Time. The most important lesson I learnt from being a dad.

When my wife and I started trying to have a baby, we were really scared. We had a million questions for each other. What were we getting ourselves into? Is this really the right time? What do we buy first? Is our home big enough? How much are school fees? How do you bath a baby? The questions never stopped.

Now that our daughter is 1, the most important thing I’ve realised is every milestone takes time. Time that helps you prepare and adjust for what lies ahead.

Click to continue reading my article over at Medium.com.

 

The TomTom Runner Cardio watch

I’m not the biggest fan of running anything longer than 10km. I’d much prefer playing a team sport where I can actually compete against others. Running, for the most part is a personal challenge and beating myself at it isn’t fun. However I do it to keep fit and enjoy the company of others – but short distances only! The one thing I do like about running is collecting stats. Runkeeper being my stats keeper of choice.

I’ve always run with my iPhone 5S, but it’s big, clunky and weighs way too much for the simple function of tracking a run. Until now, most running watches I’ve looked at lacked 1 feature that would turn a good watch into THE watch. Either it didn’t record your heart rate, or didn’t use GPS or didn’t allow you to sync with your 3rd party app of choice. Until now.

TomTomThe TomTom Cardio watch finally does all three. Tracks your run using GPS, has a built in heart-rate monitor and allows you to sync to any app of your choice!

I was given a demo unit to try and I was pretty impressed. I ran with both my iPhone and the TomTom watch and the stats where pretty much identical. For the first time I was able to track my heart rate which gives you a great indication of how hard you really pushing. You are also able to set a heart rate zone on the watch and it will prompt you to speed up or slow down to keep within the zone.

I found the interface on the watch a little clunky and difficult to navigate. The controls are also not easy to use while running. The buttons to control the watch are below the face, so you are having to use 1 finger to press the buttons instead of gripping a watch to press buttons on the side like you would be used to.

Overall, I think the new range of TomTom Runner Cardio watches are right up there with the best of them in terms of features and being the all-in-one watch amatuer runners should be looking to buy. Definitely going onto my Christmas wishlist I’m sending to Santa.

Building an authentic brand

An authentic brand is not something you create. That’s a logo (and no, a logo is not the same thing as a brand). A brand is something that should emerge from the real, genuine interaction among people, something we call culture. Your culture is the result of shared experience, shared learning and, at its best, a commitment to a higher purpose – a cause you all feel is worth contributing to.

Via Start With Why.

Word.

P.S. Stumbled across Simon Sinek’s blog after watching his TED talk on how great leaders inspire action.

All any business ever asked for is a little traffic

Businesses on the web live or die because of traffic. Not because of the product, or website, or UI, or purchase process, or choice of credit card processor, or courier company, or a business processes. No, that online business that has been boot-strapped and built during many late nights will die because it cannot generate enough traffic.

This is one of the problems I’m having with HumanWrit.es. We need a little traffic. (No, HumanWrit.es isn’t going anywhere, I’m just sharing some of our challenges!)

We recently attended the Design Indaba at the CTICC as an exhibitor. It’s a 3 day event for creatives to showcase and sell their wares. This was our first expo where we got to tell the story of HumanWrit.es and ultimately sell Writables. And boy did we sell. Not only did we manage to generate a 300% return on our costs, we also made a number of connections with people that have come back to us after the event to purchase notebooks. The concept of exhibitions works really well. We pay to be at the Design Indaba and we setup our shop. The crowds arrive, a percentage of them stop at our stall and a percentage of those people buy Writables.

HumanWrit.es would do over R2 million a year worth of sales if we could continually run at Design Indaba levels of foot traffic. And we know that foot traffic is not scalable. Only people that have heard of Design Indaba, are interested, have a few hours to spare, can afford to pay the entrance fee and who are in Cape Town, attend. However, even with these low numbers, they translate into sales for us and actually make the time, effort and money you spend to be at Indaba, worth it.

On the web, it’s another story all together. You need a lot of time, a wide range of skills and money. And even then, you can’t guarantee traffic or sales.

6 months to wait for your on-going SEO work to kick-in. Skills to implement it along with PPC, UX enhancements, A/B split testing, copywriting, content generation and social media which all cost money. You then also need to focus on running a real world business that has to deal with suppliers, manufacturers, staff and balance sheets.

