Monday, March 31, 2014

Elevate

Read a book by Rich Horwath called Elevate - the Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking.

According the WSJ, strategic thinking is the most valued CEO skill.

Horwath starts with a discussion on why strategic thinking is critical.  And to usual list of reasons why it does not get the attention it needs.  He then quickly moves into his 3 disciplines.

First - Coalesce - fusing together insights to create an innovative business model.

Second - Compete.  Choose what strategies have competitive advantage (I am big on competitive advantage and view it as the cornerstone to success).

Third - Champion - Leading others to think and act strategically.  And execute the strategy.  (I have found often that implementation is what kills good strategy).

Good thought provoking book.

The main challenge I have with strategic thinking is dedicating the inspired time.  It is difficult to just say I will spend an hour on strategic thinking and come up with something brilliant.

But most of the problem with strategic thought happens because it is not urgent (although it is very important).  So like many important tasks, it can get pushed aside for the urgent.

Things I do to inspire strategic thought:

1 - read and research.  Without background, it is tough to come up with good strategies.

2 - Plant the seed.   I spend a 15-20 minutes trying to frame the challenge.  Then I leave it and go about my day, ideas come to me.  I often use this technique just before sleep as well.

3 - Log ideas.  I find ideas are sometimes lost but writing them down "saves" them.

4 - Set goals around doing it.  By setting goals and deadlines, I can artificially create urgency.

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I thought this article on how time could be used better was awesome.

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Interesting how colorful socks have "tipped" and seem to be the norm in the startup community.

See http://youtu.be/BtXH3shC5O8 - a company owned by friends of mine.
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Mark Fasciano's father was featured on CBS.  I have met Nick many times.  He is a true artist.
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Rain last night turned into snow this morning.  And it is March 31 in NY of all places.  An early April Fools joke perhaps?

And the New York Times had a cover story on climate change.  I wonder if they had the article prepared and waited for a day such as this to release it.



Victoria turned one.  And she is smart enough to write upside down in the snow (snow which is acceptable in Canada but in NY?...)



Friday, March 21, 2014

Leading with Your Legacy in Mind

I seem to be reading a lot lately so am behind in posting my comments on the books I have read.

One of those is Living with Your Legacy in Mind: Building Lasting Value in Business and Life by Andrew Thorn.

One way to set goals is to write a document dated in the future.  For example "It is December 2020.  I just finished my 5 mile run which seemed easy now that I weigh...".  Thinking of how things will be in the future can help them to happen.  So titling a book with Legacy makes it interesting to me.  If more people thought in those terms, I daresay more people would think longer term.

I have long thought that balance is over rated and Thorn agrees.

Life + Leadership = Legacy  (this is the title of chapter 1)

I liked the title of chapter 14.  "From Success to Significance".  Something in my strives to significance.

I liked some of the inspiring stories included in the book.

Some quotes:

"Purpose gives us the focus we need in order to ensure that what we are doing is aligned with our priorities"

"Our Legacy cannot be measured by what we do; it can only be felt by those we serve"

Thorn is a PhD so clearly knows how to research and is literate (it surprises me the number of books I read or start to read where the author is not).

Good book.


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I like Freakonomics.  I thought this podcast was interesting.  Apparently in Japan, houses are not a good investment.  On average, houses are torn down in 38 years (compared to 100 years in The US).

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And as I enjoyed the first day of spring harvesting overwintered leeks from my garden, my brother enjoyed snow in Canada.  This is a picture he sent that he took from his front door.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Startup Leadership

I read a great book - Startup Leadership - How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn their Ideas into Successful Enterprises.  From the title, you can tell, it is right in my sweet spot (although increasingly I am thinking I should consider working more with companies that want to go from $50,000,000 to $250,000,000 or even $1B since there are less people with that have done that.

I loved the book purpose "to help entrepreneurs succeed".

One point the book makes that I completely agree with is "know yourself".  The better an entrepreneur knows themselves, the more likely they are to succeed.

It speaks about the 3 basics - Projects, Process and Culture.  I am a big believer in Process.  The ideal business is one where you can build a replicable process that can be scaled.  And the job of the leader is to constantly polish the process.

Good culture allows decisions to be made easily.  The larger the company, the more the leaders job is to "coach on culture" and let others make decisions.

There is a chapter titled "Organizing to Succeed". This is key to success.

I loved the appendices that include things like "Traits, skills and motivations  of a good entrepreneur" and "5 prerequisites for change".

The final chapter speaks of "selfless acts of entrepreneurism".  The gist of it is "work for the good of the company, the staff, the customers" to build a great company.  Entrepreneurial leaders selfishly help others.

It almost inspired me to start a new business - that is how good it is.
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I knew chocolate was good for you.  Runners World has a new article on it.  I have a small investment in a chocolate company - Sweet Riot so buy theirs.

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I have always had an interest in efficiency (hence my book on time management).  I have studied speed reading.  So I was interested when a friend sent me a link to Spritzing.  I have not used the app but will try it.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chris Hadfield - Canadian Astronaut.

I listened to and read Chris Hadfield's autobiography - An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth: What going to Space Taught me about Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything.  I took both the CDs and book from the library.  The CDs would be perhaps 10+ hours of listening and I had a lot of travel time but not quite that much so I also read part of it.  Hadfield narrated is own CD and he is a good reader.

