Fried my Macbook Air Fan


Today was a painful day. I have had to give up my notebook for 6 days in order to get it serviced. I did everything I conceivably could to avoid sending it in, but in the end I was left with no choice. Although I saw some very interesting youtube videos on how to solve my problem, I decided that losing the entire notebook was not worth it. I was one of the earliest adopters of the Macbook Air and have had it for over a year now. Occasionally the notebook would get really hot, usually after intensive usage which caused the fans to start spinning at maximum speed. This resulted in an extremely irritating noise. The only solution was to let the notebook cool down, it would then begin operating normally. Given that this did not happen frequently, I had learned to live with the times that it would act up. The things we have to put up with for being loyal Apple customers!

A couple of days ago I was using the notebook extensively for intensive graphics work. A couple of hours later the noise from the fans surfaced again, I closed the notebook to let it cool down. After a short while I put it into it’s sleeve and went home. When I opened the notebook at home I noticed that it was still really warm, and as soon as I turned the notebook on the fans went crazy and started making awful noises. This is when I started panicking! I believe there are quite a few Macbook Air users that have been affected by this problem and Apple has yet to take any action to solve the issue. After searching through forums and websites where users shared their experiences, it appeared that I was left with very little choice. Either open up the system myself and diagnose the problem or give it in to the Apple service center.

I went with the latter option much to my despair. It feels weird not having my laptop with me. It is actually kind of scary how attached I have become to that machine. I think the next couple of days will be a good time for reflection. This notion of constantly being connected either through your phone, laptop or other portable devices seems to have taken over my generation. We have become overly reliant on them, and have lost touch with the real world to some extent. However,with the way things are moving, and with all of us becoming increasingly more connected through the internet, we will have to figure out where to draw the line. In the meanwhile I am going back to counting the hours before I get my laptop back!

Have you Tested your Product/Service?


Image by jeremy.wilburn

An important lesson I have learned from past experience with launching new businesses is, that before you go all out and invest lots of time and effort into the development of a business concept, to first run a pilot and test it at it’s most basic scale. I still have trouble doing this because I want that whatever I put out there, to be as good as it can according to ‘my’ standards. After having burnt my fingers a few times, I have realized that surprisingly, most people do not really care for ‘my’ standards, and most of the time we have to adjust strategy according to the customer’s needs is what is required.

If you are starting a new business or company, make sure to scale your service down to it’s absolute core. What is the core value proposition for your target segment? If it is convenience, in the form of software, then develop the functions that provide the value they expect. There is something really special when you bring your product/service to your customer for the first time and they start providing feedback. One needs to be able to handle this, in whatever shape or form it is given to you. When they tell you that you service is truly amazing, ask them “What can I do to make it better?” When they tell you that your product does not provide the level of the value they expected, ask them “What can I integrate to help you achieve that level?” One needs to remain flexible enough to adapt to the customer’s needs and requirements.

As entrepreneurs we often have a great level of self confidence in our abilities, this is what separates us from the rest. We truly believe that we can do things that will make the world a better place, and in the process, benefit ourselves as well. However, we should not let that level of self confidence become a crutch. We start businesses for the benefit of a certain target segment. As far as we are concerned their feedback and experience must transcend all other opinions. Don’t wait until your product/service has all the features you think your target market needs. Release early and regularly, keep updating your service to make it into something that both you and your customer can be proud of.

Losing a Key Client


Image by Stitch

I am sure most entrepreneurs who have been in the business for a while have had to go through this ordeal at some time or other. The first time is always the hardest to get over. It just hurts in so many ways. As a startup we are dependent on a limited number of revenue generators initially. When we lose one of these primary contributors early on in our development cycle, the loss paralyzes the team. Morale drops, gloomy clouds begin to hover over everything and serious thoughts about whether we are going to make it begin to surface. I remember the first time we lost a major client in my initial business venture. A lot younger, and without the experience I have today, I did not take it very well. To the extent that I remember ending the relationship with the client on a bad note. Not the smartest of ideas. However, one tends to say a lot of things in the heat of the moment that we do not actually mean. In the world of business those words are never forgotten and chances of ever re-opening that account are slim at best.

