Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Hey, I heard your radio ad"

We just launched a month of radio advertising here in Vancouver. Let me know what you think of the ads.

Chime in on our Facebook page and tell me your favorite from these two (or any other comments).

Our goal is to let customers know how easy it can be to order all your office and breakroom supplies from one site, and save the stress and aggravation of running out or "running out".


Friday, October 21, 2011

Verne Harnish

Yesterday Nabil, Shawn and I were in Victoria to meet one of my business heroes, Verne Harnish. 

Verne is one of the founders of EO - a global network of 8000 business owners in 38 countries. I've been a member for 11 years and this is the first time I've been able to see Verne live.

The three of us spent a few days in Victoria on other business, and a full day with Verne courtesy of my friends in the EO Victoria chapter. We have used many of Verne's ideas over the years and read his books, so it was great to see him in action and to expose my two top VP's at the same time.

The day was a fire hose of ideas, concepts, best case stories, lots of book recommendations and exercises. With over 100 entrepreneurs and top level people in the room, ideas were flowing fast. A highlight for me was addressing the room about how we offer free breakfast, lunch and dinner to our staff - something Verne picked up in an earlier conversation we were having together and called me out to share the success we have had with the added benefit.
Last night we came in late from Victoria and I am in Richmond this morning to see Verne - again.

Nurse Next Door

I was given a special invite by my uber successful friends Ken Sim and John DeHeart, the founders of Nurse Next Door, to sit in on their Franchise Summit today. Our warehouse, purchasing and call center managers came with me so they too could be exposed to the ideas and concepts Verne teaches. Within the last 48 hours we have aligned our management team to row in unison. Something you can never be doing enough of in business.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs death really hit me. Much more than I thought it would.

When you think of mentors, I used to think of someone I had a personal relationship with and we sit down every month to discuss the business at hand.
I have and have had several mentors - but what about a mentor you have never met? Living or dead? Someone you can look up to and when decisions are hard to make and you could say “ what would so and so do?”

In my eyes, I see Steve Jobs as one of my mentors. Thanks Steve for inspiring me to be great, to stay hungry and stay foolish.

If you have not seen Steve Job’s 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford please be inspired and watch what is considered the best commencement speechs ever given and reflections on life.

If you would like to read the speech, here you go:

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ohhh Nooooo MR. BILL!

I changed my title years ago to Chief Energizing Officer and personally I make a concious effort to add a bit of joy and laughter to at least a few people I work with every day. My thoughts on how you build a strong company culture is to make every day have a little bit of fun in it when you come to work.  My theory is that if I set the tone, others will follow.

At Costless you'll see theme days, celebration, lots of crazy hats, decorations and cool little toys on peoples desks. Most of these things are gifts staff give each other in an effort to bring a bit of fun and happiness into the office. So when I saw this MR BILL doll - I had to surprise Bill in accounting.

Glad to see MR BILL made Mr. Bill smile.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Have The Power to Make Me Happy!

Posted in my office is this saying:

Let me tell you the story where I saw this saying.

I was picking up some supplies at a local pharmacy near my house one day and saw this sign posted next to the check out till. It was located in the Peoples Pharmacy (12005 - 208B Street, in Maple Ridge BC) and Sayed Atthari is the manager of the store.
Every time I have entered Sayed's store I'm treated with a great big smile and he has a way of making me and all his customers feel special - just like a friend. Old fashioned hospitality is how I can best describe it. He is just a truly happy guy.
While paying for my purchase I commented on the sign and how I could really relate. Sayed did something next that blew me away - he reached below the counter and pulled out a printed copy of the saying and handed it to me. He said he gets comments on the sign all the time so he decided to make copies and "spread the good words".
Thank you Sayed, I read that saying now almost every day and have spread copies to many other people I know. Your small sign has made a huge positive ripple in the world.