Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Grahm’s Meat Cook Tips

Posted in tips, video game, video gaming by commorancy on August 24, 2020

If you’re reading this, you’re probably playing Fallout 76. This likely also means you’re playing the Meat Week event, until August 26th, 2020 (i.e., two more days left as of this post). This event runs every hour on the hour. Let’s explore.

Playing Drums and Turning Spits

A lot of people seem to think that these activities don’t matter to the event. They do. In fact, they’re very important to the event succeeding.

Both playing the drums and turning the spit do several things at once. The first important thing these activities do is to majorly slow the decrease of the Event’s progress bar by a lot. This gives those performing collection more time to complete their collection activities in larger quantities. The more people who are handling these two activities, the slower the progress bar decreases. While these activities don’t increase the progress bar by themselves, they aid in reducing the decrease. This is why these activities are important.

Further, these activities significantly contribute to the 100% success of the event (i.e., getting the best prizes from the event). If no one is playing the drums or turning the spit and everyone is running around collecting meat and greens, contributing Chally’s feed and cleaning up messes and fires, that’s not enough to get 100% event completion.

All aspects of the Meat Cook event need to be touched, including turning the spit and playing the drums in addition to all of the rest. More than this, these two activities are important to contributing to the 100% success of the event, which affords the best prizes. When I have played through this event without these activities, even when the progress bar reaches the steak, you won’t necessarily see the best prizes without these stations having been manned.

Not only do these give the best chances at the best prizes, these slow the progress bar’s decrease by allowing the collectors to collect more. Without these being manned, the progress bar decreases quite a bit faster.

Also, manning the spit 100% of the time during the event raises the chances of getting the best prizes. Keep that spit manned at all times!

Collecting

It seems that everyone prefers to run around finding and collecting greens and critter parts. It makes sense. It’s the only combat activity at this event (such that it is). I get this aspect. This activity alone can’t carry the event.

Cleaning up and Putting out Fires

This is also an important activity. Cleaning up dirty messes, putting out fires and picking up after Chally is also important. Don’t forget this activity.

Prime Meat Collection

Here’s one aspect that doesn’t seem to be that important to the event. Grahm makes it a big deal, but the best that contributing Prime Meat does is give you Scrip at the end of the event.

Chally’s Feed

You’ll learn how to create Chally’s Feed the first time you play the event. To make Chally’s Feed, you’ll need 2 Boiled Water, 2 Carrots, 3 Razorgrain, 3 Tatoes, 1 Wood. This means you’ll need to plant carrots, razorgrain and tatoes at your camp or in a workshop. You can use Green Thumb to double what you pick and Super Duper to help in duplicating more quantities when you craft. You craft this recipe on a cooking station.

Contributing Chally’s Feed to the hay pile near Chally will help you gain a better reward at the end. I don’t believe Chally’s feed contributes to the overall reward of the event, but it does give you a personal reward for feeding Chally. You can feed Chally once every minute or so as there is a cooldown timer after you deposit.

Depositing

When you’re done collecting, you’ll need to deposit your collected items into the Critter Chunks or Greens area. Don’t forget to do this.

Here’s where people make the mistake of attempting to drop what they collect in one by one. DON’T DO THIS. You need to collect as much as you can, then drop it all in at once in a large amount. The more you collect and deposit together, the larger of a deposit bonus you will see. This can move the progress bar very far, very rapidly.

This is why sometimes the bar moves from chicken leg all the way to steak with one go. It’s because people are collecting massive amounts of everything and depositing it all at once. Don’t collect and drop one by one. Do it in bulk and you’ll get a bigger deposit reward.

[Update 8/25/2020] One thing I forgot to mention about Grahm’s Meat Cook is … if 3 people are on the drums and 3 people are on the spits during the entire 2 minute countdown timer before the event begins, this can sometimes start the event just past the turkey leg icon (middle of the progress bar). This means that it only takes a tiny bit of work to complete the event. I’ve seen events that have completed in around 30 seconds if all 6 people are manning these two activities before the event begins. Apparently, these activities do contribute to the event even during the pre-event 2 minute countdown timer. I can’t tell if this is an oversight by Bethesda or intentional.

Hopefully, this helps you win this event if you’ve been having troubles. Please leave a comment below if you have questions.

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How does Twitter Philanthropy work?

Posted in advice, philanthropy, scams by commorancy on April 23, 2020

blur cash close up dollars

How does all of this Twitter philanthropy actually work? Let’s explore the seedier side of it.

Twitter Philanthropy Exposed

I won’t name any specific accounts simply because there are too many of these accounts preying on people’s needs, but let me expose how these accounts REALLY work. There is one on top of this pile, but I will let you find it yourself. If you search Google for the key words “Twitter Philanthropy“, you will find this specific Twitter account within the first 10 search results. But, don’t go run over there just yet to follow it before reading this article.

Twitter Impersonation

Let’s start this out by explaining how these accounts operate. While some of these large Twitter philanthropy accounts purport to be operated by a single individual, they are not. Instead, they are operated by a team of individuals who have access to this single Twitter account so named for a single person. In fact, this situation is in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service rules of impersonation.

Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy.

By operating an account as a team, rather than by the single individual named on the account, this is definitely impersonation… regardless of whether the single individual has authorized that “team” for that purpose.

If you are interacting with a Twitter account who appears to be a single person, but unbeknownst to you there are actually multiple people who are not the named individual operating that account, this is entirely deceptive and misleading… and the very definition of impersonation. You are not dealing with the person you think you are. This is in violation of Twitter’s rules. Whether Twitter sees it that way is entirely subjective and based on Twitter’s whims, unfortunately.

