Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pollyanna Has Left the Building

Sometimes I get accused of looking at the world far too optimistically. I try to be realistic about what I see and then from there generally choose a more optimistic perspective because the cynical views just don't seem to help me get to where I want to go quite as well. Here's the thing though - stuff does still get to me sometimes and today is one of those days. What's sad is that it all comes from being more excited about something than I thought I'd be.

I attended the live portion of the inaugural Microsoft Small Business Summit yesterday and was really impressed. Sure, there were a few misleading comments in describing products but overall, the focus really was on delivering worthwhile content combined with some useful information about a couple of products. It felt more like education (which I like) than the pushy sales-y approach we tend to associate with marketing (which I don't). Just as important, the steps they're taking with their small business-oriented products all seem to be in the right direction even if they're not yet to the point where they're able to solve all the small business problems in the world. I was pleasantly surprised to find they served lunch and even came away with a pretty cool SWAG bag. Nice.

My favorite presentation was Keith Ferrazzi, probably because he reiterated (with great examples and a lot of heart) the same views on effective networking that I've espoused for a long time. Maxine Clarke's story about Build-A-Bear also contained some worthwhile lessons, even for people who don't necessarily get excited about teddy bears; and I'd argue too that they apply even to situations beyond owning and running a business. In addition to having information more readily applicable to more than just business owners though , Keith was particularly captivating as a speaker and very genuine. I highly recommend hearing the webcast.

Here, however, is the chink in the armor although I am optimistic (see, even when I'm annoyed, I can still be hopeful) that they will be able to get the matter resolved. I can only guess that the Microsoft servers have been overwhelmed with people interested in these webcasts.

First, I had trouble logging in, getting errors and timeouts all over the place. When I finally did get logged in, I had trouble accessing the webcast I had scheduled to view. When I wanted to add another webcast later in the day, it wouldn't save. More errors and timeouts. Finally, I got into the first webcast I had scheduled ten minutes late only to find that the audio was terrible. The next webcast I couldn't access at all. After many more headache-causing issues and quite a lot of cursing (yes, I do that too - and quite well, I might add) at having been bounced out of the system numerous times, I was able to get logged back in and into the last session of the day even before it started. It's just too bad it's not really one of the high priority sessions.

The good news is that they are apparently aware of the problems - unlike the first session with the terrible audio, the last session has offered a phone number for dial-up audio, which is a good first step. And I have to believe that they're busy adding servers to improve performance. Already I seem to be having better success getting into the evaluations.

So go ahead, log into the Small Business Summit site and check out the webcasts. I'm sure they'll work when you get there.

And for anyone who has their own business or is thinking of going into business for themselves, it sure looks like the Small Business Center site has some really great tools and resources. Perhaps I'm being optimistic to the point of gullibility but I really do believe the explanation that I heard yesterday for all of this apparent altruism... They're working under the theory at Microsoft (in the Small Business unit anyway) that if they help small business owners become successful, they'll be in that much better position to purchase technology solutions and that much more likely they'll consider getting them from Microsoft. It works for me anyway.

If you listen to Keith's webcast or any of the others, I'm interested in your thoughts and feedback on what you got out of it/them. If you'll send them to me at, I'd enjoy a conversation on the subject. I might even still be in a mood to vent and commiserate over difficulties too if you experience any of the same kinds of issues I have today.

In what way does dwelling on a negative perception help you get what you want? What other perceptions would better help you achieve your goals?

Kimm Viebrock is a Certified Professional Coach who helps technology professionals and service-oriented technology groups develop and use their skills more effectively and increase their value within the larger organizaion, allowing them to do more, do it better and have more fun doing it. Kimm is devoted to finding the connectedness in life.