Speedometer90 days ago I purchased a new vehicle. This was the first car I acquired since I transitioned to a virtual business model, which made me wonder how this vehicle’s first few months as a member of my household compared to my last new car purchase, when I still followed the traditional sales model. Lets take a look at the numbers.

In the first 90 days that I owned my last vehicle, the mileage increased from 33 to 12,430. That is 4,100+ miles per month on the road a traveling salesman. My new vehicle has aged from 6 to 1,624 during the first 90 days of ownership. That represents a nearly 90% drop in miles driven per month.

Now let us explore how that translates to fuel costs. The traditional sales miles were covered in an economical sedan which averaged 27 MPG. 12,430 / 27 X $3.50 per gallon = $1,611 in fuel costs. Meanwhile, my virtual miles are driven in an SUV which averages 18 MPG. 1,624 / 18 X $3.50 per gallon = $316. This equates to $1,300 in my pocket, while making no mention of maintenance costs, even while driving a much less efficient vehicle.

This simple example illustrates just one of the many challenges created by a traditional sales model that puts people on the road. By leveraging a virtual model, people have more time to work and their businesses are significantly more profitable.

Originally Posted on October 10, 2011 by John Scranton

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Virtual, Retired or Professional Gambler?

  • Posted on March 3, 2017
  • by John Scranton

There is an older gentleman in my neighborhood who leaves his house at exactly 11am each day during late July and August.  These happen to be the 40 days that Saratoga Race Course is running.  At first I wondered if it was coincidence, but I have seen him at the track every time I have attended.  Always in the same spot, with the same guys and the same beverage.  He must really enjoy that routine.

This prompted a question – is he a horse racing fan who is making the most of his retirement or a professional gambler who is actually leaving for the office each day at 11?  I don’t know the answer and I don’t know him well enough to ask, but I assume the latter since it is more exciting.  Either way he appears to be paying his bills and having a blast – so kudos to him.

Although this thought process prompted an additional question – what do my neighbors think I do?  Some we know personally, but many are only acquaintances.  How many of them realize that I manage sales and marketing for StartUpSelling from my virtual home office?  How many think I am unemployed and playing computer games all day?  How many think I am retired or a professional gambler?  Maybe I should take an informal poll at the next block party.

The results of the poll would be interesting but not relevant.  The point of these observations and questions, as the author Thomas L. Friedman might say, is this: The democratization of technology, information and finance has created the opportunity for many Americans to build a successful career from their virtual offices – including two on my street – whether they choose to work from a spare bedroom, or next to the margarita bar at the track.

Originally Posted by John Scranton on August 31, 2011

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EarthI recently read Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard.  A friend recommended it to me and I found it very interesting.  Chouinard is the founder and owner of the outdoor company Patagonia.  Prior to reading, the only knowledge of Patagonia I had was that they made expensive outdoor equipment that I heard was high quality.  And there is a Patagonia fleece jacket in our coat closet which my wife occasionally wears.

My initial reaction to the book was that I love Patagonia’s business concept.  They aim to produce the highest quality products in their field, designed with unmatched expertise and simple elegance by people who use the products.  Patagonia’s premium products and tremendous customer service allow them to grow continuously, but they choose to manage their growth strategically – aiming to be great rather than huge.  These are the exact goals of my organization – deliver a high quality product, exceptional service, and strive to be great not big.

As I read on, I learned more about Chouinard’s philosophies toward environmental concerns as well.  He has a very pessimistic view of the resource consumption and waste created by the citizens of the world and hopes to be a catalyst for change.  To lead by example, Patagonia donates 1% of their total annual sales to environmental causes.  I found this to be very impressive, but it also led me to be reflective.  I have never put much consideration into my environmental impact.  I recycle – but is that enough?

I then realized that I made a career change that had an unplanned yet significant environmental impact.  As a traveling salesperson, I was driving 30,000 or more miles per year.  Wearing out suits, cars and diners while consuming vast resources.  Now that I have transitioned to a virtual organization, this consumption and pollution had dropped by approximately 80%.  Maybe more.  This virtual opportunity was great for me personally, and in a very small way is helping save the planet.

