Friday, April 30, 2010

Time Management Articles

Noticed a good article on 10 Pitfalls to avoid in Time Management on a Time Management Software blog by my friend Alex Revai.

I have been adding to my "recent article" section on my resources part of my blog. Lots of time management and leadership articles and more to come. Mostly just collecting those that I have already written into one place (how's that for time management).

One thing I love about the internet is there is never a shortage of material or ideas on a topic. Google Time Management or Time Management Articles and you can waste a lot of time reading.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Success Made Simple

I read a fantastic book called "Success Made Simple an Inside Look at Why Amish businesses thrive" On the book jacket it says "discover why Amish businesses have a 95% success rate." Impressive.

It is written by Erik Wesner who spent an intensive period of time in the Amish community even though he is not Amish himself. He started by trying to sell them books which he did with some success.

I always had a bit of childhood fascination with Mennonites who lived nearby as I was growing up. They are similar in many ways to the Amish. They dress in black, drive horse and carriages, don't believe in cars or electricity and generally live life more like the turn of the 1900's than today.

I learned that the Amish are opposed to automation because they place such a high priority on family and they think things like cars would allow people to travel too far away from family.

The Amish success in my opinion is built on their great work ethic. In general I've seen most highly successful businesses, are lead by leadership with great work ethic. And work ethic permeates the culture. I often like hiring people that grew up on farms because the know how to work.

The Amish are highly religious. Because of that they can be quite calm in times of high stress. They turn there problems over to God rather than becoming twisted up inside.

There is an limit on Amish entrepreneurs because the church and the community frowns upon growing too fast and too big. guess as in any entrepreneurs' situation, entrepreneurs need to be there own people and recognize the peer pressure just is.

In one sense I thought the Amish would have many disadvantages because of their lack of automation, however in business they are not opposed to using equipment and computers. I think being Amish has some advantages though too such as: work ethic, community, and even the Amish name which is quite well respected.

It's an interesting book that gave me some fascinating insights into the Amish people and although it's interesting I don't think I will become one.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alec's Run VI

No business lesson here so just skip it. This is just a race story.

As the title suggests, I ran a 4 mile race today. Beautiful weather for it. About 60 degrees at the 9:30 start. 40% humidity which is nice and low. Sunny so it did heat up a bit.

It was a chip timed race but there was not mat at the start - only the end. So I started near the front of the pack so I would not lose time crossing the start line. I was passed often in the first mile even though I ran a 6:48. I knew that was too fast although at some time I have dreamed of keeping a 7:00 pace for all 4 miles.

The second mile melted easily although there was some up hill. I skipped the water stop knowing I could run 4 miles without water easily.

The third mile was tough and I lost time. While running I was kicking myself for doing 30 minutes of weights (including legs of course) before the race. Should have saved my energy.

The fourth mile was easier although you could see the finish about half a mile out and that is way to far to sprint. I always like to give a little kick at the end but usually only for the last 100 yards.

The course was mostly flat. It started and ended at the same place more or less but it still seemed to have more uphill than down. Amazing how that happens.

In the end, my time was 29:36 or 7:24 per mile which beat my 30 minute goal. I always set 3 goals and 30 was my top goal. Time to move it down.

Great run. Well organized. Glad I did it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Exceptional Service - Exceptional Profit

Exceptional Service Exceptional Profit - The Secrets of Building a Five-star Customer Service Organization is a book by Leonardo Inghiller and Micah Solomon.

When I first picked up the book I was some what skeptical. I am a big believer in customer service I also believe customer service can be over done. What I have found is consumers are frequently driven to the lowest price yet expect five star service to go along with the lowest price. I know this is not the case in all businesses but in many businesses it is the case.

In some cases, superior services clearly does cost more to deliver.

One phrase caught my eye. Keep a firm eye on lily gilding. This comes from a Shakespeare phrase, the "lily gilding" means overdoing something that's already perfect. In customer interactions, it often takes the form of fancying up your offerings beyond what the customers are interested in. Lily gilding has both obvious and hidden costs, including excess features that can make your offering less attractive by complicating it for customers or that imply to customers that they're paying for something they don't need.

As an aside, I often find people who write tend to lily guild.

Value is relative. Customers often judge your value relatively. That is, they judge each interaction with your company against their previous interactions with you-and with your competitors.

To make sure you understand the competitive expectations of your customers, shop the competition-your best competition. Don't let resentment lead you to dismiss a competitor's innovations. Think rationally about whether there is value there that you could make use of for your own customers.