Today however I have a very different approach when we do lose a customer. Now, when we lose a client I organize a debriefing session which covers:

1. Asking for Feedback: When a client discontinues their business with us we always send them a standard feedback form asking them the reasons for discontinuing the relationship. It is a comprehensive form that covers pertinent questions and asks them to benchmark us on several scales.

2. Objective Re-Evaluation: Revise the primary objectives that were outlined as performance indicators or benchmarks. These are what the client was measuring you with. Break down each objective and analyze whether they were specific, measurable, attainable and realistic. Then go into each objective and measure what the client feedback was and where you over promised or under delivered.

3. Execution Challenges: Next, analyze in great detail where you experienced the greatest challenges in executing your strategies. Break down each execution error to its root cause and develop strategies to deal with them in future. Be very specific in this and identify exactly where the problem originated. Was it miscommunication or a lack of discipline from the sales team?

4. Lessons Learned: What did the business as a whole learn from managing this account. Were there areas in the feedback form where the client praised certain aspects of your business processes? What were they? Can these be transferred to other accounts to improve their experiences? What were the root causes of the break down? What can be learnt from these break downs? Spend time understanding this loss from a holistic point of view and make sure it is covered from all angles.

5. Motivation: Losing a client or a big account can be devastating for a startup or small business. It is a rude wake up call for any business. In such a scenario it is essential for the senior management to provide their employees and partners with moral support to help them through these trying times. This is one of those times when the leader needs to step up and infuse his/her passion and belief into the rest of the business. If one does not do this, the business could find itself on a slippery slope which only leads downwards.

Losing a key client can sometimes be the wake up call that a business needs when it becomes complacent and takes the client for granted. In today’s world with an ever increasing level of competition, a small business or startup needs to do whatever it can to support its key clients. Having open channels for feedback, providing excellent customer service and most importantly, understanding your customer and their needs is essential. The minute we take them for granted we open the door for our competitors to step in.

What did you do when you lost a key client? What were the strategies that you employed to make sure it did not happen again? How did you motivate your staff and partners?

I would greatly appreciate it if you share your stories and experiences.

Inviting Guest Posts


Since I am now posting every alternate day on my blog, I thought this would be a great opportunity to open up the days when I am not writing, to bloggers and authors from within my niche, that is small businesses & entrepreneurship, and have guest writers post during those days. I look forward to returning the favor and guest posting on their respective blogs as well. This will have a positive impact by creating diverse content on both blogs as well as increasing traffic growth.

Areas I am really interested in hearing diverse points of views from bloggers and entrepreneurs are:

1. Partnerships (Experiences, Challenges, Solutions)

2. Execution (How do you get stuff done? What are some of the ways you have improved your execution capabilities?)

3. Cash Flow Management (Are you using any particular software? Specific methodologies you follow. Past experiences and challenges)

4. Marketing (What are the most effective strategies you use? Word of mouth campaigns? Marketing metrics?)

5. Motivation (What inspired you to start a business? What keeps you going everyday? What are you biggest challenges?)

If you have any material on any of these topics I would really like to hear from you. I look forward to getting your feedback and suggestions. Please email me at blog (@) usmansheikh (.) net . Thank you

Discovering a New World


Image by blueforce4116

I have recently moved off the online wordpress platform to the .org platform. Even though everything remains the same, interface wise, there are just so many options available here, which I had not explored when I was using the online platform. They range from plugins, widgets, analytics and search engine optimization programs. This last week has been a crash course in learning about html, permalinks, bounce rates, ftp transfers and a whole range of other topics. It is like being in an accelerated learning module, with just a week to digest everything. A lot of thanks go to a friend, Faizan Laghari who has really helped me with this transition and has probably just about had it with me and my never ending set of questions and requests. I sincerely appreciate everything that you have done Faizan and apologize for all the inconvenience.

Some major points I want to highlight are:

1. Switch Early: I should have made this migration a long time ago as using the platform gives you much more flexibility and opens up a host of options to help your blog grow faster. I took the approach of building content first, looking back, I would do it again, the only thing I would change would be, to do it on the .org platform. A major inconvenience has been fixing permalinks, adjusting categories, optimizing each post etc. If you are planning to blog seriously, I definitely recommend switching earlier.

