Monday, February 25, 2008

Have Success Habits

The EMJ/TSD division had their sales retreat in Niagara Falls on the weekend. It was very inspirational. Good spirit. Good ideas. We have great vendors and great people.

The following is an article I wrote for Synnergy Magazine (SYNNEX's internal newsletter). (In keeping with good time management - fair re-use of material is OK)

Success Habits - by Jim Estill

We are a product of what we repeatedly do. We are all going to have habits so I figure we might as well make them good ones.

If you sit on the couch and watch TV drinking beer and eating chips, it is obvious what the results are.

It is easier to substitute a habit than to stop one. The best way to stop a habit is to replace it with a better or healthier habit.

It is critical to recognize that we choose our habits, either consciously or unconsciously.

Habit #1
Have clear goals. The clearer you know where you want to go and what your goals are, the more likely you are to get there. Have a vision. Everything happens first in the mind.

Habit #2
Be a constant learner, change and evolve as required. This means attending seminars, reading, and listening to audiobooks. By making learning a habit, this could be one of your competitive advantages.

It is not only the strong that survive; it is the adapters that win.

Habit #3
Sense of urgency wins. Do it now; have a propensity for action; make decisions quickly. I have found in business that the successful people are those who have a huge sense of urgency. They always want to get it done sooner and now cultivates the habit of doing it now.

Habit #4
Set a pace that you can maintain forever. Although I am a big believer in the sense of urgency, you need to figure out what gives you strength and energy and focus some time doing Stephen Covey's Seventh Habit that is sharpening the saw.

Habit #5
I like to have a number of success mantras; for example, "What the heck go for it anyways". I use this mantra whenever I am getting cold feet about doing something or need to negotiate something.

Another mantra that I use is, "Successful people do tough things". I repeat this to myself when I am doing something that I consider to be difficult like getting up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a flight.

Habit #6
Be Fit. I am a firm believer that fitness gives energy and energy is what allows us to get things done.

Fitness in itself can involve a number of habits and is a key topic in itself. What are your fitness habits?

Habit #7
Study time management. OK - a plug for my
eBook, book and CD.

We all have the same amount of time; it is a matter of how we use it and how much we get done.

Habit #8
Nurture a network. I am constantly adding to my address book, reviewing it, keeping in touch with people and trying to add value to them. The more I nurture this network, the more I get things done.

Habit #9
Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap. In order to move forward, sometimes we have to fail. Don't let failure stand in the way of trying to move forward. You are not a failure if you fail; you are a failure if you don’t try.

Think about and decide what your success habits will be. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Andrew Carnegie- Work Hard While You Work

I am in the middle of listening to a fascinating audio book on Andrew Carnegie that was written by David Nasaw. Andrew Carnegie is best known for his massive donations to libraries in most communities in the United States. in his day he was on of the richest men in the world. his money was mostly made on railroads and steel.

He was one of the great philanthropists of all times. In later life he said he spent the first half of his life making money and the second half giving it away, when in reality he was actually quite generous even in his early years and even prior to his retirement he did give generously to many causes.

In his own attempts to do "favorable" autobiographies, he did leave out some of the questionable business practices that in today’s environment would be considered unethical and illegal (insider trading and non dealing at arms length). It is unfortunate this history taints the money that he so generously donated.

One of the eight secrets to success is hard work. Interestingly enough Andrew Carnegie did not ascribe to that. He commented in one of his letters to his friend that someone must not work very hard if they have to be in their office 10 or 15 hours a day. Of course being a real work ethic guy and putting in fairly long hours, this statement causes me to think.

One of the things that I have always preached in my time management talks has been, "Work while you work". The basic principle being that if you are going to be at your desk working, you might as well work while you are there instead not.

One of the other things that I liked about Carnegie is that he called himself, "a man of reading" which I would translate to be a man of learning. He did give million of dollars to libraries so clearly he liked to read or viewed that as one of his major ways of learning.

Great (but long)audio book. Well written with many flowery quotes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dealing with Failure

Failure is a success if we learn from it.

Malcolm Forbes

In a recent interview, I was asked what my biggest failure was. Interesting, I could not come up with just one. I believe one of my biggest reasons for success is that I fail more often than most people. It goes with my "Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap". It goes with "you only fail from not trying - not from trying". And having a failure, does not make you a failure.

I am thinking now about do I learn from those failures. Or more importantly, do I learn enough from them? I am not sure. Perhaps I need to debrief more? It is an interesting thought for me because i consider myself to be a constant learner who is capable of changing and adapting.

Of course true wisdom is being able to learn from others' mistakes.

Part of what allows me to have many failures is I tend not to dwell on them. What happened, happened. It was a mistake or a failure - move on. Failures do not define me.

So what I need to learn is how to learn from my failures and at the same time keep my "move on" attitude.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Time Management Tip for To Do Lists

I must like the snow. This is a picture of my Prius which is lower than this snowbank in front of our SYNNEX Toronto office.
When I first started this blog, I set the theme as time management. Time Leadership actually but that is a longer post (Leadership is about doing the right things - Management is about doing things right).
Every Time Management system or book that I have studied uses some sort of prioritized To Do list. The simple To Do list the the basis of good Time management.
My trick today is to not only add things to the list but put the first action item that needs to be done to complete the task. For example, if I need to prepare to meet with a vendor, I might put "Print sales history" or "email Product Manager". This simple act often causes me to take immediate action that allows the task to be done faster or better.
As with many things - the simple is powerful. Try it - it works.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Ultimate Question

I am just back from a Kitchener Ranger game courtesy of KPMG. Nasty drive back.

