John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Attention Span

My attention span is struggling under the pressure. There is a wide gulf between my life, my job and the startup that I’m trying to build.

I’m trying to learn about Quora. I am also trying to balance demands life, my job, my startup with the demands of my Blogs, guest contributions to other blogs,  Twitter, Google Buzz, my LinkedIn contacts,  Twitpic & Yfrog photography, and comments that I make on other blogs.

I want to keep in touch with all of these things because I advise customers who have their own lives, their own businesses and their own interests. To be the expert, I need deep personal understanding – AND the creativity to apply that understanding for my clients.

I think of myself as unique – a passionate, persistent, pragmatic, problem preventer, business and technology enthusiast. Former Marine, Ex Soldier & current geek.  Wrapping that up with my life is challenging because of my attention span.   It has never been such a problem before.   I don’t know if the problem is really MY attention span, or simply that the world is changing so fast. 

I want to improve some things.

I’d love to have a meaningful connection with my son but it takes two people to have a meaningful connection. I’d love to replace my aging Ford Explorer, but it only has 65k miles, and is very useful. I’d love to find a new job but my current job has been dependable since 1999 or so.  I’d love to explode my business because I think it can help hundreds of other businesses instead of dozens.  I’d love to write daily.  I’d love to bicycle about 30 miles a day, 5 days a week… but I can’t find 2 hours to do it.  To fit things in well, my days need another 24 hours each.

My world of information is exploding. Everyone’s world is. Staying on top is like juggling chainsaws and torches while flipping on a trampoline that someone randomly moves beneath my feet.  What sort of attention span can make it all work?  

Ultimately, I will need to set priorities and let things fall to the side. Everyone does. It is a challenge, and I need to find the attention span to make it all work, and make the right selections of what is important, and what isn’t.  

How do people do it? How do you?

January 27th, 2011 Posted by | Life, Other Stuff, People | no comments

Horrible Flower Customer Service. Really.

I ordered 2 dozen flowers and a vase on February 4th. I ordered it from for February 11th delivery.   I ordered it for delivery on the 11th because I wanted to make REALLY sure that it would be delivered by the 12th. I wanted to make REALLY sure that it was delivered in time for me to give to my wife on the 14th. Valentine’s day is not really a big holiday, but I didn’t want to forget it.  I knew that there was bad weather, so I assumed that by ordering it 10 days before Valentine’s day and specifyingGrocery-store  delivery 3 days before Valentine’s day – I would get it in time to deliver, yes, on Valentine’s day.

So – WHY did I order from  There are two reasons. The first is that I usually order from Teleflora, but last time I ordered through Teleflora for a delivery in Caribou, Maine, they delivered it to Danvers Massachusetts.  Really?  Yes. Seriously. They missed it by an entire state. Teleflora doesn’t really do flowers every time. In the case of the flowers that I ordered for my Mother’s Birthday, Telaflora sent the order to a local florist in Danvers, Mass. Those flowers weren’t delivered on time. I put time and effort into getting flowers, and after getting some serious run-around from Teleflora, I decided to never order from them again. So I decided to either use Proflowers, or 1-800-flowers.   Here’s where the second reason comes in.  I saw an episode of “Millionaire Matchmaker” on TV and Patti Stanger was pushing 1-800-flowers.   That was the tipping point for me. If these flowers were good enough for MILLIONAIRES, they were absolutely good enough for my wife.

Really?  Yes.  I am not a  millionaire, but I want my wife to get some nice flowers for Valentine’s day. She deserves it. I have never really understood jewelry or flowers, but I understand that they are special to her, and that is important to me. 

On the 10th, I got an email from 1800 Flowers. Things were starting to go downhill in my flower experience.  The email said, “due to the extreme weather conditions, your order(s) may be delivered later than your requested date. “  That wasn’t any newsflash. I knew that weather was bad. That is why I ordered on the 4th.   The 4th !!!  Really.  They also said that I could “get the most updated information by tracking your package on the carriers’ web site using the tracking number that we provided to you in the Shipping Confirmation email.”  That was a problem because I did not get any shipping confirmation email.   I was able to take my ORDER number, from my original order, and get a tracking number from the 800-flowers website. What it told me, on the 10th was that UPS had been given information, but had not picked up the package yet. This was on the 10th, but I had ordered it on the 4th. Valentine’s day is, like, a BIG day for flowers, right?  

To clarify – On February 10th, my order for the 11th had not yet been picked up, and yet the flower company was blaming a late delivery on the shipping company.