I was totally inspired by it.  Hadfield is a great writer.  And of course the stories are gripping.

He is a driven person and part of the story emphasizes the importance of that.

To go to space requires a lot of study, preparation and planning.  That transfers to real life.  We succeed when we prepare to succeed.

Good book.  Highly recommended.

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I visited my university professor daughter, Laura on the weekend.  She has recently moved to College Station Texas to accept a position at Texas A and M.

She published a lot.  Her article on punctuation was accessible.

I loved College Station - neat, clean, safe and very low cost.  I loved the campus.  Lots of new buildings, well kept, huge.  They had the biggest fitness facility I have ever seen that includes a 1/4 mile indoor track, multiple basketball courts, huge pool, 20+ squash and racquetball courts.

I like university towns.   They tend to be environmentally advanced.  I loved that there were many bike parking areas - often with air and even one with tools.





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The new Canadian antispam law Bill C28 is interesting.  Because email is almost free, it has been overused.

At one time, I was stressed by spam.  I find Google tabs helps by sorting most of it out.  And when I actually analyzed it, I can actually deal with 50 spam messages in a couple of minute.  But often I cannot deal with a real email that requires action in less than 5-10 minutes.  So it is real email that creates workload.

There is a simple web questionnaire Canadian companies can use to see if they violate the new spam laws.  Try it here.

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And for those enjoying this weather.  Josh and Victoria are.



Monday, March 03, 2014

No Who - No Do

I had feedback on my last post - See Do Time Management System.  I was reminded that this can simply allow someone to spend their time doing busy work and never get to the important tasks.

Earlier I wrote a post on Good Procrastination.  See Do meshes with that.

Mostly what I was trying to inspire is good habits when there were NOT other more important things to do.  Inspire good habits even when you are tired and would otherwise waste time.

So - how to avoid this trap?

1 - Know your priorities and set specific times and places where you deal only with those things.  At those times - no See Do.

2 - When I am busy, I only See Do things I can do in 10 seconds or less.  If I am less busy, I might do 2 minute task.  So limiting and leaving things that take longer is one technique.

3 - Clean an area.  I used to move everything to my credenza (behind my desk) so they were not screaming "do me - do me".

4 - Have a To Do list.  One way to keep things from cluttering the mind is to write them down.  So sometimes rather than See Do, it is See and add to the To Do list.

Other ideas?

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I was in a board meeting recently and a the topic of starting a new initiative came up.  Companies always need to have new initiatives or they will fade long term.  So there was an idea and appropriately, it was raised "who wants to champion this".

The point was made - No Who - No Do.  Every new initiative needs a passionate champion to move things forward.

The Time Management equivalent of this could be No When - No Do.  Projects move forward when there is a specific time set to do the project.

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My brother Lyle and I both have Fitbit's.  He mentioned it is genius to use the power of peer pressure to get people to be healthy.   That works well for Lyle and I since we are both naturally competitive.  Too bad he cannot keep up with me.

Speaking of Lyle, he is a successful author (or storyteller).  He is doing an event in Brooklyn on Slow Money on March 20th from 6 to 8 PM.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

See it Do it - Time Management System

I recently lead a Time Management seminar loosely based on my Time Management book.

One of the best ways to learn is to teach and preparing for the seminar reminded me of many of the systems I need to re-incorporate into my life.

When I asked what people got from it.  One point people liked was See it - Do it.  Hardly needs explaining.  Often we see something simple like a bit of dirt that needs wiping or a dish that needs cleaning.  It causes stress to have things undone.  And if enough things are left undone, the chore of doing them all can be large.  So See it - Do it.  Simple.

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The Risk Advantage - Embracing the Entrepreneurs Unexpected Edge by Tom Panaggio.

The main thesis of the book is entrepreneurs have an edge because they are willing to risk.  It is that risk taking that sets them apart.

There is a chapter titled Risk and Opportunity are Soulmates.

One thing I have always said is "Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap".   In my opinion, much of good entrepreneurship involved trying to mitigate risk.  This is done by research, and to some extent, capping the risk.

I have learned through some of my failed opportunities to also look at the downside.  Try to figure out ways to risk less if there is a downside.  This can be done through tax structuring.  It can be done by having fallback positions.

At the same time, entrepreneurs need to take action.  This is the Fail Fast part.  Sometimes people spend all their time researching and never end up doing.

I loved some of the quotes:

"The quickest way to shut up your detractors is to produce results"

"Fear of change is probably the biggest obstacle companies need to overcome to meet evolving marketplace challenges"

(it goes on to explain how to overcome this fear of change by inclusion, communication and participation)

"Don't confuse innovation with invention - the key to innovation is to make something better, which does not mean you have to invent something new"

Inspirational book.

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I am heartened to see the obesity rate in children is falling.  Health is one of my core values.

And a simple video that everyone should watch on power poses.

And Josh and Victoria enjoying the snow.





Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

I am loving the snow.


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I went to a YPO event where Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.  As the title suggests - he is a marketer with a specialty in social media.  He is also author of Crush It and the Thank-you Economy.

I just read the book so some of my comments are from the book and some from his talk (and he is an engaging speaker).  Jab, Jab is a combination of his previous 2 books with some new angles.

He reinforced much of what I know about social media.  Things like - the world is changing.  Social media can be very inexpensive.  Embrace it or die.

