Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dealing with Stress

Yesterday was highly stressful. I realize I deal with a lot of stress in my life. Some planned, some not. I am going to brainstorm on how I can better deal with stress (although outwardly, most people would say I deal well with it).

I often get people emailing me about my blog rather than commenting. One email I received had a good point on blogging. The response was about an article i wrote called '8 Tips On How To Write An Article In 20 Minutes'. The comment was:

" Another essential tip you might want to add is to write about what you know. Much blogging emphasizes writing on topics that is interesting to the author, but not necessarily what they know about. The end result is a glut of opinions and shallow insights."

Now I hope I am blogging about something I know about.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Day off

I am still in Charleston SC at the SYNNEX presidents club.

Fairly lazy day today. Kayaking at a leisurely pace this morning with a group of SYNNEX people. We saw lots of wildlife - porpoises, nesting terns and pelicans, an osprey, very close to a blue heron and also saw a tricolour heron. Overall, an awesome experience.

It is sweltering hot here. High humidity too.

This afternoon, I ran 9 miles on a treadmill. Even inside it was HOT.

Tonight is a banquette.

Refreshing to take a day off.

I need to pick up some reading for my return flights.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Strategy and Weathermakers

I am still on the SYNNEX retreat in Charleston. Awesome venue (although they could do something about the heat and humidity which really makes me tired). Awesome activities. Awesome people - does not get much better than this.

I worry that I might be a bit too work focused though because I was stressing about ot enough email/call time to keep up and more; I was sometimes wishing they could turn the music down so I could talk to more people. I need to learn a bit more balance I think.

This morning before the formal activities, we had an executive strategy meeting. These always inspire me and at the same time make me relize how much we have to do. One of my continual quests in life is to seek clarity. In strategy, this tends to be difficult and iterative. Even with good strategy, things always take time. Implementation is the key. Good strategy with poor implementation always fails.

The other tough thing to know about strategy is when to change it. Have we tried it properly etc.

The other interesting part is balance. We have limited resources. How can we maximize return from them. We always need to choose the best 3 out of 20 projects. We need enough resources per project to ensure success.

I read a great book on the weekend (It was a long weekend so I still have a few more reviews to go) by Tim Flannery called, “The Weathermakers – How We are Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth”. Tim Flannery is a scientist and a conservationist. (He is not just an alarmest.) My brother, Glen, who is clearly an enviromentalist (his business is selling wind energy) recommended the book. Glen's review (which also appeared on my brother Lyle's blog since he is also in the alternative fuels business making Biodiesel follows:

The Weathermakers, Tim Flannery, Harper Collins publisher.Theweathermakers.ca
This is the single most comprehensive and readable book on climate change there is. Australian author Tim Flannery brings together all aspects of climate science in a hard hitting book, that outlines the great danger humans face if we ignore this challenge.

From the tragedy of the extinction of Costa Rica’s golden toad, to drought and famine in the Sahel region of Africa, to the salinization of millions of acres of wheat fields in Western Australia due to changing rainfall patterns, to the vanishing mountain glaciers with their impact on drinking water supply, to the 2005 hurricane season, Flannery makes a compelling case that climate change is real, that it is happening now, and that the evidence is building that it will be worse than the experts are currently predicting. (Expert opinion is governed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which issues reports based on scientific consensus - surely a recipe for conservatism).

The book touches on solutions, but only in a cursory way. But the book’s value is in building a compelling case for taking action at both a personal and governmental level. The solutions are for others to articulate. But know this: They are there.

This is the book that reportedly caused the Prime Minister of Australia to change his mind about climate change. A must read for all citizens concerned about the future of the planet, and ourselves

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

SYNNEX Retreat and SEO

I am at a retreat in Charleston, South Carolina with a group of high performing SYNNEX staff. Beautiful venue (and warm compared to the frost that got the tomatoes on the weekend). Very well executed by the SYNNEX Marketing staff.

I violated one of my own time rules of travel. By the time I got to the second flight, I had run out of reading material. So my time tip for today is always carry lots of reading.

Lately I seem to be thinking a lot about BLOG traffic (my thoughts could be because I changed my blog to www.jimestill.com off of blogspot and lost many of my links). Because my blogspot blog redirects to my new blog, I have not lost much traffic; but the rating on my new blog is lower.

