Monday, May 30, 2011

Thrive on Pressure and Better Under Pressure

I was going to write a blog entry on how we create our own pressure - like the pressure to do a blog post. In reality it would make no difference if I skipped it. But then I tried to come up with the idea on what are the "must dos" and found that even those were choices created by our values.

For example, I was going to suggest that there was a need to work out. But reality is, I could skip a few days and likely not be less healthy. Or I could give it up altogether and still likely only have minor effect (like perhaps I would be heavier, weaker and live a slightly shorter life).

So reality is. We create it ourselves. I tend to create more of it than most people (or at least that is my perception). I am always under high pressure. Part of me knows this is the way I like it.

I read 2 books on pressure. Thrive on Pressure - Lead and Succeed When Times Get Tough by Graham Jones and Better Under Pressure - How Great Leaders Bring out the Best in Themselves and others by Justin Menkes.

Loved Menkes cover - a picture of coal with a diamond.

Menkes book is drawn for 60 interviews with CEOs (listed neatly in the acknowledgment section in the front). Of course I love real CEOs with real examples.

The book has 8 chapters. The interesting thing is chapters 2 and 3 are both titled Realistic Optimism and 4 and 5 are Subservience of Purpose and 6 and 7 are Finding Order in Chaos. They do however have different subtitles.

The order in chaos chapters resonated well. I often find chaos is a result of pressure or the other way around. If I can find the order and clarify it, the pressure subsides.

I enjoyed the final chapter the most - "Setting the Virtuous Flywheel in Motion". I am a big believer in momentum. I race hard to get things moving and once they are moving, they tend to keep moving.

Jones book is more of a how-to book.

It starts with a great chapter on "Now is no time to hide". This is a great message of leaders in times of pressure.

It is broken into 5 Master Classes with a few chapters devoted to each:

1 - Real leadership, pressure and mental toughness
2 - Staying in control under inevitable stress that comes with being a real leader
3 - Strengthening your self belief and ability as a leader
4 - Channeling your motivation to work for you in your role as a real leader
5 - Directing your focus to things that really matter in your role as a real leader.

Each chapter starts with key topics and ends with key takeaways which makes it fast to read and follow.

Some of the key takeaways I liked:

Mental toughness can be developed.
Most stress is self imposed
Focus on what makes a difference.

Both are great and recommended books for anyone studying how to deal better with pressure.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Open Innovation and Crowd Sourcing

There is a great HBR article on how habits and rituals are the way successful people succeed - not will power. It talks about the limits of willpower just like Chip and Dan Heaths book Switch talks about.

Ran a 5 K race today. Oppressively hot and humid (for me). Discouraging time (24:02)

Garden is doing well. Asparagus, chives and sorrel are all done for the season. Rhubarb, strawberries, lettuce, and parsley are all thriving (although the rhubarb needs a couple of years to really get big). I do not even particularly like rhubarb but I do remember fondly the huge rhubarb we grew when I was growing up. My father grew the best in the county. He claims the secret is to add manure in the late winter right on top of the snow. I am sure my blog readership mostly reads this for my gardening tips (or will now)


I read a great book - A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowd Sourcing. It is a collection of 25 articles edited by Paul Sloan.

I like article books since you can pick them up for a few minutes and return to them easily later. I know two of the authors - Braden Kelly and Andrea Meyer. The blog with me at World Innovation Forum. Not surprising they would write articles on innovation.

First we need to define Crowdsourcing (even though the book defined open innovation first which is the flow of ideas in and out of the organization as opposed to just within it).

"Crowd Sourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by an employee and outsourcing it to an undefined larger group in the form of an open call"

To make the process work well, the project needs to be well defined. The problem description is key. And the communication process needs to be well oiled.

Much of the challenge in implementing OI is the fear of change and the "old" systems that are in place already. Most companies have a fear of letting trade secrets out the door. Many companies think if they did not invent it inside their company, it is not good.

