20 Questions with Guy Kawasaki, author and managing director of Garage Technology Ventures
Originally published: 04.01.08 by Terry Tanker
Guest columnist Guy Kawasaki, a prolific aithor and managing director of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Garage Technology Ventures, shared his philosophies on business, evangelism and hocky with HVACR Business Publisher Terry Tanker.
1. You were born and raised in Hawaii, but are a passionate hockey player. Where’s your surfboard?
I have a surfboard. I got it for speaking for the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association. If I speak for one of the hvacr associations, can I get a chiller?
2. We had breakfast when you were in Cleveland. You wanted to build an ice rink in your garage. How is that coming along?
I’m no closer. I’m still waiting for global cooling to kick in. Everybody go buy a Prius to help me out. Or maybe someone can just send me a chiller.
3. Other than sticks, have you broken anything recently?
I did drop my Nikon the other day.
4. You’re 50ish — are you considering sports that are a bit more tame?
Hockey is very tame the way we play in California. Compared with basketball, there is much less risk of hurting your joints, getting poked in the eye, and spraining a finger.
5. What’s the best thing about being Guy Kawasaki?
My family. I love my family. I have the best family.
6. Considering you’re a Macintosh guy, how hard was it to get and accept Dell advertising on your blog?
You can’t buy me, but you can rent me.
7. Would you consider working for a large corporation again, or have you found your calling being an entrepreneur?
It’s unlikely I’ll ever work for a large corporation again. It would take a boatload of money—like enough money to buy an ice rink.
8. What is your business philosophy?
Never ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do.
9. You launched Truemors Web site for $12,000 barely one year ago and just sold it to NowPublic, why?
NowPublic is a great home for Truemors, and I like the people there. It happened in less than three weeks. It’s just one of those things that happened.
10. Alltop.com is your new project and Web site. Can you explain what it is?
Alltop.com is an online magazine rack. We collect the news from Web sites and blogs and organize them by topics like food, politics, football, autism, etc. If you come to Alltop.com, you can find the topics that you like and get all the news and information in one easy-to-scan format.
11. What advice do you have for contractors who have yet to build Web sites for their companies?
Build one. There is plenty of research available that shows how consumers shop — especially for higher dollar items. It shows people use the Internet to learn and compare before contacting companies. Heating and cooling systems represent substantial investments for businesses and homeowners. If potential customers can’t find you on the Internet to learn more about your products and services, it’s likely you aren’t being considered. The worst part is you don’t even realize what you are missing.
12. What should business owners concentrate on to become better leaders?
Two things: listening more and talking less.
13. What is the most effective way to communicate your vision?
This whole vision thing is overrated. The best way to make something happen is to do it and keep at it. Grand statements of vision are for large companies with more money than brains. Small business is a guerilla war of attrition. Every day you try to make a little progress.
14. Would you say the most important thing to work on is sales execution?
The most important thing to work on is product or service execution. That is, to create something or some service that’s great. Then sales execution and customer support are the next two important things.
15. After creating a great product or service, how would you inform the market about what you have to offer?
Anyway that I possibly could. If I had an hvacr business, one of the most inexpensive ways is an informative Web site that is tied to searches. I’ve come to understand the hvacr contracting market better the past few years and it appears contractors use everything from TV and radio to little league sponsorships. Contractors I’ve spoken with seem to have identified how to become good at communicating at a local level – just call it community involvement.
16. Are there new technologies entering the market that will help service companies execute better? Or is it just a matter of being better at simple blocking and tackling?
I would lean toward the blocking and tackling side. Usually execution is not the function of new technology but the basics: making something good and supporting the hell out of it. New technologies can help you do things better, but they can’t fix the fundamentals like crappy products and lousy customer-service attitudes.
17. In your opinion, why do smaller companies question the effectiveness of advertising and marketing while large firms invest millions?
Probably because the smaller companies are smarter, so they want to know what they’re getting for their money. You should question the effectiveness of advertising and marketing. The most important question to ask, “How will customers find you?” If it’s the Web, then create a Web presence. But if it’s reading advertisements printed on paper, then work on that. But don’t do something just because everyone else is.
18. Is this when you would turn to research to help you determine which path to select?
Research can help small companies, but the bottom line is that you have to take your best shot, see if it works, fix what you can, and keep trying. Advertising and marketing are not sciences. Contractors should use the trial-and-error method—do small trials so that you don’t run out of money before you figure out what to do.
19. Do companies generally do too much or too little market research?
Large companies probably do too much. Small companies probably do too little. If I had to err, less is better than more. Too much research can inhibit a company.
20. In business, what or who has been your most important relationship?
By far the most important relationships I’ve had are with the early adopter customers who have evangelized the products and services of the companies I’ve worked for. This started with my relationship with Macintosh lovers and has continued to this day. Now there are Alltop.com evangelists who help me spread the word about my new site. People have done so much for me, and I’m very grateful for their support.
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