It’s the beginning of blueberry season over here; let the parade of baked goods begin! I had a basket of blueberries giving me the eye the other morning, as well as some ricotta cheese in the fridge begging to be used up. Hmmm. Blueberry muffins maybe? blueberry pancakes? or pound cake? A lemony blueberry pound cake won the toss this time, a pound cake made even more dense and silky rich with the substitution of ricotta for some of the butter and flour. This ricotta pound cake was declared a winner by all who tasted it. Enjoy!
May 17th, 2013
Certainly I plan to take some time off of running to let this thing heal. But what should I do about this race? Should I still go for it and give myself permission to quit if it hurts too badly? Is it foolish to run the risk of doing further damage just to complete a stupid race that I've already done? What would you do?
May 16th, 2013
Strawberry-rhubarb pie has always been one of my favorites. But, I don’t really eat pie anymore, so it’s been awhile since I enjoyed this flavor combination. Yesterday I saw rhubarb at the grocery story, and decided to try my own version…
Yes, thanks to the Vitamix I just drank my favorite childhood pie!
Surprisingly the dates gave it enough sweetener I didn’t need anything else to cut the bitter rhubarb flavor. I was impressed!
I posted a very simple question the other day: What’s your one secret weapon to amaze and astound customers and clients?
The responses were awesome. A lot of them are common sense things that no one bothers to do. (Remember, I always tell people that to succeed, you just have to be one level above crap,) but others are things I never even thought of.
So here are 9 ways to amaze and astound your clients and customers today. Do these things. The results you’ll get will range from “cool” to “awesome” to “holy shit, I landed a million dollar account today!”
@MeganMWagner says “Smile when you’re on the phone with clients or customers. They’ll know it.” She’s right. Here’s a story from NPR about how humans can “hear” a smile without seeing the person’s face. And let’s face it (no pun intended) – People want to do business with happy people.
@Webby2001 says “If there is a reliable and valid data source for a question they have, I know it, or I’ll find it. Whether it’s from my company or not.” Good point. We tend to forget that we’re here to solve problems for clients, and sometimes, when we can’t do it ourselves, we earn future points by solving that particular problem by recommending someone else who can.
@CarlaCacPRoffers this: “Offer to do something at no additional charge. People can’t stand to be nickel and dimed; if something is not going to take you long, throw it in. The gesture will be worth more in the long run than what you would have made on the service.” LOVE this one. I do this all the time – Sometimes it’s as easy as Googling something the right way, sometimes it takes a bit more. But it’s so worth it. Why? Because you become the person everyone wants to use, because you get results.
@AndreaJobs gives up one of her best-kept secrets here, which might not only be beneficial, but also cool, assuming none of her clients read it: “I do not have my cell phone # on my business cards. I hand write it on the card in front of them saying “Let me give you my cell # so you can reach me anytime.” Corny as it sounds, it makes them feel like I am sharing a personal secret.” Interesting – I totally get why clients would like this – I remember Mr. Wile, my high school guidance counselor, giving all the parents at orientation his private line. You never saw 1600 hands write down a number quicker in your life.
@chrisbrogan nails it, in a surprisingly few number of words for him: “Remember them. It’s fascinating how powerful this one detail truly is.” It’s true. When someone remembers me when I walk into a business, my defenses have already been lowered, and I already want to spend more money.
Creating amazement really isn't that hard.
Love this one from @johncorcoran, because it’s something I do regularly. It’s amazing how a follow-up that has nothing to do with you, but rather, is all about them, really works: “I will contact a client months after I’m done working with the client to send them a link to an article or resource I’ve found that I think would be useful to them. Or if I know about a personal passion of theirs (such as the NY Giants or hiking), I may send them an email about that topic. It shows I’m continuing to think about them long after they are done paying me, and it is useful from a business development standpoint because then they are reminded of me and may recommend me to one of their friends.”
I like this one from @smileboston – We spend too much time talking, and not enough listening – So repeating what the customer wants to make sure we both have it right is a simple self-check, right? “Truly listen to a response or question, repeat to confirm understanding (“let me make sure I understand what you said”), and oblige or respond accordingly. The repeat usually blows their mind and assures we are looking to attain the same goal.”
@curojo simply states: “Look for opportunities to give nice surprises whenever you can.” Smart. Customer service usually means reacting. What if it’s about proacting? (Is that a word?) Can you anticipate needs and make things happen for the customer that blow them away?
The last one is mine – @petershankman – “Read (listen to) body language, and react accordingly.” There’s a fun scene in the movie “Limitless” where Bradley Cooper takes NTZ and realizes that his landlord’s wife is mad, but not mad at him. “My existence shouldn’t make you this angry, what is it?” He asks a simple question, and she folds – telling him what’s wrong. Read your customer. Angry? Frustrated? Sad? Happy? Tired? How can you help them into a better mood on the fly? It’s usually not that hard.
