Saturday, March 28, 2009

Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life

I know everyone really wants to know more about what I will be doing but it is not yet public.

So you have to settle for some comments on Tony Jeary's new book called, "Strategic Acceleration Succeeed at the Speed of Life". The book starts out with a very bold statement, "It will forever change the way you think about getting results and will increase your effectiveness in all you do". This certainly sets a high bar.

Because I have been reading many books at the same genre, this one reminded me of the Suzanne Bates book, "The Three Laws of Performance". Many of the points that Jeary makes are the same as what Zaffron and Logan make.

It starts with clarity. Without clarity you will resist strategic change. Reminds me a bit of my goal setting exercise. It also talks about perception being a reality even if it is not the truth.

The author goes on to explain how to develop clarity which is very easy to say but much harder to do. From that clarity it talks about setting the vision. A clear vision is critical to successful effectiveness. Interesting enough it goes back to understanding the why of clarity which is a point that I would have thought would have come before the vision. I do know however understanding the why makes the vision much more powerful.

It talks about focus which is the opposite of distraction. This is something that I am always challenged with in life. I think in part the computer industry does this to me because I end up with so many short little emails and interruptions that it hurts my concentration span.

It talks about my favourite production before perfection. More people fail from lack of action than from doing things that are not perfect. I love the propensity of action he is proposing.

The most valuable part of the book came in the exercises that were in the appendix. Of course the challenge with exercises is you have to be willing to put in the work and do the exercises in order to get the value from the book. On the other hand, why not if you are interested in making a change.

I think the book is an appropriate answer to dealing in turbulent times when the need to change is greater than ever before.

I would recommend the book and think it is a good read; however, I am not sure if it lives up to the expectation that it tries to set of being life changing unless you have never read a personal development book before.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jim Estill Resigns From SYNNEX

I guess that says it all. I have resigned SYNNEX Canada to pursue new challenges.

I will miss the people I work with. They are a great group of people. I will miss the customers and the vendors. I still believe in SYNNEX. SYNNEX is a great company. I still own shares so buy lots from them.

I learned a lot while at SYNNEX. I was fortunate enough to see SYNNEX grow and fourish during my time.

I am sad, excited, nervous, and expectant all at the same time.

I have been doing the same thing for 30 years. It is time for a change.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't Bring it to Work

I read, "DON'T BRING IT TO WORK Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

When I first saw the title I thought the book would be about separating home from work or home and work balance (A key reason to study Time Management). I found that the book is not about that at all.

Lafair approaches things largely from a psychological point of view (she is a psychologist so go figure...) and the impact that our families have on who we are and what that means when we bring it to work.

This is a meaty book that requires work and thought to dig into and do properly.

I am sure Lafair's points are completely valid on what we came from and how our families and backgrounds impact who we are at work and how this can create challenges in a work environment.

She talks about 13 common patterns and what the impact is in the workplace; for example, super achiever, rebel, procrastinator, etc. She then goes on to talk about how these can be transformed from super achiever to creative collaborator and from rebel to community builder, etc. The book has tools on how to map who is where in a work environment.

I think the book would be of interest to anyone in an HR capacity or anyone who manages people and wants to understand more on how to maximize team performance.

This is an excellent researched, in-depth book.

Quote for the day:

Other things may change us, but we start and end with family. - Anthony Brandt

Friday, March 20, 2009

Simple Motivation Magazine

I had one of my articles published in "Simple Motivation" magazine. I love the magazine because it focuses on the positive. It is available in Chapters across Canada.

My article was on Opportunities for Small Business in a Downturn. This is what I wrote:

During the depth of the 1933 depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that fear can be immobilizing during times of turbulence; but only if we give it power. During his U.S. Presidential inaugural address he stated with confidence, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself". Savvy entrepreneurs know the same truth applies today. "Crisis" is another word for “change” and small business owners who give single minded focus to embracing change will walk through fear and create opportunity.