Team Accounts

There are many team operated accounts on Twitter. Many celebrities operate such accounts. Since the celeb can’t be at the account 24/7 to answer responses, they hire staff to manage these tweets. Most times, these celebrities are represented fairly and appropriately by their hired staff, mostly because the staffers remain in close contact with the celebrity to make sure the tweets are appropriate to the celebrity’s brand.

With these philanthropy accounts, it seems these are much more loosely operated. The team is made up of people around Twitter who manage this account and have Twitter accounts of their own. They don’t always seem to have direct approval of the account owner. If you read through some of these philanthropic account tweets, they seem to show random and incoherent tweet-to-tweet messaging, espousing differing and hypocritical ideals. Why? Because different people are posting these tweets to that single account under the guise of impersonating a single person.

Philanthropy Exposed

While these accounts may have started out as genuine philanthropy, they have degraded into an odd scam that takes advantage of people’s needs… and mostly exist as ways of gaining followers. Worse, these accounts breed even more scam artists. Scam artists who WILL take advantage of you and scam you in the process. I’ll talk about the scammers at the end and how those work. Let’s focus on the actual purported philanthropy accounts first.

Why a team?

Good question and one that you’ll understand once I explain it. Basically, it that more people looking for money through contributions means more money to share under the guise of philanthropy. Looking for contributions isn’t the problem here. It’s the WAY this team goes about looking for contribution money. If this single aspect doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, keep following along as it gets so much worse.

The team that makes up the single top Twitter philanthropy account uses Twitter (and sites like GoFundMe) to gain money first. Instead of actually giving out money from the purported account owner, the team actually solicits money contributions from random people using dubious methods including begging, groveling and outright scamming using sites like GoFundMe. These team members are then adding their ill-gotten money into that Twitter account’s philanthropy fund for giveaways.

Here’s where the deceptive part comes in. This team of people collect these monies using their own personal accounts, accounts not associated with that Twitter philanthropy account. This makes it difficult to trace where that philanthropy money actually came from. Deceptive and a form of money laundering. Dirty. When other people contribute their money to one of these outside accounts for some possibly even fake purported need, this is a huge problem for these larger philanthropist accounts. Any money given out by a philanthropist shouldn’t have been obtained by using a scam. Yet, here we are.

Yes, this means this team is not actually giving out the philanthropy account owner’s money, as is implied by the account owner’s statements. Instead, that team is raising funds using outside means, possibly using deceptive means (claiming to be raising money on behalf of a veteran or claiming to have a high electric bill). Then, they take that money that has been raised and give it out on Twitter. Do they give out 100% of that contributed money? Do they use the money towards the claimed need? My guess to both of these questions is no. These philanthropy accounts might be keeping as much as 50% or more of the money they collect and, in turn, only give out 50% or less of those ill-gotten contributed funds.

It’s one thing to solicit money for an intended purpose and use it for that purpose. It’s entirely another to solicit money for a purpose, not use it for that purpose and give it away to someone on Twitter. Full disclosure here? Yeah, no. Not to mention the tax ramifications of such a setup.

Giving Money Away

While giving away money might seem a good thing, this action actually preys on people in need. Worse, the way these accounts are being managed is dubious at best. Yes, it gets even worse. These accounts have so many followers that they can’t possibly manage what gets written into their Tweets. What you’ll find in most of the Tweet replies consist of people claiming to also give away money. I’d bet that at least 99.9% of these people dropping in Tweet replies are scammers looking to part you from your money. It might even be some of the team running that same philanthropy account looking for money for their next “giveaway”.

This is why this situation is a double whammy for those in need. Not only is there so little money given away from these top Twitter philanthropy accounts (they can only raise a couple hundred dollars at a time usually), the Tweet replies are chock full of scam artists willing to take advantage of you.

The act of giving away this money on Twitter might seem altruistic, but I guarantee you that it is not. There is no altruism going on here. It’s all about gaining followers on Twitter and making it SEEM like the account is altruistic. It’s just a show. The reality is, it’s a business that follows the following formula:

  • Team hides behind Philanthropy account (unbeknownst to Twitter followers)
  • Team is tasked to raise money (using whatever dubious means necessary) from random individuals, each team member raising money separately using their own individual accounts
  • Team places raised money into Twitter account fund for “giveaways”
  • Team likely keeps much of that money for themselves as “payment”
  • Twitter Philanthropy occasionally awards random folks for random reasons

What if I win?

If you are one of the very few who manage to get picked to receive money from a philanthropic Twitter account, don’t think it’s all roses. To receive any money, you are required to jump through legal hoops before that money is deposited into your account.

“What legal hoops?”, you ask. Good question. You are required to agree to a long, stringent set of terms and conditions before you are awarded any money. These conditions allow this Twitter philanthropy account to do whatever they want with your win while restricting you. What document would I sign? You will need to read and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and return it to the team operating the philanthropic account before you can take possession of that $20 or whatever small amount they are willing to give you. This is the very definition of victimizing someone in need. Someone in desperate need of money would be willing to sign just about ANYTHING to get that “free” money.

Once you agree to their restrictive terms and conditions, they will send you that money via CashApp or whatever other agreed upon payment system. If you violate these terms, they will sue you.

This is not a no-strings-attached way to get money. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that some of these “charity acts” might actually be loans which must be repaid at some point in the future. In other words, be very, very careful if you choose to attempt to get money out of these philanthropic accounts. They may screw you on the way in and on the way out… and perhaps even later in the future.

Twitter’s Response

Unfortunately, Twitter (the company) doesn’t monitor or manage any of these philanthropy accounts. They allow them to operate with impunity. Because it seems that these philanthropic accounts “appear” (it’s all about appearances) to be doing good for the community, Twitter (the company run by Jack Dorsey) turns a blind eye and allows this bad situation to continue and fester. Few people actually get anything good out of these accounts. Even more are getting scammed from the tweet replies claiming to also give away money for following and retweeting. Don’t fall for any tweet replies. They’re almost certainly a scam.

