EXCLUSIVE: @cheerUpdates app Update V2.0 a sneek peek

In the spring of 2016 at Worlds, cheerUPDATES attempted to raise the stakes in the Allstar Cheerleading information game by creating its own APP. When version 1 was launched it was described as a test version for one competition (Worlds 2016) to shape the future of the app. There were also promises of many updates coming in the near future (if all went well with the beta test.) You can read my initial blog post about the app in April 2016 here: Is paying $5 for the CheerUpdates APP ridiculous?

As Worlds approached, sales of the highly anticipated app soared. The expectations of the app (which at the time was basically a beta version) soared as well. It was an extremely bold move considering the cheer world would be watching and any glitch or flaw would be exposed and talked about. CheerUPDATES did their best to set expectations on what the app would do on the initial launch. Unfortunately, many folks did not get the memo and were either misinformed or had unrealistic expectations.

Here were some of the criticisms of the app

  1. Scores did not load or were not updated in a timely fashion.
  2. The app was ugly, many did not like the font or design of the app.
  3. Many could not read the entire score as the app wrapped to the edge of the mobile screen and cut off numbers. ( This was fixed quickly)
  4. Most of the reviews in the app store complained about buying the app for Summit and it not working. (Well this is self-explanatory Summit does not include Worlds teams)

Some of the criticisms were valid, some were not. In response to the scores not updating in a timely fashion. CheerUpdates is held hostage by disputes and scoring hold ups. The scores were updated as soon as they were received. In some divisions at Worlds, that was literally a day later ( in some instances or divisions) this will never change in the app or on twitter. Even on the CheerUpdates twitter account you rarely get all of the scores from every division. As you already know, CheerUpdates will post a photo of the score sheet as they receive it (via twitter).

One important thing to keep in mind with cheeerUPDATES. When they post the performance of a team in real time on twitter that is not the official breakdown or listing of deductions from the judges, that is what cheerUPDATES sees within the performance. It is CU’s own opinion, not actual scores or deductions from the judges. (many people miss this concept). This is significant because users need to understand that what you see on twitter immediately following a performance is NOT the actual scores from the judges.

In regards to the app being ugly. Ok, it was. I am guessing they were focusing on functionality and capabilities not how pretty it looks for the first phase.

I have been told the app version 2.0 is in the final stages and is going to be launched soon.If you have already paid for the app,you are good. The update will push in the upcoming months. If you have not yet purchased the app and are interested, I will go through all the updates and new features and functionality step by step below.

(The views you are looking at are the perspective of the admin. Once launched the view for a user may vary slightly once launched) 

  • The app is NOT UGLY ANYMORE!!! (Of course, this will always be up for debate) but it looks much better.

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  • You will now be able to subscribe to a PROGRAM , DIVISION OR TEAM.
  • The app will also keep track of all levels 1-6. Whether you love to keep up with the Mini Level 1 teams or your favorite IOC6 team. cheerUPDATES has you covered. Disclaimer: UNLESS PREVIOUSLY NOTATED FULL LOWER LEVEL COVERAGE IS NOT A GUARANTEE cheerUPDATES is working on expanding coverage but similar to Worlds coverage, not every single comp will be covered with the levels 1-4, but the major comps you can expect will be covered.

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  • You will also be able to receive push notifications on the app when your favorite Program, Team or Division have updates.
  • It will handle complicated situations such as split and combined divisions. Displayed below on the right is an example of bid announcements Full Paid Partial Paid At Large etc…

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  • The app will also keep a history of performances , bids and results starting with the 2014-2015 season so you can see the history of you favorite program team or division. This will enable you to view who won the major competitions the previous year, what competition your favorite team or rival won their bid etc..This for me is a huge value add. For those who do not like researching on thousands of old posts on twitter or plundering through websites for previous years results this is a God send.

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Bottom line, if you have already paid for the app, good news you are going to get a powerful upgrade that will hopefully provide the value you expected from your $5 purchase. The update will happen late October or November just in time for competition season. If you were waiting on the sidelines, this may be exactly what you were expecting from the app. For some, it still may not be enough to persuade the twitter savvy from the free twitter feed. I for one am excited about the potential and see that for my minuscule $5 investment the app saves me time and provides convenience for this upcoming exciting season. For others, the jury may still be out. I guess that begs the question.

