Audience Sovereignty

Business owners around the world have been freaked out about Social Media. There is this scary buzz in business management communities about silencing the audience, suing them when they turn on you,  and the delusion of “controlling the message” of the masses. But marketers forgot something along the way…

The audience has a voice, and your brand is owned by the customer.

You may say, “But social media is a new thing, and this is the first time my audience has had a voice.” WRONG. News flash, it is not new.

I listened to a Freakonomics Podcast called “Boo…Who?” a few weeks back that said that Audiences, when it comes to entertainment performances, have been “loosing their sovereignty”. In recent times people are more and more content to sit quietly in the dark and listen without engagement. This is not how it used to be. Audiences were expected to react, to interact.  Huzzah’s. Boo’s. Hisses. People heckled and booed poor performances, but today we are conditioned to sit through crap.

I argue that the Television has turned us into a world of one-way consumers. We’ve bought the lie since the end of the Great Depression and WWII: “We will feed you, and you will consume whatever we dish out.” The options were limited, times had been tough, and people were thrilled to live vicariously through TV’s stories: I Love Lucy, Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show, Dallas, the Cosby Show, 60-minutes, and now today’s American Idol. In 2009 I read how TV show themes and stories have been great indicators of the times (I have since been unable to find that book I read in Auckland: sorry no reference). But perhaps it is more that our collective moods and actions reflected the shows we lived through. That we consumed and have lived as we were told.

Marketers and TV producers have pitched junk at us for decades, and time after time we sat down in front of the TV sifting through 600+ channels complaining that “there is nothing good on.” But what were you going to do, write a letter to the station? Bang on the door of the producer? Start your own station? “Nah, the heck with it, I’ll just drink my beer and watch this crap,” settling for whatever. But something has changed. Have you noticed that YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world (which happens to be owned by the 1st – you know who :).

Once upon a time the audience was sovereign, and it still has the ability to be; everyone has simply been conditioned to sit-tight and take it. Business marketers joined the bandwagon and were happy to “control the message.” But they forgot that a brand is not a bunch of cool colors and a catchy name. A brand is how you are perceived. A brand is what you stand for, what I think you are, that experiences I have had and shared with and about you. They weren’t expecting the internet to be the megaphone that is freely shared.

The audience has a voice, and your brand is owned by the customer.

The fact is your customers have always owned you, but businesses found a way to ignore it for a while. The internet has reminded the audience of its birthright, and allowed it reclaim its throne, but surely as the coming summer, the audience will reign supreme again. Transparency, honesty, and ethical business are the only ways to survive. Treat your customers well, for they truly define who you are.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
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With So Many Ideas, Where Do You Start?


As a starting point, one great piece of advice I received about ten years ago came from a quasi successful man in his sixties. He said, “Make sure you write down all of your ideas. Make a journal of your daily thoughts, ideas, and activities; you will be amazed at what you come up with.” I haven’t been religious about the daily journal, but the times I have more than proved the worth. Human brains are definitely powerful memory-storing machines, but you won’t recall every detail and every thought on command. Everyone has good ideas once in a while, make sure your write it down for when the time comes to use it.

“On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées”
(Commonly: Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come)
– Victor Hugo 

We have all seen (or will see on the new moon of April 21st) with KONY 2012 how powerful an idea can be. Whether its an improvement to a procedure at work or a fresh, innovative, new business idea; write down every idea that comes to your head. At a minimum send yourself a quick email or text message. Find a way to save those ideas. I currently have a dumb phone so I text message (yes, using T9) my Gmail address where I have a filter that labels stuff from “530…”.

Step 2 … Enough with the steps already, just Nike it…

If you’re a thinker, a want-to-be entrepreneur (or have religiously completed STEP 1 really really ridiculously well outlined above 🙂 ), you’ve likely has a great idea or two, but don’t know which to do. Or perhaps you work long and hard to dream up ideas, but you can’t pick one. Well heed this advice from yours truly:

There are enough damn thinkers,
what the world needs are doers;
so pick one and get started already.

You must have a reasonably good idea as your foundation, but in my experience making it with your business is like everything else in life; ambition, determination, problem solving, and a bit of naïveté at the start. Earlier this week I was having a conversation with Duncan Campbell, a very successful serial entrepreneur from Portland and more recently the founder of “Friends of the Children” non-profit (or social business if you will). Mr. Campell said to me, “If I could give you one thing from this conversation it would be to pick one thing and focus on it for 2-3 years. It doesn’t have to be what you do for the rest of your life. The thing is, very few people can do 2 things well. Pick one and focus on that for now.”

