Could ad space be next on your cards?

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Wells Fargo is now offering Card Design Studio Service as a way to customize the picture or logo on your credit card. Personal credit card holders can upload a photo of themselves, their family, their pet, or whatever.  Businesses can upload graphics with their logo or brand image. The service is free to card holders from Wells Fargo.Other financial institutions are also offering the service including Bank of America and  Capital One,

Debit and credit cards have gone the way of checks where consumers can now personalize according to a lifestyle, brand, image, etc. You personal payment method can be a reflection of your beliefs, values, interests or hobbies.

What’s the next step in the use of this real-estate? Will marketers start to sell advertising space on your credit card or checks? Imagine if someone was willing to pay you for putting their logo or tag line on your payment method?   The more swipes of the card, the more you earn. Or the more checks you write, the more you earn. You could consider cash back cards a variant of this already. However, I’m thinking about an advertising space for someone not affiliated with the financial institution or card provider.

It’s just a thought. In our commercial and ad crazy society there aren’t many places left that don’t have some kind of paid advertisement. Your payment vehicle may be next.  Can you imagine a McDonald’s ad on that university alumni credit card?


When email holds you back

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I often hear people talk about how they are overwhelmed with email. They end up not responding to email or responding after the subject matter is no longer relevant for decision making or valuable input. It probably doesn’t surprise people that know me, but I try to abide by the 24 rule for email. I either respond, delete, acknowledge, or file a new email within 24 hours. I do not use my in-box as one big folder where email is sorted by name. Instead, the email in my in-box is sorted by date and generally kept to a page or less on the viewing screen.

Today I was thinking about another inefficiency of email. When people use email as their primary means for communication it not only compounds the amount of email they have to process but it also lengthens the amount of time required to complete tasks and reach decisions. As I think about it, this is only logical.

  1. Written communication is often misinterpreted and can require multiple messages to reach an agreement
  2. Email is often not responded to if the recipient(s) does not keep up with their email or has bad email habits. The risk of this is compounded as more recipients are added to the email.
  3. It can take weeks to determine the right person(s) needed for a decision or resolution. How many times have you received an email forwarded to you that contains a chain of email responses representing days or weeks of time?
  4. If a recipient is out of the office and forgets to set an out of office reminder, the sender could wait unnecessarily before reaching out to others to solve the task or reach a decision.
  5. Written communication often creates other questions from the recipient. Additional exchanges are required to answer the question(s).

So should we abandon the use of email? Of course not. Email does have purpose and can facilitate interactions if used properly. But for items in your work life that require timely decisions and resolution, pickup the phone and call or schedule a meeting. You’ll be more efficient, more likely to meet deadlines, and reduce the amount of emails in your in-box.

My experience at Frys

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I recently visited Frys Electronics for the first time. I needed to update the video card in my aging desktop and get an external storage device. I’ve had a few friends tell me about Frys but I had never visited.

My first thought was “wow, this is a big place”. I guess Frys is the Home Depot of electronics shopping. The left side of the store was filled with items I wasn’t expecting to see. Furniture, books, and magazines to name a few.  Maybe they put these there so that couples shopping together could each find something of interest?  (Ha Ha)

In any event, I wasn’t shopping for those items so I made my way over to the electronics area. I found the video card area and looked over umpteen different choices. I made my selection and stopped at the laptop display. No, this wasn’t originally on my list, but I wanted to see what the hub-ub was all about on Net Books. I focused in a model from HP and was approached by a sales clerk. What surprised me was that he indicated he worked for HP and not Frys. So I guess the vendors are allowed to put employees in the store in an attempt to sell and educate potential buyers. He went through his sales pitch while I quietly listened. I then asked him if I could get the machine pre-loaded with Linux. That was off his script and he didn’t have an answer. I’m not sure he even knew what Linux was. (Incidentally, you can buy Net Books preloaded with Linux through some retail outlets or online stores). In the end though, I think the Net Books have some utility depending on your intended use. You sacrifice a full keyboard and screen size for light-weight and portability. Not bad if you travel alot, or just need a small terminal for somewhere in your house/office.

After this I picked up an external storage device for system backups and headed to checkout. The checkout area was a single queue leading to multiple registers instead of a queue for each register. It’s hard not to notice because the area for the single queue is a straight path with additive sell items like candy, gum, trinkets, magazines, etc. (Imagine a super market line 20 yards long). As I waited in line I started thinking about queueing theory and which is optimal. I’ve never worked in the retail environment, but certainly there are differences in thought about this. Think about the difference between a Wendy’s and a McDonald’s. A quick internet search on the topic yielded a nice article on retail queueing systems. My opinion on this was that it seems the fair thing to do. I would imagine I’m better for it (when I do shop) because my perception is I’m always in the slowest line.

What are your thoughts on queueing in a retail store? Which type of line do you prefer?

oh yeah, Frys. Good selection. You can find some deals if you search. You can take a date if you like…..

