In a previous post , an anonymous commenter recently asked John this question: “Why is this post specific to CFUnited when there are so many other conferences that charge the same, if not more (i.e. Max)?”
It was actually my post, not John’s. Therefore, I’ll answer the question as to why CFU since John covered the why not MAX part.
If you glance back at the post, you’ll see this as the opener: “Based on some info on this post by Sean Corfield, the ticket sales from the last CFUnited event equals the total cost of all 5 360|Flex shows and all 3 CF.Objective() shows.”
This post was continuing the conversation on a topic chosen by Sean Corfield on his blog. I didn’t “single out” CFUnited (CFU), but rather picked up on a point presented by Sean. If you read the “Final Math” section of Sean’s post, you’ll see that Sean was simply stating that he didn’t see the value of CFU and felt that CF.Objective (CFO) was a better show for the money in 2008. That got me to thinking about how many CFO shows could be produced with roughly the same sales figures from CFU. So I asked Jared for his rough numbers, in chatting with him I gave him our rough numbers (though our numbers are wide open, I didn’t expect Jared to know them off the top of his head). At that point, we realized that all of our shows were covered by roughly the sales figure from the latest CFU. Like John says, we’re in the conference business so we can make a good guess based on numbers, costs, etc. Yes, we believe in transparency and believe everyone else in business should too. (I think not being transparent is sad, scary, and destructive i.e. look at the recent $700B bailout for financial businesses not being transparent and therefore, sadly, not honest.)
I am NOT insinuating that Liz and company are dishonest in any way by not being transparent. Liz sounds like a great person and Michael was a very nice guy last time I hung out with him at MAX. I can only assume their lack of openness is because they feel their numbers are an integral part of their business (a competitive edge) OR they’re afraid of how their customers would react to seeing the numbers without knowing the facts behind them. I’ll assume it’s the former since many businesses do hold that belief and thus I can’t blame them for holding such a belief. John and I don’t agree with that mode of thinking though, because to us the magic in a service oriented business is not in costs as those are primarily fixed. Sure, you might be able to pay $3 for a soda vs $3.25 but really, it’s still expensive as heck. Rather, to us, the secret sauce is customer service and attitudes towards what is important. I.e. Flash on the Beach (FOTB) thinks lunch is unnecessary and spends the money that would’ve gone on food to cover speaker costs. We think lunch is important as a network opp, which prevents us from getting some speakers who only speak if all costs are covered. Is FOTB right and us wrong? Or vice-versa? I can’t say, only customers can. However, because some speakers decline to speak at our show due to us not paying all expenses, that means we have to homegrow speakers and seek out newcomers to the “speaking circuit”. I think everyone benefits from this. The popular speakers travel less and more speakers move into the spotlight. These new speakers then become available to all shows (i.e. look at Doug McCune. I had to convince him to present at 360|Flex Seattle despite his “What would I present on?” attitude and last month he spoke at FOTB. I’m not saying I “made” Doug into the great programmer and speaker he is, but I did help nudge and bring him into the speaking scene.)
There are many topics (and shows) we talk about internally, but didn’t pertain to the topic that Sean brought up. If you read our blog, you’ll see we talk about many shows in their own respective posts. I was merely going to post a comment on Sean’s post, but instead it turned out much too wordy for a comment and thus I wrote the post. (Much like this was going to be a comment to the Anonymous comment, but again I got all wordy.) If you look at Sean’s comments, I’m second to last. The last one being Sean who was very interested in my insider’s perspective on an issue he brought up. An insider’s perspective that Liz could’ve commented on and cleared the air about at that time.
Fast forward to October 10th and you see the announcement from CFU about the formation of Stellr. Fast forward to the 15th and you see Sean being glad CFU listened and CFU being glad that Sean noticed they listened. Now, is the whole Stellr thing due in part to the discussion had by Sean and I? Or was Stellr in the works for years and it just coincidentally launched after a “poor” show in 2008? Is Stellr going to gear CFU to target some of CFOs attendees in an attempt to win back market share? Will Stellr borrow concepts from the lower cost shows in an attempt to win back the hearts of it’s detractors?
I don’t know, but I applaud their efforts. I’m eager to see what Stellr has to offer and, if need be, competing with them for customers. Any time a company begins to listen to it’s customers, only good things can follow. Competition, good competition, makes for a better product for customers. Is that something you agree with Anonymous? (Also, why comment anonymously? Really, do you think we’re gonna track you down and start spamming you with hate email or something? LOL)