Friday, November 25, 2011

The Difference Between a Man and a Gentleman ...

I was reading a magazine the other day, when I came across an an advertisement for Gentlemen Jack - Rare Tennessee Wiskey [a product of Jack Daniels] that was entitled "The Difference Between a Man and a Gentleman" ... I thought it sumed things up nicely.

A man tries to make his mark ... A gentleman strives to leave his mark.

A man accepts a favour ... A gentleman returns the favour.

A man gives orders ... A gentleman inspires.

A man fits the mold ... A gentleman tries to break the mold.

The differences are many, but it all comes down to this … A man takes the necessary amount of steps. A Gentleman takes the extra step.

Everyday I strive to be a Gentleman ...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

16 Rules for Success in Business and Life in General

1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone.
I believe that not much happens of any significance when we're in our comfort zone. I hear people say, "But I'm concerned about security." My response to that is simple: "Security is for cadavers."

2. Never give up.
Almost nothing works the first time it's attempted. Just because what you're doing does not seem to be working, doesn't mean it won't work. It just means that it might not work the way you're doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn't have an opportunity.

3. When you're ready to quit, you're closer than you think.
There's an old Chinese saying that I just love, and I believe it is so true. It goes like this: "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed."

4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be.
Very seldom will the worst consequence be anywhere near as bad as a cloud of "undefined consequences." My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling and losing my shirt trying to get Parsons Technology going, "Well, Robert, if it doesn't work, they can't eat you."

5. Focus on what you want to have happen.
Remember that old saying, "As you think, so shall you be."

6. Take things a day at a time.
No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don't look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.

7. Always be moving forward.
Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.

8. Be quick to decide.
Remember what General George S. Patton said: "A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow."

9. Measure everything of significance.
I swear this is true. Anything that is measured and watched, improves.

10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate.
If you want to uncover problems you don't know about, take a few moments and look closely at the areas you haven't examined for a while. I guarantee you problems will be there.

11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you're doing.
When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.

12. Never let anybody push you around.
In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you're doing as anyone else, provided that what you're doing is legal.

13. Never expect life to be fair.
Life isn't fair. You make your own breaks. You'll be doing good if the only meaning fair has to you, is something that you pay when you get on a bus (i.e., fare).

14. Solve your own problems.
You'll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you'll develop a competitive edge. Masura Ibuka, the co-founder of SONY, said it best: "You never succeed in technology, business, or anything by following the others." There's also an old Asian saying that I remind myself of frequently. It goes like this: "A wise man keeps his own counsel."

15. Don't take yourself too seriously.
Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.

16. There's always a reason to smile.
Find it. After all, you're really lucky just to be alive. Life is short. More and more, I agree with my little brother. He always reminds me: "We're not here for a long time, we're here for a good time!"

"Copyright © 2004 Bob Parsons. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management

This article is definitely food for thought ...

Every list which attempts to select the best, or the worst, of anything generates controversy. Why was that included? Why wasn’t this on the list? Why isn’t that ranked higher. Yet lists are useful because they’re an, albeit imperfect, encapsulation of knowledge. So… ignoring the inevitable controversy, why do projects fail?

I’m almost certain that Pope Gregory the Great (6th Century) never worked on an IT project, but he did formalize a useful list of Human failings known as the Seven Deadly Sins. Today we know that short list as; Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth. Should we be surprised to find that this list has some relevance, even if tongue in cheek, to failed projects?

From the instant a project starts, until it is accepted as either a success or failure, the best hope for successful completion is accurate and timely knowledge of project status. Trying to complete a project on time without knowing where it is, is like trying to fly a plane blindfolded. This is so obviously true that repeating it is almost pointless, yet… project after project fail because people will do anything to avoid admitting they’re falling behind schedule. The courage to communicate early that we’ve encountered a problem is the best defense against failure. Of course, creating a work environment where "Courage" isn't necessary, is another option.

