Scarlett of Suburbia

Field Notes from The Motherhood


February 2010

10 Great Tools to Create a Mobile Version of Your Site

Every day, however, thousands of people are releasing mobile versions of their websites and seeing greatly increased levels of traffic as a result. Unless you optimize your website for mobile phone users soon, you could be left behind by the competition. Creating a mobile-friendly version of your site sounds like a daunting task, but it couldn’t be easier to do. Using one of the excellent tools below, you’ll be able to build, host and launch your mobile site with absolutely no coding knowledge whatsoever.

1. MoFuse (from $7.95 per month)


MoFuse is one of the most popular mobile website builders around, which is unsurprising considering its excellent customizability. Visit the MoFuse website, click “Launch a New Mobile Site”, choose a mobile domain and insert your URL. Next, click on “Add Elements” to add dynamic and static content to each page. Click on “Layout” to transfer elements to your live site, dragging and dropping them to create the optimal visual arrangement before, finally, previewing your new site using MoFuse’s emulator, which brings up a mobile phone screen on your computer’s monitor. For bloggers, MoFuse is completely free and even easier to set up.

2. Mippin (free)


Mippin is an absolutely fantastic tool for those who want to mobilize an RSS-driven site. It doesn’t offer the same level of customization as MoFuse, but it’s much quicker to use and the results look great, every time. What’s more, your site will be optimized to work on over 2,000 handsets and the service is completely free. It provides users with basic analytics in reports, as well as the ability to earn money through mobile advertising.

3. Mobilize by Mippin (free)

Mobilize by Mippin

Mobilize by Mippin is a terrific WordPress plugin, which automatically displays your blog to mobile visitors from your normal URL. Once installed, everybody accessing your site from a mobile phone will be automatically redirected to the mobile version. Photos are scaled to fit the horizontal dimensions of a phone screen and videos are converted to the 3GP format, commonly used on most 3G, 2G and even 4G phones.

4. Wirenode (free basic package)


At last count, 31,912 websites had been optimized for mobile phones using Wirenode, a tool which lacks the customization potential of MoFuse, but offers slightly more in this regard than Mippin. From Wirenode’s dashboard, users can configure their domain name, upload pictures, track visitors and page views and preview their site on an emulated phone. Wirenode’s simple Editor interface lets users personalize their mobile site with colors and images, and create, edit, rearrange and delete individual pages.

5. 2ergo (contact for a quote)


2ergo has mobilized huge organizations like Rightmove and The National Guard, creating mobile-friendly websites for them which look great and load quickly. 2ergo’s customers can choose to use the self-service mobile publishing and content management tool, Mobile Site Builder, or let 2ergo design a custom site especially for them. The latter, obviously, is the more expensive option of the two. 2ergo’s service includes automatic device and carrier detection, data capture and collection forms, an integrated ad service platform, real-time tracking and top-notch technical support.

6. Zinadoo (free)


Zinadoo is a really slick, free tool, which lets users build a mobile site quickly and easily. Users can make the most of Zinadoo’s web and mobile widgets, as well as its text and email services, to promote their site to an online and offline community. Furthermore, they can optimize their site for Google Mobile with keywords and tags, and upload videos using Zinadoo’s Mobile Video. As if that wasn’t enough, users can also gain access to Zinadoo’s online Business Directory and Mobiseer, a Web 2.0 service for organizing, tagging, sharing and managing favorite mobile sites.

7. Winksite (free)


Winksite is an excellent W3C mobileOK and .mobi standards-compliant mobile website builder which focuses heavily on the community element of website promotion and social interaction. It’s packed full of mobile-community-type features like forums, chat and polls. Users can use Winksite to create their own mobile portal for communicating with friends, sharing feeds and favorites. Users can also divert all of their texts, emails and Twitter messages to one mobile destination which people can interact with.

