Find It Online 3rd Edition/ Limited Liability Organizations/ Inside the Tornado: Marketing Strategies from Silicon Valley’s Cutting Edge

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Find It Online 3rd Edition/ Limited Liability Organizations/ Inside the Tornado: Marketing Strategies from Silicon Valley’s Cutting Edge

Find It Online 3rd Edition

Alan M. Schlein

Facts On Demand Press ISBN: 1-889150-29-0 564 pages

This is a neat book. Having used the information superhighway since the 2400 baud modem days, it was clear that one thing the Internet has needed was an information road map for the professional researcher. Search engines, while good, will miss a lot of the major information locations in the first ten plus hits if those information locations have low click through or usage rates.

The way the book is set up reminds us of good cookbooks: There is basic information about ingredients, recipes, and how to vary them, plus a good index. An appropriate amount of the book is spent on simple tasks such as the foundation for the searches and information organization. It is well worth the $19.95 and will save you that and more directing you to the information you want, rather than merely what the weekend surfers like to see. Some of the useful things found with this book were translation sites (sites that will automatically translate web sites from one language into another), as well as good links for business information for both U.S.-based businesses and European and Asian businesses.

Limited Liability Organizations

William Price, J.D.

Specialty Technical Publishers (604) 983-3445.

Loose-leaf Binder $390

CD-ROM $390

Binder & CD-ROM $590.

The LLC in the United States was first proposed by the Wyoming Legislature and passed into law in 1977. The LLC was to be treated as a corporation for liability issues and as a partnership for taxation issues. It was a transition from the Subchapter S Corporation, that had a limit on membership and size, to an entity with few limits. The publication covers new types of entities, how they can be used, and how they compare with other, more familiar types of entities, such as corporations, partnerships, and trusts. The tax treatment of the LLC is discussed for bothU.S.federal taxes, as well as states that have different treatments. It gives a good discussion of litigation prevention that we have not seen in other publication. It is filled with comprehensive checklists for formation, operation, and tax issues.

The manual is heavily researched, and we learned a few things we didn’t know about the history of companies. This may not seem like much, but many of the similar books submitted here on similar topics have been returned to their publisher un-reviewed since they missed the mark. If you look into entities, form entities, or conduct due diligence on entities, this will be an important resource.

Inside the Tornado:

Marketing Strategies from Silicon Valley’s Cutting Edge

Geoffrey A. Moore

Harper Perennial

ISBN: 0-88730-824-4 272 pages $17.

If we were asked to recommend a book on marketing, and could only recommend one book on marketing, it would likely be this one. This book, recommended to us by the former head of corporate communications for a major telecom provider who prudently took his money and ran, provides the clearest insight we have seen into the cycles of technology change and acceptance that sweep through the modern business world.

The book is important because, if you do not understand how technology shifts affect the market, your business strategy is doomed to fail. After reading this book many things become clear, from the success and failures of various technologies to why certain companies have engaged in financial hanky-panky. Even for a small and non-technological organization such as The LUBRINCO Group, Inside the Tornado has helped us clarify our marketing strategy.

Moore breaks the technology adoption cycle into six pieces, which we quote directly from the book:

1. The early market, a time of great excitement when customers are technology enthusiasts and visionaries looking to be first to get on board with the new paradigm.

2. The Chasm, a time of great despair, when the early-market’s interest wanes but the mainstream market is still not comfortable with the immaturity of the solutions available.

3. The Bowling Alley, a period of niche-based adoption in advance of the general marketplace, driven by compelling customer needs and the willingness of vendors to craft niche-specific whole products.

4. The Tornado, a period of mass-market market adoption, when the general marketplace switches over to the new infrastructure paradigm.

5. Main Street, a period of aftermarket development, when the base infrastructure has been deployed and the goal now is to flesh out its potential.

6. End of Life, which can come all too soon in high tech because of the semiconductor engine driving price/performance to unheard levels, enabling wholly new paradigms to come to market and supplant the leaders who themselves had only just arrived.

This is interesting, but why do we care? Because it turns out that as we go from phase to phase our sales, marketing, management, and production emphasis changes, and, if you are selling, marketing, managing, and producing in a manner inappropriate to the phase you are in, you will at best lose a lot of money or at worst be out of business. Essentially this comes down to a management issue. More to the point, it comes down to the fact that the management that succeeds in one phase may not be appropriate in another phase. Can you change your management style to match the phase you are in? Sure, assuming you are aware that there are different phases, and what is needed in each, and can change your temperament appropriately. If not, you are likely to do silly things, many of which can point you in the direction of being out of business or in jail over accounting issues.