Really.  (*sigh*)

I thought – there was really NO excuse for this, so I called to cancel the order. They wouldn’t cancel it. I asked for a supervisor. They wouldn’t cancel it. It had not been shipped yet, but they could not cancel it because it had been ordered. Not shipped… ORDERED. Really!

Finally, I started emailing, chatting, and calling trying to get the order cancelled.  I got the order cancelled. I thought my ordeal with the flower company was done. They promised a refund.  I realized that there was a flower delivery service that could provide worse service than Teleflora – and I had picked it.

On the 11th, I drove to the local Lowes Foods Grocery Store and bought 2 dozen of their roses, recycled a vase from a previous rose gift/purchase, and put together an acceptable floral gift for my wife.  Not great, but much better than nothing.  She was thrilled.  Really. Those are the roses above.  They were very nice.

On the 12th I got an email saying that Your Order number W00652302*****, detailed below, has been picked up by UPS and is on its way”   Really? Yes.  They cancelled the order, but they shipped the order.

So – I’m writing this because of two things.   At 12:08pm today, I got an email from 1800 “thanking me for shopping with them.” Did they miss the part where I cancelled the order? Really?  At about 3pm, I got a knock on my door, and there were roses.  Not the beautiful roses I expected – but a set of wannabe-roses that were NOT NEARLY as nice as the grocery store roses.   Here’s a photo.1-800-flowers Inferior Roses

What’s the frosting on the cake?  After I got that pathetic excuse for flowers, I went back to the email from 1-800-flowers.   Sure enough, there it was “We’d love to hear about your experience. Click here and tell us what you liked about it or what we can improve–we welcome and appreciate feedback from all our customers.”

So – I thought, bad delivery, bad customer service, bad communication, bad flowers, bad timing – I will let them know what I thought. I clicked on the “click here” and guess what – the link goes to a survey that is “closed!” ARGH. I would like to say, there might be another way that they could have done worse, but I just can NOT imagine what it might be. In the same way that “Websites that Suck” taught good web design by showing the worst, I’ve learned so MUCH about good customer service… but experiencing the opposite. Really.


 As a post script: I got an email about these, here’s the photo of both of them. The Grocery store roses, from Lowes foods, were about 36.00 for 2 dozen. The 1-800 flowers roses were about $64.

 Both Sets of Roses

February 15th, 2010 Posted by | Business, Life, Other Stuff | no comments

Metrics and Life

We track what we care about – We track metrics that matter in our lives. If we care about something, it is important to HAVE metrics that we can track – metrics that measure improvement or not.

I had a doctors appointment yesterday. For the most part I just wanted to get some renewed RX’s, but as part of every visit, my doctor’s office checks weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and temp. My BP was a bit high, probably because I worked past 3am the night before, and started at 7am yesterday – probably because I’ve got 3 dozen projects simultaneously in need of care and feeding – probably because I was stressed about trying to get to the doctor’s office on time.  For the slightly elevated BP, I have rationalizations.

But I was also up 11 lbs since my last doctor’s visit, and that was only 3 months ago. scale I was shocked. For many years, I’ve made it a practice to check my weight daily. I’ve checked it in the morning, checked it in the evening, checked it randomly almost every day.
When I look at the results – the bare measurement – and the factors involved in reaching those results, I am left with 2 emprical findings:

1) I stopped measuring my weight
2) My weight went where I didn’t want it to go

These two things are connected. As a whole, in life and in technology, people measure what they care about.  Everyone watches their 401k, their annual salary… Everyone watches metrics about things in their life that are important to them.  The first big company website I managed increased its traffic over 500% in the first year that I managed it. I know that particular statistic because that metric was one that I cared about.

Over the last two months, I’ve sold a house, bought a house, moved from one house to another… I’ve painted 4 ceilings, 3 rooms, and climbed on the roof to blow leaves out of gutters 3 times. I’ve also started a new gig, gained several hundred twitter followers and gotten my latest business almost ready to launch.  The weight metric has escaped my monitoring because everything in my life has overwhelmed my time-limited and adhd-rattled attention-span.

I treated my weight as if it was less important.

We track what we care about – We track metrics that matter in our lives. If we care about something, it is important to HAVE metrics that we can track – metrics that measure improvement or not.
My point is – when you care about something, when something is important to you, make sure you have some measure of it. Make sure you have some metric that you can measure and monitor to ensure the thing that you care about is going in the direction you want it to go.   Monitoring that sort of measurement, that sort of metric is the best way to correct course when things aren’t going your way.

This morning, before I started work, I stepped on the scale.

What do you think? Do you have metrics for things that matter to you? Do you monitor and manage them?

December 9th, 2009 Posted by | Business, Continuous Improvement, Life, Other Stuff, People | no comments