Sunday, 17 May 2015

Why you should hire PIEs

Last week I was chatting with a friend who needs to build a new team and he asked me what were the key things I looked for in people I want to hire.

The best people I have had the privilege to work with over the past 20 years all shared 3 key traits:
  1. Pragmatism
  2. Empathy
  3. Intellect
Also known as being 'streetwise', pragmatism is by far the most important trait of the best people I worked with. People who are pragmatic can choose the best solution in most situations, they have a gift at finding the best compromise in order to maximise the outcome. Pragmatists do not waste time (it's not pragmatical!), do things by themselves if they know it's the best for the company instead of delegating to the wrong person, they can negotiate the best deals that keep the customers happy while maximising profitability and so on.

Without empathy it's very hard to understand what people around you want. If you can't understand what your customers want, what your colleagues want, your boss, your suppliers or partners you will have a very hard time knowing what to do and clearly this will slow down the development of the company. Empathy is needed to build long lasting relationships and a company con only succeed through the connections with the ecosystem it operates in. No empathy, no ecosystem. Plus, empathy helps building stronger teams as people who care about others are better managers and in general create a better atmosphere and culture within the company.

Not being thick helps. Intellect is required to solve problems in creative ways, it's useful if you are trying to be innovative, it helps decoding the market trends and signals around you, but on its own it is pretty useless. We have all met clever people who lack empathy and pragmatism and these generally are not very productive members of a team.

The order of importance of these traits is the one laid out here (PEI) but PIE it's easier to remember and more fun, hence the title of the post ;-)

What about the standard traits like experience, qualifications, seniority, etc? I think that the 3 traits above are good enough as anyone who is pragmatical, empathic and intelligent can do pretty much anything very well.

So, if you meet somebody who scores highly on all 3 I'd suggest you offer them a job straightaway. If you are not sure it means you are probably not very pragmatical so please introduce them to me and please do not apply for any vacancy I may be advertising in the future.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Own a piece of Vini Italiani!

Dear all,

as you may know I'm the proud founder of Vini Italiani, the company that:

  • operates the Vini Italiani wine bar and shop in South Ken, 72 Old Brompton Road, London
  • is the Italian wine supplier of Ocado
  • owns the online store:
  • has won awards from Decanter and Harpers
Vini Italiani is about to expand in more locations, with your help. We are currently crowdfunding on Seedrs:

The investment is EIS-eligible, meaning you get a 30% rebate from HMRC, you pay no capital gain and you have a loss relief in case things go wrong (if you keep the shares for 3 years)


  • if you invest a minimum of £2K, we offer a lifetime shareholder discount of 20% on wine bar/shop
  • if you invest a minimum of £25K, we offer an immediate 10% of the subscription amount to be redeemable in wine from a selected wine list
Our aim is not just to reach the £250K target, but to smash it, and being able to create a proper chain with 2 or 3 outlets and a large restaurants operation.

Go on line and help us build the best Italian wine chain in the UK!


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Does Piracy hurt digital content sales?

Or 'Does rain affect the amount of sunshine in a country?'

I am a bit surprised about this piece on piracy published today by Digital Book World.

Michael D. Smith, professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, speaking at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo said that 'piracy hurts digital content sales'. This is like saying that 'every day that rains reduces the amount of yearly sunshine in a country'.  Even if only one copy of an ebook is pirated by someone who would have bought it under different circumstances it will clearly reduce the sales of ebooks (by one)!

While it's eminently clear that piracy hurts digital sales I would have framed the problem in a different way.

People who consume digital content fall broadly into 3 categories.

  1. Hard-core pirates: these guys won't pay for anything. Ever. Full stop. They think content should be free, they will go the extra mile to strip any DRM off and they will happily help pirated content proliferate as they think it's a human right to have access to content for free. These guys are not lost customers as they would have never spent even 1 cent on digital content. Thus, I think it's wrong to class the content consumed by these guys as 'lost revenue'.
  2. Circumstantial pirates: these are the people who pirate a movie/ebook/etc mostly because of 'external reasons'. These reasons are generally linked to either lack of availability or price. Classic examples are popular series going on air but not being available digitally, hardbacks not having an ebook counterpart at the time of publishing or the ebook version costing $25. This is the kind of piracy that hurts sales but it is mostly self-inflicted by content owners and publishers because of their own decisions around marketing, pricing, windowing, etc.
  3. Honest folks: there are the guys who pay for their content and don't fall in the previous category because they don't even know how and where to go to get pirated content. These people are the ones that publishers and content owners should not worry about but guess what? These very customers are the ones plagued by DRM and other cumbersome, user-experience-destroying ideas which cost the industry money ($0.12 per ebook was the price for the DRM the last time I checked). DRM not only negatively affects the honest users but also helps incumbents like Amazon keeping customers in their silo using it as an excuse (for which they can happily blame the publishers). In the case of digital music, thankfully this is now history.
Any conversation about piracy should focus on pushing the content owners to be more flexible and open about the way they market their content. Removing DRM, making the content available in more formats and countries at the same time and sensible pricing will do more against piracy than anything else.