When I look at my log files on how people find my blog, I am particularly intrigued by the search engine and the words that people search for ( refered to as search engine optimization or SEO when people deliberately try to increase their search hits) and I have come to the following conclusions:

1. Often people search for book titles and so when I do my book reviews, this often leads to a minor amount of traffic.

2. Of course I get the usual ones like people searching for Jim Estill or SYNNEX.

3. I get a number of appropriate hits from people looking for “Goal Setting activities", "inspired leadership", "time management".

4. I get a number of hits that probably don’t get what the user is seeking such as things like: "ways to feel energized" (this might not be a bad topic for me to blog on though), "athletes and leadership", "uses and abuses of leadership and management" (I sure hope my blog is not about that). Not sure accidental hits are worth much.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tipping Point

I re-read one of my favourite books on the weekend. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. My interest in it is primarily as a marketing/branding book. I view it as a start but not the end on what causes trends. Part of SYNNEX and EMJ's success has been to correctly identify trends. The more I can figure them out, the better we can be. I was going to write my own book review for you but using my best Time Management hat, I found a great one written by Jeliel on Amazon and thought I would share it with you.

"... The Tipping Point, I picked it up and whizzed right through it like a plow to the land. I think that perhaps Gladwell tried to hard to make Blink! A success like The Tipping Point has been.
This is one fantastic book to read and should be read by everyone in my opinion. It would give us all a better insight into human behavior.

This book is about epidemics, not the biological ones like Bird Flu, but the epidemics of human behavior or created by human behavior. But mostly it's about the little things that give birth to an epidemic; these little things are what constitute the tipping point, the point where localized phenomena spreads... quickly.

According to Gladwell there are 3 rules to epidemics rising. The first one is "The Law of the Few" which states that there's a ratio called the 80/20 Principle. This principle says that 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. The second rule is "The Stickiness Factor". This factor points to information and the types of information that will stay with you, stick with you, like a kick-ass commercial that touched on something for you. The third rule is "The Power of Context" which is all about sensitivity to our surroundings and how it can influence us whether we accept it or not.

In the first rule, "The Law of the Few", Gladwell dissects it into 3 major players, human players; Connectors, mavens and salesmen.

"Connectors" are what I call social addicts. These people thrive on human interaction. They have social power and this is what's needed to bring people together for the impending epidemic.

"Mavens" are the information junkies who actually read the freakin manual, calls the 1-800 number of a company and crosses their T's and dots their I's for them. These are the guys that learn anything they can from a product. These are the guys that can tell you where to get the best deal for whatever you desire to purchase.

The third player is the "Salesman". The name says it all. These salesmen will sell an Eskimo a freezer. Why? Because they have this ability to mind meld with people, get into the proper frame of mind and can get anyone to agree with them, they can convince anyone, therefore sell anything.

Using all this information as a base, Gladwell then goes on to make his case, or cases. He has a formidable power of association where he can link Paul Revere's gallop through New England to warn that the British were coming with the seemingly inexplicable re-popularization of Hush Puppies by a sub-culture of fashion conscious youth looking for the item no one else is wearing. He links together a suicide spree in a country that had never had cases of suicide with teen smoking by pointing that cool people don't act cool, they are cool by acting on poor impulse control.

In the end, an epidemic starts by a few folks who dare to buy the new technology when the prices are still exorbitant, a few folks who live a life of laissez faire and can become Patient Zero for the aids epidemic in North America, like Gaetan Dugas; a French Canadian flight attendant who's promiscuous sex life with thousands of people across North America made him the target of vilification. Good or bad, an epidemic starts with people that dare to try, that dare to leap before looking.

This leads to another set of people, those who will jump in once the daring have done so. These are the ones that bring awareness to the epidemic, which leads to the masses. And before you know it, everyone has an iPod. I only wish that Gladwell could have written this book after the iPod craze to see just how he would treat it. Ipods went from woohoo-another-mp3-player to the must have item in no time flat. It's so popular that entire store walls are dedicated to iPod accessories. That's epidemic, iTunes, most likely the tipping point.