There are some other issues regarding misunderstanding how one ought to deal with the new technological paradigm shifts. As an example, the executive who originally recommended the book noted that the book says that during the tornado period “This demand forces vendors into a massmarket mode where operational excellence is demanded in order to meet the “just ship” imperative without generating returned merchandise. Taking time out to customize a solution for a particular customer is anathema now, slowing down the tornado and introducing the risk of a glitch, so customer intimacy must take the backseat.” Somehow this has been interpreted as saying that you can get away with a shoddy product or poor customer service.

How common is this, and does it offer an opportunity for those who deliver good service to gain over those who provide bad service? We decided to see if we could find any issues of bad service from a single company that involved more than one of our staff members, indicating a systemic problem. We succeeded.

Some time ago one of the editors bought an Archos Jukebox Recorder from Gateway. This is a self-contained, battery powered hard drive that can be used to store data (you connect it to your computer with a USB cable, and it appears as a regular drive). It can also store MP3 music files – a lot of them – that can be played either with a headset or connected to a sound system. It worked well for a while, but then started having problems. We called Gateway who suggested, not unreasonably, that we contact Archos. We sent Archos technical support an email. Then another. Eventually we called, and ended up speaking with their head of corporate communications, who said we should e-mail her and the head of technical support. As of the time this article is being written, over a hundred and thirty (130) e-mails have gone to Archos, without a single written response. We spoke to their competitors at SonicBlue and Creative Labs, who each said that it was their policy to deal with technical problems immediately, both to have happy customers and to make sure this was not a design problem that needed to be dealt with to prevent further, greater, problems.

While Archos was an interesting study in poor customer service, it is a small company and of no particular significance. Gateway, on the other hand, is a larger company. Gateway customer service said that while Gateway sells the Archos player, they take no responsibility for products they sell which are manufactured by others.

Lest you think that this was one isolated fluke, another of the editors of this journal had purchased a computer from Gateway, which wouldn’t work with broadband. Gateway customer service insisted the serial number on the machine didn’t show as being sold, and refused to help. The machine was dumped and replaced with one for which customer service was available.

Finally, one of our editors had purchased a Gateway computer whose monitor died two years after purchase. This was out of warranty, and clearly not within the responsibility of Gateway, which nonetheless suggested that the monitor be taken to one of their stores in Manhattan for out-of-warranty repair. The address was given; the monitor lugged down to a taxi and brought over to the store, which said they didn’t do repairs, and that it needed to be brought to a different store. It was put in another taxi and, three quarters of an hour later, reached the next store, which said, sorry, we don’t service monitors, nor will we throw it out for you.

We suspect that Gateway has mis-estimated both the importance of customer service and their position in the paradigm-shift cycle. On the off chance that this was an industry standard, we spoke with Dell, who said that they believe they would have tried to deal with each of these problems in a manner that would have been satisfactory both to them and to the customer.

It is interesting to note that there is now an expectation of poor service. As an example, a guitarist mentioned on a public forum that a set of strings had peeled and said how angry he was about this. We asked if he had called the manufacturer, and he said that the thought had never even crossed his mind.

At my suggestion he called the manufacturer, E. & O. Mari (maker of La Bella strings), who, of course immediately replaced them. We suspect this guitarist will be quick to recommend La Bella strings in the future.

As another example of good service, this author purchased a Halliburton case in 1964, and recently one of the clasps failed. A call was made to Zero Halliburton (current manufacturer of the cases) with the intent of buying a new clasp. It arrived, free of charge, a few days later. As an interesting side note, we have heard that some years ago a plane captured by terrorists was emptied of passengers and blown-up. The only surviving usable articles were three Halliburton cases. We use these cases extensively, with, as noted, some of them being nearly half a century old.

But Halliburton is not the only company that makes things that last and provides good service. A friend bought a Louis Vuitton hatbox at an auction. The case, made in the 19th century, had long since lost its key. Vuitton, upon being given the lock number, replaced the key promptly, at no cost, even though its owner was perfectly willing to pay for it.

This kind of behavior, one way or the other, is part of a corporation’s culture. This author once did work for Simmons Corporation, manufacturers of  Beautyrest mattresses. At that time, the head of the company would meet early Monday morning with the company’s treasurer, general council, and the rest of the executive staff to personally review every letter of complaint that had come in, and to follow up on past complaints to see that they were settled to the satisfaction of the customer.

And if we were a corporation that needed commercial printing, we would speak with Proof Perfect in New York City, which goes way beyond normal customer service in producing happy clients satisfied with a job well done. Finally, we note that Gateway, Archos, and other such New Economy companies are just that: New. Many of them – just look around – have not survived even 10 years. Customer service is not an outdated concept. Halliburton, Louis Vuitton, etc. are still around and still in business. There is a message here somewhere….

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