Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Really Great Mentors

I would like to be a really great mentor so I was attracted to Stephen Kohn and Vincent O'Connell's book:  9 Practices of really Great Mentors - How to Inspire and Motivate Anyone.

The book  is a self-actualizing and highly motivational read that portrays the many facets that mentors hold.

Starting off with more than one definition of what a mentor is, this book is incredibly inspiring and practical making it the fitting last book of a three part series by Stephen E. Kohn and Vincent D. O'Connell.

All of the key ideas discussed are applicable in developing a person’s full potential in life to help optimize an organization’s assets and to benefit from their own day to day life.

The use of the terminology ‘stretch goals’ clearly defines the role that a mentor plays in helping the protégé identify the process in hopes to accomplish their goals given that stretch goals are not reached immediately, but framed from a longer-term perspective.

Including a chapter explaining the difference between coaching versus mentoring someone was a nice touch as often times these two terms get muddled in the mentoring role.

9 Powerful Practices of Really Great Mentors displays positive and motivational messages that encourage the growth of the relationship between mentor and protégé. The relationship that develops between two individuals is mind-enriching and possesses the responsibility that both sides have to uphold in order for the relationship can grow. 

The mention of EQ (emotional quotient) having to be either near or at the same level as IQ (intelligent quotient) in chapter 6 acknowledges that there are other ways to measure intelligence and that not just one form of intelligence can define the human mind.

What was a bit disconcerting was stating that, “certain people might be at some sort of disadvantage within the organization or professional environment,” in chapter 3 followed with the confirmation that women are seen in this regard.

With many things in life, it is best to draft out your goals and strategy before putting your plans into actions. 9 Powerful Practices of Really Great Mentors is a great resource to use as a guide and inspiration in becoming the best mentor for your next protégé.

Quotes from the book:

"...the better you are at the mentoring role, the more likely your protégé will benefit from the relationship."

The moment of self-actualization for me is when I read, "...what I am aware of empowers me, and what I am unaware of controls me..."

A mentor's mantra should be, "seek first to understand, than to be understood. It is listening that is crucial along with fully understanding what is going on with your protégé- giving sound advice with context." 

Keep your eyes on the stars, but keep your feet on the ground – Theodore Roosevelt. 

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There is an interesting article in HBR on the reasons not to send emails after work hours.  Interesting points.  It conflicts with my efficiency slightly.  I like to get things off my plate.

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And cactus from my recent trip to Palm Springs where the weather is perfect.  The citrus fruit is unbelievable.  And the people are nice (like everywhere else)




Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sales See Saw

We are new (since Dec 1/2014) in our new business - DDE Media.   We have almost 10 full time writers working at our office now (plus the bookkeeper, Graphics Designer, etc).  So the office has a bit of life.

I now am suffering for a start-up syndrome I have seen play out often.  I am really the only person who sells for us right now.  But I do some of the work (especially around SEO) and much of the orchestration.  So I am the limiting factor - the funnel point that limits growth.

What happens is one month, we close sales but the next we are scrambling to deliver on that work so we sell little.  And the sales see saw kicks in - high one month, low the next.

No genius solution - just an observation.

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Speaking of sales, I read an interesting book this weekend - Selling Above and Below the Line - Convince the C Suite, Win Over Management - Close the Sale by Skip Miller.

I always love any book on sales.  I can always learn something or be inspired more.    The goal is always to sell more, bigger and faster.

The problem Selling above and Below tries to solve is many times what appeals to the managers - the features and benefits do not make the sales to the CEO.  So it talks about the dual selling strategy.  I know when I was CEO of SYNNEX, I would often get the wrong pitch.  A pitch that was not in line with the overall corporate goals but one that was more feature oriented.

I liked chapter 16 that talked about accelerating the sale.  I know this is a challenge.  I have lots of sales that are 90% likely to happen but payroll that needs making now.

I particularly like any sales book that gives me ideas on increasing sales efficiency.  This is a lot about what sales tricks are all about.

Good sales people get rejected 80 or 90% of the time.  A good inspirational sales book helps pump them up to go out and sell another day.

I notice in my own selling of SEO work that I have a very strong lead up to the sale.  Everyone wants to speak to me.  Everyone likes the reports we do.  Everyone loves the presentation.  But then, many of them stop and do not follow through with the order.  So I need to figure out what that is all about.  I am thinking my benefits sell to the CEO but the managers see that it will create work for them so they balk.

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I am still grieving the loss of my father.  Part of the cycle of life though opens up space for all the young ones coming into the world which I am grateful for.

Youngest to oldest grandkids - Elizabeth (the one who likes to sleep), Xavier (who also likes to sleep), Victoria and Josh.





Wednesday, March 04, 2015

And then there were 4 (Grandkids that is)

I am not really a graphics designer.  I certainly have no training in the field.  So I suspect I break most design rules.

That is why Creative Anarchy - How to Break the Rules of Creative Design for Creative Success appealed to me.

This summary is from one of my writers at DDE.

Denise Bosler’s “Creative Anarchy" is a helpful and engaging read on modern graphic design. 

The text is cleverly divided into Bosler’s two fundamental principles of the subject: learning the rules and breaking the rules. Bosler is adamant that graphic designers need to be both rigorously unique and business savvy to achieve success within the evolving industry. 

