Reflections of a Business-Driven Life
|Tuesday, November 30, 2004|
Putting the Right Pressure on the Right Places ( on business)
The other evening, I decided to drop by the spa to get a massage on the way home, a little indulgence I give myself now and then.
The attendant assigned to me was young, eager, and ... new. It was pretty obvious from the start that he was doing his best, and not quite mastering the art yet , he was compensating it by trying harder, ... or rather pressing harder. Now, firm pressure can be soothing and relaxing, but only coupled with the right technique and in the right places. Unfortunately pressing heavily on the wrong places can be painful, and he did it more than once.
Which makes me think that doing a massage right is not much different from managing a business right. If you know where to press, you don't have to work very hard or press very hard to deliver results.
And just like the massage, pressing hard on the wrong places can deliver bad results, just as focusing too hard or working hard on the wrong places can equally be problematic in business.
Now, I would be the first to say that working hard is very important, but learning the proper way to do it still is the key. As you may well know, sometimes, in our eagerness to deliver results, we or our people may, without meaning to, work too hard on the wrong things which can still be similarly disastrous.
Managing and properly growing a business, just like managing a family ( or doing the massage) is still the right combination of two things.
Effectiveness - doing the right thing.
Efficiency - doing the thing right.
Take time to learn the trade, NOT JUST THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE.
And you will know when to apply pressure, where to apply pressure, and when to loosen up, and not waste your strength.7:42:07 PM comment  trackback 
|Saturday, November 27, 2004|
Eat That Frog! ( book review)
This book is an inspirational book about how to get things done by well known author, Brian Tracy. The full title is Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.
It has a less than palatable title, but it totally agrees with the basic premise of the book, which is that Eating a frog is a metaphor that means doing the most important thing that matters the first thing in the morning. This is the task you are most likely to put off, it being most likely UNPLEASANT, but also probably the one that will have the greatest possible impact on your life.
The book makes the premise ( which I wholeheartedly agree) that there is never time to do everything on your to do list, and there will never be. Thus, instead of reading so many books on how to organize your life, and try to do the yeoman's job of chasing the completion of all tasks, you have to accept the fact that if you cannot get everything done, you might as well focus on the most important task first.
This goes back to the 80:20 rule, which is that the most important top 20 percent of all your task will most likely determine 80 percent of your success, and instead of ticking it off one by one ( most people do their task list in list order, or worst, do the easiest always first), there is a good basis to believe you can be more success just focusing on these top 20 percent.
Brian Tracy focuses on three vital rules of effective personal time management: decision, discipline and determination. The book presents 21 ways to do this. It is a short, practical book of only 144 pages, but nevertheless presents much more substance than many books thicker in size.
Rated 9 stars out of 10.3:24:21 PM comment  trackback 
|Thursday, November 25, 2004|
Time and Money ( on life )
"You are bloody wasting my time! ", I find myself exasperated and telling some of my colleagues almost shouting.
I used to complain about wasting money ( I still do (grin)) , but after getting older, and so much BUSYness, I find myself complaining more at the slightest wait or wastage of time.
I remember the adage Benjamin Franklin used to say, "the road to wealth is as plain as the way to market. Waste neither time and money ... "
These two obviously are the main ingredients of success, and therefore let us put it underneath the microscope ...
If you come to think of it, these two can also be related almost to the way that Einstein related energy and matter in his theory of relativity. And one thing I discover is that knowing how a person values his money and time as well as its relation to each other is actually one of the keys to understanding a person.
After all, people who have less money use time to earn or save money, while people who have more money use money to save time, or at least enjoy more wasting it. That may be the reason why in poorer countries, convenience stores is still not a good idea -- people are willing to walk the extra distance, and buy in open air markets to save money, while in rich countries, people would be willing to pay more to shop with more convenience, and save time.
So for people who have expensive technology that will save a lot of time, and finding it hard to sell in a developing country the answer is really simple -- the potential consumer looks at his plate, sees that he has lots of time, but not lots of money, and is not willing to part with his money to save time. In contrast to a consumer in a rich country, he simply values his money more than his time.
