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Baily Lighthouse,
Howth, Dublin 13,
Ireland

+353 86 328 7563

Contagious enthusiasm to plan, design, and implement really exciting digital media. Robin is CEO of "[D4H] Technologies - Multi-Award Winning Emergency Response Software"

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Blog

Creating Contagious Enthusiasm - A discussion by Robin Blandford

Joining Me On The Web Summit Pub Crawl?

Robin Blandford

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I'm leading 20 something of you on the Web Summit Pub Crawl around Dublin City on Tuesday. We're going to have the best crawl route of everybody. Stand-by for a fantastic night.

 See you at our starting point in... The Hairy Lemon... look out for me... this is what I look like.

If you get stuck, my cell is +353 (86) 328 7563 and if you've any questions in advance, or want to keep in touch after, my email is robinbl@ndford.com

You'll be able to follow us along on my Twitter which is @robinb and my Facebook wall. If you want to watch it all back in colour the next morning, this is my Instagram.

Punish Me For Paying? LinkedIn I'm Sad.

Robin Blandford

We use LinkedIn heavily. Very heavily. We pay for premium accounts for our sales & business teams and even though you pay, you get  absolutely hounded to upgrade to the next level. Everything says 'Upgrade Now' all over it - it feels cheap.

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Although tacky, I accept the upsell. But punish me for paying? LinkedIn purposefully give me LESS data once I'm paying than an anonymous user to force me to use my paid InMail messages. This is terrible business.

Let me show you an example and how to circumnavigate it. Today I wanted to get in contact with the Chief Fire Officer at Sellafield. I search it on LinkedIn... I get a result but the name is redacted. All I can do is send a paid InMail message for $10 a message.

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But all I want is this guys name!  I'm going to phone them and ask for him - please LinkedIn can I have his name? No... I have to upgrade to €796 a year to see "Full Name Visibility -See full names of 3rd degree and group connections.". Hmmm.

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What if I told you, if you just do an incognito search for the job title and company name LinkedIn gives you everything? 

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Because I paid, because I upgraded, LinkedIn are punishing me. They treat their anonymous users better.  LinkedIn I'm Sad.

Note: You don't even have to go incognito, but it demonstrates you don't even need an account to get better data than their paying customers get. The name is only redacted because I searched for it while signed-in as a paying customer. Poor.

Niche thyself

Robin Blandford

I can't say this enough. Starting a business? Pick a niche - the smaller the better.

Have your niche? Ok, split that in two to get it smaller.

Now - become the best in the world at that. If you can't become the best in the world at it within 12 months it's too big a niche.

Best in the world at it? Ok, pick the other half. Become the best in the world at that. Pick the next, go for that. Next. Next. Next.

Being the best in the world at something, makes entry into the next thing easier. You've an introduction - people listen.

"We're the best in the world doing this for X, now we're doing it for Y too."

vs

"We're ok at doing this for X and Y."

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This starts to become REALLY hard. You've ended up unremarkable & average.

 

Let's see what happens if you go deep on a single niche.

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This starts to become easy. You're introducing yourself as the best in the world for the next nearest thing, so why wouldn't you become remarkable to them.

Niche thyself. 

Incredible Incompetence of AIB for Business

Robin Blandford

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Dear AIB,

When we decided to purchase AIB Business Credit Cards, I announced in the office that "I bet it's impossible to do this in a single branch visit". Little did I know how far I'd win my bet by. 

I'm an SME business customer of yours since 2008, and personal banking my whole life. We've lots of services with you, from our  business merchant account, online business banking, holding accounts, to multiple foreign exchange currency accounts, to credit cards - we're a paying customer.

With an abnormal amount of business travel coming up in May/June we decided to purchase two of AIB's Executive business cards for €400 per annum for myself and another member of my team. Inclusive are a whole range of benefits from travel insurance, to airport business lounge access, airport WIFI, etc. which we'd save on the multiple trips to North America during the period. It seemed a good buy.

