Monday, August 31, 2009

Deep Dive - Building Strategy

I have now had 4 weeks off. I find I am still quite busy. This busyness might be getting in the way of my reflection time. I need to heed Ernest Hemingway's "Never confuse movement with action" - or put another way - be effective in activity - not just active.

I am helping a friend buy a business and sell another one. Interesting negotiations and perfect for my skill set. Although it is not full time, it will take up 20-30 days before it is done. This week I traveled for 3 days on that project.

I also have a few speaking events or seminars on Time Management, Negotiations and leadership which will take up another 4 days.

I had originally planned on spending 3 months to reflect and plan my next steps. I am now thinking it will take longer than that. At the very least, I need to add the days I work to that. So if I work 20 days, I need to add another month to my "reflection" period.

I am still working of success habits during this time.

I read a great book by Rich Horwath on strategy called Deep Dive - The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action.

Strategy is one of my strengths. I study it. My current situation is all about deciding my personal strategy so the book resonates with me now.

The book uses a diver (like scuba diver) analogy. In order to devise great strategy, a good leader needs to dive deep to see what is really there.

There is a section on time management which of course I loved. One of the challenges most organizations have is not spending enough time to do strategy right. "That business purpose and the business mission are so rarely given adequate thought is perhaps the most important cause of frustration and business failure" Peter Drucker.

And once strategy is set, resources need to be appropriately assigned to get the desired result. Time is, of course, the biggest resource.

The book talks about focus (ties in well to the recent review I did on the Ries branding book as they are also big believers in focus). Many companies try to be all things to all people. Not a good strategy.

The book has 10 Strategic Thinking Skills including such things as competitive advantage(the book refers to this as the Holy Grail of strategy), context, Innovation, modeling etc.

Great strategists continually look at what they are doing that to competition is not. At the same time looking to see if those differences are valued.

The three disciplines of strategic thinking are Acumen, Allocation and Action.

For strategy to work, it needs great tactics. So part of my strategy is to always surround myself with a great team that can execute well.

Strategic thinking rarely occurs spontaneously - Michael Porter

Other Books I have read this week:

Winning the Oil Endgame - Innovation for Profit, Jobs and Security. Optimistic book on the future of energy. It can be downloaded for free. I wrote a Review on Amazon. I need votes on my reviews there if you have a moment.

Drawing on Brilliance is a coffee table type book on patents and inventions. My Amazon review is here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

DIrty Sock 10K Run and the Power of 3 Goals.

Today I ran the Dirty Sock 10K trail run in Babylon.

One of the running books I once read said for every race, have 3 goals. One - to finish and 2 others. I have used this for many things other than running. For every sales call - make the intro, make X sale or make Y sale etc. It means I always at least accomplish one goal.

My 3 goals were to finish and to finish in less than 50 minutes and to finish in less than 45. The only one I achieved was to finish. My final time was 52:23. I have never finished a 10K race in over 50 minutes so this was a major disappointment.

Race day was hot and muggy. Mercifully the race started at 8 before it really was sweltering and the race was on shaded trails through the woods.

Trail runs usually have slow times than road races but I could not really use this excuse since it was more of a "path" run. The path was wide, fairly level and clear.

I started way back in the pack. The start was slow with masses of people. After feeling I was hemmed in and going way to slow for the first half mile, I was passed by a tall big guy in a blue T-shirt (I call him blue shirt) who was weaving through the runners. I tucked in behind him and ran for about a mile dodging through the crowd. Always passing people. Still did not make for a good one mile time of almost 10 minutes.

Blue shirt did not stop for water at the first stop so neither did I. One the second stop, I stopped but was able to catch up within a couple of minutes. I then felt I could run stronger so I passed him. A third water stop and who blew past me but Blue Shirt. I caught up again and passed and did not see him for the rest of the race.

By about 4 miles (6.4 K), the crowd at thinned a bit so I was able to pass more and more people. But the heat was also taking its toll so I also was passed by several runners.

It was a good well run race. Good friendly runners and volunteers.

Ultimately I finished 175th out of 555 runners so top third. And 12th in my age category out of 34. Although I run against myself, a part of me also likes to place well. A lot of the reason I run is for fitness so top third should be fine. There is something in me that makes me never satisfied.

Despite a disappointing time, I am still thankful that I am fortunate enough to be able to run it. I lead a charmed life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Action Creates Reaction and War in the Boardroom

I offer to give my eBook away for free and ask for people to fill in a survey. This creates a volume of reaction.

