Lessons Learned

There was a time during my Incredibly Successful Career (ISC) in the ad biz called the Dot Com Era.  Remember that?  The run up and subsequent implosion was so sudden that I sometimes wonder if I hallucinated the experience and it never really happened.

From that time came expressions like “24-7,” “pure play” and “first-mover.”  I found something I wrote in 2001 or 2002 as everyone was wondering what happened to all those companies like eToys, Webvan and Netscape that were worth billions… and then nothing.

I thought you’d like to see it because it provides not just a glossary of terms, but a reminder that basic business principles are always in play and that greed for its own sake ultimately kills.  Those are lessons we are being reminded of again during this current economic tsunami.  The following is just as I wrote it almost ten years ago.  For those of you working at successful technology and Web-only companies today, please know that you are not among the companies I was referring to in the piece below.   Enjoy.

What I Learned About Clients in the Dot-Com Era.

  • If technology companies were a plant, what would they be?  A weed.  They can grow anywhere.  As soon as you kill one, three more pop up.  Ultimately, they go away when you cultivate and fertilize the ones you really want.
  • Provide five adjectives that best describe technology clients:  Young, self-absorbed, arrogant, deaf, impatient.
  • When they say:  “We want to build a brand.”  What they are really saying is:  “I wanna run ads, today.”
  • Push-back means “You’re an idiot.  How could you possibly think that?” “I really don’t care what you think.”
  • First-Mover means:  “I want to make a big pile of money right now.”
  • 24/7 is a description of the time clients devote to making our jobs hard.
  • Speed kills. The corollary to First-Mover.  While greed can motivate, it also moves “thought” to the back burner.  How many times have we heard:  “Let’s do that brand thing and take the time to do it right.  But, could we have some ads right away?”
  • Let’s talk off-line means:  “As soon as we get out of this room, I’m going to personally rip your lips off.”
  • Back-end means:  “I really don’t understand how this works.  And it’s certainly too arcane for you to understand.”
  • Profit means:  “That concept is so old economy. It’s a word on a document designed to get investors to line our pockets with gold.”
  • This is a unique business model means:  “I thought of this idea and those other 22 sites just don’t get it.”
  • Pure play means:  “There’s really no serious business proposition here.”
  • We are completing our third round of financing means:  “So far, we haven’t had one dime of sales, but people keep giving us money.”
  • Burn rate means:  “I had no idea we could spend so much money so fast and have all these cool gadgets to make lots of phone calls, text or do email or wear Armani (with jeans) and travel first class and stay at the W and have an awesome car and be written up in 2.0 and well just generally talk a lot and never listen to one rational thought.
  • IPO is the Holy Grail and makes otherwise smart people do things that are utterly and completely senseless.
  • Hard stop means:  As soon as I stop talking, I stop listening.  That’s when you know the meeting is over.
  • End Game is all about being done.  With a lot of money.  Regardless if you’ve created value anywhere on the planet.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike Reeder on April 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Ha. I miss tacking an “e” on the front of everything. I remember some of these clients. Worked with you on some if them. Became one. Then came back.

    It’s better now. Having an expectation of bottom line and profit has done wonders. Still, I do relish the IPO era. If only for the wine lists and tshirts.

    Nice post.


  2. Hey Mike. Good to hear from you. Yeah, it’s funny how we never seem to learn from our mistakes. I guess greed is always gonna be a primary fuel.


  3. I love this post. Ya know, before real estate my life was filled with these words. I worked for a consulting firm that implemented (can’t say installed, no one pays $200 an hour to have software “installed”) Peoplesoft (now defunct), Oracle and SAP. The companies I worked with included CommerceOne (which crashed and burned), eToys (ditto) and others whose names are long-forgotten.

    But you know, say what you want about real estate, every house I’ve ever sold is still standing. 🙂


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