Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Virual Executive

I love being up early although I do wish it were lighter out.  It seems too early when it is still dark.

The garden continues to flourish although it is getting to the end.  I feel healthier when I eat from the garden.  I know the vegetables do not have chemicals and they certainly are fresh - often an hour from garden to table.  Last night I had beets, beet tops, parsnips, a leek, tomatoes and carrots from the garden.  I know I am eating healthy by the amount of scrap I need to take out to the compost.  I am a bit surprised more people do not garden.  It truly is awesome.

I read a book - The Virtual Executive - How to Act Like a CEO Online and Offline by Debra A. Benton (author of How to Act Like a CEO).

The book starts with demographics and explains how the different cohort react to the digital world.  Of course, I dislike stereotypes but much of what was said rang true.  Different ages react differently to different media.

"Online is faster, cheaper and easier" but is clearly not as effective as in person.   Virtual can be more efficient.  Technology can be a great friend if used properly.

Many of the points the book made were obvious (but good to be reminded of).  The simple things like pay attention to the person you are in rather than the Blackberry.  Being responsive and fast is courteous and the mark of a good executive etc.

I have long had a theory that relationships are best fostered live for a while.  Once they have been developed, online (or phone) can be effective.  I recall in my early years building EMJ, I kept a binder with my customers (my offline version of salesforce) and I would divide customers into A, B and C depending on potential.  I would then make a point of visiting A customers monthly, B, quarterly and C, annually.  After a few years, I modified that system.   I would visit new customers 3-5 times in a short period.  Then, once the relationship was sound, I would drop back to annually.  Having the relationship allowed me to be effective virtually.

As the book says "To be a good executive, you need to be adept at all forms of communication".  And good listening is a part of all forms of communication.

I have found it efficient to foster relationships through one to many communication like this blog.  It certainly is no substitute for in person, phone or personal interaction but it does keep a presence that can help those communications.  Sometimes when I write, I even think of a specific reader and almost tailor it to that.  

What I find is many people like to be CEO but far fewer are really willing to do what it takes to be a good CEO.  In my opinion, a good CEO needs to first think of building the company.  CEO trappings come last.   And part of being a good CEO is constant learning.  Some good quotes from the book:

" Slow down - you will go a lot faster"
"Everyone laughs in the same language"
"I have plenty of faults but I try to do the right thing"
"Nothing baffles people full of tricks and duplicities than straightforward integrity"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good to Great to Gone

I read a new book - Good To Great to Gone - the 60 Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City by Alan Wurtzel.  One of the special things about this book is Alan Wurtzel was actually CEO for 13 years until 1986. 

I did a lot of business with Circuit City and their competitors over the years so the book was close to home.

 In 2009, Circuit City went bankrupt after an amazing 60 year run.

I liked the second chapter which spoke of the culture and values in the early days that created success.

The author has come up with an excellent list of lessons from Circuit city which he calls "habits of mind".  Things like "be humble - run scared" and "Keep it simple and accountable" and "mind the culture".  The book is probably worth reading just for that list.

The first section is called "the Good" - 1949 to 1970.  Then "Almost gone" 1971-1977.  Then "the Great Years" 1978 to 2000.  And then of course 2001-2009 - Gone (as is often the case, it took a long time to be gone).

There is an expression some self help people push "Craziness is doing the same thing and expecting different results".  They are making the assumption that you are not where you want to be so need to change.  My variation on this for successful people and successful companies is "Do what you always have done and you will go bankrupt".  Environment and the world changes so we need to also.

Good is the enemy of Great.  If we are doing good (sorry about the grammar mom), we do not need to change and therefor cannot become great.  Great may be the enemy of survival.

Perhaps the problem is being great.  I always figured if anyone thinks they have arrived, they begin to decline. 

Anyways - awesome book.


And Josh (my grandson) continues to grow and is beginning to talk although I am still much better at it than he is.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Compound Effect

I am loving my new office space.  Gorgeous health club in the building.  At the LIRR train station.  And open concept.  More on that later.

I find it is easy to "not do" something and easy to "do" something but more difficult to moderate things.  For example, it is easy to say I will not eat red meat but difficult to not eat more food on my plate.

I find it easy to exercise (although sometimes put it off).  But moderation ...

There is finally a non promotional health video that I like.

The health theme lead me to think of a recent book - The Compound Effect.  Although the book was more about money and success than health, it certainly applies.   And it does talk about the compounding of health and how success habits have a multiplying effect over time.

The book by Darren Hardy (Publisher of Success Magazine) is called The Compound Effect - Jumpstart Your Income, your Life, Your Success.

I owe a lot of my current state to my early sustained drive and to the compound effect.  Small savings and earnings added up.  At this point, it makes my life easier.

This compounding also counts in success and reputation.  I find now, things are much easier.  People return my calls.  So getting things done is easier.

As Hardy says "Small Smart Choices+consistency+time = Radical Difference"

A cute story in the book.  A magic penny doubles every day for 31 days.  What would you pay for it?  $10,000?  $50,000?  $100,000?  That single penny would be worth over $10 million!

Another example.  Coffee with cream and sugar has 90 calories.  2 cups per day for a year is 65,700 calories or almost 19 pounds.  Small changes can make big differences.  Or walk a mile per day for a year burns about 36,500 calories which is over 10 pounds.

The book is chock full of ideas on how to get and stay motivated (reading a book like this would be a good start in my opinion).

There is a chapter on momentum - something else I strongly believe in.

He certainly believes in my success habits.