The obvious advantage of OI is the larger number of views that can focus on the problem. Different perspectives are often great in solving any problem. When someone is too close to the problem, sometimes the fail to see the best, simplest or most obvious solution.

And of course there is an article on Intellectual Property rights. This alone might scare some companies off.

I could summarize each articles but that would defeat the purpose of the blog. Read the book to get the rest.

I love crowdsourcing but have some worries that we may end up trying to commodicise (its my new verb - to make into a commodity) innovation. Although this is problem for those trying to innovate, this is not why I worry about it. I worry that we may end up in a world where no one takes the time to truly think in depth about things. I know I already have that problem. I cannot remember the last time I spent full focus time for 3 hours at a time.

Crowdsourcing dramatically increases the value of analysts - the ones who can define the problem.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Externalized Cost and Time Management

I have been traveling a lot lately and have been highly frustrated with the process (so you know I was not flying private). It starts with driving to the airport. Indeterminate traffic/drive. Wasted 25 minutes for traffic. Then navigating the maze to find parking.

Then line after line. Boarding pass (if not printed ahead or if there is a problem), customs, security, check in. 20 to 30 minutes depending on the time of day. Crazy.

All the time wasted costs me and the other citizens. It is externalized cost. The airlines/governments cost does not increase by having me wait.

One problem with all the short snips of waits is they are too short to dig in and do anything. I am blogging right now in a Starbucks - using a more substantial time chunk. Short snips and standing in line is what I call and inconvenient waits. I never resent a good chunk of time.

Now I know I can gripe about the inconvenience but that has little impact. What I choose to do is to figure out how I can better spend my "inconvenient wait times".

1 - phone calls (although some areas like US customs clearance do not allow it and others it is too public to have meaningful conversations and in some cases impolite).

2 - Listen to audio books. I have tried this and all it takes is a bit of preparation. And be prepared to stop/start.

3 - email on my Blackberry. This is why the Blackberry was invented. I realize I am font challenged now. Need to carry reading glasses or use a bigger font.

4 - Exercise. Ok - looks a bit geeky to do squats or pushups and I do not want to get to sweaty. That said, I have a number of exercises that I do - making a game of it. So a few of my muscles will be well worked.

Like using all time well - preparation helps.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rush - Why You Need and Love the Rat Race

Finally a book that vindicates me. Work is good. Competition is good. Relaxation is not the goal of life. Todd Buchholz wrote Rush - Why You Need and Love the Rat Race.

The book has 3 parts.

Part I explains scientifically why our brains are made for stress, competition and challenge. I like brain research and he covers that the stress reactions are "exciting" in the right part of the brain. We need that to be healthy.

He lays out the research that "being zen" may be overrated. One interesting line "the best way to achieve self esteem is to do something worthy of self esteem"

Part 2 Happiness is Hard Work explains that it is not a natural state to be happy. And he goes on to say that we are actually a lot happier when we work.

It tells of a study done in Austria in the 1930s. The mill had closed and there was no work. People had welfare and were cut off if they were caught busking, chopping wood for someone else etc. People without work did not go to the library and read or enjoy their new leisure. They slowed down and became depressed and lethargic.

This section has a chapter on commerce and competition and how to actually brings us together. I have long believed that commercial ties help prevent war (it is bad business to fight with your customers and suppliers). It also covers that competition makes people sharper.

"Competition not only increases innovation, it decreases violent behavior and increases cooperation"

Part 3 - Learning and Living in the Real World tells it like it is. Buchholz knows we have to live in the real world and understands that there is more to life than just competition. He acknowledges a need for relaxation and enough balance to be able to return to be recharged for competition.

The concluding chapter talks about the best competitor being yourself. Even if it is just learning a new language, learning to paint, reading a stimulating book etc. I know for me, my running is mostly self competition.

