Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reflections on Work and Life and Girls Soccer

I read recently a list of the 10 Best New Year's resolutions you can make. One of them resonated with me pretty well. "Resolve to take control of your destiny. Don't be so busy trying to make a living that you forget to make a life." This has been an ongoing effort as work and career can be very consuming. Being the father of four children also provides another perspective.

My last year in the corporate world had me away from home about 100 days per year. Since I have been consulting and now that I mostly work remotely, I have a certain amount of flexibility. My 21 year old daughter Deanna called yesterday to tell me that she was playing an "Alumni Game" with her High school Soccer Team. I had about two hours notice and was able to drop things and go (it did mean spending Saturday morning working on the Friday afternoon to do list).

It was great seeing her play soccer again. I have been to about 1000 soccer games in my life although it has been almost four years since she graduated high school where she last played soccer. Many of her high school team mates also came back for the Alumni game. One of her friends has played soccer at Yale the last four years. The Alumni, many who were not able to run as fast as they used to, actually won over the varsity girls who practiced daily as a team showing that age and experience sometimes provide that critical competitive advantage.

The images of Deanna on the soccer field will last much longer than the report that got done on a Saturday instead of a Friday as originally planned. I can't say that I totally control my destiny, but I am working at it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Return of the Jackson Five

Christmas gift giving is always interesting for me as I have four kids. As two of them are in high school and two of them are in college, they have limited resources and lots of needs - cell phones, mp3 players, snow boards, car tires (I'm serious about this one!) etc. I try to be focused on what I give them and more and more, I am appreciating the utility of cash. I always appreciated it but giving cash is something I have warmed up to.

One of the games that I play holiday time is to guess the contents of a wrapped package by shaking and squeezing them. I have actually gotten pretty good at this (sometimes even making a lucky guess as to the color of a shirt inside a wrapped box) and I have encouraged my kids to play along. Note that not everyone likes this game. My daughter, Mary was opening up a package and I encouraged her to guess. She said a CD as it was clearly a jewel case. I said, which one? After a quick pause, I said the Jackson Five. Everyone looked at me with puzzled looks until she removed the wrapping revealing five clipped images of Andrew Jackson on $20 bills.

She was delighted with the gift and who knows, perhaps this Jackson Five may come back into popularity among teenagers....

Friday, December 23, 2005

Get the Sickness

OK, you may wonder what the significance of the name of my Blog is. If you haven't figured it out or know me personally, it is related to my last name - which is Sick. An unusual name I must admit, but you have to agree that it is somewhat memorable. That's a hallmark of a good brand and to some degree each of us is a brand.

What is the essence of the Sickness brand you may ask? Quite simple. Basically I am an optimist and I wake up each day believing that I can get better. I apply this philosophy to everything I do. To my kids, my health and the businesses of my clients. I had a call recently from a client who told me that his business in 2005 will end up about four times the size of his business two yeas earlier.

Plan to get the sickness in 2006!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rush Hour Traffic

Sitting in traffic at rush hour does strange things to the brain. It makes you think about the alternatives. Does anyone really like to spend 4-8 hours a week commuting to work? How much money is spent on fuel to commute? How about the impact of depreciating your car quicker because of the added mileage. And then think about how much time that it takes away from spending time with the family and doing the things that you really want to do.

In the future, I see an opportunity for real estate developers to create "executive suites" for the rank & file. What if they built office buildings close to where people live and you could go to work in a "local" office 2-4 days a week and only have to commute into a central location one or two days? This could work if these "suites" were fully configured with the latest in technology, with complete desktop videoconferencing and couriers that went from location to location through the day transferring mails, supplies, documents, etc. Many people spend a good part of their work day at their desks, doing emails, working on documents & files, talking on the phone. Why do they need to drive 30-60 minutes to copy someone in the next office on an email.

Look at the economics of this. We would use less imported oil and cars and we would use more technology. Workers go to an office everyday in their neighborhood and work near their neighbors - not necessarily people working for the same company. How many people would accept a paycut or at least accept slower income growth if they could save more than that in commuting costs? Think about job retention as well. Are you going to change jobs to an employer that makes you incur the time and expensive of commuting after you have been in a neighborhood office suite? You would need a big raise to justify it.

It will happen. The time is ripe.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Microsoft vs. Google

This blog is about competitive strategy and here's a recent example of what could be and interesting approach to competing in the market place. From a recent experience I had, it looks like Microsoft is attacking Google. All of a sudden, Internet Explorer began malfunctioning and a message indicating a run time error popped up. Internet Explorer not working was a problem for browsing. I went into AOL and started searching for a solution. Voila, I found other users, actually quite a few, who solved this problem by deleting the Google Toolbar. An innocent software conflict or an insidious plot to denigrate Google? Brands are built brick by brick with everyday exposures which serve to reinforce the brand attributes. Does Microsoft have a skunk works whose mission is dirty tricks which diminish competitive brands?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

50 is the new 30

I read that somewhere and I can embrace that given the fact that I am 51. I do like to tell people that anything I could do at 30, I can do better at 50 with the exception of one thing. After a few nervous minutes or some blushing and giggling, I would tell them that the one thing is comb my hair. You see, I have a bit less of it today than I did when I was 30. On the other hand, someone may come up with a miracle spray that I can spray on one time and the hair is magically regenerated.

Here's a picture of me taken over Thanksgiving. With me is my sister Sandra on the left and a friend, Andrea on the right.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lessons in Leadership

NOT!. I read an article in the November 4th issue of the Wall Street Journal about how the Emir of Kuwait remains in power. First you put 96% of working Kuwati's on the government payroll. Then you establish a government which subsidizes just about every aspect of daily life. The article tells about a woman who retired from her three hour per day government job after 15 years and was able to collect a pension of 95%. That same government sent her a congratulatory check for $250,000 on her 10th wedding anniversary.

This scenario is not likely to play out in too many parts of the world but you can be assured that no real competitive advantages or innovations will be coming out of a society like this anytime soon.