The title is a boxing analogy.  Many marketers try for the knockout punch all the time without doing the pre-work.  You need to prepare the customers.  I believe his approach.  Add value to the conversation most of the time without regard to selling.  Once you are in the conversation, you can try the knockout.

I actually practice this approach with my own social media.  I Tweet, Linkedin update, Facebook update mostly quotes from famous people.  Just reminding people I am there.  Occasionally I will then promote something (although quite rarely).  I do the same with my blog.  99% of it is just my thoughts on random things then occasionally I mention a company I have invested in or perhaps promote my own marketing book (blatant plug) - Zero to $2 Billion - the Marketing and Branding Story Behind the Growth. 

He talks a lot about how to get over the noise.  "Even digital marketing is diluted" these days so you need to rise above to get heard.

He reminds us that people love a story.  Stories create emotion.  Emotion sells.

And his book has story after story.  Examples of good (and bad) uses of social media.  It is easy to read.

If I had any disagreement with his point of view it is that he does not understand "efficiency of distribution".  One of his big angles is cut out the middleman.  I would agree except in many cases that adds considerable cost to products.  This is mostly because of shared overheads but partly because of efficiency.  For example, when I was running SYNNEX Canada, we would often ship 10,000 parcels per day.  It was critically important for us to drive efficiency into the process.  We would focus on the time to ship, the cost of every label, cost of shipping - all aspects of cost.  If we could save even $.25 per parcel, that was $2500/day!

But mostly it was about shared overheads.  For example, we could do a trade show, marketing event, mailing, sales call etc promoting many products at the same time.  Or if we were shipping a skid to Staples, our added shipping cost to add an extra toner to the shipment was zero.

A vendor of a single product line would have dramatically higher costs.  Yes, we made a margin but it was much less than the savings.  In most cases, our margin might be the same as it would cost a vendor just for shipping by Fedex (since our rate was so much lower).  So the vendor saved the cost of picking, packing, box, label etc.

And the customers had the convenience of buying many products from the same source.   Imagine a world where you buy your lemons from one place and your bananas from another and your milk from another.  Customers want the efficiency too.

The whole event/book made me wish I had products to sell again.

Very inspirational.

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And no post is complete without grand children.  Josh and Victoria.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talk is Cheap - The Art of Conversation Leadership

Jim McCann, CEO/founder of 1-800 Flowers.com is a friend.  I suspect he has lots of friends - he is so humble an approachable for such a successful person.

He spoke at Canrock Ventures (He is great and entertaining).

He wrote a book - Talk is Cheap - The Art of Conversation Leadership.

McCann was a social worker working in a boys home and needed some extra money so got a job tending bar part time.  He took the job partly because he was shy and knew he needed to learn to talk to people.

There he met the owner of a flower shop.  The flower shop owner mentioned he wanted to retire so McCann suggested he work there part time for a few weekends to see if he liked the business.  He did so he bought a tiny, one location, flower shop.

He went to a conference and met Ted Turner who was just starting CNN.  He scraped together a small ad budget and places some ads.  Then a war happened and all other advertisers pulled their ads and Turner convinced 800-flowers to stay (and I think ran extra ads at no extra cost).  CNN's marketshare soared from 4 to 40% during the war and 800-flowers was the sole sponsor.  Business boomed.

So 1-800 Flowers toll free charges went through the roof and ATT called to see if McCann would do a customer testimonial ad that ATT paid for.  The ad was a success and resonated so ATT asked if they could do another series featuring McCann and then ATT sponsored the olympics.  So 1-800 Flowers was featured on the olympic ads at ATT's expense.  Business soared.

In the book, McCann talks about conversation.  About really listening to people and the power of that.  I know he is sincere in his practice of this art.

McCann talks about conversing.  Across hierarchies, for intimacy (not efficiency), across multiple mediums etc.

I loves that he promotes - "Never Stop Learning".

McCann recognizes that technology (like social media) amplifies a message and in part it amplifies the negative because of the anonymity and ease of it.  It is easy to blast someone who is faceless on Twitter - much harder than doing it face to face.

The book is filled with interesting stories that make it easy to read and really drives points home.

McCann is a natural marketer (in a good way) and it works well since he sells a product that everybody can buy..  Writing a book like this is a natural extension of that marketing.

Great book which I enjoyed even more because of my personal connection with the man.

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I am intrigued by the challenge of feeding the world.  Like energy, the lowest hanging fruit (no pun intended) is conservation.  Apparently 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted (I suspect it is actually higher).

I know I personally have always been appalled by food waste.  I think that is why I always make soup.  It is a great way to use close to 100% of the food.

Trader's Joe has an interesting food concept (under a different label)- selling expired food.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What Makes Olga Run

One of my interests is longevity and closely tied to that is health.

I read an awesome book - What Makes Olga Run - The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star, and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives.

It is the story of Olga Kotelko who is breaking all kinds of seniors records in track and field.  The story is made human by author Bruce Grierson who compares his decline (and he is perhaps 50) to Olga's seemingly non-decline.   He is a great writer.

Nobel winner, James Watson, said "men of 50 do not like to fail - that is why they are so boring".  Something to think about.  Walk closer to failure to be more interesting.