We are all in different stages of valuing time and money, and understanding how a customer values one vis a vis the other could be one very important knowledge to deal and work with him effectively.
So there are people who have 10 hours a day to waste, and would not mind wasting it. And they cannot understand why there are some people who would scream at a few minutes wastage ( the same way a person who have thousands of dollars to waste cannot understand why there are people who would risk jail for a few dollars) .... After all, when you are in dire need of money, every cent counts.... So if you are in dire need of time, every minute counts too.
I read that Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, and Bill Gates, chariman of Microsoft, have on several ocassions said harsh things also when they feel they were being made to waste time. These, my friend, are people who are dollar rich, but time poor. And because they have less of it, they value it more.
So next time you meet somebody - do a mental check by yourself - How much time does he have, how much money does he have, and how much is the conversion rate --- His willingness to spend time to save money, or vice versa?
Then of course, there are also people who have plenty of both, and don't mind wasting both, but then that's another story .... after all, we are talking here about winning ...
In closing, I leave you a quote ( I don't remember who said it), "Value time! Because that is what life is made of! ". Maybe even after what Ben Franklin said, I can consider myself successful when I can afford to waste a little bit of money and not complain. But nobody can ever say that they have reached a stage where they can afford to waste time!
How about you?5:33:14 PM comment  trackback 
|Monday, November 22, 2004|
Focus on Things that Lasts ( in life)
This is the ruins of St. Paul Church taken in Macau China. As you may have noted, only the facade remains ( this new facade was reconstructed in 1990.)
According to our tour guide, the church was constructed in 1602, a massive basilica with three naves. Unfortunately, in 1835, a fire destroyed the building which was mostly in wood, except for a small part of the facade which was made of stone.
Which brings us to the interesting question in business and in life -- I am sure that in constructing this church there were thousands of business and life decisions to be made here and there. Yet the only decision that makes a difference now is only one --- the decision to use a strong and durable material, stone, to make the facade.http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y287/wilsonng/stpaulruins.jpg
We make hundreds of decisions, in life and inbusiness, mostly which concerns us today, and over the next week. Maybe it is time to think -- will our worries and our decisions now matter ten or twenty years from now? Should we not be worrying about making decisions that matter over a longer period. Are we overly too worried of short term and failing to build something that last?
According to Dr Edward Banfield of Harvard University, after more than 50 years of research, long term perspective is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America. It is more important than family background, education, race, intelligence, connections in determining your success in life and at work.
Do you take a long term view? Are you putting time on thinking of what kind of impact you are going to focus on now that will make a difference, and will matter in 10 or 20 years?
Or do you spend almost 100 percent of the time on short term concerns and problems?
9:10:38 PM comment  trackback 
|Saturday, November 20, 2004|
What Good is an MBA? ( on business)
After I finish the MBA, so what? Is it the end of the road? Or the beginning?
I have a wealth of notes, readings, observations during the MBA days which have been very fruitful that I will want to share. But since I started blogging at about the same time I finished the program, I will start sharing it more and more in the coming months.
First, I visit the question which I think is of relevance to those that have finished the program, or those that are still contemplating to start. What good is an MBA degree?
I had different thoughts about it twelve years ago when I was yearning to get one. I had different thoughts on it almost three years ago when I started the program, and I now have different thoughts on it now that I have finished. I don't know if my thinking is more relevant to what you want to know, but I am sure I will be more credible and authoritative to sound it off now that I am done with it. So I am now speaking from first hand experience rather than wishful think. To sidetrack slightly, it is always good to remember credibility is very important when you are doing business and in all aspects of life.
I have seen many people who think they have had it made when they graduate. It is as if their days of cultivation is over, and they are now in harvest mode. In fact, in most parts of Asia, the responsibility of the parent is UPTO when the child graduates from college or university. After that, you are supposed to be MADE and can be on your own. That is so far from the truth. A new degree signals a new beginning, with emphasis on beginning. The hard work is not over -- it will just be in a different form. In fact, just like marriage, the romance ( and the challenge) should just be beginning, not ending.
