Thursday, October 25, 2007

Made to Stick

One of my new favourite marketing books is called, MADE TO STICK, by Chip and Dan Heath.

Of course I would like it because it is a marketing book and I tend to have a natural interest in marketing. They simplify what needs to be done to make ideas stick with an acronym - SUCCES

S simple - don't lose your core message. KISS.

U unexpected - Do the unexected to get people's attention. (they do point out the problem of tying it in though so just being outrageous is not enough)

C concrete - People have problems with theory - keep it real.

C credible - is your idea believable? One way to do this is to use experts, titles (EG PhD) etc.

E emotional - people react to emotion and it creates an empathetic bond

S stories - story telling is a way people can remember and retell easily. Sure beats statistics.

Although I have distilled the basics of the book, I have not done it justice. The book is entertaining, easy to read and uses tons of useful examples. Highly recommended if you ever want to sell or market anything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Public Speaking and Networking

I am doing a lot of public speaking lately. One of the roles of a CEO is to be a spokesperson. Technoplanet last week. I spoke to about 125 people at a Guelph Enterprise Centre event on Monday. The topic was "9 Success Habits". Today I am the keynote speaker at a venture capitalist's seminar run by Quorum. The topic is "Bootstrapping a Business (even after you have venture money)". Both will be fodder for future blog posts.

The more I speak, the easier it is. I am a big advocate of Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie - both of which I have done. I do not write my speeches (and no one else does either). I do however prepare for them and make some notes.

Speaking is a lot about networking. In networking, I tend to give without expectation of return because what I have found is I tend to get huge returns in the most unexpected places over time. Of course I am a time use person so I try to network in the right crowd (EG in my case computer resellers/vendors is a good crowd). And from a time use prospective, I like to speak to large groups. Ideally over 100 but I do sometimes do just 50.

Part of me also feels I need to give something back to the community so speaking would be a part of it.

Off for a busy day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mavericks at Work

I recently read a great book called, MAVERICKS AT WORK, WHY THE MOST ORIGINAL MINDS IN BUSINESS WIN, by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre. This is not a book that I would have likely picked up because I didn’t find the title particularly captivating; however, as I got into the book, I found it to be one of the most interesting and inspirational books that I have read. Like almost all books I read, it was a referal.

I always look for things that provide inspiration and this would be one such book.

One quote from the book is by advertising legend, Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden and Kennedy. The quote is, YOU HAVE TO WALK IN STUPID EVERY DAY. What an enlightened quote. What it means to me is that you always need to learn and always need to have an open mind and once you think you know it all, that is probably when you start losing.

And to save time - a good review on Amazon by Joe Wikert follows:

Here are some of the more interesting excerpts I flagged as I read this one:

* Southwest didn't flourish just because its fares were cheaper...Southwest flourished because it reimagined what it means to be an airline.

* If you want to renew and re-energize an industry...don't hire people from that industry.

* If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would really miss you and why?

* The most effective leaders are the ones who are the most insatiable learners, and experienced leaders learn the most by interacting with people whose interests, backgrounds and experiences are the least like theirs.

* We must begin all things in ignorance...otherwise we never start at the beginning.

* The next frontier for making products more emotional is to turn them into something social -- to create a sense of shared ownership and participation among customers themselves.

* Why would great people want to work here?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Doing it vs Getting it Done - Delegation

I took yesterday off. Beautiful day. Hiked up the Niagara escarpment and a bit of the Bruce Trail.

I have found as SYNNEX (or EMJ for that matter) scales, I, personally, can get less done. What I am learning to do is to not necessarily do it but just make sure it is done.

The better I know myself, the better I find I can get results. When I was younger, I felt I had to do everything myself and that trait has been hard to kill. I was muscling through things that I am not well suited to do. This robbed me of time that I could spend offering the greatest value. And also tended to not get the best result.

So I delegate. Of course taking full responsibility for the result.

Of course some people might say "I don't have people who work for me so i have to do it all myself". Not true, you can often delegate to a customer, supplier, co-worker, friend etc. The key in delegation is "who can do the job significantly easier, faster or better than you".

Of course this is easy to say. If I was real good at it, I would not be in my office now just because I took a Sunday off. So - still learning (which is good).