Currently, I'm the CEO of a two billion dollar company (SYNNEX Canada) but I haven't forgotten where I came from. I launched EMJ Data Systems in Guelph, Ontario selling products from the trunk of my car, grew it into a thriving enterprise, and eventually sold it to SYNNEX in 2004. I've been around long enough to understand trends and I believe it's critical for entrepreneurs and investors to understand how businesses react to a slowing economy.

I predict with confidence that as earthquakes shake the foundation of large businesses, cracks will be exposed for smaller businesses to fill. Entrepreneurs that keep their eyes and ears open for the opportunities around them will move forward and keep growing.

Here are six strategies for smaller businesses to take advantage of during the downturn:

1. Find Big Business Cuts and Exits
A mandate from head office to "cut 10% of staff" or "close a plant" can seem as arbitrary as spinning a carnival wheel. And, while there may not be any rhyme or reason to this approach, wonderful opportunities exist for the small business owner.

Large scale businesses start their slash and burn cost cutting measures because they can't justify the large overheads without the large profit to match. However, smaller pieces of business are perfect for start-ups and smaller businesses. By talking to one of the many people who get laid off from the larger corporations, small businesses can leverage an already established client base and become an alternative provider.

Often large companies are so relieved to "stop the bleeding" that they'll happily give the business away. It's possible to buy assets for pennies on the dollar and even have the seller finance your enterprise. You won't know unless you ask.
Also, consider that once larger companies have divested themselves of the business you’re interested in, they won't be going after any new opportunities. This means a wide open market for you without competition. For example, my son, David is going into the alternative energy business - solar hot water and pedal power electricity. In stable economic times many large companies would be entering the environmental market. Not now!

2. Take Risks That Terrify Large Companies
One of my mantras is "fail often, fail fast, and fail cheap". This is what entrepreneurship is all about. You'll have little competition from large companies in anything new or creative now. Why? Because turbulence can paralyze large companies. People who work in large companies are acutely aware that their jobs are on the line. So, they're less willing to take risks and challenge the status quo even if it's in the best interest of the company.

3. Choose from the Top Employees
Up until a few months ago it was very tough to hire good people, as they were employed at larger companies. But so many have been downsized out of a job, there's an eager pool of top talent out there. Large companies that trim often do so based solely on seniority and not on expertise or experience. There's a good chance that there are very valuable employees who would be willing to work for smaller companies for a lot less, as advisors, or even for future consideration. They have time on their hands and you’re looking for a few great minds; everyone wins.

4. Take on Outsourced Work
There will also be opportunities for entrepreneurs to take on work being outsourced by larger corporations. For example, the mandate from head office may be to reduce the number of employees. So, the manager cuts the janitorial staff. No surprisingly, the office still need to be cleaned, so after a few weeks of piling dirt and garbage, the manager hires an outside company. Be first in line.

Consider also that managers in companies are highly creative at getting around "mandates" from the top. Often this is done by having different budget areas; they’ll clamp one budget but spend in another area. Yes, this is an illogical business practice but this is what big businesses do. Being at the right place at the right time will help grow your small business.

5. Remember that Change Means Opportunity
Change tends to be a friend of the small business owner because entrepreneurs work independent of the decision making bottle-neck that larger companies have to deal with. Small businesses are afforded the latitude to be more creative and react faster. The account that had no interest six months ago may be eager to talk today, because desperation can force companies to save money or to increase sales. Now is the time to pitch companies who previously turned you away.

6. Get Creative and Start Trading
The present crisis is credit-related so many small entrepreneurs are saying, “But, I don’t have any money”, and, “Cash is King”. This is where entrepreneurial creativity comes in. You do not need cash; you need what cash can buy. In tough times, many businesses will have surplus capacity. As an optimist, this means you can negotiate or trade more. If I own some office space and it’s not rented, I may be willing to allow a tenant to just pay utilities and taxes. The same goes with almost everything.

Look at anything you want to buy and find an ally to work with. You’re seeking someone who can supply the things you need cheap, free, with creative payment terms, or as barter for an exchanged service. Small businesses can be flexible and inventive, big companies can’t be. Your best sources of cash are the many suppliers who need your business now more than ever.

