Archive for August, 2008

Teamwork wins everytime in business & sport

August 29, 2008

The Tour of Ireland (ToI) cycle road race started this week with the now legendary British cyclist Mark Cavendish (Cav) winning the first two stages. Cav won an historic four sprint finish stage wins at this years Tour De France (TdF). During the TdF and ToI post stage victory interviews Cav attributed his wins to the support and effort of his team, Team Columbia.

The overall winner of the the 2008 TdF Carlos Sastre was also really well supported by a very strong and well managed Team (CSC). Many non-cyclists don’t realise the importance of teamwork in cycling. Cycling is a team sport. The team helps to shield their best riders from the wind to conserve energy for the finish.

Me & my team (snap, crack & pop..)  on this years amateur Tour of Ireland

I rode the amateur The Kellogg’s Tour of Ireland this year with 220 other riders at the start line. I always really enjoy cycling on the emerald isle. The Irish are such warm, fun and friendly people and the scenery is lovely. It was a wonderful trip with support vehicles, police (Garda) escorts, crowds and closed town centre finishes. It felt like you were a real pro cyclist.

Once again I see the parallels between sport and business. Great success in business and sport is dependant on outstanding teamwork built through trust, sacrifice and commitment.


Office 2.0: Turning calamity into success

August 27, 2008

With only a week to go one of the main diamond sponsors pulled out of  Office 2.0 conference  much to the annoyance and distress of the organiser Ismael Ghalimi. I have already covered the conference on and this blog.  I wanted to write again because this is a great example of an enterprenur coping with a difficult problem on a self imposed deadline.

A diamond sponsor?

It’s been interesting too observe Ismael’s unfolding shock, despair and then purpose with this set back. Ismael published an inspiring and reflective post Faith, Friendship, and Freedom when the S**t hit the fan, saying:

“With such a string of bad news, it would be easy for us to lose faith in what we are doing.”..”Many people wonder why we do all this to begin with. There is a fair amount of risk involved, and an insane amount of work, for a reward that is unclear most of the time. The reason is pretty simple: it’s the simple exercise of our freedom.”..”Today, I learned something, and this makes it a good day.”

As Stowe Boyd, a well know blogger, entitled his post Office 2.0 Conference: That Which Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger. The extreme deadline of the event meant that Ismael had to move quickly to a solution. It was great to see how the community rallied togther to help and the conference very rapidly organised a new Launchpad conference track with lots of smaller sponsors.

This situation has shown the entrepreneurial spirit of seeing the positive and turning calamity into success by working together. We could all probably learn a little from this.

“There is a difference between knowing the path & walking the path”*

August 20, 2008

Wisdom is all around us.  “The Obvious”, as Euan Semple named his blog. The challenge is hearing wise words and then following them. They come in many forms — from friends, family, speakers, films, books, articles, blogs, etc. They can also come from the most unexpected places. Last week I went to see the kids movie ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and I found myself being inspired by three pearls of wisdom: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” ;”There are no accidents – One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it” and “To make something special you just have to believe it’s special”. 

Peach Tree of Wisdom from the movie Kung Fu Panda

The following quotes are words of wisdom from the late Sam Walton (Walmart founder) c/o The Young Entrepreneur blog. Like everything quotations can be broken down into the simplest of words. Sam’s words bring through the importance in business of Passion; Vision; Enjoyment; Appreciation and Understanding customers. However the true meaning can be lost in summarising, so here is the full quote:

“If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you – like a fever. I think I overcame every single one of my personal shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work. I don’t know if you’re born with this kind of passion, or if you can learn it. But I do know you need it.

Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else. Capital isn’t scarce. Vision is.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. My feeling is that just because we work so hard, we don’t have to go around with long faces all the time. While we’re doing all of this work, we like to have a good time. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song. Then make everybody else sing with you.

Celebrate your successes. Find some humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. Show enthusiasm – always. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song. Then make everybody else sing with you. Don’t do a hula on Wall Street. It’s been done. Think up your own stunt. All of this is more important, and more fun, than you think, and it really fools the competition. “Why should we take those cornballs at Wal-Mart seriously?

Money and ownership alone aren’t enough. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free – and worth a fortune. We’re all working together; that’s the secret.

The folks on the front lines – the ones who actually talk to the customer – are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there. The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign, ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. They’re still up there, and they have made all the difference. Each Wal-Mart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.“

Clearly Sam was a very wise man to follow these simple but powerful truths.

* 1999 Matrix movie, Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski

Ismael Ghalimi’s extreme deadlines that innovate

August 14, 2008

After writing an article for on Ismael Ghalimi ‘s Office 2.0 conference, I also wanted to share some personal reflections from an intriguing conversation with Ismael about deadlines and innovation.

Ismael Ghalimi

Deadlines are nothing new. However organising a significant event over a very short period (nine weeks) with limited resources creates what I’ve termed an extreme deadline. Ismael says the self imposed deadlines “forces productivity” and “pushes tools to the limits”. However the risks are high — unhappy paying customers and suppliers may result in a loss of hard earned credibility and reputation.