I have been busy. Thanks for all the feedback!! I am still processing it. One interesting note is there are many opposing views or opinions.

I have always noticed this action creates reaction effect and often used it in a slower economy. If the phone does not ring, dial it.

My speed reading tip of the day is "Don't Read It". Just because I pick up a book or start to read an article does not mean I have to finish it if I am not getting value from it. Part of filtering is deciding what not to take in.

Sometimes I find a book that does not resonate now might be highly interesting in a year and sometimes I start to re-read the book I thought was awesome and I find it is not longer interested. I think it is partly based on interests and circumstances at the time.

One person gave survey feedback that I should do less book reviews. I am hopeful that he or she did not waste time reading them if they are not for them.

And my book review today is on "War in the Boardroom - Why Left-Brain Management and Right-Brain Marketing Don't See Eye-to-Eye - and what to do about it" by Al and Laura Ries. I loved the book just like I like most of Ries stuff - I have been a follower almost from the start when Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote the great classic "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing"

Since then Al Ries has teamed up with his daughter Laura and written a number of other books - mostly on the same topic. They write about branding and positioning.

I do not like the title as I think most of the battles they talk about - management vs marketing actually take place outside the boardroom.

The branding rules they talk about are simple and logical. Focus on one thing. Do not try to be everything to everybody. Be dominant in a category. One brand - one category (so don't try to sell Crest soap). I love the logic in it but I still find it hard to focus.

The thesis of the book is left brained people (logic based - who they say are management) conflict with right brained people (intuition based - who they say are marketing). Management wants to extend the brand, marketing knows better.

It is all about perception. It may not even be current sales that determine how strong a brand is, it is what the customers think of the brand that will create future strength. It is not so much about the product which is often the sole focus of management.

I am a strong believer in much of what the Ries have to say and suggest everyone should read a few of their books. I would suggest starting with one of their earlier books. Their views on branding and positioning are right on.

Right now, I am struggling with what the Jim Estill brand will be. CEO, Time Management Guru, writer, speaker, board member, consultant, mentor etc. A part of me wants to be everything although I know this dilutes what I am doing.

I also think social media (Blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook etc) is new to the branding arena and will have a material impact. No one truly knows what that impact will be or how to capitalize on it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just Ask Leadership

This my 600th blog post. 12th day on "holidays".

Working on my systems. I find my productivity is unusually low. So need to polish my success habits. Trying not to fall victim to "tasks tend to grow to take the time available".

Thanks to all who did my survey. Interesting feedback that I will share in a future post. And if you have not done the survey- please take the few minutes and do it now.

The latest book I read is by Gary Cohen Just Ask Leadership - Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions. Simple concept - Leaders and managers should ask questions as a way of leading.

"Questions aren't just about knowing the answers - they lead to fresh ideas, committed action and creation of a new rank of leaders" Questions are a softer way to lead. Questions stimulate thought. Questions promote buy in. Questions are motivational.

"The leader of the past was the person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be the person who knows how to ask" Peter Drucker

The book is chock full of questions that can be asked in almost any business situation. But if you read the book and get the concept, you will not need to use the questions from the book because it become obvious to use almost any questions.

I understand the concept. I believe in it and believed in it before I even read the book. I have found it difficult to practise. Will have to spend more time on it in the future. In my next position, I plan to ask more questions.

Just Ask Leadership also has a fairly good section on values and a link to an online values clarification exercise that is excellent. Part of my Time Leadership book has a section on that as well that ties in.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Survey Help Please and Benjamin Graham on Investing

As I continue on my quest for self knowledge, I thought I would get input. I want to see how others' see me. The value I add is what it is to others.

For example, if I think I am the best orator in the world but if the audience are bored stiff, then it is foolish for me to be an orator.

So, I really would appreciate it if you could take a moment to do the following survey about me:

Survey about Jim Estill.

I took the weekend off and was a tourist in Boston. Everything is old and they are proud of it. Every shop, pub and church said "Boston's first pub", "The oldest shop in America", "The last standing building of this architecture", "The friendliest service in Boston", etc. I am thinking of opening a business with a sign "Not real old, pretty good service, similar to many other shops here".

