Saturday, July 31, 2010

Be Bodacious

I read an interesting post by Golden Seeds director, Angela Haines on starting an entrepreneurial tech venture "mid career". It seems to me the best time to start a business is now regardless of your age or experience.

I am just back from travel. Beautiful sunrise in the big sky of Calgary.

I need to strive for higher productivity while I travel.

I feel I am way behind in my blogging. I have read lots of books that I need to share.

One book I read was Be Bodacious - Put Life in Your Leadership by Steven Wood.

When I was first given it, I was not sure I should be caught reading it on the train, thinking bodacious meant voluptuous or sexy. But I checked Websters and found it also means "Remarkable, noteworthy" as well.

The book is written in story or fable format. The main character learns a series of "secrets" or lessons from a fictitious mentor called Cowboy. At first, I was not impressed since the "secrets" seemed almost trite - be extraordinary, be unrestrained, be bold. But the book went on to lay out some great self development truths set out in a number of challenges.

Most of the analogies are cowboy. Like the 8 second rule in bull riding. You get no score unless you beat 8 seconds. The lessons - you need to pay a price to enter the competition and you need to finish the ride. And know there may be some discomfort.

Or catching chickens. It pays to focus - chasing more than one chicken at once does not work.

Be Bodacious is a quick engaging read. The secrets are valid. They reinforce what we should all be doing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Invaluable Book Review

I am just back from whirlwind travel. Feeling I need to get more productive when I am on the road. There are always things I leave for when I am back in the office which I would prefer to just have dealt with.

I read a great little book -Invaluable - The Secret of Becoming Irreplaceable by Dave Crenshaw. He wrote The Myth of Multitasking which I also liked even though I had written about the power of multitasking, Crenshaw and I agree.

I had a negative reaction to the title because I believe everyone is replaceable and greatly dislike those that hoard information and knowledge which is how some choose to be more irreplaceable (and that method does not work).

But that is not what the book is about. It is about Time Management (so of course I love it). The gist of the message is "spend your time in your most valuable area (he calls them MVAs)". This has to do with knowing your unique strengths and understanding the value of them.

I have always worked on knowing my strengths and working in them. Part of it though is to also look at those things you do which are lower value add and figuring out how to reduce or eliminate them. Coming off a travel week, I really see a lot of low value time (like waiting in lines etc.).

So I heartily agree with the thesis. And it re-emphasizes all that I know.

It is written as a story or parable which I do not particularly like (although many people prefer that). I just like the facts.

I think this book will inspire people to spend their time better.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Power of No

I have been traveling on business. And I have been working on interesting but very time consuming deals. In short, I am feeling swamped.

I have never been good at saying no to people. People call and want to meet with me, arrange for a call, get me to speak etc. People send me emails that need replies. I usually say yes.

Part of it is Canadian politeness. It seems rude to turn people down. Part of it is I am an optimist and see the good in everything and everyone.

In order to focus on my priorities (and focus is a major skill that can move you forward), I realize I need to say no to people. As with many things, it is easier to go completely cold turkey. So I am now in a NO phase. I am turning down every opportunity for the next month (and part of my guilt is I see everything as an opportunity).

This will allow me to focus.

No can be your best time management tool.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beth Estill and Chris Mitchell Wedding

My daughter Beth was married yesterday to Chris Mitchell.

The day went perfectly.

Perfect couple Chris and Beth.

Other Photos - Beth and her brother David, Beth and her sister Laura and Beth and I.

In my toast I quoted Benjamin Isreali (British Prime Minister in the 1800s) who said "we create our own circumstances" so now it is time for Chris and Beth to go create their own circumstances...

And if it is a boy, they can call it Jim

Monday, July 12, 2010

Consumed - A book review

Surprise - I have a book review today.

I read a thought provoking book - Consumed - Rethinking Business in the Era of Mindful Spending by Andrew Bennett and Ann O'Reilly.

The thesis put forward is people will slow consumption based partly on a tight economy and based partly on a backlash to overconsumption. People are getting sick of being marketed and sold.

I can certainly see why this should happen. Overconsumption certainly is a huge source of stress. I always suggest that one of the keys to lower stress is living within your means. Consumption is also a huge source of dissatisfaction.