I recently read a book called, The Ultimate Question, Driving Good Profits and True Growth by Fred Reichheld. He also wrote the the Loyalty Effect. Reichheld is a huge advocate of offering premium customer service and measuring this as one of the driving forces of any company.

Most of the points that he makes in the book are that there are bad profits and good profits. Bad profits are those that are short term and can detract from and strangle a company. Good profits are those that are sustainable.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about strategy and mission statements. He really points to what the ultimate mission statement is for customer service organizations and that is simply the golden rule -- how do you want to be treated?

His book talks about the ultimate question to ask customers which is, how likely is it that you would recommend company X to a friend or colleague? This tends to be a more accurate indicator of customer satisfaction than just asking them how satisfied they are with a customer.

He also talks about closed loop feedback. Whenever there is error or a problem, closing the loop very quickly makes total sense. Although I dislike the paperwork in ISO9000, closed loop is one of its positive attributes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

War Fighting and Business

Cold weather continues. Minus 18 C (0 F) and windy. Front entrance to SYNNEX Guelph facility on the right.
I recently read a publication called, War Fighting that I believe was published by the US Marines. It was recommended to me by a friend (that is from where I get most of my reading material).

At first I didn’t think I would be very interested in the publication since I am not involved in war or training for war; however, as I read it I saw many parallels between war and business (and I know there have been many books written on this topic). I also hate war so have a poor reaction to war stuff. However summarizing the business lessons from War Fighting:

One commonality is that we both deal with a great deal of uncertainty partly because we are dealing with the human factor. We also deal with changing environments. This means that all plans need to be modified depending on what happens in the market which constantly changes.

It also talks about tempo and clearly the tempo in business increases and decreases depending on the time.

Business has to do with a choice of where to put limited resources.

Business also deals with a high degree of complexity and I think even to a certain extent, there is fear in business (although it might not be fear for one’s life; it is fear for one’s livelyhood, standard of living, respect, etc.) Of course there is strategy in business that needs to be augmented with tactics and science.

A large part of business does have to do with doing the unexpected, combined with speed and being highly opportunistic. Business planning is also required.

In the end we are all looking for people that get things done.
When we start the day, its all about possibilities, at the end of the day, its all about results.
Unrelated, I really liked Nathan Collier's post on debt/frugality and how it ties to success.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The 8 Secrets of Success

One thing about blogging is people often send me blog ideas. I really enjoyed this short 3 minute video by Richard St. John - the secrets of success in 8 words.

1 - Passion. Every successful person I know is passionate about what they do.

2 - Hard work. Clearly one of my highest values.

3 - Be good at something. Focus. (I tend to have problem with this one. I am a generalist)

4 - Push yourself. No kidding.

5 - Serve others. Clearly offering high value to others is the only way to success.

6 - Ideas. Be curious. I have tons of ideas. Flies a bit in the face of secret #3.

7 - Persist. Every successful person I know is peristent.

8 - you don't think I am going to ruin the movie by giving you all of them do you? Watch the video.

Speaking of success... My successful uncle, author, professor, Bruce Kellner has published his latest book. Not my usual business genre I am sure (it's a love story). I hope now that he is famous he still talks to me although thats likely what he says about me.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Beautiful snowy day yesterday and today. I took this picture on my Blackberry on my walk to work today.

Of course it did present some business challenge with trucks being late, some staff not being able to make it to work, and customers ordering less. But is is still beautiful.

I grew up in the snow belt (Woodstock) so remember the days of heavy snow well. One of my first businesses was shovelling snow by hand for the neighbours. It was a good healthy, fun business.

We continue to make positive business changes. Change is neccessary for long term success. Interesting how some people fight it though. As WH Auden said, "We would rather be ruined than changed."

Have a great day (and enjoy the snow).

Friday, February 01, 2008

True North and Authentic Leadership

Major snow storm here today seems to have died down although the sheer volume of the continued snow is presenting challenges.

Most leaders constantly search for the right direction. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George and Peter Sims explores the question by interviewing over 100 leaders.

It is becoming more popular to create memorability by telling stories and this is a book that definitely uses stories.

His previous book Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value was very insightful. This one was interesting also but different. I would read his first book first. It makes you see more easily why the second book was written. Although True North is certainly readable on its own.

Rolf Dobelli or getabstract wrote on Amazon:

Considering the intangible nature of leadership, those who read about it want to know that those who write about it are properly experienced and credentialed. Bill George certainly qualifies. He is a management professor at the Harvard Business School, a member of several corporate boards, and the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, the medical technology stalwart. George, and writer Peter Sims, the founder of an investment company, interviewed 125 leaders to discover what authentic, ethical leadership is all about, what its essence is and what it requires. This book represents the fruits of their enlightened, comprehensive research efforts. We recommend it to anyone who leads others. George and Sims see leadership as a quest, not a destination. This book is an excellent starting point for your journey

A good read for anyone trying to discover their True North.