Thursday, 27 March 2008

High on emotion

Let’s talk about labours of love. I am referring to anything you do with passion. It can be about someone you love or something you love to do. I think the reasons we marry and the reasons we work have the same fundamentals. The people we want to serve must be close to our hearts. When you marry someone I imagine it is because of something you feel. And I know that when you love getting up in the morning to go to work it is because of a feeling and not a thought. The heart and the head are always battling this one out. The head tells us that we need to pay the rent. And the head is often filled with egotistical ideas pushing us to make more and more money so we can get that convertible or join that fancy club. But it is the heart that feels, and when your work becomes something you love then true fulfillment will follow. History has taught us that the most successful ventures have always been those that were a labour of love.

Love is one emotion that drives people, as is revenge, which is what motivated many Japanese companies, like Sony. You drop 2 atom bombs on a country and it is safe to say that emotions will run very high after that for quite some time. Stamping "Made in Japan" all over America must have been quite energizing. Revenge is a powerful emotion. Maybe not as compelling as love, but just as forceful.

Sony was one of those companies that was driven by angry emotional energy over 50 years ago. I am sure that emotional energy transformed into something more positive as this is not the driving force today I imagine (as we all know Sony has become a powerhouse of a company that is loved and admired 50 years after those insane times). The great companies all wanted to make a difference in this world. This is an emotional mission. These people wanted to feel fulfilled and proud – the strongest of emotions. Sony, Disney, Hewlett Packard, Boeing, Merck … these companies were driven by a mission that went way beyond making money.

Can someone be emotional about money? People get all defensive and over emotional when you tell them that all they care about is money. Quite a paradox I think.

So, how does one live life more from the heart and less from the head? For a start, switch off your damn cellphone. Cellphones are definitely fueling the comparison game. It is no wonder people are obsessed with making money – I mean, your phone keeps going off and invariably you are going to hear someone tell you how much they are making which simply is going to get you moving your financial goal posts one step further into outer space. Money is not the only way to measure success you know. We all feel pressured to make more and more of it, which is all about quantitative living. And in the process, qualitative life takes a back seat. We are living in such egotistical times, where vanities are running rampant; my advice to you is throw away your cellphone. Human beings are generally weak. That is why all this technology is controlling us and not the other way round. This is what the progress paradox is all about. So, switch that stupid digital intruder off and then no one will be able to phone you and show off how much richer they are than you. This is the problem folk. Try convincing yourself that you really need that extra million. Tell me you shouldn’t spend more time with your kids. Tell me the reason you want to make more and more money is because you have a burning desire to help so many charities and people in need. Stop trying to beat your neighbours, competitors and your friends. Focus on beating yourself. The visionary companies of our time focused on beating themselves. Think about it, if your competition is up to shit and you beat them, what does that make you, shit + 1. Is that how you measure yourself?

Harry Cohn from Columbia Pictures died with over a billion dollars in the bank, but he died a misery. Over 10,000 people went to his funeral but not to mourn him. They went to make sure he was actually dead. Yeah, we would love to have as much money as uncle Harry. By any stretch of the imagination he sounds like a huge success. But they all depends on how you go about measuring success.

Stephen Covey reminds us that we should small decisions with our heads and big decisions with our hearts. The question is what is a small and big decision we might have to make? Small decisions generally don’t affect anyone but you. They are short lived. Big decisions generally affect other people besides you. The consequences of these decisions may affect generations to come. Deciding to dedicate your life to medical research, for example, is a big decision. This is what the Merck family did, and the world conspired to reward them for their effort. Labours of love result in true success. Wheeling and dealing and manipulating tech stocks and hyping the facts may result in short term financial gain, but that is it. If you want to get high, on emotion that is, listen to your heart, and try and work at what you love to do. Switch that cellphone off, and don’t listen to what everyone else is doing. Just because certain trends take off does not mean they are good. Techno music. Drinks called Black Cow and Pink Dog, er, whatever. Come on. The American flag as a fashion icon – not even the Americans buy this crap. I could go on and on. Stop. And listen to your heart. Switch off all those media streams and tune in to your own emotions. Enough said. I have work to do. Work that I love doing.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Good people are hard to find

Probably the biggest challenge in life, when it comes to business, and when it comes to everything else too, is to find good people. After all, everything in this world is about people, so, it makes sense that this is indeed our biggest mission.

An important question then is: What is a good person? In my view, a reliable person is a good person. Someone who is honest and honourable. Yes, you can keep the clever people away from me. Seriously, I am tired of meeting all these geniuses who never get back to me. Who make these big, bold statements and then nothing happens. Rather be reliable than smart. Of course, if you are both, then that is great.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

What does it mean "to do business" with someone? I think it is about a feeling you have for that person. And this is because you only ever invest in people, not in business plans. So, you should get to know the people you chose to invest in. Work with people you enjoy spending time with. You wouldn't marry someone you wouldn't want to have dinner with, for example; so why work with them either.