I read a compilation of articles made into a book "Benjamin Graham on investing". Graham is the value investing ideology the Warren Buffet follows. Buffet worked for Graham for a couple of years. "If you buy shares in a company you are an owner so only buy shares of a company you want to own".

One problem with articles is they are topical at the time but the companies referenced are no longer in business in most cases. So no hot stock tips (and of course the basis of value investing is there is no such thing as a stock tip).

What is interesting is to see the methods he uses. Most of it is common sense. But then again, common sense is not that common.

He placed a high emphasis on the balance sheet and the numbers. Although he does not ignore the fundamentals of what the business does, he does not spend as much time as I do in trying to vision the future. The other factor that seemed weak was the attention to management and entrepreneurial creativity within the companies he analysed.

It was interesting to see that Graham owned majority control of Geico at one point and now Buffet owns it.

One possibility for me now would to just become an investor. But this seem dry to me and I do not think I would make my greatest contribution by just investing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Keys - Open the Door to True Empowerment

8 days of unemployment (plus a weekend which I think also counts). I am busier than I expected. I actually have things to do. Lots of calls and emails as expected when the news of my departure hit. Now it is mostly people trying to entice me to do something else. I am determined to take at least 90 days to figure out properly what I want to do. It is tough for me not to jump right into things.

All businesses started as ideas in someones mind. I have lots - the key is to develop the right one.

I am in a strange space personally. I resigned most of my board positions (but not RIM), and moved to a new country, leaving my friends and family. I have only been here 75 days but most of the social ties I had started to develop are cut (they were mostly employees, suppliers, customers, bankers, accountants etc at Nu Horizons). Now it seems awkward for many of them. So I am busy cultivating new circles. Interesting...

I read a great book by my friend Denise Marek and her friend Sharon Quirt called "The Keys - Open the Door to True Empowerment and Infinite Possibilities". I liked Denise's previous book - Calm so I knew I would like this one.

It starts:"We know from history that unless we're challenged, human nature has a tendency to settle for mediocrity". It then goes on to encourage that appropriate challenge.

The keys:

Awareness - I spend a lot of time soul searching. Trying to figure out where my greatest values lie. The better I know myself, the better I am able to add value.

Acceptance - I fight this one - always "working" to change anything that I think needs changing. I realize at some level this causes me angst and does not allow me to be as zen and part of me thinks I should be.

Forgiveness - This assumes that we are not taking control of our own reactions to things. No one can make us feel bad. True maturity would be not having to forgive because we take full responsibility for our reactions.

Freedom - The ultimate goal.

The keys are simple and obvious which are usually the best sort of reminders.

The book is short, easy to read and fast which I like. To get the best value though, it needs to be pondered.

And changing topics...

Business week has some short story boards. One that provokes thought was brought to my attention. 13 management mistakes. It is inspired by the book Oops - 13 Management Practises that Waste Time and Money. I am looking forward to reading the book.

I have not been waking up as early as I would like (although I was up at 4:30 today) to so I wrote an article on why and how to wake up early. Good article by Jim Citrin on the same topic here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Free stuff and Russian Time Routlette

Following along from my post yesterday on Free - the future of Radical Price. I have 2 free e-books you can get:

1 - In a prior post I mentioned that I was impressed by a new book entitled Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, written by Sam Carpenter It's available on Amazon and in book stores, but with my special arrangement with Sam, until August 15th, you can download the pdf version for free.

To receive the pdf, visit Sam's website, find the "Special Book Promotion" window, and use the password "estill." This will not be live until tomorrow morning.

2 - And email me at jimestill at gmail dot com and I will send you a free eBook version of my Time Management Book.

And your time tip for the day came from a book by Stephanie Winston's time management classic - Getting Organized:

Russian Time Management Roulette

Write down perhaps 10 to 12 things that need to be done on different slips of paper. Fold the slips so you cannot see which is which.

Mix in some breaks and fun stuff on the task slips. I like to make each task 15-20 minutes.

Then say to yourself whichever slip you draw, you will do it. Then just mix the slips and draw to see which gets done first. This is a fun game that gets things done.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Free - The Future of Radical Price and The Experience Economy

I am just back from a day at Fire Island - a beach community that does not allow cars. Amazingly busy place for a Friday. I thought people worked on Friday. I also thought there was a tight economy but that too seems forgotten there.

I read one book and listened to one. They both play to each other so I thought I would review them together. One is Chris Anderson's "Free - The Future of Radical Price" which you can download for free. Anderson is the editor of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail, one of my favorite books.

