Why I Use Gillette

I remember two pieces of mail that came when I turned 18. The first was a letter from the government telling me that I could go to jail if I did not register for the draft. The second was a razor from Gillette. On one of my recent birthdays I received another one from them.

I understand full well that Gillette sending the razor was not an act of sheer benevolence and birthday well-wishery. They obviously make their money with the expensive replacement heads. Nonetheless, I have to shave. So I use Gillette because they did for for me than any of the other guys did. I, like most people, love free. Even when it's just a hook.

Lessons Learned From Qlique

In June 2007, I was recruited to be a "campus president" for Qlique, an up-and-coming social network that sought to compete with the likes of Facebook and MySpace. As campus president, I was in charge of spreading the word about Qlique to all of BYU. I was supposed to recruit as many campus managers as possible. The managers would then get their friends to try using Qlique. For each person at BYU who logged into Qlique one time, I would earn a dollar. Qlique hired campus presidents all over the country in hopes to spark a nationwide movement rooted in America's colleges.

So did it work?

Tell me, have you ever heard of Qlique?

For me, it wasn't too bad. I ended up making about $400 for 20 hours worth of work. But Qlique failed miserably. As I've thought about what caused it to flop, I came up with few reasons.

1. Qlique's design was poor and it was difficult to use. This goes without much saying, if people can't figure out your product, sayonara.

2. Qlique was designed to be the new Facebook, but Facebook wasn't broken. Many examples in business tell us that you don't necessarily have to be the first in the market to be a successful brand. But if you're going to be a late-comer, you better be sure that you are filling a gap that the other guy hasn't covered.

3. Qlique's launch was a disaster. From their horrendous slogan "Where the Pros Crastinate" to the fact that my marketing materials didn't arrive until after the launch, this project was doomed from the get go. Seeing Qlique fizzle the way it did taught me that using a pilot program is essential when considering a nationwide launch. Try it in California first, and see if it takes. Or Ohio. Or Arkansas. It doesn't matter where, just start in one or a few places and then expand as necessary.

7 Habits on Treating Employees Right

"You can buy a person's hand, but you can't buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is. You can buy his back, but you can't buy his brain. That's where his creativity is, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness." - page 58

I see a backlash brewing for a lot of companies that have been stingy with their workforce during the current recession. As the job market strengthens and people start finding outside opportunities, I wouldn't be surprised to see some groveling and bribery on the part of employers in attempt to retain the people who only stuck around because there was nowhere else to go.

Online Job Searching (part 2)

Here are a few common phrases from online job postings, along with what the phrases really mean:

"entrepreneurial minded" or "self motivated" = you're on your own

"unlimited earning potential" = you'll be on commission and will probably earn less than fixed salary

"outgoing personality" or "great people skills" = cold, hard sales

"fast-paced job" = stressful

"no experience necessary" = you can get a better job than this

"independent position" or "1099" = you'll pay double tax next spring

"possible management opportunities" = we'll probably ask you to recruit your friends

Online Job Searching (part 1)

There seems to be three main types of job listings online:

1. The amazing job... that is a scam.
"Make $100,000 a year working part-time!"

2. The good job... that you're not qualified for.
"Great pay, great benefits. 6 to 8 years of industry-specific experience required"

3. The crappy job... that you really don't want.
"How would you like to make $8-$10 an hour???"

Loss Averted

One of the principles that I keep running across in several of the books I've read lately (The Paradox of Choice, Stumbling on Happiness, and Nudge) is that of loss aversion. Basically put, this is the idea that most people strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains. Additionally, losing seems to be a lot more bitter than winning is sweet.

This is why I try not to put to much emotion into the outcome of sporting events. In NCAA football, winning every game is often necessary in order to earn a BCS berth. It's kind of sad (and a little funny) to see the faces of the fans of a team that just lost their first game of the season after winning 8 or 9 or 10 straight. Clearly that loss causes more hurt than any of the wins caused joy.

