Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Actionable Gamification

I have a new favourite book - Actionable Gamification - Beyond Points, Badges, Leaderboards and Reviews by Yu-Kai Chou.  It may be of interest mostly to me because I am in the process of implementing some of this in a business.

I have been interested in gamification for a while.  In 2008, I was granted a patent on it.

According to Chou.  "Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. This process is what I call “Human-Focused Design,” as opposed to “Function-Focused Design.” It’s a design process that optimizes for human motivation in a system, as opposed to pure efficiency."

Actionable Gamification speaks of 8 types of gamification (bolded here).  Not all gamification needs all 8.  4 of the 8 are positive but 4 can be bad if not used for the right purpose.  Speaking of purpose - that is the first type of gamification - purpose or meaning

I am a Fitbit user.  Fitbit is a gamified experience.  It starts with purpose - to stay in shape or be healthy.  It also uses some of the other gamification types like social influence.  I am connected to friends so can compete and see what others do.  It also uses accomplishment and empowerment.

I am an Aeroplan member.  It is somewhat gamified.   I am close to 1,000,000 miles.  This appeals to scarcity.  I like the perk of lounge access and being able to get my luggage in first so have some loyalty if all else is equal.

I have a game I sometimes play when trying to get through "volume" work like clearing emails, cleaning, etc.  I estimate the time to complete and try to beat it.  A simple To Do list can be a type of game.

I am thinking about how to get more from life with gamification.   It suits one of the rules in time management around procrastination.  Add reward to a task you want to get done.  With gamification, the reward can be as simple as logging completion or completing a list of items.  

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Making Choices

I tell people "I only do what I want to do".  Mostly this is true.  Sometimes though I find myself doing things because I want to be polite where I might really want to be doing something different.  

I have heard it said "you are the (weighted) average of the people you spend time with" . (perhaps that is why some people look like their dogs?)

The choice to use this guest post is also a choice for time management.  Why write something that someone else has already said well.

This is the guest post by Ann Marie Sabath:

Surround Yourself with People You Want to Be Like

“Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”
—author unknown

Did you know that the four people with whom you spend the most time are who you become in the future? Scary, isn’t it? This fact alone should make you very selective about the company you keep.

Think about the individuals with whom you spend your leisure time. Perhaps you go to dinner with certain people once a month. Or you go to the movies with someone who insists on choosing the films that aren’t even of interest to you, but you concede rather than going to the movie of your choice all by yourself.

Whatever the case, recognize that—for better or worse—over time, these people become influencers of your interests, actions, and even how you think.

Make a list of the four people with whom YOU spend the most time. Now, I am not asking you to disinherit your family members. Nor am I recommending that you change jobs—at least not for now. I am talking about the individuals with whom you choose to spend time outside of your family and work lives.

What are the five qualities that these individuals possess?  Are they punctual? Fiscally responsible?  Well-read? Are they good listeners?  Have a thirst for knowledge?

Or are they me, me, me people? Are their reading interests shallow by your standards? Are they constantly sharing their tales of woe without bothering to ask what is going on in your life?

Ask yourself, “Are you reinvigorated after spending time with these people or are you emotionally zapped?” Evaluate the ROI (return on your time investment) with these individuals by asking, “What have I gleaned from these people?” Are you now more fiscally responsible? Have you started reading books based on their author recommendations? Have you acquired a passion in opera, theater, ballet and/or classical music as a result of their interests?

If you realize that you are merely filling time with one of more of these individuals, adjust your relationship by getting together with them less often. You may recognize that the value of the interactions with these people is that these relationships are not based on what they bring to you. Au contraire! Rather, these relationships have value based on YOUR interests, experiences and knowledge.  In other words, what you bring to the relationship table. If that is the case, then categorize your time with these people as that of “paying it forward.”

At the same time, give serious thought to the interests that you would like to develop and with whom you should surround yourself in order to expand your horizon. Heed counsel from the maven of advice, Oprah Winfrey who has been quoted as saying, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” She certainly is right.

You will gain much satisfaction by giving your time to others. You also will experience a sense of gratification by being intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and/or physically stimulated by the individuals with whom you choose to surround yourself.

It is called the Circle of Life. After all, in the big picture, you have to give to receive.

Ann Marie Sabath is the founder of At Ease Inc., the 31-year-old New York City-based business consulting firm. Her ninth book, What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don’t: 52 Secrets for Creating Your Own Success, was just published by Career Press. “Surrounding Yourself with People You Want to Be Like” is one of the 52 Secrets.  For more information, visit www.annmariesabath.com and www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/455470/ann-marie-sabaths-six-solutions-for-creating-your-own-success-what-even-the-most-driven-eminently-qualified-people-miss.