In tough times, larger companies tend to overreact in the short term to the detriment of the long term. This creates opportunities for smaller businesses to remain mobile and flexible in changing times, creating a variety of unique possibilities for success.

Earthquakes can reveal openings and ideas never before encountered, new life growing from the fissures. Life is awash in possibilities if we keep our eyes open.

This could be your best year yet!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

3 Laws of Performance - Use Powerful Language

I recently read, "The Three Laws of Performance Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life" by Steve Zaffron & Dave Logan.

It is an excellent book; however, I found it somewhat laborious to read. It was somwhat of a compilation of other success books. The laws of performance are excellent and I agree with them.

1 - Its all about perception and how people view things. Figure that out to win. And change that to win.

The book re-emphasized how people perform is related to how the world occurs to them and we all have different backgrounds and screens that we filter what is going on in the world. Part of the key to good communication is to understand how people view things.

The book was also very hopeful in telling people that they could change how they view things. I have always been a big believer in being able to change myself.

2 - The language we use shapes us.

This section of the book talked about the language we use and how it has a powerful effect on outcomes. The suggestion – use powerful language. I had incorporated something along these lines in my daily to do list some time ago. It goes like this:

Instead of saying "workout" on my list; I say "I had a great 3 mile run in 22-1/2 minutes. I feel great." (One of the other books that I had read at the time said phrasing things in the current tense also helps them be achieved.)

Or "I just finished reading, "The Three Law of Performance" and was inspired to take action. The book was interesting and enjoyable to read.". Phrasing the to do items in that way gives them passion and makes me more eager to achieve them.

Incorporating the present tense has als helped to inspire me to get more things done on my to do list.

3 - Create and vision the future.

The book not only has three laws of performance but has numerous milestones that they set out. And the leadership corollaries of the laws. They talk about seven commitments (notice how they use powerful and positive words to get you motivated).

Good book, I recommend it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The 5 o'clock Club - Sleep and Time Management

I was listening to an interview Raymond Aaron did with Robin Sharma. Sharma (author of "The Monk who Sold His Ferrari") spoke about the 5 o'clock club and how those who were members tended to be successful people.

The 5 o'clock club are people who get up at 5 every morning.

Sharma suggests taking a full hour for meditation, planning and doing stuff just for yourself each morning. He is also an advocate of health and even suggests that everyone should get a personal trainer.

I tend to like to work out first thing. I figure it is more efficient since I am not yet dressed or showered so it means I only have to do that once.

I love the results I can have done by 8 or 9 in the morning when I get up at 5. It is a great way to start the day.

The challenge of course is balancing that with an appropriate amount of sleep. When I was younger, I thought sleep was for wimps. Increasingly I read how sleep is important. Recent research suggests a link between sleep and diabetes. And research suggests a link with sleep and longevity.

After reading on sleep, I figure 6 or 6 1/2 hours is appropriate for me. I know I can easily sleep less if I am inspired by what I have to do. So sleep is linked with inspiration.

I studied Polyphasic Sleep for a while. The useful thing I learned from that was how to revitalize myself with a 21 minute nap.

So - love the idea of the 5 o'clock club but the sleep requires planning.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Outliers - A Great Book

I recently read Malcom Gladwell's most recent book, "Outliers - the Story of Success" - (his previous books were "Tipping Point" and "Blink" which I also enjoyed).

Like Gladwell's previous books, "Outliers" is an awesome book. The gist of the message is that sometimes success is not caused by what we think it is.

The book starts with a story of successful athletes and finds that most successful athletes were born in January, February, and March. This makes logical sense since athletes are frequently selected when they are fairly young and the difference of six and nine months in age from other students would make these students much larger and physically stronger than their smaller counter parts.

One point that I also liked was he said essentially there is no such thing as natural talent rather we all have talent and if we spend the requisite amount of time (he thinks it is 10,000 hours of practice) that we can all develop that talent.

The only addition that I would make to the book is it is not practice makes perfect; it is perfect practice makes perfect. My sense on some of the things I have done is I have spent a lot of time but not done things perfectly so it will take me time to unlearn some of my poor habits (for me, swimming might be one of these things).