Many people get a degree, especially an MBA for career employment and promotion. They don't usually think so, but act as if when they get the degree, their career is made. This wrong notion will not do damage, but it will hamper the person IF he thinks that getting a degree is more important than learning the skills that the degree represents.
Which essentially brings me to what I really want to say:
Your degree will open a door, but how far you walked into the door ( which defines your accomplishment and success) will still depend on what you have inside - your skills , your creativity, your motivation, your initiative etc.
It will open doors in the sense that when you send your CV, people will pick you out easily from other ten applicants who may not have an MBA. It will open doors in the sense that the manager may be willing to give you five minutes more interview or ten minutes more time to present your case. But you get that job still because of what you were able to do, or accomplished -- in this case how far you can walk into a door that has been opened.
By and itself, it is not worth much, except when new. But if after ten or twenty years of work, if your work does not speak for itself, and all you can still boast about is that MBA you got so many years ago, then it may just highlight an expectation that you were not able to fulfill. Your MBA opening doors from you should mean that in the next 10 years of your work, you are expected to walk farther into the door than if you have not gotten one. That would be the true measure of your degree. In short, the value is not how high or far it places you initially, but how far it enables you to move forward.
This is just one aspect. I wanted the blog to be short, in byte size pieces. But you will continue to read more on various aspects on technology and business here.4:16:26 PM comment  trackback 
|Wednesday, November 17, 2004|
Uncomplicating Our Lives ( on life )
" This, " my wife (holding the bar of soap) told me after I took my bath, "is not for washing the body. It is for washing the hair."
"'that's cool. " I reacted. And immediately the businessman in me started thinking...
Why is shampoo almost always in liquid form? Is it because it has always been that way? Isn't it much more advantageous and easier to use and even carry if it is in solid form?
But then I remembered something also that Albert Einstein said, " Using two kinds of soap to wash the body just complicates my life too much!"
This quote from the great thinker who have grappled with the most complex things in the universe, and in a way he has a point. He is great not because he was a genius, but because he knew where to focus his genius -- in things that would make a difference.
We strive too much to complicate our lives. Ditto with computers. But I am willing to bet that the most progress ( and the most money) in technology will be made when it makes our lives simpler ( and will just work in the background without us knowing it).
But then technology can still do only so much. It will not make our lives simpler if we ourselves choose to complicate it. Don't you agree?
At the risk of sounding unsophisticated, I now happily put this bar into my travel bag. I now have one less thing to carry. It is great for washing the hair AND the body. In some ways, I will strive also to grapple with some complexities in technology, business and life, and hopefully you will read it here in simple prose -- after all , in the quest for happiness, isn't it plain that we need to uncomplicate our lives?9:37:02 AM comment  trackback 
|Tuesday, November 16, 2004|
Innovation in China for mobile Phones ( on tech)
I presented a week back some business observations in China. I noticed one of my friends carrying this Haier P5 phone, and could not resist.
Haier is one of China's best known brands, and has been able to penetrate worldwide markets especially in home appliances and refrigerators.
Personally, I have no connections with the company, but think that this mobile design is quite cool. The handset comes with a removable clip that allows one to fix the phone to, say, a breast pocket of your shirt.
It can also act as a laser pointer, and can be used also for voice recording for upto 15 minutes.
A more detailed product review can also be found here.
China has always been known for manufacturing low priced products which has been credited for keeping inflation low worldwide. Hopefully in the next few years, you will also see innovation coming out from the country as well as it strives to earn its place among nations. Continued innovation will allow us to benefit, and to enjoy the best that technoloogy has to offer.
11:49:45 AM comment  trackback 
|Saturday, November 13, 2004|
Two Certificates of Accomplishment (on life)
This week, I received 2 certificates.
One was from the City University of Hong Kong, where I recently finished my MBA program.
I had planned to get an MBA much earlier, but 3 years after undergrad, my father passed away, and being eldest and Asian, I was expected to takeover the family business. That had kept me busy the next 15 years, before I finally resolved to get one before I hit 40 which I happily did.
