Archive for the ‘finance’ Category

Are things going to get worse?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008
Oh yeah! Hold on. Sure, your stock holdings are down - but if you hold long enough, that might all work itself out. However, job losses will cause real near-term pain and the reality is: the job losses are not there yet. This is one stat that is really easy to measure and fairly reliable: non-farm payroll figures are released by the government on the first Friday of every month and these numbers frequently kick off a frenzy of speculative trading in the foreign exchange markets. Interestingly, the unemployment rate in September stayed steady at 6.1%. About a year ago, the unemployment rate was 4.7%, so it has grown, but there have not been any recent surges. I am not sure of the typical lag, but I have to believe the job losses are coming. The unemployment rate has not hit 10% since the government reported it in it's current form in 1942 - - the highest being 9.7/9.6 in 1982/83 respectively. Those were the only years it ever rose above 9%. When people start losing their jobs, this will be a lot more painful than the loss of homes from bad loans (which should not have been made anyway). The unemployment rate reached almost 25% during the depression in 1933, but I can't imagine that we will screw up that bad this go around. So, things are not that bad yet. I am sure they will get worse, but confident they would be nearly as bad as they have been for those before us.

80/20 business solutions for cash-crunched startups

Monday, January 15th, 2007
Small businesses have tough choices to make when it comes to software and subscription services that help them manage their operations. The natural tendency is sign-up with a market-leader, because you want something that works and don't have time to hunt around for lower-cost alternatives.

Having felt this pain in the past, following are some recommendations (most are based on personal experience) for services that are at least 80% as good as the market leading solutions at less than 20% of the price. Assuming a team of 5 people, I will suggest potential cost savings.

CRM, you can't go wrong with Salesforce, but IF you have a server available and the in-house resources to install it, then SugarCRM is a great deal. It's free. Sure, you will have to spend a few hours to install it and a few hours to upgrade it about once a year, but it works quite well and I have personally found it to be reliable. Savings $995/year to $3,000/year.

WebMeetings/Presentations. Webex is great and has tons of features. However, you can get 80% of that functionality (and a simpler interface) with gotomeeting at a fraction of the price. Savings $5,000/year

JobPostings. There are TONS of options to Monster.com, Careerbuilder and Hotjobs - each of which will help you find a lot of candidates. Ones that you absolutely ought to try include:

  • CraigsList (for free in most cities) - best for lower-level jobs - I still don't know why, but it works
  • The Ladders - free postings, geared towards $100K+ jobs.
  • LinkedIn- if you have a good network, for a $100, this is quite good.

Savings, N/A - think of these as other low-cost ways to find more good people.

Conference Call Service. Tons of options here, but have you heard of Free Conference Call? It really is free and it really works. You don't get toll free numbers, but most people don't need toll-free anyway. The service can be a bit finicky, so I would try it out for internal calls first.

Then again, for internal conference calls, you can always use Skype. See my other blog post on Skype. Also, if you have an IP phone system, it probably includes some of this capability - built in at no extra cost. Savings - $1,000/year or more.

There are a lot more of these kinds of options out there. Anyone have other suggestions?

I'm a Skype fan now - great adoption without forcing change

Saturday, January 6th, 2007
As somewhat of a tech geek (for a non-programmer), I am a little embarrased to admit I have not been a Skype user - until yesterday. I have friends and previous co-workers around the globe that are big users, but I never had enough of a recurring need to bother.
Less than 5 minutes to: WOW, that was easy!
Yesterday afternoon I emailed a friend in France to say hi . He emailed me back and arranged a time to call on Sunday. I noticed he had a Skype user name and decided that would be easier (ok, cheaper) than making a long-distance call. So, I went to the Skype site and downloaded the service. It took about 2.5 minutes to download and about 1 minute to test. I searched for my friend's user id and found it in 15 seconds and added him to my contacts list. About 1 minute later, my computer rang. It was my friend. We chatted for a few minutes about work, family and Skype. No reason to wait till Sunday, no reason to pay for the call.It turns out that although he had Skype setup on his computer, he had never used it before. His IT guy set it up for him and he never had a need to use it before (just like me). However, when I added him to my contact list, he was notified, he hit the call button and I was on the line. Neither of us had headsets, so we just talked through our computers, which worked fine.
Massive adoption, minimal change
The real brilliance in Skype is the way they have enabled those that REALLY need it, to use it without forcing any change on others.
There are huge benefits to CALLERS using Skype even if you are calling someone on their land-line or cell-phone. There is no real benefit to those receiving the call, but the fact that they don't have to change anything is huge.
Litmus test for technology adoption
I was introduced to Skype a long-time ago and have heard callers rave about how great it was - while they were calling me on Skype. I understand better now, what so many others have found obvious for so long. What other cool technologies out there embrace change this well?