The Royal Air force Red Arrow’s Pushing the envelope

Being extreme is about pushing the limits or as Ismael said “Pushing the envelope” – a term used by aircraft pilots. Ismael referred to the conference as an “experiment”. By innovating the conference organisation into this limited time window, Ismael called it “outside of the thought zone”, rapid and effective decisions have to be made. If mistakes are made they can be corrected quickley or work arounds found. As the conference back-office evolves Ismael is also pushing the boundaries further to reinvent the conference attendee experience.

Ismael sees the future of conferences as: “branding being much more than having big conference booths”; “more involvement of panellist moderators”; “Social networking before, during and after the event”; use of “conference internet tablets”; “displaying the back channel conversations for all to see”; and “giving remote attendees a good experience”. He is putting some of these ideas into practice at the Office 2.0 experiment using Jives clearspace and this years free HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. Conference 2.0, as I called it, is trying to extend the social experience using social media for more audience participation and interaction.

The event seems to have got TechWeb’s attention, a larger conference provider, as Steve Wylie the TechWeb Enterprise 2.0 conference General Manager is on the conference attendee list. Interestingly Ismael is using the event as a networking and marketing tool for his other businesses, which include open source BPM software and serviced offices . Ismael said he runs the conference because “it’s fun” and he “loves people”.

Web and software firms like Ismael’s know all about meeting drop dead release dates. These deadlines can require additional emergency resources to be drafted in, planned features to be dropped and products that ship with bugs. As someone recently said to me JFDI (Just Feakin’ Do it – the acceptable version) when asked their opinion on the idea of the website. They said even if it is rough around the edges just get it out there and see what sticks.

A careful act holding onto time as demonstrated by Harold Lloyd

I think deadlines are very important to focus effort. However deadlines can cut both ways. They can help to bring action but they can also harm quality. It’s a careful but vital balancing act for any tech firm, particularly start-ups. Most entrepreneurs have limited resources, and time, so deadlines are a key part of effective productivity to get innovative products out the door.

1st Olympic Gold: All good things to thoughs that wait

August 10, 2008

Olympic mania is upon us. Nicole Cooke won a Gold in the Women’s Olympic cycle road race today in an exciting sprint finish in heavy rain. This is Britain’s first ever medal in Olympic road racing and the UK’s first medal at the Beijing Olympics. Congratulations to Nicole.

Nicole Cooke coming first over the finish line

Nicole was a disappointing 5th in the 2004 Athens Olympics. As in business and sport it takes enormous determination and patience to keep going through the challenging set backs and conditions to finish or even win. This is especially true of cycling in heavy rain. I completed the three day Tour of Wessex this year which only 95 finished from the 750 starters because of two days of torrential rain.

New media channels: Weakness, opportunity or threat?

August 6, 2008

The way we communicate and consume media is changing. This is affecting old media channels and creating an explosion in the media market. According to a report (download) from Ross Dawson last month the growth in the global media and entertainment market is set to grow from $1.7 to a massive $5.4USD by 2024 (in todays terms). The report was part of Ross’s Future of Media Summit 2008, which Seth Yates did a good review on.

Publishing has come along
way since the old wooden press

New media has brought a change in market dynamics with more consumer choice in how/where we consume and share information. This change is breaking down old media markets. Existing firms are being forced to try and communicate with potential new generational and innovative customers through new media. However Enterprise firm’s social network communities and external corporate blog initiatives don’t seem to be working. This lack of success has reduced the number of larger firms externally blogging according to a report ‘2B2B Blogging Takes Nose Dive’ from Forrester and reviewed by Gavin O’Malley. In addition most corporate on-line community sites are failing according to a report by Ed Moran of Deloitte and review by The Wall Street Journal.

Miguel Gonzalez believes that ‘Corporate culture discourages the kind of openness needed to make a blog — corporate or not — worth spending time reading’. I think the issue may stem from customer engagement and employee trust. The challenge to firms is to be risqué as shown by successful blogs. These blogs present a personal view which can be deliberately controversial to spark conversations. This spreads the word and thus the link. Yes, it’s viral marketing at work again but by a real person and not from a faceless marketing department.

Being controversial is not normally associated with speaking your mind as an employee, with the exception of journalists. Even they are known get in trouble when stretching the truth a little too far. Some firms ban their employees from expressing any opinions on their personnel blog in reference to their industry. This seems a little dragooning but you can understand business fear of reprisal from customers should an employee make front page news. Firms also fear that employees may inadvertently give away secrets to competitors. All this control is probably borne out of a lack of trust in employee’s judgement because of our current hierarchical command and control management systems.

What’s the next innovation after digital printing- Social Media?

Are blogs and new media channels going away? Almost certainly not and overtime they probably will move more into the mainstream. A good but long review ‘Beyond Blogs’ by Stephen Baker and Heather Green from BusinessWeek concludes: “Even if the bubble bursts (Web 2.0)—and we predict it will—the power of social media to transform our businesses and society will only grow.”. I agree, change and evolution is inevitable. So is developing a effective new media strategy important for large firms? Defiantly, because as Ben Parr says social media is about ‘customer retention and growth’; ‘which meets company’s one overarching goal: to increase profits.’ As always the challenge is change and the need to change is getting ever more pressing.