From Marketing to Basketball

Here’s an entrepreneur for the week. Pairing an eclectic background with smarts and sheer hard work, this Minnesota big-timer has taken some risks to move from marketing to basketball. 71 years old and still on his A game. The man is Glen Taylor, owner of MN Timberwolves and Lynx. I only knew him as the public figure in sports, but after reading Glen Taylor’s take on business, I now see he’s much more.

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Taylor grew up on a small farm and started his journey with no formal business background, like many entrepreneurs. He graduated from Mankato State with degrees in social science, math and physics. Working at a small printing and marketing firm to pay for college, he mostly did wedding invitations and collateral for brides. He bought the establishment for $2 million over a 10 year payment plan at age 21. The risk payed for itself in no time and now grosses $1 billion in sales.

But wait there’s more. He then went back to school for a business degree. Just Harvard. And even served on the Senate for 9 years? No way. Later he went on to purchase ownership of Minnesota’s WNBA and NBA basketball teams.

So how does being well-rounded and eclectic serve him well? He says he reinvests his profits back into marketing and learned to be conservative with money. He constantly takes risks and makes opportunities. And he knows how to distinguish his brand in the marketplace.

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His final word is a business tip: “In every company you have maybe five to 10 things that are really important…Figure out where you are most vulnerable. Is it your people? Is it your marketing? Is it your finance? Is it your technology? Hopefully you get at the worst and can move it up off the list. Then there will be another worst. It’s a very simple idea, but it’s been very helpful to me.”

Maybe I’ll give that a try. If you ever feel like you are too old to learn something, take a note from this guy. He never seems to stop adding to his bank of worldly knowledge, and tackles challenges head-on.

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Baking in UX











What’s with the User Experience design frenzy right now? Let’s break it down. I think of UX as the science of designing from a user’s perspective. With intention. Optimized navigation. Clarity. Thinking about what and why from beginning to end. For the client and consumer alike. Maybe you’re thinking, “Where can I find one of these UX designers?” And if so, maybe you’re in trouble. Because everyone on your team should be thinking this way from the get-go.

I just finished reading Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves. (I know, it’s about time I read this.) A few years old, but the message holds that we should not design for self-indulgence. If we bake in the marketing at the start, we’re doing everyone a favor. New toys should never overpower brand strategy.  The book talks heavily about something called “design intuition” — “a tool to translate experiences into action by marrying rational thinking with the emotional feelings that arise.” This really means using design to create conversions. “To be effective, design intuition should be rooted in reality, logic, knowledge, and experience.” Alex Bogusky and John Windsor encourage everyone to tap into their own inner intuitive designer. Integrate user experience thinking into all of your decisions by asking some questions you might feel uncomfortable with due to their subjective nature. Ex: How do you feel about using __________? What makes this small business owner frustrated about your mobile app? What is this shopper worried about clicking here? Why does the layout make people leave your homepage? Get specific.

It’s no wonder this title has emerged out of necessity, necessity for how hyper-specialized the interactive space is becoming. My question is, will this create a “That’s not my job” mentality? Crippling our common sense because we leave the UX designer to think about that? You are a consumer. You are a user. You enjoy hassle-free experiences as much as the next person. No doubt some of us are better at keeping the big picture together, but let’s all be a bit more conscientious of designing for the user. Try to bake it in from the start. Otherwise we’re getting it very wrong.

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Moneyball and Marketing

I have game-changers on the mind. “Adapt or die,” says Brad Pitt in Moneyball. Against a board room of peers, he reminds us to define our problems and objectives. If you haven’t seen it, watch this:

“We’ve got to think differently.” That line sticks.

It may be a stretch to compare advertising to baseball, but both games have been around for decades, rooted in unchanged foundation. With the elites holding the power and making the rules, everyone else follows and rarely questions. The leaders have the budgets; the underdogs cannot compete. In Moneyball, Billy Beane pioneers a new way of playing based on in-game statistics rather than player perceptions. Although unpopular, his “out-of-the-box thinking” changed the entire paradigm of sports.

Social media was and still is underestimated in the marketing sphere. CEOs are still calling facebook a waste of time. Still allowing consumer voices to go by the wayside, unengaged. After reading Brian Solis’ article titled, “2012: The Year for Digital Darwinism,” I was reminded of this Charles Darwin quote: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Adapt or die.

Solis writes that our ability to adapt lags behind advances in technology and trends. That we must incessantly re-evaluate to keep up. Pinterest is being used in some exciting ways, allowing consumers to engage with brands on a personal level. In the era of brand co-creation, it is these out-of-the box tactics catching attention. People no longer stand for interruption, but crave interaction SO we need to get creative and targeted about brand integration. In ways that the dinosaurs in advertising would never consider.

So I think it is possible to succeed with a limited budget. It just takes some Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. I might just be using “moneyball” as a verb for the next few days…

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Image by Jeff Rogers ftd. in Uppercase Magazine

Sometimes, less isn’t more. More is more.