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One of my favourite time tricks or systems is the Pomodoro System.  I read this article on it in Fast company.    I use this system almost daily.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Delegate to Scale a Business

A friend suggested I write an article on delegation.  It took me a couple of weeks before I figured out who to delegate the task to and I decided to do it myself.

There have been many articles written on delegation.   In writing this, I am thinking what can I add to what has already been said?

The basics:

Who, What, Why, When and How.  Many people stop at the What and wonder why they do not get the results they want.  The Why really helps with understanding.  It can help the person being delegated to find more meaning in their work and often they will do it better because they understand what is needed.

The best Who is someone that can do the job easiest, fastest, best or most economical.  Delegate jobs that are well suited to the person.  Some people say they cannot delegate because they do not have someone who works for them.  First, that is easy to solve by spending a bit.  Hire someone or hire one of the many outsourced assistant services. 

My favourite trick though is to delegate to someone who I do not pay.  This could be a supplier or a customer (yes, people want to help you without being paid – of course you have to reciprocate).   Or delegate to friends or other contacts.

For example as a What, I could say “I need a list of people who sell appliances”.  A more useful ask would be to add a Why “I want to do a marketing campaign to appliance dealers in the US.”.  Knowing that it is for marketing reasons might cause the person doing the job to add phone numbers and web sites.

And of course that ask is not complete without When.  “By next Wednesday”. 

And the How would also help.  “by searching Google” or “by contacting list brokers”.

One thing that often causes reluctance to delegate is speed and perfection (someone might not do it exactly the way I would).  Part of that can be training.  Training can cost time in the short term but result in long term savings.

Questions I ask myself to inspire myself to delegate include:

Is there someone who can do it easier, faster or better than I can?
Is there something else that is higher impact that I can spend my time on?
Will delegating help me to scale?

Some Tricks

Break the job down.  Many times procrastination is a result of having a huge job.  Breaking it down into small tasks seems more daunting. 

Reporting.  Part of delegation is setting the reporting.  EG “include and update on this on your weekly report”.

I like to say how long I want spent on the job.  Very simple – “can you spend 2 hours to …”.  This avoids overkill.  It also avoids the problem I often have in thinking something can be done in 2 hours but it actually a 10 hour job.  And if I know it would take 10 hours, I might not want it done.

My Tracking.  I generally prefer to surround myself with people who have sticky to do lists – so when something is delegated I know it gets done.  That said, some things I am not sure of the person or some things are so important that I have a corner on my own to do list of things I have delegated.

I also like to have in person check in’s.  It is those that usually uncover things that were not clearly understood.  I can often shake things loose during those meetings by helping get it started or by clarifying things.

I particularly like an early check in.  Often it uncovers more detail that needs to be covered.

I do not yet consider myself a master at delegation.  Perhaps I should read this article.

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Delegating the muffin making:



Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Leaders are Readers

I have always known reading was good and audiobooks are great.  I have also known TV can often cut into reading time.  It can be so much of a temptation that I do not even own a TV.  A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine underscored how important reading is.

I have always been an efficiency person so recently have be reading book summaries on Readitfor.me.  I can easily consume 3-4 books in under an hour there.

I recently read They Ask - You Answer by Marcus Sheridan on readitfor.me.    It is about social media.  As the title suggests, he advocates simply answering the questions people ask.  And spending the time to answer them well.

As part of the Danby Appliances closed loop system, we recently added FAQ's to our spec sheets.  So when a customer calls and asks "how long is the power cord?"  We answer it but add it to the FAQ.  Over time, we will likely have less questions and we hope to have happier customers since the information they want is easily available.

Closed loop refers to the loop of customer service (comes from calls, emails, chats, social media, reviews and actual products returned).  Solve the problem but also figure out how to make it so no one else has the same problem.  See the last blog post

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Most people know my dislike for complex language.  Thought this interview from an up and coming business might interest.

There is genius in simplification.

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So who do you think will get ahead most - the ones looking cute or the ones working the hardest?









Monday, July 23, 2018

Closed Loop - How to make a Quality Product

I am coaching a newer company on how to produce high quality products.  I figured it was easier to write this blog entry where it might have use to other people than just send it in an email to them.

One lesson I learned years ago by going through ISO9000 certification is closed loop.  Every failure needs to be analyzed and the root cause solved.  Simply fixing the problem for one customer is not enough.

There at 4 main sources of feedback that can be used for the closed loop.

1 - Customer service calls and emails.  If a customer has to call, we have failed.  What about our product is not intuitive.  I dislike manuals (people never read them anyways) but does the manual need to be improved?  Or the labelling?  (one example of this is people returning portable air conditioners not knowing they need to vent to the outside).  Or does the website or video need to be simplified.