Pricing is part of the value proposition. Not everybody values money the same. If value was all about low pricing, there would be no space for retailers like Nordstrom; everybody would be shopping at Wal-Mart. A reliable equation is "Value=Personal Benefit-Cost and Inconvenience." Therefore, in product and service design, it helps to focus on the personal benefit you provide for customers in return for the price you charge.

A loyal customer is the least price-sensitive customer of all. So think "what can we do to create loyalty".

One great quote was "Don't charge a customer for performing the Heimlich". A touchstone in pricing is that your charges should demonstrate that you care about the customer. Among other things, this means you should never surprise your customers with charges they wouldn't commonly expect. Avoid nickel and diming customers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Internet for Nonprofits Management

I read a book for Internet for Nonprofits Management-Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. So why would I be reading a book about Nonprofits? One of my claims to fame was having 99 consecutive quarters of profit before we sold to Synnex but I suppose it's not about that type of nonprofit.

The book is edited by Philip Geier who is a friend of mine and one of the articles is written by people involved to with Karma411 -John Murcot, Mark Fasciano and Russell Artzt.

The article they wrote was called Social Collaboration and Productivity- How web 2.0 tools help raise funds and awareness more efficiently. And of course I am a big believer in social media and the tools of web 2.0 so I enjoyed the chapter.

As the title implies, the chapter was all about the electronic tools and social media that can be used to help in fund raising efforts.

There was a discussion of project management tools like Computer Associates Clarity, Base camp, Wikis etc. There was also a discussion of real time collaboration tools like Voip, Skype and Goggle Wave.

The chapter not only discusses the tools but used real life example of how those tools were used.

It seems logical to me that nonprofit fund raisers would definitely want to use social media because it's economical and it's easy to use and because what nonprofits need to do is create communities of stakeholders who can feel aligned more with the nonprofit group.

The book would be primarily of interest to people who are in the nonprofit fund raising field which includes many business people as most business people are involved some point or another in some philanthropy.

Much of what is discussed though also applies to any business or marketing effort, for example there is a chapter on effective web page design, e-governance, recruiting, how to protect your organization and donors from identity theft and lots more.

It's a good book!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The First Followers make the Leader

I saw a poorly produced Youtube video called Dancing Guy. It shows a leader dancing alone who is joined by another person. The leader is brave to dance alone. To look ridiculous. To stand out. To not care what others think.

But the same is true of the first follower and the few after that. They brave ridicule. But as others join and it becomes a group, many more will join because to not join is to stand out as more now than joining.

People then praise the leader but it is the first followers who should get the credit. Followers make the leader.

Interesting Leadership Lesson.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happiness At Work

I read a book by Srikumar Rao this weekend - Happiness at Work - Be Resilient, Motivated , and Successful - No Matter What.

Rao suggests taking a slow approach to reading the book. Read a chapter - come to grips with it over a few days etc. So instead of reading it in one sitting, I read it in 2.

One chapter that caught my eye was "Think your problem is Managing your time? It's not". (I suggest you buy my Time Management book before reading that chapter. ). His points on time are valid. He suggests that interruptions like email, Twitter etc. cause much of our stress. And by being more relaxed about things, we will be more successful.

Each of the short 35 chapters has a title, which has the message then elaborates on it often with a zen story or another vignette. Then the chapter ends with a summary.

Although the title is "at Work", it really is a book about happiness in general. Rao takes a zen approach to it. The book is sprinkled with classic Zen stories. Ones with morals or lessons. Most of them I had read in other material. Most of them I liked.

The gist of the book - live in the moment. Accept that things are neither good or bad - they just are. Let go of past baggage. Invest in the process not the outcome. And of course - stuff does not make you happy.

Changing topics to one of my favorite - health. I had a great 2 hour run today. I tend to believe the best nutrients come from a good diet but lately have been taking some Purity Products supplements like Fish Oil, Vitamin D and Amazing Orange (this is a drink for during and after a run). And I think it is making a difference. Still tired after a long run but I think I recover faster.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Checklist Manifesto

I read an interesting review of The Checklist Manifesto on the Globe and Mail site. The gist of the book is that checklists simplify complex tasks. I would add to this - use a checklist to make sure repetitive tasks are done properly. It also can add uniformity to a job and allow for constant improvement on systems.

