My Initial Foray Into Selling Information

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My first information product that is actually for sale online can be found at MyMovetoJamaica.com.

The package of 2 e-books, a discussion forum and a video album was put together to help expats coming to Jamaica, and is currently being sold through June 19th at the above site.

I’ll admit to it being more than a little exciting, especially as all I have done before this is to write and give away free e-books. In fact, I am sure that the number of words I have given away for free outnumbers the words I have sold by a factor of at least 100 to 1!

Not that I regret this choice I made. Far from it. I wouldn’t change a thing if given the chance to repeat it all.

In fact, I believe that the feedback has helped me improve my writing immensely, and the fact that what I write does seem to get read teaches me every couple days or so how to write so that people will read. It makes me think that I am glad I have written blogs for three years before selling an article — paying my dues, so to speak.

Busy Doing Everything Else

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It’s been ages since I have posted up on this blog, and it’s not because I have stopped writing.

It’s just that I have been developing other things of interest, namely:

  • A few new e-books for a new expat transition business that my wife and I are starting (see http://transitionsunshine.info for details.) I learned how to create a wordpress blog from scratch in the process
  • New posts for my a 12 week time management e-course that I am currently trialling with a handful of users (testers). It’s called MyTimeDesign and will be launched soon
  • New content for my time management blog: http://2time-sys.com
  • a bit of content for Moving Back to Jamaica: http://francismove.blogspot.com

Also, I have been planning to move out of blogger and onto WordPress (finally.) This is a year of big moves, as I just moved my website to a new server, and it seems to be working. The learning curve for all these activites has been rather steep, and very IT-intensive.

This is where my engineering background has proven useful. While I have not forgotten how to program, I only “discovered” the php language the other day, so keeping up has been tricky.

At the same time, I have been making a nice long list of the items that I want to write about, but most of them will come when I have moved the blog over to WordPress.

Stay tuned…

TextAloud

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I have found something good!

As an increasingly frequent writer, my concern about putting out well written material has given me pause for thought. Some recently read, self-published books that I found to be horrific literary adventures, have only added to my concern. Given that I write a blog, I can’t very well blame my editor, publisher or proof-reader.

I imagine that I could blame my wife (my unpaid editor)… but doing so would only confirm suspicions that my jackass writings are indeed written by… a jackass.

Well, the good thing I have found will at least let people know that I can, more frequently than not, put together the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The tool is called TextAloud, and it simply converts written words into words spoken aloud by my computer.

How has this helped?

In the course of my recent writing, I found that the very best way to edit my own writing was to read it out aloud to “hear” how it sounds to the ear. An even better technique was ask my wife to read it.

Both methods, but especially the first, were kinda goofy. I seemed quite capable, with enough effort, to overlook crappy spelling and turn paragraphs of garbage into prose worthy of Rex Nettleford.

Plus, for some strange reason, she tired of it (calling her a monkey once didn’t help.)

Now, I have “Anne.” She has a mid-West U.S. accent that sounds bizarre when reading bad writing. My bad writing.

When I get tired of her, there is “David,” who sounds a bit Southern U.S.

I can purchase others, and may spring for an English voice that may help my writing sound even better!

Of, course, that is not the point. The point here is that Anne and David help me to write with more fluency, greater cohesion, and with a rhythm that is pleasing to the ear. The fact that I can achieve all this with such a simple tool is something good, that might help this jackass get his points across.

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Feedblitz to your inbox

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I recently added a new feature to this blog: the ability to receive an email with the latest entry from this blog. The feature is free, and is designed by Feedblitz.

I rarely post more than a few times per week, so emails would come at most 3-4 times per week.

It provides a level of convenience that I find quite useful, and the output is also very well designed.

To add your name to the list of subscribers, fill in your email address in the form at right.

Doing Business with Strangers — Networking 4.0

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A couple of days ago I met a friend, colleague and business partner of mine who lives in Trinidad. We spent all of an hour together. Yet, this was only the second time we have ever met in person.

The Internet has further opened up the possibility of doing business with people that we hardly know, and this is not limited to performing simple transactions. What enables this deeper level of commerce and cooperation is not how well we know other people from first-hand or second-hand sources, but how well we can get to know them from the different sources that exist in cyberspace.

Knowing someone from their Internet “reputation” is very different than knowing that they have certain qualifications or experiences, or hold one position or another.

