Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The camera never lies - ya well no fine

It has been said that the camera never lies but this past week I have a whole new take on this expression.

And another thing about photos, because these last few days I have been taking a lot of them; yes, the thing with photos is that you have to take a lot of them because so many of them turn out kak. What you think looks good for a split second often looks pretty dull later.

What am I trying to say here... Well, I am trying to figure this out myself. Let me see if I can find the words before I wish us all a cool new year. Let's see. In life, like in photography, we gotta keep snapping away. We never know which ones will turn out great. And when it comes to cameras, they do sometimes lie. And that is why we must never abandon our sense of judgment. I wrote this recently on this VLOG but I will re-visit it here: if things seem too good to be true then don't throw your logic out the window! If things seem too good to be true then accept they are probably too good to be true! But, never never never give up (as Winston Churchill once said). The more we try the luckier we get! And that is the entrepreneurial spirit in a nutshell. That and of course, taking chances. Rather ask for forgiveness than permission.

In 2009 I am going to follow my gut feel like never before. I would rather walk away from something early and take it on the chin than go down a path because of some lovely picture someone showed me. That picture is often not what we know to be true and yet we follow the path knowing very well that there is trouble ahead.

So, thank you cameras, and computers, for giving us an another entertaining year. And thank you to all my Vottle friends for making the journey worthwhile!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Ho ho ho

Something else I read on the Net this week; also too good not to share.

Great Orators of the Democratic Party...

'One man with courage makes a majority.' - Andrew Jackson

'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' - Franklin D. Roosevelt

'The buck stops here.' - Harry S. Truman

'Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.' - John F. Kennedy (By the way, this is an exact quote from a speech given by Army General Omar Bradley in 1953, just a few years prior to JFK using it in his inaugural speech. JFK or his speech writers recognized a great quote, but none credited Bradley for one of the greatest patriotic quotes of all time - plagiarism, anyone?)

And now, for today's Democrats...

'It depends what your definition of 'IS' is?' - Bill Clinton

'That Obama - I would like to cut his NUTS off.' - Jesse Jackson

'Those rumors are false .... I believe in the sanctity of marriage.' - John Edwards

'I invented the Internet.' - Al Gore

'The next Person that tells me I'm not religious, I'm going to shove my rosary beads up their ASS.' - Joe Biden

'America is--is no longer, uh, what it--it, uh, could be, uh what it was once was...uh, and I say to myself, "uh, I don't want that future, uh, uh for my children."' - Barack Obama

'I have campaigned in all 57 states.' - Barack Obama

'You don't need God anymore, you have us democrats.' - Nancy Pelosi (said back in 2006)

'Paying taxes is voluntary.' - Sen. Harry Reid

'Bill is the greatest husband and father I know. No one is more faithful, true, and honest than he.' - Hillary Clinton (said back in 1998)

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Stock Market Gyrations

Read this on the Net - too good not to share :

Helium was up, feathers were down.

Paper was stationery.

Fluorescent tubing was dimmed in light trading.

Knives were up sharply.

Cows steered into a bull market.

Pencils lost a few points.

Hiking equipment was trailing.

Elevators rose, while escalators continued their slow decline.

Weights were up in heavy trading.

Light switches were off.

Mining equipment hit rock bottom.

Diapers remained unchanged.

Shipping lines stayed at an even keel.

The market for raisins dried up.

Caterpillar stock inched up a bit.

Sun peaked at midday.

Balloon prices were inflated.

And Scott Tissue touched a new bottom.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Intense = results

Perspective is a key fundamental in any business. If I look at the ventures I am currently involved in, I have a very different perspective to most of my partners. This is not a good or bad thing, it is just a fact.

I think that someone who has just entered into a start-up for the first time will have a very different take on things when compared to someone who has been living and breathing start-ups for over a decade. Now, I may be stating the obvious here, but often to these new recruits it is not obvious at all. For example, I asked my one partner if everything on our one particular venture was going good. And he said yes. Now, I know there is nothing wrong, but I don't think that everything is going good either. Far from it in fact. My view is that we are highly vulnerable. I say this because I have been doing this a long time. Just because nothing is wrong does not mean everything is good either. And, before I get shot down, those who know me will always tell you I am very positive person. I always see the glass as half full. I am not talking about being positive, I am talking about insight, and about perspective, and intensity.

