We’ve lost our way…

I read with despair an analysis by a leading research house, advising institutional investors, CEO’s and small share holders alike..

However XXXX company continues to highlight its desire to expand into [MARKET]  which we view as maintaining an elevated level of risk and we would prefer to return its excess capital to shareholders.

So basically don’t invest in the companies future, don’t build new stuff, don’t get into new markets, don’t grow, instead give back to your shareholders…

This focus on shareholders return is killing our companies. CEOs have gotten the message: The point of running a company was to keep the share price high ..and apparently the analysts happy.

CEOs and their top managers have massive incentives to focus most of their attentions on the expectations market, rather than the real job of running the company producing real products and services.

But its not sustainable. This is the type of thinking that sees the demise of once great companies like Kodak and Sony and the perversion of business practice like share buy backs or worse, corrupt practices

I agree that share holders should be repaid. But not at the expense of the corporation itself.

sadly, … the buybacks are simply a waste of money …. and ultimately come at the cost of growth and innovation.

And that’s the greatest cost of this short sighted version of capitalism that has taken hold.  Growth and Innovation.  Peter Druckers, was on the right track with his maxim

“the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

And he’s not alone, Inamori from Kyocera is actively resisting this new capitalism… lets hope more do

Crossing lines

When I was a post grad, they had to cancel the ethics in marketing class, the reason – not enough interest in the class. We were a high performing group. We also knew right from wrong.  The integrity of that class was never in question.

Today I see a business world where the results seem to matter more than how you get them. Netflix is supporting its net neurtrality agenda by contriving situations to make to highlight the issue.  Uber has a littany of ethical issues. Big oil, big sugar, big drug… all of them have lost their way. It’s all way to short term.  [disclosure:I love Uber and Netflix services, I question their ethics]

This isn’t what gets me passionate about business.  I want to see more companies Building long term innovations that make a difference to world.  That leave it in a better place, that know how you get results is just as important as the result.


take control of yourself

I was driving home on Monday and was in a road that merged two lanes. Most folks were doing the ‘merge like a zip’ thing, one car didn’t. The guy in the car that got cut out went crazy. Classic road rage. Both drivers totally out of control mentally. Essentially adults behaving like kids.

Seeing this reminded me that the only thing we can really control is ourselves, how we respond to adversity or to the actions of others. Blaming other parts of the business ( “those IT guys”), or the project team or any other part of the busines just escalates the problem. I’m seeing it in, and around other parts of business. I’m also seeing how little progress they are making.  You just end up in stand off of blame, and no one wins.

Recognise whats going on, take control of yourself and your teams and start getting better outcomes

recognising change

Last weekend me and my 2 eldest kids were at the beach boogie boarding.  As the surf was up, I was out in the water with them and helping them catch the waves, everyone was having a great time.   We were swimming between the flags and there were 3 lifeguards on duty. All safe and doing what we should.

Because I had the two kids I was taking turns taking them into the breakers.  At one stage I had my son out in the breakers, I looked to see where my daughter was after her last ride.  I noticed that she’d drifted quite a bit along the shore, so I yelled out for her to come closer, kids being kids, they lose track of where they are and I didn’t think much of it. Then I turned my attention back to the waves, watching for the next big set for my son.  But instead of seeing regular lines of waves, the water was all churned up. Something was wrong, big time.

I turned back to see where my daughter was, and this time I really looked, while in the shallows and genuinely trying to get to me, she was even further away from me. My alarm bells went off.  Right then my son and I plus a 10 year old girl swimming close by got caught in the same rip.  The speed and the power was quite something.  My son and the girl swimming close by hadn’t recognise it for what it was.  I looked at the lifeguards, they hadn’t seen it.

So in that moment I had 3 kids to look after, and it was just me.  So I yelled to my daughter to quit trying to get to me, and get to shore.  She already knew something was up, and my tone of voice confirmed that it was serious. So she changed tack, got her feet down and got to safety.   I had hold of my son,  who was still goofing around, but tied to a floating boogie board.  That meant the girl was in the most danger, she was just swimming, and about now knew she was in trouble. She was getting further away from us and despite her efforts couldn’t close the gap. She began to panic. It was time for drastic action.  So I got my son on top of his boogie board and told him if he let go of it, he would never use an iPad again.   Now he knew it was serious. Then I let go of him and made my way to the girl. Grabbed her, and pulled her toward my son,  grabbed him and then pulled them both into shore.  Crisis averted.  For most people, including the lifeguards, it was a crisis that never was.  They simply hadn’t recognised it.  The people who should have seen it were wondering ‘what happened’.

This story highlights that things change, rapidly.  It’s all of our job to see changes in the market or in our customers and make us all aware of what is happening. Recognising the change for what it is, is the critical part. After that It’s how we react that makes all the difference.    Deciding if this is this a real and present threat or a one off – and then make good choices about how we respond, through good account management,  product offers, price changes, how we deliver our services or how we manage them.  This is the bit we can control….

[PS. After the incident, the girl came up and hugged me, a complete stranger.  That moment was pretty special ]

Pivot Points

The moments in any strategy or deal when the landscape changes… all your planning and assumptions up to that point have been made redundant.

Be it the financial plan you have for your year or business.  When avenues have been explored, discounted or validated.  Or the deal you signed, only for the end customer to change its requirements mid way through implementation.

