Ask almost any company founder or senior executive today about their greatest challenge and the odds are good that they will tell you that managing people is the task that occupies the most of their time, be it at the office or thinking about it over sleepless nights.
We’ve recently started repeating a new mantra in our meetings that will hopefully become cemented into our organizational culture and that is this:
In order to succeed, we need hire and develop adults.
I promise this is not just my “sour grapes” in reaction to not making it to South By Southwest this year. Ok maybe a little bit.
Listening to the PR engines wind up and prepare for takeoff as the annual South by Southwest festival gets underway, I started thinking about some of new applications that I have seen launch at the conference and have a fantastic first showing only to peter out in the weeks and years after the festival. A recent question and subsequent post by my good friend Mitch Wagner got me thinking about mobile payments and where we are going to see the tipping from small trials (like this one being planned for, where else, Austin) to full adoption by the general public.
In the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we witness our protagonist, Eddie Valiant, order a “scotch on the rocks” from a cartoon waiter and we laugh when the waiter returns with a glass that contains scotch and, literally, rocks.
This humorous aside illustrates a very important lesson about conducting business in foreign lands: The context of the conversation matters just as much as, if not more than, the subject matter.
That’s usually the first piece of advice that I give to would-be expatriates, and it is one that I, throughout my career, continue to keep in the forefront of my mind. I’ve become good at reciting PO box addresses as if they were my home address, at answering calls from my bank at 1AM because I’m unable to explain that yes I still have my same california number but it’s a skype number and I’m on the other side of the world, and at saying good morning to colleagues on a conference call when for you it’s late a night. Through it all, expats will find themselves bowing to the immovable force of a world built to think and act locally, despite the catchy slogans on posters at our corporate headquarters.
I’ve found that there is a clear distinction between the mindset of a manager and the mindset of another group that, for lack of a better term, I call the “doers”. The difference in mindset is most apparent when things go wrong. On the one hand, you have the doers. When problems arise, this group is the first to grab their laptops, soldering irons, and toolboxes, and jump right in to sort out the issues. The managers, on the other hand, must take a different approach. Read more
I still remember my first international fixture sourcing trip. Way back in 2005, I traveled with the founder of my previous employer (a fixture manufacturer) to China to explore our asian sourcing options. I remember it well because it left an impression on me that I will never forget. In a few weeks of being on the ground, and visiting suppliers, I left knowing that we had seen the future; this is where manufacturing was gravitating now, and it was only going to accelerate in the future. I also remember how “in over my head” I felt when trying to conduct business in a place where I knew almost nothing of the language, culture, or expectations. Read more
They say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
In the light of Best Buy’s recent decision to pull out of China and Turkey, one is led to conclude that there is still a lot of opportunity for the retailers of today to learn from the lessons of the past. It is doubly frustrating when you believe, as I do, that the very behaviors that led to the success of Best Buy in the United States would have been helpful to duplicate in their entry to china. Read more
It’s now officially less than a month until South By Southwest and in honor of the conference I wanted to share a little snippet that up until very recently was included in my speech this year. I had to cut it out, so I’d like to share it with you here. This was especially aimed at those of you that may be attending the conference for the first time, and formed the intro to my presentation. Keep in mind this was a “first draft” and still a bit rough around the edges.
You know, On the first day of my first year attending South By Southwest, I had the good fortune to go out to lunch with some of the awesome folks from Brazen Careerist. During lunch, over a few pints of Guinness a very wise woman in that group (I’m looking at you, Sydney) gave us first timers some great advice. Specifically she told us about how it would feel to leave south by southwest and go back to the <airquotes> real world </airquotes>. As she described the depression that we feel during the re-entry process, My first thought was, “so, about how many of those Guinness’s have you had so far?”. but a few weeks later I knew exactly what she meant.
And so my advice to you is this:
You have to work at it, inspiration doesn’t always come easy out there in the real world.
It’s easy to be inspired here. South By Southwest is inspiring wholly because of all of the amazing, Read more
I am a technologist by training, having studied computer science at the University of Delaware in undergrad, and by design I am naturally drawn to technology of all denominations. It should come as no surprise that some of my favorite leisure
time reading materials are technology oriented.
Yet some of my best inspiration has come from outside of the technology sphere, from immersing myself in stimuli that are outside of those things that I would normally be drawn to, and this is a theme reinforced by several of the mentors in my life. Time and again I find that solving complex problems requires experience that is more broad than it is deep, and I thankful that the past few years have helped me broaden my knowledge far outside of my previous education and career experience. Read more