What Happens to Taxis in the Future of Driverless Cars?

When it comes to innovation opportunity, there’s three ways a business can go:

  1. Not notice it till it’s too late
  2. Defend against it
  3. Seize the opportunity and exploit it

Taxis vs Uber is an example of an old school, slow moving industry at first not noticing an innovation opportunity. Protected by their monopoly protectionist government regulation the taxi industry has been slow to catch on to the needs and wants of the market place.

Taxi companies protected by their monopoly enforcing governments have long ignored the customer experience. Uber and Lyft saw an opportunity to provide a better customer experience and their success has has shown they’re providing what the customer wants.

But in 2015, Uber and Lyft are standing together with the taxi industry facing another innovation opportunity. The driverless car is not far away and no one is prepared for the societal changes it will bring.

Imagine: you want to go from work to your favourite pub. You pull out your phone, select your pickup location and time, then select your destination. An algorithm finds an electric driverless car that will be available nearby at your pickup time with enough charge to handle your trip. The vehicle arrives, you don’t have to make small talk(perfect for the introvert) and quickly takes you to where you’re going while you read a book on your Kindle. Simple.

Think this is science fiction?

Google Self Driving Car Prototype. Photo: Google
Google Self Driving Car Prototype. Photo: Google

Consider:

  • Google’s driverless cars can already handle the driving. It’d be pretty simple to connect the car driving computer to a cloud-based dispatch system.
  • Uber and Lyft using consumers wouldn’t have much of a problem with accepting driverless car technology.
  • Tesla already has electric vehicles that can do 300+ kilometres on a single charge and swappable battery packs already exist.
Tesla Electric Car. Photo: Steve Jurvetson
Tesla Electric Car. Photo: Steve Jurvetson

It’s pretty unlikely that people will be buying driverless cars in 5 years. However an innovative start up could team up with a driverless car manufacturer to get on the road pretty soon.

The taxi industry has already chosen innovation option 1 and has now moved on to option 2. Regardless of what government regulators do they will lose! They will lose because they were too comfortable in their monopoly regulations.

The question is will it be Uber or Lyft to first roll out driverless car services or will it be another new company still waiting to be started in someone’s old school garage?

An Exciting Announcement

Hi everyone! My wife Jacqui and I are both very happy to announce that we’re expecting our first child in June 2015!

David and Jacqui are expecting a baby!
David and Jacqui are expecting a baby!

She’s only 10 weeks along so far, but we had a scan today(2nd actually) and I finally got to see my baby moving its arms and legs around. I’d missed the first scan while in Canberra last time, but it was only 8.7mm long then. It’s now 3.5cm!

Our baby on 3/12/2014
Our baby on 3/12/2014

The scan print is pretty hard to understand – it looks so much more amazing when you’re watching it live. As the doctor moves the scanner it’s easy to recognise parts of the baby. Wasn’t expecting to see it move as fast as it did. Heart rate is still 176 beats per minute.

So far everything is going fine and we will find out its gender soon. We’ll be happy either way.

The Pulse – October Brisbane Meetup

My wife Jacqui and I just attended our first “The Pulse” meetup in Brisbane. The Pulse is a community of entrepreneurs who meet up monthly for expert panels with startup and business leaders. This was our first attendance at one of these meetings, which was held at River City Labs, a startup coworking enterprise in Fortitude Valley. We found it to be a great opportunity to hear a wide range of expert opinions and meet new people in the entrepreneurial start up space.

The session was a fast paced Q & A type format. Here some notes on what I got out of tonight’s session with Steve Baxter(@sbxr), Aaron Birkby(@AaronBirkby), David Eastes and Ben Duncan:

A question was asked on tips for transitioning from 9 to 5 work to a startup:

  • Do both for a while – working 24/7 as it were.
  • Try to save capital if you want to take it full time.
  • Hardest thing you’ll ever do is raise money from an investor – use your customers to fund your business.
  • If you can’t make a few thousand dollars from your startup don’t leave your job.
  • Turn first customers into walking billboard.
  • Sell something straight away. Get customers to bankroll your start.

