There was an error in this gadget

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Order Shipped In 2 Hours and 21 Minutes...And Not From Amazon

My amazing girlfriend and I have been planning a trip to Thailand and it's rapidly approaching. Since we're going to be spending a good amount of time near the water, she mentioned investigating an underwater camera. The first time she mentioned it was the afternoon of 3/12, a Wednesday. On 3/13, a Thursday, she had clearly done some more research and was circling making the purchase (I'd recalled seeing similar behavior with a pair of really cute winter boots). So, during the late morning of 3/14, a Friday, on the way to the gym, I decided to surprise her with an underwater camera. But, my cleverly-orchestrated, surprise gift would only work if I could get her the camera before she bought it herself.

**It's important to note, she lives in Minneapolis and I was in California at the time (KW - clarification)**

On the way out of the locker room, I opened up the Best Buy Android app, found the Go Pro Hero 3 Silver Edition & and SanDisk 16 GB memory card and I bought it. Then, it started getting weird.

At 11:20 AM, on Friday, I got the following email:


That's nice, and while it's generally accepted that a website sends an email on confirmation immediately following an order, I was surprised that got one from Best Buy (and I work for BBY).  Now, I usually buy research online and buy in-store, so this might not be news to regular bestbuy.com online shoppers. But, it gets even weirder.

At 1:41 PM, on Friday, I got the following email:


As a customer, I'm was shocked, in the best kinda way. I did the math to discover that they processed my order and got it shipped in under three hours. From the perspective of a customer, that is a pretty amazing experience (I was delighted). But, as an employee, i got to see how an organization's hard work pays off, 1st hand.

Now that I was focused on following the bread crumbs, my investigation didn't stop there. I clicked on the tracking link, which is blacked out above, and starting following this package, slowly at first, but more fanatically on the day of delivery. The tracking table, in its entirety, is here:


After clicking on the "What's This?" link, I learned a few things:

  1. Order Processed: Ready for UPS: UPS has received the electronic transmission of the shipment details and billing information for this shipment from the sender. Once the shipment is moving within the UPS network, the tracking status will be updated.  - A 3rd party was able to verify receipt of the completion event that BBY shipped this item REALLY FAST, though the verification was done at 3:04 - 3 hours and 44 minutes after order.
  2. Origin Scan: This scan is the initial electronic record indicating UPS has possession of the shipment.  -  UPS was in possession of my package less than 9 hours after I ordered it.
  3. Delivered: The shipment has reached its destination, and the date and time of delivery have been recorded. In the U.S. and Canada, residential deliveries that do not require a signature may be left in a safe place, out of sight and out of weather. This could include the front porch, side door, back porch, or garage area. If you have instructed the driver to leave the shipment with a neighbor or leasing office, the driver will leave a UPS InfoNotice® at the delivery address.  - The next business day, after getting home from work and relaxing a bit, my incredible girlfriend had her gift in hand - SURPRISE!!!.

The day of, I was so excited that this was coming together so quickly, that I was obsessively refreshing the tracking page, starting at around 5:30, to see when the package would arrive; not to mention all the excuses I made to excuse myself and check on something (which was really checking for package delivery). And when it arrived, and I got to see her open the box, and it was pretty awesome.

Now "how we do it" is very interesting, but not nearly as important as "that we do it". For more details on our "Ship From Store" program, you can read an article here. The short of it is, we've turned all 1400+ stores into mini-distribution centers that can fulfill online orders and do it quickly. And we're just getting started...I can't wait to see how efficient the supply chain will get over time.

And because my order was for more than $25 dollars, it shipped for free. 

Now I'm a BBY employee, and the views above are my own. However, as a consumer, I was delighted and thought the experience was very cool and worth sharing.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dear Hiring Manager, It's Too Bad We'll Never Chat

Recruiting has been, and always will be, about people and relationships. However, with all the technological advancements, it's easy to see where that message gets lost. A recent interaction with a recruiter on LinkedIn led me to realize that because I'm not actively looking for a job, the hiring manager will probably never know about me. Let me explain.

What does my profile say about me?

A recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn. For reference, you can see my profile here. My profile is relatively sparse, especially when compared to most folks. But, my summary is pretty straight forward. I have experience re-thinking traditional business experiences / processes, across industries, and use technology to redesign those experiences / processes. It's somewhat vague, but hey, I'm not looking for a job. I'm currently working at a BigCo, though BigCo does have a precarious reputation in the tech community. I also ran my own startup, worked at another venture-backed startup (though not on my LinkedIn) and worked for a small business. My profile also has a link to my blog and 5 patents pending.

What happened?

One day, I get an email from ScalingTechCo Recruiter, Jane Doe. Jane says,

Matthew,

I came across your profile and interested to learn if you might be on the job market. ScalingTechCo, Inc. is the world's leading marketplace in WIDGETS.
I am looking to hire a Product Manager. We are looking for someone that has good experience managing a product in the busy world of the WIDGETS space. Would you be interested to learn more about the role? It's in SHANGRI LA and we do provide relocation assistance

I look forward to hearing from you

Now, this is pretty generic.  I'd really like a message that said something like, "I reached out because I saw that you are working with cutting-edge technologies to solve really hard problems. We have those types of problems and need someone like you to not only solve them, but do so in a way that differentiates us from our competitors (possibly even help us build a team of innovators, like yourself). I'd love to talk to you. Do you have time to chat?" The only other thing I'd be looking for is some insight into some of the problems they are facing. However, it's a first pass, so I'll cut Jane some slack.

My father taught me that there's no harm in listening to a proposal, so I responded with:

Thanks for reaching out. Generally, I enjoy my work and I'm not actively entertaining new opportunities. However, if the role matches my interests and skill set, and/or provides significant career advancement, I'd be open to a brief discussion.

Let me know.

The goal of this email was to get the conversation aligned with my interests and set expectations. Her response was:

Great. If you want to send me your resume, we can start there! I'll see 
what roles I can share that are the most natural fit   
Arghh! There nothing more frustrating than someone pursuing something from you and then levying an action item. Now, I'm sure having a readily prepared resume is a good idea. But, I don't have one. And, in the world of applicant tracking software, a recruiter just wants something to upload it and see what comes out the other end. I get it. But, I asked very specific questions, which weren't answered. Way to make a guy, who didn't come looking for you, feel special. A few days later, I respond with:

I didn't forget about you. I got really busy this week and haven't begun to put a resume together. 

I'm interested in 2 things: 

1) working with cutting edge technology to solve business problems; as you might see from my linkedin profile 

2) moving into product leadership 

I am very familiar with the WIDGET space (my startup was in that space). I'm also a big fan of ScalingTechCo (I used the site to get a WIDGET for a Valentine's WIDGET SPECIAL). Can you speak to whether or not any of the open positions meet either of my aforementioned interests? 

And I haven't gotten a response to date.

Who loses?

First and foremost, I lose. I will never know what job is available and if it offers a better opportunity than my current job. However, I'm happy with my job. The recruiter probably chalked me up as a lead, which might be a metric for her. But, what about the company? The hiring team might be missing out on exactly what they are looking for, or at least in the ball park (though probably not, I'm an acquired taste). But, the interaction put us at a Mexican standoff. I'm not willing to put in the upfront work for a role I know nothing about and the recruiter is unwilling to tell me about the role until I give him/her a resume.

Well, who's job is it?

The best stories of great leaders at great companies are those that go to great lengths to recruit very specific talent into their ranks. Now, I'm not saying that's me. I'll never get a call from Mike Duke, where he pitches me because I'm the guy that can take walmart.com to the next level, as chronicled here. Nor will Jeff Bezos write me a personal letter, like he did to recruit a rising distribution star from Wal-Mart. But, when I was recruiting for a small startup, I had to go to great lengths to make great engineers feel special, just for the opportunity to sell them on my small startup's dream. Unfortunately, that type of interaction is very hands on, so it doesn't scale. But, it does pique the curiosity of people that aren't looking for a job in the first place. 

What's the message?

Recruiting isn't scalable. Great employees, and the rare rising stars, are what build great / scalable businesses. So, if there's one place to put in the most effort, it's in courting the right folks, in hopes you'll filter down to the right person for the job. Now, not every hire warrants the CEO's attention. But, if I was a recruiter, I'd put in the same effort great CEOs put into making their key hires, into every hire I was responsible for. 

