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Thursday, September 28, 2006

A short story from real life at a shoe shop

I picked Margaret up with her groceries last night, and she told me the good news she had just gotten a 10% pay rise, from the 1st of Oct, she was very happy and I was for her but this got me to thinking about her Boss and well here are some my thoughts on "John"

John is a case study for any wanna be leader of people, the case study of how not to do it he has broken most of my cardinal rules for man management and a few others beside, and his company lets him get on with it. He meets the targets and has 26 years under his belt with the same company, he has had that shop for 3 years so it will soon be time for a move on, that is the life expectancy of a shop manager and it is the same for a fast and rising manager in most businesses these days (Move before you become stale and they find you out).

There are a few points we could talk about from even that, but I need to press on to what I wanted to say, John's inability to deal with his staff and his reluctance to address the salary issue previously cost the company 10% for shop floor staff and more for the supervisor, if he had addressed the issue earlier when it was raised he could have gotten away with 5%, the money was there for the increase and he would not have not gotten in to the trouble he is in now.
The previous week he had told the staff there was no money for a rise, he had spoken to the area manager and that was the feedback, his assistant manager happened to be letting off steam at the area manager the next week, about John and how the staff were looking for new jobs and they would be in a real mess coming up to there most profitable period, where they needed the staff to work a lot of overtime, and with John's / companies attitude to salary and conditions she did not see how they were going to hit there revenue targets for the shop.

So this week John is mister nice guy and the staff has a salary increase, will this correct the problems probably not , we all know Maslow's theory and how this will help for a short time but the problem will come back.

So lesson for today, look after the staff, and don't pinch on the pennies it may cause you to spend pounds.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The "m" word

"So you can see I do have a day job guys"

I picked this up from a friend Tal Newhart...it makes for a good read and is spot on

Genghis Kahn was always trying new ways to capture new ground. This is one reason he created an empire on a scale never seen before, or since. He would try something new and unexpected and this would throw off his enemy. After all, it was new!

But, like any manager that is pushing the envelope, he knew there would be some failures. He would make mistakes (the "M" word). The key was that he encouraged discourse about them. He was not so wrapped up in his own superiority that he wouldn’t listen. Like any great General, or CEO, Khan actively removed impediments to the truth reaching him. Great leaders know they don’t know it all. Their greatness comes, in part, from creating open, sharing environments. They know it takes more than best practices—everybody wants to talk about those. A true leader ensures he knows about the organization's “worst practices” as well. If you can’t see it…you can’t fix it.

So you have to ask yourself: “If I am aware of a mistake, what do I do? If one of my team makes a mistake what will they expect my reaction will be when I find out? And, typically, how do I find out?” Genghis Khan and his chief orloks, Subedei and Jebe (an orlok was a marshal) would sit around the smoky yurt (not much wood on the steppes so they burned dung) and talk about what tactics worked that day and what didn’t (although appearing chaotic Mongol tactics were precisely engineered in advance). Occasional failure was an accepted cost of moving forward. Not admitting a mistake had occurred meant someone in the vast organization might make it again and they knew that was counterproductive. So admitting to a mistake was the important, group oriented thing to do. Mistakes are always costly in some way—but you get a refund by learning from them. And sometimes a big bonus…

One advantage of scrutinizing seemingly minor mistakes is because they can be precursors to disasters. Big organizational disasters, and Khan had only a few, almost always have inflection points somewhere in the event stream leading to the catastrophe. It doesn’t take much to imagine Khan and his orloks sitting around studying each mistake so it didn’t lead to the next bigger one, which would in turn cause another, etc. Soon you have Enron or New Coke when somebody could easily have broken the chain. Big, sprawling mistakes don’t just happen. They evolve.

You can’t have your people hiding problems. You need to ask yourself: do people around you in your organization hide the bad news from you? If so, why? What are they afraid of? Is it you personally, or the corporate culture?

Finally, Khan knew that, as the leader (and this applies to any manager), it was imperative that he admit when he made a mistake. If he didn’t, who would? Khan knew a fish smells from the head first.

