Archive for the ‘General Company’ Category

Why doesn’t British Airways Want to Make Money?

baBritish Airways parent company finally got back into the black in 2013, presumably benefitting from an increasingly favorable global economy. They certainly were not benefitting by their own policies as I unfortunately found out recently. I’m writing this post in the hopes of gaining an explanation for why BA would behave so stupidly.

Here’s the quick summary:

A few months ago I purchased tickets from BA that were basically two round trips (one inside the other). The BA website priced them for me at the lowest available fare that included the normal fare restrictions around changing the tickets or getting a refund (changes would incur a fee and there were no refunds – got it). The disclosure on their site was minimal and there was no obvious way to buy a less restricted fare. I knew at the time I might not take the middle round trip but I wanted to lock in the tickets.

Fast forward a few months and I decided that there was a better way to travel the “middle” trip so I called up BA to tell them that I wasn’t going to take the outbound leg of that segment. I didn’t ask for any money back for the unused tickets – just wanted them to know that I wasn’t going to use them and that they could cancel them and resell them to someone else. (I’ve done this plenty of times for US domestic flights and never had a problem)

And that’s where it all fell apart.

“No no,” I was told. That’s a “change” to your itinerary and to do that I’d need to pay a large change fee for the privilege of not taking the flight. What?!? I’m not changing any flights – I’m giving them back something of value. And as it turns out that flight is nearly sold out – they have a small number of tickets left for a 1-way fare of US$ 200. They need the ticket and will likely resell it and I don’t want it. But no. BA insists that not taking a flight is a “change” and my only choice is to pay or show up (if I don’t they’ll cancel the remainder of the itinerary).

This is completely crazy to me. British Airways has a simple and easy opportunity to both make more money and make a customer happy (not to mention make things a whole lot easier for me). Instead they’ve decided to make less money and completely alienate a heretofore happy customer (and you can be sure that if they don’t change their view on this, this will be my last BA flight). Not to mention that I’m not “changing” a flight or trying to rebook a ticket (which would clearly trip the change clause). I’m keeping every flight the same – just giving them back one leg of the trip.

Make more money and have a happy customer; make less money and lose a customer for life. That’s a difficult one.

The supervisor I talked with kept telling me that it “wouldn’t be fair” to other customers who had paid a higher ticket price. He also (quite rudely) kept telling me that I had such a low fare that I shouldn’t expect anything different (lowest fare or not, the ticket certainly wasn’t cheap). And remember that the BA website didn’t give me an option of buying any other fare for these flights (I tried that again today to the same result – they show only the lowest fare available and there’s no opportunity to pay more for a more flexible ticket – at least not an obvious way).

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Maybe you can help me understand the logic.

April 30th, 2014     Categories: General Company    

What your “About Us” page says about your company

about_usMaybe it’s because I always love the back story of how an idea came together or because I’m particularly partial to team stories, but I love checking out the “About Us” or “Team” pages on websites. And while many (too many) are really bland, some companies really take the opportunity to show off their story, talk about their mission or present their team in an interesting way. I’ve been polling people for a while for pages that people particularly like. Here are a few that I think are really great. Please add to the list in the comments section. I’m also always curious about the right balance between mission driven About pages that talk about the higher calling of the company and team driven About pages that highlight the people that work for a business. I don’t know that I necessarily prefer one to the other, but it’s always interesting to see which a company chooses to highlight.

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Kickstarter‘s team page is fantastic. Funny. Quirky (no pun intended there!). Definitely original. I love this team presentation as it really brings forward the personality of the company.

 

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MondoRobot has the same idea, but with separate images. Be sure to mouse over the pictures. Same thing for sumall.

 

 

 

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I like both the Team and About pages of Maptia, both of which I think do a nice job of relaying the story of the company.

 

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Synapse has a great about us page packed with a bunch of history and cool graphics. A little surprising, frankly, for a 10yr old company.

 

 

 

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The minutes and hours stats to the right of each bio turn the team page for Harvest from a pretty standard team page into something that was fun to read (and kept me scrolling down to see more).

 

 

 

I don’t bring this up for kicks. I actually think how a company presents itself online is important. It conveys a certain personality (or lack there of) to potential customer, partners and employees (and investors) and if done right really offers an opportunity for a business to present itself in a way that’s quite different from its peers.

