Saturday, December 31, 2005

Goal Setting and New Years Resolutions

I love New Years. Just one more excuse to work on my goals. I really treasure this time. Goals give me power. They create a focus and a motivation. Any times in my life when I have felt shiftless, it is because my goals needed clarifying.

In preparation for working on my goals, I did a bit of internet research. Most sites agree that written goals are powerful. Goals work best when they are aligned with your values. That is why I like the 40 minute goal setting exercise that I described in my Nov 28th /05 post.

Some people never end up with goals for fear of setting the wrong ones. As Lyndsay Swinton says in her free eBook on goal setting. It is better to a have a written goal that is 70% right than no goal at all.

Some tricks I use on goal setting and New Years resolutions are:

1 – write them down.
2 – track them. (see June 13th/05 post)
3 – I like having 3 goals (see Sept 3rd/05)
4 – It takes 21 days to form a habit. Success is about habits. (see Oct 1st/05)
5 – I limit the number of goals I work on at once. Some people suggest 7 maximum. I prefer 3 to 5.

As I write this, I can see I am quite goal focused. I enjoy it. I study it. I spend time on it. I like doing it. I wrote about other goal setting tricks on Nov 28th/05.

Enjoy your New Years. Good luck on your goal setting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Forbes and blogging

“Blogging is not overhyped”. These are the words of Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes Magazine in an editorial on Blogging in the Dec 26 edition. In a surprisingly balanced editorial, Karlgaard acknowledges that “Blogs really do threaten mainstream media”. This seems balanced in light of his previous cover story of “Attack of the Blogs”.

I am often surprised at mainstream media writing anything about blogging since it seems to me their very existence is being threatened by blogs. On the other hand, it is smart to acknowledge the reality of the world as it is – even if it is a threat to ones current livelihood.

The only inevitable in business is change. I try very hard to predict the future of business. Some people think I am very successful at this but my trick really is to limit my downside while still going into new business areas. This is partly what I credit my long term success to. I do not bet the whole company, I only take manageable risks.

For the first 20 years of EMJ, my brother Glen worked with me. Glen is very conservative and more likely to say no than I am. His natural pessimism balances my natural optimism and this balance made us strong. To this day, I often think in making decisions “what would Glen say” which leads me to considering the downside risks. I think:

How can I structure a deal that limits risk?
What is the worst that can happen?
How can I make the worst that can happen better?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Boxing Day 10 Mile Race

I had a great Christmas. Mostly defined by seeing lots of family and having many laughs and good food. I rarely see all the family together so it was nice.

I am sore from the 10 Mile Boxing Day race in Hamilton yesterday. I finished in 1:28:25. Top half but not a great time. Elizabeth finished first in her age at 1:10:42.

I started cold. The wind was biting through the thin long sleeve high tech shirt. I wore nylon sweat pant and light gloves. The crowd was thick for the first 2 miles. Almost no breaks. After a few miles I was no longer cold and the crowd had begun to thin a bit. The course was beautiful; winding down by the bay.

I found the miles passed slowly. I am more accustomed to running in kilometers.

At about 5 miles, the hills started. After a particularly steep and long hill, we went onto a path through the woods. For almost a kilometer, it was icy and slippery. I ran cautiously. I am sure this is why I am sore today. After the ice of the trail, we welcomed entering residential streets.

I finished strong. Too strong. I knew I had more left in me when I did my last 200 M kick. Although I am never satisfied with my times, I am glad I ran.

Today, I mostly spent with family although I did run 5K slowly as a recovery run. I also did some light weights.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Working in the warehouse

No wisdom today. Just a recap.

After work tonight, I went to the warehouse with Elizabeth and Jennifer. We worked until closing. Jennifer worked in the EMJ warehouse for summers and for almost a year before she joined the navy so she knows some of the process.

We helped get some orders out. At closing I shook everyone’s hand and wished them a good holiday. They are good people.

I learned a few things as I always do when I work in the warehouse.

Not much point in blogging right now. I follow the stats. People tend to read my blog during the week and much less on weekends and holidays.