Non-Profits – thoughts on donor management and open source

I had coffee this morning with Chris Joos of the Grizzard Communications Group. Chris is a former colleague of mine now serving as COO and CIO at Grizzard. We talked about how non-profit organizations were using technology to run their daily operations. I was particularly interested if Chris saw any trends developing with open source software or social networking.

Chris indicated that most of the clients he serves are non-profit franchises with a small IT staff. They primarily use off the shelf packages or outsourcing since they don’t have large development teams to customize software. Chris’ firm provides services to collect, aggregate, and analyze donor data for the non-profits. In some cases his customer will house the donor data themselves and send an exported file while others will completely outsource the service.

For his services, Chris indicated the data is housed and manipulated on a large commercial database system that is fronted by a custom programmed interface. It’s a CRM system by my understanding (and I use that term without the negative stigma). I thought I was going to find a good case study on open software use, and instead I found a good example outsourcing data management for decision enablement.

While many non-profits may outsource donor management activities, there is is still a good fit for the use of open source software for their other standard office activities. Today’s small office could setup workstations with Linux and then choose from an abundance of choices for free or low cost office productivity services:

If you’re in a non-profit office or a small business and you’re paying large sums of money for commercial software licenses you should think about your options. The world of open source software is readily available to everyone and it’s starting to have an impact on the traditional software industry. I’m writing this post on an old Dell computer that does not have any commercial software installed. installed.

If you do decide to use open source software, I encourage you to participate in the process for improving the applications. This doesn’t mean you to have write programs or be a software developer. You can participate in site forums to help others with questions on software use, report software defects to community developers, or provide suggestions for additional software features.

5 No-Brainers for Business Alignment

t’s that time of year when we deploy our yearly goals and objectives (business or personal). Businesses should already have been through planning processes to decide the goals. The challenge now is how to deploy the goals and turn them into objectives for each group within the organization. The objectives of each group should bring them into alignment with the overall company goals.  In my experience, I’ve seen organizations struggle with different aspects of this. Some create the goals well. Some deploy the goals well. While others maintain a dogged persistence to stay focused on the goals. But it’s a neat trick to put it all together.  It takes organization, persistence, and flexibility to keep yourself in alignment with the goals and objectives.  With that in mind, here are Bob’s 5 no-brainers for business alignment of your goals:

1. Communicate the goals to all employees/stakeholders

It seems so simple to say and you’d think a given in the equation. But run a quick informal survey of employees about what the business goals were last year or are for this year and you might be surprised at what you find. This step means delivering the goals down to each individual employee through their management chain. Document the goals in a meaningful format that employees understand and will be able to keep on the top of their daily heap. Most importantly, show the employees how their individual objectives help the overall company achieve its goals.

2. Press forward to the goal  by looking ahead

Ask yourself these questions.  Am I planning my daily and weekly activities toward based on the stated goals and objectives?  Can I articulate how my actions are contributing to achieving the goals and objectives? Looking ahead means being able to plan optimally by knowing the goal in front of you and planning your steps. As with a race, when you look behind you or to the side you’ll slow down or even stumble. This isn’t to say, you shouldn’t pause to reflect on lessons learned from the past. But don’t dwell on mistakes made in the past or you’ll run the risk of misalignment.

3. Base status reports on the objectives

This is very important because it serves as a weekly check for managers and employees to make sure their weekly activities are focused and aligned. An added benefit is that it allows you to review and measure progress. How many times have you come to the end of the year and then decided to measure if you obtained your goal? Worse yet, you don’t know how to measure if you are successful!@#! Aligning your status report documentation with the goals and objectives creates accountability for yourself to stay focused and to make sure you are measuring your progress.

4. Look for different routes to solving  the goals

If top level management is setting the higher level goals, then let those closest to the work decide how to solve the goals through specific objectives.This is about trusting your employees to solve problems. It’s about trusting your employees to serve your customers. It also promotes diversity of thought and strengthens employee involvement and satisfaction with their job.

Another potential way to setting specific objectives is to ask your customers how to do it? Yeah, put those surveys to good use. Read them, listen to your customers and provide value to them. Would you rather copy a competitor because they have something you don’t have or create something your customer is telling you would provide value to them?

5. Be prepared to adjust the goals or objectives

The last thing you need is to be locked into a goal that becomes irrelevant. Be flexible and prepared to change goals if they no longer add value to your customers or provide for the betterment of your employees. Perhaps in the periodic measurement you see that you are not going to meet a high level goal for the year. You might add an additional objective that pull different resources to help achieve the original goal. Examples include a new product launch, different product makeup, additional service offering, etc. Even macro level factors could change your goals such as a merger/acquisition, introduction of a substitute product on the market that reduces demand, or sudden changes in interest rates that reduce/increase customer demand. The easy part of this equation is to be flexible. Everyone is flexible if they realize they need to change something to meet a goal. The key is to ‘be prepared’ by monitoring your progress throughout the year. Be ready to adjust if necessary.