8. MobiSiteGalore (free)


MobiSiteGalore offers a mobile website builder, which can be used just as easily from a mobile phone as a computer. Its Quick Start Wizard, accompanied throughout by Help Movies, makes setting up a mobile website incredibly easy. Once you’ve added pages, chosen a color scheme, added content and checked your new site for compliance with standards, you can add items to your new site from the Goodies List. Goodies include click-to-call, add to phone book, Google search and links to PayPal.

9. mobiReady (free)


You can’t build a mobile site using mobiReady. What you can do, however, is test your existing site for mobile usability. Enter your URL and press “Go” to get free reports, detailing how well your site displays on mobiles and any potential problem areas. You’re even given information regarding how much people in different parts of the world are charged to view your site.

10. Google Mobile Optimizer (free)

Google Mobile Optimizer

Google Mobile Optimizer is the quickest possible means of transforming your website into one suitable for mobile user consumption. Navigate your way to, enter a site URL and a lightweight version will appear, without headers, ads or images. It’s completely un-customizable and renders a minority of websites useless, but it’s a very useful bookmark for your phone.

By 2013, the majority of Americans will have a smart phone. Yesterday I posted this astonishing but true statistic: people who do have a mobile that has internet access spend nearly 3 hours per day doing so.

Make it mobile. Go on.


Augmented Identity Using Image Recognition

Augmented Identity

An application that lets users point a smart phone at a stranger and immediately learn about them premiered last Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Developed by The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a Swedish mobile software and design firm, the prototype software combines computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality.

Enhanced image: A prototype app for smart phones matches live images of people to stored profiles and shows icons for social networking sites around their heads.
Credit: The Astonishing Tribe

"It's taking social networking to the next level," says Dan Gärdenfors, head of user experience research at TAT. "We thought the idea of bridging the way people used to meet, in the real world, and the new Internet-based ways of congregating would be really interesting."

TAT built the augmented ID demo, called Recognizr, to work on a phone that has a five-megapixel camera and runs the Android operating system. A user opens the application and points the phone's camera at someone nearby. Software created by Swedish computer-vision firm Polar Rose then detects the subject's face and creates a unique signature by combining measurements of facial features and building a 3-D model. This signature is sent to a server where it's compared to others stored in a database. Providing the subject has opted in to the service and uploaded a photo and profile of themselves, the server then sends back that person's name along with links to her profile on several social networking sites, including Twitter or Facebook. The Polar Rose software also tracks the position of the subject's head–TAT uses this information to display the subject's name and icons for the Web links on the phone's screen without obscuring her face.

"It's a very robust approach" to facial recognition, says Andrew Till, vice president of marketing solutions at Teleca, a mobile software consulting company in the United Kingdom. "It's much, much better than what I've previously seen."

Till says that applying image and face recognition to the trend of posting photos on social networking sites opens up interesting new possibilities. "You start to move into very creative ways of pulling together lots of services in a very beneficial way for personal uses, business uses, and you start to get into things that you otherwise wouldn't be able to do," he says.

Polar Rose's algorithms can run on the iPhone and on newer Android phones, says the company's chief technical officer and founder, Jan Erik Solem. The augmented ID application uses a cloud server to do the facial recognition primarily because many subjects will be unknown to the user (so there won't be a matching photo on the phone), but also to speed up the process on devices with less processing power.

Academic and company research groups have developed augmented reality applications, which superimpose virtual objects and information on top of the real world, for more than a decade. But until the past year or so, all of these prototype applications required bulky headsets and laptop computers. With more powerful sensors, cameras, and microprocessors built into mobile phones, however, augmented reality applications have begun hitting the mainstream. Several apps take advantage of the GPS chips and compasses available in newer smart phones. For example, PresseLite's Metro Paris app and Acrossair's Nearest Tube provide iPhone users with directions to nearby subway stops.

But Gärdenfors calls such applications "relatively crude." They often obscure objects with labels, he notes, and are sometimes limited by the fact that location information may not be available. He thinks that many augmented reality services could benefit from including elements of computer vision to make information retrieval and label positioning more precise. "This could absolutely work for other kinds of objects, and I think we'll see that soon," he says.