Of course you help the individual customer but how do you make it so less people call?

2 - Product returns.  Most product returns are what is called "buyer remorse" in the industry.  People buy it and do not want it once they get it out of the box.  Again - why.  Fix the reason.  Fixing, replacing or destroying the product that is returned

3 - Customer reviews and social media.  More customers review poor products than winners.  Customers have the expectation of perfect products.  Satisfaction has to do with expectations.  Listen to what they say online.  If they are unhappy, there is validity to it.

4 - Customer feedback and focus groups.  There is nothing like speaking to a real user of your product to get the straight goods about what you sell.

A good closed loop system works well with a 5 why's program.  Using why again an again to determine the real issue.  Usually the first why is not the right answer.

Simple is good.  Target products to people on the assumption they lack expertise and have little patience to learn.

Insatiable curiosity if the mark of a good company.  It is a good way to approach product quality.


Monday, July 09, 2018

Air Conditioner Shortage...and Time to Think.

I am keenly aware of the weather.  I garden (not as much as I should though - my garden at the office got away from me).  I also do walking meeting and on days when I have no walking meetings, I usually walk outside.

Danby Appliances has a window and portable air conditioning business.  I know - not really appliances but they have compressors just like fridges and freezers so we sell them. 

The air conditioning business is boom or bust.  In a hot, humid year like this one, we sell out and everyone is upset we do not have more to sell.  In a cool year, we end up taking them back from retailers and incurring huge freight and storage charges. 

The seasonality is hard on the business.  It stresses everything from shipping capacity, service, and customer service.  One principle of successful business is 100% utilization of resources.  Seasonal business makes that more difficult.

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I read an awesome book by Dan Pontefract called "Open to Think; Slow down, Think Better and Make Better Decisions". 

I think the reason it resonates with me is I know at some level, I lead too busy of a life.  I also know this impacts my ability to think long term.

We have become a Twitter world.  Our attention span is 140 characters.  We need the adrenaline of another email or text notification.  Technology has reduced our attention spans.  I have noticed even I read many less books than I once did - because a book is long unlike a quick hit article.

I realize my biggest issue is time.  And the best thing I can do to gain more slow time or thinking time is to say NO more.  I am not yet good at that.

To become slower or build in more space, I need to do less things.  There is a concept a good friend shared called plug-unplug.  Your capacity is limited like a power bar.  There are only so many outlets to plug into.  Take on a new project - figure out what you need to unplug.

There is a good section on critical thinking that is scary.  In the world of social media, fake news travels fast.  And people read only the headlines - not the story.  They are so fast, they hit the share button without even understanding the issue.  This lack of critical thinking has impacted the news and media that has impacted politics.  Having "space" or time to think can help with critical thinking.

As a CEO, this book is impactful.  I realize my biggest impact comes by thinking long term.  And most of the urgent items I deal with on an hourly basis are short term.  What I took away from this book was I need to clear my schedule a bit and build in some time to think. 

I suffer from guilt when I do not feel I am 100% productive.  But I know I have substituted busyness for productivity so I feel like I am doing something.

So - looking forward to leading a slower, more thoughtful life.

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Worried the grandkids are too busy and not taking time to think...




Sunday, June 24, 2018

Stream: Hack your Consciousness

I often use books or audio books to inspire me to get into flow.  To be creative.

My most recent audiobook was Stream: Hack your Consciousness by John Klymshyn and Issac Naor.  I know Klymshyn from the time I lived in NY.  He is a great speaker and overall nice guy (the sort of guy you say "I could spend time with him and enjoy it")

This book's stated goal is to help you be creative, productive and get into flow.  It starts with tricks like gathering the tools needed (for me it is usually just a pen and paper), creating the setting (my productivity chair), setting goals (good reminder) then just starting (one of the simplest, most obvious but most overlooked tool) and working until the results happen.

The book talks a lot about creativity.  I am not creative in the artsy way - as in not musical or painting (although I have painted a lot of houses ... but not sure that is the same thing though).  I do realize I am highly creative in the organization of business systems, negotiations and guerrilla marketing (I even thought our last press release was hilarious - see this.  It was an example of Danby Appliances tagging on to a news trend - and at the same time showing we do not take ourselves too seriously.)

The audiobook is like a podcast - a conversation between 2 creative people.  They play off each other - expanding ideas.

I usually listen to audios at 170% of speed.  These guys talk fast enough, I could listen at 130% and not be bored.

This would be a great book to listen to as a warm up for solving the "big" challenge.  Or just to get inspired to be productive and creative.

I liked it.
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I thought this article by the co-founder of Primal Fusion was a good article on entrepreneurship and purpose.

Someone once said:

"Business people build companies - entrepreneurs change the world."

