Sunday, 29 March 2009

Leadership is the most important fundamental

A smart business concept with no leadership = no business.

In every venture, whether there is a good idea or just an average idea, there stands no chance of success if there isn't someone driving the machine!

It is easy to have a coffee with a bunch of friends and get all excited about an idea, but unless someone drives the idea home nothing is going to happen. Someone needs to own the idea and make it happen. Someone needs to put a team together and make sure that everyone is meeting a clear set of goals. And while those goals are being met, new goals need to be set. The machine must never run out of momentum!

You can take a bunch of the smartest computer programmers around, for example, but without solid leadership then generally nothing will happen. Well, that is my view.

All too often the "smart" guys, the artistic geniuses, the computer wizards, the Internet gurus, get very caught up in their ideas and then moan that life sucks when nothing happens. In a machine there are many parts, and they all have to be aligned, and they all need to be fired up and driven. In the same way, a company consists of many people, and someone needs to lead these people. Not to say that leadership is the domain of one person alone, but it all starts with one person.

The other thing about smart people is they often see themselves as great leaders but in my view this is generally not the case. And, it is generally a struggle to get them to eat some humble pie.

Remember one thing for today: real leadership is about growing and mentoring other leaders, not about creating followers.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Perception versus reality

Here is an old story I dug up form my overflowing inbox. I read it again today - I had forgotten what a brilliant story this is. I had to share it:

Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine.

He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ''Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?''

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Gee, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward ... I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let's see. ... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the rats.

And Elaine is thinking: maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their ....

"Roger," Elaine says aloud. "What?" says Roger, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have . . . I feel so . . ." (She breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Roger.

"I'm such a fool," Elaine sobs. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Roger.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Elaine says.

"No!" says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time," Elaine says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

"Yes," he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

"Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Roger.

"That way about time," says Elaine.

"Oh," says Roger. "Yes."

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

"Thank you, Roger," she says.

"Thank you," says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechs he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it. (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: "Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday, 20 March 2009

High rise

Someone sent me this recently - it was too good not to share:

Pfizer Announcement

Pfizer Corp. announced today that Viagra will soon be available in liquid form, and will be marketed by Pepsi Cola as a power beverage suitable for use as a mixer. It will now be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one. Obviously we can no longer call this a soft drink, and it gives new meaning to the names of 'cocktails', 'highballs' and just a good old-fashioned 'stiff drink'. Pepsi will market the new concoction by the name of: MOUNT & DO. Thought for the day: There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them. If you don't send this to five old friends right away there will be five fewer people laughing in the world.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Letter to the IRS

I read this on the Web and it was too good not to share:

Actual 'Letter to the Editor' from the February 5th edition of the Wichita Falls, Texas Times Record News...

Dear IRS,

I am sorry to inform you that I will not be able to pay taxes owed April 15, but all is not lost.

I have paid these taxes: accounts receivable tax, building permit tax, CDL tax, cigarette tax, corporate income tax, dog license tax, federal income tax, unemployment tax, gasoline tax, hunting license tax, fishing license tax, waterfowl stamp tax, inheritance tax, inventory tax, liquor tax, luxury tax, Medicare tax, city, school and county property tax (up 33 percent last 4 years), real estate tax, social security tax, road usage tax, toll road tax, state and city sales tax, recreational vehicle tax, state franchise tax, state unemployment tax, telephone federal excise tax, telephone federal state and local surcharge tax, telephone minimum usage surcharge tax, telephone state and local tax, utility tax, vehicle license registration tax, capitol gains tax, lease severance tax, oil and gas assessment tax, Colorado property tax, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico sales tax, and many more that I can't recall but I have run out of space and money.

When you do not receive my check April 15, just know that it is an honest mistake. Please treat me the same way you treated Congressmen Charles Rangle, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and ex-Congressman Tom Dashelle and, of course, your boss Timothy Geithner. No penalties and no interest.


Ed Barnett
Wichita Falls

P.S. I will make at least a partial payment as soon as I get my stimulus check.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Working days

I said to my one friend, "Wow, it feels like you have been gone a long time." He was away on leave and it felt like forever. He answered me with "It has only been 5 days." And I was stumped. We laughed and argued and laughed and debated. I said "But you left 9 days ago." And he replied with "I was only counting the working days." And it hit me: what exactly are "working days"!?

What does this mean? And what is work? Seriously, if you were in a start-up, and if it were your business, and if you loved it, then what does work mean. It means you do what you love and you love what you do. I have been in start-up mode ever since Internet Solutions (IS) began. I generally never know what day of the week it is. Because what are "working days". Each day, weekends including, are an opportunity to push the envelope and to inspire people. Each day represents a chance to grow and to stretch. There are no set days for that, like Monday to Friday.

I think me and my friend here need to go for a drink and a think.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Reading is believing

If you ever feel a little bit stupid, just dig this up and read it again; you'll begin to think you're a genius.

Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: 'I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,'
--Heather Whitestone, Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest. She was selected Miss America.

'Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.'
--Mariah Carey

'Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life,'
-- Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign.

'I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body,'
--Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward.

'Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.'
--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington , DC

'That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it.'
--A congressional candidate in Texas .

'Half this game is ninety percent mental.'
--Philadelphia Phillies manager, Danny Ozark

'It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.'
--Al Gore, Vice President

'I love California . I practically grew up in Phoenix .'
--Dan Quayle, Vice President

'We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?'
--Lee Iacocca

'The word 'genius' isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.'
--Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback & sports analyst.

'We don't necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.'
--Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instructor.

'Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.'
--Department of Social Services, Greenville , South Carolina

'Traditionally, most of Australia 's imports come from overseas.'
--Keppel Enderbery

'If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record.'
--Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman

Feeling smarter yet?

Send this on to your brilliant friends.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Today it is new month again - it is hard to believe how fast this year is going !!!

And speaking of speed, let's get you up to it on the Vottle front. February was the first month in which our new custom Google Adsense had the opportunity to run for a full month, and we did pretty good from the click-throughs. We secured a decent number for a local site (South Africa) and it provides a very nice base for us to benchmark our future growth. Google also recently approved a small but significant 'feature' for us that allows Google ads to open into new browser windows. This may sound trivial but it's not a standard feature for Adsense customers, and is valuable for us in that Vottle doesn't 'lose' a user to another site - once a user is done browsing the site they clicked through to, the Vottle window will still be open, encouraging them to explore the site further.

We have also embarked on a new SEO strategy this month. Previously our Adwords spend was primarily targeted at increasing the number of postings on the site, ie, targeting users wanting to *place* ads. Now we are changing direction a bit and looking to drive more users to the site who are *looking* for goods or services. This should increase our Adsense revenues with an increase in searches on the site. This should also mean a reduction in Adwords spend, and while we are incurring SEO consultation costs, these are not recurring. While several SEO changes are already in place, we now play a waiting game and wait for the traffic numbers to start increasing!

We have also attracted some more good advertising on the site with VW Mastercars buying two more campaigns from us, and we are also close to getting a peel-back banner campaign with Cell C.

On some other news, have a look at ( for Brazil - due to go live sometime this month), and (still to be officially launched but already trading and doing some good business in music licensing).

Posted by Ronnie Apteker