^– [This is me stoked at the top
of the steepest street in the world
(Baldwin Street in Dunedin, NZ)]

Step 3

There is no step 3. Keep working your butt off.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr

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Daniel Herr Profile Picture (@DanHerr)P.S. – If you’re curious what this means for me:
Recently I have been working on a crowdfunding for solar PV business model, an volunteer incentivism social business, the foundations of an entrepreneurial ecosystem locally, adding a new division of renewable energy to an existing company, consulting on a few small ventures, and getting my MBA. I have made a commitment to become more focused this year on my own business needs by delegating some of my ideas to businesses, institutions and individuals that can and would like to bring them to fruition, even as their own ideas.

Crowdfunded Solar

So I’d feel silly not posting about what Matt, Pat and I have been spending tons of hours working on the past few weeks: a business plan we have called CrowdSolar. I’ve had this ideas stuck in my head for the past three years or so and its really needed to come to life. Here is the thought more or less:

CrowdSolar LogoThe Idea

Crowdsolar allows the average person to invest in solar while providing building owners with the opportunity to generate electricity from the sun without high up-front costs. CrowdSolar’s vehicle and platform for these investments directly funds solar photovoltaic installations with accredited investors through an easy to use and share online platform.

The Need

The most pressing issue that solar energy continues to face is high initial cost. The limited availability of financing opportunities makes going solar unfeasible for many businesses and homeowners. CrowdSolar provides the foundation for a sustainable clean energy catalyst allowing the industry to transition away from government subsidies and artificial incentives, which are set to expire by 2016. More importantly, in the worst economic times of our age investors are searching for alternative investment opportunities and the ability to encourage the development of clean energy in their local communities. CrowdSolar addresses those needs. Crowdsolar aims to change the game in the adoption ability and market penetration of solar energies.

I have forced myself to get it out and on paper, at least the start of it, and am submitting it to a number of entrepreneurship competitions (including the NCET Governor’s Cup, UNR’s Sontag Competition, and CalTech’s FLOW). Please find our boiled down version which we submitted to the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition today. I welcome your comments, questions, concerns, and collaborative efforts:

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
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Living Life to the Fullest – The McConkey Legacy

When I think about home (Lake Tahoe), living life to the fullest and not taking life too seriously, there is no person that stands out in my mind more than Shane McConkey. And if you’ve ever heard of Shane, you can never listen to Juke Box Hero without thinking about an awesome day of skiing. I never met Shane McConkey, but like so many others his story and his life have had a profound impact on me.

I recently watched a small youtube video about the mission of the Shane McConkey Foundation (above). In it Shane’s wife says one very key line at the end:

“Carry on Shane’s legacy by not taking life too seriously, living life to the fullest & protecting this beautiful world.”

Steve Herr SkiingThere is more to share about Shane than I could ever fit in one blog post or one whole website. Shane defined a way of life. Some of you may not understand the culture I grew up in where skiing is not just a vacation activity, it is a part and a way of life. I’ll put it this way, not only did my parents meet working at Northstar in the 70’s and 80’s and I was skiing at Squaw by age 2, but when Reno was on fire and we were evacuated the one thing my fiancée (also from Tahoe) wanted to make sure we grabbed was our ski gear. Life in Tahoe has its own speed, its own dress code, its own intensity and serenity all at once. But the key in part boils down to what I wrote about this last week, and Shane’s #1 Rule:

Have fun and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself

Visitors to Lake Tahoe (aka gapers and flatlanders) constantly seem on a mission be like us or try to prove they are better. What they fail to realize is that competition here is not about saying, “Look how awesome I am, I just dominated you.” To be welcome here you cannot focus on being accepted or taking what you want, but instead you should enjoy and respect what is available to you. Using and conserving as opposed to abusing and discarding. Those of us in and from the culture are filling a need to push ourselves to the limit physically and mentally in hopes of getting to know ourselves just a little bit better. As Laurie Robinson says, “The desire for adrenaline and endorphins goes hand in hand with the need to have fun for these athletes.”

