Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Leading Quietly - Doing the Right Thing

One of the books I read on the weekend was – Leading Quietly – An unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing by Joseph Badaracco.

The book is more about the subtitle “An unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing” than the title – “Leading Quietly”. It did make a valid point that often the best leaders are not the loud stars that the press talks about all the time. Often the best leaders are the quiet plodders that create value over a long period of time.

Much of the book talked about making decisions in uncertain circumstances. Much of leadership involves decision making. And most decisions are not clear. The mark of a good leader is one who is willing to make the decisions quickly. Good leaders know when enough information is enough (some people will not make decisions because they want more information even though the probability of that information changing the decision is negligible). As Badaracco says “the courage to prudently tackle tough situations”.

Good leader do not balk at making decisions even though there is risk involved. Usually there is greater risk in not making the decision.

Much of good decision making is about identifying the problem and simplifying it. Einstein said “Everything should be as simple as possible and no simpler”.

On statement that rang true to me “leadership is hard work”. I guess I never really thought about it but at the time I was reading it, I was struggling with many issues and juggling many balls so it hit home. It also talked about tenacity. This is a trait that I try hard to have. When I do not get the answer I want, I try to figure other approaches to make the sale (and most things are sales even if they involve selling internally or selling someone in a negotiation).

Good book.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

ING Miami Marathon and sciatia

Today I ran a half marathon in Miami. The day started at 4:30am. By 4:45 we were out of the hotel room in a lobby milling with other runners. Everyone walked the 2 blocks to catch the free metromover to the end of the race where the bag drop was. Because it was warm, all I had in my bag was a t-shirt (since I knew my race singlet would be wet and I would get cold) and sunscreen.

10,000 runners made for an awesome race atmosphere.

The race started at 6AM which was great. By then I could already feel the humidity starting to build. The heat from the previous day still hung in the air.

I had considered not doing this race. I suffer from a sore lower back and sciatica. At the last minute I decided to anyways. I'd really rather participate than spectate. For the first mile my sciatica leg hurt and I focused on form. When I have pain, it is easy to have the wrong form and over the 21.1 kilometers, bad form could cause real injury. It took me a full 3 miles to just get loose. My times were slow partly due to the number of other runners, partly because of the leg.

The course was quite flat – only a few bridges to cross which rise and fall. There was a strong wind which always seemed to be at my front and never seemed to help at my back.

The next 8 miles fell away painlessly and I made up some time.

At 11 miles, I started to slow. The sciatic pain returned together with usual pain from distance running. Mile 12 and 13 were slow. I thought about walking but did not (although I did take a bit longer at the Gatorade stops). At about 12.9, one of the runner ahead of me fell backwards. I stopped but in 20 seconds the medics were there so I resumed the run.

I ended in just under 2 hours which was OK.

Elizabeth was not pleased with her time but did finish first in her age category. She ran the full marathon which only goes to show she is twice as crazy as I am.

Satisfying to have finished. Now off to dinner with the Acer sales manager for Latin America.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Fallacy of Return on Investment in Marketing

I attended the Epson Print Academy in Miami today. Excellent well run event. I learned something and would strongly encourage anyone to go to one of these if they get the chance.

I was pleased that Computer Dealer News ran an article by me in their most recent edition. The following is a slightly different version of the same article:

The Fallacy of Return on Investment in Marketing

By Jim Estill

Return on investment in marketing can not be measured accurately. If it can be measured, it can only be measured over a long time.

Do you buy a Coke because it is on the billboard; because you saw the ad on television; because you saw the Coke truck; or because the Coke machine is convenient? Was it the ad this month or last? Or was it to ad you saw when you were 10? Or the nice logo?

The answer is – you probably don’t know exactly why you buy the Coke at the particular time that you do. It is a combination of all these factors that make up marketing that cause the consumer to take action.

The only type of product that can have an instant return on investment in marketing is something that is truly commoditized. If you are selling water and there is no perception that your water is any different than anyone else’s water, then if you do a marketing campaign or a promotion or a price reduction, you can shift share from a competitor. Most manufacturers should actually be spending their marketing dollars differentiating their product. It is much easier to sell “Clean Glacier” water over “bottled city” water if Clean Glacier can sell the refreshment benefits of their brand.

