Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Motivational Speakers

Yesterday I attended a YPO seminar with 3 great inspireational speakers. Vern Harnish, Seth Godin and Pat Lencioni.

The theme of the day was growth. Clearly a motivational topic for any entrepreneur. The reason I like growth it is th painless way to efficiency. Sell 20% more but only add 10% more staff and overheads is to most painless path to efficiency.

The speakers challenged me to think big, think major change, think different. Separate from the crowd. Do not do what everyone else does - choose something different. I came away with pages of notes. Now I am thinking...

Changing topics.

I am a very goal focussed person. I read on the instigator blog a project that he is doing where he is encouraging people to set goals between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I find setting goals for me is inspirational and good as it keeps me ontrack anytime so why not participate.

The best goal setting exercise is still the 60 minute goal setting exercise that I have written about previously.

This specific challenge that I need to solve now is further refinement of my time systems and processes to help me efficiently handle volume. Specific issues around the time to do email.

At the same time, I need to polish my time systems and I need to make sure I maintain my health. The only area that I really need help with may be sleeping more (although I do need to keep the discipline up on exercising and eating right).

Sleep Deficit

These have been busy days for me. Today I was at an awesome YPO seminar. More on that later.

I read a very interesting article from the Harvard Business Review, October 2006 Edition called, Sleep Deficit the Performance Killer. A conversation with Harvard Medical School Professor Charles A. Szeisler is highly discouraging. His view is that we all get too little sleep and not getting enough sleep hurts our performance and our productivity. He even goes as far as thinking companies should have a "sleep policy" that don't allow people to take red-eye flights and allow for people to make time zone adjustments.

In reading the article, I do believe there are a number of valid points and I do think I should work more on sleeping properly.

There was a short paragraph on how to stay awake when you need to stay awake (certainly not a main point of the article which strongly encourages sleep). The obvious points were:

- drink caffeine (I rarely drink coffee except when I need to stay awake), although I do drink the occasional soda and tea (usually green tea)

- take naps if they are brief (less than an hour) (and I am a big advocate of a 21 minute nap. )

- exercise (I use this one)

- being in an upright position (duh)

- and exposure to bright light

One comment he made is "it is not heroic to deprive oneself of sleep". Food for thought.

I read a great book by Marty Neumeier called the Brand Gap (even though I am busy, I still take some breaks). As you know, I am a big fan of marketing and branding books. One of the quotes from the books is, "Trust creation as a fundamental goal of brand design."

The book talks about the value of brand versus no brand and usually uses the example of how much people are willing to pay for Coke versus a no name product that arguably tastes substantial similar but doesn't have the brand.

The three questions about branding to ask are:

Who are you?
What do you do?
Why does it matter?

I always remember that branding is not in the mind of the company rather it is in the mind of the customers. It is what the customers truly perceive you as.

Branding is not about logos, slogans, or advertising. Those all help create a brand but those are not the brands in itself.

Part of my interest in branding has to do with my interest in strategy as I believe they are linked.

Monday, November 27, 2006


We had a great holiday party Saturday night for our Toronto staff (Guelph's was last week). It was well attended, well organized and a good time.

I was tired this weekend. 4 trips in 2 weeks might be part of it. Multiple time zones also serves to mess me up. 10 mile run on Saturday would contribute.

I did not feel too productive this weekend. I am fighting busy work. I can spend a few hours "working" but get little of value accomplished. My challenge is to cut through the busy work to get to the important. Devise ways to dispense with it quickly. Devise ways to eliminate it. I find the larger our company is, the more people want a part of my time. At the same time this is happening, admin and paperwork increases. One place this busy work is huge is in email. I can spend a few hours each day just to keep on top of it. And I have awesome filters, folder systems, a Blackberry etc.

There is a quotation by Goethe (but I might not have ti right because I could not find it on the net)

"Things which matter the most should not be sacrificed in favour of those that matter the least."

I recently read a book called, "Retail Selling Ain't Brain Surgery, It's Twice As Hard – 9 Steps to successful sales relationships", by James E. Dion. As the title suggests, it is mostly about retailing. He has nine steps that every retailer should use to treat their customers well. As an occasional retail customer, I know that retail selling etiquette is sadly lacking and I think most retailers could benefit from reading this very simple and quick reading book.

His nine steps are:

The greeting
Needs determination
Product knowledge
Suggestion selling
Trading up
Answering objections
The close
Maximizing last moments
After sales service

Best read the book for full details.

This is a great read for any retailer.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Today was a good day. I met with a few customers which is always good (although at the same time I always learn how we need to do a better job). I spoke at a YEO group. They were enthusiastic and appreciative - exactly what a speaker likes. And I was mentioned on Steven Streight's blog as a blog to watch. Life is good.