Recognising those moments is critical.  In my experience high performing teams and people always get the job done, they just find a way.  A singularity of focus and a committment to the getting the outcome is what gets them there….but (and its a big but), we often miss these pivot points because we aren’t looking for them. Instead we are narrowly focused on the one goal.

Being more mindful, rising above the noise, getting off the dancefloor. What ever you call it.  Leaders need to be able to IDENTIFY these pivot points and guide the conversation away from hell bent delivery, to another round of evaluation, options and decisions…

Word vs Actions

Gabrielle Dolan did a session on story telling in the corporate environment.  One of her examples that resonated the most was the story about people following the leaders example.

Andrew Thorburn – CEO of NAB – tells this story.  ”

He was teaching his teenage son how to drive a car.  At one point in this journey, his son flicked on the indicator and then immediately changed lanes.  At that point, Andrew said to his son… “mate, the purpose of the indicator is to give cars warning that you are about to turn or change lanes, you need to have some time between putting the indicator on and making the turn”… Andrew’s son, turn around to him and said ” but dad, I just did what you do”…

This story highlights strongly how the WORDS and ACTIONS need to be the same”.

This is incredably true of leaders.  If you are saying “we want to innovate”, but don’t allocate any resources you aren’t aligned, if you say to your staff “take some risks”, but you punish them for failure  you are not aligned…. there is a jarring juxtaposition that your staff will know and respond accordingly toward…

If you are saying we value our people and you invest in culture, training and development, then you are aligned. If you say that underpeformance won’t be tolerated and you deal with it, you are aligned.

One of these positions is powerful, it’s clear and consistent, it brings your staff with you as you go at hard tasks.

So, are your words and actions aligned?


make play

No job is perfect, there are always tasks which just have to be done…

Be they the drudgery of repetition, the unpleasent customer or staff siutation, the stress of mutliple demands or uncomfortable because its outside your skill set.  We can choose, procrastinate… or battle through… or to try and make a game of it. Try to have fun by setting little goals or competitions.  Watch kids, they are masters of this.

The hope is that by playing, and having a bit of fun. The non-perfect becomes more enjoyable. And hopefully i’ll get more productive on the way through.

So goal number three – make games of the unpleasent tasks.


Over summer, If spent a lot of time running around with the kids on playgrounds and luckily beaches, and I noticed that every time a new adventure, experience or game came up they smiled….

Then I looked at the parents, some were buried in their phones, some were observing and finally some where involed.  They smiled back, the kids knew that their parents got it then, and they smiled more….

I started to notice my own smiling, when i did it…and even more when i wasn’t and i came to the realisation that I don’t smile that often…but when I did I felt better, lighter…less serious, the world was less serious….other people smiled back, the kids loved it….

So goal number 2 this year…smile.

This will be another big year, with a lot of challenges.  For me, smiling more will help me get through that….

…i’m too busy

My wife and I say this to much…

we could, but we’re too busy… we are just too busy to do that….

Yes we have a hectic, at time  chaotic life.  But now this mindset isn’t just holding us back, its beginning to affect our kids, we are making choices from a too busy mindset and they are missing out….

So, goal number one this year.  Manufacture time.

“we are never too busy” is now on our non-negotiable list. Sure we’ll have to make choices, but this isn’t an excuse anymore.


Here’s to the bat crazy

I’m a big believer in constantly stretching myself. I seek out projects to do that, I read stuff about those who I admire, and I try to meet up with others who have been successul.

I’m inspired by folks like Richard Branson, Greg Cross (powerbyproxi), Ben Kepes, Vaughan Rowsell.  All successful, but all doing much much more, be it doing their best to change the world, supporting sports, doing impossible challenges or taking the path less trodden.

Now a confession, for a while now i’ve been talking about how much i’d like to do startup…by a while it might be more like 5 or so years. I don ‘t even write it down when I do my annual career planning, choosing instead to keep it a bit of a secrete.  Around this time of the year I beat myself up a bit and tell myself maybe next year.

Added to that are post by Ben, Rowan Simpson and others about what they are actually doing in the start up / investment space… I got a bit down on myself

So the truth is I’m a wisher…”i wish i could do a start up”. Read Ken Robinson’s book the element, in that he tells a story about how as a kid he said to a guy “man i wish i could play the guitar like you”… to which the guitarist said ” no you don’t, because if you REALLY did, you would practice every day, you are just saying that”…

I’m a 40 something, with 3 kids and a mortgage. I may never do the start up, as Mark Suster says its harder when you are in that demographic,  but i’m coming to terms with it.

On the other hand, at sub 21 you have the ability to swing for the fences…..  When you’re 40, have 3 kids and a mortgage this is much harder.

Lately though i’ve realised that my path might be a differfent one.  My partner and I are on our 5th business (seems a mad number), over which I think we’ve employeed around 100 people over the years.  Three times! Yes THREE times we’ve bought these businesses when our children were weeks old – not recommended unless you are clinically insane. Added to that iv’e done one small investment with Appsecute, started and ran a martial arts club and ….managed to work full time through it all.

I think this list is more conservative than some of the other folks i’ve listed, maybe less so because of them…. for without these guys leading and showing us the way, we dont reach higher.

So here’s to the bat crazy.