My lessons from the book (some with my interpretations)

1 - Move.   We are not designed to just sit.  The Fitbit is perfect for keeping this in sight.  Grierson tells of setting himself up in an easy chair complete with footstool as his work area.  I, also, do this at night.  This is bad.  I need to look at a standup desk.

2 - Break a sweat every day.  The Fitbit can lull one into thinking they are active but I can do my steps without ever breaking a sweat.  It even counts as "very active" when I am just walking at a normal pace (perhaps 4 MPH).  I am fairly good at this but need reminding.

3 - Lift weights.

4 - Sleep.  I am really working on this one.

5 - Be an optimist.  Not a fake optimist but a real one.  This ties to "lighten up" - manage stress (the exercise helps).

6  - It is all about habits.  Design ones that support health.

The final chapter has 9 rules.  One that I like is "Don't do it if you don't like it".  The last one is "begin now".

She is an inspiration.

Good companion reading for this would be another of my favourites - Younger Next Year.

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And my heart goes out to my daughter Laura, now in Texas,  who has to deal with a horrific snow storm.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Inspiration from Hella Doman

I had the privilege Sunday of attending the funeral of the mother of a friend - Hella Doman.

I had met her but only briefly and did not know her story.

At the funeral, her story was told by her 2 sons who both were excellent speakers (especially in the circumstances).

She was born in 1925 in Holland.  Her parents separated when she was young (I think 6) so she returned with her mother to her mother's home in Germany.   Then Hitler happened and Hella was Jewish.  Hella was sent alone when she was 14 to Holland on the last train out of Germany.

Her father who had remarried and had a family did not want her so she was placed in an orphanage (despite having 2 living parents).  An uncle visited her there and found the conditions so bad, he insisted that his brother take her out of there so she was apprenticed as a hat maker.

Germany invaded Holland.  Hella,who was 17 by then, was moved to Northern Holland by the Dutch underground.  She was moved from farm to farm.  For a year, she was harbored in the basement of a barn under a cows' pen.

A few years later, liberation happened.

Hella returned home.  The orphanage was destroyed and there were no survivors.  Hella's father and family had died.  She did find her mother.  At age 21, she immigrated alone to NY.

In NY, she became an Xray technician and soon married a Polish doctor who started a modest practice in their basement.  She was the office manager and Xray technician.

She had 2 sons.

Her husband died at age 49 (he was older than her so she was likely not yet 40).  She was left close to penniless and went back to work as an Xray technician.  She followed and invested well in the stock market.  She was highly frugal.

One of her high values was education so when her sons went to university, she sold her house to put one through medical school and the other through law school.

I was moved by the realization of how easy my life has been and how resilient people can be.   And any problems I have seem so tiny.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sleep and Cold Snaps and Content Tidbits.

One thing the Fitbit does is track sleep.  I have less problems getting my steps in than I do my sleep.

There is an interesting article in the NY Times on sleep.  It seems the purpose is to "clean" the brain perhaps (although there is still much to learn about sleep).

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And the cold snap has broken so I am worried people will not have enough to complain about.  I actually like cold snaps.  I think they help get rid of germs and insects and keep the ecosystem under control.

And of course, they remind me of my childhood. 

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And in researching to see if freezing really does kill germs (it does but not as well as boiling them does), I found an interesting article that using warm warm water for handwashing is a waste of energy.  Thinking the same would apply to showering, doing dishes etc.  I wonder how long it will be before we do away with water heaters.

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One of my friends sent me an interesting article on the commodicization of content (articles and writing).  I know newspapers and magazines are having problems getting people to pay for information when so much information is free.

Personally, I also see a trend towards poor content.  Google certainly has their work cut out for them to try to give us "good" content in search results.  I know this from trying to Google if the deep freeze kills germs (plus many other searches I have done).

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Useful Workouts

I love the beauty of snow.

We had a light dusting (about 8 inches with drifts up to 2-3 ft).  So I got a "useful workout".  There is something gratifying about embarking in a physical activity that has an outcome like a cleared driveway.  I get less gratification by spending an hour on an exercycle or treadmill.

I spent 2 1/2 hours shoveling.  It was a workout but interestingly, my fitbit did not count it as "very active minutes".   It did count 4000 steps per hour of shoveling.

Useful workouts:

1 - Snow shoveling (4000 steps per hour)
2 - splitting wood
3 - gardening (lots of different degrees of workout)
4 - mowing grass (although the pollen tends to be bad for me on this one)
5 - Housework (1400 steps per hour) (and arguably less fun than other activities)
6 - Even walking someplace instead of driving would count.

Automation has taken away much of our exercise.  Something to think about.




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Interesting tidbits (with links to click if you want the article):

Isaac Isamov's predictions which were science fiction and how true they proved to be.

The 1929 book - Revolt of the Masses explains current social media phenomenon.  A good summary of it is here.

The midwest is bracing for some cold weather.  Apparently some parts of Canada are as cold as Mars right now.

My brother Glen has taken a break from blogging but now has a new post.  Wondering if there is a coincidence with global weather change and him posting.

What makes something go viral.  Comment from a friend on this one:  This article makes a good point:
"...an individual will eventually receive a message if a certain proportion of his or her friends already have that message."

One thing I've learned recently is that I don't go to my inbox to read messages...I go there to delete them. But if my 'friends' keep referring me to something I should look at, I can't ignore that.