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Nothing like the thrill of baking:



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Commencement Speech - The Secret to Happiness

Today I am receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the  University of Guelph.  I public speak all the time but this speech was difficult to prepare.  No Powerpoints and no Q and A (doing Q and A is one of my strong points).   I never write out my speeches (but I do always prepare for them) but this one I thought I would write:

Today I am going to share the secret of happiness but first you will have to listen to a commencement speech about success.  So what is your definition of success?  Defining it is the first step to getting it and from there you need to develop tactics to achieve it.

Most of my tactics revolve around habits - I call them success habits.  As Aristotle said - "we are the product of what we repeatedly do".  Whenever I do a speech, I aim to have lasting impact.  My goal today is to have you doing one success habit a year from now that you do not do today. 

So why habits?  2 reasons.  Habits reduce the need for willpower - they help things to just happen.  And the second reason is habits magnify greatly over time.  We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.  As new grads you have the benefit of time to allow your habits to have the multiplier effect.

And example of this magnification.  If you eat 10 more calories per day, you will gain 1 pound per year.  Over 3 decades, that is 30 pounds.  Or you can counteract that by walking 160 steps more each day.

One habit I encourage you to look into is meditation.   Learn to sit and be still and observe.  And this ties into another habit - constant learning.  If you do not know about meditation, you can easily study it.  I have the habit of never going to bed without pointing out one thing I have learned.

I read a book on the Dion quintuples years ago.  When asked how she manages to keep the hous somewhat neat with 3 three year olds running around she said "leave the room a little neater than when you arrived".  I apply that today - also for my car.

And that reminds me of my reading habit.  Leaders are readers.  Develop some reading habits.

Because of my Ted talk, I am known for the habit "never shower without breaking a sweat first".  I can break a sweat with 2 minutes of jumping jacks or burpees so do not need to do a full workout.  I am sure those short burst of exercise have contributed to my health.  

I have the habit of networking.  You are young so start now.  Connect to all your classmates on Linkedin.  Connect to me.  If you connect to 10 people per week, in a decade you will have 5,000 connection.  

Those connections will help you but only if you use this next habit.  Always try to add value.  Add more value than you take.

I am sure many of you will have success definitions that include money and finance.  I left this until later since health trumps wealth any day of the week.  To achieve financial goals, the most important thing to do is spend less than you make.  A part of this is putting off purchasing.

And the last habit is the habit of gratitude.  Be grateful.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  You can do this by having a gratitude journal and writing those things you are grateful for.  I know I am grateful for my luck in life.  it started by winning the birth lottery.  being born in a safe place at the right time in history.  I was born into a great family.  I am grateful to have the great parents that I have (and had).  Thanks mom.  

I am grateful to the University of Guelph for granting me this honorary Doctor of Laws.  A friend pointed out I am the last person who should get a Doctor of Law since I hate long legal agreements.  I always want legal documents to be simpler and shorter.  The best legal agreements for me are one page.

I learned the secret to happiness by doing my Syrian project.  I brought in 61 families and heard the stories of 61 families.  The stories of what the families had lost - not only material possessions but the loved ones were heart breaking.  What does a 50 year old lawyer from Syria do when they get to Canada.  They cannot speak English and the legal system is different.  They can be bitter for what life has thrown at them or grateful for being safe and being able to get a manual labour job to support themselves.

I see the refugees that are happy are the ones who are grateful for what they have - not ungrateful for what they lost or ungrateful for what others have.

Gratitude is the secret to happiness.

I wish you all great success and happiness in life.


Monday, April 30, 2018

When

I have problems saying no.  Not that I have problems pronouncing it - it is just I often say yes when I really should say no.  The only thing I really have is my time and often saying yes takes that time.  It makes someone else's priority my priority.

Fairly good article in Entrepreneur article on this here.

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One of my favourite thinkers and authors is Daniel Pink.  It is worth watching his Ted talk.

I recently read his book – When – the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

His thesis is – “Success has a lot to do with timing”.  He cites many studies that back this thesis up.  He also shares many ideas on how we can improve our timing and hence have more success.

I know from my study of Time Management that knowing your high energy times and spending them on high impact activities can amplify results.  He has a chapter on body rhythms and how to maximize the use of them.  I re-emphasizes what I know.  Use high energy times for high creativity tasks.  Work to create more high energy times (mostly through good sleep habits and exercise).  And use low energy times for “maintenance” tasks.  

He talks about the power of breaks and the power of naps (not yet good on that one).  And of course one of my favourite breaks – taking a walk.

He talks about starting right.  I have been lucky in my life.  I had early success.  That early success has provided momentum for other success.  I wrote an article on the Power of Momentum and believe in it.