The only companies that should want to commoditize their markets are ones that are truly the lowest cost to produce (not to be confused with lowest price). To sell at the lowest price without the lowest cost is a recipe for failure.

Too often in the computer business, computer companies shift share from one distributor to another without taking share from a true competitor and without earning long term customers. Generally the share shift is not healthy for the manufacturer as it decreases the margin available at distribution and decreased margin at distribution, decreases ultimate interest in the product line and profitability.

What computer manufacturers should use distribution marketing for is to create long-term sales which are much more difficult to measure. As a result, the return on investment in the distribution market (or in virtually all markets)cannot be measured in sales but needs to be measured in “appropriate touches”.

The computer products buying public are influenced through a number of factors. The more the manufacturer can influence these factors, the more probability they have of selling their product.

There is a great book called, Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell that talks about mavens (product experts) and connectors (natural networkers who spread the word). The thesis in the book is by getting products known by enough mavens and connectors; it can cause a product “tip” and become pervasive and successful.

In the computer industry, independent computer resellers tend to be mavens. People turn to them to find out what products are best. Apple has long been a company that promotes evangelists. They used to spend lots of money on these identified passionate supporters who proved to spread the word.

Some of these independent computer resellers are also natural connectors or networkers. Making them favourably predisposed to a product can yield tremendously good results over time. Many computer resellers will recommend one product line over another and can influence hundred of thousands of dollars in sales over time.

I sit on the board of Research in Motion (RIM). When RIM was first introducing their products they spend most of their marketing budget on giving people they identified as mavens or connectors samples of their product. Most stockbrokers qualified. Because the product worked well, they evangelized it and eventually that lead to more adoption and ultimate success.

The next category of mavens and connectors would be distribution sales people. Distribution sales people are typically who resellers turn to when they want information about products. They are also in touch with all of the other mavens in the industry thus making them natural to market to. They have the opportunity to influence or sway sales in a big way. Clearly distribution sales people are more open to their own companies marketing.

All marketing tends to be more effective if it is repeated often. It has been said that the first time a person sees something about the company, they don’t see it; the second time – they are vaguely aware of it; the third time they look at it; the fourth time they read it; the fifth time they absorb; and the sixth time they buy it. All marketing effects occur over time.

Marketing is also best done with multiple medias. It is best to not only send a flyer but to telemarket, email, fax, demonstrate products in trade show, etc. The different messages reinforce each other and different people get different things from different medias.

When spending money with distributors the best place to compare return on the dollar is comparing it to how other marketing monies would be spent and the return received there. Comparing distribution marketing to trade journal advertising:

1. Distribution marketing tends to target real customers, people who have proven they have bought, as opposed to people who say that they are in the industry and might actually be end users, ad agencies etc.

2. Distribution marketing tends to be to current and existing resellers. There is a huge turnover in the reseller base which distributors tend to pick up sooner than trade journals.

3. The recipients of distribution marketing tend to be more open to receiving information since they are already doing business with a distributor. Part of the problem in marketing is moving above the noise and actually getting read. Distributor marketing tends to get read more.

Similar comparisons can be made of almost all vehicles. EG – seminars, trades shows, mailers, emails etc.

I would not be a distributor if I did not believe in distribution. Why do manufacturers use distributors? Simple – it is cheaper and more effective than selling direct. This is primarily because distributors are able to share their overheads among multiple manufacturers. This is similar to the companies that make car parts – they share overheads so GM and Ford etc can buy part cheaper than making them in house.

One of these great savings is in marketing. Distributors use their “warm” and existing relationship and trust of the customer to get them to be open to receiving information. Distributors can do a seminar for 8 vendors for less cost than a single vendor and with much more efficiency (and therefore participation and receptivity) for the reseller. Distributors can send emails, faxes, mailing etc all sharing the costs with other manufacturers.

In summary, the advantages of distribution marketing:

1 – It supports your customer. You need profitable customers to thrive.

2 – It reaches and is read by distribution sales people – key influencers in the sale process.