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Victoria at 9 months






Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Attitude of Gratitude

One of the best habits to develop is an attitude of gratitude.  Anyone who can read this has much to be grateful for.  Some people journal daily about the things they are grateful for.  Great habit.

Today I am grateful for the little things like running water, electricity and heat.  I am reminded of this since my daughter and family have been living without any since the storm 3 days ago.  Fortunately they have a wood stove and food so even they have lots to be grateful for.

Picture of my daughters' home/driveway/yard:







Friday, December 20, 2013

Good Business Needs an Angle

 Some interesting stuff:

An article on Medium on the next big thing(s).

I enjoy Bob Sutton's blogs.

I am finding the Facebook entry into video ads interesting.

And Startup trends.

I love my new Fitbit.  I always tracked (using paper) the workouts I did.  What gets measured, gets done.  Despite being a tech guy, I often dislike gadgets but I love this one.

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I have the good fortune to be involved in a number of businesses so get to see what works.  Consistently I see businesses have success when they have an angle.  I have long been a proponent of niche which could be another way of saying having a unique angle. 

Selling identical product to a competitor means usually means it comes down to price.  But if your offering is unique or niche, it becomes more of a battle for value.

The ideal angle is something your business can uniquely do.  Something that you have competitive advantage in.  I repeatedly push businesses to have competitive advantage. 

My granddaughter, Victoria, listens well to business advice but I think she got confused and thought we needed an angel.





Monday, December 09, 2013

Wasp Productivty

Random thoughts:

I am just back from Calgary where it is cold (like -30 degrees C or -22 F).   A 6 or 8 block walk from the hotel to my meetings reminded me of early mornings of my youth.  It also remined me on how fortunate we are to have heat and clothes.

I was at a Hatsize board meeting (one of the companies Canrock has invested in).  Hatsize sells training and hands on labs for IT certification training.

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I have been amused by Diane Francis view that Canada should become the 51st state.  Good article on it here.  I know both countries well and simply to not see this working.  What I do see working is closer integration and less border.

Not sure I will read her book - Merger of the Century - Why Canada and the US should Become One Country.

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And an interesting blog post on 6 Lessons Every Small Business Owner should Know.    The only one have have not been good at is number 6 - sign the contract before beginning.  I try to do business with honorable people and have done millions of $ of business on a conversation. 

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And what do wasps do in the winter?  They watch TV and play on the internet of course. 

I took this picture on the house next to my parents where you can clearly see their internet connection coming it.


Monday, November 25, 2013

JFK - 50 years after

I am not a JFK worshiper and hardly even follow American politics (until recently when I moved to the US).   But he clearly had a lasting impact on America.   And it is the 50th anniversary of his death.

So I read a short eBook on Kennedy.  Kennedy Baby - the Loss the Transformed JFK by Steven Levingston.

Of course the loss was speaking of Patrick Kennedy who lived only 2 days.

It was captivating in morbid sort of way.   The loss of a child is tough for anyone but doubly so for a couple that was so solidly in the national spotlight.  Jackie and JFK had a tough family.

It centered mostly on his family life - not his politics.  

I learned that Jackie was a painter.  I did not know that (I always like books where I learn something new).

There was a ton of research put into the book.  It was well written.  Good quick read.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dealing with Information Overload - Social Media Filtering

There are way too many sources of good information.  We could spend many more than 24 hours per day just trying to keep up.
 
One way to "keep up" is to let others whom you respect do the filtering.  I find this is a great way to use Twitter.  Follow some people who tweet/point out interesting articles.
 
I find some bloggers also have link rich content and essentially jury the articles and universe of information to point out what is relevant.  Of course the more the person doing the filtering filters the way you want, the greater the value it has.
 
I love it when people forward interesting articles.  It is a great way to keep in touch with people and it adds value.
 
I am often approached by people who want a social media footprint but are unsure what to do.  My suggestion is to always try to add value.  One way to add value in social media (Twitter, Blogs, even Facebook) is to be one of those filters for people.

Some interesting stuff:
 
I spend my time evaluating start up businesses (and after we have invested - trying to assist them) so I found this article on evaluating startups interesting.  Did not completely agree with the title of "forget business plans".  Personally I feel a business plan is critical for setting direction and directing actions.

And an interesting article that older entrepreneurs have more success.  Perhaps there is still hope for me.

A Ted talk on The History of Violence.  Reassuring that violence seems to be declining.  My personal fear is the gap between wealthy and poor could cause that to increase.  We need a strong middle class.

I thought this blog post on big data on the Primal Fusion Blog was interesting.

And prepare to get zen.  I thought this TED talk on Gratitude was good.  An attitude of gratitude is one attribute of successful people.  
 
And of course I am grateful for the grandkids - Josh and Victoria(yes, I filtered through the pictures):
 

 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Brilliant or False Advertising?

I pass a nursery on the way home that has a "U Pick Pumpkin" sign out.  I know what a U Pick is.  You go into the field where the pumpkins grow and pick your own pumpkin.  This one is hilarious though.  The U Pick is you go into a parking lot and choose from the dozens of sorted pumpkins.

Perhaps the grocery store should have a sign "U Pick Bananas" because the same theory applies.

The place does a huge business so I stopped - always fascinated by successful businesses.  There - I saw a poster that bragged of "No Admission".  Why on earth would a U Pick charge admission.  I guess on the other hand, Costco seems to get away with it.