He talks about the power of “new beginnings” and gives 86 days each year that are perfect new start dates – your birthday, New Years, Mondays, first day of the month etc.  The real message – create any excuse to start or re-start.  On a similar vein – he talks about the power of the midpoint, mid life, half way through etc.

One interesting technique he spoke about when writing a book – end each writing session with half a sentence.  Makes it easier to start writing again.  I am thinking I will use that technique on my next book.

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A photo from Amy Dobbins Photography.  I don't recall giving her permission to take photos of my grandkids. 


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Stop Selling and Start Leading

My wife, Elizabeth, won (yes she came in first) in her age group in the Boston Marathon Monday.  The day was miserable – cold and wet.  Personally I think this gave the Canadians a small edge since training happened in the cold.  Amazing feat.

On average Elizabeth and I ran 13.1 miles Monday – no wonder I am still tired.

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Stop Selling and Start Leading by Kouzes, Posner and Calvert is my most recent read.

When I saw the title, I had wrongly assumed it would talk about marketing as a way to sell – I was wrong.  The book uses the principles of leadership and shows how they help create sales.   It talks about 5 Principles of leadership – Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable others to Act and Encourage the Heart.  It then goes through each principle – explaining what is meant and giving examples of how to apply it.  

As I read, I realize I am good at Inspiring Vision and my natural selling method is to Encourage the Heart (I call it just being yourself or being genuine).  The book is inspiring me to figure out how to get all of Danby thinking along the same lines.

Each chapter ended with summary points (another thing I like in good books)

I dislike the pushy sales type and the book aligned with my values.  No pushy closing tricks.  No deception.

Quotes from the book - "Exemplary leaders understand the power of words and chooses them wisely.” “They imagine that extraordinary feats are possible and that something special can emerge from the ordinary” (Interesting comment on being ordinary.  When I was growing up, my brothers and I decided my father was nothing special (he was not a policeman, a fireman, a heavy equipment driver – just a plain ordinary man.  Of course as I grew older, he became my idol and I realize he was special – not ordinary)  “Leadership is an observable pattern of practices and behaviors, a definable set of skills and abilities."

There is a whole chapter on “Experiment and Take Risks”.  This is not an area I need encouragement on.  If anything, I need more focus.

I particularly liked that the book had short stories illustrating each point.

Easy read (although I am behind in my reading list so it took a few weeks to get to it).  Valid points.  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Secrets for Successful Start up CEOs

A start up CEO needs a different skill set than a growth CEO or a steady state CEO.  In most respects it is a harder role.  Recently I was asked for advice.  I have found it very difficult to know what to advise - all start ups are different.  And by nature - entrepreneurship is uncertain and there is no one right answer.

Some rules and secrets on how to deal with things:

1 - You have no money.  What if the office needs vacuuming?  You vacuum it.  What if you do not have a vacuum at the office?  You bring it from home.  What if you have none at home?  You borrow it.   Ironically, the highly frugal times will be the fond memories (I recall sleeping in my car to save the motel bill, I always took food, never bought tea or coffee since they are low cost to make etc)

2 - Should you spend time on vision?  NO.  Vision is just something you wake up thinking about and think about on the treadmill and while driving.  Time needs to be spent doing.

3 - Who sells?  You do.  Partly because you need the sales but partly because you need to listen to prospects.  You need to hear what they are saying - figure out what resonates.  More companies fail from low sales than any other thing (close second - overspending - see rule 1 and third - low margin).

4 - No Magical Thinking.  Some CEOs imagine they will raise cash or make sales but they do not do the work to make it happen.  CEOs who succeed do the work.

5 - "Successful people do tough things".  We all like to stick with what we are comfortable with but often what will move us forward faster is doing the uncomfortable, out of our comfort zone tasks.  This requires eliminating excuscitis (We cannot do this until this happens, or this did not happen because that - in the end, the start up CEO is responsible for everything - even what happened to them that seemed out of their control)

6 - There is no serial.  Successful start up entrepreneurs do things in parallel.  Be a juggler. 

7 - Know the big important things.  For most start ups it is cash and sales.  Work on the big important - and deal with the little things in the gaps.  This ties to time management and is likely why I wrote my first book.  I struggled with the juggling so had to devise systems to deal with the volume.

8 - Study and learn but filter advice and what you read/watch/get coached on.  I see many start up CEOs fail because they think they know it all.

9 - Your title is janitor/receptionist/sales person/order picker/shipper/customer service/accountant/collection clerk/delivery driver etc.  Do not fall in love with title.  Many start up CEOs like the title but not the work it takes to build a company.  If you want to be more than these titles - make money so you can build a company to do some of the other tasks.

It is all about being effective.  This is the focus. 


