Category Archives: value

More or Less?


Some industries are becoming more fragmented. A lower barrier to entry is resulting in more new players with no end in sight.

More authors (blogs, Lulu & self publishing tools).
More charities (Charity Water, Acumen, Kiva).
More musicians and more songs (iTunes,

Some industries are consolidating – a few dominant players are capturing more and more of the market.

Less bookstores (Amazon).
Less search engines (Google).
Less pharmaceutical companies (mergers & acquisitions).

Is your industry becoming one of more or one of less? How are you preparing? Does your story match the trend in the industry? Should it?

Amazon’s New Shoez


Amazon just announced that it was acquiring Zappos, one of my favorite companies, for $807 million in Amazon stock, and about $40 million in cash and restricted stock.

Here are 5 reasons everyone wins in this deal:

1) Culture
Amazon gets to learn directly from Zappos, the company that wrote the book on culture as the DNA of success.

2) Leadership
Amazon gets Tony Hsieh, Fred Mossler, and Alfred Lin, three leaders who understand the new business paradigm as well as anyone.

3) Vision
See #2. Imagine sitting in “future of the company” brainstorms with Jeff, Tony, Fred and Alfred.

4) (Repeat) Customers
Here is Zappos’ repeat customer data from March 2001 – March 2007. (click to see larger)

5) Transparency
From living his life publicly on Twitter to the heartfelt letter Tony Hsieh wrote to Zappos employees, Zappos bleeds honesty and transparency. I love Amazon but I’ve always felt like I’m dealing with a website. With Zappos, I know there are humans behind the curtain.

The transparency seems to be rubbing off already. Here is Jeff’s video:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy some AMZN.

It’s not about the bracket.

The killjoys over at at Challenger, Gray and Christmas waste a bunch of money running an annual study of (ironically) the money and productivity lost by people checking out the NCAA tournament while at work. CGC calculates it to be as much as $1.7 billion in wasted work time over the 16 business days of the tournament.

I don’t buy it.

It’s not about the bracket. It’s not about the entry fee or the prize money.

It’s about the incremental camaraderie.


It’s about the shift of power when the mousy receptionist taunting the big shot sales guy about her team upsetting his.

It’s about the invisible IT guy gaining respect by hacking together a system for the office to enter their pools ‘online’ (in 1998).

It’s about the female CFO finding out that the janitor majored in finance at Syracuse, a year ahead of her.

It’s about the new connections and conversations that occur every March.

Challenger, Gray and Christmas can’t put a dollar value on that.

The problem with lists

Why do we feel more comfortable with lists?


Because teachers don’t give open ended essay questions to 2nd graders. Because nobody ever tells a girl scout troop to go raise money however they see fit. Thin Mints and Samoas are the tasty, structured proof.

Because the jobs we get early in life are always very structured (ever had a paper route?). Everything is laid out, do this, then do that, then do the other thing. When you’re done, it will look like this. Exactly like this.

It extends beyond childhood. The jobs we get after college are also very structured. Consulting is often nothing but repeating for a new client the same methodology, process or technology that worked for the last client. Lists of what to do and how to do it are everywhere.

Lists aren’t evil.  Many times, lists are important, such as in accounting, CPR or the construction of a safe building.  But we all want to know that if we check all the right boxes, that we get the A+, admission to the right school, a good review and a 7% annual raise.

Almost everyone is more comfortable with lists. Almost everyone wants people to tell them exactly what to do and exactly what finished looks like.

This is why the people that don’t need lists are so valuable.

Learn to be that type of person. Learn how to take an ambiguous task and figure it out. Learn how to fundraise without Samoas. Learn how to improvise.  Learn how to host a conference. Learn how to start a company.

Learn how to do things without lists.  You’ll become indispensible.