They also offered hayrides.  The hay bales were in plastic bags!

Anyways - I thought the whole thing was funny... and genius.






Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Live for Today

 I tend to be a "live in the future" type person.  So the following story had impact.  It came from a book - Finding Your Road to Success - How to get their without getting lost by Daniel Patrick.  It is not his story (and he attributes it but when I search his attribution it does not come up.

Life is short. Enjoy every moment!
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie." He dis- carded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.

"Jane bought this the first time we went to New York, at least 8 or 9 years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion."

He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Finish Line Thinking


One of my friends, Nicky Billou wrote a book - Finish Line Thinking - How to Think Like a Champion.   I know Nicky to be creative, driven and a real person.

From the dust cover:

Champions engage in what author and high performance guru Nicky Billou calls Finish Line ThinkingTM. What is Finish Line ThinkingTM? It's the science of how to think and win like a champion. Packed with his trademark insight, and his years of experience in working with Olympic Champions, world record holders, business champions, and thought leaders, and backed by the research of Dr. Anders Ericson and Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, Finish Line Thinking lays out the 13 Principles of How to Think and Win Like a Champion. These principles will change your life, if you take the time to learn and apply them.

Finish Line Thinking involves 13 Principles of Success.  I like books that simplify and clarify so I love this list.

He hooked me on his first 2.  His first 2 principles are eat right and exercise daily.   Being healthy supports success.  Of course you know I embrace these.  I like to work out first thing.  These dark early mornings (like pitch black today at 5:30) do not inspire me as much as light in the morning.  So lately I have been using one of my mantras "successful people do tough things"

Other Principles include things like.  Expect to win.  Surround yourself with good people that will help you get to where you need to go. Set big goals.  And be willing to do things you have never done before.

He is big on daily habits which is also in sync with my thinking.   This is his 13th principle and the one he says is most important.

He is a coach (actually has coached Gold Olympic athletes) so he really believes in coaching.  "A coach will hold you accountable". 

Loved the book.  Seems like he took most of my good ideas (which is awesome).

This quote from the book sums up what finish line thinking is:

It’s keeping the finish line in mind, every day. Champions know what their finish line is.

There is a good video interview of Billou here.

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And Victoria "enjoying" applesauce.






Monday, September 30, 2013

Profit From the Positive

Time Management Tip of the Day:

On the weekend, I had a large project I wanted to tackle.  Something that might take 6 hours uninterrupted time.  But I had a few calls scheduled.  And an appointment.  Things that broke up my days.  So, I did not start the big project.

I have noticed this in other areas as well.  It can be difficult to get productivity from small time slots.

So my tip for the day:

1 - Break big projects down if possible.  Often there are small parts of big projects that can be done.

2 - Have a list of "instant" tasks and small items that can be knocked off when you have a few moments.

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On the weekend, I read Profit from the Positive - Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business by Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin.

It is a positive book that serves as a valuable reminder.

It makes the point that positive psychology is not the same as positive thinking.

"In tough times, learners beat experts".  I have long been a learner and really encourage those around me to be the same.  School and a degree are only the start.  Be a life long learner.

I loved the time management ideas covered in the first chapter.   They made the point that just do it is not always best - just plan it is better and often more productive.  An interesting study was cited.  Students who said they wanted to complete a project were successful when they included when and where they would do the project.  This compared to other students who also wanted to do the project be were less definite on when and where.  I know I use that technique with working out.  I plan it - then I do it.

They also talked about the Zeigaravik effect.  Just starting something often creates success.  Again, this is a habit that works for me.  Using the same workout example - if I show up at the gym - I work out.

They talked about the balance between short and long term.  Often the big results come from the long term but much more time and focus is spent on the short term.

There was also a good section on meetings that is worth reading for anyone who runs meetings.

Good book - worth reading.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

8 Simple Merger Tips (Simple to say - tougher to do)

I was speaking to a friend who is looking at acquiring a company.  I was going to send him an email with tips of how to make it go smoother (notice I do not say smoothly - there will always be little issues).  I thought it would make a good blog entry.

My tips for integration:

1 - Have a rolling 90 day plan.  The first 30 days should be "listen and learn".  Regardless of what due diligence is done prior to the merger, there is still lots to learn.  Good planning leads to good execution. 

2 - Lock down all spending.  There are often pent up expense requests that are just waiting to happen.  Many times they are not actually needed despite the very convincing arguments that they are needed.  By not approving any expenses, the real ones come to surface over time.

This means pay freeze too.

In particular, people and companies often think "new owner has money" so we can make up for all those years where we underpaid someone.   Or do those things we have been putting off.

3 - Choose the best people.  This one sounds obvious but is actually tough to do.  Just because someone works for the acquirer does not mean they are better than the person in the acquired company.  If there is a rationalization to be done - choose the best credit manager, the best AR clerk, the best warehouse manager etc.  And try hard to avoid the "familiarity" trap of thinking the person you or your team know best is the best person.

4 - Cancel your holidays, trips, outside meetings etc.  The leaders particularly need to have great presence in the short term.  Intense time is needed to not only learn but to get known by staff.

Plan on working longer days than usual for a few weeks.