One thing panelists would do different if starting again now:

  • Hire staff earlier. One panelist tried to do too much. He wasn’t doing vital stuff because he was too busy working in the business.
  • One tip was to potentially offer an equity stake to good staff after a year or two.
  • One panellist suggested being a digital nomad.
  • Hire more people you really like working with.
  • Don’t stress out

Which 3 processes most important:

  • Don’t be too process focused too early – otherwise you can’t move quickly
  • Need to have processes to track your effectiveness – e.g. Validation of A/B Testing and Conversions
  • Processes need to come later on as you grow.
  • One panelist suggested when you get your second staff member you now need processes but you need to be flexible.
  • Allow everyone to change their processes if they’re broken.
  • All the panelists stressed the importance of good consistent project management. Base Camp and Trello were suggested tools
  • Project management important from the start

There was a question about finding angel investors while still pre-revenue:

  • Panelists suggested use customers as your angels.
  • If you can’t sell your product maybe there isn’t market.
  • If no one is investing maybe take a harder look at the idea
  • Got to be able to sell it.

Does anyone gain funding after proof of concept?

  • It was agreed by some panelists that you do hear of companies gaining funding in this way a lot.
  • It was suggested it’s still better to try to get customers to fund the idea.
  • Talk to customers find their pain point. Ideas from customers can be of varying value though.

Biggest challenge for the panelists?

  • Having total confidence in your product.
  • Suppliers being skeptical.
  • You need to talk about it like it’s your firstborn even if you don’t believe in it to begin with.

What do you tell people who don’t believe in you?

  • If you can’t push through that messaging you’re not going to make it
  • Prove your idea by getting a customer to pay you something for it.

Do startups need to look to Silicon Valley?

  • It helps to look at whats happening in a successful place.
  • US Market is huge in comparison to Asutralia.
  • The USA is an easy place to get to as an Australian.
  • Good Australian ex-pat community in Silicon Valley you can connect with.

Struggled with self belief?

  • All the panellists said yes!
  • Don’t wait till your ready. Just do it!

Was success a series of events or just one or two big things?

  • Panelist David Eastes said that for him it came down to two things:
    • Getting into good rankings with Google
    • Investing time and money into customers
  • Other good points:
    • Advertising waste of money. All money on word of mouth. Make them want to tell their friends
    • Do things that customers don’t expect – travel mugs, key ring bottle openers, etc.

There was a question about time management and commitment:

  • If you have an ability to work full time on your startup don’t waste it
  • Be sure to manage your heath and family time however
  • Put a high value on your time – $500 per hour for instance. Would you be doing a task if that’s how much your time was worth?

There was another question about quickly validating start up ideas:

  • Use the Lean Startup formula and customer validation.
  • If you can’t make something work, give up, move on.

How do you pitch your idea without losing IP?

  • NDAs are worthless and investors won’t sign.
  • Do your research on the person you’re pitching. Find out if they’re trustworthy. Have they invested in a competitor?
  • You’ve got to share your idea

Someone asked about the best methods of selling to your customers in the early days:

  • Direct mail. Get in front of them 3 times and they’ll remember you.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Advertising expensive hard to get good ROI
  • Conventional media has a lot of power in USA
  • Celebrity endorsement
  • YouTube

A question was asked about outsourcing an online app startup

  • The panelists thought it was important to hold Intellectual Property tight and not outsource your core team.
  • One panelist said your startup is broken if you can’t build it yourself

There was a question on how to keep momentum and enthusiasm

  • Find a problem someone will pay to fix
  • If you’re not naturally passionate about what you’re building there’s a problem
  • Keep a good balance. Recreation helps with inspiration. Get away from desk.

At what point should you become a company?

  • The panel was unanimous that you should be a company from day 1 of your startup.

The last question was on the difference between an entrepreneur and a “wantrepreneur”:

  • An entrepreneur doesn’t die wondering
  • An entrepreneur is constantly thinking about doing things better
  • An entrepreneur take risks
  • Get s*** done
  • Fail a lot

There was also a suggestion to check out the Dan Norris 7 Day Startup.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at The Pulse and will definitely be going again. It was great to meet a positive group of people trying to achieve success. I hope some of you find these notes useful.

Why I Will Never Fly Jetstar Again – A Case Study in Bad Customer Experience

My busy schedule over the past week has given me an interesting case study in customer experience. As a I’m hoping to one day be an entrepreneur I’ve been a keen student of business practice and theory. These days we don’t just talk about customer service, we talk about customer experience. How does it really feel as a customer to experience your product or service and how does that affect whether or not I buy again or recommend you to others. As noted in Forbes, ‘Customer Experience’ is today’s business benchmark.

In the past seven days, I’ve flown three different Australian airlines over four different flights. One flight was on Qantas, the next on Virgin Australia, and the last two on Jetstar. It’s been a good opportunity to compare and contrast the service offerings of the three. I didn’t get a chance to try Tiger Airlines, but then again I prefer my pilots be qualified to fly, so probably best that I didn’t.

