Monday, September 30, 2013

Profit From the Positive

Time Management Tip of the Day:

On the weekend, I had a large project I wanted to tackle.  Something that might take 6 hours uninterrupted time.  But I had a few calls scheduled.  And an appointment.  Things that broke up my days.  So, I did not start the big project.

I have noticed this in other areas as well.  It can be difficult to get productivity from small time slots.

So my tip for the day:

1 - Break big projects down if possible.  Often there are small parts of big projects that can be done.

2 - Have a list of "instant" tasks and small items that can be knocked off when you have a few moments.

On the weekend, I read Profit from the Positive - Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business by Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin.

It is a positive book that serves as a valuable reminder.

It makes the point that positive psychology is not the same as positive thinking.

"In tough times, learners beat experts".  I have long been a learner and really encourage those around me to be the same.  School and a degree are only the start.  Be a life long learner.

I loved the time management ideas covered in the first chapter.   They made the point that just do it is not always best - just plan it is better and often more productive.  An interesting study was cited.  Students who said they wanted to complete a project were successful when they included when and where they would do the project.  This compared to other students who also wanted to do the project be were less definite on when and where.  I know I use that technique with working out.  I plan it - then I do it.

They also talked about the Zeigaravik effect.  Just starting something often creates success.  Again, this is a habit that works for me.  Using the same workout example - if I show up at the gym - I work out.

They talked about the balance between short and long term.  Often the big results come from the long term but much more time and focus is spent on the short term.

There was also a good section on meetings that is worth reading for anyone who runs meetings.

Good book - worth reading.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

8 Simple Merger Tips (Simple to say - tougher to do)

I was speaking to a friend who is looking at acquiring a company.  I was going to send him an email with tips of how to make it go smoother (notice I do not say smoothly - there will always be little issues).  I thought it would make a good blog entry.

My tips for integration:

1 - Have a rolling 90 day plan.  The first 30 days should be "listen and learn".  Regardless of what due diligence is done prior to the merger, there is still lots to learn.  Good planning leads to good execution. 

2 - Lock down all spending.  There are often pent up expense requests that are just waiting to happen.  Many times they are not actually needed despite the very convincing arguments that they are needed.  By not approving any expenses, the real ones come to surface over time.

This means pay freeze too.

In particular, people and companies often think "new owner has money" so we can make up for all those years where we underpaid someone.   Or do those things we have been putting off.

3 - Choose the best people.  This one sounds obvious but is actually tough to do.  Just because someone works for the acquirer does not mean they are better than the person in the acquired company.  If there is a rationalization to be done - choose the best credit manager, the best AR clerk, the best warehouse manager etc.  And try hard to avoid the "familiarity" trap of thinking the person you or your team know best is the best person.

4 - Cancel your holidays, trips, outside meetings etc.  The leaders particularly need to have great presence in the short term.  Intense time is needed to not only learn but to get known by staff.

Plan on working longer days than usual for a few weeks.

5 - Choose the highest common denominator or at least some fair compromise.  There is great temptation to choose the lowest common denominator in a merger.  It is the path of least resistance but also the path to increased cost and decreased efficiency.  For example, if the acquired company gives 3 weeks holidays and the acquirer gives 2, consider changing all to 2 or grandfathering in the 3 week but not adding new people to it.  This requires finesse.

There are lots of minor examples around dental coverage, free coffee, bonuses, working hours etc.  Usually one company is not the most expensive option so choosing a fair blend from both makes sense.  But changes need to be socialized and "sold" to people.

It is tough but necessary in competitive businesses to not always choose the most expensive option even if it is more popular.

6 - Integrate physically as soon as possible - even if this means vacant space in one location.  Nothing brings a team together like being in the same office and nothing divides like being separate.  In many cases, I would buy a  business in a different location where it was not practical to do this.  In those cases, I would still often find a few people who would move.

7 - Have a communication plan.  Say it, email it, say it again, mail it, put it on the web site, press release it, post it.  The customers, suppliers and staff all become "loose" in a merger.  They all consider what they will do and see risk.  This can cause them to look for alternatives.

Uncertainty kills.  Good communication can create certainty. 