5 - Choose the highest common denominator or at least some fair compromise.  There is great temptation to choose the lowest common denominator in a merger.  It is the path of least resistance but also the path to increased cost and decreased efficiency.  For example, if the acquired company gives 3 weeks holidays and the acquirer gives 2, consider changing all to 2 or grandfathering in the 3 week but not adding new people to it.  This requires finesse.

There are lots of minor examples around dental coverage, free coffee, bonuses, working hours etc.  Usually one company is not the most expensive option so choosing a fair blend from both makes sense.  But changes need to be socialized and "sold" to people.

It is tough but necessary in competitive businesses to not always choose the most expensive option even if it is more popular.

6 - Integrate physically as soon as possible - even if this means vacant space in one location.  Nothing brings a team together like being in the same office and nothing divides like being separate.  In many cases, I would buy a  business in a different location where it was not practical to do this.  In those cases, I would still often find a few people who would move.

7 - Have a communication plan.  Say it, email it, say it again, mail it, put it on the web site, press release it, post it.  The customers, suppliers and staff all become "loose" in a merger.  They all consider what they will do and see risk.  This can cause them to look for alternatives.

Uncertainty kills.  Good communication can create certainty. 

8 - Create good habits from the start.  It is very difficult if someone has been in the company for a few months and then you tell them they need to track their hours or do weekly reports (I am a big advocate of roll up weekly reports).  Same thing with hours or breaks.  Have zero tolerance early.  Set the tone.

All of these tips require high discipline.  Good merger depends on it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Privacy and Security

In the past couple of weeks, someone hacked my email and spammed my contacts.   Most peoples' virus checkers flagged it but not all.  It was very discouraging.

So I have been thinking about privacy and security online.  Some of the things I do and tips include:

1 - Change passwords often.  This is a pain so I use a game of incorporating the date into the new password.  Helps my fading memory.

2 - Invent a fake birthday.  I do this so when the security question comes up, I know but it is not my real birthday (so it means my mom will have difficulty stealing my passwords)

3 - I try to take care in public places but unfortunately, I do still use public networks.  It is now a way of life.

4 - I still use Blackberry - the best device security still.

5 - Do not use the same password on multiple sites.  This one is tough since there are so many sites and limited memory.  One trick is to change it a bit based on the site.  But even this will be broken over time.

6 - For important stuff, I use a cryptocard but this require synchronization with the site.  So it works with things like eTrade. 

News from some of the companies:

Thrive Metrics has a new website and a new CEO.

Primal Fusion has a new website

And some thought provoking stuff:

Daniel Pink's Ted talk

Denise Marek's blog on equality.

And the blog of a young blogger book reviewer who wants some teen readers.

And a picture of my favourite granddaughter:

Friday, September 06, 2013

In Search of Productivity - the Billion $ Sales Person



My latest fashion statement courtesy of Cole and Parker.

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I met a person today who can sell $1 Billion in a month.  How do I know this?  He made a $1 million sale in only 12 minutes.  So assuming he works a 50 hour week, that is a billion dollars in a month.

A great hockey player scores 20 goals in a season.  The average play lasts less than 2 minutes.  So a great hockey player is only productive for 40 minutes per year.  Imagine the power if they could even be productive for an hour.

Our problem is we need more productive hours - not just more hours. 

The gist of time management is to maximize the productivity because there is no way to gain more time (except perhaps living well).

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And a great and inspiring video by the self made billionaire founder of Spanx.  She claims her success was caused by her failure to get into law school. 

I always advocate failure as a way to learn.  Fail often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap.  She looks at failure more as sending you down a different path and often finding that different path is a great one.

The real message is to not fear failure.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The University in Your Car

I was recently asked how the make the best of commuting so came up with my top 7 things to do in the car list.

Of course, the first and most important is to focus on the road and the cars.  No amount of increased productivity is worth an accident.  So of course use voice commands, blue tooth, etc.  And the best safety tip is to drive conservatively (as in with traffic and not too fast and keep your distance).

1 -  Listen to business books.   Brian Tracey , one of the fathers of personal development and a very prolific author, talks about the university in your car.   I have found even with a short commute to work, I can get through a lot of books fairly quickly.  Get a library card, get subscriptions.  Start listening now.

2 - Strengthen  your hands with a simple squeeze ball or one of the many grippers on the market.  Commuting often cuts into workout time so getting just a bit never hurts.

3 - Make sales calls or schedule conference calls.   I find nothing kills a long drive like a long call.

4 - Stay in touch with friends.  Make a list of people you would like to keep in touch with and call them. 

5 - Invest in a simple dictaphone or digital voice recorder to make notes.   I do not like recording long messages - just a few words to jog my memory.

6 - One thing that can suffer for commuters is diet.  Drink a homemade smoothy.  Easy to make with yogurt, fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apple or apple sauce etc) some oatmeal, chia seeds (the new wonder food - high in omega 3),  tofu, and anything else healthy put through the blender.

7 - Sip some longevity broth.  I make this with simple herbs from the garden - cut up and pour boiling water on them.  Right now I am enjoying basil and chives mostly but I also enjoy a bay leaf, rosemary and just about any other herb.

Habits work best with just a bit of planning.  Plan before your commute and the habits will easily slip into place.

Imagine the power of a 2 hour daily commute when even just a few of these habit are put into place.

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And the grand kids are growing:






Sunday, August 25, 2013

The First Mile

I ran my first mile yesterday after minor knee surgery 3 weeks ago.   Did it at a slowish pace (8 1/2 minutes).  It was awesome.   I have been cycling, walking and doing some elliptical but nothing beats a good run for adrenaline rush and getting my heart rate up.