Virtual Business Isn’t Just Great for Me, It’s Saving the Planet was Originally Posted on October 22nd, 2010 by John Scranton

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Speedometer90 days ago I purchased a new vehicle. This was the first car I acquired since I transitioned to a virtual business model, which made me wonder how this vehicle’s first few months as a member of my household compared to my last new car purchase, when I still followed the traditional sales model. Lets take a look at the numbers.

In the first 90 days that I owned my last vehicle, the mileage increased from 33 to 12,430. That is 4,100+ miles per month on the road a traveling salesman. My new vehicle has aged from 6 to 1,624 during the first 90 days of ownership. That represents a nearly 90% drop in miles driven per month.

Now let us explore how that translates to fuel costs. The traditional sales miles were covered in an economical sedan which averaged 27 MPG. 12,430 / 27 X $3.50 per gallon = $1,611 in fuel costs. Meanwhile, my virtual miles are driven in an SUV which averages 18 MPG. 1,624 / 18 X $3.50 per gallon = $316. This equates to $1,300 in my pocket, while making no mention of maintenance costs, even while driving a much less efficient vehicle.

This simple example illustrates just one of the many challenges created by a traditional sales model that puts people on the road. By leveraging a virtual model, people have more time to work and their businesses are significantly more profitable.

Originally Posted on October 10, 2011 by John Scranton

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Virtual, Retired or Professional Gambler? [From the Archives]

  • Posted on February 19, 2016
  • by John Scranton

There is an older gentleman in my neighborhood who leaves his house at exactly 11am each day during late July and August.  These happen to be the 40 days that Saratoga Race Course is running.  At first I wondered if it was coincidence, but I have seen him at the track every time I have attended.  Always in the same spot, with the same guys and the same beverage.  He must really enjoy that routine.

This prompted a question – is he a horse racing fan who is making the most of his retirement or a professional gambler who is actually leaving for the office each day at 11?  I don’t know the answer and I don’t know him well enough to ask, but I assume the latter since it is more exciting.  Either way he appears to be paying his bills and having a blast – so kudos to him.

Although this thought process prompted an additional question – what do my neighbors think I do?  Some we know personally, but many are only acquaintances.  How many of them realize that I manage sales and marketing for StartUpSelling from my virtual home office?  How many think I am unemployed and playing computer games all day?  How many think I am retired or a professional gambler?  Maybe I should take an informal poll at the next block party.

The results of the poll would be interesting but not relevant.  The point of these observations and questions, as the author Thomas L. Friedman might say, is this: The democratization of technology, information and finance has created the opportunity for many Americans to build a successful career from their virtual offices – including two on my street – whether they choose to work from a spare bedroom, or next to the margarita bar at the track.

Originally Posted by John Scranton on August 31, 2011

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Liberty Mutual Insurance: Twice The Price – That’s Not Nice

  • Posted on November 11, 2015
  • by Alan Blume

Liberty Mutual Premium IncreasesIn 1974 I insured my first car with Liberty Mutual Insurance, the insurance cost more than the car, but then again, I was 17 and my clunker only cost $100. Since then, I’ve had a great track record, never an at fault accident, and only had a few small claims (glass breakage for example). On occasion, I’d compare their rates against competing carriers, and found them to be competitively priced. Their service was good, though rarely required.

I also had an apartment, then a condo, then purchased a home and umbrella policy, all subsequently covered by Liberty Mutual. That added up to 4 decades of premiums, with only one modest claim about 25 years ago (about $1,000 as I recall). Succinctly said, that’s a long term relationship, with a great loss history. So one would expect, that type of loyalty would be returned in kind.

Let’s fast forward to 2013 when I purchased a small boat, and then called Liberty Mutual for insurance. Insurance for non-speed boats, is very modest, and Liberty quoted about $170, which sounded reasonable. Meanwhile Progressive contacted me (likely from the boat registration) promising easy online service and great rates. So I did as they suggested, went on line, and a few minutes later purchased boat insurance for $110, for the same coverages and deductibles. While on-line I called their 800# and spoke with a representative promptly. Though the premium dollar difference was small, the percentage was significant, and I made a mental note to check my auto and home rates on the ensuing renewal.