A team is a group of differently skilled people working together to achieve a common goal. Assuming this definition is sufficient (some argue it isn’t), it points to a common problem. When people do different things to achieve a joint goal, it is not uncommon for them to receive different rewards and benefits. If these inequities are significant, they result in people working against each other, to the detriment of success. Why should I work as hard a Bill if my reward is less? Reward equity is important to people.

We like large projects, they challenge us. There’s also a tremendous amount of Ego and Reputation at risk if we reject a project. All of this is a non issue if we’re good at large projects, but typically we’re not. We lack experience with them, we’re more familiar with average projects. In reality, sometimes good project management requires that we reject a project.

Is there a greater flaw in the IT industry? We LOVE technology and think nothing of starting an important, crucial project using a new shiny toys, a technology with no proven ability, a technology with which we’ve had zero experience. If this weren’t so prevalent in the industry it would be an insult to every reader to even mention it, but it is a failing of most ITers… and since we’re mostly male, it can be summed up with the female sigh of despair, “Boys and their Toys”.

“Project Management requires people management skills”, that statement should be obviously true. Yet if we consider the stated reasons why people are promoted to Project Manager, we’re almost forced to believe that Project Management is a technical skill. It isn’t. It never was. It can't be. Most, not all, new managers have little, if any, people management skills, and seldom receive training in this area. We seem to operate under the belief that if Jim can plan, track, code, design or test etc., then Jim can manage. Many projects fail because of poor management, sometimes so poor that shouting and tantrums are used as tactics to increase productivity.

Want to crash a project? Try to complete it on time with fewer resources than you need to complete it on time. This is another one of those simplistic statements which should be unnecessary, but based on experience, it isn’t stated or listened to often enough. The proper tools and resources won’t guarantee success, but they’ll make it unnecessary to constantly demand superhuman effort and personal sacrifice in the name of profit.

The most peculiar, and effective PM strategy I’ve come across, is to act as if the deadline six months away is tomorrow’s deadline. We all have a tendency to start in repose and finish in haste. Next month’s deadline tends not to become an issue until we replace ‘month’ with ‘week’, or even worse with ‘day’. We’re all familiar with the joke that 90% of a project gets completed in the last 10% of the schedule. If we start early, then we’re putting up an impenetrable defense against Murphy’s hordes.

Summary ... While projects do fail due to technical reasons, the vast majority of failures are due to human foibles, and those are as obvious, and as easy to overcome as they were in the 6th Century. © 2005, Peter de Jager

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sam Walton's 10 Rules for Success

Not much need for an introduction, explanation or commentary.

The basics ...

Rule #1 Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anything else. If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do the best you can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you - like a fever.

Rule #2 Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.

Rule #3 Motivate your partners. Money and ownership aren’t enough. Set high goals, encourage competition and then keep score. Make bets with outrageous payoffs.

Rule #4 Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners. The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. Information is power, and the gain you get from empowering your associates more than offsets the risk of informing your competitors.

Rule #5 Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.

Rule #6 Celebrate your success and find humour in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm. When all else fails put on a costume and sing a silly song.

Rule #7 Listen to everyone in your company, and figure out ways to get them talking. The folks on the front line - the ones who actually talk to customers - are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there. You’d better find out what they know.

Rule #8 Exceed your customer’s expectations. If you do they’ll come back over and over. Give them what they want - and a little more. Let them know you appreciate them. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses - apologize. Stand behind everything you do. ‘Satisfaction guaranteed’ will make all the difference.

Rule #9 Control your expenses better than your competition. This is where you can always find the competitive advantage. You can make a lot of mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you’re too inefficient.

Rule #10 Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction.

Priceless ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The 8 Little Fibs That Marketing Groups Tell

Believe or not, I love good marketing. A talented, observant, and clever marketing group can make it much easier for a sales team to succeed. They’re a real asset, and companies that have them always win more deals than those that don’t.

That being said, there are plenty of marketing groups out there who have, well, gotten a bit too big for their britches. They start telling little exaggerations, which are all the more dangerous because the marketing group often believes that they’re true.