“Creative Anarchy” is wonderfully colourful and beautiful composed; any person need simply flip through the many pages of high-resolution imagery to appreciate the ever-increasing artistic value of the medium. Plenty of historically successful design projects are scattered throughout the text, with Bosler explaining the commonalities between them that up-and-coming graphic designers should find extremely helpful in furthering their own careers.

 Perhaps the only gripe that I have with the text is that it might not be very accessible to readers unfamiliar with the concept of graphic design, although the fantastic imagery throughout the book should keep them entertained regardless. 

For those interested in pursuing a career in the field, however, “Creative Anarchy” is definitely a must-read.

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There is an interesting article on companies co-founding startups.  This makes logical sense to me.  Starting a company with a company as a co-founder would bring competitive advantage.

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One of my investments - Renomi.com has a new website.  They do change order management for construction projects.  You mean people make changes after they start their projects?

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Warren Buffet claims to eat like a 6 year old after studying the mortality rates and finding theirs are low.  Lots of Coke and candy.

Wondering if he perhaps has a conflict of interest with his investment in Coke and See's Candy.


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My step daughter, Jennifer and her husband Mario had a baby girl on the weekend.

Seems babies are popping up everywhere.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Trackimo - GPS Track anything

We have been reviewing a new GPS tracker called Trackimo at DDE Media. In all honesty it’s a pretty good product. It is small (like a small post it note size).  Fits in or attaches to anything.  Then you can track it with your phone or computer.



It is used to keep things safe.  Attach it to cars, bikes, luggage, pets - even kids.  And then watch real time where they are.

It’s a little eerie as well. My assistant tested it out before we started hiring writers and the device pinpointed him exactly at our work address. It claims a 50 foot margin of error but it hit the nail right on the head. Really impressed with the accuracy.

One of my writers compared monthly service fees with other GPS trackers and found that Trackimo is actually lower in the States than AT&T. The first year is free, so $5 a month afterward is a good deal on top.  It has some cool features as well like being waterproof (haven’t tested it), and an SOS button for emergencies, but its value definitely comes from the price and basic functionality.

You can set up zones and alerts to alert you if your Trackimo goes outside an area or goes close to something.  Very cool.

It is available on Amazon.

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No post is complete without a picture of my grandson - Baby Face Xavier.  He looks like he is wanted - I think that is what people need - to be wanted.



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It was a bit of a chilly walk to work today.  Minus 23C (minus 10F).  Still gorgeous.  Speed river is completely frozen.




Monday, February 02, 2015

Winter Wonderland and Empathic Acknowledging



I read a great little book by Lawrence Bookbinder PhD (Great name for an author) called Win Friends and Customers - Relationship and Business Success from Empathic Acknowledging.

I like sales books and have read dozens of them.  Most of them have a section on listening and I know this is one of the characteristics of a great sales person.  This whole book is about empathy.

Empathy is about real listening.

The book give numerous examples of how and why to do it.  It points out the benefit of doing it well and how many people need help learning to do it better.

I liked the chapter on the difference between empathy and sympathy (they are different).

There is an appendix with 24 key points that summarizes much of the substance of the book succinctly.  Things like "it is difficult to listen with empathy if you dislike the person" and "Giving empathic acknowledging during conversation is rarely done - a tragic situation because we deprive ourselves of its life-enhancing benefits"

A part of me wonders if empathy can be learned or if it is simply a part of who we are.  I do think it can be enhanced but I think it naturally has to be there to start.

Quotes from the book:

Being heard and understood is "one of the greatest desires of the human heart"...Richard Carlson

Being listened to with empathy and acknowledgement is a vital human need... Bookbinder


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I am still suffering from waves of sadness over the loss of my father.  My brother Lyle wrote a fitting blog entry on him.  When I think I am over it, it hits me again.  People say you never get over the loss of a parent.

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I enjoyed my walk to work through about a foot of fresh snow.  I love my Baffin boots - warm, keep the snow out and mostly because they are comfortable.





Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wilderness Deficit Disorder

Life is slowly returning to normal after the death of my father.

I have a blogging rule to not blog when I am not "up".  Thinking now I may be able to get back to it.  Not that I am not still sad - just that I do not feel I can do anything but let grief take its course.

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For some reason, I am thinking I need to escape to the wilderness for a few days.   Perhaps too much hectic life/travel lately.  I am setting up a new business - DDE Media Company (more on that later) and that always takes a lot of time and energy.

There has been a lot written about Nature Deficit Disorder but little written on Wilderness Deficit Disorder (although I do not think I made up the syndrome).

I suspect many people have never really experienced wilderness so there is less research.

I have done quite a bit of canoe tripping - just not enough lately.  Not sure why I would think of it in the dead of winter.

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I know it is snow season - not garden season.  I wonder if snow shoveling is the equivalent of gardening from a health view.  I have seen few articles on that but lots on the benefits of gardening.

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I find myself stressed.  As I look at it though, I figure out that all of it is stress I am causing myself.  Part of this is by "standards" I hold myself to (EG - up to date on reading, clean den, even maintaining a social media footprint etc.).