I'm going to seem like a grumpy and difficult customer when you read this - I'm not. I've dealt with everyone courteously, and gave everybody the benefit of doubt on every interaction - I completely understand that it's often the system and not the direct and often poorly incentivised employees who are at fault. I recognise that things are tough for you at present, that you've lost a lot of staff and a lot of corporate knowledge with them. Yet, on every interaction, AIB managed to display incredible incompetence that led to this complaint.

 You only sell 3 credit card products, and nobody in the branch or in credit card services could give me any specific information on the differentiators other than "there's a green tick on our website beside 'Worldwide Airport Lounge Access', that's all we know - we have no specifics". Was there a supplement charge, which airports (worldwide doesn't mean all!), nobody could tell me anything other than what I read on your website myself, a green tick. Eventually I discovered it was a PriorityPass.com membership but they didn't know which package it was (all are advertised as Worldwide Access but have different limits and charges), and the operator in Credit Card Services had to ring the public enquiry number on their website himself to answer my question before ringing me back.

I didn't ask for it as I had the PDF from your website, but the branch insisted on printing out the T&C's of the travel insurance - about 100 A4 pages as they didn't have a copy of the brochure in branch. Midway through the ream, folded in half, there was somebody else's bank statement! "Hi Mr M***** (Redacted)", I think I know you - small town and all that. I shredded this on your behalf back at our office.

Having decided it was worth spending the extra €400p.a. for the benefits of the Executive Cards, we rang the branch to explain the situation, and they said "Sure, come down to sign the forms, we'll submit them to credit card services with you - just bring ID". I was clear that it was a card for a new employee, and specifically asked exactly what documentation he needed to show.... "definitely just his ID, a passport is perfect".

We bring in passports the next day, and drive to the branch, "Oh your employees don't personally bank with us?, Sorry they need to bring a home utility bill with their address on it then", I find this strange when it's not a personal card and it's connected to the companies account, not his. Your staff told us the wrong documentation we needed to turn up at with causing us multiple trips to the branch. My employee heads off on vacation that day, and I have to wait to hand in the documentation they actually needed and when he returns, and we drive down to the branch again - taking another hour out of the day.

We fill in the forms, and I'm told not to fill in the form for my own card as I had a Classic one already "we'll just put in the request as an upgrade on your current card for you", seemed odd but handy! So we just put the new employees name on the form and he signs it, and I sign it as a Director with single signatory authorisation - all we've ever needed. The branch check it all, and say, "Thats all fine - thank you".

During the week, I ring Credit Card Services I ask about the status of the upgrade on my Classic Card to Executive - the branch were taking care of that part on my behalf they'd said. Credit Card Services had no record of my upgrade, and neither did the branch as they'd taken it verbally and nobody had written it down.  The branch didn't know that they couldn't request card upgrade verbally as they don't exist, I was then instructed that actually I had to return to the branch to fill out a new card order form. Another hour out for a trip to the branch. I waited in the branch while they asked around, and then was instructed to add myself to the same new card order - "Great, you'll have the 2 PIN's and 2 Cards separately within 5-10 working days".

We get a phone call the next week that our form had been returned by post to us, as only one of our Directors had signed the form (as I'd expect - it's a single signatory authorised account), but apparently all signatories / Company Directors in this case had to sign the form. The branch forgot to mention to bring all account signatory's to the branch to sign, nor did they check that it was filled in correctly when witnessed. I drove to the other Director's house and had him sign it, and drove it back to the branch the next day. Trip 4, and another hour spent going to the branch.

 As there's now a chance we'll miss the first of the business trips we'd planned to use them on, the branch suggested I increase the limit on my current Classic Card for that trip to cover the 2 of us on one card - but they can't put in the credit limit raise for me, please ring Credit Card Services myself was the answer.

While in the branch, I tried to change our office address on file too as we'd recently moved - they said they'd take care of that for me locally but they can only change it at branch level and can't help me any further - so I was advised to contact each AIB department individually myself, and they've each different postal addresses. Customer service with a smile!