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The blessings of taking risks and trying new things.

One year ago today, encouraged by some special parents, I released the book trailer to Welcome to Mintland. I remember being so scared and intimidated to share it with everyone. It was important for me to set the tone of what the book was about and the magic I hoped to capture. I still even now agonize about the details of everything. I knew once I released the trailer there was no turning back, the book would have to be released. It was a very scary time for me.
The day I released the trailer. Welcome to Mintland was over 3/4 of the way completed. I had no idea what I was doing or how I would actually get this book published. I still to this day do not know what compelled me to write it. I needed to take a break from writing and decided to create the book trailer (again a first for me). It took me many many hours to get it right in my head and then transferred to video. After I created what I thought captured the essence and tone of the book. I gathered up enough courage to share the video with a trusted friend. After watching the video my friend said nothing, she just covered her mouth and broke down in tears. It was then I knew, the story of this magical team needed to be completed. Her reaction validated my instinct that this team and this story was something that may not happen ever again. The team being so young and naive had no idea what they had accomplished together. Looking back it all just seemed like a blur as everything simply fell into place as it was meant to happen.
As this story ages, it will continue to live on. My hopes are a few kids and parents read the story and are inspired to try new things. Hopefully, the message they take from the book is that if you believe in yourself and others you can accomplish ANYTHING no matter what your age is. Set a goal and go for it. If there is a bump in the road set a bigger goal and go for it! If someone tells you every day that you are special, that you can be the best in world and you dare to believe it, special things will happen.
The Finished Trailer From the Book Welcome to Mintland
For the next few weeks, we are donating all proceeds of sales of the book to the Louisiana Cheerforce GoFundMe Campaign. If you would rather donate straight to the cause in lieu of purchasing the book please do!
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Many of the former Peppermints ask me every day how many books we have sold for the flood victims. As I mentioned earlier, my hope was that the story would live on to build life long memories and create inspiration. I always tell them every little bit helps, but they will never know the devastation that happened. They feel good knowing their little story is helping people and that was the intent, as the spirit of the book will live on through them for many years to come.

The Dad who wrote a book about AllStar Cheerleading.

So the inevitable happened. One of my fears going into the Welcome to Mintland project was perception. As selfish as it sounds, I was worried what “my boys” would think after they found out I wrote a book about All Star Cheerleading.

A few of my friends found out about the project and immediately called me on it. A few chuckled and teased me, a few were amazed that I dedicated the time to do it. I expected as much, I mean guys will be guys and it would not be normal if I did not get some form of teasing or ridicule. A funny thing happened when I challenged them to read the book. They actually did. At first they were amazed that is was actually a “real book” with chapters and pictures and not a neat shutterfly picture documentary about a kids team.

One of my more “macho” guy friends actually finished the book in one sitting and came back to me with a completely different demeanor. He actually apologized to me and said “that was an incredible story dude” and said it reminded him of Friday Night Lights but for cheer (maybe a bit of a stretch but. I’ll take the compliment.) I was actually shocked by his attitude. You could tell he actually read the story because he asked about specific people in the book, and went a step further by actually watching one of the teams in the story the 2015 World Champion Peach Rays on YouTube.

He finally got it. It was more than just Pom Poms and sideline cheer. The story finally helped me break through what I was fortunate enough to witness week in and week out. We discussed how cool it was that the teams trained side by side next to World Champion athletes. We also went on to discuss how hard the kids work, and that some may never become a Senior 5 athlete, but they aspire to be the best they can be. Then we began to reminisce about old sports stories about football, baseball and basketball. It was then I knew. I finally won him over for just a moment. He discussed how cool the camaraderie and connections were with the team and how the plot twist in the book was such an amazing experience for the kids.

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He now understood the magnitude of Cheersport, NCA, UCA, Summit and Worlds. He now understands why they are broadcast on CBS Sports and ESPN. In his mind, it is now legit.

The ironic part of this story; one of the reasons for writing this book was overcoming the frustration of trying to properly articulate how incredible the teams, coaches and the sport of All Star Cheerleading is. After winning over one of “my boys” I am glad I accepted the challenge.  I will chalk it up as a success at this point.

 

 

 

My first venture as an author.