This was another book I just couldn't put down and had to read at every possible free moment I had. Undoubtedly a superior book to his Blink! And it has restored my faith in Gladwell. This book should be one everyone's to-read list. I impatiently anticipate Gladwell's next offering to the Dead Tree Society."

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Power of One, Why We Buy and Links

This was a long weekend in Canada so I really was able to get caught up. Worked a full day Saturday and most of the day today (except for 2 hours off for some weight training and a 10K run). Since it is not a US holiday, I had calls with the US today.

And of course since technically today is a holiday, I don’t feel guilty posting to my CEO blog during business hours.

I did finish a couple of books this weekend. One was purely recreation.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtney is a novel about a young white boy growing up in aparthied South Africa. At 500 slow but captivating pages, it took almost 5 hours to read.

Like all books that I read, someone suggested it was a good read. It was well written. Pure recreation. Highly recommended for fun but the business lessons are few and you need to stretch a bit to get them.

One quote from the book (used in a boxing context) was "Lead first with your head then with your heart". Does that apply to business? Without the logic and head, there can be no heart because the business would not survive. Another good quote was "I was cultivating a habit of winning. Winning is a state of mind that embraces everything you do, so I found I won in other things as well.". This quote definitely applies to my life philosophy.

An awesome business book I read was Why we Buy - The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. This one is a business book primarily of interest to retailers (although I see similarities in retail and online habits). Paco (and his researchers) followed and recorded the behavior of tens of thousands of shoppers. From this he is able to run a consulting business that makes recommendations to retailers on minor changes they can make to increase their sales.

Examples include - Provide a spot for people to sit, especially the person who brought the shopper. Leave parking spots for people at fast food places since 10% of the customers buy then go eat in their car. Children and old ladies are the primary buyers of doggie treats - put them where they can seen and reached.

He gives many examples of simple changes that can be made to increase sales. As with all brilliance, many of his observations are obvious.

This book is a must read for any retailer.


On the blog front, since I moved to my own domain, I have not regained my links. I was ranked 38,000 with 126 links from 58 sites. Now I am at 172,000 with 27 links from 17 sites. So link to me.

I thought the following was interesting:

My blog is worth $32,743.32.
How much is your blog worth?

The value is scientifically calculated based on traffic and links. Of course I have not had anyone step forward with a cheque yet.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Today I will be highly productive. I feel energized and ready to tackle the fairly long list of things I have felt behind on. Not positive why I feel that way but I do.

Yesterday the Globe and Mail had an interesting article on Botox. People who had frown lines removed and were no longer able to frown (Botox kills the muscles), overcame their depression problems. Interesting concept that on some level I have known for a long time.

We become the way we act. "Fake it until you make it". One of the reason I like reading about great people is to learn. I also try to act the way they do. Over time, I often have some of the success they have had. I try to figure out how a "successful" person would act then act that way even though it often feels disingenuous when I start doing it.

It stands to reason that the same principle would apply to frowning. If you cannot act depressed, you cannot be depressed. There seems to also be an interesting connection between the body and the mind. The way the body acts impacts the mind.

So from now on, I will try to smile more (and frown less).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Making an Impact - and travel habits

I am in the Tampa airport waiting for a flight. Will arrive home at midnight.

Although travel sounds glamourous, one hotel board room tends to be similar to any other. Even ecomonical travel is also expensive and in a low margin/low overhead business like SYNNEX, we always need to watch our costs. I also usually feel pulled to be where I am not. When I am in the office, I "should" be traveling and when I am traveling, I am needed in the office.

Of course, I am trying hard to get over the shoulds in my life.

One discipline I am working on is more success habits while traveling (or in short, being more productive). Because flights tend to be at odd times, it can cut in to workouts which I need to watch. Health and working out keep me crisp. I did manage a 5 mile run today. On a treadmill - it is way too hot here to run outside.

Sometimes I get notes or emails from people. I was really picked up by the following email from one of my ex-employees:

"Jim, it has been about 10 months since (I left) SYNNEX/EMJ.... I have been following your blog almost daily since the closure. I wanted to let you know that even though I am no longer with SYNNEX/EMJ that I still follow what is going on through many of the people that I gained the friendship of there.... You have remained an inspiration to me through your blog. I always have felt that you were very intelligent and had lots you could offer a person even those who do not work for you. By the sounds of it, things are still going strong for you with SYNNEX and that is great. Anyways, just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that you have made a huge impact on my life...."