I want to hear your tips to amaze and astound customers, and I’ll try and use them in a follow-up post. Leave them on the form here. Disagree with anything above? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
May 15th, 2013
Are you a lover of books? My father, the English teacher, instilled in us an appreciation for literature. When I find a book I love I want to yell about it from the mountain top. Instead, my friends are the beneficiaries of this enthusiasm, since I typically find every excuse to send them a copy of the new favorite. Last year the book my friends received was The Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post. This year it will be The Honey Thief, a beautifully written collection of fictional stories by Najaf Mazari, a Hazara Afghani refugee living in Australia, and his collaborator, novelist Robert Hillman.
Since returning from Panama, I’ve tried climbing a few times. I’ve been to two local places, The Spot and the Boulder Rock Club. I’ve been amazed at how different my experiences have been, and it’s clear to me what type of climbing I prefer.
So The Spot is bouldering: you don’t climb as high, and you don’t have ropes (and therefore don’t need a partner). I actually have gone to The Spot with my roommate Josh, which is nice because I didn’t have the insecurities about showing up someplace I’m unfamiliar with alone, but I don’t have to feel like he’s waiting on me, etc. Although initially the idea of not having ropes intimidated me, I got over that soon enough.
We’ve gone twice on Sunday afternoons and it’s been pretty quiet, so I felt comfortable just wandering around on my own.
My experience with the BRC was TOTALLY different, and I’m glad I had my experience with The Spot or else I may not have had any desire to continue with it. Although it’s not the club’s fault, my initial attempt to go there was when Scott (the visually impaired guy I run with) invited me to climb with him – he goes as part of a group called Adaptive Adventures. I called the group to ask what the deal was, and was basically told that if I wasn’t an experienced belayer, they didn’t need me.
So, I signed up for a $40, 2 hour belay class at the BRC. I got there, and the class was only an hour long. I hadn’t considered the fact you climb with partners, so I was the fifth wheel in our class and it just made it a bit more tedious for people to have to sub-out of the practice.
Also, the gym was PACKED! Granted, apparently parts were sectioned off because they were preparing to hold a competition there a few days later, but there were waits for the ropes. Obviously, that’s less of an issue when you’re climbing where there are no ropes! I did a few climbs on my own using the self-belay system, but overall I just felt like the place was too crowded.
Although I’d taken the belay class so I could take their required ‘belay test’ prior to climbing, they told us we couldn’t take the test right after the class. I had told Scott I’d climb with him the following Tuesday, so I came to the club 15 min early to take the test. The front desk staff tell me to get what equipment I need, and that I’d need a partner. So… I don’t HAVE a partner.. and I’m a bit anxious about belaying someone blind for my test. So I stand there looking lost and the front desk staff ignore me. I ask them where all the equipment is, since they’d helped me when I took the class. One guy gives me a harness and walks away. I continue to look lost, and ask about the test. They tell me it’s straightforward and just to go ask someone.
In the meantime there’s tons of people wandering in, and the front meeting area is tiny and crammed. I figure I’ll just wait for Scott, but he’s late and I just get more and more frustrated.
Finally I take my stuff off and leave.
I get it – MOST of the climbing is with a partner so you should know how to work with a partner. But not all of it is. And maybe most people who take up rock climbing do it with a friend. But I guess I just expected if you tell people they need to demonstrate skills, you’re not going to force them to ask a stranger to do the test with?!?
I called Scott when I left and he was nearly there, so I came in and watched him for awhile. But I was just grumpy by that time and in no mood to take this silly test.
The fact is, if I do decide I want to come back here, I’ll obviously be coming with someone else, so I can do the test then. I wouldn’t gain anything from taking it today, as Scott had his climbing partner and I don’t have one. But there’s just so much about the place I dislike, I can’t see myself opting to come back.
In contrast, I went to The Spot just this past weekend and had a blast! Got to a point where I wasn’t afraid, and I kept going even as I tore not one, not two, but three gashes in my right hand (apparently I’m right-hand dominant when I climb). I saw it’s $8 on Fridays so I may just start going then. I just really enjoyed the fact you weren’t forced to go with a buddy, there seemed to be more options to climb and I didn’t feel like I had to work really hard to let them call me a cool kid.
I’m not sure how my opinions about rope climbing will affect any outdoor climbing I do. Maybe it’s not the rope itself, but just the hassle that goes along with it – and if I’m going on an outdoor excursion, it wouldn’t be as big a deal. I guess we’ll see!
May 14th, 2013
I’ve been on a bit of a portabello mushroom kick lately – they’re so simple! Today I also had some cilantro in the fridge and I figured someone had combined the two before. A quick google search and lunch was ready within a half-hour!
The recipe is from Eating Well. It called for a chili sauce to be prepared for the side, but I didn’t make any. It was super simple:
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1.5 tsp mustard seed (I only had mustard powder)
1 clove garlic, minced
Mix the above together in a small bowl.
Clean the mushrooms, and sear them rounded-side up for two min on medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet. Coat the top with the mustard mixture, then put in the oven on 425 for 15 minutes.
