Sunday, May 31, 2009


Tomorrow is a big day for me. My first day at Nu Horizons. It feels a bit like being a kid on the first day of school. Excitement, anticipation, some apprehension. Will be fun, will be challenging.

I have not yet moved into my new Long Island house. There is still some construction being completed(like there is no kitchen and I cannot shower). It is behind schedule and not what I had planned. What I have learned in life though is we are often faced with the unexpected. Some things just are. So I will make do and do fine.

Last night I made the mistake of picking up a book late at night - "Chaotics - The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence" by Phillip Kotler and John Caslioni. It was a page turner for me.

The thesis of the book is that the current turbulence is here to stay and that "times are different and always will be". I do not totally agree with the thesis. Through my business career, I have often lived through periods where people say "this is the worst", "I have never seen anything like this" and "this is different". What I have seen is things are not so different. At the same time, things always change.

I am a bit more of an optimist on the current turbulent situation as my article on thriving in turbulence suggests.

And regardless of the situation, we almost always reflect on the good old days. These are the good old days so enjoy them now.

I loved that the book is totally current with references to stock market declines, attacks in Mumbai etc. It adds impact to an already impactful book.

I also liked that they referenced some of my favorite authors and thinkers like Drucker and Christianson.

Chaotics makes the case that things are different now. It then goes on to give tools and insights to help deal with the situation. Things like "emphasize core values", faster strategic planning, high flexibility etc.

10 strategies outlined in the book include:

1 - keep recruiting. This means think long term and grab talent now.

2 - Don't recruit a problem. So elevate your recruiting standards, do not drop them.

3 - Allocate resources wisely (always right at any time in business. Especially when it comes to time use.)

4 - Increase communications

5 - Do not rely just on the CEOs message.

6 -be optimistic and opportunistic. There is always opportunity.

7 - Keep training. I totally believe in this one especially in tight times. People have enough slack that they can take hour off the phones to learn something that can make the business more successful in the future.

8 - Inspire the team. It takes the full engagement and commitment of the team to win.

9 - Follow through. This is not the time for lip service and starting without finishing.

10 - Keep your best people. People are the heart of any successful company.

All good common sense ideas.

It never hurts to use the prescriptions the books suggests just like it never hurts to plan for the worst even if things get better.

Great book. Well written. Good thought stimulator. Good action ideas.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Motivate Like a CEO

I figured since I am a CEO, I should figure out how to motivate like a CEO so I read the book called, "Motivate Like A CEO Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!" by Suzanne Bates.

The first chapter resonated a lot with me. The gist of the message is summarized by one of the quotes, "Purpose is necessary, critical to a happy, healthy, and successful life". The message is that purpose is essential for motivation. The challenge is that people are motivated by different things. People work for a pay cheque but they live for a purpose. The first step in leading an organization is to be in touch with your own purpose.

The second chapter talks about the eight principles of motivating others through communication. In her previous book, Bates wrote "Speaking Like a CEO" and much of her topic was on communications. This book further re-emphasizes that with eight principles which include:

1) Begins with you -- your purpose and passion.
2) Communicate a clear powerful mission.
3) Learn what motivates people.
4) Make personal connections with others.
5) Make the conversation about them (like Stephen Covey's first law -- Seek first to understand).
6) Praise recognize and reward.
7) Walk the talk.
8) Empower people (I am big on this one. I don't believe any organization is scaleable unless people are empowered to do the right thing). Any leader is very limited if they expect to control and do everything themselves.

The book has exercises on how to discover your purpose; how to connect with people to purpose; link the what with the why, etc.

The book absolutely needs to be written. It is clear that good leaders need to inspire people and the book gives a lot of the reasons why they need to be inspired and some examples on how some people were inspired. I think in some cases it is harder to put into action some of the ideas in real-life.

I found the book to be an easy read and very well laid out. I like the summaries at the end of the chapters and you could read just the insert boxes to understand the book.

It is a good, well written book for any leader.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Life Under the Corporate Microscope.

"The best time to plant a tree was always 20 years ago. The second best time is always today."

Chinese Proverb

This is true of our life. Nothing is accomplished by regretting what was not done in the past (unless that spurs action today). The best thing to do is to take action today. As I have often said "Do It Now!". It is never too late to become the people we wished we had become.

One of the latest books I read is "Life Under the Corporate Microscope" by Larry Underwood.

Larry was with Enterprise Rent a Car for 20+ years. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to managing huge region for them. He lead the company through huge growth. This is truly a rags to riches story. He blatantly talks about the millions of dollars that he made in the latter part of his career.

Larry, by his own admission, is irreverent. The book is written in story fashion (like my brother Lyle Estill's books - Small is Possible and Biodiesel Power). So the book is definitely not a scientific or researched book. It is an off the top story of his life in the rental car business.

He comes across a lot like a used car salesman. Lots of profanity. High focus on partying and making money.

His story includes a lot of characters. He obviously is a people person. I am sure this is part of how he was a success. He also prides himself on being funny and uses that as a way to ingratiate people to him.