3 – It reaches proven buyers who are open to receiving information from your company.

Distribution marketing usually yields the best ROI in marketing but these results happen over time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Making a Good Brain Great

I arrived back from travel late last night. Then stayed up too late watching election results roll in (on the internet).

I read a great book on the weekend – “How to Make a Good Brain Great” by Daniel Amen M.D. He studies brain function scientifically using brain scans. He runs a “Brain” clinic specializing in helping people with problem brains. Many people unknowingly injure their brains through minor accidents and then wonder why they are having problems in some parts of their life.

The thesis of the book, which seems perfectly logical, is that the brain is responsible to a large extent for our overall health. He believes and provides proof that we can “repair” and improve our brain function.

Most of good brain health is just normal clean living and healthy lifestyle. He advocates aerobic exercise (more blood pumped to the head). He suggests trying new things to challenge the brain (I do this all the time).

The only part that I do not totally agree with or follow is his guide to supplementation. Some of what he advocates, I do like drinking green tea and taking multivitamins but I am not big on taking many supplements. We are in sync on eating a healthy diet including lots of essential fatty acids like ground flax and fish oil.

He advocates laughter something I have been trying to add to my lifestyle.

Overall, I have a very brain healthy lifestyle. The only exception to that might be sleep. He advocates getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night and never seem to find the time for that. This said, it is on my list to try to get to bed earlier.

Interesting that he is a big advocate of table tennis as a good brain sport since the Estill family is big on this (although I don’t play as much as my father or brothers).

The book has 13 steps to exercise your brain. Some of these I do naturally – like “dedicate yourself to learning”, “limit TV”, “Limit video games (sometimes I play too much online chess”. Others I can easily add like “break routine”.

He also has a 15 day program to a healthier brain. I won’t give you the program – you will have to read the book for that. It is a great book and worth the read.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tme Management and Students and Mothers

I am in the airport lounge. Flight leaves in an hour.

I was surfing blogs last night looking for “time management tips”, “time management”, “goal setting” etc (yes I lead an exciting life). What I discovered is many students and mom’s log about time management. Most students complain that they lack the skills. Many moms are eager to share their tips.

I found that people who complained about poor time management skills thought that it was a “tick box” skill. Once you learn it, you know how to do it sort of like riding a bike. Time management is not that type of skill, it is a “continuum” skill. You always need to refine systems and add to your skill – more like golf (not that I play golf yet).

Many of the people who complain about time think it is a problem because they are not in control. They have the mistaken belief that many other people control their world more and therefore do not have the same pressures. Even though I am an executive and largely set my own schedule (actually my assistant sets a lot of it at my request), much of my time is spent dealing with unscheduled or unplanned things. It is actually one of the things that makes my job interesting.

Many people think others direct their time and it would be great to not have anyone “pushing” them or telling them what to do. They would think my job was a dream job. What I have found is people who do not have anyone directing them tend to push themselves even harder if they are successful.

I found remarkable time crunch similarities between mothering and running a company. I suspect the juggling and work load of both are similar in many cases. They key is to get the same amount of self esteem and respect from both jobs as this is the fuel that gives the energy.

I found many people focus on the tips or efficiency which is great but very few talk about direction or effectiveness. The reason I titled this blog Time Leadership is I believe the leadership or direction are more important that the management or efficiency. See my May 23rd post.

Interesting how different lives are yet how similar.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Campanies age like dogs - quickly

Mostly a work day today catching up from last week’s travel. I did work out first thing though and did have lunch at my mom and dad’s. Flying out again tomorrow but will luck, I will be back Monday night in time for election results.

One concept that Bob Huang recently raised with me was the concept that company years are a lot like dog years. Companies age quickly.

What are the challenges of aging companies? They tend to not like new ideas. They tend to have high inertia. They tend to be slower. They tend not to try new things.

What are the advantages of aging? Wisdom and knowledge are the most obvious advantages. Companies know what works (and what does not) in their markets. Older companies also tend to have more resources.

Companies are like our bodies. We can do many things to help us stay younger. What is the nutrition and exercise of a company? What can we do to remain flexible? How can we get the best of both the new and the old? This is my challenge.