However, Gärdenfors notes that using computer vision to identify buildings and other objects holds challenges that they didn't encounter in developing the augmented ID application. "With facial recognition, it's so obvious what you want to search for," says Gärdenfors. "With other objects, it may be harder to tell which item on the screen you want to identify."

Gärdenfors says that TAT has taken potential privacy concerns with the technology seriously from the beginning. "Facial recognition can be a kind of scary thing, and you could use it for a lot of different purposes." For that reason, the company designed Recognizr as a strictly opt-in service: people would have to upload a photo and profile of themselves, and associate that with different social networks before anyone could use the service to identify them. "You should only be able to look at people who have signed up for this," Gärdenfors says.

A concept video of the augmented ID application that TAT posted on YouTube last summer garnered a great deal of attention. Gärdenfors says the company often uses this strategy to determine which ideas justify further development. A live demonstration also received a lot of interest at the Mobile World Congress. "We're probably going to partner with some company over the next couple of months to take it to the next level and actually build [a product]," Gärdenfors says. While this will require partnerships with a device maker, a mobile service provider, and social networking services, the technology is developed enough that a commercial application could be ready in as little as a month or two, he says.

Source: MIT's Technology Review

The 10 Social Media Metrics Your Company Should Monitor

While companies are starting to adopt Social Media for online marketing campaigns, and even letting employees participate, the question of ROI (Return on Investment) arises, along with doubts about what metrics to measure. How do you know how effective your social media campaigns are if you’re not measuring any metrics, let alone an overall ROI? Below, we discuss ten important Social Metrics for companies.

According to 2009 Mzinga & Babson Executive Education study, over 80% of professionals do not measure ROI for their company’s social media programs. Granted, Social Metrics and their measurement techniques are relatively new, and this might account for the lag in tracking. However, there are some organizations measuring social metrics, which enables them to eventually measure ROI. Marketing Sherpa’s survey of 2,000+ marketers shows the following three social metrics at the top of what’s being measured:

  1. Visitors and sources of traffic
  2. Network size (followers, fans, members)
  3. Quantity of commentary about brand or product

These are easily understandable common social metrics. However, with some C-level executives saying that they want to measure ROI from social media but don’t yet know the value of certain types of social media, there has to be more measurement and analysis. Monitoring data is only valuable if metrics relevant to a company are being tracked, analyzed, then applied to improving a Social Media Marketing (SMM) strategy. Each company may have some specific requirements, but here are ten important social media metrics to measure:

  1. Social media leads. Track web traffic breakdowns from all social media sources, and chart the top few sources over time. If members of your social media networks are sending referrals, consider measuring this data as well.
  2. Engagement duration. For some companies, engagement duration is more important than page views. For example, if you have a Facebook application, how much time are social network members spending using it? Is per-member usage increasing over time? Alternately, if people visit your your company websites from SM (Social Media) sites, how long are they spending? (Also consider tracking which pages they visit.)
  3. Bounce rate. Are visitors coming to your site from SM sites but quickly leaving? Maybe your landing page needs better, more relevant copy. Maybe the information they’re seeking isn’t easily found.
  4. Membership increase and active network size. This is the portion of your company’s social networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) that actively engages with your social media content (e.g., Twitter, Facebook Pages, etc.) Is your collective members, followers, fans network growing, and is there interaction with your content?
  5. Activity ratio. How active is your company’s collective social network? Compare the ratio of active members vs total members, and chart this over time. There’ll always be some social network members who are inactive, but if you initiate a campaign to increase interaction, you should also measure the resulting data. Activity can be measured in a variety of ways, including usage of social applications.
  6. Conversions. You want social network members to convert: into subscriptions, sales (direct or through affiliates), Facebook application use, or whatever other offerings you have in your overall sales funnel and that can somehow be directly or indirectly monetized. (E.g., subscription to a weekly e-newsletter can be monetized by giving other companies access to your list in the form of advertising.) Measure all types of conversions and chart them over time.
  7. Brand mentions in social media. So, you have a highly active social network and members are talking about your company or the company’s brands. Measure and track both positive and negative mentions, and their quantities.
  8. Loyalty. Are social members interacting in the network repeatedly, sharing content and links, mentioning your brands, evangelizing? How many members reshare? How often do they reshare?
  9. Virality. Social members might be sharing Twitter tweets and Facebook updates relevant to your company, but is this info being reshared by their networks? How soon afterwards are they resharing? How many FoaFs (Friends of Friends) are resharing your links and content?
  10. Blog interaction. This is actually more than one metric lumped together. Blogs ARE part of an SMM (Social Media Marketing) toolkit, but only if you allow comments and interact with readers by responding. If you’re doing this, encourage responses either directly in the comments section of blog posts, or via Twitter. (Use a blog widget that allows this.) If your blog’s content is suitable for social voting (Digg, Propeller, Mixx, etc.) or social bookmarking (Delicious, Stumbleupon) sites, install a blog plugin that displays the necessary sharing “buttons”, then track referrals back from those sites.