Here are the top 8 irritating little fibs that turn up in marketing organizations, along with the unvarnished truth.

FIB #1: “Marketing is highly strategic.” According to this lie, marketing provides guidance and direction to nearly everything that goes on in a corporation, from product design, development, call center, sales, to manufacturing. The Full Truth: While marketing may kibbitz at those other groups, their inputs are often irrelevant or useless. They play a role, but they’re not usually strategic.

FIB #2: “We need a bigger budget.” According to this lie, a company succeeds or fails based upon the quality of the branding, and branding costs a lot of money, so it only makes sense to spend more money on marketing.The FullTruth: The stuff that marketing actually does (advertising, marcom, etc.) has a minor impact on brand, which results from the quality of the product and services that customers receive.

FIB #3: “We can help you sell.” According to this lie, the marketing group should be providing sales training and producing sales tools and materials (like brochures, info sheets, etc.) that can help the sales team sell.The FullTruth: Many marketing professionals have never sold so much as a glass of lemonade, so they have no idea what customers want and how they think.

FIB #4: “Customers want these features.” According to this lie, marketing does research to decide what features and functions customers want, thereby driving the development of the product and the content of sales presentations.The Full Truth: Most customers, frankly, don’t give a rat’s rear end about features and functions. They just want a problem solved and somebody to solve it for them.

FIB #5: “This market research is scientific.” According to this lie, marketers can gain a deep understanding of what’s going on amongst customers by paying market research firm to conduct studies and run surveys. This scientific approach is better than depending upon input from the sales team.The Full Truth: Much of what passes for market research is statistically invalid, qualitative and anecdotal (e.g. focus groups). Such tripe is virtually worthless.

FIB #6: “We can handle the media.” According to this lie, marketing groups can convince reporters to write nice things by helping the develop stories, giving them advance information, providing them with press releases, and so forth. These activities help create product demand.The Full Truth: By and large, real reporters find PR people irritating and ineffective. Much of the time they make it MORE difficult for the reporters to write stories by making unreasonable demands.

FIB #7: “Sales can’t close our hot leads.” According to this lie, the marketing group has the resources to search out potential customers that are likely to buy. They then transfer those leads to the sales groups who (alas) usually drops the ball and fails to complete the sale.The Full Truth: According to research from CSO Insights, 85% of company marketers felt they were doing a good job generating quality sales leads, while only 50% of the sales professionals in those same organization were satisfied with marketing’s efforts.

FIB #8: “Marketing drives sales.” According to this lie, sales is a tactical branch of marketing. The marketers set the direction for how customers will purchase products, possibly using a sales group as one of several possible ways that customers can buy.The Full Truth: With the exception of online retail selling, the sales group is the key element in any company’s success. As such, the marketing group is tactical arm of the sales group, not the other way around.

Needless to say, when you’re working with top-rate marketing groups, NONE of these little fibs rear their ugly little heads.

In fact, you can determine whether or not a marketing group knows what its about, simply by listening for these fibs. If they show up, the marketing group is in danger of becoming a corporate liability. If they don’t, the market group is usually a corporate asset.

It’s that simple. by Geoffrey James April 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The 10 Immutable Laws of Customer Relationships ...

Selling at the highest level means building strong customer relationships which create ongoing sales/business opportunities.

There are ten fundamental laws that determine whether a customer will want to have a long-term relationship with you.

Here they are:

LAW #1: Your customer wants to feel important.

LAW #2: Your customer craves being appreciated.

LAW #3: Your customer is NOT interested in you.

LAW #4: Your customer seeks success and happiness.

LAW #5: Your customer wants you to listen and understand.

LAW #6: Your customer must feel valued before buying.

LAW #7: Your customer buys emotionally but defends logically.

LAW #8: Your customer’s average attention span is short.

LAW #9: Your customer wants you to show true interest.