Wow. I am humbled. It inspires me to try harder.

My first tip today is to start a flie of these and look at them if you ever feel down or need inspiration. I call my file "Good Feelings".

My second tip is to occassionally write these notes. They have an impact - especially since so few people take the time to write.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reading Lists and What Cops Know

I read a few books on the weekend.

Virtually all of the books that I read are books that are referred to me. The book, "What Cops Know" by Connie Fletcher was referred to me as a marketing book to give insight into human nature. The problem with it of course is that much of the human nature that cops deal with tends to be very negative human nature so I am sure how much of it applies to marketing and behavior.

Perhaps I don’t watch enough TV; however, I found much of it to be very violent although morbidly interesting.

What I did learn from the book is that most cops tend to become fairly jaded and synical because they deal with criminals most of the time. What I learned from this is that I should make sure that I spend time with positive people so that I can appropriately inspire.

Overall, I would not rate this as a must read or even as a marketing or business book. I would call it a recreation read.

My time tip for the day is "reading lists". I keep a list of books to read. I encourage friends to suggest books. I even ask "read any good books lately". I am fortunate enough to have an assistant who reserves books at the library online and picks them up for me. Keeps me in reading.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

One Year of Blogging

I have just finished a full year of blogging on my CEO blog. It seems like more.

This year, I did 200 entries so more than every other day. At 20 minutes each (see my article on how to write a blog entry in 20 minutes), thats about 67 hours. I am sure I would have spend another 67 hours in set up and maintenance.

I wrote over 50 mini book reports on the blog. Many of the posts had some reference to time management or leadership (thats the blog theme so they should).

10 of the posts were slightly rewritten an published elsewhere as articles:

8 tips on how to write an article in 20 minutes
60 Minutes To Clear Goals
9 Ways To Network Easily
Efficient Blogging
Good Ways To Procrastinate And When Procrastination Might Be Good
Guerilla Versus Gorilla - Small Companies Can Win
Jim Estill's 8 Rules Of Time
Successful Merger Synergies – How To Make It Work
The Ten Cardinal Rules Of Blogging
The Top 10 Ways To Grow Your Small Business

The blog brought me some traditional paper press. I was featured in Forbes magazine, The Globe and Mail and Rex.

I also moved CEO Blog to my own domain www.jimestill.com (so if you still are coming here via the old blogspot address, pleas change your bookmark)

Today I will set new goals including new blog goals. I think to start, I should at least get 12 articles from my blog published elsewhere. I will also set traffic goals. And link goals (I lost most of my links when I moved to my own URL so dropped from 40,000 to 400,000) so will need to build that back up.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Blog Carnival of Entrpreneurship

Very busy times for me. Just back from travel. Cutting short my sleep. Missed my workouts. Must be busy. No concerns though, I will catch up on the weekend.

A few weeks ago I committed to host a Blog Carnival of Entrepreneurship on my CEO blog. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, a blogger volunteers to accept submissions from writer. In my case on entrepreneurship. I then choose 6-8 of the ones I like and comment on them making sort of an online magazine.

It is not that easy to pick the right articles. I rejected the ones that were off topic, politcal, or purely self serving. I rejected those that were on slow servers. Hopefully this did not screen anyone with a temporary problem. Then I tried to choose a variety of topics of interest to entrepreneurs. My apology to the others who submitted that I was not able to use.

Entrepreneurship all starts with ideas. Nathan Waters gives you his ideas on how he comes up with ideas. For myself, I find the ideas are not the hard part, its implementing them.

Dominic Foster talks about the benefits of working at home. SOmeone should write a counter balance article talking about the challenges of working at home (not that I usually focus more on the challenges - see I can't even say problem).

Marcus Markou talks about the Art of Sales. Without sales, no business will thrive. We all need to learn more about how to sell.

Andy Trihn talks about "How to really do market research". Its obvious and simple but these are often the best ideas.

Kavit Haria talks about one of my favourite topics "Leadership". No entrepreneur can succeed without becoming a leader. No leader can truly succeed without growing, learning and studying leadership.

