Friday, August 30, 2002

We got a nice little mention in the Wall St. Journal this week,,SB1030481469229503435.djm,00.html

August 28, 2002


To Shuttle Kids, Busy Parents
Seek Out Chauffeur Services


Working parents have deftly outsourced cooking, cleaning and yardwork. But one chore is proving tougher to unload: the carpool.

A parent's fantasy service -- door-to-door rides from home to school to soccer practice and back -- does exist in some areas. For about $200 a month for daily transport, scores of kiddie-cab companies dispatch vans to shuttle children around. The services are popular in the bustling suburbs of California and Colorado, but they've also succeeded in places like Gainesville, Fla., and Columbus, Neb.

Outsourcing your carpool: Kidz Karz totes little commuters around Boulder, Colo.

With names like Kids on Wheels and Beeline Shuttle, the companies promise seatbelts at every seat, drivers who've passed criminal background checks and long lists of rules to enforce backseat order. States often require these services to carry a hefty amount of insurance coverage. And nabbing a spot in the vans can be tough. Kidshuttle, based in California's Orange County, has 20 vans, 400 families as clients and another 500 families on the waiting list. Other services don't even bother counting the number they turn away.

It may sound like a sure-fire business, but kiddie cab companies frequently flame out after underestimating the logistics of route-planning. Or the wear and tear of demanding parents. Michael Newton ran a Kids Kab franchise for several years in Cookeville, Tenn., but gave it up last year. Now he works with freight, instead of children. "It wasn't the kids who were the problem," he says. "It was the moms. The phone would ring at 11 or 12 at night and five in the morning, with changes on top of changes."

One thing that's driving demand: The trusty school bus isn't so reliable anymore. Many districts have cut back on bus service or stopped picking up kids who live within a couple of miles of school. And few, if any, school buses will take a child to an afternoon doctor's appointment one day and piano lessons the next.

With demand far oustripping supply, many families are scrambling to jury-rig other commuting solutions, including hiring private drivers and pleading for help on local Web sites.

The shift to private chauffeur services has generated some safety concerns. A new study by an arm of the National Research Council found that passenger vehicles -- whether driven by parents or paid drivers -- were more dangerous than buses on trips to and from school. The vehicles had 490 injuries per 100 million student trips -- or nearly fives times more than school buses did.

And three years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states require any vehicle that carries more than 10 kids to and from school to meet the same safety standards as school buses. Since then, some states have toughened rules for large vans that transport students. Other states are considering similar actions.

Meantime, parents are trying to find some set of wheels that works. For a year, Susan Kincaid, a single mother in Gainesville, Fla., used her hour-long lunch break to dash across town at 2 p.m., pick her 14-year-old daughter up from school and bring her home. She had to wolf down lunch at the wheel. Then she tried Kids on Wheels. "It's been a blessing," says Ms. Kincaid, who now drives her daughter, Katie, to school and pays $100 per month to have her driven home.

In Boulder, Colo., Christine LaMar pays about $550 a month for her three children to be driven 15 minutes to and from their Catholic school. She uses Kidz Karz, a seven-year-old service that operates with military precision. Almost all of its service is scheduled. It accepts credit cards, charges fees for no-shows, and will kick kids out who refuse to wear their seatbelts. But it hires drivers with a soft side, too. "They'll hand out candy if the kids are behaving," says owner Deborah O'Gara-Schultz.

Some parents, unable to find a children's transport service in their area, have sought creative ways to outsource the carpool. They cast about for local drivers who can pick kids up on an ad hoc basis. John Fossetta, an ex-limousine driver who is now a postman, works as a driver in his spare time along with a business partner. For a while, Mr. Fossetta did a regular run, shuttling two boys between the houses of their divorced parents.

To find people like Mr. Fossetta, some parents go begging on the Web. Last week, there were two plaintive posts on silentfrog.com1, a matchmaking service for people with odd jobs and those who do them, from parents seeking drivers for their children. The site, which launched in Washington and has since spread elsewhere, has seen dozens of similar requests since it started last year.

Then there's Abby Polin, a Chicago mortgage broker. She tried driving her daughter to her suburban school each day, but it was eating up eight hours a week. Then she figured she was losing more money missing work than she would spend for a car service, though it cost more than $3,000 a school year.

Now her daughter commutes with several other school kids. The chariot? Says Ms. Polin, "A big black stretch limousine comes and picks her up every day."

