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February 29, 2008

This Is Getting Ridiculous!

Filed under: Business — Tags: , — Greg Larkin @ 3:57 pm

Hi everyone, is still attracting a fair number of confused folks who think they’ve landed on the CVS pharmacy corporate site. This all started when we launched some new Google AdWords campaigns. Apparently, the folks viewing the ads on the Google AdWords Content Network aren’t terribly aware of what they’re clicking. Here are some recent sample inquiries:

<span style="width: 500px">*** *** ***
I have a CVS <span class="hl">Blood</span> <span class="hl">Pressure</span> Monitor and it keeps showing Full before the reading </span>

<span style="width: 500px">appears. How do I get rid of that word?.
*** *** ***</span>

Umm, reboot the monitor?
*** *** ***
I picked up a perscription [sic] at ny [sic] CVS store today and on the bottom of

the receipt there is a message:

" Your Extracare Accounr [sic] Information is incomplete. Please visit "

Well, here I am........What does the mesage [sic] mean ??????
*** *** ***

I love this – “Well, here I am…” and the actual web site URL is included. If you really were “here”, I wouldn’t have received this message!

Ok, I guess the ads need to be configured with some negative keywords. Interestingly, the negative keywords “pharmacy” and “extracare” were already in the campaign, but I just added some more like “pharmacy” and “drugs”. Next step – turn off the ad delivery on the content network.

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

February 11, 2008

Definition Of An Unqualified Lead

Filed under: Business — Tags: , — Greg Larkin @ 11:50 am

Greetings everyone,

I’m always excited to see a new RFQ inquiry come in from the Professional Services RFQ page. Generally, the prospect needs help with an internally-hosted source code control system, some release management consulting or perhaps a solution to a particularly thorny infrastructure problem that’s impacting their software developers. There’s always a good opportunity to flex the ol’ brain cells and learn about a new environment.

However, within the past couple of weeks, I’ve received 2 inquiries from somewhat confused visitors. I’m posting them here for your amusement (names changed to protect the, um, clueless). Anyone care to hazard a guess how these folks landed at

Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2008 11:49 AM
Subject: [SHN] Pro Servs RFQ

Name:         Confused Person
Company name: cvs
Phone:        8005551212
Request:      Everytime I visit cvs my receipt says Your
Extracare account information is incomplete .Please visit web
site I have tried this number of times I'm have problem where to go.

Additional information
Number of users:
Number of remote users:
Repository size:
Does backups:           N/A
Number of servers:
Server types:           Windows
Tools in use:           CVS

I sent this person a polite note with a pointer where he most likely should have directed his inquiry and had a good laugh.

This morning, I got 2 inquiries from the same person, so maybe this is going to be a trend!?

Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2008 11:30:59 -0500 (EST)
Subject: [SHN] Pro Servs RFQ

Name:         Confused Person
Company name: self0employe
Phone:        800-555=1212
Request:      Complaint at the Nowheresville, Nostate Store.
I was treated by Anonymous (sore empolyee) wrongly this morning

Additional information
Number of users:
Number of remote users:
Repository size:
Does backups:           N/A
Number of servers:
Server types:
Tools in use:

And then minutes later:
*** *** ***
Anonymous (store employee) treated wrongly this morning she
question my ID .I have been going to this store for 21 years
*** *** ***

Bummer – the sore, er, store employee should be reprimanded!

If you’ve got some amusing CCRM (confused customer relationship management) tidbits, feel free to share them here!

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

January 11, 2008

How Mountain Bike Riding At Night Taught Me About Business Planning – Part 3

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Greg Larkin @ 7:14 pm

Hello again everyone,

I hope you all had a nice holiday break, and I’m back with the final installment of my “bicycling for business planning” posting arc.

To refresh your memory, in the last post I broke down how I spend my time while I’m riding my mountain bike at night:

  • 85% of the time – focused on a spot 3 to 6 feet in front of my wheel
  • 10% of the time – last-minute steering corrections
  • 5% of the time – looking further up the trail, but can’t see more than 30 feet ahead

I plan to apply similar ratios to business planning to help answer the perennial question “What should be worked on next?”

These ratios map to the following tasks:

  • Spend 85% of time on Important tasks (business planning, market research, adding technical features, CRM tasks, etc.)
  • Spend 10% of time on Urgent tasks (reactive support issues, special customer requests and the like)
  • Spend 5% of time thinking about everything that could be done, but don’t get too wrapped around the axle trying to predict the future!