I think a large part of it is learning. For me, I study, study, study. While I study, I filter and synthesize new ideas. Just because a book says it, does not make it right for our circumstance now. Some of it can be training which just a subset of how we learn. I always look at my learning systems to see how I can learn more faster and easier.

Part of it is deliberately entering new areas. Deliberately taking risks. Well run older companies tend to have costs so well under control that they no longer take risks. Deliberately risking works for older companies. One of my mantras is “Fail often, fail fast and fail cheap”. If we are not making some errors, we need to risk more.

It is not only the fight to stay young, we need to use the wisdom and knowledge and advantages we have because we are older. We have many strengths – identify them and capitalize on them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Productivity while Traveling

I will be happy to be home after 2 ½ weeks of travel. First, I was at the CES show in Vegas then SYNNEX head office in Fremont with a day trip to MacWorld in San Francisco.

I find shows inspirational although also daunting. Shows open my eyes to endless possibilities. I see many new things we need to do to be excellent. I consider good business to be a continual journey towards excellence.

While I am on the road, I have different systems to handle the volume. I always work on refining these to help me be more efficient. If I am only away for a couple of days, I can simply reply to emails and vmails and leave most larger projects until I get back. When I am away for extended periods, I cannot work the same way. I need systems to allow me to move forward on projects.

While on the road, I also have systems for staying healthy (similar to what I have at home but different to suit the circumstance). I joined a Fremont health club because of the length of my stay this time. I stay in a suite with cooking facilities so end up cooking for myself most of the time (which I enjoy and which tends to be healthier - also saves money (yes, even the CEO is focused on saving money))

I have become good at operating from almost anywhere and still being productive.

So the time tip today is “Change systems to fit the circumstances”.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Goal setting and good copying

I am using one of the tricks on time that I preach. Copying (with permission and proper attribution of course). Copying can be a fast way to create a blog post.

I pulled the following article by Jackie Fletcher from the net that I thought you might enjoy:

Goals. There's no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There's no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there's no telling what will happen when you act upon them." ~ Jim Rohn

Would you like to achieve positive results in your life and get what you really want? This tried and tested goal setting strategy is an effective way to set and achieve your goals. My Ten Top Tips are as follows:

- Write them down. By writing down your goals you are showing personal commitment and declaring your intention to succeed, as well as helping to clarify your thinking.

- Be specific. Write down goals that are specific, measurable and positive. Focus clearly on what you desire, not what you lack or want to get rid of from your life.

- Have a time limit. Set a date by which you will have achieved each of your goals. Otherwise, it’s like starting a football match without having agreed when the game is to end!

- Think of the benefits. Think through all the benefits of achieving your goals, and write them all down. This helps you clarify why they are important to you, visualise and feel what it will be like to achieve them, check how committed you are to working on them - and all this will help energise and motivate you if the going gets tough.

- Consider options and obstacles. How many ways can you think of to achieve your goal? Evaluate the results and consequences of each. What could stop you or cause a problem? And what about subconscious obstacles? Complete this sentence several times to find out more - “I want to achieve (name your goal) but………”

- Make a detailed plan. Having chosen your preferred way forward, identify all the actions you’ll need to take. This breaks a seemingly big and daunting task down into manageable steps, enables you to plan what to do, prepare for problems, and reduces resistance to actually getting started.

- Identify resources. What skills, knowledge, ability and contacts do you already have? What additional resources will you require? What changes do you need to make? Realistically review and assess this when making your plan, and ask for extra support as required.

- Balance and fit. Check that all the areas of your life are in balance - if not, will your various goals make this happen? Will your goals support your long term plans and fit your ambitions, are they worthy of you, do they reflect your values? So while you are building that great career or business, ensure that you are also looking after your health, relationships, fun time, wealth and personal development etc.

- Take action! Make a start. Actually take the first step you identified when you formed your plan of action.

- Review and reward. Set some interim milestones as part of your initial strategy. This means you can check your progress regularly and see that you are moving in the right direction. And as part of this process acknowledge your achievements along the way and reward yourself for everything you accomplish. Celebrate!