Essentially, Twitter is turning a blind eye to these accounts which, in fact, do not perform a “good service” for Twitter. In fact, there are likely more people being scammed out of their money than ever receive money from any Twitter philanthropy. On Twitter, it’s not okay to write about certain controversial topics, but it’s perfectly acceptable to take advantage of people in need and scam them out of even more money? Thanks for looking out for us, Jack!

Scams and Philanthropy

bollinger wine bottle on boat

As I stated earlier about Tweet replies in the article, let’s now understand how you can get scammed through fake philanthropy on Twitter. There’s actually more fake philanthropy going on Twitter than there is genuine philanthropy.

In fact, it’s very easy to get scammed out of money on Twitter. This specific scam isn’t what the top philanthropy accounts are using, however. Instead, they use the model described above, which is nearly as seedy. With that, let’s look at how fake philanthropy accounts on Twitter attempt to part you from your money so they can sip champagne on a beach.

This next philanthropy scam is bait and switch and it’s the primary way they scam you. How this one works is that you’ll see someone Tweet replying they’re willing to give you money and all they need is your CashApp tag sent to them over a direct message (DM). You then give it to them. Seems harmless enough, right?

The Scam Begins

Over the DM area, they’ll start by asking you a lot of seemingly personal questions. If you pass all of these probing questions, they’ll explain to you that their CashApp app is broken and that they can’t use it. They’ll tell you they need to switch to using PayPal. Here’s where the scam actually begins. Any philanthropy person who switches the payment method sets up a HUGE RED 🚩. Don’t fall for this. If the person can’t use CashApp, which enticed you in, to send you the money, walk away. CashApp can be used by anyone and it can be set up quickly. Any excuse someone gives for not using CashApp is fake.

When they switch to using PayPal, they can then claim to need you to send them money to cover fees or other such nonsense to complete the PayPal cash transfer. In that goal, they’ll issue you an invoice to pay. This is the scam. First, PayPal doesn’t need money to complete a cash transfer. Anyone making this claim is scamming you. Second, you shouldn’t need to pay any money to get money. If they can legitimately pay you, they will pay you no strings attached. Third, remember that they roped you in by offering the use of CashApp, then inexplicably switched to PayPal (bait and switch).

Anyone who can legitimately pay you money can do so using CashApp. There is no need to switch to another service. You can read more about PayPal scams here, and there are plenty more just like this one.

Screenshots

To attempt to trick you further by making themselves seem legit, they will send over a screenshot showing that they paid someone else money. A screen shot is EASILY faked, let alone found on the Internet. There’s no way to verify that any screenshot they send you is in any way linked to them (or even legitimate). In other words, screenshots are not proof of anything, let alone of being charitable.

If the person is legitimate, they will send you the money without asking you for anything in return. If they ask for anything in return, it’s a scam.

Uncomfortable Questions

Other behaviors they might exhibit is asking a series of deep probing questions you might not feel comfortable answering. Specifically, question like what bank you are using, what credit card companies you have, and so on. That’s none of their business. If they’re willing to send you money under philanthropy, they don’t need any of this information. If they begin asking probing questions like social security numbers, birth dates, actual account numbers or any other deep personal information, this has the hallmark of scam all over it. Remind them that the CashApp tag is all they need to send over money. If they can’t do this simple one thing, then they’re not legitimate.

Philanthropy should be about the good in giving, not finding out as many personal details about a person as possible. If someone begins asking very deep diving personal questions about you, your location and your finances, walk away. Explain to them that they don’t need that information to be charitable. If their charity relies on this information, they can find someone else.

Chances are, the reason they are asking these personal questions is to not only scam you, but take the rest of your accounts for a ride.

The Dark Side of Twitter Philanthropy

photo of guy fawkes mask with red flower on top on hand

Yes, there is actually an extremely dark side to Twitter philanthropy which has now been exposed showing just how dark it can get. No, Twitter philanthropy is not all roses, as some adamantly claim.

For a moment, let’s suppose you do win the philanthropy lottery. Let me ask you this simple question. As a recipient of that supposed good will money, do you really want to accept that money not really knowing if someone behind that philanthropy account scammed another to give you that money?

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to either. Money can be helpful, but not at the cost of someone else being scammed out of it. Be careful and tread lightly when following any Twitter philanthropy accounts. Keep your guard up and watch out for people on Twitter claiming to be altrustic do-gooders. In these especially hard times, don’t fall for fake altruism. If you are really in need of money, head over to GoFundMe and plead your own case with your money raising efforts. The money you raise at GoFundMe will be yours without such underlying strings. If you’re putting your hand out towards someone else’s wallet, particularly on Twitter, expect the worst in people.

In fact, let me point you to this exposé article describing one particular philanthropy account on Twitter. This article is a bit disjointed of a read, but if you can follow it, you will better understand this very dark and seedy side of Twitter Philanthropy in excruciating detail.

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How not to run a business (Part 8): Stock and Incentive edition

Posted in best practices, business by commorancy on February 15, 2014

While it’s great that employers want to reward employees and give incentives to stay, there is the correct way and there is the wrong way. Let’s explore.

Don’t offer tiny stock grants with huge vesting schedules and cliffs

If you’re planning to offer a stock grants as ‘stay’ incentives, make it sizable. Stock programs with vesting schedules are a good thing, but not grants with tiny amounts of shares. First, it’s a waste of paperwork to give out less than $10k in equivalent shares (vested over 4 years) in company stock both for the HR team and for the receiving employee. You’ll have your team spending time on managing all of these tiny grants with no benefit to anyone. Second, most employees won’t hesitate to walk away from such grants before the vesting period ends which means even more paperwork to clean it up after the employee has left. Employees won’t wait 12 months just to get another $1-2k when they can likely pick up a 5-10% raise (and possibly even a sign-on bonus) by changing jobs.