 

July 23rd, 2013     Categories: Design, General Company    

Process vs. outcome

I’ve had a few conversations recently about the right balance between process and outcome. I’ve been involved with a group that’s been very (very) process focused- which has lead to some great discussion, but has hampered action/outcome and it’s got me thinking about where the balance lies between the two.

When I was younger (and apparently somewhat more patient)  I was much more process oriented. Outcome alone as the measure of success wasn’t enough  – there needed to be a solid process behind it. I’m reminded of my days at a Quaker camp in Vermont where we’d hold lengthy “town meetings” to make decisions. All decisions were made by consensus and often discussions on relatively mundane topics extended for hours. But it was truly the process that mattered the most –the outcome was secondary.

I’ve also been in organizations where the opposite was true. Often there was no process at all – or only a process that was specifically designed to get to a single outcome (and worse – make us feel like we somehow had input). That was efficient in decision making, but mercurial and very few voices actually were heard (and a a result, while decisions were made quickly, they weren’t always the best decision and certainly didn’t reflect the collective expertise of the group).

But I don’t think the balance is in the middle. To me, outcome is more important and should be weighted higher. The process should support decision making (although not be designed to reach only one conclusion – there’s no benefit in that) but shouldn’t take over. Not everyone needs to be heard on every decision and there needn’t’ be “process checks” every 30 minutes.  Everyone should understand going in what the process is going to look like and consistency and adherence to what you say your going to do is probably the most important aspect of making a process work.

I’m curious your experience with this.

August 23rd, 2012     Categories: General Company, Uncategorized    

Your community of peers

Last week about 40 Foundry Group portfolio company CEOs and founders converged on Boulder for a half day of meetings followed by some social time. It was a truly amazing experience and such a great reminder of the importance of cultivating a peer group for you and your company.

We have a very active CEO and founder mailing list at Foundry, where there are daily rifs on any number of topics and where portfolio companies can reach out to each other for help and advice (we have a separate list for CTOs, one for Boulder companies and another for Bay Area companies as well – all designed to build Community – with a capital “C” – around the shared trait which is Foundry as an investor). These lists are great and have been extremely popular with companies (the four Foundry partners actively participate in the lists as well). It was creating this sense of Community around a shared investment from Foundry that precipitated the organization of the CEO/Foundry Summit. And interestingly, the entire thing was organized by the group, not by Foundry.

While we had talked about putting together a CEO meeting a few times I think we were concerned about “forcing” everyone to show up by decree of their major investor and wanted to be sure that it was an idea that people really supported. So when Charlie Wood (of Spanning) and I were having lunch in Austin a few months ago and he brought up the idea, I encouraged him to take the lead and use the group email list to coordinate.

The response was overwhelming and a few days after Charlie’s initial email, the date and basic outline had been planned. The agenda was crowdsourced to the group, each session was lead by a different CEO and everyone paid their own way. The results were pretty amazing. The level of conversation was extremely high and the ideas that were passed around the room super valuable. A couple of very specific company challenges were addressed (and I think solved or at least put on the right track) and we generated a number of topics that we wanted to go even deeper on the next time we’re together (with the thought perhaps of doing entire events around just a topic or two and letting those companies in the portfolio who are facing specific challenges around those topics attend along with some outside resources to help us all out). Perhaps most importantly CEOs and founders from across the portfolio (and across the country) got the chance to meet and spend some time together – often people who only knew each other by email.

Being connected to the Foundry family was an easy way in this case to bring people together, but I’d encourage all entrepreneurs reading this to consider pulling together a similar get-together (large or small) of their peer groups. We’ve done this a few times before (Jason put together a Digital Home summit and, along with Walter Knapp from our portfolio company Lijit, I organized a Digital Media Summit in Boulder – in both cases the attendees were both Foundry portfolio companies as well as many other companies from within the ecosystem). While there’s some work involved, the pay-off is enormous. On the more casual side of the equation but along the same general lines, when I was in San Francisco last week I brought together about 17 of our Bay Area CEO/Founders for dinner. No agenda in that case, but plenty of conversation and connection.

I think the main point is that by actively creating Community you end up with a peer group that can be really helpful to your company. And you can determine the qualification for membership to create the greatest impact for you and your business (“all businesses in our building”, “businesses with female CEOs”, “businesses working on partnerships with XYZ company”, etc.).

I’d encourage you to think about how to create that kind of peer group for you and your company.

June 5th, 2012     Categories: General Company, Startups     Tags: , ,