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Clocks and Life Forward

I had a wasted day yesterday.  Or perhaps a better way of looking at it was I relaxed and recharged.  One article I read (while wasting time reading) was on how much time we waste reading and how so much of it is pointless.

I do know reading politics these days is stressful (even though I do not do politics) and mostly pointless.

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I have never been more excited by what we are doing at Danby Appliances.  We have a lot of innovation happening.  One new product is the Danby Fresh herb grower - an appliance that allows people to grow wheat grass, cilantro, parsley, lettuce, basil etc indoors all year.  And a great plant starter.

Being excited by work is one of the best ways to have energy.
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Here is an interesting NPR article on job automation.  The job issue is a complex one.  I believe in the value of work and the respect that comes from being able to earn a living.  I also believe in free markets.

I like the gig economy (things like Uber, AirBnb) that allows people to earn extra money.  I worry though when those are the only jobs people have and can they get by on those.

And in the end, I believe in entrepreneurship and think people should be allowed to start and run businesses.

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In the spirit of moving the clocks forward, I thought I would share this article on sleep.  One of the regrets I have from my first book on Time Leadership is I suggested sleeping less was a good idea for productivity.  I now disagree with that.

I like new years.  I reflect and change.  Clock change time is also a good time for that.  I reflect on what habits (good and bad) I have and changes needed.  I work out quite a bit but am thinking I could always up my game.  Sitting here blogging might be my way of avoiding getting to the gym (although I am dressed to go and all packed which is one of my tricks to make it happen)

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And a book suggestion  - American Kingpin, The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road – Nick Bilton

I found it to be a page turner.

Hopefully not to give you business ideas - but just for interest. 

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From a trip a while ago - my grand daughter - Tabitha.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Beauty of Discomfort

I recently read Amanda Lang's new book - The Beauty of Discomfort.  Great book - simple messages.

She told a number of stories of people who had suffered great adversity (like paralysis, blindness etc) and had still managed to become great successes in life.

There is a section on Linda Hasenfratz who has build Linamar into the powerhouse that it is today.  I enjoyed that section because it rightly pointed out the success Linda has had despite being a woman and the daughter of the founder.  I know Frank (the father) well and am also friends with Linda.

From a Harper Collins review:

Truly successful people don’t merely tolerate discomfort—they embrace it and seek it out again and again. Business founders and university students, top athletes and couch potatoes, meditation gurus and military leaders all have very different ways of coping with discomfort, but the most successful among them believe that withstanding discomfort is a skill that has helped them in hugely positive ways. Some were forced into discomfort through no choice of their own—a life-altering illness, a business fiasco—while others signed up for it because they had goals they were determined to achieve.
Some degree of discomfort is inherently good for you. It can spur you on, pushing you to test your own limits. Learning to tolerate, and then embrace, discomfort is the foundation for change, for individuals and businesses alike. Becoming comfortable with discomfort won’t just make us more resilient and more successful, however we define success. It will also make us happier.
I find when I read or think about a topic, I notice more things about that topic.  I read an article in the NY Times on "The Tyanny of Convenience".  One line "Convenience decides everything".  I know this at some level so often set my life up to make it more convenient to do the right thing - like eating right.  If the good food is close and available - I eat that.  If the bad food is - I eat that.

And an article by Chris Bailey "Chasing Discomfort" talks about unpleasant things often being good for you so you should chase them.  I know that was how I felt working out today.

We work on building a life with convenience then have to work at making ourselves healthy by doing the things we conveniently avoided (like driving instead of walking)

Something to think about next time I have to circle the parking lot at the gym to get a parking space closer to the door.

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And eat your greens to be smarter - see this NPR article.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Want some grub?

I am just back from China.  Some business, some sightseeing/vacation.

I am writing this on the flight (of course cannot post until I hit live internet).  I find long flights are excellent times to think and reflect.

China has come a long way.  It is smoggy but not as bad as it was.  The automation in the factories has definitely increased a lot.  Quality is world class (and automation helps that).  Motorbikes are out – electric bikes are in.

After doing business, we spent a few days in Unesco Heritage site – Lijiang.  It is old.  None of the streets (all cobblestone) are straight and the old city is quite large so it is easy to get lost (although there are maps every couple of blocks which helps immensely).  

Lijiang is a bit of a tourist destination for people in China.  Very few non-chinese.   It is a great adventure to get by where English is very limited.  For example – ordering dinner when the menu is only Chinese.  Hint – it involves a lot of pointing and sign language.

Like many tourist towns, there was much duplication in vendors.  From a business point of view, I am sure they are business in a box because they all sell similar or identical product.  Many of the vendors are making the product they make and sell – ginger toffee, leather goods, flour cakes (sort of a small, sweet buns that sell for 10 cents), and silver smiths making bangles and jewellery and even some dishes/pots.  