Despite being a researched treatise, it is peppered with humorous anecdotes like the old ladies complaining "the food here is terrible - inedible and the portions are so small". And the Woody Allen line "modern business is worse than dog eat dog it is "dog does not return other dog's phone call""

Friday, May 20, 2011

Influencing Powerful People

Influencing Powerful People - Engage and Command the Attention of the Decision Makers to get What You Need to Succeed is the title of a book by Dirk Schlimm.

I was attracted to it partly because I need to influence powerful people and partly because I have my own views of how to do it. I have also been on the receiving end of trying to be influenced - sometimes well and sometimes in an irritating way.

I am also attracted a lot lately to influence because my role has become much more one of influencer (coach, mentor, board member etc) than actually the person who can "force" or "make" the decision. I have made it a study to try to figure out how to do this in situations where I may not even have a formal role or title.

The book has 17 rules for influencing powerful people. Things like "get ready for a potent mix of brilliance and drive"(that chapter is on understanding powerful people), "Master the Art of First Impressions" and "Practise Humility". Each rule is simply described including how to be more effective with that rule.

One of my favorite rules is "know what you are doing". Nothing gains or loses respect like it.

The final rule is "Powerful People Need People Who Don't Need Them". Many powerful people spend their days with people who want to sell to them, want a job, want something. It is relaxing sometimes to find people who are not "takers" all the time and choose to give or assist even when there is no immediate "want" in return.

Jim's rules of Influencing Powerful People (part my own and part inspired by Schlimm's book):

1 - Respect their time. I am not sure people understand how many emails, calls, meetings etc many powerful people have to deal with. Many of them got into their position by a herculean effort in handling the volume combined with processes and systems to deal with it. I know I used both.

I know my politeness has cost me hours of meetings (need to evolve my time management techniques more). Do not confuse politeness with interest.

2 - You can actually be selling to the wrong person in the company. I often recall someone practically begging for a meeting or almost tricking me into having one and they think they have hit paydirt. They make their pitch and sell their story to me. I then take the materials they provide and just send them on to the person who makes that decision. They lose the opportunity to make the pitch to the right person and all the right person has is some information but no sales pitch.

And in most cases, good leaders will not make decisions that their people should make (it took me a while to learn that one the hard way).

3 - No two people or organizations are the same. What works for one person will not for another. What one person views as a perk is a burden to another. For example, I do not particularly need a 3 hour dinner and would prefer something faster or even no dinner at all.

4 - You cannot know who will influence the sale. In many cases, it not the person with the title who needs to be "sold". All people of power rely on groups of people to assist them in making a decision. For this reason, I always "go multiprong" when making a large sale. Know the CEO but also know the receptionist, the VPs, the sales people and the tech support person etc.

5 - Solve problems. Powerful people have challenges. Knowing what they are can be the first step to your product or service solving them. Selling where there is no perception of a problem to solve is impossible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Full Engagement by Brian Tracy

I love the feeling of being inspired so I looked forward to reading Brian Tracy's book - Full Engagement - Inspire, Motivate, and Bring Out the Best in Your People.

Brian Tracy is one of the most prolific motivational speakers of our day. He really understands psychology. He bases his work on research. This book like his others is no disappointment.

The statistics of engagement are staggering and the return from increasing the engagement of staff is huge. Salary costs are usually the biggest expense for most businesses. Increasing the efficiency of this spend makes total sense.

The book starts with a concept that happiness increases engagement. He has a list of 25 ways to be spread happiness. Things like smile more, praise generously when warranted, listen etc.

People work better if they have high self esteem. A great leader works hard on increasing the self esteem of their staff. Poorly run organizations put in place systems that actually hurt self esteem by trying to catch people doing things wrong instead of things right.

The final chapter has 17 principles to be the best you can be. It starts with "Clarity of purpose" and moves through such things as "single minded focus" and "commit to quality in everything".

It is a good book for anyone wanting to inspire through engagement.