Source: AP Photo/Red Bull, Graeme Murray

The reason Shane was so widely loved and respected had nothing to do with the fact he was the greatest free-skier of our generation, though he was. It lay in his ability to always laugh and never take his fame or himself seriously. He was always laughing, while caring deeply for his family and friends. If you understand Shane, you will begin to understand a lifestyle. If you truly understand GNAR (Gaffney’s Numberical Assessment of Radness – Watch GNAR the Movie) you see that Squallywood (by Robb Gaffney M.D.) was Shane & the Gaffney’s poking fun at all the yahoos that took skiing so serious and thought they were so awesome. Whether you have never skiied, aren’t so great at skiing, or think that you’re awesome, who cares. I challenge you check your GNAR at the door and truly live Shane’s legacy:

“Carry on Shane’s legacy by not taking life too seriously, living life to the fullest & protecting this beautiful world.”

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
Please visit the Shane McConkey Foundation, Follow @shanemcconkey, & Like the FB Page.
If you are interested, I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
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If you want to find out a bit about Shane, I encourage you to watch these videos; though I warn you skiing is its own culture:

“You know, several years ago when people were fired up about what they did, they could show it. Give a fist pump or full hands raised; whatever. Look at team sports, they still go nuts. But somewhere along the way in all action sports, outside of competition, it was no longer cool to look stoked. Even if you just did the sickest thing in your life, you had to contain it and look all nonchalant. Because apparently doing that showed you were so good that you felt like, yeah, that’s pretty standard for me. Who came up with that one? … When I’m fired up to be in a certain place or I just pulled off something sick, I’m not gonna be afraid to show it. I’m gonna let people know it, I’m gonna claim.”

Source of some content & facts (Thanks Laurie!):

Lessons of a Grandfather

Grandma and Grandpa Foster on their Wedding DayDon’t take life too seriously.

Laugh at yourself for the silly things you get mad about.

Enjoy what you have today.

I’m reminded of a story about a young man visiting his grandfather. Grandpa loved and cherished his late wife; she was his strength, his light in the dark, his life-long buddy, his bride. Grandpa had an intricate vase given in memory of Grandma which he kept full of fresh flowers in in memory of his vibrant wife. While sitting down to breakfast a sweeping wind blows and knocks the vase crashing to the ground.

“So it has happened.” Grandpa said as he moved to pick up the pieces.

“Aren’t you mad grandpa?” Says the young boy.

“No my boy, I have appreciated every day with it as I appreciated every day with your Grandmother.”

“But its gone now Grandpa, that sucks. I wish that stupid wind hadn’t knocked it down like that! So stupid. I hate the wind.”

“Kido, everything will be broken one day,” said Grandpa.

The boy paused for a moment, “That’s a sad thought Grandpa.”

“My boy, imagine and understand that everything you cherish will soon be broken, gone, and passed, but live in the present. I knew that some day a wind, a misplaced elbow, a slipping hand would brake that vase; but I did my best to take care of it while I had it and appreciate every intricate detail of it. Don’t blame the wind and get mad at the things you cannot control; understand that someday soon many things that you love and are attached to will be gone. But there is no reason to sorrow for tomorrow or hate the past. Enjoy what you have today my boy.”

Don’t take life too seriously.

Laugh at yourself for the silly things you get mad about.

Enjoy what you have today.

Grandma and Grandpa Foster Portrait
John & Jeanne
(My Maternal Grandparents)

“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man.
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr

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Go to Work Late

There is little success where there is little laughter.
– Andrew Carnegie

Trevor jumping in MauiToday’s working world is all about work-life integration; I want the flexibility to do what I want when I want. There is no sense in our minds about why we should have to stick to that structured 8-5 job; it really doesn’t make sense and we are not okay with doing something just because it has always been done that way. This is the age of why where I want to have a Google-quick logic-based answer seconds from when the question pops into my head. The fact is most of us live on an iPhone anyway (and feel secretly like we could rule the world with it! – P.S. I don’t actually own one, I still have a dumb phone). But the truth is we want flexibility and the trust that we will work at home and away from the office as much as is needed to get the job done.

Non-typical work hours and flexibility are better for people, people can handle it, and in fact they will perform better. The concept of a compressed work week works, you just have to get your head around the idea. Figures show that people get more done, are willing to work longer hours, and are more productive when they are given flexibility in hours to work and ability to work from home. I sure as heck know that the office is not the only place where a salaried employee gets work done.