On a somewhat related note, Stumbling on Happiness describes studies that show most people are not significantly happier or sadder three months after a major event in their lives (winning the lottery, death of a loved one, getting dumped etc.) Anter one year, almost nobody maintains significant change over their pre-event state.

I think all of this serves to remind us that when life stings us, keeping perspective can surely help us press on. Within a few months, chances are that everything will be back to normal.

Just Solve

I just spent 40 minutes on the phone with an Orbitz rep trying to book a flight. Their site wasn't accepting my credit cards. The very kind rep immediately ignored my concern and began to try and book the flight for me. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that she could not get the city (Seattle?), flight, or even month right.

After trying to be patient for fifteen minutes, I started to become a bit more coarse saying that I really just wanted to know why my order wasn't going through. The rep then put me on hold for 10 minutes and came back and told me that I was using a debit card.

Um. No.

I'm on the other side 40 hours a week. Lately at work, we are becoming more and more sales-focused. We're constantly being pressed to get people to open up new accounts and to bring in more money. Someone calls in for their balance? Ask them about their 401k. Password reset? Tell them to send a wire. Of course our offer stats are recorded, so that leads to weak attempts and awkward conversations on almost every call.

The point is, customer service should be about fixing what's broken. Customers will be most satisfied if you just solve their problem. Period. Not find a substitute. Not solve and then solicit. Just solve.

B-Schools Should Know Better

Having elected to make my GMAT score public to graduate schools, I have lately been receiving many solicitations for MBA programs across the country. I have been heavily recruited by a number of programs, from Top 20 schools like MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Virginia, to relatively obscure schools like the University of Denver and Webster University. What surprises me about nearly everybody is the poor job they do in trying to recruit me to their institution.

One would think that with even a little bit of the business savvy these schools purport to be able to teach me, these schools would be able to come up with something better than send me endless spam and junk mail. If I really am a priority candidate, why not call me to speak with me in person rather than sending out a blanket message that may as well be for replica watches or fake prescription drugs?

One exception to all of this has been Notre Dame. They sent me a substantial packet with a pamphlet about the school. In addition was a letter expressing interest in me. What was different about this letter, however, was that it was actually signed with a real pen, and the recruiter had written me a personalized message. Though it was a small gesture that probably took 15 seconds, I was impressed.

As I looked into the program, I decided that I would actually apply. Upon noticing that their application fee ($112) was twice that of most schools, I called them to see if they would waive it for me. If they really wanted me, I reasoned, they should waive it. They did. Again, I was impressed.

Though I still have several other schools where I am applying and have not made up my mind, I learned that it's not hard to attract someone's attention. You have to choose your targets carefully and personalize your message to them instead of just shotgunning out postcards and spam to thousands of people and hope that someone will bite.

Pampered or Hampered?

I little over a year and a half ago, I posted some thoughts on giving.

One of my biggest struggles when it comes to money is finding the right middle ground between spending on myself to have nice things and giving to others who are less fortunate than me. While I haven't settled on the proper balance, and will probably always be tempted to err on the side of selfish, I've tried to make the following quote my guideline.

"I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them."
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Nike Knows

Back in 2001, I attended Business Week, a conference designed to give high school seniors the chance to get together and learn about, well, business. We were divided into "companies" and given several tasks throughout the week. One of our projects was to come up with an original product, and then develop a marketing campaign for it.

My group came up with Tracks, shoes that stored music on them that could be played while you wore them. We thought that had created something amazing. From the concept (remember this was before iPods), to the name's double meaning, to the clever shoe print for a logo, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done. In a competition with the eleven other companies, we placed in the top three.

The point of this story is that I have since learned that in business, ideas are easy. If you don't believe me, take a look at 999 right here. I think that where 99.9% percent of us (including myself so far) fall short is in the implementation. If you've really got a killer idea, you've got to cross the barrier that separates imagination from action.