The only part of life that could be better is my dysfunctional relationship to sleep. I am about to get on the red eye back to Toronto. What makes it worse is I am tired to start with. Oh well...

Mantra for the day:

"Successful people do tough things"

Repeat this often. Whenever going gets tough.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Small is the new Big

I am always amazed at the viral nature of the internet. A few months ago I wrote an article called "3 must-red books for bloggers". That article is now mentioned 348 times on different internet sites.

One of the authors I spoke about in that article was Debbie Weil. She has a good podcast interview with Mike Sippey.

It is great that articles propogate. I am just now sure how much that helps SYNNEX. Definitely increases our profile.

I read an awesome book on strategy by Seth Godin on the flight here called "Small is the New Big and 183 other riffs, rants and remarkable business ideas".

I seem to be drawn to strategy books lately. Strategy is what I am thinking about. Being in a low margin business makes me think.

Seth's challenge is to be truly unique, edgy, new, add value. He give many examples of companies who have done this. Part of what he pushed is the next big idea. I like that but also know ideas are cheap, excellent implementation is what is difficult. I am a big believer in acting small but being big. Take the best from both worlds.

Seth's challenge on CEO blogs are they need to offer at least 4 of the following 6:


To that, I would consider adding humour. People never mind that.

Thinking about how I stack up...

I loved his comments on lawns. Why have a lawn? Just because everyone else does. Of course those who know me well know I have no lawn and grow strawberries, squash, potatoes etc on the "front lawn". Probably drives the chemlawn neighbours crazy. Just FYI, this is definitely not a time saver. It takes more work to care for a garden.

Overall - an excellent highly recommended read.

Now my question to you. What strategies might SYNNEX employ to be unique, add value etc?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Simple Abundance and Beating Fatigue.

I am in the airport lounge awaiting my flight to Vancouver.

I hate technology. Trouble logging into the wireless network in the Air Canada lounge cost me 10 minutes.

Imagine a day when computers are fast and wireless just works.

Despite my complaining, Air Canada does have the best lounges. They have green tea. Food is better than many other lounges. And I do make my living selling technology so in reality I love it. And it is remarkable that we even have wireless.

I ran last night at about 7 PM after getting back from flight from Ottawa. Very unusual for me since I usually run in the mornings. I did not run yesterday morning because I was in Ottawa which is a poor excuse. I was dead tired when I started and felt more like napping. It was all I could do to force myself to run. Still, did 5K and then felt great for the rest of the evening. Likely even stayed up later than prudent since I was so pumped. My time tip today is "when you are tired and need to stay up - excercise vigourously for 20+ minutes".

I read a book on the weekend called, "Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It is more targeted towards a female audience and is not meant to be read in a weekend. I tend to read any book that people refer to me which is why I ended up reading it. It is a series of daily vignettes. Most of the entries are about good things and charitable thoughts. Things like "there is no scarcity" and "gratitude awakening the heart", and "nurturing your authentic flare", and "ask, ask, ask". Many topics on being calm and relaxed. I suppose I can use those.

I tend not to like books that are meant to be spread over a year because perhaps I am too impatient. However, for those who like daily thoughts, it is not a bad read. In one sense, it is too bad it is so gender specific.

I am a big believer in the concept of abundance. Too often in business things are looked at as a zero sum game when in many cases there are opportunities that expand the game adding to the win for all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


On my flight yesterday (and I am flying a bit much these days - 4 destinations, 8 flights, 24 hours in the air in this 2 week period), I read an awesome book on branding and strategy called "Zag - The #1 Strategy of high Performance Brands" by Marty Neumeier. I love marketing so always enjoy good books on the subject. The one thing that surprizes me is how many people do not understand the topic. And of course I love strategy.

One of the great analogies Marty uses is strategy to the game Rock, Scissors, paper. When companies are small they are like scissors - they cut small niches successfully. In time they grow and gain size and resource to become a rock and are able to break scissors. Then they grow even more and become paper and are able to cover the medium sized businesses like paper. And then a start up scissor company comes and cuts a niche from their business.

I like the analogy and have seen growth like this. When I started EMJ, I did small opportunities in small niches (EG French Character generators for computers). As our resources grew, we were able to do larger niches (like Apple and bar code) and as we grew even larger and combined with SYNNEX we were able to move to more mainstream products like HP, Microsoft, Lexmark etc. And I see small companies taking small pieces of business.

I am behind in posting my book reports. Need to post more often.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

SYNNEX Party and 10 Steps to Healthy Eating.

Tonight was the SYNNEX Guelph Holiday party. Seems a bit early but booking halls is tough near Christmas. It was a great event. Well attended. Great venue, great food. Lively crowd. I enjoyed myself and so did most who attended so it was a success.