Happy holidays to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Year end reflections

I got an email from a friend, Rick Spence, congratulating me for keeping up on the blog. Rick is former editor and publisher of Profit Magazine so knows how to write and the pressure of deadline stress. And since it has been a few days between posts lately, the guilt kicked in so I write again.

It is tough to come up with wisdom when all I am doing these days is running from holiday event to holiday event. Monday I went to a Leaf’s game with HP.

This time of year is a time I always reflect on what has gone on over the past year. This has been a year of high growth and learning for me. I learned many lessons this year. I know I still have a lot to learn.

I spend time trying to figure out where markets are going. What products and services are going to be hot and which ones are likely to slow. One trend for sure is Blogs. They are here to stay and will grow explosively in the coming year. Readership will increase but not as fast at content so the battle for readership will increase. Only good blogs will garner readership. Fortunately, good means different things for different people so there is space for multiple types of blogs.

I also spend a lot of time on goal setting or New years resolutions this time of year. More on that later.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Exercise and Business Similarities

Last night was the Guelph SYNNEX holiday party. The SYNNEX social committee did all the work. It was great. Those who attended enjoyed themselves.

I followed this party by Elizabeth’s (Thanks to Sam Sorbara – a very generous event) Christmas party held at the Millcroft Inn. We stayed over and had a nice hike in the snowy woods this morning. I am definitely going to hike more. I like it so why not.

I twisted my back moving my new piece of exercise equipment. How ironic is that. Still, I managed to run 6 K yesterday and 16K today so I guess I am not too injured.

I have been reading a lot about exercise and running and see parallels in exercise and business success methods:

1 – To advance in exercise, you need to rest. Rest is part of a good workout program. The same is true of business. Work hard while you work but also allow for some down time.

2 – Even if you think you are in shape, you will do some activity that makes you sore. I am convinced there is almost no workout routine that works every muscle group. The same is true in business. Regardless of how skilled you are, there will be new situations that will challenge you.

3 – Muscles adapt to the exercise routine so it not only becomes easier but you do not get as good of a workout. The same is true in business. By always taking the same challenges, you will get good at them and they will be easier. But in time, you can also become stale so mix it up a bit to grow.

4 – Exercise without proper diet does nothing. In business, the fuel is learning or information input. Some people think I am an obsessive reader. I am. This is part of my business fuel.

5 – In time everything gets worse if you do nothing. The same is true in business. Many people long for the good old days but they will never come back. Some people say “if you do what you have always done – you will get what you have always got”. My variation on this is “If you do what you have always done – you will go bankrupt”. So forget about the good old days and adapt to the new realities.

6 – Small wins build confidence and lead to bigger wins. This is very true in exercise and this same truth applies to business. So just get started. A small win is often all it takes to get things rolling. One interesting phenomenon I have seen is that wins in the area of health often spill over into business gains.

7 – Overcoming challenge, procrastination and external events happens in both exercise and business. Devise systems to get re-energized and deal with the inevitable challenges that will happen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Business Networking

Today I spoke at the Communitech lunch to about 100 people. The talk was on “10 ways to grow a business” and was loosely based on my blog article of Dec 10. Most of the interesting discussion though came from the questions. During the question period, I covered some of my Guerilla growth tactics. As a speaker gift, they gave me one of my favourite books - a blank one.

Then tonight I had my YPO meeting. This is my personal board of directors. They are a group of other business leaders that I meet with monthly.

So today was a networking day. Networking can be a great way to solve problems more quickly. It can be a great way to confirm decisions.

So my time tip for today (and it can save time) is “nurture a network”.

True wisdom is learning from others’s success and avoiding their failures.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Time Management adds to life

The past two days have been full. Many meetings, conference calls, trying to catch up from travel last week etc. When I feel behind after 2 very full days, I like to think not of what I still have to do but also of what I have accomplished.

Time Management is often maligned. Some people think people who practice it only work. Not true. Proper time skills should be used to add to life. Why not be efficient while you work. Proper skills can add to productivity.