Malcolm Gladwell (another of my favorite authors) did a great review of Free in New Yorker.

The thesis is Free is a business model that is here to stay - particularly in information and software. I know I use a lot of free tools is social networking like Statcounter, Blogger,, Hootsuite, Twitter, Linkedin and facebook. I pay nothing for them. And I also contribute a lot to free - my blog is free (although there is some small advertising revenue and I suppose it sells Time management books)

So how do companies make money when things are free?

1 - They sell advertising so the user gets it for free but the advertisers pay.

2 - They are Fremium meaning they have a premium product that people can upgrade to if they choose. it has been shown if people like something they often want a premium brand of the same thing.

He encourages people to think abundance - not scarcity. My brother, Lyle, ascribes to this theory in a big way.

He sizes the "Free" economy as about the size of a small country like Canada.

The second book is "The Experience Economy - Work Is Theatre and Every Business is a Stage" by Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore. The gist of the message - make your product an experience. Do not sell on price. There are tons of examples where identical products are sold at different prices because of the experience associated with one - EG restaurants. Escape price - sell experience.

An experience engages customers in a memorable way. And experiences need to constantly change. Once we experience delight and memorable, we expect that to be the minimum so we need to up our game.

Experience comes in 4 ways:

1 - Entertainment - amuse people - they pay for that.
2 - Education
3 - Escapism - treat the imagination.
4 - Aesthetic - for me, great wonders of nature are hard for man made monuments to top - EG - hike the Grand Canyon.

Engage all the senses.

Increasingly I see people willing to pay for experiences - often paying for things that were free. For example - paying to join a running club. And I certainly see the need to not be a commodity and see that "Experience" if well done can make the difference.

Both great books for me at this juncture in my life. I am trying to figure out the future of business as that is the way to thrive.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Simple ADD Time management Tip

This is the start of day 3 as an unemployed CEO. Not sure it has sunk in yet as my volume of email and calls is still quite high. I even have one potential interim job that I will likely take. Helping a friend negotiate the sale of his company. I also have a speaking gig teaching my Time Management course to a local company. So as expected, all is good.

I am determined to take some time off to figure out what I want to do. As a person of action, I know this will be difficult for me. Intellectually, I know this is the right thing.

My time tip for the day is simple. Leave any room a bit neater than when you entered it. I do not like to spend hours cleaning or tidying a room. Doing it a bit at a time gets the job done and saves me the longer task. Sometimes the simplest habits are the best.

My car does not tend to have a lot of junk in it by using this method. I almost always remove any garbage and take any stuff into the house etc.

Thsi will be a great do. I know we choose to make our days great.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Always Add Value

So what does a day in the life of an out of work CEO look like? Up late but still at the gym well before 7 and ran 5 miles. Then a very full day of over 100 emails and lots of calls. Thanks to all for checking in. And one meeting to work on my plans.

I am developing what my success habits will be for this period of interspection. Some things I will do for sure is:

1 - Increase my workouts a bit. I have registered to run the New York Marathon on Nov 1 so need to be in shape for that. And I am still sore from one of my personal trainer friends who visited on the weekend (50 chinups in one day). So have to up my game a bit.

2 - evaluate my strengths, weaknesses, assets and liabilities to help figure out where my best value can be added. One thing I always look at in life is adding value. I even think about it when I post a blog entry.

3 - I am going to limit my reading to one book per day as I think I could fall into the trap of just reading all the time. I am going to limit my blogging to a few times per week. Limiting how much time is spent on something can be a success habit.

4 - get up early and "work" my usual hours.

5 - Lots of mights. I might try to pick up a new skill. I might paint the house. I might keep a journal. I might write articles or a book.

6 - Organize. My recent move left me with some disorganized files.

7 - and yes, relax a bit. And I know myself well enough to know this one will be tough. I like action.

I used my time tracking sheets today to keep on top of how I am spending my time.

Lots of press about my departure from Nu Horizons. Most of it just repeats the press release.

RTT News

and way too many more to list. It was on 94 sites last time I checked.

It shows the power of the internet and how easily and fast things propagate.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Nu Horizons Electronics Corp. Announces Departure of President and CEO

Big personal news for me today. I am leaving Nu horizons. The press realse says it all.

Now to crafting my next 30 day plan. Onward and upward.

Will keep everyone updated.