Write to Ron Lieber at ron.lieber@wsj.com2


Everybody Into the (Car) Pool
Busy parents are seeking out chauffeur services for their children. Here are some of the options.

Name/Location Cost Features
Orange County, Calif. Forty-five round-trips per month cost $382.50 (must be less than 10 miles each) Drivers know CPR and first-aid, and satisfied parents can invest in the company (the offering memorandum is on the companyƕs Web site).
Kids on Wheels
Gainesville, Fla. $220 per month for daily round-trips Older kids get to bring their own CDs along for the ride, but if they misbehave, the Barney tape goes on the stereo.
Kiddie Cab
Columbus, Neb. $30 per week for daily round-trips Riders get after-school snacks, including granola bars and Rice Krispies treats. Kids get presents on their birthdays, too.
Kidz Karz
Boulder, Colo. area Depends on mileage, since some vans take kids an hour each way to schools in Denver Will take kids to the orthodontist for midday appointments for $5 to $10.


URL for this article:,,SB1030481469229503435.djm,00.html

Hyperlinks in this Article:

Updated August 28, 2002

Copyright 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Printing, distribution, and use of this material is governed by your Subscription agreement and Copyright laws.

For information about subscribing go to

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Rules for Tomorrow's Interview



3. Admit it when you don't know something

4. It's not what I have done only, it's what I can do.

Consultant Bingo
CXO level
communication skills
team player
business technologist
look for challenges

Monday, August 19, 2002

The other good thing about this book was the way it delineates and explains strategy vs. tactics. These terms are thrown around a lot, but it's not always clear exactly what they mean.

The authors point out that strategy follows tactics in the same way that form follows functions. That is, "the achievement of tactical results is the ulitmate and only goal of a strategy....strategy should be developed from the bottom up, not the top down."

They continue..."while strategy evolves from an intimate understanding of tactics, the paradox is that good strategy doesn't depend on superlative tactics. The essence of a sound strategy is to be able to win the marketing war without tactical brilliance."

"At any given point in time, one objective should dominate a company's strategic plans."

Another good point they mention is that "Action is not independent of strategy...the action IS the strategy."

The last mistake that many companies make is trying to divorce strategy from tactics. They say it cannot be done because the strategy implies the tactics. For example, they say that once Miller Brewing company decides to have Miller High Life and Miller Genuine Draft, that they then force the advertising agency's hand in terms of how they will build each brand, without any consideration given to the fact that building two brands is more difficult than building one.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Just finished Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout. GREAT book. Here are the relevant ideas. Most of them are quotes from Karl von Clausewitz's
'On War' on which the marketing book is based. Great parallels and ideas.

The principle of force: "the greatest possible number of troops whould be brought into action at the decisive point"

The superiority of the defense: " the defensive form of war is in itself stronger than then offense"

The strategic square. Four types of warfare (with their principles)
a.only the market leader should consider playing defense
b. the best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself
c. strong competitive moves should always be blocked

2. attacking
a.the main consideration is the strength of the leader's position
b. find a weakness in the leader's strength and attack at that point
c. launch the attack on as narrow a front as possible

3 flanking
a. a good flanking move must be made into an uncontested area
b. tactical surprise out to be an important element of the plan
c. the pursuit is just as critical as the attack itself

4. guerilla
a. find a segment of the market small enough to defend matter how successfuly you become, never act like the leader
c. be prepared to bug out at a moment's notice
"take notes on the world, there will be a test"

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

we got $5k worth of free advertising for it though!
had my chest shaved on the Z100 morning zoo today
71. every meeting must have an agenda
72. every meeting must have an objective
73. punctuality is a measure of a person’s level of business commitment and capability
74. plan the work, work the plan
75. spend a little bit of extra upfront time making sure you do things right
76. not everything has to be done right now
77. you’re always selling
78. learn how to read people better
79. Guerilla marketing works
80. the buck stops with me
81. get a clear and memorable tag line
82. develop an audio logo
83. follow up promptly or be forgotten
84. always confirm meetings w/in 24 hours
85. people don’t read; keep it super brief
86. answer the question WIIFM---what’s in it for me
87. focus on You not on Me

