day brought to me. When Frank Gruber and Eric started TECH cocktail, one of the goals was to enable the interaction of people and removing barriers between entrepreneurs, funding sources and removing the boundaries between Chicago and the rest of the world.

When I sit at the first TECH cocktail CONFERENCE Chicago watching great speeches and meeting people from startups from both the east and west coasts while talking, playfully joking about Internet concepts and trading ideas with a local Chicago angel investor in the back of the room for hours on end – it’s at that moment one can clearly perceive a vision is starting to become reality…

For a first conference, it was very well run. There were those little things with a venue that didn’t go quite right with the elevators and not having enough power outlets (but you could say that about any conference) but those were out of their direct control. You could see that Eric and Frank went out of their way to challenge the audience about topics that too often go ignored at startups, like how to set up a corporate entity properly, partnerships and most of these challenges and experiments went well.

So what’s next? I’d like to challenge each and every person in TECH cocktail community to take things to the next level by taking the following actions:

1. Follow Up – People need to work to get to know each other better and learn to leverage each person’s special gifts and talents and realize that 1 + 1 > 2 when we behave in this manner. For me, I know that creating new business partners while listening to help iterate the product, data model or service is my area of strength.

2. Change TECH cocktail from an event to an everyday process on your own – a three month cycle time is not sufficient to build relationships to the next level – it’s everyone’s responsibility to make an hour here and there to sit down with someone, learn about what they are doing, give them a fresh perspective and potential assistance. Don’t wait for the next TECH cocktail event. If this means you need to organize your contact info, make that important time investment.

3. Listen to what Dick Costolo had to say about Internet company NDAs and then change your behavior accordingly (where is the video of that speech anyway?)Stop sending people NDAs that serve no purpose other than to destroy your access to people who are the most qualified to help you. Ideas are a dime a dozen, assembling the right people with the current knowledge and future potential to create that reality is what matters.

4. Go beyond lurking, participate!!! During the conference, I had at least 10 people talk to me about a blog post of mine in detail, yet they’ve never left a comment on my blog. That’s sad. Leaving a comment leaves you a hyperlink back to your business or blog and allows distribution of one’s business network organically removing them as the bottleneck, please use this viral tool.

5. Learn to hire people for their current knowledge, network, blogs and future potential – not legacy job titles and brands – this takes work, research and being involved in the community, but it is how you’ll find the breakthrough thought leaders and future superstars.

6. Become an ambassador to expanding the understanding of the tools we all use and expand our base of understanding to new people outside our core – If you have a client or operate a service do they understand what Internet advertising, blogs, rss, social media, twitter, etc do? If they do is their organizational culture and structure set up to handle it to serve a customer’s needs? Many people know there is a problem but do not know where to start to fix it – I want to help those people as it will ease the adoption and enhance demand for disruptive new Internet services. I’m planning a series of future posts on this important, yet highly untouched topic. If you have examples of success stories or learnings in this area, I’d love to hear from you.

What else would you add to this list? I look forward to your contributions.

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TC08 Chicago – Ask The Wizard Live – Dick Costolo Talks Entrepreneurship

Dick Costolo gave a really raw, heartfelt talk about Feedburner, venture capital fund raising and venture capital. I won’t dwell on it here, but even though I’ve never worked directly on anything with Dick, we’ve had an amazing exchange of ideas and conversation over the years. Someday I hope I can take that relationship to an even higher level – mostly for the personal growth that I know it would cause rather than the monetization events it would likely bring. He gets it. Dick never stops learning and interacting every day. That restlessness is critical to his perpetual personal growth. Sorry, I think I did dwell on it a bit….anyway, here are my raw notes or his passionate speech that bordered on a rant at times…in the most positive way:

4 startups including Feedburner

Feedburner all founders had same equity percentage – very important to teamwork dynamic and success

Entrepreneurs worry too much about valuation

Market Opportunity – sizing, does the market need it, team, product, market

Location – No Black Swans

Cash – Don’t kid yourself

CCs, your misunderstood friends – finding the right one

Options/Equity – options, pool, common stock, dilution

Board Meetings – Should be strategic discussions, not operations, board package, timing and who should attend…

Hiring – Best Available Athlete, Roles and Flat Organizations, Hierarchy begets bureaucracy, replace with tools (eg SFA)…Don’t hire for position…hire people that can do almost anything…a jack of all trades…this reminds me of a lot of what BlackRock was like…I sat at 23 desks in 4 years, I don’t know how many projects I worked on during my time there, I understood every process in the company.

No offices. Open culture and communication are critical…

Experience or Enthusiasm?

Performance – performance reviews and subjectivity


Growing the team
– Sales and Marketing – don’t hire until you are ready to sell
– Interview process – long

Product Development and Business Strategy
Serendipity and Adjustment – visit to the eye doctor

Launch Late to Launch Often – data models and programs architected for extensibility can beat point solutions every time (I agree this is critical)

Focus and Speed of Execution are a competitive advantage
– Internationalization
– Early biz dev can hurt you, so can any biz dev

Competitive advantage
– Be first to market, not most sophisticated, not the best product, be itirative and fast

Let people you don’t know help you win (open/api) and provide your products/service with the best opportunity to evolve in the market

Startups who ask people to sign NDAs are stupid! Gave a great (and way too fast!) discussion on this…I wish he’d write a detailed blog post of his rant. ?

Quantum barriers to entry and market share – Get market share, market share is the only thing you should focus on.

Revenue plan: Don’t kid yourself. Revenue ALWAYS ramps slower than you think it will.

Don’t do unnecessary things because you think you’re supposed to

Try to let the business model come to you
– Easy to say, not easy to do
– It’s easier to lower the price than to raise the price?
– Look for always on opportunities

Don’t worry about an exit strategy, worry about everything else

Be a big small company
– Public face of the company
– Have a specific voice, have a culture

Be competitive on your merits

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TC08 Chicago – Designing With Users In Mind

The following is a brief summary of the session that Former Feedburner folks Matt Shobe and John Zeratsky (I need to spend some time with that guy sometime) put on at TECH cocktail Conference 08.

Without further delay, here’s their tips on designing with users in mind!

Be Yourself – informal, fun

Be Fast – the perceived time when people see speed, they perceive the experience and organization as reliable. Image sprites can help this. Steve Souders is a good source on this topic.

Be Willing to Give Up Control – Give yourself permission to outsource certain tasks.

Be Engaged – have a blog, more importantly, be engaged in other blogs. It’s important to get the early adopters and beta testers to help you. It allows you to iterate.

Be Polite – Try to be considerate…from the users perspective.

Be Surprising – Do things outside the norm. Hackathon. Had new feature coding retreat days. Engage random users.