You can see from the above list that there are both key metrics and variations that you’ll probably want to monitor and analyze, depending on your business objectives. Not all of them are simple metrics to track, and as such do require either or both custom tools and custom reports. Supplement your metrics reports by noting any milestones in your SMM plan. Also, if you run any sort of social campaigns, measure the ROI on specific goals.  Social campaigns could use applications (E.g., Facebook applications like  Mob the Rainbow) to encourage social participation. Measure  application usage and resulting conversions. Finally, the use of complex measurements such as Multiple Moving Averages (MMAs) can show both short- and long-term trends, thus providing you with an overall view of the health of your sites and social networks.

Are there other metrics you measure that you feel are more important for your company? What tools do you use to measure social metrics? Let us know in the comments.

Good starting point for social media metrics you *should* be monitoring (measuring) and analyzing.

People Use Mobile Web Nearly 3 Hours/Day :: MediaPost

A new study of mobile Internet use by PR firm Ruder Finn finds, among other things, that Americans spend about 2.7 hours on the mobile Internet per day. Ninety-one percent of mobile phone users go online to socialize versus 79% of desktop computer users.

Also, mobile phone users are 1.6 times more likely to manage finances compared to traditional desktop users. The Mobile Intent Index study also found that mobile phone users don’t use the Web for educational purposes or creative expression; and men use the mobile Web to escape while women use it “to make others laugh.”

“Mobile phones have become the way people organize their lives — managing finances, connecting with friends, purchasing products — and this trend will only accelerate,” said Kathy Bloomgarden, Ruder Finn co-CEO,in a statement.

In the study, which asked people how frequently they use their mobile phones to go online for 295 reasons, three in five said they download applications at least once per month, while 36% download applications from social networking sites at least once per month.

The firm says that when shopping, men are more likely than women to compare prices, but women are more likely to purchase. Also, women use the mobile Web to express themselves, while men conduct business. Youth are more likely to shop over their mobile phones than the average mobile user, and seniors are much more likely than the traditional user to use their mobile phones to educate themselves.

Also, 91% of respondents said they go online to socialize, versus 79% of traditional Web users: 62% are sending and receiving instant messages; 58% forward e-mails; 40% forward content; 38% forward photos; 45% post comments on social networking sites, and 43% connect with others on such sites.

The firm says mobile Web users are handling more personal finance online. The study said 60% of mobile Web users are 1.3 times more likely to go online to do business compared to traditional users. They are 1.6 times more likely to manage finances. The survey said the top business intents are online banking, checking bills and credit card status and reading business blogs.

What Consumers Will Pay for Online :: Mashable

Movies, music, and games top a new list from Nielsen of the content types that consumers are most willing to pay for online. The data, which comes from a survey of 27,000 consumers across 52 countries, also indicates that content created online – like blogs, podcasts, and video – are least likely to attract consumer’s dollars.

At face value, the findings might seem like good news for old media companies that are increasingly eying paywalls as a source of salvation, as consumers did indicate more of a willingness to pay for online newspapers, magazines and radio than their user-generated counterparts. You can see all of the findings in this chart:

However, Nielsen also found that “nearly eight out of every ten (79%) would no longer use a web site that charges them, presuming they can find the same information at no cost.” In other words, unless your organization breaks lots of exclusive and important stories, charging for content will be a major uphill battle.