So I ring Credit Card Services, they tell me I have to submit the limit increase  request and address change in writing on headed notepaper, and please fax it in. I ring back about 3 days after faxing to check on the status of my limit increase before I travel. My new postal address won't authorise, so I revert to our old office address and I'm thinking it seems like they didn't get the fax. Operator confirms no notes on my account about any increases, and no fax received. I had a delivery receipt for a fax I sent you, but no record of the fax on my account. 

I get put on hold for a good while while they go and search through all the faxes. My fax is found in a pile, unattended to days after sending. I'm told this will now be processed. We're now about 15 phone calls, 20 transfers all with re-authorisation required, and a few hours of branch visits, but we're back on track!

12 days or so pass, we've still no cards so I have to purchase travel insurance directly for the trip. I head off abroad on the first of our trips to North America and on return, still no new cards. I ring Credit Card Services and they've no record of any new cards. There's no notes on our account, and ask me to contact the branch. The branch have no record of me filling in the form either, but they go away, and call me back later that day to say they've found my form on someone's desk. They'll process it now.

3 days pass, I ring Credit Card Services, they've still no record of anything. I ring the branch, I sit on hold for ages, then I'm told they've someone for me to speak with, I sit on hold for ages more an I'm transferred to Credit Card Services who after re-authorising with again tell me the same thing again - they've nothing on this and it's up to me to contact the branch. I ring the branch (sit on hold music "your call is important to us") and instruct them to please not immediately transfer me back to Credit Card Services when I mention the word credit card, I explain I don't know who owns this, but it's at branch level. My details are taken, and I'm told I'll get a call back from someone in retail.

2 days later, no call back. I call the branch, the operator  tells me this whole scenario is a discrace and handles it very well offering to file a complaint on my behalf - I explain where we're at. I'm put on hold for ages while he investigates. He finds the name of the person who was dealing with it and says they're on a training course today and tomorrow. I explain but I really need this form from back in April processed if we've a chance of getting it through before we travel again.

At this point we're escalated to a relationship manager I didn't know we had, last I knew ours was in our branch, this new one was in branch I'd never been to. He said "Don't go through your branch, use me directly in future. Here's my mobile.", it sounded great - finally somebody taking ownership of the fact we were trying to give you our money in return for your products. He was going to arrange the cards for us with them expected to arrive direct to his branch the day before we travel again - he'd personally drive them to our office to make sure we got them - nice guy.

He notes that the address I wanted them delivered to wasn't the address on our account - the branch had failed to update the new office address I requested them to update early on in all this. He offered to change it for me - yes please.

My trust in AIB delivering was diminishing and with my employee down to days until he's next due to travel solo and he still has no company credit card at all yet. We move to a back-up plan and get him a credit card issued from his personal account with Bank of Ireland - and credit it with cash from the company to get him by. The card arrives before he travels, no issues, and I purchase more of once-off travel insurance we didn't think we'd need while we came down to the last day before we head off again to North America. 

I'd heard nothing yet and we were down to the wire, so I ring my relationship manager's mobile as instructed - generic voicemail message. He must be busy, I try throughout the day and leave messages. I realised I had no other contact point for him. In desperation I had the smart idea of ringing the branch I knew he worked in, to see if I could speak to someone else on his team - and after ages on-hold asked to be put through - they denied the ability to be able to and insisted I had to ring the 'business phone number' myself - they couldn't transfer me.

I call the number given to me, an automated response greets me, "Please say the name of the person you'd like to connect to.". I do, because it's the only name I know, and I get his voicemail again. I leave a message, nobody rings back. I give up.

In the airport, through security, about to board the flight - someone calls "Hi, your relationship manager is on holiday this week but I've an envelope here with a credit card in it for you at our branch, would you like to pick it up?". I noted that we'd expected to have it delivered to the office yesterday and the singular use of phrase "card" not "cards" as ordered together on the same order form worried me. There's no notes anywhere on the second card, so they say they'll ring me back.