Where am I in the process?

Not surprisingly, I haven't heard from the recruiter and probably won't reach back out. I guess we all lose.

What do you all think?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Great Product Managers Steal - The Hardest Easy Job in Tech

We've all heard the (wrongly?) Picasso-attributed quote, "Good artists copy; great artists steal." And there is a similar quote around coding circles, "Great developers are lazy." However, this refers to the common practice of reusing code that someone else has already written. Well, the same holds true for product managers.

Now, before the trolls gather, I want to explain. I do not condone the use of wget as a tool of the trade. However, I do believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Also, inspiration is often derived from the collective conscious; that great site you used to do X, seeped into your latest instantiation of the feature you're working on. Which is to say, others can also be inspired, by the same things you were, to draw the same conclusion that you did. But, not all stealing is equal. So, now that that's out of the way, here's how I steal.

Product managers are problem solvers and lucky for us, if you have a wide enough lens, there are very few new problems. For example, MapReduce looks like something implemented in the Linux Kernel, which looks like a classic queuing problem. Now, this is easier said then done. As a product manager you are constantly looking to competitors, best of breed companies, and hockey-sticking startups to try to determine how you can bring some of that to your product / company. And if you aren't, it certainly doesn't help that your 'business counterparts' are. But, does implementing a me-too search engine make you Google. In actuality, it probably makes you more Cuil than cool. So, be careful where you steal from, because it might not work for your business.

Personally, I prefer to steal from as close to home as possible. Now, what does that mean? Currently, I work for Best Buy; a company in the middle of a great retail turnaround. Now, every analyst and pundit thought we were long-for dead; the nerdy kid who loses his lunch day after day to the elusive interwebz; a part of the new world of retail we just don't understand...

So, steal from close to home? You can't be at Best Buy long without hearing the story of Dick Schulze, our founder, and the company's entrepreneurial roots. And if you're lucky, you can find Dick on-campus and ask him about it yourself. The gist is retail is a simple business. When an entrepreneur worked in a single store everyday, he was able to deliver an experience that allowed him to build what you know today as Best Buy. As a product manager for Best Buy, that's where I choose to steal from. Dick's customers back then, are my customers now (more or less). The company culture from then, is the company culture now (more or less). Rather than trying to turn Best Buy into Amazon, I rather turn Best Buy into Best Buy, just a modern version of past glory days. In the current era, that means web, mobile web, apps, omni-channel experiences (where the web and the store meet), in-store analytics, complex algorithms and the like. But, we can't focus on new applications of new technology in an old space. We have to focus on customer problems, which tend to be old, core problems that are incrementally different because the world has changed. For example, customers have always wanted competitive prices and a great in-store experience. But, now, the bar is higher than it has ever been. And since everything old becomes new again, I prefer to look back and see what worked in the past and use it as the inspiration to go forward.

As product managers, we have to discover what delights and what solves actual customer problems and scale that to the world we live in today, with an eye on where we might be tomorrow.

Now that you've seen what makes it easy, let me introduce you to what makes it hard. The world has changed. The customer is more sophisticated than ever and is ever becoming harder and harder to impress. In most cases, the customer knows more about a particular item than an employee. If I want to buy a blue dinglehopper, 30 seconds of internet research makes me as, if not more, knowledgable than the sales person. And the advantage of being able to get something now, by going to a store, is quickly waning. After all, how many things do we actually need RIGHT NOW? And if you are Best Buy, it's really hard. Why? Because our solutions have to work for more than 100,000 Blue Shirts, in more than 1100 stores, selling hundreds of thousands to millions of products, to more than 250 million annual visitors.

So, when you steal, steal solutions to customers' problems and ALWAYS start with the biggest problem. Nothing hurts more when you deliver a product only to find out that Your Solution Is Not My Problem




Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Sprouts Farmers Market Can Teach You About Social

In a world where everyone is offering some widget, gizmo or gimmick that promises to give you Facebook-like viral growth / visibility, I see a lot of social done wrong. While working for startups, I sought out these solutions to help 'get the word out' and in my current role, not a day goes by where someone doesn't try to sell me some social service that'll fix all our problems. So, I feel very comfortable saying that most of the market focuses on how to enable social sharing...in hopes that people will just share whatever content it's attached to. Now, how many of you have added sharing widgets to your website?  How did that work out for you?