One of my interests is health so I often read books about health. One book I just read is called "10 Steps to Healthy Eating" by Leslie Beck. I enjoyed it (but I am a health guy so like stuff like this). It reinforces everything I already know and what my mother always said.

I liked the sections on how much protein, etc I should eat.

The book reinforces the need for exercise. It also has a lot of recipes but since I do not eat red meat and don't even eat chicken at home, many were not for me.

I eat well at home but I only eat at home a few times per week so my challenge is healthy eating on the road.

I am not big on supplements so I liked that she did not push that too much. I prefer food to pills.

Her steps (but you have to read the book to get the real sense of them all).

1 - get ready
2 - eat enough protein (I likely am deficient here)
3 - Choose the right carbohydrate
4 - eat more fruits and vegetables
5 - choose healthier fats and oils
6 - boost vitamins and minerals.
7 - eat more often
8 - Don't forget about fluids
9 - Control your weight
10 - Be active every day

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More CRN Hall of Fame and Geoffrey Moore

I am back from California.

The Hall of Fame event was inspirational. I am always inspired when I see and hear great people. Seeing people like Craig Barrett of Intel and Carol Bartz of Autodesk and seeing a bit about what they have accomplished was great. It drives me to do more.

I also like the trade show part of events like this. I get to meet many vendors and customers in a short period of time. It appeals to my sense of efficiency.

One of the speakers at the event was author Geoffrey Moore of Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado fame. He is a great speaker. Well researched. Good thinker. Good theoretician. Simplifies things well. Thought provoking.

After his talk, I spoke with a few of my colleagues about what he had said and how it applied to SYNNEX. One valid point was just because someone writes or says it does not make it a fact. Like I always say, filtering is good.

Moore thinks low cost commodity distribution is incompatible with specialty or value added distribution. SYNNEX applies a low cost back office model to some of the more technical products in our TSD (Technology Solutions Division). There is high logic in doing this. Customers want the expertise, knowledge etc. but do not need higher costs from the distribution, warehousing, invoicing etc. part of the business.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Apollo 11

I heard a captivating speaker tonight at a SYNNEX TSD event. Jim Lovell was the captain on Apollo 11, the almost failed moon landing. Failed because they did not land on the moon. Succeeded because Jim was live to talk to us tonight.

Apollo 11 had problems before landing on the moon. The main oxygen failed. This not only was required to breathe but was their fuel (fuel cells mix hydrogen with oxygen to make electricity and water). They had to use the oxygen in the small shuttle attached to propel the larger vessel safely back to earth.

Captivating speaker. I need to rent the movie.

Lead a charmed life to be able to see such a speaker (and have a great dinner as well). The world is conspiring to make me see that all challenges I have are small. I have food. I have oxygen. I am charmed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Vote and CRN Hall of Fame

I am in California. Flew out early today for the CRN Hall of Fame event which runs through Tuesday night.

On my flight out, one of the books I read was Miracle in the Andes - 72 Days in the Mountains and My long Trek Home by Nando Parrado. Great book especially since it is true. Fascinating page turner. As I mentioned in my Nov 7th post, I heard Nando speak live. Stories of courage like this reinforce the need for persistence in the face of adversity. Also sure helps me to keep myself in perspective.

One of my favourite time strategies is my don't do list. One of my more controversial "don't yet do" things (almost as controversial as I do not yet golf) is that I do not do politics. If I did, I would be sure to offend some of my customers, suppliers and staff. And it could be very time consuming which is why I have a don't yet do list to start with.

Although I do not yet do politics, clearly I vote. I have already voted in the municipal election advance polls since I am going to be traveling tomorrow. I encourage everyone to get out and vote. Details on how to vote in Guelph are posted on Blog Guelph.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


One of my friends emailed about my last blog post on perspective:

"Interesting......I have always found it useful to "frame" issues/problems/ a situation within its proper "context". Provides a different and more positive way of approaching things. Perhaps a variation of prospective thinking. Example would be to frame a problem as an opportunity."

Framing or reframing is a technique I use all the time. Sometimes is is as simple as thinking "isn't it great everyone wants to meet with me" rather than "my schedule is way too packed".

And another friend emailed me a great time management device I can use while I run.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I had an article published in the highly influential Connect IT today. It is on Time Management and Procrastination. The title is "Seven ways to beat procrastination".

Tonight I heard Nando Parrado speak for the second time at a YPO event tonight. His story is incredibly powerful and moving. From Wikipedia:

"Fernando Seler "Nando" Parrado (December 9, 1949 - ) is one of the sixteen Uruguayan survivors of the airplane crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 which crashed in the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. After spending two months trapped in the mountains with the other crash survivors, he, along with Roberto Canessa, climbed through the Andes mountains over a ten day period to find help. His efforts, supported in various ways by the entire group, have been recognized through books and other media."