Think about it



Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Making a change in an organization

"Change can be hard for thoes who don't see the need"

I have found there are typically at least 7 stages to making a change in an organization. I always try to do all of them since over the years I’ve found skipping any of the stages reduces the chances of eventual success. This isn’t just for the big glory moves either. It works at all levels. All my managers understand and use the list.
  1. Time. The change has to happen soon. Make sure you get across why it’s a good thing. If you have communicated the benefits properly you shouldn’t need your boot tips.
  2. Team. I get a team together, preferably where everybody knows and has worked with each other, to see the thing through, soup to nuts; from the idea all the way through to the eventual consumer, whether internal or external. Pick the team wisely. Make sure there are some dissenters-you don’t want everybody thinking alike. You need the idea to be rigorously challenged internally.

    "If everyone is thinking alike, somebody isn't thinking."
    -General George Patton, Jr.

  3. Vision of the future. Convey your vision to your teams. If you don’t have a vision, work with your trusted resources to develop one. If you still don’t have one, do your shareholders a favor and help find your replacement.
  4. Communication. Make sure everybody in the enterprise/group knows what the vision is.
  5. Empower. Make sure everybody can move their area toward the vision. This way you can converge on it on multiple tracks. There should be a lot of work in parallel. Think digital. Analog is yesterday.
  6. Interim goals. If the vision is too far off people may not be sufficiently motivated. Dial in sub-goals so they can occasionally taste their own momentum toward the ultimate prize. People prefer to reach for what they can actually touch. It’s ok to keep it beyond their grasp, just not too far or too often.
  7. Reinforce. When the change has been achieved keep it high profile until it is assimilated into the organization or group. Get it organic as soon as possible. It has to be part of the walls. Part of the mindset. The culture.

Have a great day you are the only person who can make it so


Monday, September 25, 2006

First impressions are lasting impressions

"Never underestimate the power of a wave"

We took a trip over the weekend, it was a last minute thing we were packed and ready to go in about 10mins, and on the road, spontaneity is an interesting concept, which we never see in business, but businesses are made up from spontaneous people. I believe synergy plays a strong role in being able to make spontaneous choices, maybe a subject for later deliberation.

Back to the trip, we left for Oban, an old fishing town on the west coast of Scotland commonly known as the "Gateway to the Islands", there is a large ferry/cargo terminal situated there , with a main line railway feed which brings in the tourists by the coach load. The harbor has a deep enough draw for some of the local cruise liners, so the town is always busy. I like / liked this town a lot ,the atmosphere is always charged with a signs of life that are missing from the bigger towns and cities of Scotland , there a good selection of restaurants no which make eating out a pleasure, you don't need to feed only from the fish and chip shop's.

So a couple of things that came to mind when I was looking for accommodation...Hence the "first impressions" I went to a couple of B&B's and on entry to them I knew right I away that I did not want to stay, the first impression was bad, and it showed once I spoke to the landlady. I did end up staying not in the best of the B&B's but in one that had the most friendly landlady and it was a comfortable stay.

All this got me to thinking how does my company look / feel to someone who meets it for the first time, was it a good experience or not ?

There are many points of first contact, some are other employees , other media you use , your voice mail system, the list is endless and scary we need to control each of these points of first contact and make sure there is a good first experience for all first contacts.

There was another experience that I will mention quickly, I went for a meal on the Saturday to a pizza house, and it was so warm and muggy that I did not enjoy my meal, the food was good but because of the place of business being far to warm it left a bad first impression. We need to make sure that the experience of working with our company is a good one and wants to make the customer return, because you could have the worlds greatest widget and still not sell any because your customer hates doing business, i.e JDSU and China telecom companies

have a great week



Friday, September 22, 2006

Not all good deeds get punished

Not all good deeds get punished

The trick is knowing which ones, or one, go unpunished.

I had lunch with a friend of mine awhile back. He's a vendor partner and kind enough to take me to lunch. And we got to talking about family and what a wonderful universe that can be. He reminded me of the saying..."No good deed goes unpunished." Yeah, we both had some rich stories about family.

You never know. That's the trick. You never know which good deed goes unpunished. And you're always surprised by those that do get punished...in a wow, that...huh...how's that work...we did this and in return...ok, whatever kinda way.

