Monday, June 25, 2007

On Excess Resources

My "I talk to myself" blog was quoted in the Globe and Mail today.

I was in my Guelph office today. I still feel I am only at 80% efficiency. Lots of little things are hampering full speed. I am still feeling in crisis on the building. Way too many little things that need doing. It is one of those times when I feel we are far from excellent. I guess the advantage of that is we can only go up from here.

A good well run business does not have extra resources. What makes a move of the magnitude we are doing problematic is that we ask our people who already are fully loaded (if we are running the business well) to take on more. The challenge we face is multiple moves. Integrating Redmond. And a huge building which is a huge maintenance and management challenge itself.

When faced with more than I can do, I always turn first to my systems. So this is what I am doing now and encouraging people to do. I will develop systems to allow me to cope with the volume.

I know 6 months from now, life will be good. Now to try to enjoy the process to get us there.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Guelph Lake Triathlon

I am taking a break from catch up in the office to blog. I am feeling behind from my travel this week. The move also took some extra time.

This is one week after our office move to Woodlawn. There is a huge number of small things that still need doing to make this place the way it will ultimately be. Somewhat daunting. And today, I am not doing any of the small things since I have to do my real job so have lots of email catch up, reports etc to do. I find an uninterrupted day in the office is as productive as 3 normal days.

I am stiff and sore and a bit sunburned from doing the Guelph Lake Triathlon yesterday. I did the sprint Tri which is 750M swim, 19K cycle and 5 K run. My time was in the range it usually is. I am low average on the swim (19:41) . My transitions are slow so need to practise getting out of my wetsuit more and even changing from my cycle shoes to runners. The Bike is where I lose all my time with a very slow 46:19. And my run was in the top third at 24:08 (although this is not particularly fast).

The day was fabulous although slightly hot (I am Canadian so complaining about the weather is mandatory). I found my wetsuit tight and restricting my breathing. The triathlon swim start in waves - 3 minutes apart. I was in the 4th wave based on my age. The horn went for my wave and I ran with the crowd of about 50 in my wave for 15M until it was deep enough to swim. At first there was a mass of people. I was kicked many times but never hurt and did not get my goggles kicked off which I hate. By the first bouy the crowd had thinned and I had found my pace. As I swam between the first and third bouy, I found I was zig zagging. I really need to work on swimming straight. As I approached the third bouy, we once again hit traffic - the slower swimmers from earlier waves. It seemed crowded after the turn at the third bouy to the fourth and then I realized we were being passed by faster swimmers from the 5th and 6th waves. I was tiring and struggled for the last 250 M. Although my time was low average, I really cannot complain, it was the first time I have swam this year (thats right - no swim training).

I slowly ran to the transition area and struggled to get my wetsuit off and my cycle shoes on. Ran slowly with my bike to the "bike on" mark and began cycling. There was a headwind which surprisingly seemed to last much of the course. As I cycled, I was passed by many many people (perhaps 60). Especially on the downhills where I brake a little (need to get used to the speed thing). By 2/3 of the way, no one was passing me and I was passing some people - especially on the uphills. I drank almost a full bottle of Gatoraid that I had on my bike. Very poor time but again - virtually no bike training.

I finished the bike and ran slowly to change out of my bike shoes into my running shoes. I started the run and my legs felt cramped and just weird. Running right after cycling is a strange feeling. I know some triathletes practise doing this so they get used to the feeling. I kept repeating that it was only a 5 K so would be easy. I stopped at all the water stops. As I ran, I passed about 30 other runners. It felt good to pass most people and I do not recall anyone passing me. I had prepared well for the run with the Ottawa marathon 3 weeks previous.

The bottom line for me and triathlons is if I want better times, I need to prepare more. I guess this is no different than anything in life. Those who prepare more win.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nostalgia and Linked

I have been usy. Hence the no Blogging. Saturday we moved our Guelph offices from highway 24 to our new Woodlawn facility. It was somewhat nostagic moving out of a building and office I had been in for 20 years. It made me think of all the changes that had happened in that time. It was good reducing the amount of clutter in my life though. I had accumulated a lot of things in those 20 years.

Sunday I ran the Waterloo 10K classic than flew to California where I am writing this. The race was hot so times were long so even with a time of over 49 minutes, I placed 12th in my age out of 33 runners. Not sure it is the best idea to fly for 5 hours after a race though. I was sore.

I recently read the book, Linked - the New Science of Networks by Albert - Laszlo Barabasi. It is a good book in that it is thought provoking and well written. As the title suggests, the gist of the book is about how we are all linked to each other. It discusses the six degrees of separation and how we are likely separated to most other people by six degrees. He also speaks about the Malcolm Gladwell's concept of connectors and how some people are more connected than others. The book refers to Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of hubs and connectors.

From reading the book, I am more inspired to be more connected; however, this perhaps goes against some of my time rules because clearly the more connected, the more time it takes.

Linked also talks about the web and how the winners tend to win in a huge way and there tends to be a few major hubs that everyone refers to (for example, Google). On the web, success begats success and the more links one has, the more likely one is to get more links. Also, the more senior one is on the web – the more likely there is to be more connections (of course that depends on the content). Partly this is because some sites on the web drop out over time. On the web connections, they tend to strengthen in time.

It is interesting to think about what links I have and what value they provide.

The bottom line is that when deciding where to link on the Web, we follow preferential attachment: When choosing between two pages, one with twice as many links as the other, about twice as many people link to the more connected page. While our individual choices are highly unpredictable, as a group we follow strict patterns.