Qantas still has it’s old fashioned approach to customer service. It’s good – a bit dull, but good. Everything works the way you expect although there is a big push towards self service everywhere.

Virgin Australia has a fresh innovative feel to it, but they do focus on good old fashioned face to face customer service. You can use fancy new mobile check ins and boarding passes, but they don’t make you feel guilty for using the traditional bag drop either.

However it’s Jetstar I really want to focus on as a real case study in a bad customer experience. The first thing you’ll notice when you book Jetstar is their deceptive marketing practices. They have been forced kicking and screaming to moderate some of these by the ACCC, however you will find that in practice the fare they advertise is not the fare you pay.

Fares advertised by Jetstar are advertised as “1 way carry on baggage only”. Carry on baggage is defined as 2 items total of 10kg. What they don’t spell out clearly(sure it’s in the fine print though) is that they can’t actually offer what they advertise. If everyone brings 2 items of carry on to a full flight, they simply cannot fit them on the plane. Not only that, because of the $25 standard extra fee for checked luggage, everyone will be trying to take 2 items of carry on. Therefore they go to extreme lengths to enforce the 10kg rule.

What they don’t advertise is that unless you book the checked luggage in advance, they will check your items with scales in the boarding lounge. It’s easy to have a suitcase well under 10kg. However what’s not so easy is to have a suitcase and backpack or another bag under 10kg. Most of us often carry 4-5kg in our back packs without even thinking about it. Most people on my flight were stung with this. Main bag only 5-6kg. Second small bag 4-5kg.

Now what would be a reasonable cost to check suitcase. The $25 standard checked fee would be good. But no. After baiting people to try their luck with carry on, they sting you $50 if one of your bags has to be checked from the gate lounge. A quick look at how many people they stung, tells you that this is a major profit strategy for Jetstar.

Plus, they won’t let you check your bags until precisely 2 hours before departure. Too bad if you do the right thing by being early and booking checked bags. It’s ok in Melbourne, there’s good facilities outside the secure zone. Too bad if you’re in Brisbane where there’s barely a coffee stand for your long wait to bag drop.

The bad customer service experience doesn’t stop once you’re through security. The terminals, bars and cafe’s in both Jetstar departure lounges were filthy, both times. Ok so maybe Jetstar doesn’t operate the the bars and cafes. However they do set the standards that companies are expected to work by in their terminals. The massive stacks of empty pizza boxes, piles of empty drink bottles and glasses, and food all over floor shows that they don’t care about their customer experience. I don’t expect polished gold leaf, but I do expect to be able to find somewhere to sit without having to move other people’s empty drinks out of my way and having to wipe down the table.

 

No professional commercial vehicles here!
No professional commercial vehicles here!

When you watch the tarmac prior to departure you see more of their cut price approach. Instead of professional looking well marked trucks, services are provided by a bunch of people who stuff waste into the back of a bodgy looking stationwagon with a cheap magnet stick on the side. Angry baggage handlers hand carry extra bags to the plane. Not a good look.

On board you’ll find the cabin crew are courteous but short. They combine the lack of formality of Virgin, with the lack of humour of Qantas. Overall it’s a bad end result. Even the food cart practice is worse. Instead of both people operating the cart from both sides like other airlines, one person operates the till(the main focus of Jetstar’s model) and only one person serves. The result is if you’re waiting to get a drink on the plane you’ll be left thirsty for a long time waiting.

So overall Jetstar gives a very poor customer service experience. I can complement them on one thing though. They do have a very good safety demonstration and briefing, particularly for exit row passengers, in comparison to Virgin and Qantas.

I would suggest only flying Jetstar if you only fly occasionally and they have the cheapest fare(after adding all the fees and surcharges). Be very careful and don’t believe the prices you see advertised. I would also suggest the following tips:

  • Be sure to weigh all bags before leaving home if you expect to use the “2 Carry-On bags, 10kg option”. If you’re anywhere close, I’d suggest book the $25 checked luggage option.
  • Don’t expect fast service on board – take your own food and drinks.
  • You can’t check bags until 2 hours of your flight time – find a bar outside the checked area if you can and wait.
  • Don’t bother with their mobile boarding pass option. It’s a joke and a waste of customer time.
  • Lower your expectations.

Hopefully Virgin Australia will show how discount air flight can be done with their recent acquisition of Tiger Airlines. It won’t be hard to top the service offered by Jetstar.

What would Jetstar have to do to win me back?