I can appreciate minimalism for what it is: clean, simple, user-friendly design. And designers will argue that a whole lot of complexity happens behind the scenes to arrive at simplicity. But what about when you want it all out there on the front lines? Process and all. I think clutter can be beautiful too. I mean, what’s so special about a bunch of white space? Less is just, kind of, depressing. Where at least more is never boring.

If your work space, living space, or mind look anything like this < it’s ok. An explosion of ideas and materials is a great starting place. It might just take some sorting out.

Sorry if I have enraged any minimalist designers. Some days, I just want to be a maximalist. Deal with it.

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The Student’s PTSD

I was visiting friends at college, helping them with a weekend of relief between end-of-term papers and final exams. Can’t say I miss doing that last December while everyone else bakes Christmas cookies and goes sledding…

It didn’t take much to rally the troops out on Friday. I found myself in a lengthy conversation with the bar’s owner: He has a daughter my age who also has a degree in communication from a good college. She too moved back home and is holding multiple jobs, but not using her degree how she’d like. Not for lack of trying.

Really good conversation with a smart man – it sounded like his daughter is driven and bright. Yet he is helping her along, and struggling with business himself. This is not news to me. This is a small but representative sample from the public sentiment I’m gathering lately. After going through 4 years of intense schooling, grads are in shock when the job market which they enter is a wasteland.

Not to make light of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, but college grads are starting to feel the impact of the market. We emerge from college fully prepared to be thrust into a booming economy, despite the news reports. We are well-trained academic veterans ready for the job pool, but find it dry. Some of us go back to school for something to do. Some prolong their studies to wait it out. Some of us give up and go home to live with the parents. Some of us get part-time jobs down the street, but feel there is a greater purpose for us somewhere. Some of us lose momentum and lose hope. We’re just not sure what to do with ourselves and all of the newly gained knowledge and potential.

We return from university and not all of us are employment heroes. People don’t understand- Our parents wonder why we can’t find jobs and assume, “you’re not trying hard enough.” They feel that we’re frustrated, but tell us we shouldn’t complain. People want to help, but can’t. People don’t comprehend our circumstances, they just want everyone to find employment and everything to be fixed.

I wish I could predict the future, and I wish I had some good advice for emerging grads and those seeking employment. But I really can’t. Sometimes counseling is the only treatment for this sort of disaster.

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Tech in Transition

You know when people say, “This is a transitional year”? Usually they’re referring to sports teams, careers, or historical events. But think about this last year and all that has happened in the world of technology.

The Twin Cities are being closely watched as an up-and-coming tech hot spot. For good reason- we have a pocket of high caliber startups and small shops that know how to integrate everything with tech. In addition to being super specialized in digital.

These have been transitional years. Building years. Learning years. And while not everyone can afford the newest in technology, developers are nonetheless working harder than ever to assure that when we (the masses) finally can afford new laptops, phones, and tablets,  they are giving us the best experience possible. Not everything in the world of technology makes the cut: Path might be the latest in social media at the second, but not guaranteed to stick. Regardless, developers need to assure it’s up to snuff with the big guys.  The risk of failure is high in such a competitive landscape… The stakes are higher because the margin of error to succeed is smaller. These are the years we should take advantage of. Before the newest gadgets edge mainstream. When the masses are too busy with noses to the grindstone to adopt quickly.

I hope that everyone on the development front is taking advantage of these tech-transition years. Even if we’re still figuring out where technology is going, it’s a great time to make mistakes and create. And the competition sure isn’t taking a break.

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The state of the state

Minnesota is taking heat, both nationally and internally. But while we wait out the gvt shutdown, how ’bout some lighter aspects, eh?

I was rummaging through a box of old books at my aunt’s house, and decided to borrow this one.

*Note the hotdish

How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide by Howard Mohr. It’s a quick read, thanks to the facetiously backcountry writing style.

Mohr is a former writer for A Prairie Home Companion and calls himself “creator of Minnesota languages systems.” The book was written in 1987, however many of its topics have not changed much. Everything from basic conversations, eating out, vacationing, romance, gifting, body language, road rules, gambling, music, and class reunions is covered in the guide.

Here’s one — There is an angle rule, diagram included, for how close two Minnesotans may stand while conversing. “90 degrees is the average, 135 degrees is common, and 180 degrees is within reason. Heated arguments in public places would be in the 45-degree range. Voices are not raised.” The MMDBB is “Minnesota mean distance between bodies.” Also, there are at least 5 types of hand waves outlined. Waving is a big deal, apparently. It’s very high pressure and situation-dependent. Some waves require no return wave, others require head nods with variations on eye contact. Very complex.

So we’ve heard the stereotypes “oh ya” and “you betcha,” but here are a few that I’m actually guilty of saying: “whatever” and “for sure.” 100% Minnesotan phrases. And my favorite find: “It could be worse.” In a mutual effort to not complain, we use this one when something serious happens, often accessorized with a shoulder shrug.

Since reading the book, I’m hyper-tuned into people’s accents and mannerisms. Like how local news anchors emphasize “o’s” or just how much small talk revolves around weather and construction, or how often people are passive (or passive-agressive).  It’s written as caricature, but there are bits within How to Talk Minnesotan that hold truth.

(How to Talk Minnesotan the musical)

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