It is finally the start to another new semester of college. Of course that means a new round of textbooks that I will only use once in class then sell for 10% of what I paid for them. I'll try and spare you my sermon on the endless cycle of the textbook scam but I do want to share my experience from this week.
Enter day one of class: I show up to each of my classes like every other student does just to find out if we "actually NEED the textbook." This semester was a big win for me as two of my four classes that do require textbooks are allowing me to buy the earlier editions. If you aren't aware of the textbook game, the idea is that a textbook author can write a textbook, then create a new edition of a textbook by adding a few new charts and changing the order of the chapters, then charge the same exact amount for each of these books. This way you can't buy an older, used version of the book because that question you have to answer is on page 45 in the new book. Not page 32. This renders older version of the textbook absolutely worthless to students like me. My point of this explanation is to tell you that a professor not playing into the textbook game will tell you that the 2013 edition has the same information as the 2015 edition so buy that one.
SCORE! What a blessing. My first quick Google of my books tells me that I will save close to $80 on each of my textbooks. I immediately placed my order through my favorite online retailer, Amazon. $20 book in two days; what a deal! To my surprise the retailers selling through Amazon apparently sold out of these older books which became very frustrating. I would order a book then 1-2 days later have a message in my inbox that my order was refunded to me due to unavailable quantities. Just my luck! Now enters Amazon customer support.
If you dig and dig on the Amazon website you can actually find the number to call to speak with a live human being (Amazon prides itself on low-costs in the area of customer service and every minute counts to them). Anna was quick to help and assured me that she had my best interest in mind and "really wanted to get me this book as she understood it was important to me." Anna went to work to find an available book for me. She would come back on the line about every three minutes to assure me that she was still working to find my book and hadn't forgotten about me. It took Anna about 15 minutes to come to the conclusion that all 20ish of their retail providers in fact did not have the book available. This disappointed me quite a bit. The Everything Store (Amazon) who built it's original business on providing every book possible didn't have my book! Okay they did have it; just not in a used condition at an awesome price.
Anna understood that I had now spent about 20 minutes of my life waiting for her to find this book for me and knew that I needed this book. She knew I was not about to wait much longer and immediately offered to provide me an Amazon gift card for the price of a brand new version of the book from their website if I chose to buy it from Amazon.
Being the entrepreneur that I am, there was no way I was about to pass on an opportunity like this. I buy just about everything from Amazon and that gift card would serve a bigger purpose later down the line. Nonetheless, I thanked Anna for her help and patience with me and assured her that Amazon will always remain my first call for anything I buy online because of people like her and the grade A service they provide me.
Enter different online retailer. Another quick Google revealed a version of the textbook for right at about $15, including shipping. Now I was about to make $100 from amazon just by buying a textbook. Add to cart was my immediate reflex. Two days later I had a refund in my inbox. This textbook industry is beating me to death. I immediately picked up the phone and dialed this new retailer. After selecting the appropriate options I was put through to customer service representative Tom. "Hi Tom, I am in a tough spot right now. I ordered this book from you all but it was refunded back to me and I need it ASAP (truth)." Tom was quick to bark back that they didn't have it and were not going to be able to fix the problem.
"Why are you advertising this textbook if you cannot sell it to me?" I had learned plenty about false advertising before and even heard others fussed at about it in my retail workings at NAPA. Tom almost shutdown. "Forrest you bought this book at the same time as someone else and we only had one available so I can't do anything about it," as if this was supposed to be the resolution to my immediate issue. I wish I would have recorded the message for you so you could hear the attitude on the other end. In my head it was one of the many Disney villain voices I had heard in my younger days. I think Tom expected me to give up at this point. Well sorry Tom, I forgot to mention, I'm a management major. After having Tom search for the previous and latest editions of the textbook - with a passive attitude I might add - Tom came up with nothing. So I told Tom have a good day and moved on. Wrong.
Customer Service had done the exact opposite of the purpose of customer service. I was no longer a sales opportunity. I had become a nuisance and a time taker and as many of my friends can tell you, I am all about a learning moment. "Tom can I speak with your manager?" He replied with, "they will tell you the same thing." After speaking with the friendly voice, Denise, for a few minutes I felt much better about my refunded order. I imagine Denise at this point as the Disney princess who ends up beating the villain. I calmly explained my order experience and she assured me that this does not happen often but it does occur (again my luck).
My point is not to blow this story out of proportion. This is not the worst thing to ever happen to me and even as a customer this isn't the worst type of experience possible because I have certainly seen worse. My first point to this story is of course to let you know about the amazing services of my summer internship provider, Amazon, and encourage you to use them first. My other, much larger point is to share the lesson that Amazon has already taught me before beginning my training with them. Amazon had stuck to one of their primary leadership principles; Customer Obsession. Obsessing over a customer like me who spends so much money with Amazon will continue to drive me to their company and of course drive my friends and family by recommendation.
This small sacrifice of $100 drives into the flywheel effect that is described in the book The Everything Store. Jim Collins originally presented this concept in his book Good to Great. This idea is that happy customers play into more sales, which lead to more profit, which lead to lower prices, which lead to more and happier customers. With an idea like this, Amazon will continue to thrive and small retailers that Tom works for will continue to lose upset customers like me.
If you're wondering, I did end up getting the textbook - from Amazon.
Working in management, it is well known you can be faced with many challenges and obstacles that regular employees just don't have to deal with. You're held to a higher standard and forced to make the toughest of decisions; all the while keeping a cool head and relaxed appearance.