If you want to give an incentive to employees so that they stay with your company, approve grant sizes that matter. More specifically, grant sizes that are higher than an equivalent raise. Make it worth your employee to want to worry about. For example, grant a size equivalent to 1 year of salary (at the then current stock price) with a 4 year vesting schedule. If an employee sees they’re going to get 1/4 of their salary each year for the next 4 years, that’s definitely an incentive to stay. If they don’t stay, you don’t pay. Assuming the employee is a high performer and highly valued, it is worth it when they do stay. That’s the entire point of the grant. However, issuing a grant that, at best, offers the employee $1-3k after taxes each year offers not even the best performer an incentive to stay. After all, you do want this employee to stay, right? Most great employees can easily make up such a tiny amount left behind by moving to a new job with a new company. Most people would have no problems walking away from a tiny dollar amount for a new job offer. Again, this leaves your existing employees to clean up the mess left over from the tiny little unvested grants. Note that it’s the same amount of paperwork whether you grant 1 share or thousands.

In other words, grant stock incentive sizes that make sense for all involved or choose a different incentive vehicle altogether. While you may think giving stock grants is a positive thing, employees generally don’t because of the downsides of vesting schedules and cliffs, the hassles of taxes (it will probably cost the employee more to hire a tax consultant than the bonus is worth) and when it’s too small it’s not worth the employee’s time. Be very careful when using this incentive vehicle.

Don’t send the wrong message to your employees by using the wrong incentives

In the case above with stock, you have to consider what such a small grant size says to the employee. If you give an employee a pittance grant, you’ve essentially just told them, “You’re worth $1-2k a year extra” (once they do the math). That, in many cases (especially in California), is less than the average raise. That doesn’t, in any way, impart confidence that the employee is valued… and that’s exactly what a pittance grant says. It’s definitely not the right message to send. Yes, extra money is always a good thing, but not when it’s wrapped (er.. trapped) in the wrong incentive vehicle or if it’s the wrong dollar amount.

Keep in mind that for the employee it’s all about when they actually see the money. Trapping the money behind vesting schedules and vesting cliffs is tantamount to dangling a carrot from a stick just out of reach (for a year) and then only giving them 1/4 of that carrot after chasing it for a year. If you expect the employee to wait a year to get 1/4 of a baby carrot, it better be a damned good tasting baby carrot (e.g., a substantial amount of money actually worth waiting for).

From a monetary perspective alone, $1-2k extra a year can be easily handed to the employee in many other ways. You can label the extra as a bonus, you can label it as a ‘great job’ thank you, you can hand them a live check with a personal thank you or you can buy them an iPad as a gift.

Each of these suggested alternative incentives sends the correct message. Handing someone an iPad is a whole lot more satisfying of a bonus than handing them the quagmire of pittance RSUs. In stock plans with long term vesting schedules, vesting cliffs, stock price uncertainties, waiting periods and tax disincentives, it’s a quagmire of a bonus system for the employee to navigate only to secure $1k. Don’t use stock grants to hand out $1-2k a year bonuses. Using this incentive vehicle sends the absolute wrong message to your employees, can damage employee self-worth and ultimately damage your reputation as a respectable company. Ultimately, if the employee is left with nothing for a year and then has to wait 4 years to ultimately get maybe $10k gross and suffer huge tax liabilities in the process, that’s the wrong message to send.

So, always use the correct incentive vehicles to send a positive message to your employees to keep them on board. Using the wrong vehicle in the wrong way not only plants the seed of dissatisfaction, it can lead to the employee walking away entirely.

Don’t flaunt your sales team’s wins to your non-sales employees

Your sales team is important to the success of your company. It’s also great that your sales team members, or at least some of them, are doing well to bring in those great deals. On the other hand, many companies make the mistake of continually rewarding the most outstanding sales team members with trips, gifts, dinners and other niceties. Keep this information firmly within your sales team. Do not share this information with non-sales departments.

It’s very easy for the other departments to see the sales team as being the team with all the special benefits. This can make the other teams seem as if they are being left out of the loop. Your operations team, for example, usually has staff working 24/7/365 to make sure things are working. Yet, your sales team is being flown around the globe on sales team kick-offs. This sends the wrong message to other teams. If you are going to give incentives to your sales teams, either keep it away from your other teams or figure out a way (i.e., via winning an internal lottery) to include other team members in these wins.

Again, it’s important to understand that the sales team, while important to new business and renewals, isn’t the only team keeping your business afloat. All teams need to be supported, given incentives and given the opportunity to participate in travel events when available.

Do allow employees to participate in company sponsored events

If your company is planning to do trade shows such as Dreamforce or possibly even creation of your own company annual event, allow and encourage employees from all departments to participate. Doing the same job day after day, month after month is hard to do year in and out. Breaking the monotony of the same ole same ole will help reinvigorate employees when they do get back to their job. Allowing employees to do something different for a couple of days does help re-energize people to do their best jobs. It also encourages employees to meet and work with other employees outside of their team that they otherwise would not. This allows for a much closer knit company, especially when the employee does end up working with that person they met earlier.

Don’t be ambiguous or vague about your incentive programs and make sure they are fair to all teams

If you plan to offer such incentives as RSUs, stock options, bonus plans, merit-based trips, etc, document them. Document exactly how they work, who is eligible and how each employee can become eligible. If your programs only include certain departments, make certain that when other departments become aware (and they will) that you offer compensating alternatives to those other departments.

