Monthly Archives: June 2013

Keeping up with your own Innovation

I love FNB, I have banked with them for about the age of 7, when I got my first BOB card.  It has almost always been a pleasure dealing with them, and over the years they have done some amazing things.  Michael Jordaan has driven the bank to some inspiring innovations.

The online banking is the best, they were the first to release smart phone apps, and they have some great deals on smart phones to help drive the adoption. All very cleaver strategies to drive the ‘most innovative’ bank image and help move customer to more profitable channels.

Unfortunately when you are so driven by innovation, sometimes your feet runs to fast and your body can’t keep up.  Today I had the rude awakening that this happens even at my beloved FNB.  I have been driven to the point of surrender, something I expect from oversized corporates not my beloved FNB.

I never thought my beloved FNB would frustrate me to the point of surrender

I never thought my beloved FNB would frustrate me to the point of surrender

Earlier this week I opened the US bank account. When I tried loading my Canadian account as a beneficiary for FOREX payment on FNB’s online banking last year, I struggled a bit.  So with no time to waste to make a payment time, I immediately email all the docs to my banker and asked for FOREX to load the beneficiary.

That was all done in half a day, so onwards to making my first payment. Nice, this is going to be easy, exactly what I expect from my FNB.  I logged on the online banking added a payment, entered my OTP, oops. Error Message, I need to add the beneficiary bank code. That’s weird; they had all that when they added it.  I try to edit the beneficiary, but no luck.  So I capture the screen and send it to the bank.

A day later I get an email, referring to the change I need to make to another beneficiary, completely unrelated. In this email, they mention I can just call them and they will help me solve it over the telephone. Since it is now Friday afternoon 1400 in SA (0700 in Chicago) I decide it is better to call now, otherwise this will only be solved next week.

I call the FOREX number, speak to about 4 people and spend 30 min on the phone, but I am no closer to getting it resolved. The current FOREX consultant say she needs to refer it to somebody else, I explain that I would prefer to speak to somebody since I need this resolved today, or rather next 2 hours before FOREX closes for the weekend.  I am asked to hold the line, but then the call is either dropped or terminated from their side.

Highly frustrated at this stage I call the FNB private client service suite; they quickly suggest that they set up a conference call with a ‘manager’ at FOREX.  The call is transferred between two FOREX people and I explain the whole ordeal again, they ask me to hold, but then I am transferred to an automated system.  So I called he Service Suite again, since I did not write down the number of the manager I spoke to before, I speak to another one.  He asks me to hold on while he speaks to FOREX, after just checking that I am still on the line, he returns after 20 min.

He reports the FOREX has some system issue and suggest that they just make to payment for me so long and then fix the beneficiary later.  Disillusioned and under pressure to get money transferred I agree, against my better judgment.  Now, it is after 1600 on a Friday in SA, just got an email from my personal banker that nobody is answering the phone at FOREX.  This is wrong.

Adding the ability to do FOREX payments online is a great innovation from FNB.  But if the FOREX department can’t load beneficiaries correctly or help clients make payments, then something is clearly wrong.

Is this what happens if you can’t keep up with your own innovation? I am not changing banks, I love FNB.  I want my bank to do better, try harder and fix the problem.

Opening a US Bank Account

I finally got to Chicago after almost 30 hours of travel.  Some of the first things I wanted to get done quickly were getting a SIM card and opening a US bank account.  Opening a Canadian Account worked really well when we were in Fernie, and I always wanted a US bank account to do iTunes purchases so now I finally had the chance.

I took the bus to down town and went into the Apple store for some free Wi-Fi so I could search for a bank close by.  There was a Chase and Citi banks a few blocks away, so I tried Chase first.  They wanted two forms of ID and a proof of residential address back in South Africa, which was weird since they did not ask for that in Canada.

I tried to send the banker a dropbox link, but the bank terminal does not allow access to dropbox (had the same issue in SA). Then we tried access my icloud email from the terminal but the browser was to old.  I finally found the email on my phone and forwarded it to him.  The rates and taxes bill is send to our postal address, but also have the physical address on it. But they would not accept it as proof of residence, he recommended I try Citi Bank down the road.

The Banker from Chase send me to Citi Bank, whom helped me right away

The Banker from Chase send me to Citi Bank, whom helped me right away

They quickly help me and were willing to accept the bill as proof of residence.  I got a temporary debit card immediately and they said the permanent one will be mailed within a week.  Anamaria Lopez was extremely helpful. When I got home I registered for Internet banking and installed the iPhone app, got it all working in no time.

Opening a US bank account turned out to be a little more challenging than opening a Canadian bank account, but luckily it is all done.  The next challenge is transferring money from South Africa, so I can start using my new account.  Fortunately my awesome South Africa bank; FNB has the facility to make forex payments online.