So if the world becomes non-consumers (and I really do not think it will although a part of me hopes it pulls back a bit), how do companies thrive? This is what the book attempts to explain. The authors are not trying to pass judgement on if it should happen.

I tend to be more judgmental that we should moderate our consumerism. I wonder is consumerism is the opposite to humanism. And if w should not moderate for inner peace, we should moderate for world peace. And if not for ourselves, for the environment and the world.

So what do companies do as we become non-consumers? I would have to type the whole book but some things(these are in my words - not theirs so there is some interpretation):

1 - reconsider what value really is for the consumer. Then sell to that.
2 - recognize the non-consumer trend and develop products that cater to that (EG smaller, thriftier, less waste)
3 - Work at connecting with customers.
4 - be genuine and real. People see through gloss.

Great quotes from the book:

"It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly" - British Philosopher Bertrand Russell

"People will buy anything that is one to a customer" Sinclair Lewis

The book was thought provoking - therefore it was good.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Zilch - The Power of Zero in Business

I read an awesome book by Nancy Lublin called Zilch - The Power of Zero in Business.

I have a lot of respect for Nancy from the charity she started called Dress for Success. Normally I have a negative reaction to dressing for success and tend to like to understate (OK I am not a good dresser). Part of this is my frugal nature. Partly it allows me to learn more from people. And partly I like to be comfortable and partly I just like to be me rather than wear a prescribed costume at a prescribed price point.

Dress for Success supplies outfits for women who are looking for work who would not otherwise be able to afford them. So this Dress for Success is different.

Nancy uses examples of how non-profit charities can do a lot with almost nothing. And it is amazing if you think about it. Many companies want to get people to be more engaged on the job and think this means they need to pay more. Charities get engagement and they do not even pay.

Staff are inspired to work for a great company. Ideally with a noble purpose. I have seen this. Poorly run companies have to pay more to keep people generally.

She is an advocate of social media. Because it is new, it tends to be the most cost effective way to market things. I have seen the power of social media in non-profit fundraising.

She believes in brand as a way to extend reach. Good brand is an intangible that has great value but really does not cost much (or can cost a lot depending how you do it).

She believes in creating ambassadors. Malcolm Gladwell would call these Mavens and Connectors. Basically be awesome so people do your selling for you and refer people to you.

Having started a business from zero, I have a keen appreciation for what she is saying. There is power in having little. I have seen this often in venture capital and start up situations. If the cash is too available - it gets spent. I even often suggest to entrepreneurs to either not raise money (just grow within profitability) or raise less.

The book is well written and easy to read. The stories she intersperses keep it interesting and at times funny. At the end of each chapter are a list of questions to spur thought.

And my time management tip of the day which flows from Zilch is "owning things costs time".

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Power of the Power Nap

I am just back from fishing for a few days in Haida Gwaii (used to be called the Queen Charlotte Islands - in Northern British Columbia). Caught lots of salmon, halibut, ling cod and rock fish. I actually grand slammed (meaning I caught the limit on every fish on my licence) and will soon have a freezer full of fish (330 pounds pre cleaning).

I arrived home to find the garden bountiful (or overrun depending on which plants you look at). I had a great dinner of rock fish that I had caught, beets, turnips, radishes and beet and turnip greens. And there is lots ready that I did not eat like the zucchinis pictured here, peas and blueberries.

There is something about eating food you grow yourself to make you feel healthy. Not sure what the time management trade off is but if I think of the time I saved having to stop by a grocery store and combine that with thinking of it as a hobby - perhaps...

And coming back on a holiday (July 4th in the US anyways) meant my day has been a slow re-entry which is good.

My time trick for the day is to take a nap. I found after a nap(I was tired from my trip due to time zone changes and waking up with the sun - up there, the sun rises at 4), my creativity soared. I managed to plow through a ton of backlog in a very short time.

Our work spaces are not designed for napping and neither is the "tough" business world where even I have been known for saying "sleep is for wimps". But in my heart, I know adequate sleep actually helps productivity and creativity. And it helps health. Lots written on the health benefits of sleep.

One of my key values is health (partly because it supports another key value - Time Management). Sleep is the main health thing I have not been good at for years.

Like sleep, the vacation was also good for me.