LAW #10: Your customer wants to teach you something.

If you behave with these laws constantly in mind, your customers will work with you, buy from you, and give you great referrals. On the other hand, if you ignore any of these laws, you’re toast. Your customers will move on to somebody who knows how to treat them right.

You should print these on a 3 X 5 card, laminate it, and carry these laws around with you !!

The above is based on a conversation with the enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining sales trainer Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge in Business. by Geoffrey James

Cheers ...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale

Some years ago, the late Nobel prize-winning Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, "Doctor, what's wrong with men today?" The great doctor was silent a moment, and then he said, "Men simply don't think!"

It's about this that I want to talk with you. We live today in a golden age. This is an era that humanity has looked forward to, dreamed of, and worked toward for thousands of years. We live in the richest era that ever existed on the face of the earth ... a land of abundant opportunity for everyone.

However, if you take 100 individuals who start even at the age of 25, do you have any idea what will happen to those men and women by the time they're 65? These 100 people believe they're going to be successful. They are eager toward life, there is a certain sparkle in their eye, an erectness to their carriage, and life seems like a pretty interesting adventure to them.

But by the time they're 65, only one will be rich, four will be financially independent, five will still be working, and 54 will be broke — depending on others for life's necessities.

Only five out of 100 make the grade! Why do so many fail? What has happened to the sparkle that was there when they were 25? What has become of the dreams, the hopes, the plans ... and why is there such a large disparity between what these people intended to do and what they actually accomplished?

First, we have to define success and here is the best definition I've ever been able to find: "Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal."

A success is the school teacher who is teaching because that's what he or she wants to do. A success is the entrepreneur who start his own company because that was his dream — that's what he wanted to do. A success is the salesperson who wants to become the best salesperson in his or her company and sets forth on the pursuit of that goal.

A success is anyone who is realizing a worthy predetermined ideal, because that's what he or she decided to do ... deliberately. But only one out of 20 does that! The rest are "failures."

Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a wonderful book called Man's Search for Himself, and in this book he says: "The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice ... it is conformity." And there you have the reason for so many failures. Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or where they are going.

We learn to read by the time we're seven. We learn to make a living by the time we're 30. Often by that time we're not only making a living, we're supporting a family. And yet by the time we're 65, we haven't learned how to become financially independent in the richest land that has ever been known. Why? We conform! Most of us are acting like the wrong percentage group — the 95 who don't succeed.

Have you ever wondered why so many people work so hard and honestly without ever achieving anything in particular, and why others don't seem to work hard, yet seem to get everything? They seem to have the "magic touch." You've heard people say, "Everything he touches turns to gold." Have you ever noticed that a person who becomes successful tends to continue to become more successful? And, on the other hand, have you noticed how someone who's a failure tends to continue to fail?

The difference is goals. People with goals succeed because they know where they're going. It's that simple. Failures, on the other hand, believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances ... by things that happen to them ... by exterior forces.

Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take — it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.

Now let's take another ship — just like the first — only let's not put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let's give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you'll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach — a derelict. It can't go anyplace because it has no destination and no guidance.

It's the same with a human being. However, the human race is fixed, not to prevent the strong from winning, but to prevent the weak from losing. Society today can be likened to a convoy in time of war. The entire society is slowed down to protect its weakest link, just as the naval convoy has to go at the speed that will permit its slowest vessel to remain in formation.

That's why it's so easy to make a living today. It takes no particular brains or talent to make a living and support a family today. We have a plateau of so-called "security." So, to succeed, all we must do is decide how high above this plateau we want to aim.

Throughout history, the great wise men and teachers, philosophers, and prophets have disagreed with one another on many different things. It is only on this one point that they are in complete and unanimous agreement — the key to success and the key to failure is this:
This is The Strangest Secret! Now, why do I say it's strange, and why do I call it a secret? Actually, it isn't a secret at all. It was first promulgated by some of the earliest wise men, and it appears again and again throughout the Bible. But very few people have learned it or understand it. That's why it's strange, and why for some equally strange reason it virtually remains a secret.
Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said: "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it."
Disraeli said this: "Everything comes if a man will only wait ... a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfillment."