Dave Lorenzo talks about "Creativity and Strategic Thinking". Both critical to business success.

Marcus Marcou talks about how to get money from banks (legally). Entrepreneurs often worry about this and want to know how to do it. One philosophy I have had is growth within profitability. Sometimes the best bank is the business itself.

Becky McCray talks bout when it is the right time to expand a business. Of course, I am a big growth advocate. I think this is the best way to drive efficiencies painlessly.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Running while taking cell calls - it works

I am in Greenville at the SYNNEX US sales conference. What I have learned:

1 - SYNNEX is loved by their vendors. The vendors are impressed by the job we do.

2 - We have a great group of people.

3 - There are distinct differences between SYNNEX US and SYNNEX Canada (and Mexico). The key for me is to try to bring the best of the US to Canada and vice versa.

4 - there is great team spirit on the SYNNEX team.

There is buzz at the SYNNEX conference especially amoung the senior people around our purchase of Azerty Canada.

Yesterday was a blur day. Up at 4:30 to catch the flight to Greenville (of course there are no direct flights - that would be too easy). Because the Azerty deal had just closed, I needed to deal with many press calls, an extra hundred or so emails from well wishers in the customer and supplier community (and if you are reading this and think you are burdening me too much by sending them, you are not - I like them). When I arrived at the hotel, I was too early to check in so I went to the health club and ran a slow 5 miles (in the US, I run in miles - in Canada, I run in Kilometers). I had the gym all to myself. Because of the number of cell calls I was getting, I learned I could slow the treadmill down to a brisk walk and still talk so the 5 miles definitely had a lot of walk time in it.

Slow long runs are one way I deal with allergies at this time of year. I had also missed 5 of my workouts in the past 3 weeks working on this deal so was feeling guilty.

And of course the party stayed going late.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

SYNNEX to Buy Azerty Canada

So if you have been wondering why I have not been as active on the blog. I have been busy on a large SYNNEX acquisition. The press release below says it all:

TORONTO, ON - May 4, 2006 - SYNNEX Canada Limited, a subsidiary of SYNNEX Corporation (NYSE: SNX), announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to expand its printing supplies distribution business by acquiring substantially all of the assets of Azerty United Canada's ink and toner business from United Stationers Supply Co.

"SYNNEX Canada is a leader in supplying printer supplies to Canadian value added resellers and retail customers," said Robert Huang, President and Chief Executive Officer of SYNNEX Corporation. "Through this acquisition, we further strengthen our leadership position in printer supplies distribution, as well as our position as one of the leading information technology product distributors in Canada."

"This acquisition will provide SYNNEX Canada with greater market share and an expanded footprint, thus allowing us to provide an even higher level of service to our customers and vendor partners," said Jim Estill, Chief Executive Officer of SYNNEX Canada Limited. We expect the integration of the two organizations to be an efficient transition, and we look forward to the Azerty United Canada staff becoming a part of the SYNNEX family."

Total consideration for the purchased net assets is approximately USD $17 million. In the twelve months ending March 31, 2006, revenues from the Azerty United Canada ink and toner business were approximately USD $100 million. SYNNEX does not expect to retain the entire revenue run rate of the Azerty United Canada business after the close of the acquisition. The transaction is expected to close on or before June 15, 2006.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Lots of volume today even though I was in my office all day and had few scheduled calls (although lots happened) and few meetings scheduled.

I almost always have a number of projects on the go at once. Right now I am close to completing my major parts in some of these projects. Often the way I work, I take a project to a certain point before it is handed over to a team. This does not mean I will have nothing to do, it just means I will need to refocus and figure out my new goals.

Because everyone knows that I am very efficiency oriented and goal oriented, people often give me articles or books on goal setting or time management.

One of the people that I work with recently gave me an article from the January 28th Montreal Gazette on "Planning will help you hit the mark."The subtitle was more interesting, "The manner in which you set goals can be the difference between success and failure". The gist of the article was that goals should be specific and measurable.

It all comes back to the acronym to use when setting goals - SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed.

I am good at the Specific. Fairly good at measurable and timed (with deadlines). Sometimes not so good on the attainable and realistic (although I am working hard to try to better at it).