Don’t Be a Jerk, Let Them Work: Too Many Check-Ins PSA [VIDEO]

I realized I was becoming a check-in junkie when I noticed I had 6 geo-location networks on my phone (the only thing I didn’t have was Facebook Places, and I’m sure my Facebook for Android app has it already installed).

I shot this video as a part of 12 Stars Media’s You Do Video program, on the Flip camera they provided me, with help from Meghan Barich’s @MeghanBarich help, as well as Pamela the Barista), and then was so ashamed that I actually had nearly all of the apps I named that I deleted Whrrl and Hashable, and saved myself over 10 GB of space on my phone.

I also realized that there are just too many geo-location networks out there. I frequently use Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp, because I like their game psychology and the chance to win badges, pins, and titles. I like how retail stores and restaurants have embraced Foursquare to offer specials for check-ins. I like how Gowalla offers special “trips,” encouraging visitors to check out different places in a city, and I appreciate Yelp’s user-generated reviews of a restaurant, which help me decided whether to eat at a place or not.

So I’m paring down to only those three, and while I may check out some other location-based apps in the future, especially any hyperlocal ones that focuses on a specific city, I don’t plan on adding any more. I may even drop one or two in the future, especially if Foursquare would ever add more user-generated reviews in the future, and not just tips.

Five Ways Coffee Shops Can Earn Entre-Commuters’ Ongoing Business

So I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Orlando right now, thinking I need a military firing range to get some peace and quiet to get some work done. I’m on a working vacation this week and have tried several different local coffee shops and this Starbucks, but I haven’t had great luck.

Compared to even the mediocre coffee shops in Indianapolis, I realized not every coffee shop gives a crap about their customers, let alone the returning ones. If I lived here in Orlando, I can imagine I would be on a months-long quest to find a decent coffee shop where I would want to spend several hours at a time. I thought I had a winner with one — gorgeous decor, nice ambience, and it was quiet — but the wifi was nonexistent (something about Macs not being able to interface properly with their router). I turned to a Starbucks as a last resort, but was bombarded with the same Starbucks experience: too loud, snail-slow wifi, and bitter coffee.

Fellow entre-commuter Kelly Karmann at Hubbard & Cravens

My good friend and fellow entre-commuter, Kelly (r), at my favorite coffee shop, Hubbard & Cravens.

Entre-commuters (telecommuting entrepreneurs) often work from coffee shops for their meeting, turning a small two-top table into a desk for the day. And the good ones pay for the privilege, spending office rent money on coffee instead. For those of us who entre-commute even a few times a week, finding a good coffee shop can mean days, weeks, and months of rabid loyalty, which can turn into hundreds of dollars a month, and a few thousand in a year, from a single customer. Returning and loyal customers are often the lifeblood of many small independent coffee shops.

Here are five ways coffee shops can earn ongoing business from entre-commuters.

  1. Turn down the damn music! Most Starbucks blast their music at concert-level volumes. I’ve got my earbuds on in this one, and it’s still painfully loud. The music should be the backdrop to the coffee shop experience, and not the reason we’re here. It’s not a freaking concert. For entre-commuters who want to have meetings in coffee shops, they don’t want to do it where they have to shout to be heard.
  2. Have wifi system accessible by all operating systems. I occasionally run into coffee shops whose routers can’t handle Macs. “Something about the Mac’s security codes don’t quite line up with the router,” say the baristas. Many of the entre-commuters I see have Macs. While it’s not an even 50/50 split, there are enough freelancers and small business owners who use Macs that you’re alienating a big part of your audience by not giving them access.
  3. Have a wifi system that doesn’t choke when more than three people are on it. Most wifi systems can handle more than a few people, but if your system gets hung up when more than four users are online, you need more bandwidth. Otherwise, you’ll only ever have more than a few users in your store. The wifi system at my favorite coffee shop doesn’t start bogging down until 12 or so people are on it, and even then, it only gets slow. It doesn’t stop.
  4. Have a meeting room or place where people can get a little privacy. The coolest meeting room setup I ever saw was at a Starbucks in Louisville. It was a refurbished community bank, and they kept the two meeting rooms. They set up a program where people could reserve the room for $50. They would then receive a $30 coffee card to share with their guests. Another Indianapolis coffee shop, South Bend Chocolate Company, has a meeting room they just share for free, on a first come, first serve basis. Both places are regular stops for businesspeople who need a casual meeting place.
  5. Have a lot of power plugs for laptops. If people don’t have a place to power up, they won’t hang out. The good coffee shops have a power plug every few feet. The bad ones make 20 people share one plug. With some basic rewiring, or even creative use of some power strips, they can give laptop users a place to plug in and recharge while they get work done. I know a lot of people who avoid certain coffee shops because they don’t have any public plugs.