In my opinion this stress occurs when the reward to too disconnected from the activity.  Sometimes this can be a time disconnect.   Sometimes it can be because the outcome is not assured.  EG - write an article but it may not get read and even then will it result in opportunities.

I know we choose our reaction to outside happenings so no one or nothing can cause stress if we do not choose to let it.

The same needs to be true of these internal stresses.  Being stressed detracts from enjoyment and does not add to performance.  Now to be zen...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Continued Inspiration from my father - Don Estill

My father died exactly one week ago.  He was 87.

Up to then and this week have been a blur.  Although I have grieved often since his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer in October 2014, I still grieve and actually look for "time" to grieve.

I knew he was dying and asked him if I could do anything for him.  His answer was "no".  And he did not have needs so I thought of only one thing I could do.  I named my new company after him - DDE Media Company.  He alway initialed things DDE and my brothers and I would call him DDE sometimes when we spoke about him.  And he always took a keen interest in business so I thought he would appreciate it.

Dad was a picture of health until his diagnosis and actually enjoyed a good life for almost a year after the diagnosis.  His wonderful health was not an accident.  He worked hard on it.  He worked out daily and tracked his progress.  I asked my brother Glen (the executor) if I could have his workout record which span decades.

He ate almost perfectly.  Everything was home made from scratch.  The bread being the most memorable for me.  When I was young I was jealous of school friends who got "white" bread.  Ours was heavy whole wheat/multigrain.  Now I hardly ever eat white bread and appreciate "healthy" bread.

One lesson I learned from Dad was self discipline (although he was way more self disciplined than I am).

He was the picture of moderation.  I tried to get him to run a 5K when he was in his early 80's but he thought it was "too extreme".  I knew from his workout routine that he could have done it easily.  He was walking 2 miles per day and going on the elliptical trainer in the common gym where he lives for 30 minutes a few times each week in addition to doing some weight training.

I am not sure I learned moderation yet.

The elliptical trainer had been a gift from my brothers and I when my parents moved into Arboretum Village.

He was a life long tee totaller and of course never smoked.

One of Dad's characteristics which I always admired was his humility.  Nothing and no body was beneath him.  He exhibited that in spades when he came to work for EMJ after he retired.  He would do anything from picking up the mail to helping build an office to doing mundane accounting (I have yet to learn his fastidious accounting record ways)

He was highly organized.  On Meyers Briggs he would be off the scale J.  He did it naturally - I do not ,which is why I think I had to write a book on Time Management.  It was my way of learning it.  He did not need to learn it.

His service was well done.  As I listened to the stories by my brother, son and niece, I thought "What will my legacy be".  Dad certainly left a huge legacy and impact on the people who knew him.

To live a life thinking of the legacy left is powerful and inspirational to me.

My son, David, spoke of the "what would Don do" question that could be used to determine action in any ethical dilemma.

My niece spoke about how each of us carry a bit of Dad in all of us.  I was later sent a video that reinforced this thought.   It is comforting.

I was moved that a young friend, Tara Jamieson, wrote a song about Dad.

It is before 7 on a Sunday as I write this so it brought another thought.  I learned getting up early.  Dad always was up early.  Even into his 80's he would never sleep in.  He valued work ethic and this was one of his ways of showing that.

Dad, we will miss you.  

Friday, January 02, 2015

Seven Disciplines of a Leader

I am once again back to posting book reviews.  The way the holidays fell, there was lots of "reading" time.

I read Seven Disciplines of a Leader - How to Help Your People, Team, and Organization Achieve Maximum Effectiveness by Jeff Wolf.

It starts with a few chapters on "What is the job of a leader" including that it is not that easy.

Then it gets into the Disciplines.  The first one is "Initiative and Influence".  The subtitle was the way I like to lead.  It said "Set an Example for Others".

Then it moves to "Vision, Strategy and Alignment" which I thought might be a bit theoretical but it jumps right into the progression from plans to accomplishments.

Throughout the book are examples to drive home the points.  The example given for this one was Mollie Katzen who was starting a new venture.  Her first critical rule was "Capitalize on your past and reputation".  It certainly resonates with what I am doing now.

Discipline 4 was Social, Emotional and Political Capital.  (yes I did skip Discipline 3 - I am not doing a book summary, I am commenting on the book).  I would add Adversity Capital.  I am a big believer in the importance of the Q's - EQ, PQ, AQ and to a lesser extent - IQ.

Discipline 6 - Love and leverage.  There is no substitute for passion about work.

After the 7 Disciplines, it had 11 Practices of Highly Effective Leaders.

Practice 5 was "master communication".  And a Jeff Wolf quote "Listen more - talk less"

Good book - I learned from it and got some ideas.

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I almost did not blog today because one of my blogging rules is to only blog when I am "up".

My father is sick and that is overriding much of my thought.

The end of life brings sadness.  The beginning brings hope.  So some grandkid pictures to brighten the day:





Sunday, December 28, 2014

Moving The Needle

I like the lull of Christmas week.  Less email.  Good family time.  And time for me to start reading again.  So I am way behind in posting book reviews.  So here goes the first one:

I read Moving the Needle by Joe Sweeney.  It is a particularly appropriate book to read at this time of year because much of it is about goal setting.