Looking Big

In The God's Must be Crazy (I can't remember if it's 1 or 2), a young boy comes across a wild animal in the African desert. To make himself look bigger, the boy takes a branch and lifts it over his head, so as to intimidate the predator and prevent him from attacking.

Every organization starts small. But just because you are small doesn't mean you have to act small. A professional looking web site, excellent customer service, and well-trained employees (even if the only employee is yourself) can go far in creating the illusion of size and sustainability.

Here's one example as far as web site goes. Prampram Worldwide Education is a small non-profit organization created to sponsor the education of children in Ghana. Despite Prampram's small size, its web site is done in a way that it surely portrays an image of success. With this web site, Prampram can leverage "looking big" to help itself fill out and become as large as it already appears.


Today I came across this story about Jason Sadler, a guy who will wear your company's shirt for a day and also blog, Facebook, and YouTube, the heck out of it. For the company, it's cheap advertising. For Sadler, it is a great job that earns him a decent penny and lets him be his own boss.

For me, this idea goes into the "why didn't I think of this" category. This is a great example of how creativity is more important than $$$ when it comes to marketing.

Don't Mourn Change

In Cars, one car tells another car how her town, Radiator Springs, became desolate and abandoned. She explains that a new freeway bypassed her town "just to save ten minutes of driving", as if this was some sort of travesty. This is amusing to me because the car she is telling is Lightning McQueen, a racecar who loves driving fast.

The town in this movie, Radiator Springs, was based on the real-life story of Seligman, Arizona. Built on historic Route 66, Seligman shriveled to almost nothing after the completion of Interstate 40.

One Seligman resident, Angel Delgadillo, fought to preserve his town's legacy and livelihood. A barber by trade, Angel created the first Historic Route 66 Association. Through Angel's efforts, Seligman has become an icon of Route 66 history and also a popular attraction for tourists traveling between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. A few years ago I became friends with Angel, visiting his barbershop-turned-giftshop two or three times a week while working as a tour guide. Meeting Angel and hearing his story was inspiring for me (You can watch an interview with Angel in the special features of the Cars DVD).

It is often said that the only constant in life is change. The key to making it through is not to gripe and mope if you get left in the dust. Changing jobs, acquiring new skills, and making an effort to adapt will only help you in the long run. It surely worked for Angel.


People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.

- Andrew Carnegie

I think if I were hiring someone, motivation would definitely be one of the top three things I would look for.

The Value of Weak Ties

I've heard people complain that having hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends is nothing more than a waste of time and that it just promotes a false sense of popularity. While this may be true if you are adding people who you don't know, maintaining contact with acquaintances you are not particularly close to can be extremely helpful when it comes to networking.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the benefit of weak ties - connections you have that are not particularly tight, but that provide good opportunites. Of course we are more comfortable interacting with our family and strong friends than with our acquaintances. The problem with that is that the social circles of our strong ties overlap our own too much. The great thing about keeping loose contact with a wide variety of people is that your weak ties operate in a completely different circle. And that can come in handy.

Without Facebook, I would probably try to keep in contact with less than 50 of the people who are currently listed as my friends. With Facebook, I'm able to keep weak contact with over 600 people, at least two-thirds of whom I would be completely comfortable asking for help if I were trying to find a job.

Overcoming Criticism

When you've got a great idea that you think has the ability to change the world, it is understandable that not everyone will share your zeal. What is always a bit shocking, though, is to see people go out of their way to criticize you and tell you that it your idea could never work.

A good example of this happened with Muhammad Yunus. Wanting to improve the living conditions of those around him in his native Bangladesh, Yunus started the Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution that offers small loans to entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses. Although Grameen has helped many people rise from poverty and Yunus awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the path to success was not easy.

In Banker to the Poor, Yunus details the fierce opposition that he encountered while he was first starting. Commenting on this opposition, he writes,

"Things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems."

