Great meeting you…now here’s a list of people I’d like to meet

linkedin-logoThis year a considerable part of my time has been spent networking and building relationships.  Relationship building has been more important for my business than even the basic digital strategies like search engine optimization. Almost all of my leads have from word-of-month referrals.

That means I’ve attended a lot of networking events and met a lot of people. At every one of these networking events, there are usually a plethora of financial planners/advisors wanting to get to know me better.

Usually, these are good experiences, but I’ve had two encounters this year that have just made me feel really uncomfortable.

Both meetings were pretty straightforward at the start — learning more about what we do, ask questions and determine what is a good referral for that person.  In the case of these two people, who also happen to work for the same financial services company, it goes one step further.

They pull out a list of people from your LinkedIn contact list they’d like to meet. In my case, about half were all from my previous job. The rest were a mix of people that I have met along the way.  Then there’s a pretty strong push for me to provide introductions to the people on the list.

Both times my “Gibbs Gut” didn’t feel right about it.

I’m not a networking/relationship expert, but I do know that people I have referred business to or from all have an established relationship. Some of those people are from my church circle, others are from current/former clients and the rest are from business networking groups.

My challenge is this: I will be happy to refer someone if the ask for someone I know.  I just don’t want to blindly make introductions to people who may not be interested in their services.  I have found it difficult to refer a financial planner because they are like hairdressers. You have to find one you like.

I’m happy to make a referral, you just need to have a better reason than these people who are just part of your list.

My weight loss challenge

Weight Loss ScaleI’m going to take a brief aside from talking technology to go public about a personal challenge I’ve undertaken.  I’m taking another crack at trying to lose weight.  This time there was a financial incentive to try it — a discount on the family insurance plan.

For those who have known me for a long time, I’ve always struggled with my weight — well I think the name calling began around 3rd grade. It’s been a family thing for me, both of my parents are overweight and both have had weight loss surgeries to try to combat the problem. Their success has been mixed.

When I lived in Texas, I spent 3-6 months a made a crack at losing weight — getting a gym membership and working out while at lunch or after work. However, the pounds didn’t come off. I grew frustrated and ended up giving up.

In general, I’ve maintained the same weight (give or take 10 lbs) since 2000. I was surprised by that fact when I came across some of my medical records from that time.

Well now that I have two kids, including a four-year-old who has a very active lifestyle — I’m again trying to take this seriously and make a concerted effort to lose weight. That and the financial incentive — a discount on our health insurance.

WellPoint has a program called Weight Talk, and this weight loss program is to help address and make a change to my lifestyle. It includes weekly coaching calls and a to-do list of things to help make those lifestyle changes.

To start, I’m setting a personal goal of losing 35 lbs. by April 2014. To accomplish this, I’m going to work to stay under 2,000 calories a day and making a more concerted effort to eat fruits and vegetables. I’m also going to stay away from the things I traditionally loved — brownies, potato chips, fast food and other junk.

For example, my lunch while writing this post I had a salad and soup and unsweetened tea at McCallisters Deli. Normally, I would have indulged in a spud, sandwich, sweet tea and chocolate cookie.

Now if I’m good at staying under my limits, I will let myself have a treat — just not overindulge.  Technology is helping me here, I’m using the Livestrong Calorie Tracker app to track at home and on the road. I’m also looking at MyFitnessPal as well, since their database is much more extensive.

Also, I guess I need to be upfront with my weight. I’ve not been one to ever disclose publicly, but I need to be accountable to myself as well — if it’s in print I can’t try to fudge the number later.

So here it goes… Day 1 was October 14 I weighed in at 297.8 lbs. After two weeks I weighed in at 288.8.  Not a bad start.

The next step is to attempt to get up and move more, which is difficult for someone who spends 8-10 hours a day in front of the PC. The WeightTalk folks have provided me with a digital pedometer and we’re working towards a 10,000 steps a day walking goal. I know this will be more of a challenge than eating right. I’ve even pulled out the Wii Fit, that I got for Sandy and will use that as my rainy day exercise plan.

Someday I hope to spend the money on a TreadDesk. The good ones run about $2,200 — so as we’re still trying to get the bills paid it’s off the table for now.