Sweeney makes the point that moving the needle happens when you "get clear, get free and get going".  "When it comes to getting clear - first get quiet".  So true - perhaps that is why I like this time of year.  Less email, meetings and interruptions so it is easier to slow down a bit.

And the "get going" is also my favourite - Just do it. (Still waiting for Nike to sue me or send me a free pair of running shoes (note to Nike - that is size 9 1/2))

One of my easiest tricks to get going is to "get started".  I tend to make headway if I just start.

I always believe in being grateful.  One of the chapters is "your perspective determines your freedom".  And there he lists some world facts:

33% of the population will die from lack of food
33% of the population will die from some obesity related illness
68% of the people cannot read
30% live on less than $2.50/day
15% lack clean drinking water
We are the fortunate few!

As with all goal setting - he reminded to "start with the end in mind" and "break big goals down into smaller pieces".

I loved Chapter 10 on Habits (I have often blogged about Success Habits).   Of course the author believes that habits are hugely important to success.  One interesting angle he took was how to change bad habits into good ones.  And it is much easier to change a bad one into a good one that just break a bad habit.  Unfortunately, Sweeney does point out that good habits can be tough to form and bad ones can be easy to pick up.

Being a health guy, I liked his 7 health habits (most easy to follow - some tough)

1 - Drink lots of water
2 - get 7 hours sleep
3 - Limit alcohol
4 - no diet soda
5 - exercise or work out daily (and today of all days my beloved Fitbit decided not to work)
6 - spend time in nature
7 - Turn off the TV and pick up a good book (and I would add turn off the computer to that)

Anyways - good and inspirational book.  Especially good if you take the time to do all the exercises at the end of each chapter (which I admit, I did not do all of)

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My Texas grandson - Xavier.  About 5 weeks old:



Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Xavier Austen Pictures




Xavier and I did Google hangouts yesterday.  He is a person of few words.  It means anything he does say has a lot of weight.


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I like the long time (like 20+year) bike law in Idaho that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.  Lets get that through in Guelph/Ontario.  Good video on it here.

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On Procrastination:

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”  Jerome K. Jerome

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Xavier Charles Estill Austen

I am once again a proud grandfather.  

Mother Laura and baby are both doing well and healthy.

Xavier Austen. 5 lbs 15 oz, 19.5 inches, born 19 November 2014 at 1:46 pm.  He arrived about a month early.  He already is trying to be punctual - a skill that will serve him well in life.


I am not sure what is with the toque - he lives in Texas and they have no snow.  Perhaps he is just trying to make a fashion statement.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Statistical Success Yes - But Long Term Measurements are Tougher

The advent of the internet and internet advertising seemed to push a move towards measuring direct results.  Spend $1000 on ads and see if it yields $1000 in results.    Statistically experiment with small tests to see if it pays more to advertise with this catch phrase or that, with green or blue, in the morning or night etc.

I am a big believer in split run testing.  Try multiple experiments to see what works best.  Test on small samples before spending money on larger ones.

Measure everything to figure out the repeatable system that yields success.

This same measurement and documentation is what Michael Gerber pushes in his classic book series E-Myth.  He proposes that all businesses should McDonaldcize themselves.  Have detailed process manuals so anyone can do the job.  And work continually on figuring out how to make the process better.  He advocates that the entrepreneur should work ON the business - not IN the business.

I have been doing some Growth Coaching with some medium sized companies.  I have been promoting that for those who are about to hire a sales force.  Figure out a model and repeat it.  Most of them already use that for their internet marketing so it is surprising that they would find it new to do this in growing a sales team.

Formulas work.

And that could be the end of the story but it is not.  The problem with many long-term challenges are the outcomes do not happen fast enough to know exactly what works and what does not.  This is where entrepreneurial intuition comes in.  We never really know what will work but we have to choose intuitively to do them.



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I read there may be a chocolate shortage.  Apparently we may be hitting peak chocolate - the point where demand outstrips supply.  For some, I am sure that crisis is more important than peak oil even.

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People have a very narrow "comfort range".  We artificially extend that with heat, air conditioners and various clothing.   We also seem to "complain" about it which solves nothing.

I actually think the current touch of snow is gorgeous.




Thursday, October 02, 2014

Efficiency vs Health

I have to admit to being a bit of a Fitbit addict.  Fitbit tracks steps and it has a social media component that allows people I am "connected" to see how many steps I do and I can see what they do.  And my kids and brothers all have them.  Not that I am competitive at all but Lyle particularly pushes me a bit since I do not want him to have more steps than I do.

So how does this relate to efficiency which is really the theme of this blog?  For perfect efficiency, I should set my life up to take less steps.  I should have all my files at my desk and everything I need should be in reach.  But to get more steps, it is best to have to go to the basement to file things and get up to get things.  I find the steps I get for just doing "normal" stuff as opposed to "working out" are fairly easy.  So building a life with "fairly easy" built in seems logical.

Or a more blatant example.  I could drive my car to a meeting or walk.  Walking might take 15 minutes longer so is less efficient.  And the same is true of automation and hiring things done (EG - mowing the grass or manually emptying the dehumidifier rather than piping it direct to the drain)

So I am conflicted since I am an efficiency and a health person.  Which do I choose.