I am listening to a brilliant, not-so-new
audiobook by Seth Godin called “All Marketers are Liars.” In the book he talks about a company being authentic, and allowing its true character to come across in all communication with the public. An example: some CEO’s have blogs, and these blogs give very powerful insight into the true nature of the company, especially when the blog has an authentic voice. Not surprisingly, those bloggers that insist on trying to “put their best face forward,” are the ones that appear to be the most “faked”. When the blogger is a CEO it puts the entire company at even greater risk.

Successful networking in the Internet age has a great deal to do with having the courage to be authentic in cyberspace, and taking a lead in defining oneself.

The truth is, that if we do not take the lead to do it ourselves, then someone else will do it for us by mentioning that they met or know us, and what their impressions are/were. In other words, we run the risk of being defined by others to our detriment.

Most of the defining will be done by strangers.

Can these strangers be trusted?

Whether or not they can be, they must be interacted with, if we as professionals are at all interested in creating a personal brand that people can trust. If we think about the interactions we are interested in having, we can drive them towards certain outcomes that we have an interest in.

For example, a professional project manager who has an interest in the management of concerts could express it in the formation of a public brand that demonstrates their passion, and expertise. Over time, they could simply corner the market on this brand by generating an Internet and therefore public presence.

What allows this to happen is a skill at interacting with strangers in cyberspace.

This is a skill that I cannot quite name, but it has to do with learning how to make and trust Internet acquaintances, both professional and personal. Kids in their teens get this concept readily — they live in a networked world in which friends are thousands of miles away in other countries, and they communicate with them via IM, email and text messages in real time.

In our day we had something called a Pen Pal — a stranger we got to know by exchanging mail over long distances, and long time periods.

Today, the intervals have been shrunk dramatically.

We have blogs like this one, in which, with the click of a Publish button, anyone in the world can have instant access to any of the thoughts that I wish to share.

The difference is staggering, and the trust required to operate in this new world is quite different from what it ever used to be. Instead of trusting my Pen Pal, I now need to trust millions of people who interact in cyberspace.

The upside of all this instant exposure is that cyberspace can be used to amplify authentic messages — warts and all.

For the professional, deciding to stay away from it all is just not an option. Having no presence on the Internet is a little like not having a telephone — it communicates something about our level of seriousness and professionalism regardless of whether or not that is the message that we wants to send.

The best option, as always, is to be proactive, and to master the medium. There are many ways to get our message and our brand out, but it is up to us to use them to our benefit.

Introducing HRMAJ Networking Weekly

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Starting today, in a short speech that I will be delivering to a monthly HRMAJ meeting, I will kick off an interactive, online series on the topic of networking in a Caribbean context. It will culminate in the final edition of the series on November 16th which is the final day of the 2006 HRMAJ conference.

The arrival of the internet and computing technology has fundamentally changed the way in which networking is done, and the use of this blog as an interactive medium is one way in which I hope to introduce conference participants to my ideas on this topic.

Furthermore, it will present an opportunity to answer questions from those involved in the field on the topic, whether they plan to be at the conference or not.

For more information on the conference: see the HRMAJ website.

Weinberg on Writing

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Several years ago, I picked up my first Gerald Weinberg book — The Secrets of Consulting.

He is a computer programmer who, in that book, stunned me with the unique insights he had about the consulting profession. It was one of the seminal consulting books I read at the time when I was learning that there was more to the craft than just knowing a bunch of good stuff and being really smart.

When I read that he had a new book called Weinberg on Writing, I jumped at the chance to read the book, thinking that it would once again marry some lines of thinking that normally do not go together.

I was right on this one. His book is like nothing I have ever read, and now that I am thinking of myself as a writer (of more than lots of emails) his advice on how to organize ideas and writing energy explained a lot to me about my own writing behaviour, why I like to blog and how to organize ideas by following ones own level of inner energy.

The Fieldstone Method is one that he has invented and named. It has to do with gathering ideas and points of inspiration for writing, in the same way that someone who builds fences from stones found in a field (i.e. fieldstones) must find just the right stones to build the structures they want. Here in Jamaica, we have them all over the country, and we like to build retaining walls and gully walls from football size limestones (and the aid of a lot of cement.)

The book, which is all about building bits and pieces of ideas into a coherent whole gives me some comfort. Even though I am not using Mrs. Richardson’s format from my days at St. Andrew Prep School, I have still been following a relatively coherent method that I am going to improve and enhance using the ideas from this book.

In short — I recommend it!

The Dual Income Profession

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In 1991 I was exposed to a fact that I have never forgotten.

In a training course that I have long forgotten, I learned that the profession I was about to enter full-time (I was an AT&T employee back then) had a bi-modal distribution of incomes.

What it simply meant was that consultants fell into two distinct groups — one group that earned a lot (median US$75k at the time) and another that earned much less (median $US45k.) The study went on to describe the difference in marketing techniques between the two groups.

Given that this was a time before the internet truly existed as we know it, the marketing techniques did not include an on-line component. However, the difference basically came down to consultants that used content-based approaches that reached a mass audience, and those that did not.

“Content-based approaches?”

Basically, it was saying that the more successful group relied on speeches, public seminars and other relatively high-risk, high-reward approaches to get the messages in which they believed, into the listening ears of large groups. They also wrote books, articles and other pieces for publication, once again for mass consumption.

The less successful group, from the research, relied on cold calls, free workshops, letters and paid advertisement to try to reach a relatively small number of prospects with little more than a shout of “here I am!” These were all very low risk techniques.

It is not too hard to extrapolate these findings to the world we live in 15 years later. Now, there are just more tools to use, most of them involving new technology.

However, the basics are the same — the market rewards those in the profession who develop a unique point of view, and then are willing to develop the speaking and writing skills to get their point of view in front of audiences in high-risk, high reward ways.

Nowadays, we have more avenues available to us through internet technology.

  • A book can be self-published for US$2000.
  • A website can be launched for free.
  • A blog can be created and updated for free.
  • Digital videography and pictures can be created for US$200 or less.
  • Newsgroups can be created to address any subject matter of interest.
  • Voice recordings can be made available to the world at the flick of a few buttons.

A consultant said to me a few weeks ago that he basically “did not believe in the internet” and thought that clients had no interest in viewing web pages. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I have not had a paper brochure for more than eight years or so, and do not plan to ever have one again, and that no-one had ever had a problem visiting my site to download over 30 articles or 40 blogs with content that spoke to them in ways that a brochure could not.

The truth is, it is not the website that makes the difference, but just as it was in 1991 — what separates the higher earners from the others is courage. In 1991 and also in 2006 it is the high-risk, long-term payoff activities that have the best return. Some examples include:

  • Speaking in front of large groups and risking rejection.
  • Writing and risking never seeing it published.
  • Putting ideas out in public, risking that others will take them and make better use of them.
  • Investing in a website and risking it being ignored.

I have taken the cowardly route in all of these at different times, and have to work hard to keep on taking risks. And then I come back to that old article, and looking at that bimodal distribution gives me faith that it all might work out one day if I continually give up any fear of looking foolish!

P.S. I recommend the book “Creating a Unique Brand in the Consulting Profession” by Allan Weiss as the best and only book of its kind that I have ever read, and even though it was written a mere five years ago, it is already stale (no mention of blogging, which was in its infancy).

Why EVERY Serious Business Should Blog

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Now this is just an excellent article written by Robert Scoble on Tom Peter’s website that I think every business owner should read.

The only objection I can think of that a Caribbean executive might have to blogging is that relatively few people in our region are computer-literate. My response is, “if you build it, one day they will come.” In other words, it is only a matter of time until people become computer-literate, and start reading blogs, and by the time a company decides to jump in, the space will be too crowded to be heard.

Also, it is a good idea to create an online dialogue about your company, before someone who could very well be disgruntled, creates one about you… As the article explains, what blogging is doing is taking underground conversations and making them visible. It is a good idea to assume that whatever people are whispering about you behind closed doors, will one day turn up as part of an online conversation (better give up that mistress now!).

Plus, there is a tremendous learning curve to blogging. Only a year ago, I was still puzzled at what the term really meant. Beating the learning curve is just a good idea!

Let me know if you find the article useful, and if you are thinking of blogging also.

He Who Writes, Defines

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I just mentioned to my wife who is trying to catch up on some Carnival Monday night sleep how much someone like a blogger is able to define memories.

As I was writing a short blog about Carnival Monday in Tribe, struck me that if no-one on the planet chooses to write a public account of the event, then I will have, for all intents and purposes, defined it by blogging about it.

Whoaaaa.

It makes my blogging (which I’m convinced I’m mad to do, as hardly any comments are made to it) take on an additional dimension.

Also, ongoing blogging allows me to define myself (for better or worse) in the minds of whoever spends time reading this, and I’m becoming more and more aware of that, after being quite embarrassed to meet someone who has read what I’ve written. The fact that I met my wife on match.com has come up a few times, for example, to my …. amazement(?) I don’t think about it, and I think I mentioned it in passing.

So, it’s a little strange that for some people I am the “match.com guy” when that is something I hardly intended.