I also liked another book on the topic called The Power of Full Engagement.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beating the Odds - Now Foods

Soil quality is inversely proportional to how much you have to use a pick. Before planting my current garden, I never thought a pick was a garden tool.

One of the reasons I work out is so I can do more things more easily. Better health also helps me recover faster if I do hit a challenge. So I am hoping my back that I twisted gardening today heals quickly.

I read Beating the Odds by Dan Richard. I thought it was odd that a self proclaimed Christian centered company like Now Foods would publish a book on gambling but it is not. It is the history of Now Foods.

I feel a connection to the company since one of the companies that I had invested in (Purity Products) sold to them several years ago. It was interesting to me as I had met a number of the people in the story.

It is a short and absorbing book. I would say it is a success book but it also tells of the many challenges the company had to face through their many years - things like theft, flooding, FDA (they sell supplements and the FDA generally has a dislike for companies that sell supplements) etc.

It is a family business so it tells the story of the families; the generational shift.

Now started in 1948 selling soy flour and soy products. The government had recruited a Dr. Fearn during the war to work on soy products as a source of inexpensive protein. When he died, Paul Richard who had been a friend stepped in and filled the few orders left. This was the start - essentially from nothing of an international natural products company that would grow to over $100,000,000 in sales, over 500 people with a 200,000 square foot head office warehouse.

I found the sales numbers fascinating from 1950 to 1960 it grew from $6,000 to $100,000 in sales. Still a tiny company even adjusting for inflation.

It tells of the balance and love/hate relationship between manufacturer and distributor. I have been a distributor most of my life so have first hand experience.

Interesting book.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Landing in the Executive Chair Book Review

I have 2 bad time management habits (well I am sure I have more than that but...)

1 - I tend to accept meetings, appointments etc. if they are well into the future. I look at my calendar and don't see much on so I book them. Then when they arrive, I find myself in my usual over busy state. A lot of the Angel/Venture Capital stuff I do involves exits (selling businesses). I am on a pace of almost one per month.

The problem with exits is the time is always urgent, not well planned ahead etc so what works best is to actually have a fairly clear schedule.

2 - The other habit I have is responding to everyone. It feels impolite to not try to help anyone who calls or emails. The problem is, I simply do not have the time.

I need to think more assertive.

And my book review of the day. I read Linda Henman's book "Landing in the Executive Chair - How to Excel in the Hot Seat". It made me miss being the CEO of a larger company and reminded me of all the studying I did to try to be the best CEO I could be.

She talks a bit about working your way through the ranks and the difference between being a CEO and a different senior executive. I never really experienced moving through the ranks. I just started for nothing and helped the company grow under me.

Early in the book she talks about self awareness and how that is a critical factor to CEO success. I strongly believe that and have worked very hard on that in my life. She says " ties between self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill - and business results."

Henman includes in her book many of the popular studies that have been used in leadership books. I particularly the like the grid on competitive advantage where good strategy intersects with good tactics.

Henman's top qualities of a great CEO:

1 - Strategy. I always loved this part of the job and was fairly good at it.

2 - Decisions. She says "when CEO's consistently make good decisions, little else matters". So good decisions are like good habits - they create success. Judging decisions is always easy in hindsight.

3 - Hiring. Of course surround yourself with good people. I was always fortunate to have some of the best around me.

4 - Excellence. High focus on good executions of plans and strategies. For me, this tied in a lot with point 3. I had good people to implement.

5 - Results Orientation.

The final chapter is "Ten Lessons for Leading During Crisis". That chapter alone makes the book worth saving.

Good read - well written.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Bare Knuckle People Management

I get behind in my reading so in the past have tried to do 10 books in 10 days. I can do the reading but adding the reviewing is difficult. So for day 3...

I read Bare Knuckle People Management - Creating Success with the Team your Have - Winners, Losers, Misfits and All by Sean O'Neil and John Kulisek.