So... moving the file cabinet to the basement...furthest from my desk I can get it.

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Speaking of health, I always thought it was more fiscally prudent to own a car rather than lease it.  But recent research links car ownership with poor health.

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By the way, in case you have not seen this yet, have a look at the blog post put out by Hootsuite when they launched the controlled BETA trials.
 http://blog.hootsuite.com/new-hootsuite-feature-content-suggestion/

Content curation and moderation is one of the next waves that will automate.  It has been going on for years (we let the editors choose what they think is important).  Soon, machines will be assisting in this task.

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One of my friends owns a multihundred million dollar company that sells hardwood.  I needed some hardwood flooring so bought it from him.

He was teasing that his margins were down this month because of the order he sold to me to which I replied "if you think your margins are bad this month, next month it will be your bad debts you have to worry about."

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Spam takes time but not as much as it seems.  I can log in and see 100 emails waiting but if they are all spam, that is about a minute to deal with them.  Now if I have to act on them, it can be a couple of hours.

That said, I do think the new Canadian Spam law might help reduce the number of unwanted emails.  Of course half my business interests are in the US and it will not help those.

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And my son who works selling wind turbines at Siemens thought it was only fair if I put pictures of my other kids children on my blog I should include his.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Article Clipping at its Best

My mother is an article clipper.  When I stop by, she often has articles she clipped from a newspaper or magazine for me.  And she does this for everyone else in her life.

I realize I have become the same way.  The difference is most of what I read is online so I clip URLs and email them to people that I think might be interested in an article.  And many of the articles I email were emailed to me - so I am just passing them on.

She clipped an article/book report that combined a review on 2 books - The Organized Mind - Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levin and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in the World of Constant Connections by Michael Harris.

"In 2011, Americans (and I assume Canadians) took in 5 times as much information as they did in 1986."

As the titles suggest, information and connectivity are a problem and we need strategies to cope.  I know this first hand.  When I was in "CEO mode", I was fast and responsive.  Lately I have noticed I am less so.  Thinking I can use some of the strategies suggested in these books.  More for my reading list.

Silence can be empowering.

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Some interesting tidbits:

CEO's who run marathons are better CEO's.  This seems intuitive in the discipline needed to run a marathon.  Good CEO's are goal driven and a marathon is often a goal.  I also know it requires a high level of fitness to lead an executive life.  Where it is counter intuitive is real marathon training takes a lot of time.  It would be tough to properly train in even 6-7 hours per week.  Marathons are beyond fitness (I say this - yet I have run 6 of them).

I like the Goldman Sachs article on the internet of things.  I am taken back to my early days in business when we sold a lot of analogue to digital boards (well a lot relative to being a small company).  Those are the basis of most of the internet of things - they allow sensors to be read (temperature, pressure, etc.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Growing Ice Cream

From an email exchange with a friend on what makes successful entrepreneurs:

listen - filter - learn - lead

Not blind obedience.

Work ethic - time management - energy - passion.

And the appropriate mix of dreams and reality, focus and trying different things.

Statistical experimentation.

Learning is the big one.
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I thought this simple article on 5 things to do before bed to jump start your day was good.

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And for those who thought they were too old to start a venture.

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And always thinking of Venture Returns.

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I was speaking with my grandson, Josh while we were eating dinner:

Josh:  Grandpa - do you like zucchini?

Me: Of course - it is great.

Josh while squeezing the zucchini from his plate in his hand: you can have mine

And later we were talking about my garden, planting seeds, harvesting etc:

Me:  I grow zucchini, lettuce, beets, beans and lots of herbs in my garden.  Are you going to have a garden when you grow up?

Josh:  Yes

Me: What are you going to grow?

Josh:  Ice Cream


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

No Substitute for Time in - But Perfect Time in

I love the early mornings.  So many things I love to do in these hours.  Cannot say I am a great fan of the darkness at 6 AM now though.

One of my favourite thought leaders and authors, Malcolm Gladwell,  studied what made people experts in their field.   Through his studies, he found that people who put more time in became more proficient and more expert.  His magic number was 10,000 hours makes a person expert.  Want to become a piano master?  Practice for 10,000 hours.  Want to become a great artist? Practice for 10,000 hours.

I took karate for about a decade.  My karate instructor said "perfect practice makes perfect - practice alone does not".  There is validity in that - spending the time practicing wrong just makes you perfect at doing things wrong.

I also know this from playing internet chess mindlessly.  I can put the hours in but get no better.  To improve requires focus, study and perfect practice.

I know there is no substitute for time in.  I have an organic vegetable garden.  If I spend time, it has few weeds and few pests.  Interestingly, in this case, mindless puttering gets the job done - no perfection required.

But it is not all about time - it is about energy.  I know when I am high energy (like early mornings), I have the focus to do "perfect".  When I am tired, I tend to do mindless.  So from an efficiency view - anything I can do to increase the amount of energy or high energy hours, the more effective I will be.  And if I spend my high energy hours on high perfection task, I will accomplish more.

And the puttering time can still add value to the things that can be accomplished with puttering.

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A good friend of mine's daughter did her movie debut in a Jennifer Anniston movie  - Life of Crime.  I am looking forward to watching it.

