If I was in charge of a telecommunications company…

Yes, this is one of those “If I was in charge, I’d do this…” posts.  Don’t we all have opinions on how companies should be run?  Just had these thoughts today so decided to write them down.  Canada is known as one of the worst places for mobile phone plans (from a consumer perspective), largely because of the lack of competition.  If by some freak cosmological accident I ended up in charge of a telecommunications company, here’s some things I’d do:

I’m not going to talk about pricing or packages or anything like that, because at the end of the day what matters most for company longevity is customer loyalty and word of mouth marketing (even more so in today’s hyper social world).  The only reasons why I think the existing companies are doing so well in Canada now are because of their entrenched position with infrastructure, and the lack of choice for consumers.  With that said,

1. I’d ensure that our company has some sort of automated process that scans existing customers accounts (ooo privacy, but bear with me) and if there are any current company promotions that are better plans (either in terms of the same as what they have but cheaper, or more features than what they have for same price) than what the customer currently has we automatically switch them to the cheaper plan and notify them.

2. The plans would be simplified (which would need to happen for number 1 to work effectively).

3. Company wide policy that if a customer calls and complains about something not working, and they have ANY difficulty getting the level of service they asked for, we immediately grant them at least a free month’s service.

4. For customers who have been with the company for over three years.  We surprise a certain number of them randomly once a year with free phones and/or upgraded plans for their current phones.

That’s just four things.  Not a lot, and I fully realize there’s a lot more involved with running a company, but four things that I think would help towards gaining long term customers and viral word of mouth marketing.

What would you add?

lurking vs. joining the conversation

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward
In the continuation of the series I’ve been writing this last few days, here’s something I wrote as a part of my New Year’s post at the beginning of last year:
I’m going to comment and interact more on the internets.  Confession: I’m a lurker.

What happened :

I’m still a lurker for the most part although I have got involved in more discussions than I did the previous year.  I even have a few posts on this blog that grew out of comments I made elsewhere:

What I learned:

Engaging with authors by leaving comments is a valuable thing to do.  It…

  • helps with your own creativity.  Some great article ideas have come out of comments I’ve made on other blogs.
  • connects you with other people.
  • connects other people with you.  A good comment will bring traffic to your own blog.

I also learned that it’s hard for me to overcome being a lurker.  This is most likely because of my insane attention to detail and wanting to get things totally right that adds to the time it takes me to write and then I don’t write because it takes too much time.  Sad.  There were a lot of half-written comments this past year that I abandoned because it was taking to long to write.  I’m just not the kind of guy who can just leave a “great post” or “this article sucks” as a comment with out backing up why I think that way.

So, what about you?  Are you a lurker on the internets, or do you feel you have a pretty good handle on this “engaging” thing?  If so, what would your advice be to people like me?

Merry Christmas 2010

Hey everyone, I hope your day is going well so far!  I love enjoying this time with my family and friends.  To all my readers, have a blessed Christmas and a very HAPPY New Year!

I’ve included for your reading the text of what I shared last night to my church family (modified a bit for the context here).  Enjoy!

We all know about Christmas. We all know that it’s commercial thing with a frenzy of gift buying and gift wanting, and “stuff” being exchanged. We all know that it’s a nostalgia thing, with the Christmas plays, the nativity scene, Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, tinsel, decorations, lights and carols, and movies we’ve seen every year. We know that Christmas is a food thing, the chocolates, the turkeys, the stuffing, the oranges, the baked goodies. Oh, the baked goodies.

There are many things we know Christmas for and many things we’ve become familiar with. Familiar. There’s danger in that. The danger of Christmas, the season, the event, is that we get so familiar we lose the wonder of what Christmas really represents. The wonder of the INCARNATION. It’s really not a word you hear too much. But it is a word that captures the wonder of what happened. God coming in flesh on this planet. Tonight, for just a few minutes, I hope to remind you of this wonder. To have you pause in awe at the majesty and significance of what can be robbed by the familiar.

Do you remember the last time you were filled with wonder – marveling at something you witnessed or experienced that captured your attention? What caused this wonder? More likely, it was something out of the ordinary, something that broke through the usual, something that made some sort of emotional connection with you.

The incarnation should be like that for us. The incarnation must be like that for us. Something out of the ordinary, something that broke through the usual, something that makes an emotional connection with where we are RIGHT NOW in our everyday lives.

Think of the vastness of our universe made up of thousands of galaxies, each containing stars too numerous to count. In a universe that’s limits have never been observed even by the most powerful scientific instruments today. In the midst of this universe, there is a galaxy that has been named the Milky Way, our galaxy. In this galaxy is a star, our sun, a yellow star and surrounding this star is our solar system.