Those who were not making what they sold were most often looking at their phones – absorbed in a movie or chatting.  And many of the tourists were doing the same while walking or eating dinner.  It really drove home the lack of social interaction smart phones can cause.  I am increasingly thinking screen time is making us dumber (except of course reading this blog).  

I did not have a problem with screen time in China since China banned Google in 2010.  This includes my gmail, my google phone, my blog (Google owns Blogger), any sites with Google ads (and there are lots of those), Google maps.  And it made me realize how much I Google things – Yahoo did work though.  And Bing does too but it was all in Chinese. 

I like to tour the markets and shops when I have downtime.  The deals used to be spectacular.   Now, prices are similar to North America or even higher in the high end malls.  I still enjoy walking through the open air farmers markets and seeing how things are different – we do not have a lot of live chickens, rabbits, fish or frogs at the Guelph farmers market.   Tofu was on display in 20 Kg blocks (you ask for a chunk and they cut it like a cheese market might do.  Tofu is a real staple in the population.

I like seeing what the street vendors sell and how they prepare it.  EG – using a blow torch to cook duck.  Lots of insects for sale on skewers or as part of a meal – grasshoppers, locusts, grubs, and larvae.  I attended Ideacity in 2016.  It was like a series of Ted talks.  One of the speakers from the science centre talked of the efficiency of raising insects to solve protein needs.  Her talk is here.  She spoke of the food value in them and how good they are for people.  She was trying to convince people to try them and was even trying to market insect burgers and products.  

When I see China already eats them.  And China has over a billion people, I think the best thing would not be to try to convince a few hundred million North American’s to not be squeamish but rather lets not change China to a North American diet.  I have always been looking for something to export to China since containers going from North America to China cost almost nothing.  So let me know if you have a good source of insects and we can start a new sideline business.

Contrary to what some would think, the cats and dogs are not food – they are, if anything, (over) pampered pets and there are lots of them.

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I read an article on repetition and getting back to the basics that might interest.  The gist of it is we need to continually work to keep our edge.



Thursday, December 28, 2017

27 books in 3 days

I recently did a no internet or phone for 3 days Christmas with 2 of my grandkids.  The result  - I got 27 books read.  Some summaries:

Bring out the Best in Every Employee by Dan Brown and Bill Hawkins.  Good book - good studies on what works and what people want.  Good refresher since much of it is intuitive.

Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Very unrealistic and not many good business tips.

Distilled by Charles Bronfman.  A page turner for me.  The family that owned Seagrams went from glory to family infighting and losing their crown jewel.  Charles owned the Expos for a time.  I do not do sports but found some of it interesting.  And it covered much of his philanthropic endeavours.

Twas the Night before Christmas.  Not sure why I needed to read it again - I guess my grand daughter must have thought I forgot something.

Twas the Night before Christmas.  Yes read it again.  I thought children were supposed to have short attention spans but I was the one wanting to move on.

From Pain to Profit - Secrets of a Peak Performance Trader.  A self published book (so I found typos).  Suggested to me by my friend that runs BloomBoss.  98% of it was about psychology and how to think logically.  Interesting book.

Twas the Night Before Christmas.  This time I am wondering what the mice were supposed to be cooking and if it burned on since "Not a creature was stirring - not even a mouse"

Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stephenson.  Can't be all business.  This was purely for leisure.  Slightly tough to read quickly because of the old English/Scottish.  It was still a good read.

Twas the Night before Christmas.  Who would have thought a 3 year old would know if you skipped a few pages.

Twas the Night Before Christmas.  I am worried Papa Noel (my granddaughter mostly speaks French) is not a good role model.  Over eats, breaks into people's houses.

Twas the Night Before Christmas.  I want to know how to slide down a chimney and get no soot on me.

Better Now - 6 Big Ideas to Improve Healthcare for all Canadians.  Good book by an MD who works in the system.  I agreed with 80% of what she suggested but not the other 20%.  Worth reading to just stay up on what is happening.

Twas the Night Before Christmas.  I am thinking I need to write a business book that rhymes.  It does make the reading more interesting.

Becoming your Best - 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders by Steven Shallenberger.  I had actually previously read this but wanted the refresher.  It is not a bad reminder of what we need to do.

The Zappos Experience by Joseph Michelli.  Great read.  Great reminder that culture is king.  Made lots of notes.  Will re-read.

Twas the Night Before Christmas.  I wonder - do you hit the NY Times best seller list by getting read 100,000 times or do you need to sell different copies?

Leaders Eat Last by one of my favourite authors - Simon Sinuk.  Definitely worth reading.  The gist - people are inspired by leaders who think of others and the good of the organization - not themselves.