William James said: "We need only in cold blood act as if the thing in question were real, and it will become infallibly real by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real. It will become so knit with habit and emotion that our interests in it will be those which characterize belief." He continues, " ... only you must, then, really wish these things, and wish them exclusively, and not wish at the same time a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly."

My old friend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale put it this way: "If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results." George Bernard Shaw said: "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? We become what we think about. A person who is thinking about a concrete and worthwhile goal is going to reach it, because that's what he's thinking about. Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety, fear, and worry will thereby create a life of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing ... he becomes nothing.

The human mind is much like a farmer's land. The land gives the farmer a choice. He may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care what is planted. It's up to the farmer to make the decision. The mind, like the land, will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant. If the farmer plants too seeds — one a seed of corn, the other nightshade, a deadly poison, waters and takes care of the land, what will happen?

Remember, the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants — one corn, one poison as it's written in the Bible, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant ... success ... or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal ... or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety, and so on. But what we plant it must return to us.

The problem is that our mind comes as standard equipment at birth. It's free. And things that are given to us for nothing, we place little value on. Things that we pay money for, we value.
The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that's really worthwhile in life came to us free — our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country. All these priceless possessions are free.

But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune. He can do that several times. Even if our home burns down, we can rebuild it. But the things we got for nothing, we can never replace.

Our mind can do any kind of job we assign to it, but generally speaking, we use it for little jobs instead of big ones. So decide now. What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind. It's the most important decision you'll ever make in your entire life.

Do you want to excel at your particular job? Do you want to go places in your company ... in your community? Do you want to get rich? All you have got to do is plant that seed in your mind, care for it, work steadily toward your goal, and it will become a reality.

It not only will, there's no way that it cannot. You see, that's a law — like the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, the laws of gravity. If you get on top of a building and jump off, you'll always go down — you'll never go up.

And it's the same with all the other laws of nature. They always work. They're inflexible. Think about your goal in a relaxed, positive way. Picture yourself in your mind's eye as having already achieved this goal. See yourself doing the things you will be doing when you have reached your goal.

Every one of us is the sum total of our own thoughts. We are where we are because that's exactly where we really want or feel we deserve to be — whether we'll admit that or not. Each of us must live off the fruit of our thoughts in the future, because what you think today and tomorrow — next month and next year — will mold your life and determine your future. You're guided by your mind.

I remember one time I was driving through e a s t e r n Arizona and I saw one of those giant earthmoving machines roaring along the road with what looked like 30 tons of dirt in it — a tremendous, incredible machine — and there was a little man perched way up on top with the wheel in his hands, guiding it. As I drove along I was struck by the similarity of that machine to the human mind. Just suppose you're sitting at the controls of such a vast source of energy. Are you going to sit back and fold your arms and let it run itself into a ditch? Or are you going to keep both hands firmly on the wheel and control and direct this power to a specific, worthwhile purpose? It's up to you. You're in the driver's seat. You see, the very law that gives us success is a doubleedged sword. We must control our thinking. The same rule that can lead people to lives of success, wealth, happiness, and all the things they ever dreamed of — that very same law can lead them into the gutter. It's all in how they use it ... for good or for bad. That is The Strangest Secret!

Do what the experts since the dawn of recorded history have told us to do: pay the price, by becoming the person you want to become. It's not nearly as difficult as living unsuccessfully.
The moment you decide on a goal to work toward, you're immediately a successful person — you are then in that rare group of people who know where they're going. Out of every hundred people, you belong to the top five. Don't concern yourself too much with how you are going to achieve your goal — leave that completely to a power greater than yourself. All you have to do is know where you're going. The answers will come to you of their own accord, and at the right time.

Start today. You have nothing to lose — but you have your whole life to win.