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And a quote for the day:

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.

George Carlin

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I am thinking I need to do a songbook.  Just like IBM did in 1937.  Check it out.

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To provoke thought, there is a good article in the Atlantic on the new editors of the internet.

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The grandkids - Victoria and Josh.  Puttering or perfect practice?  Or perhaps just enjoying being.



Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Leading Surveys and the Power of Asking the Right Questions

When we ask questions - we get answers.

This is why I like the How question.  Often when you ask why - you come up with reasons and excuses for why something happens or is not happening.  Why are sales down this year?  Competition is higher and we lost XYZ account.  And of course the exchange rate.

I think of things we cannot change as "conditions".  My exCOO used that all the time.  Conditions are simply things which are.  And anything that needs to be done needs doing "in spite of the condition".

But ask the How question.  How can we increase sales.  We can market more, we can sell other products, we can approach ABC customer etc.  How questions inspire action.

Good leading questions get even better answers - eg being highly specific.  How can we increase sales by 12% by December?

This is why my modification of the 5 Why's is to add the How.

So how can this be used in surveys?

Ask - what are the 3 things you like about us?  Do you buy from us because our prices are competitive or because our service is great?  Do you mostly buy from us because we sell ABC product or XYZ product?  (so the customer says "I did not know you sold XYZ).  As a customer, what is most important to you about us - that we sell more ABC than all other companies combined or because we ship faster than other companies?

The more customers say good things about you - even in a survey, the better they think of you.

Don't ask what is wrong with us?  (that will always come out - especially if you have a section for "any other comments")

Surveys can be a great marketing tool and can help reinforce things in your customers' or prospects' mind.  They can also educate your customer.

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Texting and driving.  Good video to share with all.  Watch it through to the point where they show how long 5 seconds is.

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And Victoria taking me for a walk.




Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Goal - Reducing Stuff Quotient

I recently moved from a large home in Long Island to large home in Guelph - but a home that is half the size.    So now, everything is a mess with too much stuff.  So I am committed to a negative Stuff Quotient.  I commit to get rid of more stuff than I bring into the house every day.  And to add to it, I would like to get rid of one more thing per day - this will add up to 1000 less things in 3 years which might put the house into an equilibrium.

Stuff has a great cost - the worst of which is stress - usually caused by time.  Stuff takes time.  Time spent on stuff can far outweigh the value of the stuff.

Storage costs.  Many people spend thousands of dollars storing hundreds of dollars of stuff.

Stuff has no value if it cannot be found easily.   And storing it a retrieving it takes time.  Good organization systems help of course but there is a time factor to set those up.

And most Stuff degrades or has obsolescence as it is stored.  EG - I just threw out an awesome maglight because the batteries had corroded.  And then in looking at flashlights, I realize it was obsolete anyways.  New ones are LED - better light and longer life.

Part of what makes it difficult to get rid of stuff is frugality.  I hate waste.  To help this feeling, I give things to friends (is this mean?), or goodwill/Salvation Army.  But some things just need to be tossed.

Stuff can be security but it can also be stress.

Consider making the Negative Stuff Quotient Pledge.

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I thought this was a very interesting KPMG report on the tax efficiency of various jurisdictions.  Canada and Ontario rank very well.  Especially for tech companies using SRED credits.  See report.

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A friend emailed me an online miniseries his brother is directing.  The phenomenon of anyone being able to be a producer/director is interesting.  This is just like blogging allows anyone to own a publisher.  Media empires have been broken.

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And a plug for one of my investee companies:

LaunchSpot is a solution that:
1. Enables people in your organization to save time by making it really easy to find expertise wherever it is across your company’s network - in both critical situations and in normal daily work.
2. Enables your people to setup a profile in seconds because we use existing information to pre-populate profiles.  The on-boarding process is very simple and fast.
3. Helps you gain insight into your organization (skills breakdown across the organization, etc.)
4. Enables you to integrate with other systems via our API.

Why:
Information is available now more than ever but information is only useful when applied with the needs of your current context.  A google search alone can not provide that context but the people in your organization with expertise can.  We believe that information alone does not contain the answers, people do and to that end we make it easier for your people to find the expertise in your organization.

ROI:
The average knowledge worker spends 20% of their time looking for answers to do their jobs. Help each of your people turn those hours into minutes.

http://LaunchSpot.io

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

99% of Marketing Spending is Wasted

John Wannamaker is credited with saying "50% of the advertising spending is wasted - the problem is I do not know which half".  But he was wrong.  99% or even more of the advertising $ that are spent are wasted but the 1% more than pays for the advertising.

The Atlantic printed an article that basically says internet advertising does not work.  See the article here.  They used examples of people searching for a product who already had decided what to buy.  I agree, this is a high % of the people.  What they did not use as examples of people who had non-buying intent but were good targets.

For example, if I type buy Nike shoes - I have likely decided to buy Nike's.  If I Google good running shoes, I am open to suggestions.  Or if I Google 10K races, I am also likely a buyer.  And advertisers use retargeting so I may get a running shoe ad the next day when I am searching something completely different.