Later that day, I get a call,  "I found out why only 1 of 2 cards arrived, we decided 10 days ago, on your behalf, that the Executive Card Order you signed for must have been a mistake, as you already had a Classic Card. So we cancelled your Executive Card Order". Oh, the incompetence of it all. I explain that actually, they were different products, and I was upgrading, and so they tell me it'll now be another 10 days or so before I get it. 

On return from the business trip, we have a week before the next flights - we want to book the flights on the new cards so as to activate the travel insurance on them. Our relationship manager calls up to our office with them. We sigh in relief that all of this had come to an end, what else could possibly go wrong. Someone said "I bet you've no PINs".

And of course, they were right. Our cards arrived - hand delivered, but with no PINs! We're promised they'll phone the PIN Codes to us before we had to travel again which they did. I requested that we're not charged the annual charge on the card for the first year (we'd still pay all the transaction fees of course) due to the inconvenience and expense this had put us through as paying business customers. I'm still waiting a response on that - but €400p.a. is some price to pay for this level of service.

Time to book some flights... and you won't believe this... the card that had arrived first, had the name spelt incorrectly. Your name has to match your ID to use it in person, it has to match the travellers name on the passport to book flights and hotels. Unbelievable. We call our relationship manager again and he organises another set of cards to be printed. We have to go to the branch to collect these, and it's down to the day before we travel.

The first use of the card flagged some issues regarding an international transaction, and my colleague had to call credit card services to check the card status and notify them of the international destinations it would be used in this week. They wouldn't accept our business address verification - they wouldn't talk to him about his card nor what the address might be. He calls me from abroad, and after some research I discover that to get the cards rush-delivered to the branch to then have them hand delivered up, our business address was now listed as the branch address on the account and it hadn't changed back. Giving our relationship managers branch address, was what was needed to pass authentication.

To cap it off, some post from somewhere in AIB, arrived at our old office address last week. So I'm not even sure which department has which details at this stage. It's a complete mess, and I've no idea what's what now and can't face dealing with you to sort it out.

You thought it was all over, so did I. I had instructed specifically - that due to the travel bookings made, and the fact that you need the same card often to pick-up travel tickets as which you purchased them on - that AIB were not to close old card until I instructed. I was guaranteed it would not be touched.

Without notice, the card started failing on me, and our service providers started to complain we were over-balance. I found out yesterday by ringing Credit Card Services, that against my request, my old card that we have all business services billing to was closed on the day our new cards were issued. No notification. No listening to our request. No notes on our account about not closing it.  A number of our services have now billed us penalty fees for failed transaction attempts.

AIB displayed incredible incompetence on every single interaction, decision, and action. If you were a shop, I'd have walked out and you'd never see me again. If you were a restaurant, I'd have got up and left my table. If you were an airline, I'd never fly with you again. If we delivered on our services & products like you do AIB, we'd be long out of business.

To be fair, any response or updates from AIB will be posted here as updates. So far, all I have received is a letter saying my verbal complaint by phone has been received. This incompetence isn't an isolated incident and it's the reason this story started with, "I bet it's impossible to to this in one visit to the branch". 

Updates: 

4th July - AIB Card Services called to say they've read this post, and are investigating. Stand-by.

8th July - AIB hand delivered a letter stating their apology, the offer to meet a management team, a refund of the annual fees, and a refund of the travel insurance we had to take out to compensate. 

~10th July - AIB Relationship manager calls to see if I'd like a meeting with management. I declined - enough time spent on this already.

24th July - My letter in reply. ..

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Launch48 is a great place to start as an Entreprenuer

Robin Blandford

I was mentoring at the Launch48 Dublin event over the weekend, and I can't recommend it more if you'd like to stick your toe in the water of building a business. It's got everything...

  • Difficult team-mates.
  • Hard work.
  • Long days (and nights). 
  • Early mornings. 
  • Board meetings. 
  • Quick Pitches.
  • Idea development. 

The concept is fairly simple, in that you've 48 hours with an adhoc team to launch your new company. At the end of the weekend, you've got to pitch to the crowd, how you came up with the idea to solve a problem, demonstrate your solution, and have a business model and revenue plan.