Running a business that solely relies on web traffic takes balls. You can’t just put up a web shop that guarantees foot traffic from day 1 like putting up a real world shop on Long street does.

I don’t expect the business of selling on the web to be free or easy, I just want the ability to generate targeted traffic to online businesses to be more accessible.

 

Travelling tips from my holiday to England, Italy and France

Having recently travelled to England, Italy and France on holiday  I thought I’d share some of my tips and experiences.

This was our basic itinerary:

  • Fly to London, stayed 1 night and then flew to Italy.
  • 6 days in Italy which comprised of 2 nights in Rome and 3 nights in Florence.
  • 2 nights in Nice, France and then back to London for 6 nights before heading home

Booking flights and trains

I used Hipmunk.com  to find the cheapest tickets / airline. I then go and book the flight directly on that airlines website. In this case, Qatar Air had by far the cheapest flights as well as the shortest layover getting to London. Don’t just blindly book the cheapest flight you can find. Try and minimize flying time and time spent waiting at airports for connecting flights. All that time waiting is time you could spend on holiday which is worth money to you.

The other flights I booked were to London to Rome and back from Nice to London. We booked these flights with Easyjet, once again using Hipmunk to find the most cost effective flights paying close attention to when we would arrive in Rome. The cheapest flight arrived in Rome at 11pm, a complete waste of a night in Rome. We caught a flight that landed in Rome around lunch time that was more expensive, but it felt like we had a whole extra day in Rome because of this.

We used trains to get from Rome to Florence and then again from Florence to Nice. Book these tickets once you arrive in your destination country at the train station you will depart from. You’ll get the best prices and quickest routes. I struggled for hours online trying to find a train from Florence to Nice in France because you are switching trains and train companies. At the station though, the ticket sales counter booked everything in 2 minutes!

Booking accommodation

Finding a place to stay in a foreign country is can be really tricky. I used a combination of Tripadvisor for reviews, ratings and photos and then Hotels.com for booking all my accommodation.

Picking a place to stay started with first choosing the main attractions we wanted to visit. We wanted to be within 2/3 minutes walking distance of the Trevi fountain in Rome, so I used this landmark on Hotels.com as the place to find hotels nearby (Hotels.com is more accurate with pricing and availability than TripAdvisor). So after picking a few hotels, I read their reviews, ratings and photos on TripAdvisor. Take all the reviews with a pinch of salt though. The most important thing is to pick up on trends in the reviews – from things like “breakfast is actually served at a bistro down the road” or “the host Francesca is amazing”. The user photos also easily show you how clean and neat a place is as well as gives you a better sense of the size of your room and bathroom that the professionally shot hotel photos don’t. For me the order of importance for a room is: cleanliness of bathroom, cleanliness of bedroom and lastly size. Once I found the hotels I wanted to stay at, I booked them on Hotels.com. Pricing across all these travel booking sites is pretty much identical, but on the odd occasion, I always found hotels.com to offer the cheapest rates. Online booking sites are also without fail cheaper than going directly to the hotel’s website itself.

What to do and where to eat

Top 10 lists of things to do in “this city” are all over the web, so research those and make a note to visit those spots. For transport around Rome and Florence, we used those hop-on hop off city busses. They might sound too touristy, but they are a great way to see a city and get you from A to B without being ripped off by taxis and the likes. You also learn a thing or 2 about the city while driving around!

Tripadvisor also has lists of day trips and excursions. We did the “#1 thing to do in Florence on Tripadvisor” which is take a day tour of Tuscany and it was one of the highlights of our holiday in Italy.

Finding a place to eat is easy. Finding a memorable place to eat is not. I often used Foursquare and Yelp on my phone to find places. Another tip is to ask local people working in retail shops when shopping for advice on places to eat. Your hotel might send you to places that are affiliated to the hotel and therefore get kickbacks or commission for sending you there, where as shop assistants really just want to help!

What to pack

No matter what, you will always pack too much clothing. I can tell you not to, but you will still do it. Buy clothes and dry clean stuff if you do run out when you are on holiday. It’s really that easy.

Different holidays and countries require different types of planning and research, so ask your friends and family for advice. Everyone’s experiences and memories are different, so go out there and find it out for yourself.