I wrote an article a while ago on "The Fallacy of ROI on Marketing" and reused the concept in my book "Zero to $2 Billion - The Marketing and Branding Story Behind the Growth".  The gist of it is - consumers buy for a variety of reasons.  It might be because they saw the billboard or the truck or the Superbowl ad or the internet ad.  It is rarely just one impression - it is the "accumulation" effect.

Marketing success really is about math but you never know some of the variables.  In its simplest.  Spend $1,000 that is viewed (or presented) to 1,000 people and get 100 leads that turn into 3 buyers that generate $500 in margin each and you have a profitable business that can scale.   In this example, only 3 people in the 1,000 bought so it could be argued that 99.7% of the advertising spend was wasted.

Marketing is a bit like sales as far as success rates goes.   Great sales people have abysmal closing rates.  Many sales people can make good money for themselves and their companies by only closing 1 in 10 or 1 in 15 prospects.  It is about numbers.

And speaking of advertising, there is an interesting blog post on deception in advertising that has a cute infographic (now you see why I try to avoid fast food)

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There is another interesting article in the Atlantic that says that people lie about what they read.  They do not really want hard news.  What they really watch is sports and entertainment.  I can sort of see this.  People want to be thought of as being thoughtful and informed and would not want everyone to know they follow more shallow topics mostly.

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And in keeping with the Time Management theme.  This is an article on 40 ways to stop procrastinating.   I am concerned that posting the link will reduce my blog readership though.

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And a shout out for one of my investments that made Profit Magazines fastest growing companies (#54) - Iotum (they do freeconference.com)


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Simplicity

“Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability.”

Edsger W. Dijkstra  

He wrote an all time classic book on programming called "A Discipline of Programming".

I have not done much programming for a long time but most of the same principles apply today as applied when Dijkstra wrote his book.  In his book he emphasizes common sense.

Programming is one area that complexity kills.  The greater the complexity, the greater the chance of error, the more difficulty to make changes and the less scalable things become.

The biggest mistake most companies and programmers make that I see is programming before planning.  I have a huge sense of urgency and want to get things done.  But in product development, it is best to plan more and better and program less.

I also see a failure of many companies to sell.  Many tech start ups are lead by founders who are strong on tech and product management but lack sales interest.  Nothing like sales to real customers to keep a product relevant.

I can see some of the programming principles can apply to my life organization.  Simplify to live easier.

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I saw an interesting TED talk on athletic performance.  People are not getting faster and stronger but technology is improving.

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And my new favorite website for marketing and startup tips is growthhackers.com.




Thursday, June 05, 2014

Accomplishment Guilt

I suffer from accomplishment guilt - or perhaps better said - lack of accomplishment guilt.  I feel bad if I do not get enough done.  Some of this is good - it can drive great things.  It helps my self discipline.  It helps my productivity and efficiency since I know I need to be efficient to accomplish things.

Part of it is bad - it can lead to feeling unsettled and stressed.

One of my favourite sayings is "people tend to over estimate what they can accomplish in a day and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade".  I have seen this to be true.

One way to be more zen or at peace is to list your blessing.  And list what has been accomplished (as opposed to listing what has not been which I often seem to do.

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For serious stats driven chess geeks - I found this article interesting.

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One of the Canrock investments - Pumpup seems to be getting great traction.  Their tweet:

PumpUp passes 1M users and introduces health & fitness social network. Join the community and download @PumpUp today! http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/21/pumpup-exits-beta/

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One of the things I love about Canada is the weather.  I took this today driving to the Calgary airport from Canmore.  Yes - that is snow.  And the northern latitude means it is light late and early.  This was taken about 5:30 AM.




Monday, June 02, 2014

With Love and Quiches

I read an awesome and inspirational book by Susan Axelrod - With Love and Quiches - A Long Island Housewife's Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom.  

Susan calls herself and "accidental success".  She simply had some time on her hands and started reading recipe books and gourmet magazine.  And she cooked and baked.  And she shared some of what she made with friends who complimented her.  So she baked some more.

She joined a gourmet cooking club.   She started to teach some cooking as a volunteer and then paid.

The book starts with her childhood and works all through her life from there.  It tells of her marriage.  Where she lived and the life she lead.

She had a friend, Jill, who she talked to and they decided "lets start a food business".  So they did.  They started making quiches and quickly moved to desserts like cheesecake.  Her company name - Love and Quiches.

Part of what makes the book interesting are the many of the stories tell of early selling  and baking catastrophes.  The naivety that made for interesting times.  The huge order she got then trying to fill the order.

Susan is obviously a determined sales person.  She would successfully call on restaurants and pedal her wares.  And she also started selling to airlines.

All was going well and business was growing bit by bit.  Then 9/11.  People stopped eating out.  Airlines did not fly.  Economic hard times hit and most of what she sold was "optional".  So the business almost went bankrupt.  It tells of her fighting through that and re-establishing and growing again.  Exciting.

I am always inspired by people who build great businesses from scratch.  I am doubly inspired that Susan built her business in a time when few other women were doing this.   I like stories of success against odds.

The book reminded me that business plans are good but often just listening to customers also works.