To Yunus, the answer to poverty was simple. Fortunately for millions of people across the world, Yunus perservered through the arrogance of others and Grameen became what it is today.

Inspired by Grameen Bank, Anasazi Foundation, and my passion for travel, I delevoped an idea that I thought could have a similar effect. When I was in college, I begin writing a business plan for a company that would take at-risk teenagers to third world countries to provide service. My idea was that seeing poverty first hand would give the kids a wake up call, and that doing service would help them become better people. In addition, citizens of these countries would benefit by the services provided (building schools, providing better access to water, etc.).

In an effort to promote my idea, I decided to apply for an ORCA grant through BYU. To do so, I had to have a professor to sponsor me. I met with three or four professors from the business school, and each one told me how ridiculous the idea was and how it would never work because of the liability involved.

I was eventually referred to another professor who, I was told, would definitely be interested. I met with him, only to find out that he currently had a group of four graduate students who were writing a business plan for the exact same idea. At first I was thrilled: I thought that he would sponsor me for sure. But he went on to tell me that he saw me as competition and would not help me at all.

Disappointed, I gave up my attempts to find a sponsor and my interest in pursuing the business faded. Two months later, this professor's team took second place at that year's competition for social entrepreneurship, winning thousands of dollars for their business.

While my story isn't the best example of following through to the end, I did learn that criticism is inevitable, even if what you're doing can change the world for good. The key is to realize that not everyone will share your enthusiasm for your ideas. Knowing this ahead of time may spare you disappointment and help you press forward despite your critics.

Being Remarkable

Enka is a traditional ballad-style genre of Japanese music. Historically, enka has only been popular among older generations. Over the last few years, however, the popularity of enka among younger Japanese has increased. A large part of this increase can be attributed to Jero, the first black enka singer in Japanese music history. To add to his uniqueness, Jero has insisted on maintaining his hip-hop image rather than wearing the traditional kimono during performances, and this has added greatly to his appeal.

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin argues that in order to be noticed, you must create something remarkable. That is to say, you need to create something worth making a remark about. He gives the example of driving down a country road and seeing cows out the car window. After seeing a few cows, seeing another one is boring. But if you saw a purple cow, now that would be remarkable.

Jero could have tried being a rapper in the United States. He looks like a rapper. He probably would have been decent at it. But by doing so, he would've gotten lost among everyone else who looks just like him. Instead, he chose to stand out. Instead, he chose to be remarkable.


Sometimes the success of an idea can be determined simply by its presentation. When the owner of mycarnivore.com started out, sales of his venus flytraps were small. Only after re-branding the plants as fast-snapping, fly-chomping monsters did the concept become a hit. The beautiful thing about My Carnivore's business model is that no competitor can replicate it without being a complete rip-off. To me, this is a great example of using creativity to turn a simple business into a unique story that engages people.

Fads vs. Trends

A lot of people use the words trend and fad interchangeably. In reality, the two are not the same. A fad is a temporary surge in popularity of a fashion, style, or use of a product. A trend on the other hand, is a general course of prevailing tendency. My favorite definition of the word comes from trendwatching.com:

" A [trend is a] manifestation of something that has unlocked or newly serviced an existing (and hardly ever changing) consumer need, desire, want, or value."

Facebook isn't going away because it was the first vehicle that easily allowed us to keep track of old friends. It unlocked the need to communicate in an addictive, new way.

Pogs, skinny jeans, and bug-eyed sunglasses never did that.

Knowing the difference between a trend and a fad might help you avoid ending up like Fountain Fresh.

Welcome to trendstack.com!

Trendstack.com is designed to share the most intriguing and effective trends and practices emerging from the world of business. With a goal of chasing creativity, this blog will highlight well-known concepts as well and introduce new thoughts regarding entrepreneurship, marketing, consumer behavior, persuasion, and brand management, to name a few. Check back frequently and feel free to add to the stack with your own perspectives and ideas!