For example, if your sales team members receive an end-of-year trip to the Bahamas for the best sales numbers, then your finance team should, likewise, be offered some kind of off-site vehicle for the finance team members who consecutively kept their DSOs down that year. Offering something to one team and not others clearly smacks of favoritism. When it is not documented clearly, this causes more friction between teams than it solves. Better, if teams are offered grand incentives, then use a lottery to allow other departments to participate in it. So, for each sales team member who wins a trip, they can bring a member from another team along and that person is determined via a lottery. Again, this should all be documented fully so there is no question about either individual or team incentive programs.

Part 7 | Chapter Index | Part 9

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How not to run a business (Part 1) — Don’ts

Posted in best practices, business by commorancy on April 4, 2012

While there are tons of articles out there describing exactly what you need to do to start and operate a business, here are tips on what not to do when operating your business. I come from a background of years working in IT and, thus, this article is born from that perspective. Please view the index page to view all parts in this series.

Don’t treat your customers as burdens

So many businesses see only dollar signs next to a customer’s account. They’re more than dollars, they are your livelihood. Without them, you don’t have a business. Always treat your customers with respect and never as a burden. With that said, some people are difficult to manage in their mannerisms, manners, speech or phone etiquette. These types of people can be difficult. If you know that you cannot work with a given customer or client based on their behaviors, you may have to let them go as a customer. There is nothing that says you have to continue to do business with everyone that comes to you for services. If the client cannot show your business and your staff the same level of courtesy, respect and professionalism that you show them, then they don’t deserve to use your products or services.

On the other hand, your staff should always remain professional, courteous and friendly at all times. Word gets around quickly when your people are rude, improper or treat customers disrespectfully. Don’t do it and make sure your employees don’t.

Don’t burn your employees out

It’s very easy to lose sight of what your employees are doing day to day. If all you are seeing is the work being done, but you aren’t understanding how that work is getting done or by whom, you need to stop and smell the roses. In other words, find out what they are doing. Don’t assume that you have enough employees simply because the work is getting done. What you may not see is that your employees could be working after hours and on weekends to get the work done that couldn’t be done on shift. This is both unfair to your employees and causes burnout. Eventually, the employee will leave and you’ll be forced to hire and train someone new.

You’ll also find that after hiring someone new, the work output dramatically drops because the new person won’t carry the same work load as the person who left. Don’t blame the new hire, don’t chastise them and don’t expect the same level of work. You’ll only end up with a revolving door. If your ex-employee was doing the work of two, you need to find that out and hire the appropriate amount of staff to cover the expected workload. You should never expect the same level of work output from a new hire, especially if the person who left was using their own time to finish the work.

Treating your employees fairly and understanding their workload is how you get better productivity. Cracking the whip and expecting immediate results only pushes other work aside for your fire drill. As more and more fire drills result, the less and less other work gets done. This then means the employee is backlogged with some work that will never get done. If getting all work done is important, make sure that you understand the ramifications of a fire drill before you start it.

Additionally, you may have spent a fair amount of time recruiting the talent to your business. If you’ve got talented employees doing a bang-up job, but they are way over worked, they’re eventually going to leave. You don’t want to have to replace that brain trust. It’s expensive, time consuming and can leave your business vulnerable until you find someone and get them trained. It’s cheaper to keep your existing talent by treating them right the first time out. Keeping track of and managing your employees’ burn level goes a long way towards employee retention.

Do not categorize every customer issue as a fire drill

This goes back to the point above. Every customer issue isn’t a fire drill. Be professional, be courteous, but most of all, be realistic with your customers. Don’t promise immediate results when it’s not possible. Doing so throws employees into fire drill mode and other work gets pushed aside. Fire drills result in much lost productivity. Learn to triage and manage these customer situations appropriately.

Don’t expect professional results from fire drill mode

When employees go into ‘fire drill’ mode, all productivity stops. That is, all productivity stops for each employee consumed by the fire drill. The only thing that a fire drill employee is focused on is in fixing what caused the fire drill whether or not they have the tools to do so. Worse, as employees jump into fire drill mode, they also enter the get-it-done-as-fast-as-possible mode. This mode is problematic on many levels. It can leave the issue only partially resolved or temporarily resolved. This means that someone will have to go back later and fix the problem properly and permanently.

Moving too fast can cause mistakes or lead to even bigger problems later. Moving too fast can bypass rational and critical thinking. Moving too fast can halt logic thought processes and prevent people from seeing the bigger picture. These are all important aspects to realize of fire drills. For example, is the problem just for a single customer or is it impacting all customers? Is the problem something that the product or service caused, is it caused by the customer interaction or is it something introduced by a third party vendor? Getting thrown into fire drill mode keeps some of these thought processes from materializing and, instead, employees tend to put blinders on instead of rationally thinking through the entire issue from top to bottom.

Fire drills burn people out rapidly. Eventually, employees get fed up with the fire drill mode and they leave the company. Don’t expect to keep employees for longer than a year or two if your entire business runs on fire drills daily. Note, successful businesses do not operate in fire drill mode all of the time. Yes, fire drills happen, but not all of the time. Treating every issue as a fire drill leads employees to feel unproductive and eventually they burn out and leave.

Don’t expect perfection from employees

We are all human and we are all fallible. Running a business, you have to expect occasional mishaps. That’s not to say that you can’t strive for your employees to reduce mistakes. But, it does mean that you need to set your expectations accordingly to avoid thinking that perfection is the way the company should run.

On the flip side, do treat your employees with proper and necessary fringe benefits. For your business to be considered on Forbes top 100 best places to work, you need to offer a whole lot of perks to your employees. Perks can be costly, but happy employees keep the productivity flowing. Unhappy and dissatisfied employees do the minimum and go home. Employees that are happy to work for your company will turn in a lot more carefully completed work than employees who are dissatisfied or are getting burned out.