A quick detour for a minute here: I have a comedian friend, who recently told me he had a great year, because his turn over had doubled from the year before. He said he was very happy with the year gone by. I see things differently. I see a guy, capable of so much, and who should have seen his turn over quadrupled in the past year.

I remember over a decade ago, when I was very active at IS, I remember there was some excitement from the hosting unit because in one year our web hosting business had tripled in size. And I remember at the time that my brother came down on everyone like a sledgehammer. Because the industry had in fact grown at over 500% that year. So, we were fast asleep from his perspective - he was right!

Back to the venture I was discussing above. Yes, just because things all seem ok, does not mean they are ok. For example, we have one test client on this particular venture, and we can't assume they are happy simply because we don't hear them complain. From around February next year we will be going on a big drive as we launch this new venture into the marketplace, and then we need to make absolutely sure that all our new customers are happy. This means that we need to speak to our current test client, and make sure that they are indeed using the service, and we need to listen to their feedback. We need to be proactive! We need to be intense about our mission.

Intensity gets results. I think there is a link between intensity and proactivity. Perhaps I am stating the obvious again.

To conclude today's VLOG, intensity is not something you can just turn on and off. It is like attitude. Either you have a good attitude or you don't. Either you are intense or you are not. One thing I have learnt in life though, intensity gets results!

Next year things are going to be intense!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

You can never call too much, only too little

You can never care about a customer too much, only too little. Try driving someone crazy with attention, it is almost impossible. But you can drive them crazy if you simply ignore them. Yes, doing nothing drives people crazy.

So, the other day I ask someone about the status of something we are working on, and I get told "I never heard back from them". What does it mean when someone says "I never heard back from them". Proactive people never say things like this. Proactive people call, and if they don't hear back, well, then they call again, and again, again... luck always favours the persistent!

Most of the world is reactive. How many times have you heard someone say "The deal didn't happen, because they never got back to me." This is the difference between the rich and the poor, in my view; between the proactive and reactive.

Of course, this is just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Back the jockey!

There is that old expression that goes "you should back the jockey, not the horse". Well, I think it goes something like that. Now, I never quite understood what it meant exactly, but I do like the sound of these words. I interpret it as something to do with backing people. Now I know many people make a lot of fuss over a good horse; they are beautiful and majestic creatures and they are expensive animals to have in one's stable. But, horses aside, people are what make the difference!

Yes, I have said and written this many times, you never back ideas, you back people. You back a person who you think is going to get the job done, and if they don't get it done then you might as well do it yourself. And, of course, if you do it yourself then what were you actually backing. So, think of what you actually are investing in; think of what you are backing!

At the moment I am busy going through what is on my plate, and, I am think about the "effort/reward ratio", and, something is not stacking up. Looks like some of the jockeys I am backing are still in the starting gates. Time to make some changes.

One last think to think about, the special children of the world. Ask any parent if their children are special and you know what the answer will be. Yes, all children are special. And this is what we look for when we invest, yes, the special people. So, with all these special children in the world, where do all the ordinary adults come from?!

This has been one intense year; I am looking forward to next year - lots of new things to try, with a smaller, more focused group of jockeys.


Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday, 1 December 2008

Vottle vibes

Can you believe it, the year is almost over - wow, this was one intense year!

On the Vottle side we are learning many lessons, some good and some bad - next year we are going to change direction a bit... more to come on that in the near future.

And, here is the news from this month gone by: there have been two main focuses this month. Firstly, we have made numerous security enhancements, which should help prevent various types of automated attacks on the system. We have also redone our CAPTCHA (human word verification) mechanisms, not only to be more secure, but also more user friendly. Users can choose to display new CAPTCHA's if they are too difficult, and also we have included an audio version for users who are blind or visually impaired (we actually have such users!). There are a few areas that still need refinement, but we have certainly made some good strides forward in keeping the site clean and safe!

Secondly, we have begun some back-end restructuring of our code which should allow far greater flexibility in adding, removing and changing content on the site. This will benefit us in many areas. It will allow more options for banner advertising, placing of more relevant and interesting content on many of the pages, allow new content to take the place of old content that is static throughout the site. We will also be implementing new landing pages and even some competitions, all of which will be easier to integrate with the site because of this code restructuring.

Finally, our upgrades are continuing to grow! In November we had an almost 50% increase in revenue - thank you to all of you for making this happen!

Posted by the Vottlers