8 - Create good habits from the start.  It is very difficult if someone has been in the company for a few months and then you tell them they need to track their hours or do weekly reports (I am a big advocate of roll up weekly reports).  Same thing with hours or breaks.  Have zero tolerance early.  Set the tone.

All of these tips require high discipline.  Good merger depends on it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Privacy and Security

In the past couple of weeks, someone hacked my email and spammed my contacts.   Most peoples' virus checkers flagged it but not all.  It was very discouraging.

So I have been thinking about privacy and security online.  Some of the things I do and tips include:

1 - Change passwords often.  This is a pain so I use a game of incorporating the date into the new password.  Helps my fading memory.

2 - Invent a fake birthday.  I do this so when the security question comes up, I know but it is not my real birthday (so it means my mom will have difficulty stealing my passwords)

3 - I try to take care in public places but unfortunately, I do still use public networks.  It is now a way of life.

4 - I still use Blackberry - the best device security still.

5 - Do not use the same password on multiple sites.  This one is tough since there are so many sites and limited memory.  One trick is to change it a bit based on the site.  But even this will be broken over time.

6 - For important stuff, I use a cryptocard but this require synchronization with the site.  So it works with things like eTrade. 

News from some of the companies:

Thrive Metrics has a new website and a new CEO.

Primal Fusion has a new website

And some thought provoking stuff:

Daniel Pink's Ted talk

Denise Marek's blog on equality.

And the blog of a young blogger book reviewer who wants some teen readers.

And a picture of my favourite granddaughter:

Friday, September 06, 2013

In Search of Productivity - the Billion $ Sales Person

My latest fashion statement courtesy of Cole and Parker.


I met a person today who can sell $1 Billion in a month.  How do I know this?  He made a $1 million sale in only 12 minutes.  So assuming he works a 50 hour week, that is a billion dollars in a month.

A great hockey player scores 20 goals in a season.  The average play lasts less than 2 minutes.  So a great hockey player is only productive for 40 minutes per year.  Imagine the power if they could even be productive for an hour.

Our problem is we need more productive hours - not just more hours. 

The gist of time management is to maximize the productivity because there is no way to gain more time (except perhaps living well).


And a great and inspiring video by the self made billionaire founder of Spanx.  She claims her success was caused by her failure to get into law school. 

I always advocate failure as a way to learn.  Fail often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap.  She looks at failure more as sending you down a different path and often finding that different path is a great one.

The real message is to not fear failure.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The University in Your Car

I was recently asked how the make the best of commuting so came up with my top 7 things to do in the car list.

Of course, the first and most important is to focus on the road and the cars.  No amount of increased productivity is worth an accident.  So of course use voice commands, blue tooth, etc.  And the best safety tip is to drive conservatively (as in with traffic and not too fast and keep your distance).

1 -  Listen to business books.   Brian Tracey , one of the fathers of personal development and a very prolific author, talks about the university in your car.   I have found even with a short commute to work, I can get through a lot of books fairly quickly.  Get a library card, get subscriptions.  Start listening now.

2 - Strengthen  your hands with a simple squeeze ball or one of the many grippers on the market.  Commuting often cuts into workout time so getting just a bit never hurts.

3 - Make sales calls or schedule conference calls.   I find nothing kills a long drive like a long call.

4 - Stay in touch with friends.  Make a list of people you would like to keep in touch with and call them. 

5 - Invest in a simple dictaphone or digital voice recorder to make notes.   I do not like recording long messages - just a few words to jog my memory.

6 - One thing that can suffer for commuters is diet.  Drink a homemade smoothy.  Easy to make with yogurt, fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apple or apple sauce etc) some oatmeal, chia seeds (the new wonder food - high in omega 3),  tofu, and anything else healthy put through the blender.

7 - Sip some longevity broth.  I make this with simple herbs from the garden - cut up and pour boiling water on them.  Right now I am enjoying basil and chives mostly but I also enjoy a bay leaf, rosemary and just about any other herb.

Habits work best with just a bit of planning.  Plan before your commute and the habits will easily slip into place.

Imagine the power of a 2 hour daily commute when even just a few of these habit are put into place.


And the grand kids are growing: