Blog - thoughts and ramblings...

Pretty Good Day at the GKCC Mini-Expo...

I'm on the board for the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce and, more specifically, on the Business-2-Business Committee. Our committee was charged with starting mini-expos, half day events that focus on a particular business topic. This past month we did Managing Your Business to Success. The sessions were informative (though not well attended due to some traffic issues we're seeing in Keene these days...no, I'm serious. Traffic issues essentially shut down little old Keene for the day).

I moderated a panel on customer service. The panel included Gary Cronin of PSNH, Ted McGreer of Ted's Shoe & Sport and Rob Phillips of Computer Solutions of Keene. All three companies are recognized by people at the Chamber as great examples of customer focused companies. My take aways from that session (which I really value):

  • Gary Cronin on one thing he believes is critical to great customer service: Honor your commitments. If you tell a customer that you're going to hit a certain deadline, hit it! If you can't, communicate that early.
  • Ted McGreer - TLC = Think Like the Customer. At Ted's, they have monthy meetings and talk about great customer service experiences either in the store or in the community. Great stuff.
  • Rob Phillips - You have to be honest with customers and sometimes you have to part ways if the fit isn't right with the customer.

We also had a booth at the show. The picture is of Kristen Goodenough, our Account Manager. She did a great job at the booth, making connections with all the other vendors (she even won a contest) as well as attendees. (Meanwhile I was thumb wrestling with Jay Pettapiece of Vision Financial in a time management session).

We're on the air....

Well...it's been many month (years?) in the making but we've finally posted the new site live. It's the age old cobblers children scenario. What made matters worse was that our previous site was downright embarrassing. The new site was made possible through many of our team players...

  • Billy/Chloe on design
  • Andy/Neil on drupal theme building
  • Chaz on CSS re-work (based on my CSS brain cramps)
  • Neil on Flash home page development

However, what really got this thing off the ground was Colin and crew at Lucidus giving me a hard time for months on end that we needed to get this up. We're pretty proud of it but, more importantly, it provides a growth place moving forward. Simply put, Drupal is the most amazing content management system / application framework I have ever worked with. (Thankfully, our PHP developers agree).
Finally, this site and Lucidus' rise to be a "real" company over the past two years was made possible by our whole team, both past and present. This has been a tremendous time in my life and for the company. I could not be more thankful for all the fun that I've had. This website is another stepping stone on our way to becoming the model Internet solutions provider. To say this is only the beginning would not do justice to the hard work people have put in for four and a half years. However, this is an amazing moment in time that should be marked.

How does a city grow entrepreneurs?

I've been pretty interested in the idea of "what make an entrepreneur" for a while (for obvious reasons) and, more recently, with how we can grow Keene to be a sort of e-Keene. Silicon Valley and the eCoast (Portsmouth, NH) are fascinating because they not only are hotbeds for young, innovative thought leaders but because they are known for it. Keene could be the most innovative place on the planet and it wouldn't matter without some recognition from the rest of the world. I found a report through the Small Business Administration that specifically studied the entrepreneurial effect on Silicon Valley.

VOIP for Prime Time?

I'm not sure if all of our clients can tell but we've been leveraging VOIP for going on two years now. We've traditionally used Vonage for each individual phone line and Accessline for our auto-attendant. A couple of things we've learned through the process: Auto-Attendants don't project that you're super professional...they say you don't care about the customer. - We found out the hard way through people getting lost in our phone system that auto-attendants are not as user friendly and speedy as we would like. We actually share a receptionist (Lucie) with our partner, Communicators Group. We had a Vonage line installed at their office in Brattleboro that receives all of our incoming calls. She can transfer the calls to any phone in North America at no additional cost. Touchtone doesn't always work on teleconference lines - For some reason, when we try to use the free (maybe that's the issue) teleconference number that comes with Adobe Acrobat Connect, it won't recognize the access code we enter more than half the time when we use a vonage line. We're a little nervous about Vonage - Given the recent patent stirrings of vonage, we've have some concerns about where they're heading. Our main line is "hosted" by Accessline so we can pretty much change at will for our desk lines but it still gives us pause. We're actually considering Skype as a replacement. The chat tool in and of itself is pretty helpful (particularly for group chat) and the video conferencing works nicely. Vonage SoftPhone is AWFUL - Particularly on the Mac, where it crashes pretty much every time we use it, the softphone is terrible. We basically abandoned any concept of using it. The only thing we've been successful with really is the devices that let you connect a standard phone in. The wireless phone was pretty awful as well. (Do you think we try a lot of different stuff)? Virtual numbers save customers long distance - One of the key benefits of having VOIP has been the ability to get virtual numbers for our remote people. Danielle, our developer in Miami, has a Keene based phone number that makes it feel like she is closer than ever. I think our biggest challenge is that hodge podge nature of the phone system. The vonage system is really not set up for multiple lines. We would continue forever if they had a well integrated business system. All this being said, it's been pretty good and a heck of a lot more economical than 12 phone lines through Verizon. I'll report back on the Skype testing we're doing now but they seem to have much higher quality in the call. Particularly cool is the Polycom Communicator which plugs in via USB.

"Meet the Robinsons" & Building dreams...