I started the program with 15 years of business experience, much higher than average, and maybe because of it, I also learned more. IN fact, just like an experienced musician would be able to decipher and understand more listening to a piece of music compared to the untrained ear, or an accomplished chess player can work out dozens of combination moves on a chess setting compared to a novice player, I was able to benefit better because of the years of experience compared to my classmates. So it is never too late to get an MBA -- as long as you keep an open mind, and be flexible to make sure you are still able to change if need be. So the credo should be, "never stop learning, and never cease to change as you learn." There is inherently no use in learning if you cannot change.
The other certificate is from my 10 year old son. I would like to think that this week, not only on my learned scholar objective, but also on my good father objective, I have made inroads. I am proud of his creativity ( even if it is just coming from a biased father). That he had made me a congratulatory certificate hopefully points that notwithstanding a lot of time in the business, I have been there as a father, nurturing his growth, encouraging his creativity, and helping him to become a better person in the future.
2:47:30 PM comment  trackback 
|Thursday, November 11, 2004|
More Business Laughs ( on Jokes)
I like jokes, and believes humor is an essential part in successful business conversations. Thus, I am making sure that while this is a business blog, we don't forget the fun part. I am posting some of the most recent business jokes I got, but at the risk of turning my blog into a humor corner, I am posting only some in the main page. For more jokes, click on My Favorite Jokes.
First, here's a joke that is actually food for thought.
The pig complained to the cow saying, " I know you give milk, leather, and beef, but I give pork, pigskin, and even my bristles are used for brushes. Why are you loved so much more?"
" Maybe, " the cow said sweetly, " its because I give while I'm still alive."
Now that you've made it to the top, what's the best thing about it?" Asked the VP.
After a thoughtpul pause, the new CEO replied, " These days, when I bore people, they think its their fault, not mine. "
The manager has been fussy all the day, and he turned furiously on his hapless secretary, and snarled. " where the hell's my pen?"
"why, behind your ear, Mr. Peters, " she stammered.
"Golddamit Blenda, you know how busy I am, " he howled back. " Which ear?"
A company received a large order from a customer, and wrote a letter, " Sir, we are sorry we cannot fill your order until full payment is made on the last one. "
Next day they got a reply, " WE are sorry to cancel the new order. WE cannot wait that long ... "
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|Monday, November 08, 2004|
Buying a Reputation ( on business)
There are very few things that can give you sustainable competitive advantage. Not price, not location, not expertise, and certainly not legislation. But reputation is one.
When all else is lost, reputation stays. A business needs to care about its reputation. Actually, all of us, whether employer or employed should also care about our reputation too.
I read about this story over 20 years ago, and since I'm currently in China, I'd like to retell this. This old chinese story happened over a thousand years ago, but its lessons are as relevant today.
"There was this old rich official who owned hugh tracts of land. He asked his assistant to go collect the rent, and then buy him something that he still did not have. What do you give a person who has everything?
The assistant went to visit the farmers, and then proceeded to burn the collection receipts. The old official was flabbergasted, and told the assistant that he absolutely was reckless.
A month after the official went to visit his land. He was greeted by huge cheers of the farmers in gratitude for his kind consideration to waive that years rent.
He then understood what the assistant meant. He had everything but the reputation and goodwill of his tenants. For him who had everything, he lacked 'a good name. '
It would have been great if reputation can simply be bought. Sometimes, it can. But the reason it is so valuable because it requires time, dedication and sacrifice to develop a reputation for trust and reliability. However, once developed, it can give back many times over. The Chinese have a saying, "The tiger will leave its skin, but for people, the only thing you will leave when you are dead is your good name."
What have you done to enhance your reputation lately?
|Sunday, November 07, 2004|
Business Observations in China ( tidbits)
I travel to China a few times a year. The country is rapidly developing, and sometimes, the change is amazing. It never cease to surprise in its evolution and innovation.
This is a simple idea, yet I have not seen it in many places. Put huge beach umbrellas in parking lots, and then open it when there is rain or hot weather.
The umbrellas protect the car from heat, and it also allows an occupant to disembark from the car without getting wet during rainy days. In good weather, or when there are special ocassions , you can either close it, and or even disengage it to give you wide open space.
