It’s a tired truism that a rising tide raises all ships.  And a rising market rewards both the creative and the rote practitioners.  In years past, it didn’t take a financial wizard to take out an HP12C, calculate a lease-rate factor, bundle up a package of leases and sell them to GE, BankofAmerica, or Key Bank.  Selling off leases enabled the equipment or software provider to recognize a sale, while still allowing customers to spread payments over the useful life of the acquired asset. 

Times have changed, and just when everyone should have a lease offering and most thoughtful customers want one, so they can preserve cash on their balance sheet, the big guys that traditionally bought up the bulk of leases have gone packing. So where do you sell off your lease paper now?

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I’ve memorized most of the screenplay for Rob Reiner’s 1987 film, The Princess Bride.  Why? Because it’s funny?  Yes.  But more importantly, because at least once a day, there’s a line from the screenplay that fits perfectly with the situation I’m confronting.  Here’s a line I always recall when facing the seemingly insurmountable challenge:

My brains, his steel, and your strength against sixty men, and you think a little head jiggle is supposed to make me happy? I mean, if we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something.

Today, I updated my suggested reading list to include Dave Hitz’ recent book, How to Castrate a Bull.  In the book, Dave chronicles his life and the life of NetApp, the company he co-founded And just like The Princess Bride, I find myself quoting from the book frequently. 

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I just finished reading an unedited, advance review copy of Paul Gillin’s latest book, Secrets of Social Media Marketing.” If Paul is reading this post, he may remember that I told him I would read the book last month, but then, I also planned for the stock market to be up slightly. Things change, and you adapt.

In the book, Paul relates that he dictated much of the book into his computer and used speech recognition software to scribe his thoughts.  Since this was an unedited advance review copy, I gained some insight into the state of speech recognition software, which has advanced enormously over the past 20 years, but still makes amusing mistakes.

Paul acknowledges that at the current pace of change, some of the social media marketing tools he describes and the strategies he espouses will become relics and interesting historical perspective in 10 years’ time.   But, as we find ourselves in an economic downturn that appears deeper than anyone younger than 80 remembers, Paul offers some sage commentary on social media marketing that applies equally well to general business strategy.  Paul writes:

There are only two unpardonable sins in the current environment. One is fear…That leads to the other unpardonable sin, which is inaction.

Read Paul’s book and by the time you’re done, you will be gathering at Gather, twittering at Twitter, joining Facebook groups, and spreading link-love from your blog.  One thing’s for sure, budgets are tightening, and you and your companies will have to find innovative and less expensive ways to validate product concepts, find prospects, demonstrate to them what you can do, prove to them that you are alive, well, and can deliver something they want. 

About 20 years ago, I had a small consulting practice, helping very-small businesses migrate from typewriters and manual accounting systems, to automated ordering, billing, and accounting systems.  Within a year or so, I turned my few customers over to my brother, Ken, who was much better equipped to service them.  Ken was also substantially more knowledgeable in the area.  To Ken’s credit, he continued to service these accounts for years, even though he was geographically challenged with a separation of about 350 miles.

My first client has offices little more than a block from where my sons now attend summer camp.  So this morning, after dropping them off, I stopped by to see my former client.  He’s no longer using the systems we developed for him.  But they were good for more than 10 years.  So that’s not bad.  I met his in-house IT guy, the guy that replaced my brother and our systems.  The new guy says he also takes out the garbage and cleans the offices on Fridays, something we never did.  (more…)

I was describing to my rather-precocious, thirteen-year-old son the problem that companies have of getting the word out.  As part of “Career Week” at his school (five different jobs for five days at the end of the school year), my son decided he would make a stop-motion Lego video for Tek-Tools, one of my clients, to promote the company.   I told him that, if it was good enough, I would show it to the CEO, and maybe he would use it.  Little did I know that my son was going to, upon completion, post the video on YouTube.  But he did.  Without permission.  And my wife asked me, once again, “Why don’t we have more controls on his computer?” 