I don’t want to minimize the importance of the last bullet point with its small percentage of mindshare, because any business still needs folks holding brainstorming sessions and thinking about new possibilities. However, once the primary direction of the business is set, it’s extremely important to review those ideas in that context. Otherwise, expect to be going sideways more than forward!

Comments and feedback are welcome, and if you have any methods that have worked well for your business, let me know.

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

December 18, 2007

How Mountain Bike Riding At Night Taught Me About Business Planning – Part 2

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Greg Larkin @ 8:00 am

Fast forward to 2007. I’ve upgraded to a much more reliable, commercially available lighting system. Using a light that I’m not worried about breaking during the ride frees up my mind quite a bit (even while riding in the dark), and I found myself drawing comparisons between riding at night and building my business on a recent sojourn.

One of the trails in the local town forest has an extremely steep hill with some loose rock and lots of slippery oak leaves in the fall. I generally have to use my granny gear (24×32 for you gear ratio freaks) to get up this monster.

I’ve now ridden up this hill a few times during the day and a couple of times at night. Strangely, I’ve been more successful at getting to the top without dabbing during the night rides, and I rode it clean once at night. I let out some whoops after that one!

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon and have decided that it has something to do with the restricted amount of visual input that’s available at night. My light is mounted on my helmet, and it tracks where my head goes. 85% of the time, I’m focused on a spot 3 to 6 feet in front of my wheel. Ten percent of the time is devoted to last-minute steering corrections necessitated by a submerged rock or root unearthing itself in front of my tire. The final 5% of the time, I’m looking further up the trail out of habit, then suddenly realizing that I can’t see much more than 30 feet ahead anyway.

While riding during the day, there are many other distractions: a log across the trail 200 feet ahead, a rut to avoid, the odd Sasquatch crashing through the underbrush (yep, they’re on the rebound in New Hampshire). Invariably, while I’m riding up the steep trail during the day, I see something else other than the immediate maneuvering problem to solve and that changes my pedal stroke, braking or steering just enough to cause a stall, a spin-out, or one of those Benny-Hill-falling-over-on-a-tricycle accidents.

I believe that this “riding at night” phenomenon applies very well to my business operations and perhaps to those of other businesses. One of my constant challenges while building and operating is resolving the nearly daily decision of “What should I work on next?” In a 24x7x365 SaaS operation like this, there’s always a tricky balancing act between important and urgent tasks.

To be continued…

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

December 14, 2007

How Mountain Bike Riding At Night Taught Me About Business Planning – Part 1

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Greg Larkin @ 8:00 am

Hello everyone and welcome to the first posting! I plan to use this forum to dive into various topics of interest to folks who are involved in entrepreneurship, software development and methodology and/or release engineering. I hope you like it, and please feel free to post comments and suggestions.

And so we begin…

Some of you may have noticed that it is getting dark very early these days, especially here in the frozen wilds of New Hampshire. I believe that it’s pitch black around 4:40pm. For a dedicated endurance athlete like me, this does not leave a lot of time to go outside for a nice workout during the day, so as a resourceful sort, I’ve been using the after-dark hours as an acceptable time for recreation.

To give you some context, in the mid-90s several of my friends and I stumbled across the idea of combining mountain biking with darkness. One problem with that idea turned out to be that none of the lighting systems we had at the time (flashlights, laser pointers, matches, jar of fireflies, etc.) were very good at illuminating a narrow dirt track in the woods that was rife with roots, rocks and various eye-poking branches. As dedicated geeks and unable to find affordable illumination options in the market, we each created our own homebrew lighting system, typically consisting of the following:

  • PVC plumbing tubes of various sizes and shapes
  • 12V halogen bulbs, typically 20W each
  • Silicone caulk to hold bulbs in place
  • Lots of wire and solder
  • 12V lead acid motorcycle battery (4+ Ah preferable)
  • Bicycle seat bag with reinforcements to hold a 5lb+ battery in place while bouncing over aforementioned roots and rocks

It was generally difficult to get through a ride without laughing our heads off due to the novelty of riding in the woods at night. It was also difficult to get through a ride without one or more systems breaking down, forcing the unlucky cyclist to ride at the front of a group of folks with enough light to make up for the loss.

To be continued…

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

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