A space ship probe named Voyager I, was launched on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually beyond. As of December 13 of this year, this spacecraft, travelling currently at a speed of nearly one million miles per day, has still not made interstellar space but is at a distance of 17.3 billion km from the Sun. Radio signals from Voyager I, traveling at the speed of light, take more than 16 hours to make it to earth. Voyager I is not heading towards any particular star but if it was travelling towards the closest star to our galaxy, it would take it 73,600 light years at its current speed. That’s the closest star to our galaxy, out of the thousands of stars in our galaxy, out of the trillions of stars in our universe.

And on a single planet in this solar system. Unique, in it’s position and ability to support life. Divinely designed. The creator of this universe carried out his plan for a visit that would transform our history.

A visit not announced by an earthquake or a world shattering sound. A visit not landing in the halls of worldly power. A visit in the form of a baby. In a manger, in a stable, to a young newly married couple. Announced to a few shepherds, the outcasts of society. This should invoke some sort of curiosity in the casual observer, some sort of wonder at how an all powerful God, would be incarnate in such a humble way.

A wonder that invokes HOPE. Hope that there really is a God who understands and knows our poor and desperate circumstances at times. A hope, that there really is a God who makes it possible for us to KNOW Him, even though in the fullness of his glory, majesty and power He is unknowable.

A wonder that invokes BELONGING. The reality that in the spoken announcement to the shepherds, God speaks the good news to every single one of us. He came for me. He came for you. He wants ALL of us to belong to HIS kingdom. A kingdom, not bought by privilege, or power, or ability. A kingdom bought by HIS. OWN, WORK. Something, as God, He didn’t have to do. But something He did, compelled by His love for you and for me.

A wonder that produces DREAMS. Dreams in what God wants to do through YOU! What is possible because Jesus makes it possible? Think of what it was like for the shepherds when they realized in the midst of their wonder, that God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to them. That they were SIGNIFICANT enough to entrust this GOOD NEWS to? They began to dream of what it would be like when everyone knew the Saviour had come and the Bible records that they shared the good news with everyone they saw.

Why is recapturing the wonder of the Incarnation so important? Because it keeps our attention on the one who matters, it cultivates gratitude for His blessing, and it produces a life of generosity in response to the one who was so generous to us.

I want to close with a few words from a letter that a man named Detriech Bonhoeffer wrote to his fiancé in December 1943. He penned it while in prison in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer had lost good friends to the war, he was separated from those he loved, evil was all around him, yet these were the words he wrote:

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious..The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

And that my friends is the most wondrous things of all. Not only did the God of the Universe know he could make a home on earth. But He did it, so He could make a home in YOU.

Paul writes,

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him…  Ephesians 3: 14:17 (NLT)

As you think of the incarnation today, be filled. With wonder.

a perspective on the church

About a month ago I read a great post by my friend John Pellowe touching on the whole subject of competition between Christian Ministries.  You should go read it then come back here.  It prompted a comment from me as follows:

I love the position you outline here about competition among ministries and it’s a great suggestion that leaders take the time and make the effort to align their own thoughts on competition.

I echo your thoughts on this. From a church perspective I’ve always thought of things from concentric ‘circles of participation’ perspective using the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.

In other words (much better via diagram!):

The first circle: the believers in a local church all each have individual “parts” to play as a part of their local church body.

The second circle: the local churches in a community are all called to their community and have unique role as a part of the Christian church body within that community.

The third circle: The denominations at the national level each have unique roles within the body of the national church of Jesus Christ.

The fourth circle: The national church’s each have unique roles and callings as a part of the worldwide Christian church.

Bottom line: It’s about advancing Kingdom of God business, not a “I’m better than you” mentality.

Ministries, and churches, and Christian charities should always be working to discover, “What is the unique role or calling that God has given us as a part of His body and how can we do the best we can at that WHILE contributing to the work of His kingdom at large in the world?”

As I was writing this comment, I actually had an image of my mind that I was trying to describe.  Recently I came across a great tool that helps communicate that image.  And here it is:

Have you ever given thought to “competition” among Christian churches/ministries? Have you formulated a position about it? Please, share your thoughts as well!

It’s 2010 – Here’s to a New Year!

[image from flickr]

..and new decade – wow!  What was I doing 10 years ago?  Hmmm…I think I was doing an all-nighter with some youth in the church I was pastoring in Hanover.  Honestly, I can’t remember… which is probably not a good thing.  I actually caught myself saying to my 6 year old son tonight that in 40 years I will probably be dead.  Note to self: don’t tell your young child at his bedtime that you are going to die someday. It leads to a very long conversation.  Just saying.

I’m really looking forward to 2010 and this next decade.  From a tech point-of-view, the changes that I’ve experienced in the past 10 years are simply astounding! Of course there have been a lot of changes in my personal life as well.  I really can’t imagine what the next 10 years are going to bring!