View all Jackie Fletcher's articles


About the Author:
Jackie Fletcher is a life satisfaction and mentor coach, working with busy professionals, small business owners and new coaches, helping them create and live the life they really want - balanced, successful and happy. For more information visit http://www.transitionslifecoaching.co.uk

Monday, January 16, 2006

Walking the Tight Rope

I read a great book on the weekend “Walking the Tight Rope” by Dr. Tom Barrett. Although I thought it was great, many people would not get a lot out of it and certainly would not get the same things out of it that I did.

The book is about balancing family and professional life. I did not fully “get” the book as one underlying assumptions of people who talk about balance is that they do not like their work. This is an assumption I cannot accept. I am also of the belief that most truly successful people are not very balanced.

What I did get from the book was the continued importance of being real regardless of ones position. There is a tendency in life as one becomes more successful for everyone to shield them from the bad news. There is a temptation to talk and lose the ability to listen. Part of the key to continued success is to not lose the ability to listen.

The book is targeted towards members of congress. All of the examples and advice is centered around public life. It talks about how the job changes the person (something I believe). The key is to have control over what changes you allow.

One quote used is “too soon old, too late wise”. My quest for wisdom continues.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Good ways to Procrastinate and when Procrastination might be good

I was at MacWorld yesterday in San Francisco. I am inspired by their new products and in awe of iPod success. Sifting through all the Apple compatible stuff is almost overwhelming. We are very strong in the Apple and iPod market.

I had an article re-published on Tony Wiseman’s blog. Always flattering.

Good ways to Procrastinate and when Procrastination might be good.

I wrote the following last weekend but did not post it:

I am writing this with the din of jackhammers in background. I am working on the weekend (surprising at that might be); feeling sorry for myself that I cannot get good quiet uninterrupted time in like I had planned.

I thought I would write a blog post on Procrastination since that is what I am doing now. I have more important things to do (please don’t take offence). I am going into a heavy travel schedule so like to have a few posts written or at least roughed out so I can post quickly while I am on the road. So writing a post is not a terrible use of time.

I started thinking about when procrastination might be good and came up with many types of good procrastination.

The rules of Good Procrastination.

1 – Procrastinate or leave something if it is likely to resolve itself if you take no action. Of course in this case, it likely should not even be on your list and should not be a priority.

2 – Procrastinate if letting something “stew” will lead to a better solution. In this case, I tend to not do nothing on it, rather I spend a while to organize it, think about it, write a few ideas down etc. Ideas tend to incubate better if some thought has gone into it before they are left.

3 – If you must procrastinate, do something else on your list that might be lower priority but still needs doing. This is like asking your child, do you want to wear the red hat or the blue one. Not do you want to wear a hat. Choose from 2 or more tasks – all that need doing.

4 – Procrastinate if you need a break. Sometimes productivity is an order of magnitude better if you are properly in flow and have the right energy, creativity etc.

5 – Sometimes I procrastinate on the big part of the job by doing the smaller parts around it. For example, rather than do my taxes (which I hate), I might just collect and organize things or set up a meeting with my accountant. Choose a part of the job that is not as ugly.

6 – Procrastinate by doing the more important task. This seems counter intuitive since good time management says you always work on the highest priority task (and you should be). What I often find is I am working on tasks that are causing me stress (so I want to procrastinate) only to realize, there are likely other more important tasks to do that I enjoy doing.

7 – Procrastinate if someone else is likely to do it (or if you can get them to do it). Of course, I never said I was a marriage counselor. Leaving the dishes or cleaning for you spouse might not be such a good idea – now hiring – that’s another idea.

Most of all, if you procrastinate, do not feel guilty. This only detracts from the “good” of it.

Still, working on something that is not your highest priority too often is not a good habit to get into. One of my favourite time management authors, Alan Lakein, says to always ask “What is the best use of my time right now?”.. So back to work.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Looking for a Career?

New Years is often a time of reflection for people and a time people look for a change.