A year later,  my 2014 Liberty Mutual auto insurance bill arrived with a fairly large increase, raising the premiums for my two cars to $1,593, a 6.3% increase from the prior year. That seemed significant in an era of low inflation. My cars were a year older, but my premiums were increasing at a rate well over the rate of inflation. So, I decided to compare prices and was shocked at the findings.

Every car insurance carrier contacted was significantly lower than Liberty Mutual Insurance. We’re not talking about $100 lower, I was quoted rates that were 25% to 60% lower for the same deductibles and coverages. I also requested home owners’ insurance quotes, and found that everyone was much lower for that too.  I called my Liberty Mutual representative to ask if there was some mistake. But they confirmed the rates quoted by Liberty Mutual were accurate, in spite of my great loss history. They even asked me to make sure my quotes weren’t for six months (that seemed to be an out of touch statement from my carrier of 40 years).

Why such a large premium difference? Is their service much better than other insurers? My experiences with them were quite satisfactory, but I know someone who had a very difficult time getting paid for damages to their home. Online reviews were mixed for all the carriers. So what’s up with Liberty Mutual, is this a buyer beware tale? Perhaps they’ve decided that personal lines accounts aren’t worth their time, or they want to move away from this market, or perhaps it’s their beautiful brick and mortar headquarter expansion that explains the difference (check out that cool rendering of their HQ expansion). If the latter is the issue, I wish they’d stop spending money on their new palaces, employ more people virtually, and return the premium difference to their policy holders. Then again, it probably didn’t help that their CEO was paid “an average of nearly $50 million a year from 2008 to 2010, making him one of the highest-paid corporate executives in the country” according to the Boston Globe. Last year their CEO was paid a more modest sum of only $14 million.

Well, I’m glad Liberty Mutual is doing so well, though I’d rather not be donating so much to their cause. So, after 40 years, I moved my car insurance to GEICO. How did GEICO’s rates compare with the Liberty Mutual auto insurance quote of $1,593? GEICO’s quote was $704, for two cars with the same deductibles and coverages.

Of course, the thought occurred to me that GEICO’s rate could be a loss leader, a thinly veiled attempt to glean market share – then hitting customers with a dramatic price increase in ensuing years. What happened one year after moving my insurance to GEICO? Their rate increase was a modest $30. And what about the boat insurance from Progressive? Well that went down 10% to $100 a year. Bottom line, regardless of your loss history, perceived rates, or longstanding relationship, consumers should compare insurance rates frequently, or work with an insurance agent who will do so on your behalf. And if you happen to have Liberty Mutual for auto, home, boat, etc., check your rates now!

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EarthI recently read Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard.  A friend recommended it to me and I found it very interesting.  Chouinard is the founder and owner of the outdoor company Patagonia.  Prior to reading, the only knowledge of Patagonia I had was that they made expensive outdoor equipment that I heard was high quality.  And there is a Patagonia fleece jacket in our coat closet which my wife occasionally wears.

My initial reaction to the book was that I love Patagonia’s business concept.  They aim to produce the highest quality products in their field, designed with unmatched expertise and simple elegance by people who use the products.  Patagonia’s premium products and tremendous customer service allow them to grow continuously, but they choose to manage their growth strategically – aiming to be great rather than huge.  These are the exact goals of my organization – deliver a high quality product, exceptional service, and strive to be great not big.

As I read on, I learned more about Chouinard’s philosophies toward environmental concerns as well.  He has a very pessimistic view of the resource consumption and waste created by the citizens of the world and hopes to be a catalyst for change.  To lead by example, Patagonia donates 1% of their total annual sales to environmental causes.  I found this to be very impressive, but it also led me to be reflective.  I have never put much consideration into my environmental impact.  I recycle – but is that enough?

I then realized that I made a career change that had an unplanned yet significant environmental impact.  As a traveling salesperson, I was driving 30,000 or more miles per year.  Wearing out suits, cars and diners while consuming vast resources.  Now that I have transitioned to a virtual organization, this consumption and pollution had dropped by approximately 80%.  Maybe more.  This virtual opportunity was great for me personally, and in a very small way is helping save the planet.