  • Clean up their act – get their food vendors to keep the place clean.
  • Just offer checked baggage standard. It makes the flight more comfortable for everyone if the occasional travellers aren’t struggling to get their bags into the overheads lockers.
  • Stop the silly restrictions – really how many people are going to be coming to the airport more than 2 hours before their flight? Is it really that big a problem to just accept it?
  • Get a Customer Experience consultant to advise on how they can improve their cabin and ground services to make it just “feel better”.

My Reading and Listening List

Here is a list of entrepreneurial, business and personal development books I’ve read or podcasts I listen to and would recommend to others.

Books

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie

The classic book on networking for business and personal life. A must read for anyone who wants to become more successful

 The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris

The Four Hour Work Week

Timothy Ferris

This book will teach you how to work smarter and avoid becoming the overworked micromanaging business owner. Even if you’re not planning to run your own business this book will give you ideas on how to reduce your working hours and how to be location independent. I thoroughly recommend it.

 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich

Napoleon Hill

Learn to think the way the rich and successful do. This book also explains why joining a mastermind group and self-belief are important to success. A classic of personal development literature.

 How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne

How to Work a Room

Susan RoAne

The classic reference on personal networking. This is my latest acquisition, so I haven’t finished reading it yet. It comes highly recommended from the Art of Charm podcast though.

 Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker

Virtual Freedom

Chris Ducker

Learn how to outsource parts of business to virtual staff. A great reference on how to manage and use virtual assistants effectively.

Rich Dad Poor Dady by Robert Kiyosaki

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Robert T. Kiyosaki

An excellent book on how rich people think differently than the middle class. Helps you to think about assets and liabilities in a different way. I’d also particularly recommend Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant. His other books are good too.

I’ve recently bought the following books on recommendations of others but not yet had time to read them:

How to Work a Room, 25th Anniversary Edition – Susan RoAne

Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Johan Berger

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income – Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

From Unknown to Expert – Catriona Pollard

Here’s an article on some great other entrepreneur startup books: Top 15 Books Recommended by Today’s Top Entrepreneurs

Podcasts

Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn

The Smart Passive Income Podcast

Pat Flynn

This an inspirational and practical podcast for learning how to run an online business.

Ask Pat with Pat Flynn

Ask Pat

Pat Flynn

Another great podcast from Pat Flynn when

The New Business Podcast with Chris Ducker

The New Business Podcast

Chris Ducker

A great podcast by Chris Ducker, an expert on virtual staffing and outsourcing for startups.

The Tim Ferriss Show

The Tim Ferris Show

Tim Ferris

A podcast on business and lifestyle design by the author of The Four Hour Work Week.

Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas

Entrepreneur on Fire

John Lee Dumas

A daily podcast with interviews with the internet’s most successful entrepreneurs.

The Art of Charm Podcast with Jordan Harbinger

The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger

Originally a podcast to teach men how to be more successful, it’s evolved into the leading podcast on networking and business success, with some relationship advice mixed in.

7 Practical Tips for Better Professional Networking Business Cards

Who hasn’t come away from a professional conference with a stack of exchanged business cards? Most of them will probably be still sitting on your desk in 6 months time if you’re anything like me. How can you get yourself remembered and create those important network connections with your peers?

A few of my friends were impressed with the cards I made for my attendance a Problogger Event 2014, so I decided to make this article on how to do it. So here’s some practical tips on how to create an effective professional networking business card.

1. Create a Professional Profile Website and Put the Address on Your Card

If you have a number of projects or portfolio items to show off you probably can’t fit them easily on one business card. Even if you do, you want to be making it as easy for people to look at them. You can have one single website that links to your portfolio items, resume, previous employers, previous and current projects, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, etc, etc, etc. Being something you own, you can portray yourself in the way you want.

I’m not going to tell you how to build your own website. There’s plenty of existing resources. Instead I’ll link you to a few of my favourite resources that will show you how to do it yourself using WordPress.

A website will need a hosting provider. You don’t necessarily have to pay for one yourself, you could use wordpress.com for free WordPress hosting. The trade off there is that your site address with be like yourname.wordpress.com, instead of yourname.com or yourname.com.au.

If you are in the technology business or just want to look better, you should probably buy your own site address like yourname.com and pay for hosting it somewhere. I would recommend using Crazy Domains(I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use this link) to purchase your domain and host it. I have used them for most of my sites and have found their service excellent. They have a one click option for installing WordPress on your site.

Once you’ve got your site, put the address on the card. Leave out the “http://”, it’s just wasted space, most people can recognise a website address when they see one.