Don’t play games with your website

If you intend to do business on the Internet (and who doesn’t at this point?), your web site is the new storefront. It shows off your business and how it works. It is the single most important portal for both your customers and prospects. Without a solid well designed web site, don’t expect high quality traffic or even the right traffic. This means, let professional design firms design your site tuned to the correct keywords. Don’t build the web site yourself from scratch (unless you happen to also be a well known web designer). Let professionals do this work and provide your site with a fresh look. Additionally, trust your web designer. Don’t think you know better than your web designers (unless you happen to have a degree in commercial art). Yes, flaws in the way something works on the site, these need to be corrected. For the look and feel, trust that they know what they are doing. If you are uncertain of a certain image, flow or feature on your web site, do an A/B test (your idea vs the designers’s idea) to find out which one your visitors like better. Visitors always speak loader than you. Treat your visitors with the respect they deserve. Don’t assume that because it’s how you want it that it’s the correct move. Note that that goes for everything in your business, not just websites.

Additionally, once you establish a web site with reasonbly high ranking in Google, don’t up and change it just because ‘it’s old’. Don’t do this unless you are absolutely certain you know what you are doing. If you roll the site out incorrectly, you can easily lose all page rankings you have in Google. If your intent is to target new keywords, then maybe that’s what you want. But, if you had a page 1 or page 2 ranking, by changing key words and content incorrectly, you can expect to drop down to the 20-50 page area (or lower). This is immediately damaging to any business. Note, page rankings move down far faster than move up. So, you’ll pretty much lose your rankings overnight, but your new keywords might take a year or longer to get even close to page 4. You’ve lost a lot of ground and you’ve lost a lot of visitors because your new site is now ranked very low. You can always pay for AdWords to help your business, but pay-per-click is very costly and may not help your page rankings in any substantial way.

Don’t use content management systems for your web site

I know, I know. A lot of people are using WordPress for their home pages. This is way overkill for a home site. Why? First, your content doesn’t change that often on your home site. It’s mostly static. WordPress and other content management systems are designed for adding new content often and rapidly (just like this very blog article you are reading). Corporate web sites don’t change frequently enough to justify all that’s necessary to run a CMS (i.e., Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP for starters). On top of that, WordPress requires you to build the graphics inside of a specially designed theme which requires specialized coding knowledge. Additionally, for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, someone will also need to understand all of these technologies for when things break and when redundancy is required. This means hiring someone knowledgeable to manage the CMS site, not to mention someone who’s knowledgable with WordPress management.

Second, there’s page delivery speed. For each additional technology layer you add, there’s a performance hit to deliver that page to the browser. The slower the page load, the lower the Google page ranking. Statically designed web sites are the fastest to load. Why? No databases to pull data from, no PHP to interpret and process commands, no extra layers of networks to pull data through, etc. The pages and content are immediately there to download rapidly. Ultimately, a CMS is simply delivering an HTML page to the browser. So does a static web site. The less layers involved, the faster a page can deliver. The faster the delivery, the higher the page ranking. Of course, you can also throw super fast hardware and caching mechanisms in front of your CMS to help speed up delivery, but that can cause other issues for some types of content and, at the same time, cost you more money. The only downside to static web sites is management and deployment. However, tools like Dreamweaver can solve some of these deployment issues. It’s also far easier to hire someone knowledgeable about HTML and Apache alone than it is to find someone who additionally understands PHP and MySQL databases and permissions, let alone WordPress.

Don’t send mixed messages to your customers and prospects

The worst thing you can do is have a muddy browsing and sales experience. Customers want to know what things cost and what they will get in return for that money they spend with you. If you don’t have a clear and concise list of your products or services, then define them before ever allowing a salesperson on the phone. Mixed messages are the quickest way to lose prospects before getting to stage one in the sales process. Clearly define what you offer before getting any prospect on the phone. Additionally, mixed messages can come from different sales people also. For example, based on commission rates, one sales person might offer once price while another offers another. Keep your sales people consistent on pricing. If a prospect calls and is given pricing, make sure that pricing is documented in a quote somewhere. If the prospect calls back, even a different representative who answers the phone can find the pricing they were given.

Don’t overhire

This is a huge problem in Startups. Startup companies tend to overhire in places like sales and under hire in critical technical positions needed to support those sales properly. So, you might have 50 sales people all closing deals, but you have one or two operations people to enable and train those 50 (or more) new customers each month. This goes back to, don’t burn your employees out. Lopsided hiring is a phenomena that upper management rarely sees or chooses to ignore, but continues to be a problem in nearly every startup I’ve seen.

Don’t pay out commissions before receiving customer payment

We all know that closing a deal is great. However, the trap that many startups fall into is paying out commissions on the close of the deal rather than after the customer’s check has cleared. This is a problem for so many reasons. First, it allows your sales staff to game your commission system by finding any deal to close and closing it even if it never has hope of actual payment. This means they will always get their commission, but new the customer never actually makes any payment. Second, you’ve paid out commission to the salesperson, but you’ve never collected a dime from the customer. Don’t do this. Always pay out commissions only after the customer’s check has cleared the bank and only based on the length of the term only after the payment is received. If it’s a 12 month deal paid monthly, pay the employee commissions after receipt of payment by the customer and only pay the sales person on what the customer has paid. If it’s a 10% commission, they will get their 10% of that monthly check after the check has arrived and cleared. Never pay any commissions before the check clears. Never pay out the full commission payment on the deal until all customer monies on that contract have been collected.

Paying commissions in this way does several things at once. It forces the salesperson to make sure the payment is properly received, it forces the salesperson to accurately document the contract to get the correct payment amount from the customer, it prevents paying out commissions without receiving payment by the customer first (which means you aren’t dipping into cash reserves to make payroll), it reduces the amount of work necessary by your receivables person, it prevents claw backs through salary reduction of future pay checks from sales persons if deals fall through after-the-fact, and it just plain makes good business sense. Running your sales department’s commission program based solely on when deal closes is just ripe for major cash flow problems.