Go enter. 

Work In The World's Most Scenic Office?

Robin Blandford

I'll give you €500 cash if you introduce me to the person we hire.

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Senior Web Application Developer

Decisions [D4H] is a multi-award winning emergency response team management technology experiencing rapid growth around the world. Our international operation has had particular success and we are firmly committed to growing our capacity. We are now looking for another ambitious engineer to join our crew in the lighthouse - yes, we work in a lighthouse.

http://www.d4h.org/blog/post/20130528-Join-The-D4H-Crew-Senior-Web-Application-Developer

This is a really cool role, and I want it to go to someone great not good.

The Daily Check-In on Hipchat

Robin Blandford

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We use Hipchat for internal Instant Messenger (IM) between our team at Decisions [D4H] - Multi-award winning emergency response team software. As we all arrive at different times (from 7am - midday, and in different timezones) something we've been doing that works quite well is a daily check-in and check-out on instant messenger for everybody on the team.

This is how we've configured Hipchat into rooms for different subjects...

Crew Room - Thick, real, meaningful value - created by people who love what they do.
Marketing & Outreach - Become multiplied by communities who are inspired - engage, not interrupt.
Sales Opportunities & Finance - Landmark opportunities won through deep connections and demonstration of energy.
Customer Success - Successful and delighted people, authentically better-off organizations - be more than profit.
Engineering & Product - Ship insanely great stuff.

Every morning everyone posts into the Crewroom with a list of things they intend to achieve in the day, here's some of mine (I had to redact some for confidentiality)...

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And then at the end of the day you post again with a recap of what you did get done from your list. This really helps everyone keep on top of what everyone else is working on - we often see questions, extra info, and tip-offs for people posted as replies.

It's a nice touch for a company to do this.

Awesome Moments

Robin Blandford

I've kept a list of moments I'd like to savour and replay in my mind as just awesome.  There are some things that can pass you by, that you need to stop for. I've 3 of these so far, and they've all come in the later rather than earlier stages of [D4H] - I always make a note of them when they happen.

They probably don't know I took this :-s but it was an awesome moment.

1. David our lead developer explaining codebase and ethos to our intern at the time, James Eggers. This was the first moment I realised we'd hit 3rd Generation. This was a key moment - David explained the product, the ethos, the concept better than I could as 1st Gen. This has happened lots of times now at this stage, but every-time there's a 2nd Gen / 3rd Gen moment, and it skips you out but does a better job than you could as 1st Gen,  I still get a buzz.

Hi Arni! Thanks for showing me this!

2. There I was on a glacier in a Superjeep in Iceland in the middle of nowhere - I mean nowhere. In the vehicle and on the terrain that I'd be most in awe off, totally spellbound..... and then they go and show me they have a D4H notebook from our very limited 30 print run back in 2009 still used as the vehicle logbook sitting on the dashboard. Memories, awesomeness, totally just cool - felt we'd made an impact.

We're going to set the world on fire.

3. Sitting in a Baltimore outdoor bar (Hard Rock Cafe?) in the sun and deciding "We Are Young" by Fun would be played if we got a lease on the lighthouse we're now in as an office. So after visiting the other company Director to co-sign the lease, and heading down the 1km drive to 'our new office' for the first time as the awesome view opened up - I changed radio station. "We Are Young - And We'll Set The World On Fire" came one. Totally awesome moment. We are young - and we're setting the world on fire.

If only I knew this in college...

Robin Blandford

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I like this talk by Zach Holman who discusses how different working in a Start-Up is, how finding "The One" is really hard, and how it's great to feel you own the product and make real impact.

I knew I wanted to work in tech. Looking back, that's really all I knew prior to graduating from university and joining the working world.

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Here's the entire presentation, on speakerdeck.

The new office layout at [D4H]

Robin Blandford

Loving our new office layout.

Loving our new office layout.

It's important I believe to shake everything up every now & again. This week we moved all the desk around, did a spring clean, opened out a new segment of the office to another room. Growth is great.