Not too long ago NPR had a story on about work hours saying:

“There’s this belief that if you’re at work, you’re doing work — and people are not,” says co-creator Jody Thompson. She says 80 percent of companies’ lost productivity is from “presenteeism” — when someone is physically in the office but mentally somewhere else.

Better Green Building Company Home pictureThe promotion of non-traditional working hours is becoming so common place that the U.S. Green Building Council supports it as part of its LEED rating system. Today building / business owners can get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points simply for allowing some flexibility to their workers and not requiring a traditional work-week.
USGBC LEED 3.0 Public Draft: Location & Transportation: Neighborhood Development Plan: Transportation Demand Management: OPTION 6: Flexible Work Arrangements (2 points):

Employers must develop internal policies that outline the terms under which an employee can engage in telework, flextime, compressed work weeks, staggered shifts, etc. These policies must also outline how the program will be promoted to employees.

Not only are employees happier, but you also:

  • Reduce utility bills by having to heat / cool the building less days
  • Reduce the number of commuting trips
  • Save on day-care costs for employees
  • Increase employee productivity

Woofer Girls Jumping in Wanaka New ZealandThe same system won’t work for every company, every small business, or even state institution; but if you’re looking to cut some costs and improve inefficiencies this may be a great start for all involved. Typical compressed work weeks adopted today include 4/10 and 9/80; but do your homework and think for yourself. Come up with what makes the most sense for you, your employees, your business and your customers. The possibilities are endless when you allow yourself to think outside the pre-programmed 8-5 and your employees might just love you for it too.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr

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What defines you?

Do the best that you can at whatever job you are given.

Simple advice of a father and the most meaningful sentence I have kept in my head all these years. I wrote a few weeks ago about being focused IN what you are doing (as opposed to upon it) for every moment. It is not an easy task or ask.

It is one thing to perform when you know your expectations, the goal in mind, the audience, and you like the thought of what you are about to do; play a game of basketball, have a weekend with the family, work your dream job or project with a great team, easy money, and sure successes. The adolescent mind loves the easy win.

The Grass is Always GreenerOne of the toughest things in the world for a competitive person is sitting on the sideline; playing what some might call “Left-Out.” Riding the bench in the game, a month with the in-laws, getting assigned to work with Frank, working at the sewage plant for a week. The thought that can eat us alive is the comparative, “Why do I have to do this? Why is he in the game? I am so much better than this. When will it be my turn?” This thought is as unhealthy as trying to keep up with the Jones; the grass is always greener…

Kyle Lacy (a social media guru) asked an important question on Twitter this last week:

“The things you do when no one is looking defines you – agree or disagree?”

My Answer: Unequivocally, Yes

Knowing what you are about and being what you are about can be two very different things. When you are focused IN what you are doing, your concentration is upon where you are, sensing all that you are and all that is around you. You are comfortable in the essence of you. You are not worried about messing up, concerning yourself with the judgement of others, nor wishing that you were someone, somewhere else. This is not saying that you are content with latency, but that you understand that all things good and bad change with or without you.

No Exit No Turns Sign on Baldwin Street in NZSo what really defines you? What do you do when no one is looking? I’m not talking about how you slouch, the way you bite your lip, or how well you sing in the shower; but when given the choice do you do the right thing for the sake of doing it? Do you help the person in need or figure someone else will take care of it? Do you return that twenty dollar bill that you found laying by the driver’s license? Do you act the same regardless of who might be watching?

One thing I am always firm about is that you have a role and regardless of what the role is, I challenge you to do that job to the best of your abilities. The things you will learn, the experiences you will have to call upon may prove more than valuable down the line; but if your head is always wishing for somewhere else, those valuable memories won’t be anywhere.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr

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Daniel Herr Profile Picture (@DanHerr)P.S. – If you’re curious about some of my past valuable experiences:

  • Maze Master – Direct thousands of people as quickly as possible through the lift-lines where no-one is happy about the wait & you are the one person standing in their way when they have already waited 25 minutes pushing and shoving through the line
  • Building & Ground Crew – Cleaning ballpark & beach bathrooms including women’s bathroom on 4th of July weekend.
  • Sewage Treatment Plant Maintenance – Scraping clean & power-washing aeration basins followed by applications of bitchathane.
  • To hear about my more glamerous experiences see