I have often seen people use their blogs to look for a job so I thought I would use mine to try to find people to hire. We are growing rapidly so need a number of new people in various positions from sales, product management, warehouse, marketing, event planning to account receivable etc. We are having a job fair in our SYNNEX Ronson location on January 12/06 from 4 to 8 PM. Although the job fair is in Toronto we have open positions in Guelph and Calgary also. Email resumes@synnex.com with your resume or for more details.

You won’t see me there, I will still be in California but you can meet many of the other fine folks at SYNNEX.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD

I am now in Fremont for management meetings after almost a week at the CES show in Las Vegas. I am tired but inspired by the show. There is a lot of growth opportunity for us. Mostly I spent time with existing vendors and customers. This is a good opportunity for me to get feedback on how we can be excellent.

One interesting technology struggle that is going on is Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. It is of double interest not only because of the DVD players but because the media is also different.

Eric Savitz from Barron’s sums up the battle well:

“Blu-ray seemed to have more momentum; it has the advantage of support from Sony, which controls a significant chunk of all the color motion pictures ever made in Hollywood. But Blu-ray DVD players are going to be expensive when they come out later this year. Pioneer announced a high-end consumer model priced at $1,800. A spokesman for Samsung said it would have a player in April, earlier than most other Blu-ray devices, that likely would retail around $1,000.

Less complicated to build, HD-DVD drives will start at lower prices. Toshiba announced plans to sell one model this summer at $499. The real danger is that a VHS-Betamax-style standards war will slow consumer adoption of a new DVD standard despite the strong growth high-def displays. Efforts to reconcile the two groups have failed, so the skirmish at CES easily could turn into all-out war. "Certainly, a format war is not a good thing," Sony's Stringer conceded in a Q&A session with reporters. "But I don't see what we can do about it."”

This battle reminds me a bit of VHS vs. Beta.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sense of Urgency Wins.

I am just taking a few minutes between meetings at the CES show in Vegas to blog and email. Vegas is a great place to visit for a day. Spectacular architecture, world class hotels, awesome outdoor water fountain shows (why they decided to use so much water in their displays when this is a desert is beyond me), many interesting features in the hotels etc. It gets tired quickly expecially when there is a big show on since getting access to simple things like a taxi etc is a trial.

The line ups and wasted time trying to get from place to place at a show like this really drives me crazy. Still, it is very efficient. In just a few days, I can meet with 25 vendors and 15 customers. Tough to do that any other way.

I am an impatient person. I believe success in business has a lot to do with sense of urgency. The company or person who can do it now and do it faster usually wins. One of my favourite quotes is by Thomas Edison: "Great things come to those who hustle while they wait". One Jim Estill quote is "sense of urgency wins". I try to instill that in everyone.

Of course as I was contemplating my New Years resolutions, I almost added that this was a good year for me to be more zen. Content in the moment. Able to be calm even if things are moving slowly.

Monday, January 02, 2006

How I set New Years Resolutions - let them stew.

Today will be a regular work day for me except I will take a couple of hours off for a long slow run. I took most of Saturday and Sunday off. I have been letting my New years resolutions stew this weekend. One of my friends, Ric Asselstine, and author, entrepreneur, professor writes about letting ideas stew:

"You ever heard of chile or chile con carnie (did I spell that right?). Anyway, here's the drill... Cook chile in the morning and serve it at noon. How's it taste? Exactly,..... not bad. Now, cook it in the morning and serve it that night (or the next day for lunch for that matter) and how does it taste?

Exactly!!! It tastes awesome. Same thing with:
a) ideas we have
b) talks we give
c) essays we write
d) letters we write
e) tough decisions we have to communicate
f) blogs we want to post...

Point is, if we let them simmer - get started and let it sit for a while, let our thoughts distill.... if we let things incubate (which is the formal term to "ideation" which is what we are really talking about here), our end product (no matter what that end product is) is almost always guaranteed to be better."

I use Ric's idea (but vegetarian of course). I plant the seeds of ideas and let them incubate and grow.

Today will be a highly productive day. I am heading into a fairly aggressive travel period so need to prepare for that. Deadline pressure never hurts. But most importantly, I have also started enough on my resolutions that they have been “stewing” and are ready.