2. Let Me Know Who You Are

At Problogger last weekend I received a whole range of different types of business cards, from the flashy designs to the simple minimalisms. Looking at some of them I can totally remember the conversation I had with the person who gave me them. For others I’ve had to rack my brain to recall.

Be sure that your card has references to (or links to) the key things you want to be known for. If I’m talking to people about SEO and your card is for your design company I probably won’t remember who you were when I look at it.

So be sure to include your claims to fame on the card, whether it be skills, experience, projects or businesses. Whatever you want to promote.

3. Include a Picture

My professional face picture
My professional face picture

Consider including a small picture of yourself on your card. Most of us will remember faces much more easily than names. If you include your picture, when I look at your card I’ll remember exactly who you were!

Choose your photo carefully. A face picture will be the best. You want to look good, but it’s not a glamour shot. Unless you’re a model.

If you use the same picture on your professional profile on LinkedIn and on other social media feeds it’ll help your recognition.

4. Include a QR Code Contact Card

My QR Code Contact Card
My QR Code Contact Card

You’ve got your name, postal address, mobile phone, email address and website address to include on your card. That’s a fair bit for your contacts to type into their phone address book. You can make it easier for them by using a QR Code.

There’s lots of software available for making QR Codes, but I just used The QR Code Generator website. Select the Contact tab and enter the details you need. Then click the orange Save button.

Add the saved image file to your business card. Make sure it’s large enough to be clearly scanned. I made mine about 34mm x 34mm. You may not need to make it that big though. Do a test print and try it out with your phone camera. I use QR Reader for iPhone. There are similar apps for Android.

5. Don’t Spend Too Much

Don’t spend too much on flashy design or special card. Your card is likely going to be lost in someone’s drawer for the next 2 years. 

In most cases your card is going to have a short useful life. What you really want to achieve is to get your contacts to look at your personal profile site and connect with you on LinkedIn, Twitter, email or phone. So your card just needs to deliver your contact details. It doesn’t have to be fancy cardboard or amazing design for that to happen.

For my Problogger cards I just got 100 printed on standard card at my local office supply store, OfficeWorks. I took my PDF to the store and they printed them overnight for just $23(single sided).

6. You Can Do It Yourself in Word

Sure a designer could do a fantastic job for you and if you have the finances go for it. In my case I had no time and not much money, so I just use a template that was included in Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac OS X.

The templates are designed to print 8 to an A4 piece of card. If you have a good quality printer and a guillotine, you could do it this way. As mentioned above though I got mine done at the office shop, which saved me a lot of time and a better result in my opinion.

If you are getting your printing done professionally you’ll need to modify the template document:

  1. Remove all but one copy of the card from the document.
  2. Set the page size to Custom, width 100mm, height 65mm. See this page from OfficeWorks website.
  3. Set the margins to 5mm on all sides.
  4. Adjust your layout to make it fit neatly inside the margins, taking into account they’ll be trimmed along the margins.

Save your document as a PDF and put it on a USB stick to take to the store. If you’re asking your wife to do it for you, don’t forget to tell her what your filename is(I did, oops).

7. Follow up

You may not be the most exciting person your contact met at the conference. Make follow up contact with the person you met within a week or so of the conference. To effectively build a network you need to do more than just connect to them on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter.

Send them a message by some format, preferably email, saying hi and expressing your appreciation of meeting them. Refer to the content of your discussion and try to find a way to help your contact with no expectation in return. If you have a proposal for them, be sure you to pitch it from their perspective. How will it benefit them?

The classic reference for building a network is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you haven’t read this book, buy it now on Kindle and read it. Refer to it regularly. Another great reference is The Art of Charm Podcast. There are heaps of networking related episodes, but I suggest you may want to start on this one about likeability.

So how did my cards work out for me at Problogger Event?

I handed out about 30 cards and my profile website got about 15 hits. Not a bad rate in my opinion. I suspect I’ll get more as I continue following up with my contacts from Problogger Event 2014.

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My card from Problogger Event

I didn’t do everything that I had wanted to. I only really implemented 4 of my 6 tips – I didn’t have a picture and I didn’t have a skills list. I was rushed. It was Monday night when I realised I still didn’t have any cards made up. I made this website, made the QR codes and made the cards just before midnight. My wife took them the next day to print.

Fortunately I did have my skills list and photo on the profile website, so that should help my recognition. A number of people I met did seem impressed with the cards, so I wrote this article. I’ll report back in the future on how it works out long term!