Larry is obviously highly successful. I sense that he loved by many but not by others. I was disappointed that he did not get into more of the business details on how he was able to achieve such growth and profitability.

As I read how he felt that head office oppressed him and his staff, I could not help but think that I need to be very careful since I am "head office" to add value to the branches and people in the field.

It was a fun read. Entertaining. And a break from most of the other business books I read.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and Time Management Tips

Yes - that's is actually the title of a book written by Mike Michalowicz. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is a basic how to book on Entrepreneuring.

Mike is an accomplished entrepreneur. He has experience and wisdom.

Mike is very encouraging to anyone who wants to start a business with a strong push to getting them to act. He also trashes anyones' ideas that they are lacking in some area to start a business.

He includes a short section on Time Management. In the style of the book, he distills it all down to 4 pages that include ideas like:

1 - Write tasks down - capture tasks. Essentially - have a To Do list. (This is the basis of all Time Management Systems).

2 - Prioritize the list (again this is fundamental to all time management systems. This step is only possible if you have clear goals).

3 - Eliminate duplicates on the list.

4 - If it only takes 2 - do. If you can complete it in 2 minutes - just do it. (This is one of my Managing Email volume tips)

5 - Eliminate time wasters. (easily said but this requires discipline and knowing. I like to track what is taking my time and then giving things a "value" score. If I am spending too much time on low value stuff, I am inspired to change)

6 - Concentrate your thoughts. Multitasking is a myth.

7 - shut off email (This is his list - not mine. I agree with part of the theory here and might experiment some on this).

8 - Delegate. I wrote a whole section in my Time Management Book on how to delegate (even if you have no one who works for you.)

9 - Commit to someone else. If you commit, this gets you moving.

10 - Make it manageable. Break down the big jobs into smaller tasks.

11 - Take a break. This can re-energize so productivity increases. My variation on this is to change to a different nature of task. EG - If I am reviewing budgets, I can switch to reading a report.

12 - Go in spurts. People perform better and get more done if they work hard for a short while then ease off. What I like to do is see how much I can prolong the spurts for.

13 - Reward yourself.

14 - Make failure painful

13 and 14 are basic. We do something if it is more rewarding than not or if it is more painful than not doing anything. Enhance the pain or the pleasure for better results.

15 - Stop Bitching (His words). If things are not progressing - stop complaining and just do it. If the book has one key message it is "just Do It - and Do It Now". This really resonates with me. I see this as the key to most business success.

Good basic summary of Time Management Rules!

The book is good. Short and fast. He distills most wisdom on entrepreneurship down to the basics. I did find the bathroom humor detracted from the book though. Perhaps it is his way to be edgy and try to set himself apart?


Last night I attended a SYNNEX "send off" reception held in my honour. It was very moving. I will really miss being a part of SYNNEX. I met a lot of good friends at SYNNEX. I was challenged. I learned. I grew.

The speeches were beautiful. It is almost a case of "if I had known how much you would miss me - I would stay".

Still, looking forward to my next challenge, moving to Long Island and working at Nu Horizons.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jim Estill Appointed As President and CEO of Nu Horizons

My new challenge has been press released. Beginning June 1, I will be moving to Long Island to become the President and CEO of Nu Horizons Electronics. Nu Horizons is a Nasdaq listed (NUHC) global distributor. More details about Nu Horizons Electronics below or on their web site.

Full Press Release:

Nu Horizons Electronics Corp. Names New President and Chief Executive Officer
Current CEO to remain as Executive Chairman Current President to remain as Senior Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer

MELVILLE, NY - May 11, 2009 - Nu Horizons Electronics Corp. (NASDAQ:NUHC), a leading global distributor of advanced technology semiconductor, display, illumination, power and system solutions, today announced that James Estill has been appointed as the company's president and chief executive officer effective June 1, 2009. As of that date, Arthur Nadata, currently the company's chairman and chief executive officer, will serve as the company's executive chairman and Richard Schuster, currently the company's president and chief operating officer, will serve as senior executive vice president and remain as chief operating officer. According to Arthur Nadata, "After a long search for a chief executive officer who would compliment our existing management team, we are pleased that Jim Estill has agreed to join Nu Horizons as its president and CEO. We believe that Jim's prior experience as president and CEO of SYNNEX Canada, a company with over $1 billion in annual sales, together with his experience as a founder of EMJ Data Systems Limited, which he grew to over CDN$300 million in revenue before its sale to SYNNEX, will enable Nu Horizons to improve significantly its position as a leading demand creation distributor in the electronics distribution marketplace. In addition, Jim also serves on the Board of Directors of Research in Motion Limited, a position he has held since 1997."

"Both Richard Schuster and I will continue to be involved in, and remain committed to, Nu Horizons, a company which we founded in 1982 and have grown to almost $750 million in sales. Nevertheless, recognizing that a fresh perspective would be invaluable in this challenging economic environment, as well as assist the company's board of directors in its succession planning, we started a search for someone who ideally would have both an entrepreneurial background and the ability to manage a large organization. We are delighted that Jim satisfies both criteria. We believe that by adding Jim to our existing management team, Nu Horizons will be able to continue to build on its competitive position in the global marketplace and come through these difficult economic times as a stronger company."