In the end, it is all about results. And I realize that doing it myself is not likely to be the best way to get the best results. It is not about doing it, it is about getting it done.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nichemanship 6 ways to Thrive as a Computer Reseller

My brother's Lyle and Glen have a running debate about who is saving the world the most. Glen has a good blog post on it. My older brother Mark and I think we could solve the world's environmental problems if we could harness the hot air between the 2 of them.

I ran to work today which uses no fossil fuel so I think I am the cleanest. Using less counts as much as producing more.

Earlier this week, I spoke at a Technoplanet reseller event. Lots of high quality resellers and vendors too. They run good events. I spoke about "Nichemanship - 6 ways to thrive". Since the audience were mostly independent reseller, I was speaking to how they could be more successful. My 6 points were:

1 - Be personal. People like to buy from people they know. Network locally. Being personally known can be a niche. There is always lots of market space for being personal and this is a tough area for larger companies to do well.

2 - Pick a vertical market. If you sell solutions to the same type of business repeatedly, you can become the expert. You can also easily identify the target market. Read their trade journals, attend their trade shows, speak their language.

3 - Be an outsourced IT dept for smaller companies. I have seen many thriving resellers who are the IT dept for companies who have perhaps 2 to 50 computers and sometimes more because most of those companies cannot afford to have a full time person in house.

4 - Specialize in a brand. The more of a brand you sell, the better you will know it, service it and inventory it. It also builds clout the manufacturer and because you focus, they are more likely to help you and supply leads etc.

5 - Specialize in a technology. For example, specialize in wireless networks or bar code reading or portable printing etc. Similar to 2. The more you sell of a specific technology, the better you will be. Your knowledge and ease of installation, service and probability of a successful implementation grows.

6 - Do training, installation, services. These tend to be tough to scale economically. For example, large companies can do it but their costs are often much higher.

I am a business optimist and think there is lots of market for all. The key is figuring out where you can gain competitive advantage. And doing business in a niche can be the way to win.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Future

One thing I try to see is the future. Capitalizing on future trends is part of our business.

I attended a YPO event last week with many high power speakers like Alan Greenspan, Jack Welch, Craig Barrett(founder of Intel), Herb Kelleher (founder of SW airlines), Scott McNealy(Sun), Fred Smith (Founder of Fedex), Kifi Annan (UN)etc. Trying to distill the main points on what is important and what will be increasingly important in the coming decade. In no particular order:

1 - The environment is huge (did not have to attend a conference for that)
2 - Education
3 - Company Culture is key (I have been thinking a lot about that lately)
4 - Food Production
5 - Energy (sort of ties into 1)
6 - Security and stable government
7 - Poverty
8 - Be healthy and fit or you cannot handle the stress of being a CEO or President.
9 - Enjoy what you are doing.
10 -Don't take yourself too seriously but take the business and competition seriously.
11 - have courage.

Of course a list summarizing a bunch of presentations is not very inspiring compared to being there.

One thing I like about YPO events is the number of friends I meet. People I know and people I meet.

One of my new friends - Jonathan Graff President of particularly liked Chris Anderson (author of "the Long Tail" and editor of Wired). He owns a lot web sites like Amazingmoms, birthdayinabox, funschool, babyzone etc. so it particularly applies to his business. Although Chris was not the biggest name speaker, his message about the power of the longtail is a powerful one. Also speaks to a trend.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Planting the Seed

I am waiting in the lounge for a delayed flight. Good time management means no stress - I can use the time anyways. Or perhaps I just say this, I would rather be in the air.

I have been grappling later with some problem solving. I am using the "Planting the Seed" problem solving method.

This technqiue for creative problem solving is to spend a short but intense time thinking and brainstorming about a problem; spending time researching to obtain as much background as possible, including attempting to solve the problem. When it cannot be solved instantly, then simply drop it and do something else.

This technique of planting a seed can be used for solving a myriad of problems.

Those people who commented on planning in the evening instead of planning in the morning likely benefit quite a bit from this planting the seed technique. If you are planning the evening before, you have time for your sub-conscious to think about what it is you are going to do and psychologically prepare yourself better for the day. I suspect you also solve some of your problems as they go.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ottawa Fall Colours Marathon

I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend.