Solve one meaningful problem

After almost 13 years of being involved with Private Property, I have now sold my last shares and have no formal ties with the business that I helped built.  Since I’ve left, I often get contacted by people looking to discuss a business or idea that they have.  They are usually looking for some advice, contacts, money or help in some other way.  I am always keen to hear what people have to say, and to learn about as many opportunities as possible.  Since I now have full command of my own time, well except for the demands of my wife and kids, I usually meet and listen.

I had another meeting like this on Saturday.  During the meeting I had a bit of the thunderbolt moment.  The old friend of my dad’s was explaining their business idea, and elaborating on all the things they were trying and planning to do.  This in the real estate and mortgage industry, which I had some experience with.  The more he talked the more alarm bells were going off in my head.

It felt like his ideas was all over the place and they were trying to do way too much.  The basic core idea was very interesting, but he breezed over that very quickly and wanted to talk about all the bells and whistles.  I quickly tried to explain a little about taking a Lean Startup approached and focussing on solving one meaningful problem.

By looking for a pressing and meaningful problem you can solve, and do so in an elegant way, you give your business a chance to really make it.  This I think requires all your energy and effort.  You need to learn as much about the problem as possible, try out possible solutions as quickly and cheaply as possible.  In the learning process you get to test assumptions that you did not even know you’ve made that might well be wrong.

The more pressing the problem is you are trying to solve, the easier you marketing will be.  Solving a slight inconvenience leads to products that need big marketing budgets, while solution to real pressing problems become products that can almost sell themselves.  I think Ralph Waldo Emerson was wrong when he said: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”.  It is not about the product, but the problem it solves.

It is not about a better mouse trap but solving one meaningful problem

It is not about a better mouse trap but solving one meaningful problem

I can’t help but think that there are many people like this guy out there, with good ideas buried below a whole heap of fluff that could well work with the right effort and focus.  But they might never see the light of day, because of a lack of focus and the right approach.

Sadly I fear that I did not get the message through this time, but I will keep trying.  Hopefully I can see it as clearly when I am looking to solve one meaningful problem myself.

We are heading back to Fernie!

With my departure to The Starter League in Chicago getting very close, we have made a big decision about where to go this winter.  My initial thoughts were to give preference to where I can get a job.  However most resorts are not ready to do hiring yet and getting a sponsored visa looks like it will be a challenge.

So last night Ankie and I decided that it would just be easier to start planning the trip if we knew where we were going.  So we’ve made the call to head back to Fernie! YEAH!  Now I will be at the sole mercy of Fernie Alpine Resort for a job. But if that does not work out I can still do some of the Nonstop courses and have loads of fun anyway! We are looking at dates for our flights and will book it in the next few days.

It is going to be amazing to spend another season in Fernie, and hopefully the Griz will oblige by sending loads of POW POW.  We are aiming to get a rental house in town this time, something nice and central so the kids and nanny can walk to the library, aquatic centre and the parks.

Unfortunately there has been some hectic flooding in the region over the last few days, with a one in a 100 year rainfall event.  It is so bad that the city of Fernie has declared a state of emergency.  I hope everybody in Fernie is OK, and there is not too much damage.  Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in the Elk valley.

There has been 1 in 100 years flood in Fernie - Photo - Freepress

There has been 1 in 100 years flood in Fernie – Photo: Free Press

On Monday I leave for Chicago, and will be away for three months.  We have been prep-ping the kids and have a few plans to make it as painless as possible.  By the time I am back all the planning for our trip for Fernie should be just about done.  We all look forward to another season of amazing skiing!

Business Model Generation – Review

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Business Model Generation turned out to be a great book even though it started a little slow and I found it a challenge to read on my Kindle. In fact, I think it is the first book I have read on kindle that I would have preferred to read in hard copy.  Business Model Generation is full of images, diagrams, and what they call the business model canvas, which was very hard to decipher on the kindle.

The deeper I got into the Business Model Generation the more I enjoyed it.  They offer a very structured approach to strategize about a business model.  The business model canvas, which they explain in great detail, force you to explain and write down the ideas one often have inside your own head about how your business works.

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The authors refer to a business model design space, by analysing four areas of the business environment: 1) market forces 2) industry forces 3) key trends and 4) macroeconomic forces.  I found the contrast that they point out between design attitude and decision attitude fascinating.

The authors reference an article “Design Matters” by Fred Collopy and Richard Boland, in explaining the two concepts. Decision attitude works from the assumption that it is easy to come up with alternatives but challenging to pick the best one, while design attitude assumes that it is difficult to envisage an outstanding alternative.  In design attitude the clearly superior alternative then makes the decision very easy.

In The Business Model Generation the authors place a lot of emphasis on being patient in the following a process to get the best alternatives, and making sure you don’t jump ahead or ‘fall in love’ with a solution to early. I think I have been guilty of doing just that in the past.

==> Click here to buy: Business Model Generation <==

There are opportunities for business model innovation everywhere. The Business Model Generation offers a fantastic structured approach to help anybody from a small startup to multinationals come find and explore these opportunities.