Monthly Archives: August 2006

Friendship in Business

I have always had a problem maintaining friendships. I know many people who know think it’s because I’m a bit of an a-hole, but it’s more than that. For one, I move around a lot. It’s hard to really establish friendships when you are in and out of a city in about a year.

The second reason I think it that I have switched jobs a lot, and never really did well with others at work. I have always envied the way some people can become friendly with an entire office. I was more of a one-on-one person. I can get along with people, but I wouldn’t really establish a friendship.

So, for the past few years I have made an actual attempt at maintaining some of my friendships. I have two friends, Chris and Phil that came about at the unfortunate time I decided to do this and now they can’t shake me no matter how far I move away and how little the email me back. I am determined to make them lifelong friends. So guys, you may just want to off yourselves if you’re looking to get rid of me.

But the biggest challenge I have had in friendships is maintaining friends in business. Over the years that I have run USWeb, I have meet many people that I really liked. But, maintain a friendship has been close to impossible.

For example, I made a friend named Mike. He was a key decision maker for big client. So naturally I tried to create a relationship there. But that ended up pretty easy because I genuinely liked Mike. He was a smart, funny guy who I really had a lot in common with. We both had sons around the same age, and we were dealing with very similar issues when it came to their school. The business between our two companies was rocky at times, but for the most part I stayed out of the messy details and kept our relationship friendly. But, when you’re friends with a business associate, you spend most of your time talking about business. And eventually you find something to work together on that makes sense. That’s what happened, and it should have been a great deal. But unfortunately his boss is a bit greedy and stupid, which is a bad combo in business. The deal got screwed up to the point of near litigation, and the fact that he had to side with his company ended the friendship on a very sour note. I really learned a powerful lesson about friends on that. Much like a girlfriend, the closer they are, the more bitter the end.

When I started the company I was working with another friend. He made some positive suggestions, and we started off in the right direction together. He was incredibly funny and we had a lot in common. I can honestly say that he was one of the best friends I had. But, he just never really put much into the company, and since his compensation was tied into performance, he didn’t make a lot of money. Of course this started to affect the friendship, and we parted ways both as business associates and friends.

I read once that as a manager, you learn to like your performers. I feel like a sell out saying that it’s true, but it is. I am closer now with someone who works for me, that I honestly never felt much of a personal connection with, than with my old friend. It’s not that this person is a bad person; he is just very, very different.

I had one friend, whom I still believe is my friend that was a competitor. When we first met, he was a bit of an ass to me. I don’t think that’s his nature, it was more the environment, and he didn’t know who I was. But after he got to know me after a few minutes, he was incredibly thoughtful and pleasant. He has always been almost too nice. I would keep guarded thinking that he was looking for a competitive advantage, but he already had it. I really believe he is one of the most sincere, decent people I have met in my life. But, he has pretty much cut off communication with me over the past 18 months. I know we beat him out on a few deals…okay, we beat him out on almost every deal we go up against his company, but we play fair. I make sure that no one ever bad mouths his company, or him. And I have never heard of him doing otherwise. I just think maybe he has had to be a bit more defensive against us. Which I totally get, I just miss hearing from him.

And the last friend I’ll talk about is someone whom I have known for a few years now. We initially met through a company I worked at before I started my own. We stayed in touch and worked on a few deals together. The thing about this friend is that he is the most reasonable guy on the planet. I like to think I’m also reasonable. So, I think we will have a friendship that outlasts the business relationship. When a deal is going badly, I try to be fair in working with him to make up for it. And when he gets frustrated, he always tries to make it clear that he is not taking anything personally. I have also made sure to try to keep my distance a bit emotionally. I have learned it to be unprofessional to develop too close of a relationship with business associates. But, I really could see being great friends with this guy someday. He is entering an exciting new time in his life with a new family, so maybe in the near future.

Making friends in business is hard. And I’m not talking about sending someone a LinkedIn or Ryze invite, I hate that shit. I mean real friends.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write this. This is just something that has been on my mind for the past few weeks. I think I need to look for friends outside of business, but that is so hard to do when you live a company 24/7. And I’m just crap when it comes to meeting people. So, I guess I just have to work harder on this whole thing. Not having a lot of friends kinda makes you feel like a dick sometimes.

Telephone Technology

I get too many telemarketer calls. I think the guy who had this number before me was a big shopper. Between his telemarketing calls and his collection calls, I can’t get the phone to stop ringing. And since I often work from home, it’s pretty annoying. I have tried the approach of telling this people they have the wrong info, and that didn’t work. I have then tried having fun with it by telling the people that I will go and get him, then leaving the phone on the table for 30 minutes. I have tried being rude and yelling at them. But in the end, these people make minimum wage to make calls, and they don’t really care if it bothers me.