Peferential attachment rules in Hollywood as well. The producer whose job it is to make a movie profitable knows that stars sell movies. Thus casting is determined by two competing factors: the match between the actor and the role, and the actor’s popularity. Both introduce the same bias into the selection process. Actors with more links have a higher chance of getting new roles. Indeed, the more movies an actor has made, the more likely it is that he or she will appear again on the casting director’s radar screen. This is where aspiring actors have a hue disadvantage, a Catch-22 everybody knows both in and out of Hollywood. You need to be known to get good roles, but you need good roles in order to be know.

There is a similar bias in business. I find little successes make bigger ones and over time it becomes easier. Success breeds success.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I am swamped. Warehouse move, Guelph office move, travel and board meetings. I feel I am needed in too many places.

A friend of mine sent me a link to an interesting time management site called pmarca.

It had a thought provoking post about not having any schedule. Of course with the scheduled life I lead, this is a challenging thought. And there is even a disclaimer in the article that if you are a CEO it will be tough to pull off.

This is a section from the post:

"Let's start with a bang: don't keep a schedule.

He's crazy, you say!

I'm totally serious. If you pull it off -- and in many structured jobs, you simply can't -- this simple tip alone can make a huge difference in productivity.

By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day.

As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.

Want to spend all day writing a research report? Do it!

Want to spend all day coding? Do it!

Want to spend all day at the cafe down the street reading a book on personal productivity? Do it!

When someone emails or calls to say, "Let's meet on Tuesday at 3", the appropriate response is: "I'm not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can't commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I'm available, I'll meet with you."

Or, if it's important, say, "You know what, let's meet right now."

Clearly this only works if you can get away with it. If you have a structured job, a structured job environment, or you're a CEO, it will be hard to pull off."

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What I learned from Working at a Larger Company

Middle Zone Musings proposed a group writing project. The topic was something you learned from work. So here it is.

What I have learned from working in a larger company…

When I sold my company, EMJ, to SYNNEX close to three years ago, I was thrust into a company that was many times larger than the company that I was previously running. My company (EMJ) had sales of about $375 million and SYNNEX had sales in the billions.

Because I had started EMJ from nothing, I generally spend my time selling to customers and vendors and speaking to people inside EMJ who supported any initiatives that I put forward.

The first few months that I was at SYNNEX, I found it to be extremely difficult. All of a sudden, people inside SYNNEX did not automatically take my direction. I had not earned their respect. I was the new guy. Working in this situation weighed heavily on me.

So I sought the counsel of one of my mentors. He suggested that I needed to treat it like a sale. When I accepted this, a huge weight was lifted. I was accustomed to selling, getting rejected, persisting, changing tactics etc and for some reason I do not find struggle in a selling situation to be depressing.

And that is one learning. There are lots more. Constant learning is one thing that keeps me inspired.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Perfect Day and Tuesdays with Morrie

On my flight to California, I read lots as usual. Uneventful flight which is always good. Now, I am trying to keep up with full days of meetings and still teh usual email load.

My seatmate on the flight to California commented that the book she was reading was excellent so I asked if I could read it. It was "Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson" by Mitch Albom. It was great to read a book that was out of the genre of books I would usually read. The book is a tear jerker. The old man, Morrie, is not that old. He is a professor who has ALS - a terrible degenerative disease. It tells a number of lessons one of his students learns as the professors health progressively gets worse. In time, Morrie learns to value the dependency he must have just to get by in life. So much energy in life is spent fighting for Independence.

I realize on an intellectual level that we are all dying. The book really drove it home. Having ALS brought this into focus for Morrie and I think caused him to have more clarity about what was truly important.

"Look at the view out that window." Morrie says. "I appreciate it more than you do. I appreciate it because I'm losing it . . . The living have it backwards. They value their work and their possessions and their money when in the end, it's only nature, and as I said before, love, that satisfies." "Everyone knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it. . . . To know you're going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time, is better. That way you can be more involved in your life while you're living."

I liked that the old man wanted his tombstone to say "Teacher to the End" which is partly why he spent his Tuesdays with the author trying to impart wisdom.

He spoke of the perfect day. I have often done an exercise where I lay out what a perfect day is for me. Of course being the ambitious sort, it would take 36 hours to do everything I would want in a perfect day but... I find this allows me to have closer to perfect days and helps me to focus. I highly suggest this to anyone who wants more from life.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I am going into a very heavy travel schedule for the next few weeks.

I recently read a book called, Wikonomics - how mass colaboration changes everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. It is a book about the social networking and collaborative sites that are becoming very popular. I found the book highly interesting since I try to follow trends and try to figure out what opportunities are available in which trends.

Wikonomics points out that many times traditional business is afraid of open source projects like Linux and Wikopedia but others see a corneacopia of participation and economy. The thesis behind the book is that the collaborative social networking type sites actually increase business opportunity and do not take away business opportunity.

The book had a number of possible subtitles including:

Edit This Book!
The Dividends of Collective Genius
We the People
Business (The Remix)
The new World of Collaborative Anarchy
Please Register to Participate
The Power of Us
Creating a New page in Business History
Unleashing Our Collective Genuis
This Book is a Stub
Harnessing the Power of Your Peers
(Your Input Needed Here)
Peer-Powered Prfit in Life, Business, and Individual Choice
The Peer Advantage: Myth or Magic?
Peer Producing the Future

The subtitles describe what the phenomenon is.

The book talks about the 4 principles of Wikonomics including being open. This flies in the face of some businesses which often try to keep their secrets to themselves.

Peering: most organizations have a higher archaric set up and the nature of Wikis is they are based on peer.

Sharing: again a conventional western society says, keep it to yourself.

Acting Globally: Wikies are a great way to get global knowledge working together.

It is a good book and a fairly quick read; fairly inspirational; however, I am still not sure what to do with it. Thinking...