Right now, I’m still a bit skeptical I’m going to successfully shed the pounds. My previous attempts have not succeeded and I know the problems have been genetic as well. My hope that by going public about my challenge will help spur me into staying the course.

Let’s hope that this time is the charm.  I’ll do my best to update my progress as we move forward.

The digital kitchen inventory experiment

The Pantry

The inventoried and organized pantry.

I’ve started a new project this week — creating a digital kitchen inventory of all our food, spices and beverages.

Every two weeks my wonderful, loving and awesome wife (+10 pts) does the grocery shopping for the family. Before she leaves, she spends about an hour putting the grocery list together, organizing coupons and then asking me that question I hate, “Do you need anything from the grocery store.”

My response is almost always, “I don’t know.” or “I don’t think so.”  Then after a little prodding, I try to come up with some things that I think would make a nice dinner and make those suggestions.  In reality, I’m just grasping at straws.

Fast forward two days and I then flip out that I now have to eat a peanut butter sandwich, because we were out of jelly and my wife didn’t buy it because she didn’t know and she doesn’t eat peanut butter and jelly. Of course, you know what happens next — an argument/lecture on how I always forget to tell her what we’re out of when making a grocery list.

We also have a tendency to have food get lost in the back of cupboards we forget about it and find it six weeks after its expiration date.  This is something that drives me crazy. My good friend Pete the Planner, doesn’t mention this in his 8 tips for keeping your grocery budget in check, but if he had a #9 it would be: “Use the food that you buy.” (Also follow him on Twitter – he’s a real hoot and probably the best looking ginger in the personal finance space.)

So, I decided we’re going to get smart about this. In the past, we used Grocery Gadget to prepare our lists. The app lived up to what it promised, but my beautiful bride (+10 pts.) gives her phone to our kid to keep him distracted from tossing Oreo’s into the cart.  The downside, Grocery Gadget doesn’t track what you already have.

fridgepal400x290After some more research, I found FridgePal an iOS app that had a lot of what I was looking for in a kitchen inventory management app.  It’s a free download, but it will cost $2.99 to get full functionality.

This app lets you do some pretty cool things:

  • Create multiple spaces for your inventory, (pantry, fridge, freezer, etc.)
  • Scan UPC bar codes to enter data into your inventory
  • Custom product entry
  • Organize foods by category
  • Set expiry dates
  • Price
  • Quantity
  • Cross-reference items in your inventory to recipes in your database.

So far, I’ve done our pantry and I am pleased with the results. However, it’s not yet the perfect solution, but if I can get my wife to use it – it’s a good start. It may lead to fewer grocery related arguments.  I’ll hope to knock out the fridge/freezer this weekend and then train my smart and loving better half (+10 pts.) on how to use the app. This project will only succeed if she’s willing to scan bar codes to put items on the list.

I can’t wait to try the recipe function once I have everything logged. I have stuff, just don’t know what to make with it.  I hope it works well.

If the FridgePal folks find this little blog post … here are my suggestions on how to improve your promising product.

  • Printable lists – As much as I love the digital aspect of the list, the phone becomes a behavior modification tool in the store.  Sometimes it’s just easier to be analog.
  • Move to Shopping list — There’s no easy way to move an item to the shopping list from the inventory. I’d love to be able to go in and slide it over to the shopping list.
  • Clear List — You can push products from your list back into inventory, but it doesn’t appear that they push back to their original places and you can’t selectively edit the items either.  There are just options to send to one of our storage locations (fridge, freezer, pantry, etc…)
  • Additional Expiry choices — Many products don’t provide an expiration date, many are Best if Used, Sell by, Better if used by, etc…  My wife will use that as an excuse to throw out a lot of stuff that’s still good.
  • Web Interface – It would be nice to manage the list from a computer.  I hate typing on my iPhone as much as the next person.
  • Grocery Coupon Integration.  It can’t hurt to gain that additional market share..

Finally, the app was a bit buggy when using the scanner tool.  I don’t know if it was a delay on their servers in looking up products or what, but it did lock up more than I expected it to and that was frustrating.  For the record, I was using my spanking new iPhone 5s.

I’m sure I’ll find more in the future, and I’ll come back with those suggestions in a later post. (Hopefully I’ll get some credit from my wife after all the nice things I said about her. (probably not.)