You know, you’d think this specific Don’t would be a no-brainer in the business world. In fact, it isn’t and I don’t know why that is. I’ve worked for multiple startups that have chosen this money-burning commission approach. I know, some people have said, “Other startups do it this way”. This is a non-argument and offers no justification for this stupid practice. This rationalization also doesn’t make it sane for your business or the bottom line. It just means the insanity runs deep in other companies. Because another business chooses a high cash burn approach to their sales operations doesn’t mean you need to follow that same cash burn approach. Instead, save that money and invest it places that bring money in rather than lose it. Your sales people don’t need to become millionaires off of bad commission practices. Sure, you can use claw backs to get the money back, but only if the sales person is still working for you. It doesn’t work if the employee has quit and left with money in hand.

Don’t let your sales people promise things that cannot be delivered

Your sales people are primarily working for their commissions. That’s why they are sales people. Once you acknowledge this fact, you can do the things to protect your business from dire sales mistakes. Basically, your sales people are looking for 10% of that million dollar deal. They are not concerned whether your product or service actually is capable of doing what they have sold. Overselling is one of the biggest problems that any organization faces, especially growing startups that have little experience. It takes work, training and proper management to keep this problem in check. Don’t turn a blind eye to this part of your business. Yes, your sales people do bring in the business, but they need to bring in the business based on what is currently offered, not what can be built. This goes back to fire drills. If your sales people are constantly selling vapor products, your business will always be in fire drill mode trying to build something a sales person has promised. Don’t get into this mode or you’ll never get out of it.

When a sales person sells something that doesn’t exist, their commissions should be eliminated for that sale. This immediately deters sales persons from selling non-existent features (even if it’s part of a larger deal). If even part of the product doesn’t exist, neither does their commission on that sale. Commissions are like rewards. Don’t reward your sales people for promising things that are not possible and then rushing to try and fulfill that promise by building something really fast ‘to cover the promise’. This is a bad bad business practice to fall into.

Don’t play games with the books

With Sarbanes-Oxley in play, it’s rather difficult to do… especially in public companies. However, in private companies, all bets are off. If you (or any of your staff) play games with the books, you may never be able to recover from this if you intend to IPO. The quickest way to tank your company is by playing games with the books. It’s pretty simple, hire an accountant, a CPA or someone who’s honest and is willing to do the right thing. At the same time, keep close tabs on your books (payments in, out and general ledger). If you are a C-level exec, don’t use the company coffers as your own personal bank account. While this is extremely tempting, unless you intend for the company to close its doors at some point, don’t do this.

Don’t hop around trying to find the next big idea

It’s great to explore new things, but don’t abandon your tried and true services thinking you have the next big thing. If you have something that’s selling well, keep it in play. Don’t get rid of it simply because you think you have a new idea that is better. Make sure you market test all new ideas before you dump services in replacement for that new idea. You may have dumped your bread and butter for an idea that doesn’t work. Your customers will tell you that really quick.

Don’t rely on self-service business models to sustain a large corporation

Self-service is an adjunct to your business and is not intended to be used to sustain the business itself. If you plan to be in business and sell business-to-business services, don’t expect self-service pay-by-credit-card services to win over large corporations. First, most corporations don’t (and can’t) pay by credit cards and, instead, they prefer net 30, 45, 60 or 90 day terms. Credit cards are almost always intended for small transactions, usually under $1000. Although, some consumer cards allow charges up to $3-4k. Some business cards can go even higher. Yes, some cards like the government P-cards have high limits, but most cards don’t. For the most part, though, credit cards are intended primarily for small transactions. If you are looking for $30k-$1mil contracts, cards are not really the place for this size of transaction. You will need salespeople, you need to extend credit and set up payment terms and you need to hire a finance team to send invoices and collect and book payments.

Second, big corporations expect some level of spoon feeding with regards to the sales and support processes. Expect to assign salespeople to corporations as single points of contact. Corporations expect to talk to the same salesperson each and every time they call. If your sales people change constantly, be sure to do proper turnover and have your new sales people contact those corporations explaining the transition. If you prefer not to assign salespeople to accounts, you may do more harm than good for your business, so don’t do this. Corporations want to feel like their accounts are being handled properly. For the amount of money that a corporation is spending on their contract to your business, this is the least you can do to secure their peace of mind. This goes back to treating businesses and people with respect and courtesy.

Don’t think email invoices alone suffice as for notification of outstanding debt

Email invoices, while convenient, are not always admissible in court. Always send a paper bill for second notices to pay. Yes, this means printing and mailing paper invoices, but that’s just one cost of doing business. Expect to incur this cost.

Don’t think your employees know how to act

Write an employee handbook. Not only is this book a great reference for how to act, how to dress, how to conduct business and simple business etiquette information, it is also a good place to set expectations so when you do have to let someone go, you have a document that states unacceptable conduct. You can also state things such as ‘at will’ terms so that employees know exactly where they stand with their employment with you. Employee handbooks are good places to keep all kinds of information not otherwise easily documented. Sure, you can use a Wiki or other digital media (PDF) for this information, but printing this document to paper and placing it on every employee’s desk with a page to ‘read and sign’ means that at least they cracked open the book enough to read and sign the signature page. Digital documents are not always enough for this. This is a way to protect your business from employee issues when you need to let someone go for inappropriate behavior or when performance issues are at work.