Virtual Business Isn’t Just Great for Me, It’s Saving the Planet was Originally Posted on October 22nd, 2010 by John Scranton

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Virtual Business > Traditional Business

Last night I noticed this Inc. Magazine article that discusses the power of a remote workforce.  It caught my eye because the author discusses the increased level of commitment shown by virtual employees.  I certainly find this to be true in my life.  It is 6:38am right now, and I am writing this blog while having coffee and sitting next to my newborn daughter.  By 8:00am I will be well prepared for the day and ready to focus on my work with a clear mind.  I feel a deep level of commitment to the organization, likely more than those frantically tying their tie, scarfing down oatmeal and checking their BlackBerry while preparing to shuffle along in rush hour traffic.  Once again: Virtual Business > Traditional Business.

Originally Posted on August 28, 2012 by John Scranton

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My Customer Experience – Inversely Proportional To Cost?

  • Posted on March 10, 2015
  • by Alan Blume

ThMarketing and Communicationis week I investigated purchasing four products or renewals. These include a healthcare plan renewal, a QuickBooks upgrade to the 2013 version, a Dell laptop and re-subscribing to Netflix. Each of these required a call to the respective customer service department. There was a massive discrepancy in wait time and customer service experience, and some might be surprised at the results:

Netflix won handily for wait time and customer service experience. Though their service is only about $100 a year, I was greeted by an automated voice stating my wait time would be about a minute, a representative answered the call within 40 seconds and spoke English perfectly. There was no background noise on the call (if it was a call center I couldn’t tell), and I was up and running within a couple of minutes.

Dell finished second, the wait time was a few minutes, and I was connected to a representative who had an accent, but was understandable. He seemed to understand my questions, was patient, and at the end of the conversation I placed an order for a new Dell XPS13 solid state laptop with Microsoft Office. Overall, it was a good experience, at a purchase price of about $1,300.

QuickBooks finished a distant third, with a very poor customer service experience. The wait time was about 15 minutes, and we finally reached what we assumed was an offshore call center with significant background noise. The representative had a very strong accent and was very difficult to understand. The call clarity was poor and the advice offered was questionable. We were uncertain if the representative really understood the question. A QuickBooks upgrade is about $240.

And in last place, far behind the pack from a wait time perspective, was my healthcare renewal. It took 28 minutes to connect with a representative to discuss the health plan options from Tufts Health Plan. Once through, the experience was much better than QuickBooks, in that the representative was easy to understand and proficient with the plans. That said, there were so many plan nuances, it was still challenging to discuss. The wait time was egregious, especially considering the renewal which is valued at around $14,000. There are at least two “big” issues here, with the vast array of plan options, the system is overly complex and too confusing, causing too many questions and service challenges. And with rapidly escalating healthcare costs, consumers are increasingly concerned, resulting in more questions.

The correlation is interesting here, with the worst wait time associated with the highest cost item, ten times the cost of the other purchases. The conclusions are obvious here, though the answer in one case is complex. I would order Netflix and Dell again based on these experiences. QuickBooks remains a concern, but we won’t likely switch (maybe they know that). And our healthcare system remains costly and confusing, still broken and in need of improved transparency and efficiency.

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Mileage Driven in 90 Days: Traditional Sales 12,430, Virtual Sales 1,624

Posted by John Scranton on October 10, 2011

90 days ago I purchased a new vehicle.  This was the first car I acquired since I transitioned to a virtual business model, which made me wonder how this vehicle’s first few months as a member of my household compared to my last new car purchase, when I still followed the traditional sales model.  Lets take a look at the numbers.

In the first 90 days that I owned my last vehicle, the mileage increased from 33 to 12,430.  That is 4,100+ miles per month on the road a traveling salesman.  My new vehicle has aged from 6 to 1,624 during the first 90 days of ownership.  That represents a nearly 90% drop in miles driven per month.

Now let us explore how that translates to fuel costs.  The traditional sales miles were covered in an economical sedan which averaged 27 MPG.  12,430 / 27 X $3.50 per gallon = $1,611 in fuel costs.  Meanwhile, my virtual miles are driven in an SUV which averages 18 MPG.  1,624 / 18 X $3.50 per gallon = $316.  This equates to $1,300 in my pocket, while making no mention of maintenance costs, even while driving a much less efficient vehicle.

This simple example illustrates just one of the many challenges created by a traditional sales model that puts people on the road.  By leveraging a virtual model, people have more time to work and their businesses are significantly more profitable.

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