Accomplishments in 2019:

Books Read in 2019

In a quest for continuous learning I set the ambitious goal of read 40 books. While I was diverted by numerous educational rabbit holes (the amount of information available on the internet is limitless), I fortunately finished 42 books during 2019.  Most books were business-oriented, many with a marketing and/or story-telling focus.

  1. Blitzscaling, The Lightning-Fast Path To Building Massively Valuable Companies, by Reid Hoffman and Chris YehMy thoughts on Blitzscaling.
  2. Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken KociendaMy thoughts on Creative Selection.
  3. Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the World of Innovation, by Gary Shapiro
  4. This is Marketing: You Cannot Be Seen Until You See, by Seth Godin
  5. Industry e-book for a sustainability project I am working on.
  6. Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller
  7. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous
  8. Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, by Mark Schaefer
  9. Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction, by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson
  10. The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven By Customer Lifetime Value, by Peter Fader and Sarah Toms
  11. Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger
  12. Mensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman
  13. Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall
  14. Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t, by Jim Collins
  15. Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster
  16. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson
  17. Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control The Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade, by Joseph Sugarman
  18. Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich
  19. Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, by Brian Kurtz
  20. How To Hire People Who Give A Sh*T: The Golden Rules, by Erika Weinstein
  21. Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life, by Rory Sutherland
  22. The Tangled Mind: Unraveling the Origin of Human Nature, by Nick Kolenda
  23. Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
  24. Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brandby Steve Robinson
  25. Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman
  26. Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel.  My thoughts on Digital Transformation
  27. Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn
  28. Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  29. How To Talk To Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, by Leil Lowndes
  30. Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath
  31. Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports, by David Meltzer
  32. Break Through The Noise: The Nine Rules To Capture Global Attention, by Tim Staples
  33. The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts, by Shane Parrish
  34. Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business, by Kindra Hall
  35. Everything is Figureoutable, by Marie Forleo
  36. Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change, by Marc Benioff
  37. Almost Alchemy: Make Any Business of Any Size Produce More With Fewer and Less, by Dan Kennedy
  38. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years As CEO of the Walt Disney Company, by Robert Iger
  39. Finding Genius: Venture Capitalists and the Future They Are Betting On, by Kunal Mehta
  40. The Amazon Management System: The Ultimate Digital Business Engine That Creates Extraordinary Value for Both Customers and Shareholders, by Ram Charan and Julia Yang
  41. Million Dollar Story: Secrets of Entrepreneurs Who Had To Lose a Pivot To Profit & Win With Purpose
  42. Instabrain: The New Rules for Marketing to Generation Z, by Sarah Weise

Digital Marketing Professional Certificate from Wharton Online

The Digital Marketing Professional Certificate program consisted of four courses:

Each course consisted of four or five units, each unit is three to five hours, and the program recommends one unit per week.  While much of the material was reiteration of previous knowledge, overall it was time well spent as often marketing aspects were presented from a different perspective.  New ways of thinking and new viewpoints are priceless.  I am a strong believer in the analytics of digital marketing, and the courses were a solid mix of ‘new digital’, its growth from variations of “old-world” direct response, and an overall online-offline mixture.

The course I enjoyed most was Customer Centricity, Managing the Value of Customer Relationships which discusses marketing philosophies that I have believed since my very first entrepreneurial venture: not all customers are created equal.  The majority of profits come from a company’s top ten or twenty percent of its customers, as well as the lesser customers which can be moved-up into this high value group.  The remaining customers are still important, as they help amortize substantial fixed costs, but enhanced service efforts should be focused on top tier customers.  Professor Fader, in Customer Centricity, also interwove marketing and finance in Customer Based Corporate Valuations.  I am a big proponent of the similarity in analytical aspects of data-driven marketing to finance, as has been demonstrated in the crisscrossing of the two throughout my career.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 4.41.08 PM

Alexa Apps

For the past forty years, nearly everyone has interacted with computers through The Graphical User Interface.  GUI still controls 95+% of the market versus only a minimal amount for the Voice User Interface.  However, it seems pretty obvious that VUI’s share will grow at the expense of GUI in the near, as well as further out, future.  Often the best way to learn is by doing, therefore I set out to create a couple of Alexa Skills (apps).  Both Alexa Apps, What Occurred First and We All Love Superheroes, are very basic but they have been helped me obtain a better understanding of the Voice market, and the nuances/difficulties in current specific speech understanding, as well as, the current absence of an efficient discovery search engine for Voice applications.