Finding good people is indeed an ongoing challenge. How you will do business is much less important than who you will do business with. If you find a "good" person then the "how" part will be a pleasure. And, if you find a "bad" person then you are in for a headache.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Love is a verb

If you really love your product or service then it is easy to get excited about it when you share it with others. If you believe in what you do then you are not really selling when you tell others about it; you are just sharing something you believe in, something that excites you, something you are passionate about.

Conversely, when you don't care about what you are selling then real selling needs to take place. And then again, some salesmen are good at just selling, anything. And of course, some of the greatest salesmen are not really salesmen, they are just expressing what they love and like and it rubs off on those who believe in them.

So, who of us are salesmen, or saleswomen? I think the answer is all of us. We are all in sales. Every time we try to convince someone of something we are selling. There are no rules when it comes to selling but there is some universal wisdom. Listen, love what you do, and be honest. Of course, many salesmen don't listen, and are not honest. As for loving what they do, well, that is something a lot of people simply don't think about. For most people it is really all about paying the rent and one has to respect that. There is no right or wrong here. There is just different ways of seeing the world.

Right now in Vottleland we are loving what we do, and we are sharing our dream with whoever we come in contact with. If you believe us, then support us, and share Vottle with the people you know. Yes, help us spread the word! If you do that then we have made a sale.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday, 7 March 2008

Do what you love, love what you do

What do you actually like doing? What is close to your heart? The poor beggar on the street may not have a choice in the matter, but if you are reading this, then you do. Do what you love to do and if you do it with passion and enthusiasm then the world will conspire to reward you.

I met someone at a function some time ago and I started to make conversation. I was just being my friendly, curious self. I asked a guy sitting next to me "What do you do?" He said, "I used to be a doctor." I said "You used to be a doctor?" He said, "I have gone into computers now." And I asked him "Why?" And he said, "Because I can make more money." Whoever you were, I imagine you studied medicine for all those years because you wanted to help people. Now you just want to help yourself.

The most successful ventures in the world we all a result of a labour of love.

There is definitely a culture of entitlement in the Western world that has developed since the days of the Internet gold rush. I am convinced the dot com explosion has fueled this type of behaviour. It is that get rich quick thinking that has confused so many people, especially the most recent generations of young business people. No one is thinking about building something that will last. No one is thinking about leadership. There are too many bosses in dot com world and "real" work is something that someone else will do. And lately, things are looking a bit rocky on the world markets. There are a whole generation of young punters out there who have seen their stocks go up and up and up. And now, they are walking around in daze going "But we thought the markets only ever went up."

I am going to end off my rambling today by quoting a fictional character who goes by the name of Tom Walker. He was going on about computers and what they have done to mankind. "I don't know the first thing about them! Never used one in my life! Hate the damn things! Just a decade ago farming was about producing the best harvest. These days it is about the most harvest ... that's what computers represent to me. They are all about the numbers. Stick to the fundamentals is what I say … Money's not the only way to measure success."

Tom Walker says it all folks. Is this what the IT world has come to represent? Does everyone with a Web site think they deserve millions?

Set the pace and be a leader; do something that will make a genuine difference to people’s lives. Yes, get this right and the world will conspire to reward you.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Beware the ides of March

Another month gone, and another Vottling period to report back on. We cleaned up! Yes, we put many new admin features in place to keep Vottle as "clean" as can be. Our big mission for February was to put the necessary tools in place in order for us to ensure that we keep spam and scam postings as close to zero as possible, and also, to keep replies from scammers to a minimal.

Our new admin tools include a feature to flag "suspicious text" - over and above our existing blacklisted text mechanism (which will result in adverts containing that text to be automatically removed) we now also have the means to watch for suspicious text. Many spam postings contain certain words which could also be used in legitimate postings, but such adverts are now brought to our immediate attention.

Then, there is the "excessive postings" admin feature - this is often a sign of abusive or malicious behaviour which is now automatically brought to our attention for close inspection. This allows us to deal with spam and duplicate postings quickly and effectively. We also put in place a function for "quarantined responses" - these are often a sign of people sending our users spam by simply replying to legitimate adverts. Excessive responses or responses containing suspicious text are quarantined and must be manually released or rejected based on their content. This has already helped us save our users from many irrelevant responses. A positive side effect of bringing spam postings to our attention is that it now allows us to blacklist users who would sometimes go unnoticed.

And on other news, we now have specials, the first of the "Vottle Specials" that employs a unique and custom discount code structure to validate users and issue discounts - check it out!

Coming soon are our "Premium adverts" - we will be rolling out a trial version of our Premium postings in the next week. While posting adverts on Vottle is free, premium classifieds afford our users the opportunity to pay a small fee and have their adverts appear at the top of any search results in which they appear, providing them with more exposure. We will not charge for this for the next month, giving us time to test the service and to gather stats and also to build up some premium content to bring the concept to the attention of all our users.

Lastly, we are also rolling out soon with "Prepaid clickthroughs" - we are currently building an engine to allow partners who feed us their content to pay us for clickthroughs in advance. This provides a great opportunity for partners to control their spend with us and monitor the referrals that Vottle passes on to them.

Happy Vottling!

Posted by the Vottle crew