I had a negative reaction to the title. I tend to be more of a people person and more of a "look for the good in people" person. That management style has served me well.

But I liked the book. Seems I like most books (or as a point of time management, I don't bother reading them (the first rule of speed reading is don't bother reading something that is not worth reading) and certainly don't review them).

Part 1 talks about the "people principles". Things like "team wide rules suck" and "apologize well then move on".

Part 2 talks about the different types of players on the team. People like "Steady Eddie", "The Doer", "Needy Ned" etc. Each person in your team will have some characteristics of each type. He also talks about how to deal with each type.

Part 3 talks about the team - putting it all together.

What I have learned about teams is there needs to be a balance of players. People who love numbers and those who love people. The challenge is to help people value the other players. People tend to value people like themselves so number people think other number people are great and people people just waste time. True wisdom is recognizing the value and need for all.

And a great team combines the right mix of all.

There is a good chapter near the end on "the first 30 days as a manager". I am a big advocate of having a plan. I like 90 day plans but what is presented as the first 30 days is good.

This is a great book for first time managers. And a good book for all managers and leaders.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Investing and the Irrational Mind

I ran the Elizabeth T. McNamee Memorial 5K today. I was over a minute slower than last week coming in at 23:13. Still put me close to the top 10% at 89th out of 830 runners.

It was a very inefficient way to run since the pollen killed my productivity for the day. I need to carefully plan my outdoors time these days. Someone really needs to develop a pollen filter that works.

I was pleased with the jobless stats this week. More private sector jobs which is exactly what we need for sustainability. Much of the press though has focused on the increase in unemployment rather than the the increase in private sector jobs.

I read a great book by Robert Koppel - Investing and the Irrational Mind - Rethink Risk, Outwit Optimism, and Seize Opportunities Others Miss.

I have actually become quite a successful investor. Part of this is helped by what I touched on recently - because I worked hard when I was young, I now have the capital to invest. I have the psychology for it - willing to take risks, willing to wait, willing not to risk it all, willing to invest when everyone says not to and willing not to when everyone else is investing. Or as you read later in this review - perhaps I suffer from "self serving bias".

One of the phrases I use in business is "fail often, fail fast, fail cheap". Koppel starts the book by saying that successful investors have wins and they have losses.

I like reading about how we think and how the brain works. Many investment mistakes are illogical but people make them all the time. Koppel cites Arily's Predictably Irrational book and builds on it.

Koppel has researched all the research on mistakes investors make. Early on, he quotes Baruch:

"Only as you do know yourself can your brain serve you as a sharp and efficient tool. Know your own failings, passions and prejudices so you can separate them from what you see."

And Baruch's rules for successful investing:

1 - don't speculate unless you do it full time (I violate that one or perhaps I don't since I do not like to think that I speculate)

2 - resist "information" or tips

3 - Before purchasing a security, know everything you can about the company.

4 - never attempt to buy at the bottom and sell at the top.

5 - Take your losses quickly

6 - don't buy too many securities. Focus on a few and watch them.

7 - reappraise strategy periodically.

8 - never invest all your funds - keep some liquid

9 - don't try to be a jack of all investments - stick to a field you know (I notice I tend to make money in technology and lose money in other areas)

I liked all the studies Koppel cites. It is a well researched book.

He points out the "self serving bias". We tend to attribute our success to us and our failures to external events. I call this the "be careful when you start thinking you are smart" syndrome.

I am very good at not falling prey to most of the investor mistakes like herd mentality (investing just because everyone else is). I do notice that some traps I do fall into. Good book - makes me re-think some of my strategy.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders

Gardening is a good time to think and I just finished a couple of hours. Of course thinking and reaching conclusions are not the same thing. Some of my thoughts:

Gardening is a poor hobby for someone with hayfever (like me)

It is a strange world we live in where people need to go to the gym to get exercise then they pay their gardener.