What Occurred First

We All Love Superheroes

 

How much of the 2019 CyberMonday increase is due to calendar shift? The initial 2019 numbers look fantastic, but the 16%-17% growth is significantly overstated, in my opinion, as the majority of the increase is due to the shift in calendar and shorter 2019 holiday shopping window. CyberMonday 2019 occurred on December 2nd, with only 22 days remaining until Christmas Eve, while in 2018 CyberMonday was November 26th, which left 28 days until Christmas Eve. Overall year-over-year total holiday sales growth may be up, but the increase will likely only be in the low to mid single digits.

From BusinessInsider:

Online spending on Cyber Monday soared nearly 17% year-over-year to $9.2 billion, with shoppers spending about $11 million ever minute during peak hours, according to preliminary data from Adobe Analytics.

$3 billion of Cyber Monday’s online sales were completed through a smartphone, which represents a 46% increase over last year’s smartphone-based purchases.

The spending totals make Cyber Monday 2019 the biggest online spending day in US history. Black Friday‘s online sales, by comparison, totaled $7.4 billion, according to Adobe. Online sales also totaled $7.4 billion on the Saturday and Sunday after Black Friday. Since December 1, the 2019 holiday season overall has generated $72.1 billion online, representing growth of more than 16%.

www.businessinsider.com/cyber-monday-spending-soars-smartphones-2019-12

 

#CyberMonday #2019HolidaySales

I have continued my quest to read 40 books in 2019, finishing 35 to date.  Below are my top ten reads as well as three for which, imho, your time could be better spent elsewhere.  My most enjoyable reads make me think, question previous beliefs or lines of reasoning, and/or expand important subject matters, either personal or professional.  Both lists are simply in the order that the books were read.

My Top 10 Reads of 2019:

3 Reads of 2019 I would skip:

  • Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the World of Innovation, by Gary Shapiro
  • Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand
  • Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports, by David Meltzer

 

#40booksin2019  #ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

 

How often do you use Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?  In our house, we converse with Alexa multiple times a day for music and speaking to Alexa has become quite natural.  We do not yet utilize Alexa in other day to day applications yes, but it feels like, over time voice will become the natural interface for many applications.  The Graphical User Interface is the way everyone has interacted with computers for the last forty years and still likely controls 99% of the market versus only a minimal amount for the Voice User Interface.  However, it seems pretty obvious that VUI share will grow at the expense of GUI in the near, as well as further out, future.  Often the best way to learn is by doing, therefore in my quest for continuous learning, I set out to create an Alexa Skill (app).

My first Alexa skill is What Occurred First, a simple, challenging app testing your knowledge of history, in a fun, slightly addictive manner.  Alexa asks questions such as, What Occurred First, Aaron Burr fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel or The Louisiana Purchased was signed?  The US Constitution was written in Philadelphia or The French Revolution?  What Occurred First, the Pony Express began or the New York Times was founded?  The answers may surprise you.  How many can you get correct in a row?

I enjoyed creating the game and would love to hear comments.  To check out What Occurred First, go to Amazon, and type in ‘What Occurred First Alexa’, click ‘Enable’, then ask “Alexa open What Occurred First” or use the following link: https://amzn.to/2JcO635  then click ‘Enable’ and ask “Alexa open What Occurred First”.

#alexaskill  #history  #americanhistory  #continuouslearning

What Occurred First?

Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel is a the most important and informative book I have read in 2019.  It analyzes the confluence of Cloud Computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, as well as, the current increasing speed of technological change.  Each of these areas is having a tremendous impact on every aspect of business today, as well as tomorrow, and in combination they are radically re-defining virtually every aspect of every business.  52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 are no longer there (including acquisitions).  Digital Transformation is a vital read, although with the enormous amount of information the book contains, it can seem encyclopedic at times.

Thomas Siebel compares Jay Gould’ s theory of punctuated equilibrium to the current technological environment.  Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium states that rather than a straight gradual progression declared in Darwin’s theory, evolution is not continuous and instead remains in relative equilibrium for long stretches followed by sporadic moments of sudden and massive changes.  These massive changes cause radical disruptions until a new stability (i.e. punctuated equilibrium) is found.  Seibel hypothesizes that the confluence of cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are in the process of a massive, radically disruptive period for business.