I found the book fast and easy to read and inspirational reinforcement of what I know in my heart.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Wisdom of Failure

I have often blogged about failure.  Having a failure does not making someone a failure.  It is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.  And of course one of the  expressions I am known for is "fail often, fail fast, fail cheap".  This is one way for companies to innovate.

So of course I was interested to read Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McCooughey's book - The Widsom of Failure - How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price

I have long said that true wisdom is learning from other people's mistakes.  Easy to say, tough to do.  There is always a temptation to think others have failed because they were not smart enough, did not work hard enough, it was the wrong time etc. but when we are in the same position, we, too, often fail.  I have seen this repeatedly in entrepreneurial situations.

The Power of Wisdom delves into almost all conceivable failure mechanisms.  It includes real life business examples.

The Wisdom of Failure has many great chapters.  One is "Seduced by Yes, Being All Things to All People".  I know I tend to lack focus and it has served me well but I also know if I had more focus on just one thing I would be stronger.  It is a balance.

Another is "Entrenched by Efficiency - Forgetting to put Effectiveness First".   Again -the title says it all.  We often chase efficiency where what we really want is effectiveness.  We sometimes measure activities where what we really want is results.

Not admitting failure can cause wrong thinking and can even lead to cheating and massive failure.  This pressure can be greatest in public companies where small failures are punished harshly and the time horizon is often months, not years.  For example, Enron chose to hide issues and ultimately became a sham until it eventually all unraveled. 

I liked the section on hoarding.  Managers sometime hoard power thus limiting themselves and their organizations.  I may actually be the opposite to that now (although I was not always that way).

Great book.  Easy read.  The pages flew by.

And the weekend was one of a lot of weeds.  Failure to weed when weeds are small means weeding when they are big. 

Great harvests of leeks, beets, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes, fennel seed, and basil.  And some harvest of green beans, peppers and eggplant.  And the approaching chill should help bring out the sweetness in the carrots and parsnips. 

I track my hours spent in garden therapy (an appropriate word coined by a friend) and I think someone could grow half their food in about 2-3 hours per week on 1/8th to 1/4 acre.  At this time of year, we never buy vegetables and the freezer is getting full.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream

Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream - The Scoop on Increasing Profit by Differentiating Your Company Through Strategy and Talent. I just love it when the title explains the book (and I have to admit, it is a catchy title)

This book, written by Steve Van Remortel.

 I have long believed in choosing a niche. To some extent, this is the same as differentiation. Selling the same thing as everyone else means you can only thrive by being more efficient and this tends to be difficult. Selling differentiated product allows for less or no competition.

The irony, is my business (EMJ then later SYNNEX) was largely selling non differentiated product - or at least that is what most people would say. It is tough to say our HP printer was different than someone else's HP printer.

But was it? According to Van Remortel, a commodity product can become differentiated by adding services. And we did just that. Have a better order system, have more inventory, faster delivery, more knowledge etc. The challenge in distribution was always to stay ahead and catch up where needed.

We were among the first distributors to ship products the same day. Soon everyone did that so even that became a commodity. So then it was a game to ship orders received later and later in the day.

Van Remortel presents a process to work through to identify and implement differentiations is business. One things I love that he suggests is to make sure customers value the differentiation. EG - why sell pork flavored ice cream if customers do not want it(my example - not his). Differentiation for differentiations sake does not help.

His process includes talent management and using talent to help select the differentiations. Good book that would help a team develop their unique differentiations.

And since I have posted many times on brain things (like "The Winners Brain", "Strategic Intuition", "Save your brain" etc.), I thought I would include the following infographic. I liked the link between raising IQ and exercise. Thinking I need to work out more. And wondering if ice cream might not be bad for IQ. +++++++++   Master Your Brain: Raise Your IQ

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Strategic Intuition

There is a great article in the Wall Street Journal on energy/creativity cycles and what time of day is best to do things.  This is one of the things I suggest in time management.  I even have a column on my time tracker sheets to log energy level.  Anyways - good article - worth reading.


One of my investments is in Telehop - a reduced rate long distance carrier.   Of course being a frugal guy, a company that sells at reduced rate seems logical to me.

They just introduced reduce long distance for cell phones.  This could be a huge opportunity.  Cell calls are still a place where long distance costs are high.  Good article on the service in Canadian Immigrant Magazine.

I read a book by William Duggan "Strategic Intuition - the Creative Spark in Human Achievement".

I have long been an intuitive person.  At the same time, I have suppressed this.  My engineering education also helped me to suppress it.  And over time and work, I became more logical than intuitive.

Now, I am trying to get back to using my intuition more.

I loved that the book essentially said "it is not only OK to be intuitive, it is good".  It cites many great people like Aristotle and Einstein who used intuitive flashes to further their work.  And from what I have done and studies, I realize those "flashes" come from reading, studying and thought about something followed by leaving it.  And sleeping or exercising after a period of concentration on a topic tends to lock it in.  This is why the precious hour before sleep is critical to use well.

The book, Strategic Intuition puts process into intuition.   It cites many scientific studies.

I liked the research about how people decide.  They actually tend to choose from a very limited selection of directions.   In crisis particularly, people do not run through lots of alternatives.  This is why crisis training for EMS, marines etc pounds in the one best rather than lots of alternatives.

I was also interested to read that the left brain/right brain theory that Sperry won the noble prize for in 1980 was overturned in 2000 (shows you how current I am).  I enjoy books on the brain.

Good book.  Interesting.