But the real surprise, the one that makes it all worthwhile is the one where someone appreciates it, says it, shares it, maybe even builds on it, adds to it.

And a friendship's created.

You know what I'm talking about, I hope. That friend that...just stays your friend for freakin' forever. Ups and downs, marriages, divorces, job changes, changes of living...they're always there. It's a puzzle why almost everything you do in that friendship goes so unpunished...more than that...goes rewarded. They're your fans. Fanatics. Loyal. Even evangelical.

You think there should be cookie cutter you buy. Do x; get y. That's not how it works.

And that's why so it's so rare to duplicate. Why we treasure it when it happens.

You hear a lot about creating loyalty and even evangelical feelings among your customers and employees for your company. It's silly, really. Trying to generate the depth of feelings among true friends by some modulation of a product or service or packaging or clever viral email cartoon...

But what if you had that as your company goal? Sure, it's unlikely you'd ever reach it. Reach for the sky and all that. But seriously. What if...what if you took the same care and commitment, patience and honesty, compassion and forgiveness, you have with your best friend and your spouse and you brought it to your interactions at work.

(I'm not encouraging you to assign pet names to your co-workers or customers. Years ago my wife and I picked the schmarmiest sappiest pet names for each other. Just for kicks. We'd heard a couple nauseate us with theirs. So being the competitive types we wanted to match or exceed them...hey it's a dynamic that works for us. The names stuck. Hers stuck, anyway. Punk n' doodle. See: nauseating. It's since been shortened to Punk. )

But back to the topic. Sure, much of your efforts would go unrewarded at first. Some would be punished. And only a small percentage of your interactions would yield that gold. But what gold that would be! Whew! Such loyalty from both sides: theirs and yours. Just like the best of friends.

And what of the others? What if you failed to reach that with all the other calls and emails...think how much closer you came.

I don't know. It's Friday. Punk's waiting for me to come home. But as I think through all the hoops and leaps we all do to market our services, to differentiate them, to motivate our colleagues and co-workers and all the blah-blah about emotional bling-bling with customers...Just treat 'em like your best friend, treat 'em like I treat Punk...the rest will work itself out. Just like with friends.

Friends are the ones who never find a good to punish.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Work life balance or the lack of it...

" Every sunrise and sunset is unique as you are"

Work / life balance….

I have been asked about this before and my views have matured over the last few years on the subject.

  • I have heard the insurance policy reason for work now life later, I will work hard now and then when I cash out I will retire and do what I really want to do. The problem with this is that you may never get to do what you really want to do!! And you have spent 10, 15, or 20 years doing something that you don’t like. We have on average 30,000 days of life to use, to spend 8,000 of them on something you don’t like sounds like a waste of time to me.

  • There is nothing else to do excuse, what else can I do, I am sorry for you, a brain the size of the universe and an imagination as big as you want, and the only dream that you have is what you are doing at present, you can do what ever you want to do, so what if you don’t succeed, you have tried and had fun in the process.

  • There is the work-a-holic who slowly becomes so involved in the job that they forget and neglect real life and the people around them. There was one start up company I worked with that had the top three guys divorced and one become to dependant on the “sauce” within a few years of starting up, all could be related to there work ethic, was it successful, yes, in one a way, a good trade sale and cash out, but the emotional capital it took could never be regained.

The reason I was thinking about this was because of the drive in to work this morning, I saw an awesome sunrise and thought how cool would it be to be taking a few pictures of that now, record it for the future it would never be seen again, there is more to life than work, there is a life which encompasses all that we do and are, it is up us to make the most of it for ourselves and for the world we find ourselves living in, what do you want to be remembered for in this life.



Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Crown jewels of a Start up Company

Crown jewels of a Start up Company

There are two jewels in your treasure chest that needs to be nurtured and polished, they are your employees and the IP and patents that you have generated with your investors money. I want to have a short think about IP and Patents, it is not so much the art of writing a patent, the work involved in scoping other competitors patents, or your patent strategy of how you layer and build defensible portfolios, which all good stuff but some more practical stuff about it.

have run manufacturing operations for years now, and part of setting up the production process is to baseline and run DoE trials (Design of Experiment) so you can control the process and understand the capabilities of the process hence your yield and then your profitability, this is all normal practice in the mature manufacturing line but as a start up a lot off the early work will be leading edge and as such is worthy of protection either for IP , or as a patent.

I will not touch on what you should patent and what you want to keep quite about, but you should think about it strategically for the company’s future. Practically you need to have an infrastructure in place that will capture the work being done, there are many ways to do this and each company will have there own flavour, I do instil in my engineering teams the idea of cost Vs result, to drive home the concept that each trial you run you learn something from and you record the results, this also gets part way to helping over come the tribal knowledge syndrome a lot of start up companies have died from. The last part of this is a review of work done with a “low cost” patent attorney and see what is patentable and defensible and what should be documented as IP.

The last part of this is do not be frightened to get the some of the crown jewels out now and again and show them off, it is good for your engineers and for positive PR. I would start of with low profile conferences for a couple of the presentation, the progress and target from then on.

A couple of points to end with, law suits have been won and lost on the documentation of IP, and the value of your company and amount of IP and patent protection you have will have is a functional relationship.



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some more thoughts on being an Entrepreneur or the Wisdom of Deborah or the "real" ways companies get started

"You are not going anywhere unless you set the sails and move"

Some more thoughts on being an Entrepreneur or " the Wisdom of Deborah"
or "the "real" ways companies get started"

Some friends of mines used to think that you had an idea, or invented some new thing in your spare time, wrote a business plan, and VCs gave you money. I told Deborah that I didn't believe that anymore - that so much "convential wisdom" about entrepreneurship was a lie. It just isn't what people think.

"So you're not drinking the kool-aid?" she asked. I just laughed. "Not anymore."

She's right. Entrepreneurship is sometimes glorified like some weird cult, but the truth is that most companies don't start the way people think they do. There is only one way to get money for an idea. If you have successfully built and sold a good sized company, and have an idea in a similar field that you are putting some of your own money into, you may be able to get some funding based on your past success. But barring that, here are the "real" ways companies get started. I've probably forgotten some, so feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.

1. The PhD - Government funded research leads to some new breakthrough. The PhD that worked on it partners with a few people and finds a little bit of money to commercialize the technology.

2. The corporate spinoff - A company develops a technology that it doesn't want or need. A few employees spinoff with the technology and a bit of cash from the corporation and try to commercialize it.

3. The necessity - A guy runs a small business of some sort, and has an unmet need. He figures out a new widget (or software maybe) to meet his need. Eventually, someone asks about the widget because they could use one too. Guy markets widget and does well.

4. The consultant expansion - A small consultant shop with just a few people tackles and solves an interesting problem. Realizing that their solution has other applications, they seek funding and market it.

5. The hobby - A guy has a hobby, maybe woodworking, for example. Over time he becomes very very good at it, and people start asking him to make them things. He launches a business around it.

6. The part-timer - This is, in my experience, the most popular and one of the best ways to move towards entrepreneurship because it allows you to transition. You start something small, working mainly evenings and weekends while keeping your day job. You have a few excited customers that you use to help figure out the future of your business. You grow to the point where you are stressed out from working two jobs. You work out a plan, and transition full-time to the new venture.

7. The small business - You start something simple and cheap. It never makes it to the "big leagues," but so what? Most entpreneurs never do. Michael Dell is a rare breed.

I bring these up to highlight a key point - you don't get investment for just an idea. It's extremely rare. If you want to be an entrepreneur, stop believing that ideas matter. That isn't what entrepreneurship is about. Entrepreneurs aren't idea people, everybody and their brother has ideas. Entrepreneurs are people that exploit ideas by matching them to market needs, executing them despite scarce resources and designing a business model that makes the idea profitable.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, stop waiting. Start doing something. That is how you learn. Make entrepreneurship your hobby, until you can make it your career. And stop reading garbage about these companies that go from idea to a billion dollar valuation in two years. That requires as much luck and timing as it does vision and execution. You will have much more success if you get these crazy ideas out of your head, and if you put the kool-aid down


Monday, September 18, 2006

Why I like working for a start up early doors

"Travel to foreign parts"

I thought today I would go through some of my personal reasons for working with emerging companies.


You come to work because you love what you do, and you have a passion for the organization and people. There is no need to push people to work, only direct and plan. The effort level is beyond that of normal companies. I have worked with engineers into the wee small hours trying to fix equipment and processes, and then sharing a morning coffee with them only after a few hours sleep.


Work hard - play hard, you learn that life is to be enjoyed, whether you are putting together a 5 year plan or wind surfing of the coast of Madagascar , you spend more that 60hrs a week at work, you need to be able to enjoy the work and help others to as well.


I have travelled a lot with the different companies I have worked for and the buzz from stepping off a plane in a foreign country to meet people you have never met before is great. The experiences I have had are life changing , from a Chinese new year party as the guest of honour, playing guitar to 12,000 employees at there factory in Shenzhen, to nearly killing a cop in an unmarked care in the deepest darkest Ohio. I love making deals in these places; you are bring work to others and getting a good deal for your company.

So these are some of my personal reasons for working in early stage, emerging organizations. I read a book on the history of Attila the Hun, and how he selected his warriors to fight battles for him, he never sent a warrior to do something he would not have done himself, and he showed the warriors that they were doing something that had real value, if he would have done it then it was worth something. I am the same I had 30,000 days to play with and I have maybe 15,000 left if God is kind to me, I do not want to waste them on something that is not going to add value to me and humanity.



Friday, September 15, 2006

What is leadership..and why is it important

"First off and last on "

Joe Galloway

I suppose if you are asking this question, then you will have already noticed that there is something more to running a company than being a manager of people and resources. There is the old saying you can train a monkey to be manager but a Leader is born, I am on the fence with the leader is born, but I do believe that not everyone can lead, you can learn the tools of the trade but you have to have that spark to be able to move to the next level.

I have been attending a leadership for growth program it will run over a few months, it is being delivered by a management consultancy and part funded by Tayside Scottish enterprise, the intention of this program is to support leaders in SME’s and start ups and give them the skills to build there companies. The premise is that to build a strong company you need leaders.

I will leave off today by asking a question and supplying my answer to the question.

What is leadership?

The definition that is most common in management books is that

Leadership = Power,

Power = (Motivation and Resource)

Resource = People

I have a similar view to it, a leader is out front, and without followers you have no leadership, a manager can still manage without followers, the difference between them is that the Leader has a different relationship with the follower, an unwritten agreement between him and his follower, it is this agreement that lets the follower give more of his resource to the leader, which increases the leaders power.

So why leadership is so important in a start up, because most of the value of your company is tied up in the heads of your employees (Tribal knowledge) and that is your Human capital and unlike normal capital equipment, they can walk of and join another company if not led well. I do not mean you pander to your staff, you need to lead your staff forward.



Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Startups Fail to Get VC Funding

"Get your sails filled"

Much has been mentioned about entrepreuership and venture capital. Even potentially good companies are often turned away by venture capitalists. A lot of people perhaps do not realize venture capital is risk money--and expensive money. In exchange for financing, entrepreneurs "give up" an equity claim based on some predetermined future value of the venture. When this equity is exchanged, there are many strings attached to the deal, most of them related to strategic and financial control.
While most venture capitalists understand and are willing to undertake business risk, the following problems will raise immediate red flags in most initial assessments:
Unable to articulate a business plan
More often than not, entrepreneurs are expected to articulate a business plan, both verbal and written to the potential investors. A business plan should state clearly how the future cash flow would be achieved. I have met entrepreneurs who have had the goal of tripling their sales revenue within 3 years, yet they could not articulate a strategy for how to accomplish it (i.e. how to increase sales). This leaves the investor asking questions like would the increased revenue be achieved by increasing the sales force, increasing advertising expenses, or other factors?
When an entrepreneur cannot articulate his business plan, he signals to most institutional investors that he does not know how to deliver the future cash flow. This often leads investors to discount whatever future cash flow streams the entrepreneur might have in his financial projections.
Not convinced of the business model
The business model will demonstrate to the investors how the business generates cash flow and sustains itself. Very often, entrepreneurs and management cannot articulate clearly the business model to the venture capitalists. Investors need to know how the business generates revenue from its customers and competes effectively in the industry it operates in. Investors usually get cold feet when the revenue stream is unstable or the financial projections are too bullish without any substantiated assumptions.
The entrepreneur and management are expected to "know the business numbers cold." Most do not seem to understand the differences between the cash flow and profit of a business operation, and many lack a good grasp of the main numbers - revenue, sales volume, operating cash flow, operating expense, capital expenditure and net profit.
Heavy capital expenditure is to be constantly funded by shareholders
Capital expenditure is expected to be funded through internally generated cash flows and not regular shareholders' funding. While shareholders may be generous in the initial years of business expansion, they expect the business to generate cash flows and pay dividends to the shareholders. If the bulk of the cash flow generated by the business will be used to fund regular capital expenditure, there will be little cash left for the shareholders.
An often-quoted strategy is expanding the business via acquisitions, funded by shareholders. As the economy deregulates and competition heats up, investors will begin to actively scrutinize this strategy, demanding to know the payback period and return from the acquisitions.
Entrepreneurs' personal financial problems
Though this may sound alien to some entrepreneurs, the Asian economic crisis has been an eye opener to institutional investors. There are horror stories of entrepreneurs who, due to their personal financial problems, siphon cash out of profitable business operations, leaving the institutional investors holding minority stakes in a flux.
While venture capitalists do not expect the entrepreneurs to personally hoard loads of cash, a seemingly high liability in the form of bank loan or property and shares pledged will immediately raise red flags.
Poor corporate governance
Corporate governance is seemingly moot in Asia. Most of the company directors are management as well, and standards are generally more lax in Asia than in the U.S. or Europe, where many venture capitalists have their home offices.
The lack of transparency is a common complaint among institutional investors in Asian companies. Common examples of poor corporate governance include default of bank loans and bond issues, infrequently published accounts of private companies, and infrequent board meetings to address concerns raised by the institutional investors.
Poor industry outlook
No matter how good the entrepreneur and management are, institutional investors usually shun companies operating in industries with a poor outlook. Poor industry outlook implies a low growth industry, obsolete products, and a short life span of technology products.
Continual technological changes have resulted in most institutional investors becoming more sensitive to short product life spans. Arguably, the product life span of some technology products averages only 2-3 years, about the time venture capitalists consider exiting from their investments.
Unless the entrepreneur and management can demonstrate that they are able to seize opportunities and adapt accordingly to different industry landscapes, a poor industry outlook will raise immediate red flags to most institutional investors.
Lacks vision
Probably the most basic ingredient of a successful entrepreneur or CEO is vision. Vision implies the ability to look beyond present industry trends or operational difficulties to chart a new direction for the company. For example, an Indonesian tapioca starch company, not contented with remaining a low value upstream producer, succeeds into venturing downstream to food flavor enhancers and citric acid, ingredients used in syrup in soft drinks. If an entrepreneur cannot demonstrate his vision to venture capitalists, it is unlikely that he will receive funding.
Uncohesive management team
While not everyone will succeed as an entrepreneur, each individual member of an assembled team must be able to execute his or her tasks efficiently. This is especially important in small startups, where "dead wood" often proves to be an expensive liability to the companies.
The business world is getting more competitive with the opening up of more sectors in the economy. However, I believe there will continue to be good deals out there. An astute investor will be able to differentiate between a cosmetically well-packaged startup and fundamentally sound company.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Learned behaviour...for the start up

Learned Behaviour

Things the Venture capatalist will never tell you ...because they don't know....

As a company goes through it’s phases of development, there are key triggers for each phase, these triggers are usually make or break events which cause a revolutionary change to the structure of the company, it could involve the change of leadership, or lose of founders. One area that needs to be managed through this period is the company culture, there will have been a lot time and effort spent in getting the company culture to where it is and you do not want to have it lost.

From early doors a kid will learn behaviour from it’s surroundings and the people it interacts with, good and bad, it is the same for a company and it’s employees, they learn how to behave from the leaders they interact with and observe and there surroundings. If you want the company to develop into a strong mature entity, you need to start teaching the expected behaviour from early doors. The smart company they makes sure that the teaching moves from the leadership but is moved out to team leaders , managers etc, and it starts to become distributed learning and distributed management, which is far stronger and will survive the phases of growth that your company will go through.



Monday, September 11, 2006

five years on from 9-11

Today’s post is slightly different, it was partly prompted by a book I have just finished the “CEO and The Monk” by R B Catell, K Moore with G Rifkin, the last few chapters of the book were centred on the actual day of 9/11 and the impact on there company and employees, Bob and Kenny’s company has a large office on Manhattan Island overlooking ground zero.

The book took me back to what I was doing on that day; I was working in Phoenix, Arizona, for a Telecoms’ start up running the operations. The morning was a typical day, warm and pleasant outside, I had picked up my coffee and I was just sitting down to start checking my e-mail, when I got a call from security to come and look at his TV, on it was the smoking side of the Tower, a little later the whole story unfolded before us and the enormity of the attack started to sink in, little did I know the impact that it would have on me personally and professionally but also for the world as a whole.

I took sometime to myself to gather my emotions and thoughts and then started to meet the teams coming in, some knew the news, some were just getting snap shots from the radio as they had driven in, I updated as best I could , but by 11:00 I was sending them all home, and by 13:00 the company was empty. I had said to one of my manufacturing managers that a large rock had been thrown into the pond now and the ripples would be felt for many years, and five years on we still feel them.

I can make no sense of what happened five years ago, but we must live on and live productive and fulfilled lives, business can change the world, not radically in a step function, but through time, every interaction and deal with someone outside your organization can play a little part. I do not usually plug books but read the afore mentioned book….and I will leave it there..

Quote from Harold Whitman:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs , ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that, because what the world needs are people who have come alive "



Thursday, September 07, 2006

You need to know the music before you can write the melody

"You need to know the music before you can write the melody”


As an Entrepreneur you need to know intimately your business before you start

I play guitar and mandolin, my music is modern Folk / Rock, my stage are sessions with my friends and the Church worship group where I lead the worship sometimes. I have seen new musicians come and go, they have played in rock bands or are session musicians themselves, but when it comes to playing for the church worship times they are lost…they do not know the music style or nuances

I was listening to a fiddle session on CD driving home last night and this image crystallized, you can’t ask an opera composer to write a reel for the dance band, because he does not know the music has not experienced it, and you can’t ask the folk music composer to write the Opera.

So what am I saying here, is know what you are getting into to, have a team built around you that know what you are getting into. Take time before you take your 30 pieces of silver and understand the music before you start to compose your reel.

I am on holiday tomorrow so I will be back next week…



Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Recruiting and teambuilding for the Start Up

Recruiting and teambuilding for the Start Up

This will be a short entry today; I have loads to get done today, which set me to thinking about recruitment and building the team for the start up. I have recruited 4 operations teams, from the technician to the director, two of the teams were more that 100 strong and two were around 30 strong, so I have had plenty of opportunity to get it wrong and get it correct.

These are a few tips I learned along the way:

Get the best candidate you can for your senior roles, make sure they are a fit to the team culture.

Spend the money, pay the top salary for the senior roles, they will be your key to building a great company, and leading your workforce

Take up references on the candidate; speak to one of there last bosses

Get the Sales candidates to do a sales pitch for you.

Make sure the benefits package is fair and equitable for the whole workforce

Attitude is more important than aptitude

You will make mistakes correct them quickly, you will know in a few weeks if you made the correct choice.

Well that’s it for today, a short week for me, on holiday Friday



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

To Blame or not to Blame

To Blame or not to Blame

One of the worst cultures to have in an organization is the “blame” culture, where everyone else is looking to blame the bad outcome on someone else, covering there butts. This type of culture destroys the dynamics requires to function as a cross functional team, Engineering and Development working together, Process and Production working together. I have sat on board meetings here this is prevalent amongst the officers of the company, and look at Enron, there was a lot of it wasn’t me it was him comments flying around, trying to blame there failings on others.