And finally - you guessed it.  Twas the Night Before Christmas.  I wonder if I can get it on audio.

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A picture of us reading...


Monday, December 04, 2017

In Praise of Brevity

I wrote this a while ago - repubilishing now.

“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter” by Blaise Pascal (1623-62).
We are inundated with information. People are starved for time and as such they greatly respect and value short correspondence, articles and blog posts. People actually use the length of the message as a way to filter what gets read.
I do not say this just because I am a Time Management geek.
If you want people to read something, make it short and concise. A paragraph that runs five sentences long is daunting and there is a good chance that the reader will not read it.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Use simple, short words: They are easier to understand — so use simple English even if it offends your sense of literacy.
2. Use dashes to shorten up a sentence – most readers are not grammatical experts and value sentences that are more in line with the way they speak.
3. Use bullet points and numbered paragraphs – it keeps the meaning clear and organized in our minds
4. Lines and spacing: The more white background space on the page, the easier it is to read the black text. Double spacing text is easier to read than single spacing
Less text is more effective. And I could keep writing but that would undermine my point.
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And since a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps including pictures negates this position on brevity?  And yes that is a Danby fridge on her apron.  She thinks it says Daddy.



Sunday, November 05, 2017

Random thoughts and a free business idea.

Sears Canada is closing for good.  This will leave 74 malls without and anchor tenant (this does not include the 8 Home Stores and 49 Hometown Stores).  These are large retail spaces and it is unlikely there is another retailer big enough to take most of them.  Most established players like Walmart, Canadian Tire, Brick, Best Buy etc already have stores close to most of these. 

So what is the best use for this space?  Likely not retail which is feeling the crunch from online retailers.  The best use is likely some sort of experience based service like a theme park, go kart track, paintball etc.   The space would also make a huge concert hall or live theatre.

The risk is the cost to outfit the space.  And from a business point of view, you would need to figure out likely revenue vs the cost.

Steal this idea and do it.  I do not have the time to implement it (and am not much of a leisure guy so do not really understand what the market wants).
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A part of an email I received on Networking:

The trick is keeping connected to your network, establishing mutual respect, general interest, humbleness (no matter how big you get) and a general promise of reciprocity.   (what I’ve observed with the intros you’ve made and the comments about you from those people)
You give more than you ask of people. Your time is very valuable and your knowledge/experience is invaluable to others. 
The network can be easily built nowadays, the responsiveness from your network is not. 

I think your success with your network also has to do with your commitment to your values.   Being yourself day in and day out and holding to your values.  People that have met you 20 years ago say similar things about your character/reputation to people that have met you months ago.  

People are willing to bend for those in their network who are genuine, authentic, who give back, and who they have respect for.

You’ve built that feeling in many people by the choices you’ve made in how you run your companies, interact at functions, philanthropic efforts, etc. 

It sounds scientific but it really is not.  I think it is partly part of personality.

I get some emails that "make my day"  (and sometimes ones that "make it more difficult").  I keep the "made my day" ones.  Sort of an extension of being grateful.
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I sent a book to my daughter in the US to save cross border shipping.  My latest grand daughter is planning on writing a review on it.

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Having too much fun:





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A moving video:




Thursday, October 19, 2017

The lucky vs the happened to them

I notice a pattern.  Successful people say they are lucky,  Unsuccessful people have things happen to them.  What I have learned is you need to choose the former.

I meet people who tell me about all the great things they did and how they did it all on their own.  It tends to be those same people who have things happen to them.  It is almost as if "everything I did was perfect BUT then something happened that was not in my control ..."

The moral of the story - give luck its due. 

I have been lucky in my life.

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I was interested to read that Dysan is introducing a car.   It will be so great to have the streets cleaner.

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Interesting article on refugees being the problem.

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And only for those with a sense of humour (yes - I know I will get flamed for posting this but...).   Some people think guns have gone too far in the US.  See this.

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My little girls:


Monday, October 02, 2017

Tabatha Ann


My daughter, Laura had a daughter yesterday.  Mom and newborn are doing well.  The only reason Tabatha is crying is because someone put that silly hat on her.
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I do not do politics but the current state of affairs makes it hard not to comment.

I have a simple, genius idea to balance the Canadian budget and help benefit those least able to afford tax.  Raise HST/GST by 3% then pay all Canadians who make less than $35K 3%.  Anyone making $35K cannot spend more than 3% on HST since many things are not taxable sothey would be better off.

Balances the budget.  Saves getting the Canadian system too far out of sync with the US.   Saves Canada from increasing tax complexity.

I am worried the current track will create lots of work for accounting firms on how to work around paying 73% tax so in the end, the government will not get the 73% anyways.  Sorry to the accountants out there.