How social media helped resolve my xfinity x1 issues

Author’s Note: Although this article is now several years old, many people still experience similar issues.  In 2015, I moved from Indianapolis into Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) territory.  Compared to TWC/Spectrum’s offerings in 2017, I truly miss the user interface and Internet speeds that the X1 offered in 2013.

xfinity-Logo_3Two weeks ago, I was drafting a rant about my new xfinity X1 service. I held off on publishing for once I got a resolution.  This story has a happy ending and a great social media/reputation management twist as well.

After 2½ weeks of headache and service visits I can now report that Comcast listened and took the steps necessary to listen to my issues.

So let me start at the beginning…four years ago, I was very excited to move into our new house because I could get AT&T UVerse. We hadn’t even moved in yet, but we had at least a TV in the house so they could install the service. For those four years, I was a big fan on UVerse, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of saving $60/mo. for the next year, by switching to Comcast.

Ordering service on the website was very easy and it only took three days to install the service.  I placed the order on Saturday and the installer came on Tuesday.

A Comcast contractor was the person who did the installation for my service. Initially, I though he did his due diligence by checking out the TV connections — even going into the attic to check the wiring.  He had some concerns about signal levels, but stated they were acceptable.  For some reason he was hung up on my self-purchased modem not working with the new xfinity X1 cable boxes.

The Internet service worked great. I went was about 12 Mbps to almost 30 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps to 5 Mbps up. I can’t be more ecstatic about that. Unfortunately, getting the TV service was a big challenge.

The first night our box locked up watching a VOD program.  We did the box reboot and everything worked okay again.  Well until Wednesday night … and Thursday night … and then again on Friday night.  We couldn’t go more than 2 hours without having the TV service crash.

Tweeting my frustrations

After waiting on the phone 45-50 minutes to get a service tech, I took to Twitter to vent my frustration. I was well aware that Comcast has a social media response team.

// The first tech, came the following Tuesday, (one week after install) and determined there must be an issue with the signal from the street to the house.  So he replaced that line.

Everything worked fine for a couple of hours, but TV froze up again. Which of course required a reboot. This went on for another couple of days. I’m tried to be patient and level headed, but still used Twitter to vent my frustrations. Below is one several tweets I sent, tagging the @ComcastCares account in the process.  As you will see, my Tweets were getting noticed.



Again, a Comcast tech was dispatched to the house — this time to swap the box. He came again on a Tuesday (two weeks after install)  A new box installed, this has to clear up the issue.  In reality, it felt like a scene from Groundhog Day. Just after 6:30 p.m. the xfinity X1 box became unresponsive again. That meant more Tweets…


This doesn’t include the entire exchange, but the Comcast social media team took action and I received several calls from the Comcast Corporate Escalation Team.

The corporate team put me in direct contact with a technical supervisor here in Indy. After our conversations with the supervisor, he scheduled an appointment to send his best tech and xfinity X1 specialist to the house to figure out what was going on.

Fast forward to Friday, and sure enough, I have two Comcast trucks parked outside the house. The two techs, Doug McB. and Steve L. really knew their stuff and tested the signal at the entry to the house and the TV outlet. The signal was strong on the outside of the house, but lost half it’s strength by the time it got to the TV.

Doug traversed back into my attic, which only has a small opening through the garage storage attic and did some deeper investigation. At some point, before I purchased the house, a new cable was dropped into the kitchen. The person who installed that line used a Radio Shack splitter and the “gold plated” connections to hook up the new line and the old one. Well, the lines were wired wrong.

To add insult to injury, the line in the attic was RG-59, which doesn’t have enough bandwidth to carry a broadband signal. Those two items were the critical pinch point that was causing the issues with my TV.  Doug said my main TV box should have never even worked in the first place.  This should have been corrected or at least addressed with me during the install by the Comcast contractor.

Actually, the contractor did a really crappy job overall.   First, he told me he put an amplifier on the service. Well, he put a plug in but never installed the amplifier in the service box.  He also left of a mess of screws and cable bits underneath the work area. I don’t know how much they save by using contractors, but in this case, I don’t think it was worth it.

The good news was I already had some wires running though the sun room to the TV, so they just replaced the lines from my old satellite dish to the TV.

Lessons learned

There’s are a few lessons to be learned from this experience.