When you set your path in life. You would like to think you have a vision. Ultimately, your vision will guide you to your ultimate destination. I clearly have a blurry vision, but an exciting one. The most exciting piece of dedicating time to your children is that you get to live through their eyes, but with more experience. I have had the opportunity of a lifetime over the last 12 months to do just that. One of the many gifts that have emerged from this time is a very unexpected project.

I never thought of myself as a writer. If I would ever think of writing something, I would guess it would be about team culture or success of sales teams or advertising. Never in a million years would I ever dream I would write about an experience I had with a group of AllStar Cheerleaders.

I have been surrounded by very gifted writers for a very long time. Working at USA TODAY, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing in Atlanta there is no shortage of some of the best writers in the world. One thing I noticed with all of them is that they did their best work when they were inspired or passionate about something. Almost touched by a superior being. I guess that is what happened when I sat down to write about Welcome to MintLand. When you watch something magical happen before your eyes that can be perceived like an average experience to the innocent bystander, you feel compelled to tell the story. I simply told the story. This story needed to be told, if not for anyone but the team. I was also exhausted from trying to explain the exhilaration of competitive cheer to everyone. You just have to experience it. This was an opportunity to do so. To get a glimpse of the magic that is Welcome to Mintland you can view the book trailer below.

 

The book has been released for only a few weeks but I get asked a two main questions. 1.How did you have time to do this? The answer, I made time for this. 2. Why did you write this book?  This is where the passion comes in.

Welcome to Mintland is about Allstar Cheer ,but the story is much more than that. This story is a group of 6,7,8-year-old kids that became an unstoppable force founded by love and belief in each other. This is NOT a story of some incredible undefeated season. It is a story about what you can accomplish given challenges in the road. It is about recalibrating your vision to a better goal. This team supported everyone along the way including other teams. No one ever felt better than each other. This book is about the word “team” and the power of positivity and belief in others. It’s about a team that completely believed in each other and knew no boundaries to how far they could go as a group.

The book also epitomizes the importance of a strong leader who took them to new heights both as a team and as people. The coaching staff saw the determination, work ethic and heart in this team and it was infectious.

I had two goals in writing this book.

1. When people read this book I want them to take a piece of the culture and share it. Build upon this experience with their new teams, friends, colleges and parents. This spirit which is Mintland should become infectious.

2. When this team grows up and begins their larger journey in life, I want them to reflect on this time and remember the importance of surrounding yourself with incredible people, belief in others, hard work and faith. It will be handy in life.

There are too many life lessons to share, which are outlined in the book. Although the book is about Allstar Cheer they can be applied to any sport and in life. I hope you enjoy the book, and would love to know what you think.

Cheers,

Eric

 

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Overcoming the fear of failure and accepting accountability…..

failure-300x243In previous posts I have eluded to the scary part about joining a startup company. Playing entrepreneur is one thing,  jumping in head first and going all in is completely another. Knowing the failure rate of an early stage startup is something a person needs to understand before making this jump. Many cities have a challenge finding good talent in the startup world. Recently the CEO of Rivalry Jon Birdsong eloquently described the situation in Atlanta HERE. With the mix of tight funding, a talent crunch for tech and environment of the unknown makes for a serious uphill battle.

Understanding the risks is one part of the equation. Accepting accountability for the success or failure of your product or efforts is also part of the deal. What happens when you start hearing about the realities of your baby (product). Failing Fast is important and shifting the direction of your concept is vital to the survival of the company. Even if that means the demise of a role within the company. Typically, the person on the front lines gathering intel and feedback from customers is typically the person who can figure out the direction of the product the best. Most of the time this should be the CEO or Biz Dev person.

When your company feels it is ready to take the product to market, do so aggressively do not be passive. Get the product in the hands of everyone that will use it. There will be many opportunities for feedback either from what customers tell you or more importantly what they don’t tell you.  The devil is always in the details. If you run into to many barriers of entry it may be time to go back to the drawing board. One major signal is a pricing objection. If you are getting in front of a bunch of people and never get a price objection, that is a strong signal that you need to pivot .

Let me elaborate, when you are consistently arriving at the price negotiation stage with your customers it means you may be on to something.  If you are not getting here this means the customer does not see enough value in what you bring to the table or they have a similar solution that they do not see the value in changing from. Overcoming objections and learning from them is one thing. At some point, the product needs to sell itself. Keep in mind that potential customers are eager to get to the price stage if they want the product. It is typically the only stage in which they have control of the situation it is a very important stage that will tell you a lot.