Any problems I feel are ridiculous and not really problems. Like do I harvest leeks. Or which book do I review. Do I run 3 miles or 5 later today.

Any perception of pressure is of my own making.


I notice the well established row of parsnips (planted last year and overwintered) and even the asparagus is so vital that there are no weeds. The vegetable chokes out the weeds. In the newly planted sections, the weeds dominate.

I found in my life I worked very hard when I was young. I became established. This has made my life very easy now.


I read a book by Rajeev Peshawaria called "Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders - The Three Essential Principles You Need to Become an Extraordinary Leader."

The introduction starts with the gripping story of Ghandi's life and how he mobilized a nation despite lacking any position, title or money.

One of the most important points Peshawaria makes is leaders who have the right purpose have true power and become great leaders. And a hint - true purpose is not about money, fame or power.

This purpose ties into his first essential principal and that is "energize yourself". Clearly knowing your purpose (which starts with understanding your values) is the first step to being energized.

The 2nd and 3rd essentials are "Craft your core of co-leaders and energize them" and "Energize the whole organization".

Leadership is about energizing. "Leadership is the art of harnessing human energy toward the creation of a better future".

He talks about 3 parts of the organization - Brains, Bones and Nerves. Each of which need to function well for an organization to be strong.

The Brains is the setting direction part - vision, strategy, unique capabilities and a widespread understanding of those.

Bones are the execution - actually getting it done. This is about process, structure, quality of talent, resource allocation etc.

Nerves are the culture - leadership quality, short/long term focus, learning and renewal.

He talks about these 3 key parts and how to strengthen each.

As with any good book, he illustrates each point with true life stories like Tell to Win speaks about.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tell To Win

I have always loved stories. My m0ther is actually a real story teller - as in does it all over the place. And my children can attest to the fact that I have told more than a few stories myself.

So I was interested in Peter Guber's latest book "Tell to Win - Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story".

The gist of the message is the best way to communicate (sell, influence, persuade) is through telling a story. Intuitively I know this. Stories have the ability to captivate us, keep us interested and capture our imagination. Vision sells.

One thing I like about stories or speaking of experiences is they tend not to be opinions but they allow people to come to the "right" conclusion.

I like analogies and stories can often be that. Of course stretching analogies too far can "lose" me. For example, I am not a big sports person so comparing a business situation to a sports situation can sometimes be a stretch.

Since the book is about stories, it is told mostly through a series of great stories. Part of what makes the stories great is the real live famous people he tells about. Guber comes from the entertainment business so knows a lot of famous people. Nothing like a bit of fame to juice up a story.

Good book - interesting read.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Constant Change and Success

I thought the following guest post by my friend Kenneth McCall might interest:

Is Constant Change Stagnating Your Success?

We're all after the thrill that comes with new ideas for our business, but if growing a business were all thrills, well, there'd be a lot more successful entrepreneurs out there. The energizing high that comes with change and brainstorming new ideas is fleeting. It's what comes after the honeymoon phase of an idea for change that really determines how successful you or your business will be.

The other day I sat in on a committee meeting of a charitable foundation. A friend had invited me to see if I might want to join at some point. One of the members was known in the community for her bubbly personality and association with a wide network of business people and philanthropists. After the meeting I told my friend how impressed I was with this woman.

What a dynamo! She'd had the whole room rapt by her energy. Everyone's eyes were on her. They laughed at her jokes and jotted down the ideas that spontaneously erupted from her mouth. No one else got much of a chance to speak, but no one seemed to care. When the meeting adjourned, everyone left energized and seemingly feeling the meeting had been a runaway success. My friend listened while I recounted how impressed I'd been. Then he rolled his eyes.