Where this type of culture takes a person is they then play the victim, I can’t achieve the sale because of engineering, not because his sales strategy is crap, but because the employees know that the blame culture is allowed then they will use it as a crutch for poor performance and judgment. Where does this culture emanate from? Answer!! It is the leadership, when something has gone wrong, they instigate a witch hunt, and find someone to blame, this in turn makes everyone else say ok that is not going to happen to me, and the ass protection culture has started.

Some solutions to this culture:

Do not instigate witch hunts, when something goes wrong perform an RCA and understand what went wrong not who? And put a fix in place

When an individual uses the blame culture to protect himself (key word there), try and understand where the need for this behaviour comes from and try to help correct the behaviour, if you can’t then you are better off without them

Do not accept the victim mentality, everyone has there own destiny in there own hands, let them work it out, give support and make them feel part of the team, but never accept the victim mentality.

Reward positive behaviour and punish the negative behaviour

Well enough for today..have a good one



Monday, September 04, 2006

Practical advice for the Start Up

"The wheel has already been invented"

The most treasured assets you have in your company is , Time , People and then cash, I want to share some of my experiences around Time and People today. Have you sat in a meeting and thought we are inventing the wheel all over again, or that I thought that we had made that decision already, both are problems that have been evident in all the start up’s I have worked for and some of the larger companies as well.

A few tips to help fix these problems, and I hope they help to stop the waste of Time one of your precious resources and they can be fixed with some good robust systems in place with your people, and off course they cost money, Take the salaries of all around the meeting table at one of these meetings and work out the cost to reinvent the wheel.

Make a decision log, good Prince 2 project management, keep updated with reasonable detail, enough to go back and see why you made that choice and have it with you at all meetings to refer to. Instil the discipline that all read and keep it in front of them when they are going set a meeting agenda, this allows them to not waste time on decisions that have already been made, or if they want to re-visit a decision then at least there is a baseline to build from.

Technical reports even on the bad stuff are a good way to gather the “tribal knowledge”, you have paid for it or your investors have, so get it documented. It will save you repeating work that has already been executed a while ago and to support that, a handbook of “brain dump” from the founders is a handy way to speed things up, if a company has come from an academic research program then having that post funding research at hand from the founding members will help the future generation of engineers to quickly get up to speed and also be handy when you are going through due diligence, it can be built upon from the technical reports.

Get both of these ideas on a database, set up an access database, low cost and robust and then you can distribute the learning quickly, put in what security requirements you need, but if you are frightened that your engineers are going steal the “crown jewels” you may have the wrong engineers working for you..

Well that’s today’s instalment



Friday, September 01, 2006

Thoughts on VC funding

Money the oil of Industry....

My thoughts on VC funding....don't ....and again I say don't....unless you really have to…the Venture capital companies are run by people and as such you get good and bad companies…I have sat with cash flow projections showing that we run out of cash in a few weeks, and been told can you not stretch it a couple more weeks, we have a lot of folks on holiday at the time and it would be hard for us to get the next traunch released….I have worked with VC’s who have over extended themselves to support the company while we looked for a trade sale….so I have met both sides…

Now this is not a bash at the VC institution, it is a bash at the bad fund managers and partners who’s responsible for making the decisions. I have worked with a lot off VC companies, I have entered the “dragons den” and pitched to them, and I have sat in the “dragons den” and listened to the pitches, sat around the magic table and passed the cream…I know a lot off these guys…and as a great old hobbit once said …well you catch the drift here….

VC funding is like Alcohol…you get your first drink and you are in cloud heaven…but as you drink more…it can either become an addiction..Or it is a pleasure…

Pick your VC wisely …try and not leave it until you become desperate and have no room to manouver… look early …keep your nose in the poke…attend investor conferences…listen to others experiences…read up on there portfolios…check through your network to see if some one has worked with them before…talk to other VC’s and pick there brains…but only take the “30 pieces of silver “if you have tried every other avenue open to you…

If you want to chat more about this feel free to contact me…

Well I hope you have a good weekend…have fun….