Today was different. In the most unexpected of places, I had an experience that I'm going to share with you and, hopefully, you'll see why I was so excited to get home and blog about it.

After picking up my son, we stopped at Sprouts Farmers Market in Hemet, CA (It's where I live, don't judge me). Now, my son Joey has autism and April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day. He was proudly sporting his newly acquired Build-A-Bear Autism Speaks Bear, just like he is in the picture below.




During checkout, I was reaching for my wallet, when Joey told our cashier Yesenia that this was his bear, he cleverly named it "Autism" and that he had autism.  She warmly smiled and commented that she liked his bear.  Then, Joey noticed  that Yesenia's name tag / lanyard had a blue puzzle piece pin on it, much like the one on his bears' t-shirt.  Now, for any of you that don't know, the blue puzzle piece is Autism Speaks's logo.  Honestly, I'm not exactly sure why, but, Joey got SUPER EXCITED.  Then, Yesenia told us how Sprouts supports Autism through Autism Speaks and how, during their recent fundraiser, there were puzzle pieces like the one she had all over the store.  To which Joey replied, "I can paint puzzle pieces all over the store too!" In all honesty, I think he took her explanation as permission and might have even asked her for paint to start drawing on the windows in the front of the store. She smiled and, cool as a cucumber, rolled with Joey, without batting an eye. And then it happened. Yesenia asked Joey if he wanted her pin.  I'm not even sure she finished her offer before Joey said sure. At this point, I was in tears. Then, after almost handing it to him, she realized it was probably better to give it to me, which was very thoughtful.  Especially since she pretended not to notice me crying. 

As a parent of a child on the spectrum, you never know what your child is going to do or say, especially in public. But, it's stop phasing you pretty early on. However, you remain VERY sensitive to how other people react to your child's quirky behaviors, especially when you are in a public place, late in the day, when the meds are clearly wearing off. Oftentimes, people react poorly and the only saving grace is that despite the lack of sensitivity, understanding and patience in the world, your child really doesn't understand how terrible the people interacting with them are treating them. Needless to say, Yesenia small act of kindness was an example exactly what to do and I was very impressed.

Instantly, I wanted to take out my phone blow up my Facebook stream, letting everyone know what happened...but what one-liner would do this story justice?  So, I came home, snapped some photos on my phone, sent them to my email account and wrote a blog post.  Seems like a lot of effort, but well worth it for this moment. 

As a former Disney intern, I know Disney spend tons of resources drilling this type of customer service into their cast members, under the guise of creating "magic" and they are world-class at it. But, I wasn't at Disney. I was at the grocery store, with my son, in tears, because Yesenia decided she wanted to do something special to make Joey's day and create an experience that this parent and grocery-purchasing customer will never forget. And now I'm sharing this story, on their behalf, because I was so moved that I want everyone to know about what happened to me today and who was responsible for the experience. And that's the key.

The key to social is moving people so much that they feel compelled to share the experience with anyone that'll listen.  Whether it's something funny / clever, emotionally meaningful, visually stunning or cat-related, there are many ways to move people. Social isn't about a button or widget; it's about creating moments worth sharing.

They did, so I did. 




Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Magic Words of Early-Stage Startups

There is nothing like putting your product out there for the first time, especially if it's your first product. Whether it's good or bad is irrelevant. As a entrepreneur, especially a first-timer, you're convinced you are on the cusp of changing the world.  That's how I felt when I started the now defunct Browsemob, (God rest its soul). The whole world was going to name-their-own price, while shopping on any e-commerce website, using our bookmarklet tool.  And who knows, someday the world still might.

I sent hundreds of emails, hit up events / conferences, cold called and sometimes just showed up to try to convince potential investors, potential advisors, potential clients...basically, anyone I could get a hold of that could possibly further the cause, that Browsemob was the future and this was their chance to be a part of it.  It was a truly magical time, filled with ups and downs.