I did have some store-bought chili sauce, but I barely used any. The mushrooms were good, but I almost felt as though I could have added more of the sauce (odd considering I made a full batch of the sauce and half the mushrooms!). These would probably be good for someone who didn’t actually like mushrooms, as the flavor was really of the mustard and cilantro. Personally, I really like mushrooms just marinated and grilled, so I probably wouldn’t use this recipe all that frequently.
May 13th, 2013
That's the term that Fred Ehrsam, founder of Bitcoin startup Coinbase, used to describe the current state of play in the Bitcoin ecosystem.
It's an interesting term, one that a) makes me uncomfortable as an investor and b) I'm not sure totally applies to a marketplace that is all about decentralization and openness. First of all, it's a real estate term, obviously. It applies to a finite, physical resource. As the saying goes, "They're not making more land."
When and where do land grabs happen? Shifts in population, transportation, and economic opportunity produce land grabs. Settlers in the Western United States in the 1800's participated in land grabs. The more real estate you could secure, the better off you were--sort of. Technically, there's only a finite amount of land in Wyoming, but there are so few people there, it's priced as if it was pretty abundant. You could claim a whole bunch of land. However, the land itself had more value in terms of what it enabled you to do rather than having some inherent transactional value in a marketplace--because it was so abundant. Even today, land in the middle of the country is still pretty much dirt cheap--but if you decided to be a rancher on your land, you could probably scratch out a living. Contrast that with Williamsburg in Brooklyn eight or ten years ago. Anything you bought could be flipped now for multiples of what you paid for it--regardless of whether or not you developed it. That's because there's a finite supply of land within a certain amount of subway minutes from Manhattan. There's only N number of plots that are walking distance to the Bedford stop on the L. Increased demand, finite supply, price goes up.
Is there a North Brooklyn real estate bubble? It's entirely possible. We've certainly witnessed recent real estate bubbles before--but they tend to be more pronounced in places like Nevada and Florida where there seems to be tons of land AND tons of excitement about that land. Excitement is overestimated, and development outstrips demand. Lot's of people build, but there's lots—too much—land to build on. Poof, bubble.
My biggest issue with Bitcoin is that the decentralized nature of the system, while potentially promising lots of opportunity to create value for people, may look more like the Midwest than Brooklyn. The actual supply of Bitcoin is somewhat capped, but that may mean that you'd rather be a currency investor than a service business around Bitcoin--because access is going to be open, distributed, and trend towards as free as possible. It's the kind of market where the second you start making a lot of money by being a provider of services, someone's going to come along, copy it, and give it away for free. Why wouldn't all of the Bitcoin supporters make currency conversion, fraud protection, and trasaction processing of various types free for all, to encourage use of the system?
In a Bitcoin world, you'll never be the only provider of something, because that only tends to happen in centralized, regulated environments. Take the internet domain registries. If anyone could sell any names, there wouldn't be as much of a profit to be made in the business as there is now. To me, the magic and promise of Bitcoin is that the friction in the financial transaction system (and hence the profits to be extracted--taken out of the system), will move to zero using technology.
E-mail might be a good example to think about. It's an open, distributed architecture that anyone can jump onto. It's about as democratized as you get. If you add up the sum total of all of the enterprise value created by e-mail related companies, the bulk of it didn't happen until almost 20 years after the first e-mails were sent. Companies like Lotus, or the spam blockers, virus checkers, bulk senders, authentication providers, marketers etc made their money quite a long time after the medium was invented.
On the other hand, are there benefits to being the first investors in Bitcoin related companies? I think there are, if you're a bigger, established fund, with long term minded LPs whose coin you can educate yourself on. By being early to a space, you start building the earliest network of thought leaders in that space. You gain a reputation and, most importantly, you learn. There have been studies done on venture capital returns that state that being first to market for an investor isn't necessarily a good bet with those early companies, but that it provides you with the opportunity to invest in better companies in that market later on. Your first investments in an industry tank, but your performance in that space overall is better over time.
I think the key is understanding which of these markets are worth being early to. There was a time when we thought virtual worlds were going to be that kind of game changing space--where everyone would have an avatar and we'd stop traveling around by plane. That didn't quite happen.
Nanotechnology was another space that investors piled into that was supposed to change the world, but didn't live up to it's promise.
You might even say the same thing for social. What's the sum total of all of the enterprise value that has been created around social, compared to the money that went into it from investors? How much of that value is concentrated in Facebook and LinkedIn? Social changed everything, but few companies actually made money off it and exited by being solely about social.
I like the idea of having a currency that doesn't get manipulated by big banks and political types, but I think I'll always wrap a $20 bill around my Metro Card and my credit card if I go out for a run, just in case. As a consumer, I like knowing that the FDIC insures the cash in my bank and that I'm protected against identify theft with my credit card. Call me old fashioned.
Does that mean I'll likely miss out on the next few years of Bitcoin related investing? Perhaps, but Google wasn't the first search engine and Facebook wasn't the first social network. History has shown that it's ok to wait until the next card gets turned over until you have a more stable environment to root in.
|"If I can just stick my nose out far enough, I'll definitely score some pets."|
I will admit that with his new pen, I do miss seeing the above.