March 25, 2014


Holding a 400 ounce bar of gold courtesy of McEwen Mining
How do you make an event memorable? Tweets are fine but they vanish fast. Photos make nice reminders but who sees them afterwards? Recordings help. Novelty does too.

Here's what happened at a RUBAA Business Alumni Exchange. RUBAA is the Ryerson University Business Alumni Association. They were raising money for the RUBAA / Ken Jones Student Bursary.

Two speakers spoke for 10-15 minutes each. They didn't take audience questions but did stay to chat afterwards. They each brought great gifts.

Lindt trufflesCyndi Culp

Cyndi Culp (1979) spoke about her squiggly ride to a position she's held for 19 years: CFO of Lindt & Sprungli (Canada). The company has grown from 10 employees to 500.

Cyndi brought boxes of Lindt gourmet truffles for everyone. What’s not to like? I took mine home unopened, which my family liked.

Related: Mitch Joel’s 8 keys to getting a job today

Ian Ball

Ian Ball (2004) is President of McEwen Mining. His career path was squiggly too (see mining’s golden boy).

Ian didn't give us gold but brought a 400 ounce bar. That's about 25 pounds and worth about $525,000 (US) based on today’s price. Photo op!
We were allowed to have a photo of us holding the gold under the careful supervision of three guards. Normally at events you ask someone to take your photo with your smartphone in questionable lighting. Not here. There was proper lighting and a professional photographer.

There's more. We each got a high quality colour print in a sleeve on the spot. The sleeve was branded for McEwen Mining. The background was too. Who’s going throw that photo away? No one. Who’s going to spread the story? Everyone.


When you go to many events, they blur together and fade away.

Organizing an event is expensive in time and perhaps money. How do you create a lasting memory that even non-attendees can enjoy?


PS At events, talk to the speakers. I talked to Cyndi before her speech and Ian afterward.

March 19, 2014


home office helperWhen you're working in a corporation, time gets wasted in less productive activities like meetings and memos. The best results come when you have time to think. That might be before co-workers arrive at work, when they’re at lunch or after they go home. Maybe you’re most productive at home before your family wakes or after your kids go to bed.

There’s more to life than extending the workday.

Enter the home office. You get many advantages but your productivity can suffer because you face many distractions too. Is that the fridge calling? In Part 1, we looked at basics of setting up your environment, tracking your time and stopping. This time we look at other tips for better results.

Have Morning Rituals

Do you touch your smartphone or tablet before you brush your teeth? Don’t. Leave your radio and TV off too. Control the way you start your day. Defer distractions until you’re ready for breakfast. Let the news, weather, traffic, sports, email, and tweets wait.

If you use your gadget as your alarm clock, get a real clock instead. Let your gadgets sleep in silent mode in another room, if possible. You don’t need to wake to a clock radio either.

Put Health First

Have a health regime which you ideally follow before breakfast. Since you've eliminated commuting, you have time (say for the seven minute workout). I allocate 30 minutes for ashtanga yoga, with a focus on breathing and stretching.

A proper breakfast helps too. We often eat leftovers from yesterday’s dinner – quick, nutritious, hot.

Ditch The Entertainment

You might think you’re more productive with the radio or TV on. Are you? We are not good at multitasking and get distracted easily (a reason to use time tracking tools). If you prefer background noise like a coffee shop, rain or birds, try soundrown.

I’m currently watching The Shield on Netflix. It’s tempting to sneak a peek over lunch. I don’t because it would be tough to return to the right frame of mind for work. Instead, I tend to read business articles or listen to a nonfiction audiobook.

Plan Your Activities

Plan your week and day in advance. Putting key activities into your calendar looks like the easiest way to schedule your priorities. That’s part of the first things first approach in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. There’s also the Getting Things Done process. You might find an amalgam works best.

Stay Accountable

When you’re working from home, who holds you accountable? Consider getting a private peer mentor. You help each other for free. That’s a win/win if you find the right person. If that’s not enough, you might want to hire a coach.