Ken Barth, the CEO of Tek-Tools,  was our first client at Walden Technology Partners.  A lot of people in the computer storage industry know him, and beyond the fact that he has been successful in everything that he has done, everyone who meets him says the same thing: “He’s a great guy.”  Ken’s company provides a superb solution for reporting, monitoring, forecasting, and profiling IT infrastructure.  It’s easy to install, easy to use, and provides immediate value.  What could be better?   (more…)

It’s only 7 a.m., and I’ve learned something new.  I woke up early (too early) and was catching up on some blog reading, including this one from Jon Toigo.  There, I stumbled on his use of the word bleg, which is a term I did not know.  As is my custom, I then went on a random internet walk (using the Google search term define: bleg) to find out what else I didn’t know.  That led me to a blogosphere glossary from Blogossary.  Have fun scrolling the list, and watch out for blogfat.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a draft of Dave Hitz’ new book (title intentionally withheld, so as not to play the spoiler).  Dave is one of the co-founders of NetApp (nee’ Network Appliance), and he wrote the book, at least in part, to give current NetApp employees a view into the early days of the company.  At recent growth rates, I suspect that substantially more than half of the employees have been with the company fewer than five years and missed not only the startup days, but the turnaround days, post-2001. (more…)

I recently visited the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment (MOITI) with a friend, Bob Winter, who founded Robert-Louis Advisors.  At MOITI, we met with Patrick (Pat) Bench, who is Director of Business Development.  Patrick’s job is to get companies to open offices in Massachusetts, or rather, that’s how his success is measured.  What his job appears to be is to do everything possible to make it easy for non-U.S. companies to set up shop in Massachusetts.  (more…)


I spent an hour today with an Onaro customer and through the conversation learned a little bit about how different companies handle the separation of duties in IT processing.  I met with the customer to better understand the critical decision criteria that were behind his choice of Onaro, what features were most valued and what alternatives were considered.  Turns out, at the time of his decision several years ago, he didn’t see many alternatives.  Onaro, which was an independent software supplier at the time, was recently acquired by NetApp, a storage systems company.

This customer originally licensed Onaro’s SANscreen offering to ensure that the company’s IT change-control process was being followed in the storage network.  SANscreen maps the entire data path from the host bus adapter (HBA) in the server, through the cables and switches, ultimately to the storage array.  Anytime someone makes a change to the configuration of his fibre channel storage area network (FC-SAN), he gets a notification.  If the change hasn’t been authorized through the change-control process, he investigates.  As we were talking he showed me several alerts, that he had just received on his Blackberry, regarding changes that had not been authorized. (more…)

I had a conversation with Megan at BzzAgent this week.  My interest was peaked, when a former IDC colleague, who now works at Iron Mountain Digital, mentioned BzzAgent. 

BzzAgent claims to have 400,000 “buzz agents,” who have agreed to review products and services and to share with their friends and colleagues their honest opinion.  BzzAgents get the products for free.  They test them.  And they create buzz.  The buzz could be good, or it could be bad, but it’s buzz.  I don’t know if Iron Mountain Digital uses BzzAgent, but I can see the fit, since, Iron Mountain offers desktop and server backup services to homes and businesses. 

At the $80,000 entry price that Megan mentioned, you’ll want to get a lot of buzz for the investment, and you’ll want to have enough confidence in your product to expect that most of the buzz will be good.   In the consumer products and services area, I see a great opportunity to leverage BzzAgent.  It’s hard to see the fit for the kinds of enterprise IT infrastructure providers with whom we are working. But, Megan suggested I check out their Frogpond offering, which I will do when I get a chance. 

In the meantime, after listening to the pitch from Megan, I decided to sign up myself.  I am now officially a BzzAgent.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  For now, I’ve just filled out a bunch of surveys about my drinking habits (softdrink and otherwise).  Fortunately, the fortunes of Coke and Pepsi don’t depend much on my soft-drink habits. If they did, the companies would be broke.

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