Honestly, most people ignore you, grin fuck or never reply.  But, the experience taught me the magic words of early startups, which I'll share with you.  Whether you are talking to a potential investor, advisor, customer, employee (paid or unpaid), co-founder, random person you bump into at a bar, whomever...when you hear them, you know you've reach the optimal outcome.

Now, before I tell you what they are, I feel obliged to tell you that you have to have a refined, coherent spiel, which only comes with practice. Also, when pitching your product, you can't lead with an obvious ask for the magic words, otherwise they won't come or they will come, but it'll be disingenuous.  And now, the words..."What can I do to help?"

Those six words mean that you have done your job pitching an idea, that's not quite a business yet, but one day could be.  It means you crossed the credibility threshold and have at least 1 shot at getting someone to do you some sort of kindness, based on whatever it is you've just shown them; for entrepreneurs the world over, they've led to first customers, round leaders, introductions to co-founders / early employees, high-profile advisors and so much more.

So, get out there and hustle.  And when you hear, "What can I do to help?" smile, think of me & don't screw up the ask :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teaching Myself Python - Part 1

I've always wanted to be a better coder. However, it's in direct opposition with my passion, which is to be an entrepreneur. The problem is, I only learned how to code in order to build something interesting enough to convince a better coder to work along side me, for nothing but a mutual dream (and some stock, not yet worth anything to speak of). But, one can only sit beside great coders for so long, without being drawn back in.

Previously, I've experimented with a few languages, but my core development has been in PHP, with my theoretical background coming from high school AP classes, which at the time, were taught in C++ (if that doesn't date me : P ).  But, for the purposes of this blog series, I'm 'learning' Python.

The good news is, I've started already.  The purpose of blogging about it is to share my experience and plans, as well as get encouragement and guidance.  Hopefully, you all will keep me honest and on course.

Now, why Python?  I wish there was a deep, meaningful reason. But, there's not. I'm learning Python because it's concise and powerful...and all the coolest kids I know do it. However, I did read a Quora post, What are some signs that someone is an inexperienced Python programmer? that helped spark a memory.  This question, and responses, showed me how powerful Python is, in terms of saying a lot with very little code; it reminded me of the power of recursion.  As mentioned, I come from a for(int x = 0, x=string.length(), x++){ if(conditional)...} kinda world...so, if I keep at it, I'll have to write a lot less code.  Less code makes the base easier to maintain and easier to read (all good things).  Plus, it has it's own command line shell.

So, the plan.  I'm doing LPTHW (on lesson 39 atm), Python Challenge (Challenge 4) & I'm replicating the programs found on Python.org SimplePrograms, varying them slightly (On program 8).  I'm also using Python to write the middleware on a side project, failrecovery.com (though i'm working on this with a friend).

If you all have any thoughts on my plan, words of wisdom or additional resources, feel free to leave me a comment.

With me luck.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

So, I Built The MVP, Now What?

In my previous post, Where Ideas Come From, I talked about an idea that came to me.  Without re-hatching the post, I was left with this idea that every social complaint is should be an actionable customer-service ticket, and making it public could put some social pressure on brands to pay attention.

So, I built it.  You can check out failrecovery.com and let me know what you think in the comments below.  The MVP is truly simple.  We have a small number companies to choose from and a list of top, most complained about companies.  I posted it on HN, sent out a few tweets and posted on my social networks.  So far, traffic is pretty abysmal.  Don't people care which companies ignore their social media complaints?  Don't companies care about knowing how many people are pissed off at them on Twitter?  I think they do.  So, now what?  Why isn't the traffic coming hands over fist?

Obviously, we have made ourselves relevant.  It's that age old question, "How are you going to get users?"  The way I see it, we only have a few options that really make sense.  One, we can increase the number of companies we are collecting information on, or two, we can directly create some way to motivate the customer or the company to engage with the site.  But, only one of those options has any chance of getting us users.

One thing that previous projects have taught me is NOT to work on creating a pretty website or extensive backend stuff / re-writes...when you don't have something people want to use, don't polish the turd; find a way to make them care.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, go with the option that has a chance at making your product more relevant to your users.