China is still developing and in many areas can still be known as not practicing proper safety procedures. This time, in both hotels I stayed, I noticed that inside the cabinet, they are now providing free face masks for fire emergencies. This must have been triggered by some unfortunate accidents, but this is commendable, and probably a step up over many developed countries.
Most people who perished in fires do so through smoke poisoning, and putting face masks in high rise hotels could save some lives in the event of an emergency.
Hopefully, every country and city should explore this option to see how it can always make our buildings and our lives safer.7:33:02 AM comment  trackback 
|Saturday, November 06, 2004|
Which Tator Are you? ( on life)
There are many many variations on understanding what kind of person or manager you are. I was looking at some sites, and came across this. I modified and added to this a little. Its a fun way to understand yourself.
-Some people do not want to participate in life, but just content to watch while others do the work. They are the Spectators.
-Some people never do anything to help, but just want to find fault, and talk about things. They are the Commentators.
-Some people are looking to cause problems. Everything is always a problem, and the soup is always too hot or too cold, too sweet or too sour. They are the Agitators.
-Some people always have plans but somehow never get around to doing it. They are the Hesitators.
- Some people spend their lives wanting to be somebody else, and pretending to be not what they are. They are the Imitators.
- Some people spend their lives trying to run other people's lives. They are the Dictators.
- Some people want to become what they want to be, and to help other people become what they want to be. They are the facilitators.
I'd like to be the last. Which one would you want to be?3:59:07 PM comment  trackback 
|Wednesday, November 03, 2004|
Its All about Perspective ( on life)
One of my favorite quotes was something I heard ten or so years ago, and all these years it has been with me. It goes, "All generalizations are wrong, including this one. " Indeed, life is so interesting, and is never simple, and even in the management, there is always no one theory fits all. Beware of books or authors that says otherwise.... In short, you have the right to question whatever I write here too.
I have had over a dozen comments on my post " when feeling good overcomes being good" ( you might want to read this first if you háven't) , some of them in private emails, and some in various forums. While many have been encouraging, I have had some comments that I was being too hard, especially on the children.
I understand. For every situation where people became better because you have been tough, there will be a situation to cite where people grew because you have been encouraging and patient. So there is really no right or wrong, except on what works on specific circumstances. My favorite answer in my MBA class was, in three words, "it all depends", and I got always high grades for it. Of course, I had to defend what I usually meant, too.
Its all about your frame of experience, and the perspective at which you are looking at. And talking about perspective, a person can only manage his life and his business well if he has the ability to understand different perspectives, and evaluate it accordingly.
Curiously, most of the comments come from the United States, and while they defend the way they treat their children by giving unconditional love, they have been mum on being tough on the workplace. In some way, the American way of doing business espouses fending for your own, earning your keep, and that generally engenders the understanding of the manager to be tough on workers standards. As opposed to communism which espouses the equitable sharing irregardless of contribution, Uncompromising standards continues to make the US economy the envy of the world. However, a very logical manager who understand this fails miserably in the house when they cease to be logical, and become emotional.
Yes, we should give unconditional love ( and loads of pocket money ) to our children even if they don't earn it. But it is well that they understand we will be the only people doing it, and the world is not going to be kind to them like we parents are, and our unconditional love and money alone is not going to be enough for them to live a happy fulfilled life.
One of the great things I am thankful about was that I grew and live in difficult circumstances, in a country amidst much poverty. Here you see children who do not know where their next meal is going to come from. On the other hand, you see rich kids who when they get together comment on what shabby treatment they get at this or that five star hotel, and how their steaks were overcooked. Their definition of a traumatic experience is being stucked in traffic for 2 hours, or being held up in an airport for four hours. Understanding that people come from different backgrounds is key.
Its all about perspective. But I still would like to reiterate on what I write which I believe is a good principle to follow in MOST circumstances -- to our children and to our employees, the more we love them, the more we should help them understand perspective and be uncompromising in helping them become better. If there is one thing we should develop in them, it should be their talent, and their BACKBONE.9:35:46 AM comment  trackback