I am going to discipline myself to only a mile per day this week, then 2 next then 3 after that.  I know myself and know I tend to overdo things.

Net of it is knee surgery was a great success.

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I like to be productive so I analyze it to try to figure out how to be more productive.  I have come up with the following 5 Rules of Productivity

1 - I am most productive early in the day.  So it makes sense for me to go to bed at a reasonable hour.  It also makes sense for me to do the high productive things first and leave the lower priority maintenance stuff.

2 - Planning.  I find I am more productive if I set out the night before what I want to accomplish.  So planning, for me, is a productivity tool.

3 - Eliminate distractions.  For me, distractions include things like a messy work area.  Mess just calls "do me, do me" and often keeps me from the important.

4 - Prioritized list.  I am more productive when I have a list of what needs doing.  This allows me to highlight the most important ones and work on them first.  Getting something on the list can also keep it off my mind until it is time to do things.

5 - Health.  I am most productive when I am healthy.  So sleeping well, eating right and exercise are productivity tools.  I am eating well with the garden still producing well - green beans, egg plant, tomatoes (bad crop this year but still enough for eating - just not enough to dry, freeze or can), basil and chives.  I am exercising well.

Have a productive day.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The One Thing

 I read an awesome book - "The One Thing - The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results" by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. (yes that is the way the authors list their name - perhaps I should speak to my partners at Canrock and see if they would mind if we did that on the Canrock website.)

So the gist of the book is very simple.  Focus wins.

Of course I have a problem with focus.  I tend to juggle lots of balls.  But then I started to think - perhaps part of it for me is definition.  EG - perhaps I do focus a lot on business even though that means doing a lot of things on different companies.

He talks about the well known myth of multitasking.

He also had a chapter on the Disciplined Life (the message is it is not discipline that you need - it is good habits).

He has a chapter on the 4 thieves of productivity.  I agree with 3 of them:

1 - Inability to say "no".  (I really try but often still say yes in times of weakness)

2 - Fear of Chaos. (this is the one I am not sure I agree with.  Order really helps productivity.  I greatly dislike not being able to find something. Being organized helps me focus on the important.  Of course I liked that this was one of the thieves though since it made me feel a bit better about some of the things in my life that feel disorganized.  I do agree that over organized or over cleaned compulsiveness would not help productivity.)

3 - Poor Health Habits

4 - Environment Doesn't support your goals.  (We all know how important environment is.  In this chapter he speaks of "choose your friends and who you spend time with")

It really is a great book.  Lots of research that support the conclusions.


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And a plug for one of the companies I have invested in - Well.caThey sell most drugstore type products online.  Never tried Well.ca? Enter code "NewCoupon4UTryUsOut" in the coupon box at checkout and save $10 off your first order of $40 or more!

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And more on the Blackberry 10 from my friend - Jim Courtney who is a true techie nerd (said only with the greatest of respect).  He wrote a BB10 report card that is worth reading.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Power of Habit - The Myth of Self Discipline

 I love early mornings.  I get so much done.  There are so many high payoff things I like to do in the morning that for years, I would push myself to wake up earlier and earlier.

I have read a lot about how self discipline is limited.  One great study had subject memorize a 2 digit number or a 7 digit number then they were asked if they wanted chocolate cake or a piece of fruit.  The ones with the more difficult task chose the cake much more than the healthier choice.  The moral seems to be the more people use their mind, the less it can be used for other things.

When the mind is not sharp (as in tired from use), it reverts to the habit or the norm. 

Again, a great study of 1,112 parole board hearings in Israel.  The judges have a grueling pace of solid hearings.  cases heard in the morning and after breaks have a 65 percent chance of being released.  Those heard late in the day, drop to close to zero.  The judges norm and comfort is to not grant release.

One habit I have is "do the worst thing first thing".  And I also create multiple first things - eg first thing when I get up, first thing when I hit the office and first thing after lunch.  This knocks off three tough things per day.  What I had not considered about that habit is it might just be the freshness of my mind that makes the habit so effective.

People often comment that I have high self discipline.  But I do not (especially with some things).  What I have is good habits.

I have long talked about the power of success habits.   Things we repeat daily make who we are.  If properly planned, they make us successful.

Part of this is also the power of compounding that I talked about in my TED talk.  Add even 10 calories per day or walk an extra .1 mile determines who adds 1 pound per year or sheds 1 pound per year. 

Work on habits to be successful.  Work on habits to appear to have self discipline.

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 And my knee is almost better.  I can walk now.  Seriously on the mend and will be perfect in a few weeks.

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2 things I am loving these days.  Gmail tabs.  I really thought I was efficient in deleting spam and doing the most important emails first but tabs makes it easier.  I can scan the whole promotions and social tabs in 10 seconds and delete.  It really works well and saves me time.

I am also loving my Blackberry Q10.  Lightning fast surfing.  Gps that works well.  It is not yet perfect.  Voice commands hardly work (in that it cannot recognize what I say).  And it is not entirely intuitive yet.  Now this one solves itself with use but no device should need someone to look up something to know how to do something.

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But of course really loving.  My grand kids.  Victoria at 4 months.


10% off at BrianTracy.com

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