His mother and sister died in the crash. The story stuck a chord worldwide at the time because of the cannibalism involved to survive.

I did get a copy of his book "Miracle in the Andes". Have not read it yet though.

I was impressed with how Nando seems to have not only survived but lived without bitterness. I was impressed by the great power of the human will and the survival instinct.

His message is that he is not a hero. His message is that family and friends are paramount. His message is think about what is truly important.

Mostly it put things in perspective. Although I may think I have problems, everything is relative.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You're in Charge - Now what

I am beating yself up for not being productive today. No work out. Although I did run 12K yesterday in 58 minutes. Last night I attended the wedding of one of my staff. High attention to the smallest detail. Very well planned event. It was a great party. Lots of SYNNEX people attended so it was a bit like a SYNNEX party which I always enjoy.

I read a great book that is of interest to anyone who is starting running a company called, You're in charge – Now What? The 8 Point Plan, by Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin.

The book is a how to guide for first time presidents and CEOs who are taking over a new position. It goes through eight steps to take; however, I am not trying to do a book summary here so I will let you buy the book if you want to know the eight steps.

One thing the book emphasizes is having a 100 day plan. I find this very interesting because I always believed in having 90 day plans and have been a big advocate and used them for a long, long time. I would tend to break a 90 day plan into a three 30 day segments and when I completed the first 30 day segment, I would add another segment so I always have a 90 day rolling plan.

The gist of the message in the book is the first 100 days is for a new leader in the organization to set the tone for the rest of the leader's tenure so they become the most critical. During the 100 days, the leader needs to study well; set and align proper expectations; shape the management team; craft the strategic agenda; start the transformation process.

I strongly recommend the book for anyone who is a new leader in an organization. I question if the audience is large enough to have a book written specifically for new leaders of organizations.

I may have been more interested in it than others because of my position.

I wish I had read this before I started at SYNNEX two years ago.

Although it is interesting that many of the ideas in the book are ideas that I already use.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seven Reasons Why Blogging Should Be Part of Your Marketing Effort

I wrote the following article for Selling Essentials magazine.

Seven Reasons Why Blogging Should Be Part of Your Marketing Effort

By Jim Estill – CEO – SYNNEX Canada

I started my blog ( 18 months ago as an effort to increase communications with my staff but very quickly realized the power of it with my customers and my suppliers. Now I consider my blog to be an integral part of my marketing efforts.

As an active blogger I have come up with seven reasons blogging should be part of any marketing program.

1. Blogs increase communication Anytime you increase communication, you increase profile and sales.

2. Although blogs have been around for awhile, they are still new and topical. People who see that you have a blog will think you are more leading edge. Even if you do not sell technology products, it helps.

3. Owning a blog is like owning a media. Similar to a newspaper, magazine, or a radio station. The advantage of owning a media is that you can say whatever you want where all other media tend to filter what you have to say.

4. You noticed that I said a blog should only part of a marketing program. Blogs on their own tend not to get much readership, rather they have to be crossed promoted so you need to put it on your email tag line, your website, your business cards, etc. People who see your blog address in another media are likely to come to it.

5. Blogging like writing tends to make you an expert. People tend to believe what they read. For this reason you don’t want your blog to be totally self-promotional. Add value. Provide information that helps your customer, amuses them, teaches them etc.

6. A blog should have an angle. People don’t want to log on and hear some promotional material about you and your company. They want to hear something that is a bit edgy, interesting, humorous, and resonates with them. Although you own a media, you still are in competition with all of the other media available. In my case, I have chosen Time Leadership/CEO as the title of my blog and I blog about personal self-development with a focus on time management and efficiency.

7. Blogging will often get picked up by other media and this added press can help you sell. For example, because I blog I have been featured twice in the Globe and Mail and once in Forbes magazine, as well I have been in our industry trade journals. I have also had many speaking engagements as a direct result of my blog.

Blogging doesn’t need to be technically intimidating. Anyone can set up a blog in five minutes. My suggestion is to get an experienced blogger to show you how to start. Or ask your kids.

Blogging is not for everyone. If you want to blog, you need to be willing to dedicate some time and you must enjoy writing. Because I blog about efficiency, I spend a lot of time focusing on my blogging efficiency and I spend less than 20 minutes on each of my blog entries. I do four or five a week; so I spend less than two hours a week on my blog.

I have received some direct sales as a result of my blog. I know from the feedback I have received that many of my customers and suppliers read it.

Blogging is one part of the marketing program.