Accepting accountability in any organization is a big part of personal and professional growth. With limited seed funding available, that may mean making some tough choices as development costs will take priority over everything else, as they should! If you do not fit in to developing a better product (technically) for the customer, this may mean you need to step away or your position will be eliminated. This is a reality, as it should be in any position in a startup or in the corporate world.  For many people this is a tough pill to swallow. I have struggled with this portion for years. For me, if you are stagnating at a cube in a corporate environment and not adding any value collecting a pay check I would challenge you to step up.

This means many things for many people but you will know your boundaries, try to cross them. Ask a question in a meeting, take on that new challenge that you know you could do but don’t think you will be called upon. Do Something! If you fail, good for you. Learn, Grow and know that you tried to make a difference. You will be much better for it, trust me I fail a lot.

What else is involved with the fear of failure? What are some of the factors that are in play? How much risk is too much risk? How do you hedge the risks you take? I would love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Eric

Finding myself in Atlanta…..New Digital and Culture challenges

Moving from Chicago to Atlanta was a very cool experience. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved Chicago and still do. Atlanta has something about it that feels like you are a part of building something. It is kind of hard to explain. Atlanta to me is still trying to find it’s charm and has yet to define itself. It is a city of transients and transplants. The explosive growth of the late 90’s has completely changed the landscape of the city. When I first moved down to Atlanta I found a new career outside of advertising. the company was a physician recruiting firm. It was a very exciting role. Basically I would go into hospitals and larger universities in the Northeast to educate CEO’s and VPMA’s about what they needed to do to recruit physicians. To sit in a board room at Harvard and Yale and educate them on why they could not get physicians to come work for them was fascinating. I learned a ton traveled alot but with the news of my first born on the way traveling three weeks out of the month was not going to cut it.

I was looking for a culture where I fit in. I loved the team environment. I truly enjoyed coaching and teaching people new things. The best part of leading a team is finding what makes people tick and pushing them beyond their boundaries. I was really looking for a new challenge in the digital world. It was something I was very passionate about and had a knack for teaching people the digital world with relative ease. Even the most hardened legacy salesperson proved to be my biggest challenge. I sought out those folks to convert them into believers. I figured, if I could get them on board the rest would follow.

I started a new role at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. I really did not know what to expect as the group recently went through a pretty tough re-organization but wanted to build out a digital revolution. The group was very upfront with me that this new role would be a big challenge as customers as well as the salesteam were very resistant to change but they both needed to be converted. I jumped in head first into the challenge….. one of the most exciting times in my career was about to happen and I had no idea where to begin… the rest to be continued….

Learning the Art of the Pivot

I am going to suspend the history lesson for a moment. I wanted to share some comments on the art of pivoting . In the corporate world being able to pivot can take years if not decades. Notable exceptions are of course Apple , IBM etc.. In a startup you sometimes will have to pivot and pivot quickly. A very good example of recent pivot came from Groupon. Basically a pivot is to change the course of a product or service based on the needs of your potential or current customers. This modification may take place based on feedback from customers or a new feature added to an existing product that changes the course of the business model.

I found many times in the corporate world people would often times get frustrated when an obvious opportunity evolved from changing a legacy business model. Often times senior management was unwilling to “rock the boat” or try new things. This typically leads to a slow and painful death for the company or its growth and often times leads to employees leaving.

I am learning that it is ok and very necessary to pivot. I have been fighting the urge to hold on to an original business model and try new things to see how they resonate. It was the way I was raised in the corporate life. It is ok not to pivot sometimes for a tried and true proven model. There is certainly something to be said for holding to your core values as a company, but not in all cases see Kodak and many others.

We recently may have stumbled on to a potential home run at Flashissue  by listening to our clients needs. One thing to remember about a pivot. Not all pivots are successful. Listening to the clients needs are paramount that will typically lead you to a successful product change. Holding on to an old inefficient business model never serves the client or the company well. Learn to listen, learn to change and be nimble or you in turn are learning to fail. Not all great ideas succeed but you will have a better rate of success by executing on the needs of your clients.

Any other thoughts I may have missed? Have you ever observed a pivot in the corporate world that worked?