How do the findings compare to your willingness to pay for various forms of content? Let us know in the comments.

Seems like some money is being left on the table. That said, IMHO social communities like Facebook should either be ad-supported OR subscription-based, not a hybrid. American consumers tend to be pretty black-and-white.

Goodbye Loyalty Cards – Hello Group Demanded Discounts :: WSJ

Some small businesses are experimenting with new Web-marketing services that integrate social media. While entrepreneurs say they've seen some positive results, some of the services carry hefty fees and their long-term value remains unclear.

Start-ups like Groupon Inc., LivingSocial, BuyWithMe Inc. and IMshopping Inc.'s NimbleBuy let merchants offer one-day promotions, sometimes requiring a minimum number of customers to participate in order for the promotion to be valid.

James Conway Photography

AJ Bombers co-owner Joe Sorge says sales of menu items promoted on FourSquare have risen roughly 30% since he began using the service.



Balani Custom Clothiers Inc., a Chicago men's suit and shirt tailor, offered a promotion through Groupon where, for one day in October, consumers could spend $95 on a gift certificate from the tailor shop valued at $225 that's redeemable for up to one year. But at least 50 cards needed to be purchased for any to become valid.

"Since a certain number of consumers must buy in to activate the deal, consumers are motivated to spread the word about it," says Andrew Mason, founder and chief executive of Groupon, which features mainly small businesses in about 40 U.S. cities.

Balani Custom says it met its quota—a number the company decided on with help from Groupon—in less than an hour of the deal going live. It sold 850 gift certificates that day—the maximum the four-employee shop determined it could handle.

"We were all over Twitter and Facebook that day," says owner Sonny Balani, adding that normally the tailor shop, which posted $1 million in revenue in 2009, sells just 100 gift certificates a year.

Still, Balani paid a hefty price for the exposure—50% of the earnings generated from the promotion went to Groupon—which means the tailor received just $47.50 per gift certificate sold.

Mr. Balani says 88% of the cards were purchased by first-time customers, but since some bought more than one, the promotion actually netted just over 460 newcomers. He's hoping the investment will pay off with repeat business. "It's going to depend on how many of these customers return," he says.

Since launching in November 2008, Groupon has featured more than 3,000 mostly small establishments, says Mr. Mason, adding that there's a waiting list of companies to participate in the service. He says he looks to showcase a variety of business types and may give preferential treatment to ones in categories that have yet to be highlighted in a particular location. He declined to say how many companies are on the waiting list.

Another start-up that integrates social media with marketing is FourSquare Labs Inc., which lets participating merchants reward consumers who use the service to promote their establishment.

Users visit the FourSquare Web site to download a free mobile-phone application for a participating merchant. When customers visit the participating establishment, such as a restaurant, they can "check-in" via the mobile application, letting their friends know where they are and racking up possible points with the merchant. The application uses global-positioning technology so that consumers need to be at a business to get credit for checking in—though technically they could just be close by. It also offers consumers the option to notify members of their Twitter and Facebook networks whenever they check in to an establishment.

"It's a mini sales pitch from the users to their friends," says co-founder Dennis Crowley.

FourSquare is free for both businesses and consumers. To generate revenue, FourSquare is working to develop partnerships with various consumer brands and media outlets for a fee.

John Reilly

From left, Sonny Balani, CEO, and Peter Balani, founder of Balani Custom Clothiers Inc.



AJ Bombers, a burger joint in Milwaukee, joined up with FourSquare last summer by promising a free burger and fries to anyone who dethroned its "mayor"—a title FourSquare bestows upon the person who "checks in" to an establishment the most via the free mobile application.

The restaurant also ran a promotion where customers could get a free cookie by posting a recommendation to their FourSquare profiles of a menu item or something to do while they're at the eatery, such as play a board game.

AJ co-owner Joe Sorge says sales of menu items promoted on FourSquare have risen roughly 30% since the restaurant began using the service.