I was in Ottawa this weekend and ran the Ottawa Fall Colours Marathon. I actually had not really planned to run it but needed a long run to train for New York which is coming up in a month. I figured it would get me out for a long run if I registered. I had been doing the minimulist training which is not the best in my experience. I deliberately ran slow since it was meant to be a training run. For those unfamiliar with marathons - they are all the same distance - 26.2 miles (42.2 Km). So it s a bit of a distance.

Thank goodness the weather was perfect, unlike Chicago where the marathon was cancelled. There was a bit of chill in the air while wating for the start but as soon as we started, it was perfect. Slightly overcast. About 17 degrees C. And as promised by the name - the fall coulours were spectacular.

I started the race too fast and deliberately eased off. The field was small with perhaps only 700 runners if you take into account the other distances being run (there was a 5K, 10K and half marathon all being run at the same time although I am not certain which races started at the same time). The first half flew by quickly and easily despite a rather nasty hill right near the start. I finished the first half in 2:07 which was a bit fast for a training run for me.

The race for the full marathon was 2 loops so after the first half, it seemed anticlimatic to start the second loop. And the number of racers on the course really thinned out. There were only 101 people in the full marathon. It was truly a solitary run from the half way point. I slowed my pace to about 7 min per Km from the 6 min I was doing for the first half.

At about 32K, my body was telling me "enough" so I really had to kick in the will power just to keep moving forward. I began walking for long stretches. I had calculated that I could actually walk the full last 10 K and still be OK for the 5 hour course time limit. Perhaps that was the wrong calucation to do because I started walking more. I repeated the "pain is temporary - pride is forever" line more than a few times to get through.

Eventually I finished. My time was 4:45 which was slower than I had intended but I am still proud of having finished an awesome training run.

But running the marathon was not the stupidest thing I did yesterday, I got in the car and drove for 5 hours after the run. Bad idea to run a marathon then sit in a car for that long.

Today I am having a fairly productive day in the office preparing for the week. Although I do notice I am less eager to hop up and go get things. Something about desk work is appealing today.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Maple Leafs vs Senators

I lead a charmed life.

I was fortunate tonight to attend dinner (with HSBC) and the Leafs season opener against the Ottawa Senators courtesy of my good friend Warren Spitz. Senators won 4-3.

In the box (courtesy of Tom Bitove) was the head of the Canadian military - general Rick Hillier and deputy Toronto Police Chief Kim Derry. Both men seemed to be very nice and struck me as being good leaders and spokespersons.

I met one of my friends on the way out of the game who asked my how Kaitlin was doing. Kaitlin has touched a lot of hearts. (She is doing much better.) And then she asked me if I would work less because of Kaitlin's accident. Interesting question that had never crossed my mind. The implication is that working hard is not what I want to do. I choose to work hard because I want to and do not regret making that choice.

Does make me think though (and that is never a bad thing).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

GetAbstract and Greg Brophy

One of my articles "Sixty Minutes to Clear Goals" was published on Womanslife.

I was saddened to hear of Greg Brophy's death. He was a great entrepreneur and way too young to die.

I have been reading book abstracts lately from Because I enjoy reading, I sometimes find that the abstracts take away some of that job; however, sometimes I just want the information in which case abstracts are a great way to be informed. One interesting abstract that I read was on the Black Swan, the impact of the highly improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

The book talks about the impact of luck and the fact that some things are simply caused by luck where many times we tend to attribute them to hard work or intelligence or making great decisions.

I have long felt that I am “lucky”. I often say I live a charmed life.

As the book points out, it doesn’t mean just because you are lucky that there wasn’t some skill, intelligence, or preparedness involved. Some of the points that the book makes are:

Keep your eyes open for black swans (things that seem improbable)

Beliefs are sticky but don’t get glued to them

Know that in many cases, you cannot know

As a forecasting period lengthens, prediction errors grow exponentially

Expose yourself to “Positive black swans” – And, at the same time, hedge against negative ones. “Bet pennies to win dollars.”

Look for the nonobvious

Avoid dogmatism – think for yourself. Avoid nerds(tough in the computer business) and herds.