While some coffee shops may want to avoid the entre-commuter crowd, they aren’t looking at the big picture. A good entre-commuter should spend around $4 every couple hours, dropping $8 – $10 in 4 – 5 hours. These regulars are worth $50 per week, $2500 per year. Having a group of regulars who are each responsible for $2,500 a year should be the goal of the owner of any decent coffee shop.

To be fair, entre-commuters also need to learn to be respectful of the coffee shop owners who need to turn tables in order to turn a profit. Spend enough money to justify your taking up the table for several hours, or go get an office. Practice good entre-commuter etiquette.

Be an Entre-Commuter With Just a Latte and a Laptop

I’m the mayor of my office and my church.

At least that’s what Foursquare tells me. I’ve checked in enough times at both places that I’ve been declared the mayor.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking site that lets you tell people where you are via Twitter and Facebook.

Think: 50% friend-finder, 30% social city guide, 20% nightlife game. We wanted to build something that not only helps you keep up with your friends, but exposes you to new things in and challenges you to explore cities in different ways.

You check in at different places around a city, give tips and recommendations, and in general get to know your city better.

I’ve been using FourSquare a lot lately, especially after I got my new Droid phone a few weeks ago.

I’m starting to earn the reputation for being out and about all the time. I check in everywhere I go: the office, the coffee shop, the library, the grocery store. I’m not out any more than usual. I’m just telling people about it.

But it’s become a whole lot easier now for me to be out and about too, thanks to my laptop and the proliferation of free wifi around the city. I’ve become a real entre-commuter.

(Entre-commuter: entrepreneurial commuter who works out of a coffee shop, cafe, restaurant, library, or any other place with free wifi. Term coined by Erik Deckers and Paul Lorinczi to justify why they don’t sit in the office all day, every day.)

We came up with the term entre-commuter for those people who own their own business and have the ability to do it anywhere. They can do it from home, the local library, or their local coffee shop. We happen to favor Hubbard & Cravens in Broad Ripple, although I’ll travel just about anywhere around Central Indiana for good coffee.

The great thing about being an entre-commuter is that you get to network with other people, and collaborate with them on occasion. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met with, helped, provided connections for, and done business with, just because we both happened to be out at the same time in the same place. And meeting some of the same people in the same place several times has blossomed my network beyond the typical Chamber and other networking events.

Where do entre-commuters gather?

I prefer to patronize local coffee shops and restaurants, although I’ll hit the occasional chain once in a while. We need to support our local establishments more than the chains — the chains don’t support our local economies. The locals do.

Is there entre-commuters etiquette?

There are a few rules for entre-commuters. They’re fairly common sense, but I still see people violate them from time to time.

  • Don’t camp out. They have to turn tables during peak times. If you’re sitting with a computer and a bottled water over lunch, they’re losing money on you.
  • Only occupy tables during low times. Don’t take up a 4-top all by yourself if you can help it, and don’t be afraid to share a table with a stranger either.
  • Buy something. Spend money, and more than just a little. Don’t buy a $2 coffee and then sit for 8 hours.
  • Be respectful. This is someone else’s business, not your office. Don’t treat it like it’s your place. You’re a guest.
  • Keep your voices down. Other people are there too, so don’t have loud conversations. You’re not at the club, you’re at a quiet little shop.

Entre-commuters just need to be somewhere we can find free wifi and good coffee. Somewhere we can connect online and offline. Find your local shops and spend some time there. See if you can create some business, as well as giving the local shops some business as well.

Photo: Nina Turns 40 blog

How a Coffee Shop Used Twitter to Double Its Business

This post was originally published on February 3, 2009 on the blog, which will soon be closed down.

J.R. Cohen, operations manager for CoffeeGroundz Cafe (@CoffeeGroundz) in Houston, TX, used Twitter to nearly double his clientele, by using it to take advance orders from customers, thus flying in the face of everyone who has ever said Twitter can’t be used to make money.