2. Design: I finally decided on thesis and am really happy with my choice. Choosing a theme that fits your style is really important and I recommend taking serious time out to think about what works for you. Thesis has a lot of functionalities that make modifying the theme relatively easy. It has been designed really well and the typography stands out clearly. The following links helped me make my decision a lot easier.

- 10 of the Best WordPress 2.7 Compatible Themes

- Pearsonified Themes

- Best Premium WordPress Themes

- 20 Great Free WordPress 2.7 Themes

3. Search Engine Optimization: Being a completely newbie to this field I have quickly learnt about the importance of permalinks, crawlers and meta tags. I downloaded the All in One SEO plugin from the wordpress plugin site and it has been working really well so far. All my old posts are associated with a different address so I guess it will take some time for my blogs to get indexed again. This is yet again another reason to switch early. I recommend reading through the links below, they helped me greatly in getting started.

- 9 SEO Plugins Every WordPress Blog Should Have

- How to Survive a Category and Permalink Overhaul on your WordPress Blog

- Search Engine Optimization for Blogs


Book Review: Back of the Napkin

“Visual thinking means taking advantage of our innate ability to see – both with our eyes and with our mind’s eye – in order to discover ideas that are otherwise invisible, develop those ideas quickly and intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way that they simply “get”.” Dan Roam (Author, Back of the Napkin)

I am one of those individuals who enjoys putting a pen to paper and making sense of any issue or problem through pictures and charts. I have to admit I am not artistic by any stretch of imagination, and people usually have difficulty in deciphering the stuff that I put up. Nonetheless, I find the act of visually depicting a story or challenge, to be an extremely powerful tool, one that should be there in every entrepreneurs tool kit. While browsing at a local book store a while back I caught a glimpse of this book and the cover image caught my attention.

Back of the napkin Dan Roam

Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam

This book covers a very interesting concept, after flipping through the book for the first time, I remember thinking that the author had done a great job putting together abstract concepts in a most exciting visual manner. I am glad I found this book as it has provided me with a framework to actually make sense of the visuals I use in brainstorming sessions or when giving presentations. An important note I want to make before moving forward with the review is that you don’t need to know how to draw or be artistic to make use of this book. It’s principles apply as much to those of us who prefer to sit back and comment on a visual as to those who are eager to depict the visualization on a whiteboard.

The book is split up into 4 parts, the first takes you from understanding the power of using pictures to solve problems, the next part equips you with a fundamental knowledge of some frameworks to use, the third section is my favorite as it merges the first and second parts into a powerful application of the frameworks, and the last part shows you how to actually use pictures to sell and present your ideas. The parts flow naturally well together and I was inspired many a time while reading the book to get up and use the frameworks that had been introduced and apply them to some of the business issues we were facing. When I did, the results were truly remarkable.

I often just get up to the board and start to draw or write whatever comes to mind without realizing that it may be difficult for others to actually decipher what I am doing. The frameworks in the book such as “Six ways of seeing” and “SQVID” (see pictures below) helped me to literally visualize what I wanted to say through my pictures before I actually did. I began to see things differently and details I hadn’t thought about initially, started to take shape. I think different people will experience such epiphanies at different stages and levels, varying on how quickly you grasp the techniques. Confidence with the pen will follow!

Visual Thinking Toolkit Dan Roam Back of the Napkin

The Visual Thinking Toolkit

SQVID Dan Roam Back of the Napkin


6x6 Dan Roam Back of the Napkin

<6><6> Rule

As an entrepreneur I know how important it is to be able to communicate your ideas to a target audience, irrespective of whether you are pitching to a client, investor or your own partners. The message needs to be delivered in a manner that enables your audience to “get” the message. The saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is truly a powerful concept and when harnessed competently can open any number of doors and opportunities. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve the way they deal with difficult problems, as well as becoming a more competent presenter.

Related Links:

- has ranked The Back of the Napkin as the number five business book of 2008

- BusinessPundit: #4 business book of the year

- Best of BNET 2008: BNET