In connection with Mr. Estill's employment as president and chief executive officer, he will be granted 360,000 inducement stock options. The stock options will have an exercise price equal to the greater of $2.00 per share or the closing stock price on the trading day preceding the effective date of his employment; a term of 10 years from the date of grant; and will vest in three traunches of 120,000 shares depending on the duration of Mr. Estill's employment and the achievement of a targeted stock price. However, all of the stock options will automatically become fully exercisable in the event of a sale or change of control of the Company and will become fully-vested on the ninth anniversary of the date of grant provided that Mr. Estill is still employed by the Company on such date.

About Nu Horizons Electronics Corp.Nu Horizons Electronics Corp. is a leading global distributor of advanced technology semiconductor, display, illumination, power and system solutions to a wide variety of commercial original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Electronic Manufacturing Services providers (EMS). With sales facilities in 54 locations across North America, Europe and Asia and regional logistics centers throughout the globe, Nu Horizons partners with a limited number of best-in-class suppliers to provide in-depth product development, custom logistics and life-cycle support to its customers. Information on Nu Horizons and its services is available at

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements Except for historical information contained herein, the matters set forth in this news release are forward looking statements. When used in this press release, words such as "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "intend" and similar expressions, as they relate to Nu Horizons or its management, identify forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are based on the current beliefs of Nu Horizons' management, as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to its management. Forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ from those in the forward looking-statements. Potential risks and uncertainties include such factors as the level of business and consumer spending for electronic products, the amount of sales of the company's products, the competitive environment within the electronics industry, the ability of the company to continue to expand its operations, the level of costs incurred in connection with the company's expansion efforts, the financial strength of the company's customers and suppliers, the current economic and credit crisis and risks and costs related to the pending Vitesse-related SEC internal investigation. Investors are also directed to consider other risks, costs and uncertainties discussed in documents filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Such statements reflect our current view with respect to the future and are subject to these and other risks, uncertainties and assumptions relating to Nu Horizons' financial condition, results of operations, growth strategy and liquidity. The company does not undertake any obligation to update its forward-looking statements.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Time Management Trick to Beat Procrastination

I am not sure if this is a genius new time management technique but it is one way that I recently got over some procrastination.

I had some files that I needed to go through and I was avoiding doing it because I don't particularly like doing paperwork.

In my office I have a round table for meetings in front of my desk and as I walk out of my office, I pass the round table. Every time I walked passed the table I dealt with one file.

I knew that I needed to deal with the files and sure enough fairly quickly I was able to go through the files. The strategy for this "out of sight, out of mind" so if you want to get some paperwork done, keep it visible so you will do it.

This ties in well with leave the room or place you leave slightly neater than when you entered it. Just putting one thing away each time can make a huge difference.

Friday, May 08, 2009

In Search of Productivity

I recently talked to Mic Berman. She spoke of the new time - "and 30 minutes is the new 60." She got this from Mike Lee (Chief Strategy Officer) at Rogers.

This got me thinking. Productivity would go up in some cases if I thought in terms of smaller time blocks. So, as an experiment, I set out my time blocks in 20 minute increments instead of 30. I have used a similar technique in the past by scheduling meetings back to back (that stops them from going overtime).

Productivity improved on some things. On others though, it declined primarily because I did not complete the task and there is always an overhead with starting a new task. I also found that I use the breathing time between tasks for routine things like email.

So I guess the best solution is still the old fashioned "know your priorities" and you spend the appropriate amount of time on the appropriate things.

I had an interview with Shelley McQuade posted on her Sales Fertilizer Blog.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Warren Buffet's AGM

I am just back from Omaha. I was at the Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet) annual meeting. Very inspirational event.

35,000 people attended in a stadium. It felt like a concert atmosphere. Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger candidly fielded questions for 6 hours.

There was a tradeshow of the companies he has investments in. This was brilliant cross marketing. Get your shareholders to buy your products. Obvious and simple and adds value to his investments.

The message mostly reinforced everything I knew but it was reassuring. The sky is not falling. Everything is long term. Do smart business. The basics win long term. Look for value.

I liked the simple analysis they do of companies. They even call it false precision to use computers to calculate to multiple digits since so much is dependant on assumptions.

Some Quotes:

"Just because everyone else is doing it does not make it a good idea" (my mom used that on me all the time)

"Derivatives are weapons of mass destruction"

"Whenever anyone buys a security, someone is selling it. They cannot both be right"

"don't obsess on one disadvantage when you have so many advantages"

"Capitalism is creative construction"

Generally I felt an optimism about life and the future.

Changing topics, I was nominated to the National Magazine Awards for an article I wrote for Profit Magazine. From an email from them:

I know it’s a cliche, but given the prestige of the NMAs within Canada’s magazine industry, it really is an honour just to be nominated, whether or not you also go on to win a gold or silver.

Thanks again for your contribution to our success with Your Next Big Thing.

This is a humbling honour for me. I will note that I was only one of seven contributors to the section so the award is not all mine.