I believe I live more because of time management skills.

Like tonight. I arrived home around 9 after a reception at customer in downtown Toronto. Despite the finger food, I was still hungry and wanted something sweet (we can talk about lack of self control later). So I made Baklava. I like to cook and bake.

So not exactly a life of leisure but not all work. Of course now I have to go work out to burn off what I just ate but it will be worth it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Business limits to growth

I feel blogger guilt. That’s the guilt a blogger feels when they don’t post for a while.

Needless to say I have been busy. Fiscal year end was November so I was in California last week. Flew in on the red eye Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon, went to a party at friends. Did manage to stop by the fitness store and buy a Ronman Power tower. Basically a free standing piece of fitness equipment to do chinups and dips on. I usually work out at the Y but I like to have a bit of equipment at home.

Although I was into the office today for a few hours, I am hardly caught up. I did run 10K so was not a total couch potato.

This week will be busy. Many meetings. Little travel though so I should catch up.

I have been thinking a lot about choke points in business. One thing I need to do is to polish certain area that are limiting factors to growth. As a business grow, there are always some areas that start to creak under the pressure and over time those areas change. Once sales are working well, the warehouse falls behind, and once it works well, sales need to sell more to fill the capacity etc.

I tend to spend my time on special projects revolving around those areas that are the current choke points of the business. My tip today is “identify choke points and polish them continually to grow.”

There – guilt assuaged.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Top 10 Ways to Grow Your Small Business

Busy days preparing for a trip to California. It was our year end in November so there are executive meetings in Fremont which I attend and participate in. The following is an article I wrote for one of our reseller newsletters. I thought you might enjoy it.

The Top 10 Ways to Grow your Small Business

By Jim Estill
CEO – SYNNEX Canada.

I started my company (EMJ) from the trunk of my car (and it was a small trunk so that’s a small business). I grew EMJ to $375,000,000 in sales prior to selling it to SYNNEX. I am now CEO of a $1 billion business.

Many of our most important customers are small business people. I make a study out of what makes them successful and what pitfalls they need to avoid. From this study, I came up with the following list of the Top 10 Ways to Grow your Small Business:

1 – Know yourself. Do a SWOT analysis. What are your strengths, your weaknesses, the opportunities and the threats? Examine and understand each. In every strength there is a weakness and in every weakness there is a strength (e.g. you are small so lack financial clout, the advantage is by necessity you will be more creative). The better you know yourself the more successful you will be. By knowing yourself you not only know your areas of opportunity, you know what areas to avoid.

2 – Set goals. This sounds almost too simple but many people and businesses do not set goals. Goals can keep you focused on where you want to go and how you need to get there. Set specific measurable goals with timelines and track progress towards them. Set goals in areas that you know you can win (if you did the SWOT in 1, you will know those areas).

3 – Grow within profitability. Often I see companies who set the goals like I speak about in point 1 and grow their expenses in anticipation of sales only to find the sales do not materialize at the level they thought. Sell first then add overheads.

4 – Sell more to your existing customers. Look at what they buy from other sources that you might be able to sell them. You already have the relationship with your customers. You are already spending the time to service them so your incremental cost is quite low. For example, if you supply them with toner cartridges, it is easy to sell them some printers or other hardware or software.

5 – Sell to more customers. You obviously have something worth buying or you would have no customers. What other customers might use this service. Then market and sell to that audience – email, mail, fax, advertise, call, visit, etc. Ask your existing customers for referrals. Sell in a larger geographic area. Take the knowledge and systems you have to broader areas. Warning on this – the grass is not always greener. It costs more to sell in markets further away. You can lose your advantage.

6 – Grow your people. What I have consistently done is to look at what I do and figure out who can do it (in many cases better than I can). By learning to delegate, I have been able to not only grow myself but grow my people and my company.

7 – Create a change culture in your company. People need to be told that things change. Yes, I wish for the good old times but without change, we would not grow. There is an expression “if you do what you always have done, you will get what you have always got”. The Jim Estill variation on this is “if you do what you have always done (even if it was successful), you will go bankrupt”. Set a goal to do something new every month.