Cloud computing has eliminated many of the monetary aspects of launching a business, and its economic efficiencies have allowed established companies to redirect IT infrastructure budgets towards other aspects thereby increasing overall growth.  Big data along with Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are transforming processes across industries from predictive maintenance to new product development and sophisticated, in-depth understanding of customers.  Predictive maintenance is allowing companies to reduce problems before they occur, rather than rely on less efficient pre-determined maintenance schedules.  With real-time information from the edge, that can be processed in the cloud utilizing artificial intelligence, the possibilities are endless.

#40booksin2019  #ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I recently finished reading my 30th book of 2019, with the goal of completing forty by the year’s end. My favorite book of the past few months is Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman, which contains lots of nuggets of information written in numerous short snippets.  Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann, Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath, Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel, are all worthwhile reads.  Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk as well as Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn, are rah-rah, inspirational entrepreneurial reads.  Both are enjoyable, quick reads with the inspirational, ‘You can run through a brick wall’ approach.

I would skip Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson.  Chick-fil-A’s continually growth is beyond impressive and I’m a big fan of their food.  Chick-fil-A’s message of the business performing as a ‘higher calling’ to G-d is potentially inspirational, but the author presents a biased, white-washed view by ignoring the chains past and current controversies.  Covert Cows simply lacks any meat by specifically failing to address any of the same-sex and anti-gay issues associated with the chain through the remarks and beliefs of its family ownership, as well as, the charitable donations made by the company.

Most recent reads:

  • Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
  • Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson
  • Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman
  • Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel
  • Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn
  • Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • How To Talk To Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, by Leil Lowndes
  • Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement  #40booksin2019

The lease on my wife’s car was expiring in three days.  She drove a 2015 Nissan Murano SV which we liked, but was also 16,300 miles over the lease mileage allotment.  We had three choices: 1) Buy out the 2015 for about $19k, but according to Kelly Blue Book, the car was only worth about $13k.  2) Return the car in three days, pay $2650 for the excess miles, then lease or buy another car.  3) Roll the excess mileage into a new Nissan lease.  Since we both like the Murano, we opted for the latter.  First, I went to the dealership that leased us the current car to determine our base cost.  Their offer was $401 per month, $1,000 down, for a 12K/year 3-year lease of a 2019 Murano S. The 2019 S has virtually all the options that are in the 2015 SV, except power seats.  The saleswoman offered $399 per month, then asked what it would take for us to lease the 2019 S.  I stated $350 per month, knowing that we might not be able to get all the way there, but also knowing there was a lot of room in her initial offer.  She said that she could not get to $350, and offered the 2019 S for $389.  I thanked her and left.  Worst case, I would comeback two-days later for the $389.

The next morning (8/30), I called several dealers and sent the following note to dealers thru their websites:

Hi there.  I would like to lease a 2019 Nissan Murano S for $360 per month, 15K miles/year, with $1000 down, with the previous mileage rolled into this lease.  I would like to sign the lease either 8/31 or 9/1.  I currently have a Nissan Murano SV with the lease expiring on 9/1.  Current car info below:

Current Car:  2015 Nissan Murano SV.
VIN:5N1AZ2xxxxxxxxxxx
42 month expires 9/1/19. (Never late on a payment; credit score 750)
Total Allowable miles: 42,000
Current miles: 58,282
Overage (.15+CT tax): $2600

Last month, unrelatedly, while renting a car, I noticed there was a 30% difference in the base rate of identical cars from the same rental car companies located about 45 minutes north of here.  Therefore, I hypothesized that we might see significant lease savings if expanded our dealer search, which I limited to about 60 miles.

Each Nissan dealer I called asked me to schedule an appointment to come in, to which I replied, I knew exact what I wanted and preferred to do everything over the phone. Most stated that they could not discuss it over the phone but then either preceded to continue the discussion over the phone, or have a salesperson call me back.  I was amazed at the range of prices.  Nissan City in Port Chester, who advertises heavily on TV stated that rolling over the mileage of the previous lease, and leasing a 2019 S with only $1,000 down would cost $500/month (Looks like high margins are necessary to pay for that TV advertising).  A relatively close CT dealer stated that they could only get to $400 per month on a 2019 S. I then started to get responses to my website inquiries.  If the dealer asked me to set up an in-person appointment, I simply restated the above note, ending with ‘I will come in if you can please confirm that the above terms are acceptable’.