  • Every business person needs to read my last post about doing things half-assed. It’s always better to do it right the first time and avoid those additional service calls.
  • Business should always be listening to what is being said about your brand on social media. I’m very impressed that the Comcast Corporate team really took ownership of the issue and worked to get it fixed.
  • If you’re a consumer, be persistent.  If you vent via social media and don’t get a response, go old school and pick up the phone. Work your way up the ladder until you can talk to someone who can make things happen.

I would hope Comcast can find a way to improve their phone response time and improve their overall consumer experience.  (I’ve heard horror stories from people who had to wait in line at their office.)  Then again, these same executives are trying their hardest to make NBC not suck from 8-11 p.m.

I believe they also need to make it clear that the xfinity X1 service requires the home’s cable plant to be up-to-date.  There are a lot of homes with older wiring and lots of do-it-yourself additions from the analog cable days.  It’s probably in the disclaimers, but should be more front and center.

I’m still curious if there’s going to be some additional charges coming my way for the additional writing and their work, but we will see.

Too much half ass web design and digital marketing

Half-Ass Web Design Donkey - nah, Donkey is better than that.In the six months or so that I’ve been working to get Crundwell Digital Marketing up and running I’ve learned one hard fact. There are a lot of web companies who are not very good at what they do.

Let me tell you a story…

It was 1993 or 1994, and it was a snow day at St. Peter’s where I was in high school. While everyone was enjoying a day out of school I usually went down to help shovel the walks. (I lived a block from the school.) After freezing outside salting sidewalks and shoveling snow, I was warming up in the school office when our school principal, Fr. Kennedy asked me to get him a cup of coffee from the cafeteria.

Being the good kid, I wandered downstairs to get him some coffee. I filled the mug and walked back to the office. First thing Fr. Kennedy asked, “Where’s the sugar.”

I replied, “You didn’t ask for sugar.”

His answer, “Never do things half-ass…now go get me some sugar.”

Well, that conversation has stuck with me for years. Whenever I think about taking a shortcut, that story comes to mind.

Over the past few months, I’ve been really surprised at how many companies half ass web design. They aren’t optimized or even carry basic analytics. Yes, there are server logs, but those only go so far.

Here are a few prime examples I’ve encountered in the last couple of months. (I’ve done my best to mask the client to protect the guilty.)

  • A specialty online store that makes no mention in the title, meta description or body copy that they’re an online store.
  • An organization who built a website to tout the benefits of joining their organization. But when you search for the basic questions of “Why should I join…” or “Benefits of joining….” turn up nothing that points to the organization’s website — They spent five figures on development.
  • A potential client was surprised to learn that one of his two websites were being tracked with Google Analytics but had never seen a traffic report.
  • The same client said he received a $600 credit from Google for advertising click fraud, but he’s never seen an AdWords tracking report.
  • Social media posts promoting a brand’s website with no click thru to that website.

For many business people at any level — digital is still a mystery for them. Digital people use a ton of acronyms: SEO, SEM, SMM, HTML, PHP, CSS, PPC, PPA, PSM, TOS and XML, . Those are just the basics if you really want to throw them for a loop use things like XHTML, JSON, TLD, TLS, and CAN-SPAM.

I’ve been in meetings where myself one of my digital team members would rattle off an acronym and my boss would just assume he’d know what we were talking about. My staff developer and executive producer took great joy in geek speaking in front of the boss. Afterward, I’d get pulled aside and be asked to explain what the hell they were just talking about.

On the surface, there’s a percentage of small website developers who are not doing much if anything to educate their clients about the website they built and maintained for them. The problem is, if they did…they’d be out of a job because the client would have moved on to someone who knew what the hell they were doing.

If you’re a small business and are looking to improve your website or overall digital footprint — take the time to educate yourself. We know the big boys like HubSpot don’t half-ass their product. They also provide a lot of great information that can help you ask the right questions to any company to which you’re looking to do business. Don’t let yourself get stuck with a company who gives you half ass web design.

Maybe that should be our motto… Crundwell Digital Marketing — we don’t half-ass it. Simple and to the point. For some reason, I don’t think Fr. Kennedy would necessarily approve that for public consumption.

…oh and for the record, I like my coffee black.