This past week I had the opportunity to watch a movie that I have been waiting to see for quite a while now. The Sanford Prison Experiment is certainly one I would recommend. It's based on the 1971 human behavior experiment by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, focusing on power & authority. To give a short summary; college students agree to take part in a two week psychology experiment in exchange for fair payment for each day. The students are split into two groups: the guards and the prisoners. They even create a sort of mock prison in the basement of an academic building, then sit back and watch their masterpiece.
To give you a fair understanding without ruining the film for you, they end up cutting the experiment short due to the physical and psychological mistreatment by the "prison guards." In almost losing track of the clock of this experiment we are shown that what was supposed to be a 2-week experiment took only 6 days before it was shutdown.
Throughout the entirety of this movie all I could do was compare the situation of the "guards" and the "prisoners" to a much more unhealthy and blown up management scenario; the guards in this case acting as management and the prisoners acting as the managed (stay with me here).
To understand this relationship we have to understand the differences between the "guards" and the "prisoners." The only outwardly identifiable difference between the two is that one set wear a uniform with numbers to identify them while the others are given sunglasses and a night stick. Of course these "prisoners" have been given some form of a charge as well as a sentence while management or the "guards" have been given the authority and task (night stick) of watching over them and keeping them in order. Zimbardo actually goes on to eg the "guards" on and encourage them not to allow the "prisoners" to control the "prison."
As one of the post-prisoner interviews stated in the movie, "You give them the uniform with the glasses and the night stick and they simply can't be the same person as if they were in street clothes." This really hit home with me as the actor portraying Zimbardo goes on to talk about the "small subtle differences" that "affect us more than we think." These differences come to us as rules, roles, symbols, uniforms, etc.
I can't help but think about the power one yields with a title like management, CEO or my personal favorite, bossman. While titles given to us may give us the decision yielding power, it also brings a major responsibility to keep the company afloat and that means physically, fiscally, but especially psychologically. If we abuse our powers as management, our co-workers will break down mentally.
Our jobs are then no longer jobs, but prisons and we are no longer employees but "prisoners" and our 2-weeks can turn into 6 days and as a result our "prison" will be shut down quicker than we imagine.
One of the most prominent questions that we have all been asked in a job interview in one way or another is, "What is a challenge you have had to face and how did you overcome it?" This is of course a simple case question to see how managers like me handle problems. Up until owning my own business I had always just answered this question with the latest challenge I had faced in a group project in the classroom or at work, but that all changed once I signed on the line of that business lincense.
As a business owner I face challenges weekly about what to do with Bounce Back Sports. In the big business world we take regular expenses for granted. In the small business community you sometimes have to make tough choices. You may have to forego buying those essential supplies you take for granted in a large corporation to make sure you can pay the company bills that week because after all how important are sticky notes?
To specifically site my biggest challenge I will take you back to the opening stages of Bounce Back Sports. It was the very beginning of the company and I was so excited (still am). This idea of renting a service directly to college students that were willing to pay a lot for it was perfect. I lived in my market and travel wouldn't necessarily be mandatory unless I wanted it in order to make additional profit. My business plan was flawless: advertise on campus a little; meet up with some greek life and organizations on campus and before I knew it the money would be rolling in.
It was about 3 months and $5,000 later that I found out my business plan was about to come crashing down. My business plan had one flaw: I didn't have approval to operate on campus. One bureaucratic policy combined with a few liability concerns and I was looking at a potential of $5,000 of my own capital down the drain and all this equipment that was virtually useless. What to do? What to do? I couldn't just waste this opportunity. Surely there was a way to make it all work out.
Of course if you've made it this far into my website you know that I did find a new business model. In fact I completely changed my target market. After a little bit of research I found the one and only Bubble Soccer referral site on the internet, paid my membership dues, and events were rolling in from all around South Carolina. I am still the only traveling Bubble Soccer rental provider in South Carolina. By March of next year I am already looking to turn a profit and I have yet to book a single event on USC's campus. I've found that by traveling I can actually make more money in the travel time that I have to charge for than I ever could have made at USC.
I site this example because while many students my age have all faced adversities in their personal lives, many of us have not truly experienced any adversity in our professional lives yet. Sometimes we have to drop everything we're doing, create an entirely new plan, and go with that. As CHRIS KALABOUKIS says in his article at thinkfuture "Don't be afraid to pivot." In the world of small businesses you have to be willing to drop every idea you've ever had about your company; completely abandon it, and start in another direction.
While I don't plan on building Bounce Back Sports into the largest leisure sporting rentals empire in the country, I do recognize that I have learned a lot from my company. I can say I am a lot less afraid to pivot or "bounce back" if you will.
I should probably preface this post by letting you know that I am not anti-Linkedin. In fact, I am rather in support of this platform that reports 1 in 3 professionals in the planet have an account (LinkedIn). It is a way for anyone to connect with people they would normally have no chance of meeting or connecting with.
I will say that LinkedIn is the very reason why this website exists. Too many times I found myself saying, "man I wish I could make this look the way I wanted it to look." Yes, LinkedIn is free and yes it does most of the work for you, but it just wasn't getting the job done for me. So for the low, low price of $10 a year and a few minutes a month, I can maintain my own customized version of LinkedIn.
My friends, can you guess the most used adjective on LinkedIn in 2012? Creative. Now I may not be able to paint a Picaso or write a best selling hit like Taylor Swift, but I know that cookie cuter templates destroy creativity. Don't get me wrong. My website has already proven to be a challenge. The pictures won't line up when you want them to. The headings are thrown off every time you add another element, but this website helps me share with others who I am; something that just won't fit into a cookie cuter template.
Most posts relate where I currently stand in my education as well as my daily work and life experiences.