Next I received a response to a web inquiry from a dealership about 60 miles away, Crowley Nissan, that hit my offer of a 2019 S for $350/month with 12K miles or $360/month with 15K.  I called the salesperson, Steve, to confirm everything was included, and set up an appointment to see the car the following day.  I told him I would need a quick test drive, to see how easily the manual seats maneuvered, and if satisfied would sign the new lease on the spot. A little while later, I received a call back from a different dealer about 45 miles away, Paul at County Line Nissan, also matching the requested offer; however I told him that I had already given my word accepting an offer.  He followed up with a polite text stating that he could save me a few more bucks a month and asking if I would change my mind?  I thanked him, texted that I was going to keep my word, but also mentioned that he would be the first person I call if I ran into any issues the following day.  At this point I felt comfortable that I would be able to rollover the excess miles from the current lease and pick up a 2019 Murano S with 15k miles for $360/month and $1,000 down.

The next day I drove an hour to Crowley Nissan to meet Steve to test drive the 2019 S.  The car drove fine, but the manual seats bothered me. Our current car is driven by my wife 99% of the time, but since we have a newborn and the new Murano will be the baby car, it will be driven by both of us.  I asked Steve what he could do for an SV rather than an S, but he said the SV would be $400/month with 12K miles or $410/month with $15K.  I quickly sent a short text to Paul, asking “what’s the beast deal I can get with an SV”.  About ten minutes later, he offered to match the same price as the S for the SV whose MSRP was $38k (vs $34k on the S).  Steve was surprised by the offer, said that he could not do that deal, and to accept it if they are matching the price without any additional extra charges.  I shot Paul a text questioning if it includes “all taxes and other stuff” which Paul quickly confirmed.  I replied, it sounds good, and I will be there in thirty minutes.  About 15 minutes into the trip, Steve called saying that he found a workaround to be able to match the $360/month, 15K miles for a black 2019 Murano SV, but as I had now given my word, I drove the remaining 10 minutes to County Line.  At this point I felt confident that we would be able to lease an SV with 15K miles for $360 per month, already a significant improvement from the base expectation including saving $1000 with 3K additional annual miles on a better car.

When I met Paul, sure enough he had a 2019 SV in Pearl White, and there were no additional costs. The car was beautiful with a metallic White exterior and cream interior, however as I looked at the bright, pristine interior, I could only imagine all the dirt and colorful artwork our newborn would showcase throughout the interior.

 

 

 

I told Paul, I loved the car, but the interior (of a new car with only 10 miles) which already naturally started to show some dirt did not make sense with a baby.  Paul understood and went to see what he could do.  I reconfirmed that I wanted to drive home the new car today, and knew we had the black 2019 SV as a back-up at the previous dealer.  I was pleasantly surprised when he located a perfect 2019 SV Magnetic Black exterior, black interior which included the Premium Package (an additional $3.5k MSRP) of a power panoramic sunroof, 360-degree view monitoring around the vehicle in one image, Bose stereo and heated front seats.  All very cool features, but I stated that wanted to keep near the prior price.   County Line offered the SV with the premium package for $367 per month (including rolling in the excess miles from the prior lease), 15K miles, $1,000 down which I gladly accepted (there was no need to fight for the last couple of dollars).

In under 48 hours, through research, various dealer inquires and negotiations, we went from an initial base deal of $399 per month with 12K miles for a 2019 Murano S (MSRP $34,600) to saving over $1,000, increasing the annual mileage by 3K, upgrading the model and including the premium package in a 2019 Murano SV (MSRP $41,700).

A few recommendations:

  1. Research the market to determine which vehicle and options you prefer.
  2. Understand your current lease to know the true cost of each option.
  3. Once you have determined which car you want to lease/buy, obtain a base price that establishes your worst-case scenario.
  4. Create a short write-up that includes all your current lease info as well as the specific terms you are seeking. The write-up should be very direct and demonstrate that you want to close a deal quickly.
  5. Send the note directly to dealers through their website contact links.
  6. Call dealers directly. Do not be afraid to expand your search as the one-time slightly further drive can be worthwhile to receive a significantly better deal (Future car services can still be done at your local dealer).
  7. Do not go into dealerships until after they have agreed to terms that are acceptable to you, but confirm that you want to close a deal quick and will go to the dealership if they agree to your terms.
  8. Have your lease end on the 1st of a month, as the ability to close a deal at the end of a month helps dealer’s current monthly numbers.

 

#AutoLease #CarLease #Negotiating #Saved1000onmycarlease #Carleasing #Autoleasing #NissanMurano

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