I have long been a big proponent of the To Do list. I even run it together and call it a todo list. Every Time Management Book I read or course I take uses a todo list in some form.

A checklist is not a todo list. To get the most value from a todo list, things need to be prioritized.

Lists can reduce stress. I know if I have things written on my todo list, they no longer take mind space and for me this reduces stress.

Now I need to get "Back to Work" (one of my mantras I use to be more productive)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Start - A Success Habit

One Success Habit that I have been using more and more is "Just Start".

I use this one on exercise. My simplest example is one habit I have pegged to going to bed (See my mlog post on Pegging a Habit). I do 10 pushups. 10 is not a daunting number. I feel I can easily do it. But what really happens? When I start to do 10, I always end up doing more. But the permission to stop at 10 is there. It is the "getting the ball rolling" or just starting that has made this an easy habit to stick to.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Talent Management

One of my best time management tips is "you cannot do it all yourself". Let others help.

In that vein this is a guest post by Stanley Janas, Director of Human Resources at Halogen Software.
Why CEOs Should Care About Talent Management

At first look, talent management might seem like a responsibility that CEOs should relegate to HR and their lower level managers. After all, it's about hiring, setting individual employee goals, rating competencies and performance, assigning development plans, making compensation adjustment, etc. Not the critical stuff a time-crunched CEO should be focusing on.

But all kinds of research is showing that companies with mature, integrated talent management processes are outperforming the competition:

  • The Hackett Group recently found that companies with more mature talent management capabilities have on average18% higher earnings, 54% greater net profit margins, and greater return on equity and assets than their counterparts without mature capabilities.

  • The Aberdeen Group's latest research finds that companies who integrate their talent management processes see significantly greater performance gains, and can measure a correlation between their talent management efforts and business operational results.

  • And IBM, HCI, IDC and others have shared similar findings.

Part of why this might be true is that good talent management lets you make the most of your employees by giving them the direction, feedback, development and rewards they need to excel. But good talent management processes also give you as a CEO important data and metrics about the health and strength of your workforce that make it easier to manage and make key decisions. Things like:

  • Ratings on key competencies
  • Goal alignment and progress on goals
  • Employee turnover
  • High potential and high performing employees
  • Low performing employees
  • Retention risks and trends
  • Performance improvements related to training
  • Areas of strength
  • Skill gaps
  • Employees with special skills/experience/expertise
  • Succession candidates

The list goes on.

Armed with this kind of data, CEOs and their executive teams can make faster, better decisions about succession, readiness to tackle a new market, ability to support strategic initiatives, training investments, who to layoff in a downturn, etc. and in general, better manage their most strategic asset – their workforce.

But reaping the benefits requires organizational commitment, and ideally, that should start at the C-level.

What do you think? Are you giving talent management the attention it deserves?

Strategy vs Tactics

I believe that a lot of my success in life has had to do with my strategy. A good strategy helps success come more easily.

Good strategy is not without its challenge and I really enjoyed the article on The Four Myths of Strategy that one of my friends e-mailed me.

Of course good strategy without good tactics and good implementation simply do not work. Good implementation is just table stakes - needed to be in the game.

The same is true in business as in life. Strategy might be to be healthy and tactics might be Success Habits that support healthy eating and exercise.

In the end you need both good strategy and good tactics to thrive.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

E Pluribus Kinko's

I am reading a lot of great books lately. One of them is E Pluribus Kinko's - A Story of Business, Democracy, and Freaky Smart People by Dean Zatkowsky. E Pluribus Unum means one out of many.

What is interesting about the book is Dean is not the founder or president or even an owner of one of the stores. He was an employee in one of the stores who eventually worked his way into 2% ownership.

Kinko's is an amazing success story. They grew to almost a billion dollar business selling 10 cent items. And then they sold out to FedEx.

The book has many business "lessons". Like being open 24 hours dramatically increased business during the day. I know I may have even become a customer that way. I joined a health club that is open 24 hours although I have never been there after midnight or before 5. I just like the idea of it being accessible.

Kinko's hired Dean for "attitude and creativity" because skills can be taught. I agree with this (and would possibly add "intelligence" to the list).

There is a great chapter on Theory X vs Theory Why that should be required reading for leaders and HR people. Bottom line - self motivated people excel more than over controlled autocratically lead people.

There is a section on Kinko's philosophy statement and debate around it. At Kinko's it really did seem to make a difference. "Culture is built on stories".