Monday, August 05, 2002

50. importance of iterative development
51. importance of testing slowly and cost-effectively
52. individual accountability
53. there’s no such thing as a stable job
54. individual accountability
55. the need to go the extra mile
56. doing things right
57. persistence
58. patience
59. losing the fear of failure
60. self-discipline
61. work from home and get things done
62. stay focused on the goal
63. ask what is core and what is not
64. think outside the box (i.e. sending a singing telegram to the pres. of eBay)
65. secure meetings more rapidly
66. sell to the top of the food chain
67. handle rejection better
68. be less anxious
69. be more polite
70. put myself in the position of others more frequently

Sunday, August 04, 2002

What I learned as a result of my experience with SilentFrog (part 1)
1. write a businesss plan
2. do market research (sort of)
3. think about selling benefits not features
4. write press releases
5. pitch stories to journalists
6. develop a marketing plan
7. develop a sales strategy
8. manage time more efficiently
9. be customer focused and handle customer service
10. beta test a software
11. relate to a board of directors
12. pitch an idea to investors
13. email marketing
14. understand the difference between sales and marketing
15. understand the value of copywriting
16. understand what advertising is about
17. understand how it is to be on the client side
18. think like an owner
19. think about the impact of one decision on multiple aspects of a company
20. understand what burn rate
21. what break even
22. what profitability is
23. the process of getting a patent
24. communicating with investors
25. communicating with customers
26. communicating with partners
27. how to work with my brother
28. how to work with my father
29. the rush of owning something and wanting to make it succeed
30. the belief in entrepreneurship-making value out of absolutely nothing
31. the value of wise/effective time management
32. the feeling of being part of a great voyage
33. the difference between those who dare to be owners and those who don’t
34. how to conduct a survey
35. the importance of maintaining a Zen like attitude about the ups and downs
36. the importance of criteria in making decisions
37. the importance of taking notes from meetings and conferences
38. the importance of having a checklist for recurring events
39. the importance of automating recurring tasks
40. the importance of delegation (programming, customer service) when possible
41. not to waste money, but not hoard it pointlessly either
42. listen to the needs of customers better
43. listen to the concerns of partners
44. what business development is
45. how to structure incentive deals with partners
46. to get to the decision maker
47. think about the needs of clients
48. think about the needs of my clients’ clients
49. business cold calling skills

Friday, August 02, 2002

Of course, the thing that gets me going is that here I am, safe and sound in the US, worried about my next job, while my brothers and sisters are being killed by terrorists, who are supported by people who are not interested in peace, just in annihiliating the Jews. That's what I'm talking about with the perspective, since it's so easy for me to lose it on the one hand and get overwhelmed by it on the other.
Perspective is botha good and a dangerous thing. On the one hand, I amfocused on what is happening in my own life and not fretting about it. My company is doing well, but I have to be realistic and recognize that it may not make it. So what am I doing about that? I am looking for a full-time job in Dc where my wife and I will be moving come November timeframe. The question then becomes what type of work should I be doing once I get there. I obvious love technology and how it makes things operate more efficiently, but the question is, what aspect of it do I like. Is software sales where I want to be? Will I find that to be creative enough? As far as the "big idea" consulting firms, first of all, I don't really want to travel all that much (overnight at least). Day trips are fine and in those places, you need to come in as a consultant first and then work your way up into sales. So that may not work for me. The thing about products is that it seems less glamorous and "sophisticated" and possibly less sexy than some of the more "creative" arts that the management consultants purvey.

Asher thinks that the management consulting firms would be a waste of my time. He also challenges the idea, which is getting ingrained in my head, that I need to give the big, bad corporate world a whirl. He thinks I would hate it. I don't know, but I feel like it's a mystery to me and it's something I'd like to understand better and learn from more.

Right now, if I had to pick a vertical, I'd say I'm most intrigued by healthcare. There's so much that can be done and needs to be done, because at the end of the day, you are really helping people by using technology to make their lives better. It's about profits and savings, but also real savings...of lives.

If I had to pick a cross-industry, it would be security. I think it's critical for the safety of our country and our civilization and every person on the earth.

Maybe Michael Herskovitz was right...there are a lot of people who need to simply e-ify their businesses. It's not so much about the big ideas right now, it's about the implementation of the basics, keeping things simple. There are always opportunities for innovation, according to Drucker, it's just a question of keeping my eye open for them. So, no matter where I am, I should be able to find something "creative" It's about attitude, not atmosphere. Maybe.