8 – As one of my heroes, Thomas Edison said, “good things come to those who hustle while they wait”. In business, speed wins. Companies and people with a high sense of urgency win. If you do not have this in your company – create it. Set deadlines. Set goals. Do it now. This can be one area that small business can beat big business.

9 – Focus on learning. People and companies that learn, win. This ties into point 7. You need to be a life-long learner. Spend part of your time on learning. Develop a habit of constant learning.

10 – And of course I am a big believer in the good use of time. If you know your goals and focus your time appropriately, you will grow. I study time and even published a CD on how to use time effectively. You can order it online at

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Travel Light Tips

I am just back from Mexico. I was told for security reasons not to blog when I go there. I know security might be an issue in Mexico but the people I met with were all excellent, nice people. Maybe I just did not meet any of the bad guys. Our business prospects there are good and we are developing a good plan for that market.

My travel schedule is causing me to fall a bit behind on some of the maintenance things of life (like I need to get my snow tires on). On the other hand, I did run 21.1 K today (that’s a half marathon if you are wondering why the odd distance).and did some weights. So I do choose what I do with my time so have no one to blame but myself. Of course now I am sore but I blame that on the sitting at my desk for two hours getting caught up on email.

I need to figure out how to be more efficient/productive when I travel so when I get back I have less to do. My Blackberry helps and most places I stay have a method to log in but there are many things I just leave until I get back. Bad habit, I need to figure out how to solve this.

The following travel light tips come from years of canoe tripping where you pay for every extra ounce you have to carry on the portage and where space is limited. I always go carry on.

1 – I like the new high tech clothing. It hardly wrinkles, it is lighter and it rinses out easily and dries fast. I get most of my high tech clothing in running stores and also in the occasional outfitting outdoors store.

2 – I almost never bother with a coat especially if I am traveling to someplace warm. When I get back, I am not too cold for the short distance to the car (or waiting to be picked up). I also can layer if I need to. I leave a coat, hat and gloves in the car in case I need to chip ice etc when I get to the car.

3 – Get rid of packaging. Why take the cardboard outer sleeve for the gum etc. this sounds petty but spread over many things it adds up.

4 – Extra cases/containers take space. I sometimes put my gym shoes in a plastic bag but other than that – almost no extra bags which again add up.

5 – I wear my suit jacket for travel. Put it up when I am flying. I don’t think it gets any more wrinkled than packing it.

6 – take appropriate amounts. Why take a full toothpaste tube? Why take a big deodorant stick? Why take extra clothes?

7 – Often I rip only the articles I want to read out of my trade journals before I go. I read quickly so can often end up short of material unless I take lots. Much of the reading I take is disposable so I can discard stuff as I go. Paper weighs a lot.

8 – I often take reading on my notebook. I am taking my notebook anyways so this is a way to take reading without adding weight.

9 – I clean out my wallet and briefcase before travel. It is amazing the extra things I end up with that I do not need to take. Why take my PetroCanada card, why take 3 pens (I understand 2 – one as a back up), why take my receipts etc.

It is the little things that add up.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Do Smart Business and Stats

We just finished year end. Always a busy time for everyone. If you are one of the readers who work at SYNNEX - thanks the the push!

We all want to look good for month end, quarter end and year end. We tend to look at statistics at these times. Sometimes people get confused by why we are looking at the stats. The stats start to become an end in their own.

Stats are put in place because they are indictors that the business is healthy or needs work. In unhealthy situations people will manage to the stats to the detriment of the business. A good example of this might be discounting a product that you are going to sell anyways. Another example might be writing off all the AR over 90 days so the AR looks better.

I always say "I don't care if we make the sale this month or next as long as we make the sale".

This does not mean that I don't like to push at month end etc (actually one trick I use in my business and personal life is to set more deadlines so I have more times that I push hard)

I keep telling my people - "Do Smart Business". Regardless of the time of month. Does it make business sense.