Don’t become fascist about the use of electronic devices

Employees carry iPhones, iPads and portable electronic devices. They’re going to carry them whether you like it or not. It’s a way of life today. You’re not going to change that behavior by mandating a no-cellphone policy in the office. People rely on cell phones for critical personal communications. Don’t expect that you can take away cell phone privileges from them and they’ll be happy working for you. This goes back to perks. Let that be a perk for your employees. You can mandate in the employee handbook (discussed just above) about over usage of devices. Basically, let employees exercise common sense on usage (for example, on breaks, at lunch time, etc). But, if it consumes their day and they’re not productive, that’s a problem that needs to be discussed and addressed.

Some employees also like to listen to music while working, so allowing this is also a perk. If an employee is more productive while listening to music, let them listen. If it allows them to tune out other office noises such as other phone conversations, ringing phones, typing, printer noises and other distracting office sounds, all the better. Of course, if the person happens to be the receptionist, use of headphones may not be an option. Note that anything that calms an employee, let’s them remain happy at work and helps them to concentrate is never a bad thing.

Don’t expect people to give up their weekends for your business

This goes back to burning employees out. If you have so much work that one person cannot get the job done or it requires weekend work to get things done, expect to offer extra salary or comp time. Comp time costs you nothing additional. It’s a straight trade. One weekend day for one weekday off. Don’t expect your employees to work 6-7 days on a 5 day a week salary. Eventually, you may find yourself in a lawsuit for backpay. Don’t do it.

Don’t expect technology to solve every problem

Technology is made by humans. It is, therefore, fallible. It has bugs, it crashes, it doesn’t always work as expected. It doesn’t matter if the software is from your developers or from Apple. Nothing is perfect, expect that it will become a problem at some point. This goes back to fire drills above. Take failure in stride and work through it. Don’t pressure your employees for 5 minute fixes when things go wrong. Let the employees work through the issue properly. The question is, do you want it done right or do you want it done fast? Fast may get you a fix, but it may not be a fix that you’ll ultimately like several days later. Giving enough breathing room to let the technical employees work through a proper fix is critical to ensure proper resolution to problems. Expecting fast fixes only leads to more problems later. This even goes for writing code. Pressing to get software releases out the door ‘fast’, especially if you are a software company, is the only real way to tank your business. If you’re a software business, your brand is built on quality, not quantity. You want your software to work as expected. Rushing to get software out the door, more often than not, leads to failure somewhere along the way for someone. It means your developers have missed critical edge cases that can make the difference between being known for mediocre software and being known for high quality software.

If you think that there’s a way to write speedy software that’s high quality, you’ve deluded yourself. Quality software comes only from producing code that covers 98-99% of every edge case out there and that simply takes time to produce. Basically, this requires bulletproofing the software so that no matter how a user may use the software that it always does what’s expected. Increasing speed of software delivery reduces the ability to test edge cases leaving dangling code that doesn’t always do the correct thing under error conditions. This means the code could run wild, do the wrong thing or, worst case, corrupt data irrevocably. This situation puts technical staff in fire drill mode. Again, you cannot run your business in constant fire drill mode. You hired your technical staff to write high quality code, let them. Yes, by all means set delivery dates, but if a feature is too complex for a release, pull it and release it later. Don’t rush them to get that feature into any specific release.

Don’t let the sales team drive your business

Your sales department is your front end the public. It’s how you sell and do business. But, it is not what drives your business ahead. Your products and services drive your business. The solutions that you create are what become the face of what your business is and does. As an entrepreneur, you may have forgotten that the reason you went into business is to solve a problem. You wrote a piece of software or designed a product to solve a business problem, perhaps even for yourself. Then, you realized you could sell that solution to many different people. It’s the solution that drives the business, not your sales team. Basically, your technical team’s ability to deliver a functioning solution is what matters. The sales team is irrelevant in this equation other than the fact that they answer the phone, make the sale and take payment. Far too many businesses rely on the sales department to drive their business forward. This is the wrong approach and uses wrong thinking. Sure, the sales team is the one reaching out to prospects and locating interested new parties. That’s the sales team’s job. But, when sales begins selling a square peg to fit a round hole that’s where problems begin. This goes back to overselling. The solution is what sells, not the sales team. The sales team is the mouthpiece for the solution, not the other way around. So, the sales team must be trained to sell what is there, not what isn’t. It is not the sales team’s job to make up new features or imply that a feature a customer may be looking for exists. It’s the sales team’s job to understand the solution offered and find prospects where that solution fits their problem.

In this goal, always have a technical person who knows the limits of the solution on every sales call. They are the voice of clarity to keep the sales team from overselling. The technical person can step in and say, “That’s not exactly correct, our product doesn’t do X yet”. This sets customer expectations. However, if X feature is important, it should be added to the list of new features to be added into a future release.

Your business and you

As the owner and/or CEO of your business, you are the champion of your business. Only you can do the right thing for your business. Stop, think and use common sense. Rushing employees to get things done fast is not the answer. Slow down the pace. Let the employees catch up and catch their breath. Let them finish critical projects. If you’re consistently compressing time lines, some tasks will never get done. Compressed time lines are usually driven by customers and this, in turn, is usually driven by a salesperson over promising. These are all practices that must be tempered. Setting the correct pace for your business is the only way your business will succeed. Too fast a pace and your business will never be known for quality. Too slow and the competition will outdo you. Critical, of course, to your business is having creative thinkers on your team. You need a constant flow of new ideas to keep the business fresh and keep your products and services new and innovative. Without critical thinkers producing new fresh ideas, your business will keep wrapping pretty new bows on old ideas. Keep your old ideas the way they are. Don’t wrap pretty new bows into them. Your customers will appreciate that you respect them. Wrapping pretty new bows on old ideas can be insulting to old customers if you’re trying to play it off as a new service. This is the quickest way to lose customers. Keep your existing customers happy and don’t insult them by playing off something old as something new.

Start | Chapter Index | Part 2

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