I know Susan and have toured her company and heard her speak.  She is modest and even slightly shy about her success.  For example, when I was moderating a panel at a Golden Seeds event, I asked her in front of the audience if she could share some statistics like "how much flour do you buy or how many cheesecakes do you make".  Her response was "we are a private company and do not share our details".  I thought the audience would have liked to know she buys by the train car and stores it in silos etc.

Great read.  Exciting, entertaining and inspirational.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Things to Memorize - Memory Saves Time

I recently visited my brother.  As we were reminiscing, we started talking about all the phone numbers we used to know.  We recited numbers of customers and suppliers we had dealt with in the 1980's.  I likely knew 50 or even 100 phone numbers.  And the same number of part numbers, prices etc.

Now with electronic address books, I barely know my own number.

We did not deliberately memorize numbers but knowing them created an efficiency.  Now I think I could gain efficiency by memorizing a few things.  My list of things to memorize:

1 - passport number with expiry (saves time on check in for airlines)

2 - credit card numbers with CCV code and expiry (saves time for online purchases when buying from sites that do not "remember" - I actually think Amazon gets more business because they remember credit card information and make ordering faster and easier)

3 - Bank card number (for faster online banking)

And I am sure there must be other things.  Memory saves time.

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I am quite impressed by Organimi.    Functional.  Super easy to use.  Over 30,000 users already.

I think it will be one of my successful investments.

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I was speaking to my lovely daughter, Laura, who mentioned she had a friend over who said she had only read one book since university.   Laura said she could not count how many books she had read.

I suggested that perhaps she should take a math course.

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And a tidbit from one of the companies I have invested in:

“Hatsize is pleased to showcase our latest cloud-based training lab solution at ASTD,” said Guy Hummel, Hatsize CEO.  “Since the pace of change in learning and development is occurring at a rapid rate, this event is a great opportunity for industry professionals to gain valuable insights into new trends such as hands-on mobile training which is made possible by using Hatsize’s next generation cloud-based training lab solution that supports hands-on training delivery to any HTML5-enabled browser or device, such as a tablet.”  

Full details here.

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And from Seth Godin's blog:

Get rich (quick)


Enrich your world by creating value for others.
Enrich your health by walking twenty minutes a day.
Enrich your community by contributing to someone, without keeping score.
Enrich your relationships by saying what needs to be said.
Enrich your standing by trusting someone else.
Enrich your organization by doing more than you're asked.
Enrich your skills by learning something new, something scary.
Enrich your productivity by rejecting false shortcuts.
Enrich your peace of mind by being trusted.
The connection economy pays dividends in ways that the industrial one rarely did. 
Of course I am wondering how walking only 20 min per day is enough to get my fitbit steps in.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

5 Why's and a How

At one of the boards I am on, discussion turned to efficiency.  I suggested the 5 Why's process.  Other board members wanted more information on it and as I was writing the reply email, I thought I would turn it into a blog entry (partly because I am suffering bloggers guilt - the guilt a blogger feels for not posting enough)

The 5 Why's process is time tested and has been in use by hundreds of companies for years.  It is a great and fairly simple way to figure out where companies can gain efficiencies. 

There is lots written about the 5 Why's process on the internet so I will not try to re-explain what it is (basically drilling into things and not accepting the first answer - really trying to figure out the issue). 

The 5 why's process is done by someone sitting with each employee and asking/seeing what they do and why.

The value I thought I could add here are some of my experiences on what outcomes are discovered by using the 5 Why's process:

1 - Training gaps.  Often the process uncovers that staff need more or better training.

2 - Don't Do.  Often people are doing things that no longer need to be done.  These are often rooted in something that happened in the past or something that has changed since the process was implemented.  For example, in my personal situation, I stopped keeping and filing bank statements about 4-5 years ago.  When I first implemented the process, online records were not the norm that they are now.

3 - Interaction Friction.  Often slowness and inefficiencies happen at the point of pass off or interaction with another person or department.  Eliminating these points and figuring out how to make them smoother can add efficiency.

4 - IT Systems.  Often efficiency is limited by IT.  People wait for the system or can only do part of what they need.  Often small tweaks by IT can save hours.

5 - Tools.  Often the process discovers simple tools that can greatly increase productivity.  I recall in our warehouses we implement the use of aprons (like nail aprons) that were stocked with pens, knives, a rag etc - things people used all the time but often did not have at their fingertips.

6 - Areas of research.  Sometimes a process looks cumbersome but no immediate solution is derived.  That is when research kicks in - talk to someone with similar issues, search the internet, tour other operations etc.

The biggest innovation that I add to the process is to not only ask the 5 Why's but to add the How question.  And I like the How question to be fairly big.  EG - if you ask a sales person how they can increase sales by 5%, they do not think of changing process, they just think they will work a bit harder/better.  But ask how to increase 50% and they need to radically rethink what they do.

Adding the How question also helps break "excuses" and false limits.  5 Why's can reinforce beliefs which can be limiting.  EG - in analyzing a shipping line, the 5 why's might determine that only 1,000 parcels per hour can be shipped per hour.  And repeated asking could drive people to really believe they are working as fast and as hard as they can, reinforcing a false belief. 

But ask "How can we ship 1,500 parcels per hour" might elicit creative responses like add a new line or do things differently.

5 Why's and a How is a great way to drive efficiency.

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?...)



10% off at BrianTracy.com

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