Apparently, this dynamo was a fabulous energizer and brainstorm genius, but she often missed meetings, she never sought to detail how her fantastic ideas could be carried out, never suggested specific objectives or tasks, and for every meeting she attended she had an all-new list of ideas unrelated to discussions from previous meetings. Since her personality was so charismatic and the thrill of ever-more-wonderful changes in direction intoxicating, no one ever questioned her. Instead, board members would scrap what little planning or related tasks they'd completed since the last meeting and start from scratch all over again. No one ever attempted to break the cycle or give a sincere try at following through on any one idea.

The committee was a revolving door of ideas and change without giving any one idea a chance to succeed. The positive effects of this dynamo board member were temporary, like a drug that wore off to reveal reality pounding at the door until the dynamo stirred up the troops again and the cycle started over. The committee was stagnant and making no measurable impact on the charity they were charged with improving.

All of the above is not to say change, freshness, and brainstorming is bad. But, there is a fine line between change for the sake of change and adjusting your business with a well-planned strategy in place, and that line is the difference between stagnation and success.

On the one hand, you don't want to be like the ideas-only woman who never sees anything through, but on the other, you don't want to be so stringent and pig-headed about your business that you let your business go down the tubes swearing all along that your idea is sound and no change is needed.

Below are some ideas for making sure change moves your business in a positive direction rather than keeping your business from going anywhere good.

  1. Constant change shows timidity rather than strength. If you quickly change direction every time something goes wrong, you appear as if you have no belief in your business. How does it look to clients and investors if you have worked to promote your business only to go back on your own convictions? Why should they believe in your business if you abandon its tenets so nonchalantly? Be aware of how your planned degree of change will impact perception of you and your brand.

  2. Don't make large-scale business changes while you're still in panic-mode. Change mindfully based on evidence and data. Before you jump into a change of direction, make a strategic plan with steps, goals, deadlines, and financial projections. It's good to brainstorm, but pick a few good ideas and analyze the implications of each one. Make calculated change with a level head. Don't get seduced by the thrill of the "ideas" or the novelty of change.

  3. Empower your company with concrete measurable goals and milestones with scheduled deadlines so campaigns are given time to work and be evaluated before they are abandoned. Break goals into small tasks with deadlines.

  4. Flexibility is good. Identify what is working in your business and develop that stream. Going after all ideas in all directions may work in the beginning when financially you have to take on whatever comes your way, but as your strengths become more clear, you have to focus more, not less, on the kind of business you want to be and the kind of projects and clients you should target.

  5. Keep records and regularly analyze for trends. See if large-scale change is called for or whether small adjustments in process or focus might surgically make a positive impact without changing the overall essence of your business. Also take note of what is working, some of which may surprise you. If you've spent thousands advertising printing logos on pens for your promotional products business and yet after analyzing your orders most of the new accounts are water bottles and travel mugs, then be ready to devote resources to what's working rather than sinking more money into promoting your losing product.

  6. Another point about record-keeping: numbers don't lie. When you panic and get the itch to bolt into another direction, look to the numbers for guidance. Not only will they tell you where you should be going, they can also show you what you're doing right. And if whatever changes are called for - big or small - require additional capital, you're going to need those numbers to convince investors that your plans are not change for change's sake, but strategic adjustments for which you have a detailed plan.

Change is easy and fun. Smart change is hard but satisfying. Are you going after the quick high of change that leads nowhere or the hard-won success that comes with painstaking analysis, planning, and execution? Choose your change with care.

Kenneth McCall is an avid ski, boater and bicyclist. When he is not engaged in outdoor activities he directs the IT operations at, building systems and tools for homeowners and businesses needing in places like San Francisco, and many other cities, including self storage in San Francisco.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Patchogue 5K

Busy weekend. Mostly gardening. Too much pollen though.

On Sunday I did run a 5K race in Patchoque and came in second in my age at 22:07. It helped that there were only 7 people in my age category.

So the challenging question for today is - is it better to win in a small field than have a better time in a large field? One thing I like about the US is things are big and competition therefore tough.

Good competition tends to sharpen us. And larger size tends to help us keep our success in prospective.