Mr. Sorge and his wife, Angie, also co-own three other businesses that make up Strategic Venues & Concepts Ltd., which posted combined revenues of around $5 million last year, he says.

FourSquare can be used by businesses of all sizes in any location, though Mr. Crowley says it's so far attracted mostly small U.S. establishments where consumers hang out, such as coffee shops and clubs. Since launching in March, about 750 merchants have offered deals through the service, he adds.

Business owners interested in using services that integrate marketing and social media should keep in mind they'll need to design attractive deals and prepare for a potential surge in business. Some of the services don't make sense for all business types and are only available to merchants in select cities.

Since December, venture capitalists have invested more than $90 million in start-ups that mix marketing and social media, estimates Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist in Miami

Entrepreneurs who tap into the trend may boost their exposure and be perceived as cutting edge, says Andrew T. Stephen, assistant professor of marketing at INSEAD, a business school in Singapore and Fontainebleau, France. "It's sort of a signal that you're up with things," he says.

Improved Productivity: A 12-Step Program

Productivity can seem so elusive at times. It can be hard to prioritize, manage the workload and stay focused, but with a few simple steps and a good dose of discipline, you can be on your way to more control over your days.

  1. Plan your exit. Productivity for tomorrow starts today. Set a time to leave the office and stick with it. An hour before that time, have a wrap-up alarm remind you to start wrapping things up for the day, a great tip from organizational and productivity guru Julie Morgenstern in her book, “Never Check E-Mail in the Morning”.
  2. Plan tomorrow. Set your intentions and priorities for tomorrow during the last hour of your day so that you hit the ground running.
  3. Set your boundaries. At quitting time, turn off the computer (completely off so that you’re not tempted to “quickly” check your email), turn off the light, and shut the door. Don’t return until it’s time to work tomorrow.
  4. Honor a bedtime routine. Two or three hours before you want to be asleep, begin a routine of winding down. This will be different for every person, but it might include: no more phone calls or connectivity with the outside world (unless it’s an emergency, of course), no more talk about work, a bath or shower, a cup of hot tea, light reading, journal writing, no television, and lights out at a set time.
  5. Start the day off right. Wake up at a set time. Exercise or do yoga for fifteen or twenty minutes, unless you have another workout routine that you prefer. Eat a healthy breakfast (don’t skip this, as it affects your energy levels for the rest of the day). Set out with the right intention for your day by taking care of yourself first.
  6. Maintain your boundaries. Don’t immediately go to your office and start checking emails or news feeds. You’ll be at your computer all day. Take some time for yourself and other priorities in your life, or they’re less likely to get done later in the day, especially after work.  Have some coffee, write in your journal, read, or go for a walk. Just take some time for yourself before jumping into your work day.
  7. Avoid or limit email time. Avoid checking your email right when you go to the office, or if you prefer seeing if anything important is waiting, at least limit your time to fifteen minutes so that it doesn’t distract you from more important tasks. Email is a huge time suck; if you don’t control it, it will control you.
  8. Avoid or limit news feeds and social networks. This is another time-suck that easily distracts from other priorities. Set specific times for keeping up with the latest news and updates, and then be diligent about staying away from the distractions.
  9. Start with your list. Jump right to your list of intentions and priorities that you jotted down the previous day. You were probably much more focused and honest about what needed your attention when you were planning it out with a clear head. First thing in the morning, it’s easy to want to procrastinate or give too much importance to trivial tasks and to-dos.
  10. Check in often. Set yourself an alarm for every hour or two. Don’t let yourself get too far off base from your intention/priority list. If you do get derailed, at least you’ll not lose much time this way.
  11. Work in blocks. In a business, it’s easy to have a wide variety of different types of tasks. There might be client work, writing and publishing, and marketing-related tasks to be done. Groups these tasks and complete them in scheduled blocks of time, say two- or three-hour sittings.
  12. Stay disciplined. When you finish with a particular type of task, like work for a specific client, don’t pick up that client’s work again until his/her designated time comes back around again. It’s easy to be tempted to do “just one more thing” for a project, especially when clients are emailing feedback and updates throughout the day, but avoid the temptation. Treat all time blocks with equal importance, whether you’re working on client projects or doing lead generation tasks. It’s all important, and if you don’t maintain a balance between current work and future prospects, you’ll experience peaks and valleys with your revenue as well.