As far as new years resolutions go, I’ve never really been one to make them – I guess I always think, why should I only resolve things only once a year?  It’s funny, but for me, my year tends to start in September, not January – must be something to do with having kids in school and pastoring a church…

Still, there are some things I am hoping to accomplish in the next year.  I just thought I’d write them here so I can look back a year from now and see how I’ve done.  So, in no particular order:

  • My wife and I really want to work on paying down a lot of our debt.  It’s been an ongoing big deal for us but we’re determined to kiss our debt good bye.  As a result there’s going to be some difficult choices made as we cut out some of the expenses in our lives.  One of the tools I think will help us is this.
  • As part of paying down our debt I’m going to start trying out different ways of monetizing some of the things I do on the internets.  I’ve already started somewhat by doing some custom work related to my Organize Series Plugin for WordPress but I’m planning on expanding on that by releasing some custom add-on plugins for Organize Series that will not be free.  Along that lines, I’ve been following this discussion on Weblog Tools Collection because it helps me consider how I might go about doing this.  Been thinking about bringing classy ads to my blog too.
  • I plan on posting more frequently here at UnfoldingNeurons.com – I think there is room for more Canadian Tech and Ministry bloggers out there.
  • One of the highlights in the past year for me was taking some training on being a leadership coach.  Every now and then I think we come across something that as individuals we really connect with as something we’re created to do.  Coaching is one of those things for me.  I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue the path to becoming a certified leadership coach as it really jives with what I believe God created me for.  I’m starting off this year by leading my church pastoral team through a peer coaching course and I’ll also be attending another training session myself.
  • I’m going to comment and interact more on the internets.  Confession: I’m a lurker.
  • On that note, it’d be an awesome honor to be invited to be a guest blogger on one of the blogs I read.  Dunno if I have anything to offer, but still it’d be cool 😉
  • I hope to continue volunteering for some great causes (along with continuing the work I do for vohmalawi.org and vohzimbabwe.com).
  • I may be going on a trip to Siberia this year.  Yes, that’s crazy.
  • I’m going to continue working on being a great Dad and husband to my family…if I fail at that, then it doesn’t matter what else I succeed at.
  • I’m going to be memorizing scripture through the year along with others in my church family who are joining in the journey (I’ll be posting about this sometime in the next two weeks).  My 8 year old daughter is also participating and when I sent her an email (yes she has email – I’ve introduced her to the Google Behemoth)  to tell her that I’m doing it too she replied, “Neat. Bring it on Dad”.  The gloves are down.
  • I love YouVersion.com and thanks to the many Bible Reading plans they’ve made available, I’m going to be reading through the Bible (again) this year.  If you don’t read the Bible, you should – it’s one of the best things you can do (and the digerati team behind youversion has made it so easy!) My wife and I are working through a plan together as well.

Well, this list has been getting pretty long but it’s a great start.   I could keep adding to it but I think I’ll leave it at that for now.  What about you?  Have you got any things you hope to accomplish for the new year?

New Website Release: VOHMalawi.org

Village of Hope Malawi Website ScreenshotA couple of days ago I released a new website that I designed for some friends of mine who are the new directors of the Village of Hope in Malawi, Africa.  David and Connie Buzikievich are an awesome couple who are following through with their offer to God to take them wherever He wants and use them however He wants.  Their example of selfless service is inspiring!

Ever since my short term missions trip to the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe my heart has been captured by the work the Village’s of Hope are doing in Africa to make a difference in children’s lives (and indeed in the communities where the Villages of Hope are planted!).  One of the exciting ways I’ve been able to contribute to the work they are doing is by hosting and designing websites for both the Village of Hope, Zimbabwe, and now the Village of Hope, Malawi.  Getting the word out and keeping supporters informed is always one of the bigger challenges facing those working at the Villages and doing this helps free time and resources for focusing on what they need to do.

You can read all about the awesome things happening at the Villages of Hope in Zimbabwe and Malawi by going to vohmalawi.org and vohzimbabwe.com.

Village of Hope Zimbabwe Website ScreenshotOh, and by the way,  one of the reasons I’ve posted this is to see if there are any other web developers, designers, or hosting gurus who want to help out too!  If so, get in touch with me and I’ll see what I can do to hook you up.  Better yet, get in touch with a missionary or missions organization you know of and volunteer your services to them.  Using your gifts in this way is an awesome way to give towards the cause and help make a difference!

A Day for Joy

In playing with a new service called Animoto I decided to create a short video highlighting one incident from my short-term missions trip to Zimbabwe in June 2007.  As part of that visit to the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe, I went to the “plots” which are a slum-like area with terrible living conditions that the workers from VOH go to every day to help feed the kids and give them some teaching. One day we passed out some toys we had brought with us. Their gratitude was priceless! I was ruined on this trip.

By the way, Animoto is a really cool app – you should check it out.  It only took me 15 minutes to make this vid.