Friday, August 26, 2011

Turning Tweets Into Capital

This week's Wall Street Journal Report discusses using twitter to land investors in your small business.  Emily Glazer writes in "Finding New Investors, In 140 Characters or Less" about how New Orleans' own Naked Pizza's use of Twitter led to more than 8,000 investment inquiries.  They also note a pretty effective conversion rate of nearly 25% of those inquiries turning into some kind of investment.

The owners of the company don't design their social media messages to speak directly to potential investors, but rather, they aim to start "a conversation in which like minds will engage", which ends up being investors at times.  In the post-Katrina era of New Orleans, Naked Pizza took their frustrations at being unable to expand and began to use social media to address those concerns.  But as Josh Bernoff of Forrestor Research Inc. noted to Ms. Glazer, trying to get investors through social media is "sort of like putting up a poster on a telephone pole: 'Invest in my company' ... You might reach a lot of people, but you don't know who they are to begin with."

In my work with small businesses, it has always been the most creative companies and individuals that are able to leverage emerging technology to grow their business.  I do not claim to have that same level of creativity, and am often envious of those clients who do something that makes me smack my forehead and ask myself why I didn't think of that first. 

So while it may be that "social media" is the current trendy wave to market a new business, I'm sure there is something else out there right now that someone is doing that will make us all smack our foreheads in a few years and ask why we didn't think of it first.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Earthquakes and File Backup

I am sure that after yesterday's earthquake on the east coast (and apparently another one in Colorado yesterday as well), the internet and blogs will be aflutter with stories of what everyone went through yesterday.  For my end, I was at my desk and thought that it was yet another large truck bounding by on the highway, which for some reason shakes my building at times.  As the shaking lasted longer than usual, I realized that it was something else and sure enough, mere minutes later the radio was full of stories about the earthquake that just hit us.

As the building shook, I was thinking of the need for backup systems for my client files and what would happen if something happened to our office building.  The building was quickly evacuated, but not before I (and most of the others in the building) grabbed our most important pieces of technology.  For me, it was my iPad, which contains access to my client files so that I have access to my files wherever I go.  I observed others grabbing external hard drives, which I assume contained their backups as well.

But all of this shaking also reinforced the importance of having a "cloud" or other "off-site" backup of all of your files.  Especially when an event such as an earthquake affects such a large area, more so than just the destruction of your office building, it's important to have off-site backups.

Years ago, a firm I worked for had a tape backup that ran each day and the office manager was supposed to take it home with her so that a backup was stored offsite (she invariably never took the tape home and it was a particularly ineffective backup system in that regard).  So if you don't want to use tapes, what do you use these days?

For my end, I use a variety of online backups and systems to keep access to my firm files in a variety of locations.  In addition to the iPad, I also have an external hard drive that backs up the files weekly, a cloud-based syncing software and a cloud-based backup as well.

From the various programs I've been to and the ads I've seen and heard, it sounds like the leaders in the online backup field are Carbonite, Mozy and Zmanda.  Each one provides relatively similar pricing, and it's probably a matter of which interface works best for your individual needs, but without a doubt, yesterday's earthquake reminded us of the importance of backing up your files.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Simplicity of Complexity

While on vacation, I finally had a chance to catch up on some reading that had been building up for months, including the May 2011 issue of Discover magazine.  In a sidebar peace, Valerie Ross discusses research regarding the satisfaction we get from listening to music, and how it "can activate the same reward circuits in the brain as food and sex."  The study also looked at the compression of music and found that great works of music "seem complicated but can be distilled to surprisingly basic terms."

For years, I have been unable to work without at least some background music playing (it probably comes from my college days when I was the music director at the radio station and was inundated weekly with new music).  But even these days, a quiet office without some music drives me nuts.  If they had let me, I would have brought headphones with music to the bar exam.  The silence in those rooms was so distracting that I'm surprised I was able to pass the exams.

Ms. Ross also notes a lesson about songs that can be applied to law and our daily lives - even complicated matters can often be distilled into more basic ones.  When approaching a litigation, often a "core message" that is properly tailored to a client's desired outcome can survive an entire case, which can last years, and tie together the entire controversy at trial's end.  Staying on that core message can lead to a coherent strategy and a focused, determined client at trial.

Indeed, just like an orchestra leader conducting a symphony, when all of the beautiful, complex music blends as one, the outcome is truly music to our ears.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A One-Sided Battle?

According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the so-called "Tablet War" is more like a drubbing, and while people have purchased nearly 29 million iPads, meanwhile Motorola has sold a whopping 690,000 tablets and RIM has sold approximately 500,000 tablets (HP didn't say how many they had sold, but are apparently already cutting the price of their TouchPad).  As the Journal points out, "Rivals discuss how many tablets they are shipping, but don't disclose how many units are actually being purchased by customers."

Traveling around New York (and beyond), I often encounter other people with iPads, but have yet to see one of the competitors in the hands of anyone else.  It seems that each time you read about a new tablet, it's compared to the iPad and its inferiorities are highlighted.

When I purchased my iPad, I was still working at a law firm that was not particularly technology forward.  There were no real opportunities to incorporate it into my practice and daily life.  However, since starting my own law firm, I have been able to integrate the many applications already created for iOS into my practice, including many beyond the simple contact management (i.e. email, calendar, contacts).

For all of my client meetings, I no longer have to grab a large briefcase and bring all kinds of files and paper with me.  Everything is accessible through my iPad, including Practice Management Software (GoClio), which allows for the creation of a client extranet.  When going into court with clients, it's an added bonus to have everything in one place, especially with the free wi-fi available in courthouses.

In the end, I never considered a different tablet (the only that even raised my eyebrow was the RIM Playbook, but only because I've been  a Blackberry aficionado for so many years) and I haven't seen anything in the press or otherwise to make me question that decision.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Little Vacation Reading

As my vacation winds down, I finally made it around to starting Edmund Morris' Colonel Roosevelt (if you haven't checked out the first two books, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, I highly recommend them both), which was given to me around the holidays.

Each chapter begins with poetry from Edwin Arlington Robinson, who won three Pulitzer prizes.  The first chapter had one that keeps resonating in my head,

Equipped with unobscured intent
He smiles with lions at the gate,
Acknowledging the compliment
Like one familiar with his fate.

Enjoy the weekend and it's back to the grind next week!