So we just got home from seeing the "Meet the Robinsons" at our local cinema; great film. It was a throwback to the imagination of Walt Disney and brought the sense of wonderment and dreaming that Disney was once known for. That seems to get lost in the world where dollars and cents (sense?) seem to rule the day. But for the hour and a half that we were in the theater time was suspended and I really enjoyed seeing the movie as a kid.

It reminded me of why I love my job. We get to build dreams. But those dreams aren't limited to our own. We get to share in the dreams of others. Whether it's SimpleTuition or Elective Medical Lending or the next tech startup out of the shoot (stay tuned), we get to build something from a thought in someone's head. How great a job is that? When SimpleTuition came in the door, they had literally powerpoints and cut up pieces of paper and, together, we crafted their dream, made it reality and they got funded as a result of it (and all the prep work they did).

We get to be creative; we get to show our talents; we get psyched about the ideas and dreams of our clients. Even when it's just a site redesign, that may be the one non-paperwork, truly creative endeavor our client gets to do this year. They get to be in the role of creator and dreamer if only for a few months. On the other hand, we get to share a new dream every week.

What's almost unfair is that every dream we help fulfill externally helps just a little bit in building my own dream, our company. I am a blessed man.

Young Professionals Network Coming to Keene...

When my sister, Donna, was living up here, she bemoaned the fact that there was no way for local young people to find one another (short of getting into a clique). Well...that's changing here in Keene. Based on the recent popularity (and publicity) of Young Professional Networks in Concord, NH and Manchester, NH, the Keene Chamber of Commerce has decided to help a YPN get started here in Keene. I'm on the planning committee and pretty psyched. (In spite of my graying hair, I do qualify for the 21-40 age range). I'm more excited about getting the group started to raise awareness that Keene does have a thriving, er...pretty decent young professionals population. My objective has long been to grow the local technical reputation of Keene so that regional companies cease to feel they need to go to Boston for technical expertise. Potential clients are often surprised at the caliber we have here (book authors, conference speakers, etc.); giving Keene a reputation as a young, professional (and technical) city would eliminate one more objection we occasionally face from potential clients. We (Lucidus) are doing the website which will be another Drupal implementation in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...

Getting on the Lucibus...

I'm always excited to find new employee recognition ideas so I thought I would share one of the things we do here. In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, he talks about Level 5 leaders who get the right people on the bus and then figure out what seats to put them in. I really like that analogy so we talk a lot about getting on the Lucibus and finding a seat. Taking that a step further, Christine (my wife) had the idea to buy a few small metal buses and mount them to a base. We started the path of the Lucibus by giving away three of them to various people for going above and beyond the call of duty. It was then their responsibility to pass the bus along to someone else they wanted to recognize whenever they found it appropriate. What I liked about this approach is that it gets people involved in recognizing each other, building team. It emphasizes community and is a little kitsch which keeps it light.

Content Construction Kit (CCK) Pretty Impressive At First Glance...

So I finally took the time to look at the CCK module(s). I've heard a bunch about them while researching Drupal themes and modules. (My staff always cringes when they find out I'm keeping my head in geek stuff but it's pretty much part of my A.D.D. personality). It's a pretty impressive form building application that captures data in a straight forward way. It is, by far, the easiest way to build custom "nodes" for Drupal that I have found. For me, the danger was in trying to model everything on the fly as a new content type. Two things occurred to me...

  1. There are MANY entity types that are probably better off as taxonomy terms than content types complete with additional meta data. (In my situation, it had to do with creating divisions for the NHHockey.com website which is under development).
  2. I have a LOT to learn about Views as they relate to custom content types. I seem to get a bit lost in the Filters and wanting CCK to be a bit more advanced than it appears. Ideally, it would make the joins from node type to the next, i.e. Teams are connected to Leagues and Leagues are connected to Divisions (Teams -> Leagues -> Divisions). Therefore, I want to be able to list a team's Division in a view with the team. No go so far; perhaps too ambitious.

Regardless, I'm blown away by the capability that's in there. It won't suit custom modules like we do for tech startups but for simple things (e.g. game results submission for the NHHockey.com website), it's VERY impressive.

Pretty Psyched About NHHockey.com website

So I'm pretty excited about Lucidus taking over the New Hampshire Amateur Hockey Association website. It's a great opportunity to show what Drupal can do for a multi-author sports related website. At this point, we're planning to use the Aurora template with some slight modifications. The challenge is figuring out the appropriate way to post scores and standings.

Lucidus Going Green (finally)...

I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed about this but Lucidus is joining the "Green" world. I'm proud because it demonstrates that we care about the environment and what's going on in the world. I'm a little embarrassed because it took us this long to actually step up. Regardless, it's a good thing and I'm glad my wife (Director of Finance) put it forth. Some of the things we're doing include:

  • Installation of energy efficient light bulbs
  • Purchase and use of recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum
  • Powering down of non-essential computers at night. (Don't worry...our web servers will still be up. :)
  • Purchase of additional plants for the office for cleaner air
  • Specifying recycled paper products for in-office use

There are a number of other ideas out there that we haven't come up with yet...so....what thoughts do you have to help Lucidus come up with a greener outlook?

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