He also has sections on geniuses and why just because you are a genius doesn't mean you will be highly successful. Clearly this has been something that I have known at some level and he just brings it out more.

I particularly liked his paragraph on cultures that are successful and how they tend to be rooted in high work ethic (one of my highest values).

Business Success Quote from Charlie Munger:

"In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren [Buffett] reads -- at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Economic Turbulence - A Message of Hope

I have been reading, studying and thinking about the current economic situation. I am not going to say crisis. For some people it is but for 40-50% of the people, they are better off this year than last. Anyone who makes a salary and even hourly people who did not make much overtime who makes the same (or only a bit less) this year as last can buy goods and services (and gas) for less than last year.

To some extent, this economy has greatly narrowed the gap between rich and poor. The wealthy people who owned stocks have all lost 40-60% of their net worth. After the stock market was already down, it still dropped 22% in the past 20 trading days. The wealthy also tend to be paid with more variable compensation - eg commission or profit sharing than lower paid people.

There is a great (but long) article in The Atlantic entitled "How the Crash will Reshape America" on how the current economic situation will impact people now and in the future.

The article suggests that our current times will shape a generation and the future. It may change us from a nation of entitlement and revitalize our work ethic.

People (and companies) who thrive in turbulence are those who are fast and flexible. They change their definition of who/what they are if need be. In some cases they change fields altogether. Flexibility is helped by willingness to experiment.

Now is the time for good old fashioned work ethic. The past decade created some complacency and dare I say laziness in some. Those with work ethic can still thrive. Work ethic is not only about hours but working while you are "at work".

Now is the time to be proactive. The phone will not ring as much so you need to dial it. Opportunities will not hit you in the face, you have to look harder for them.

Now is a good time to read and study. I am constantly amazed at people who figure they are out of school so no longer need to do this. Learners will win.

Debt is bad. Especially now. The current economy rewards the savers well.

Those who can delay gratification are rewarded now more than ever. Those who just have to have it now. Those who cannot put off their fun to study. Those who choose to play rather than work the extra will have great difficulty.

Now is a good time to be thankful. Yes thankful. List the things you can be thankful for. Gratitude rather than bitterness brings not only happiness but more future success.

And finally, people often ask me "when will this end" and "how bad is it". I suggest it is not as bad as the press says. And I think by the end of the year, things will begin to improve.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cult of the Amateur and The Best Laid Plans

I was the guest speaker last week at the Quebec Technology Association with Andrew Keen. Keen wrote a book called, "The Cult of the Amateur".

In reading the book, it is hard for me not to get my back up because the gist of the message is that Web20 (read blogs) and other user generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.

There is one thing he says that I do agree with is the anonymity on the internet can be very damaging. I believe anyone who is willing to blog under their own real name with real background definitely has more creditability.

He was particularly hard on Wikipedia as not being authored by experts.

One area that I disagree with him is he claims that no one should have the right to any journalism unless they have been properly trained and that only proper editors and journalists can pick the wrong content for us. This is quite an elitist view.

I rarely read fiction but someone recommended, "The Best Laid Plans", a novel by Terry Fallis. Interesting enough he approached many publishing companies to publish the book and when he couldn't find a publisher, he self-published it. He then submitted his book to the Stephen Leacock awards and actually won an award for humor. Of course after that it was picked up by the mainstream press. The gist of that message: did the publishers really know what was best and recognize good content? And I enjoyed the book as did thousands of others.

Keen also goes on to slam the internet for its role in gambling and according to March's Reader's Digest, 3% of Canadians suffering from gambling addition. To lay the gambling problem at the foot of the internet seems completely unreasonable.

What Keen seems to be missing is just because a tool can be used in a negative way doesn't mean the tool itself is negative. He seems to be trying to cling to the past on the theory that the past is better. What I will say is the past will never return so let's get used to it and let's grow in the future.

Read the book to get a counter view. To stimulate thought. Then keep reading my blog anyways.

Changing subjects - I am very proud of my daughter, Elizabeth, who won an award for creative teaching of nutrition.