Kinko's sounded like a lot of fun in the days Dean was there. It helps me realize that fun is one of the primary motivators for people. Keep a workplace fun and keep people and increase productivity, quality and even get more customers. The fun translated to a bit of humor in the book (like the woman who insisted the copier changed her paper and added spelling mistakes).

He told of people who cared about their customers. No wonder it was a success.

One concept raise was "Triorities" - the 3 things you need to do first. Sounds funny or crazy but I think it might be a great concept. The problem with priorities is they can overwhelm.

Dean is honest which adds to the poignancy of the book. He mentioned kicking a drug habit while working at Kinko's. And admitted to complaining daily about Kinko's while working there (absence does tend to make us nostalgic - we need to appreciate more the "good" we have today)

Dean is a writer so the book is well written (unlike some business books that are written by good business people who are do not write quite as well).

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Walking Problem Solving - perfect exercise

One of my friends, Heléne Olsson, Directora General of KAIROS FUTURE ESPAÑA responded to my post about Sketch Shape Up Shoes:

Talking about shoes, and walking, let' me introduce you to the concept of
"Power Walks", This is something I recommend in leadership and time
management, and which I practice with my people and customers, when

When you get stuck in business, or when you need to talk through
important issues with a customer, colleague, collaborator or superior,
it's time for a "Power Walk". This means having a meeting, just two
persons, getting out of the office, having a brisk walk together for
around an hour, preferably in a park or at a place you do not need to
stop, just go on walking.

The advantages of this are:

1. You take better and quicker decisions than in a meeting room, because
you are walking, not sitting comfortable.

2. You get better inspiration because the environment creates collateral

3. You feel better because you make a kind of soft exercise, pumping the
blood up to the brain and around your body, and breathe fresh air

4. The confidence is higher with the second person, because "walking the
talk" creates trust and is powerful. The small talk helps to cement the

5. It’s tremendously easy and yet so surprising what you get out of it.

6. Cheap!


- put a clear purpose of the Power Walk, before walking
- one of the two knows the path to walk in beforehand
- only do it in-between two persons, communication is not good enough with
more people walking together
- don't answer the mobile or connect yourself meanwhile
- walk briskly, not strolling around
- make a small résumé of max 3 bullet points of the output when connected

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Free Exercise - Just walk

This blog post is a shameless promotion on a new set of shoes I bought called Shape-Ups (although I don't get paid any royalty or anything for pushing them)

Shape Ups claim to actually help you to build more muscle and get in better shape simply by wearing the shoes. Having worn the shoes for a week, I believe they do work and I think the way they work is because the soles are somewhat squishy so it's a little bit like walking on sand which of course makes it more difficult.

The front and back of the shoes are also somewhat curved which means clearly you would use more balancing muscles. I'd love to wear them everyday, but I'm not sure they look quite professional enough for some of the business meetings that I go into although I'm sure there will be versions that come out that are appropriate for business shoes (there may already be, I just don't have them).

I'm always in search of ways to get in better shape without having to actually do anything more than what I'm already doing. And Shape ups seem like the right kind of thing for a Time Management Guru.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Save Your Brain

Sometimes when a new book arrives - I cannot wait to read it. Save Your Brain - 5 things you must do to keep your mind young and sharp by Paul David Nussbaum is just such a book. For some reason, I am attracted to books on keeping the mind sharp. For example, I loved Making a Good Brain Great and Brain Rules.

I was interested to read in the Globe and Mail that people with advanced Parkinsons cannot walk but can ride a bicycle. The brain is interesting.

The book starts with a survey to see how good you are on brain stuff. It includes questions on exercise, diet etc. I was surprised I scored "poor". Perhaps that is partly because I am a tough self grader but partly because the questions did not allow me to use alternatives that I do that are likely comparable. EG - dancing once per week (which I do not do) is surely comparable to martial arts.

Of course it has a technical section on how the brain works and what it is. And part convincing me that I need to work on saving my brain.

The 5 things to do to Save Your Brain:

1 - Socialize. Basic human interaction.
2 - Exercise. 25% of the blood circulation goes to support the brain.
3 - Mental Stimulation. Use it or lose it. Learn something new always. Challenge yourself.
4 - Spirituality. He includes "mental rest" in this category.
5 - Nutrition. The obvious - eat like your mom told you to and use supplements if you cannot. He is also a big advocate of fish oil.

These are all obvious and not new. He did not emphasize the things not to do (like drugs, alcohol and boxing). It was a good reminder of things I already knew.