Erica O’Grady tells an interesting story at the Pistachio Consulting blog about Cohen’s foray into Twitter, and how he used it to successfully grow his business.

Before he started, Cohen had never even heard of Twitter, but a customer talked him into trying it, and he soon had 1,000 followers on the micro-blog network.

It started on Halloween Day, 2008 when one of Cohen’s regulars Tweeted a drive-through breakfast order to him. This was hailed as possibly the first to-go order placed on Twitter, and Cohen began taking orders via direct message from his followers.

Cohen has become such a big fan of Twitter that he used CoffeeGroundz as site for a Tweetup for 100 Houston Twitterites – who bought food and drinks – which O’Grady says was the largest Houston Tweetup ever.

Houston Twitterati meet at CoffeeGroundz for a Tweetup

Houston Twitterati meet at CoffeeGroundz for a Tweetup

What about you? How do you use Twitter? Have you made money from it? Is there a way you could? Or do you have any suggestions from anyone else who wants to dive into Twitter?

From the Pistachio Consulting site
Erica O’Grady is the #1 Erica on Google – Most days :o) Currently she is a Social Media Consultant based in Houston, Texas (the damn near finest city in the South). You can read her blog at or follow her on Twitter (@ericaogrady).

Mobile Work Days: The Benefits of Entrepreneurial Collaboration

One of the things I love about Indianapolis is the business cooperation, especially among the small businesses and entrepreneurs. I saw a lot of this when several of us would get together at The Bean Cup in Greenwood for a Mobile Work Day.

I didn’t get there as often as I wanted, and we didn’t call it a Mobile Work Day, but I did get to spend some time with Doug Karr, Jason Bean, James Paden, and Stephen Coley of Brandswag.

It’s actually an efficient way to work. Many times I learned about new information, heard about new services and best practices, and even got some help fixing a couple problems that had plagued me for months. It was also a way to strengthen friendships and working relationships. I have a few more people I feel comfortable calling for help and/or referring business to.

Since then, I’ve tried to start up Mobile Work Days in other areas of town. I’ve had them at Gourmet Grounds of Geist in Fishers, and Hubbard and Cravens in Broad Ripple. While attendance has been small, the idea has been embraced by the social media pros and entrepreneurs in the area. I think Mobile Work Days may be a new way of doing business and boosting our local economy.

So we’re going to try to make this a real thing, a real way of doing business.

What is a Mobile Work Day?

A Mobile Work Day (#MobileWorkDay) is where entrepreneurs and small businesspeople hang out in a local coffee shop and get some work done with other entrepreneurs and SMBs.

We pick local coffee shops, as opposed to Starbucks, for a number of reasons:

  1. Free wifi. None of this paid wifi or AT&T crap. I know some Starbucks now offer free wifi, but that’s because the locals have been doing it for years.
  2. The coffee is better. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Local shops are more conducive to groups. A lot of the locals have tables you can shove together for groups of 6 or more. At the Bean Cup, we would sometimes take up half their tables and have 16 – 20 people working together in one long row of tables. Unfortunately, they may have had the biggest seating available, so that option may be lost to us.
  4. Money you spend at local shops come back to the community. When you spend $1 at a local shop, $.40 stays in the area. When you spend $1 at a Starbucks, only $.13 stays.

There are no rules or expectations for what you work on, how long you stay, or when you show up or leave. Our only request is that you spend some money at the place. Get a cup of coffee and a refill, or a latte and a muffin. Buy some lunch and a water. Just make it worth the coffee shop’s while for having us take up some tables for a few hours.

Ultimately, Mobile Work Days are good for the community. Hosting one at a local coffee shop helps their business, and it boosts our own local economy by supporting local merchants. Besides, if we want local support for our own businesses, we need to support them. If you’re an entrepreneur who has meetings at big chains, don’t be surprised if your local community can’t or won’t support you in return.

Our next Mobile Work Day is Thursday, November 19 at Hubbard & Cravens at 6229 Carrollton Rd., in Broad Ripple. We’ll start at around 8:30 or 9:00, and go until about 4:00 or 5:00.

We’ll start holding these on the 3rd Thursday of every month, and we’ll try to come up with some different places to hold it. If you have any suggestions, let me hear them. Our criteria is free, reliable wifi, the ability to hold a group of at least 10 mobile professionals while still taking good care of their regular crowd.