So I started to look for solutions. The fact that we live in a world where the telezapper is an actual popular product is insane. I signed up to the do not call registry, but that doesn’t seem to do much. So, I have to buy something like the telezapper. But I want a product that also just blocks certain numbers. It seems that progressive management services won’t believe that they have the wrong information and keep calling. So, I have to get a better product like the Caller ID Manager. This thing is $99. I’m certain that it’s a high margin item. My question is, why do phone makers not include technology like this into the phones? I paid a lot of money for my Motorola phone system. It has the extra handsets, caller ID, speaker phone, 5.8 ghz. and a bunch of other stuff. But if another maker had those features, and included the telezapper type technology, and was able to block numbers, or have a sleep mode, I would buy that in a heartbeat.

Macs Proven to Kick Ass Yet Again

It seems that every few months some net security “expert” tries to show that all the hype surrounding Mac security is just that, hype. But it seems like time after time, they are proven wrong. A few weeks ago SecureWorks researchers David Maynor and Jon Ellch decided to show the world how smart they are by hacking a MacBook Pro through it’s wireless connection. I have to admit that the hack didn’t seem that impressive since it required the MacBook Pro to log on to the PC as a wireless access point. I don’t know exactly why someone would do that, but of course it got the Windows drones all excited.

Well it seems once again Windows users are left looking foolish. And David Maynor and Jon Ellch look overzealous at best. Check out this article for more details.

What Poker Has Taught Me About Business

A couple years ago, I started to play a lot more poker. I played online, I attended the World Poker Tour Boot Camp, and I have played in a couple tournaments in Vegas. I have seen a few articles about poker strategies in business, and for the most part I didn’t find them to be that accurate, at least in my own experiences. So, I thought I would write down a few connections that I see myself.

For the record, I’m not a very good poker player. I’m so-so. I make it to the final table at the tournaments, but then I get my ass handed to me.

1. Sunk Expense – I think my biggest weakness at the tables is that I will follow a bad decision right up to the end. I’m getting better at it, but it did make me start to reflect on that. For example, I was at a tournament at Mandalay Bay, and drew a Ace/King unsuited. I was in a front position, so I went in with a triple blind. A loud mouth raised by doubling my bet. Calling was the right thing to do, so I did it. The flop came, and it was nothing I needed. I checked, and the loud mouth raised. I called. Then came kicker, still nothing I needed. The loud mouth goes all in. I called…with nothing. I had already put so much into the pot, I didn’t want to let go. And I didn’t like the loud mouth calling me out. I should have followed the idea of it being a sunk expense and moved on wit my life. I got beat, and I was nearly knocked out of the game. If a deal is going south, no matter how much you invested, cutting bait is always an option.

2. Read People – I was playing at another tournament, and I noticed someone across the table from me. I have been working on doing a better job of reading players. This guy stuck out because he looked familiar. He has a flannel shirt, a Timex digital watch, some very cheap geeky glasses, and a hair cut that his wife might have given him. He also had a very concentrated, serous look to his face. This guy looked like someone who doesn’t take a lot of chances in life. I decided to watch him most during the game and see what I could pick up. He maintained a slight slouch throughout most of the game. He played very few hands, and when he won, it was only small pots. But the blinds were increasing, and he was beginning to lose ground quickly. I watched as he got his cards and the bets were laid. He still had a substantial chip stack, so most didn’t notice when he put in a substantial raise. But I noticed that right before he did, he straightened out his back and tried to pump out his chest a bit. He was bluffing. I called and waited for the next card. He didn’t flinch, and he went all in. I called and took the hand with pocket 8’s. He had nothing. I could tell that he knew he had to make a move, and had committed to the bluff. It was my first real win from reading someone. I felt like a real poker player. But now I use that more and more I life. I watch people’s reactions, listen for things they say. I mostly look for something that changes the way they have been historically. Playing poker really helps you read people, and that helps in just about everything.

3. Play few hands, but when flush test a lot of waters – My play has changed a lot as I gain more experience. I have really learned that in a tournament, the object is first to stay alive. Play few hands, and protect your stack. But once you begin to pick up steam, play more hands and try to draw something out. It’s amazing what you can get on the flop if you play a lot. I think when it comes to business, Google is the best example. They are very flush, and they are playing a lot of hands right now. It’s something I think Apple would benefit from.

4. Nothing is certain – Cards don’t know about the odds. They are random. In business nothing is certain. Macro conditions change that can have a weird effect on your business. I recently saw an example of this at the airport. In SFO there is a wine merchant. How were they affected by a terrorist plan in England? Even the small shop that sells the soft drinks for $2.50 per bottle. They will obviously sell less when people cannot bring the soda on an airplane. I guess that means we’ll be paying $3.00 per bottle soon. Nothing is certain in poker or business, don’t ever believe that things cannot change.

5. Practice increases luck – The longer in business, the better decisions I make. Mistake usually bring with them experience and wisdom (hopefully). Poker is the same. You can read books, you can watch TV, but in the end, it’s the practice that makes you better. Much like how some of the worst bosses I have ever had came with degrees from Harvard. I don’t have a degree, I dropped out of college. Am I better CEO than them? Well, my company has lasted longer, and I’m still here and growing.