Use a CRM system

Are you following up on commitments and opportunities? The ideal CRM option helps you organize, take action and track results. It’s like having an assistant (or boss) — without working in a corporation.


PS When working, dress for a video call. That means look presentable from the waist up. You can still wear your slippers.

March 12, 2014


clock (490x255)
Spring forward. Fall back. We adjust our clocks for Daylight Saving Time (DST) without much thought.

We're tricking ourselves when 7 AM [PM] magically becomes 6 AM [PM] or is it 8 AM [PM]? We accept the change because we benefit. During the short winter days, we’d rather have light in the morning than the evening.  During the long summer days, we have enough light for the mornings and evenings.

Our clocks and smartphones might switch instantly to the “right” time but our bodies don’t. There may be more accidents after we “spring forward” because we lose an hour’s sleep. Or less because we’re driving with better lighting. There are also effects on productivity. 


Suppose you move your turn signal to a different location (say to 8 o’clock instead of 9 or 10). Customers will make mistakes especially if they drive different vehicles. The wiper settings mess me up. How do you spray the windshield? This is easy enough to figure out if your first guess is wrong. The harm is minimal. Imagine what would happen if the gas and brake pedals were not standardized.

If you follow norms how do you stand out from competitors? Android has a Back button but iOS hasn’t (except for the Safari web browser). Both systems are workable though you may prefer one. Apple stands out but companies making Android devices do not.

The Price

Changing your norm forces your current clients to undergo minor relearning (how do you heat the steering wheel now?). Your new clients skip this step, especially if you’re following conventions. Best to make the “right” decision at the outset.

How much as you asking your clients to change?

Windows 8 asked for too much. No START button!?! That was another reason to avoid Windows 8. Sales suffered. There were also reasons to avoid upgrading from Window 8 to 8.1.

The Speed

The ideal speed of change varies:
  • fast: e.g., to/from DST by an hour rather than 5 minutes a day for 12 days, a chiropractic adjustment, removing a bandage
  • slow: e.g., removing training wheels, shrinking snack packages without cutting the price, cheapening ingredients
What can you do to help your clients adjust? We don’t have a choice about adopting Daylight Saving Time but your clients may have a choice about switching from you.


PS Have you seen the 2013 posts on this blog?

March 4, 2014


imagePreparation takes time.
Preparation takes money.
Preparation causes disruption.
Preparation takes planning.
Preparation is essential.
Customers demand preparation.
While Toronto is a major city, we suffer from inadequate upgrades to infrastructure.

Rogers Ultimate Hi-Speed InternetInternet

Our Rogers Ultimate Hi-Speed Internet tops out at 150 Mbps (a review), even though others pay the same price for 250 Mbps and four times the data. Why? The preparation isn’t in place.

We can’t switch to a competitor. Bell Fibe Internet reaches 175 Mbps but we can only get 25 Mbps.


Toronto Hydro is replacing the electrical system in our neighborhood. They’ve installed new taller street poles and new wiring. That’s taken weeks  of elapsed time. Perhaps the new system would have spared us 90 hours without electricity during the latest ice storm. The height of the poles makes damage by tree limbs less likely.

It's another extra-cold day. We may be without electricity for 3.5 hours as the wiring switches over to the new system. The disruption is annoying but necessary. That's how preparation is.
We can’t switch to a competitor because there are none.

Google spending on infrastructure (click for article on CNET)Your Situation

Your car reminds when maintenance is required. Your business doesn’t. The costs may not be large.

What preparations should you be doing? There's never a good time. If you plan, at least you have control over the schedule and disruption. You can make arrangements to minimize the impact.

Maintenance is necessary, especially if your customers can easily switch to your competitor. Maybe that’s why Google has been spending heavily on infrastructure — even more than GM.


PS You might even get the credit you deserve for being proactive.