It’s not always easy to stay on track. Time flies, distractions can beg for your attention, and deadlines loom, making you feel pulled in one hundred directions and unable to keep up with the demands, but by approaching your work with purpose and discipline, it’s a lot easier to get things done and feel great about what you’ve accomplished.

Could we all agree this is the way we work? Pretty please???

‘Undercover Boss’: 10 Management Lessons from 7-Eleven

As the largest convenience store chain in the world, we think of 7-Eleven as those bright little stores with drinks and snacks, not a place to gain management insight. Well, with 36,000 stores in 18 countries and over 30,000 employees to support them, the operational and organizational challenges of this unique company are extraordinary.

Not only that, but the company’s owned by a Japanese holding company, it’s headquartered in Dallas, and it’s run by a West Point graduate originally from Chicago. Talk about culture clash! 

That said, the parent company, Seven & I Holdings Co., Ltd., gives chief executive Joe DePinto (pictured) remarkably free reign. Since taking over the top job in 2005, DePinto has introduced and deployed a company-wide cultural shift based on the principals of “Servant Leadership” and “The 7-Eleven Way.” Whatever that means, it seems to be working.

As evidence, here are 10 Management Lessons from this week’s Undercover Boss:

  1. Think synergy. In 1927, Joe C. Thompson, an employee of Southland Ice Company, came up with the idea to sell milk, bread, and eggs from an ice dock he managed. The ice preserved the food and, well, the rest is history. Synergy is fundamental to the 7-Eleven story.
  2. Continuous improvement is key. DePinto tells his leadership team, “I’ll be focusing on spending time in the field, where the rubber meets the road. I’m going to see what we’re not doing well, and that’s only going to make us better in the long run.” I’m sure Joe knows the Japanese word “kaizen,” which refers to the management principal of continuous improvement.
  3. A fresh set of eyes can see missed opportunities. In the show, one of the chain’s highest grossing stores had lights that had been out for some time, a potential safety hazard. Maintenance support said it could take up to a month to fix. Question: shouldn’t higher-producing stores get higher priority support?     
  4. Employees can inspire management. Through his hard work, can-do attitude, and passion for the job, Igor, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who drives a distribution truck, actually inspires Joe to be a better executive. 
  5. Many great leaders started at the bottom. DePinto comes from a blue-collar family. After West Point, he worked his way up at PepsiCo. My path was similar. You always hear people complaining about lack of opportunities. I think that’s a load of bull.    
  6. Communications is always a challenge. Far-flung operations and thousands of franchisees compound the challenge of communicating programs and messages across a vast network of stores. During the show, one store routinely trashed day-old bakery items that were supposed to go to charity.
  7. Replicate what works. One store on Long Island sells more coffee – 2500 cups a day – than any other location. Danny, Joe’s undercover alter ego, learns that the store manager, Delores, knows virtually all her customers by name. Do you know all your customers that well?
  8. An army runs on infrastructure and logistics. At West Point, DePinto was trained to ensure that equipment is always working and “mission ready.” Behind the scenes, 7-Eleven’s sprawling distribution and support centers and plants that make enormous amounts of perishable foods are a testament to his operational training.
  9. There are tricks to doing just about anything. On a donut production line, “Danny” couldn’t keep up with the pace of a conveyor belt until trainer Phil showed him a trick to doing it more efficiently. That’s the case with every task in business, no matter how big and strategic or small and menial.  
  10. Engineers make great executives. DePinto, Larry O’Donnell from Waste Management, and a healthy percentage of executives from the technology industry all started as engineers, as did I. Sure, I’ve known quite a few dysfunctional ones, but by and large, they make competent executives. Any ideas on why that is? 

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