Monday, November 28, 2011

Dinner with Malcolm Gladwell, how could I refuse?

Tonight was a chance to attend a very small event at the Vancouver Club with the Bon Mot Book Club.
Malcolm Gladwell poses a provocative question: Why do some people succeed,living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reachtheir full potential?
The night was a gathering of about 20 EO members and started with a cocktail reception before we moved to a beautiful room with a majestic and massive old wood table where Malcolm sat at the head of the table, silhouetted by the grand fireplace burning behind him.
The setting was very informal, and moved along with a series of Q&A style dialogue. Malcolm was generous with his answers and insight into a host of different topics. I was impressed at "hearing" how complex his mind thinks aboutwhat can seem to be trivial topics.
One topic was on overcrowding in class rooms and the effect on education. He argued teachers should be paid like any other professional based on the quality of their product, in this case how well their students learned and were engaged. "If we added more teachers and lowered the amount of children per classroom, we are only allowing more teachers who are on the bottom of thebarrel into the system. Do you want your child to be in a smaller classroom with a bad teacher or being taught by a great teacher and forget about the size of the class?"
To our amazement, Malcolm began talking about his yet-to-be-published next book. It was so interesting to hear that he has some of the ideas and chapters fleshed out, but the remainder of the book has yet to appear for him. He is living in LA and doing research and waiting for the results to appear.
If you are not familiar with Malcolm Gladwell's work - have a look here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Steve Jobs' Biography

Whew, just finished 627 pages of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.
I couldn't put it down. From how chance and strategic decicions set history for how the Macintosh was created, to Pixar, to the iPhone, to creating the most valuable company on the planet - it was all quite an amazing story. Sadly, it seems Steve Jobs possibly set other decisions in place that may have cost him his early death.
Here are some challenging questions I am working on right now based off the work books.
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How many priorities are you working on right now? List them. Next, starting with the least important
priorities, start crossing them off until you only have 2 or 3 left. Are your best people (or all of your
effort) on those 2 or 3?
Ignore Reality:
What goals have you set for yourself based on “reality”? What might those goals look like if you suspended your understanding of “what’s possible”? As Jobs knew well, creativity shines when you try to do the “impossible”. Set unrealistic goals, and then try and find ways (different ways) to accomplish them. You can always fall back on the “realistic” goal if it doesn’t work out.
List 5 industries besides your own where you could get inspiration from. Now, go looking for what makes people in those other industries successful. How can that apply to your business?
Map out your entire customer experience chain. Then, on either end, map out the things your customer does right before and right after they use your product or service. Have you done everything you can to make sure that the experience (including things not currently in your control) is a great one?
This book is well worth the investment in your time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visiting 1-800 GOT JUNK

Today I went for a tour at 1-800 GOT JUNK.

Brian Scudamore has been a member of EO for many years and, like most of Vancouver's business community, we have watched his company blossom.

Today was a peek behind the curtain on how Brian runs his business, with a chance to hear and see confidential information on sales, service and profit numbers. Even Jon Wolske, the Lead Culture Evangelist from Zappos, flew up for the tour.

The 1-800 offices were decorated in WOW fashion. I definitely going to use the "Can you imagine?" wall idea, and the Wall Of Wow.


Thanks Brian for the tour!!!


Friday, November 11, 2011


Today I'm in Seattle for an MBA style Finance course held on the edge of the University of Washington.

As an entrepreneur my strengths have been Sales and Marketing, so a goal I set for myself was to strengthen my finance background. I now have 3 companies in two countries, and the finance side gets more complex each year.

While in Seattle I wanted to visit a good friend of mine, Robin Ross, Senior Director, Corporate Marketing Costco Wholesale.

Robin was kind enough to give a tour of the Costco campus in Issaquah, Washington.

The highlight for me was swinging by the desk of Jim Sinegal, the co-founder and CEO of Costco Wholesale. A real mentor and driving force for me in how I shape my business.

Of course, I was star struck and didn't get a picture. Jim's office and style are well known in corporate America. He answers his own phone, has a no door policy and only gets paid $350k per year to run a $83 billion dollar monster of a company.

I did get a picture of Jim's favorite saying, "You've got to take the shit with the sugar"


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Memphis Day 4

A trip to a new city wouldn't be complete without checking out the sights.
Gotta do the best BBQ! Rendezvous BBQ!  (See in their website how it is full of FedEx pictures)

Gotta check out some of the best Blues in the world on Beale Street.

And some bars you just want to walk by...

Gotta check out the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel 

Funny story here it that our group had the very rare honor of assisting in escorting the ducks up the elevator. Our buddy Mike did the honors and for the first time in 20 years two of the ducks escaped! Watch it happen here.

YOU GOTTA check out the Civil Rights Museum.

It was truly humbling and inspiring. I went in with barely an understanding of the civil rights movement and came out a better person.

What I found incredible was a chance to stand in the Lorrane Motel on the balcony next to the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The museum was quite empty and I found myself fixated on that spot for 10 minutes just soaking in the history.

And you gotta love the street performers with a cool version of the EcoYIKE!

And Memphis isn't complete without a visit to Graceland  and The Gibson Guitar Factory.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Memphis Day 3 - FedEx WOC

Today we were given a private tour of the FedEx World Operation & Tech Centre.

Let me sum up what happens here with this cool video that showed up called "The Ant Hill"

It's all the air traffic within the FedEx fleet over a 24hr period. I like watching Memphis and Vancouver.

Here at the WOC, they showed us how all the magic really happens. Here are some highlights from the tons of info and limited notes I could reel off.
  • FexEx Pilots are the only NON Unionised pilots in aviation and make multiples more than commercial pilots.
  • Very soon planes will not even have a pilot!
  • One of the main jobs at the center is to worry about the worst events that can happen to the company so customers can sleep easy. They constantly think about research black swan events such as 911 - they already had a plan in place years before it happened and were the last planes out of the sky and the first planes back up when the FAA shut down air travel.
  • FedEx captures more data than any airline (fuel consumption, repairs).
One question I asked their VP of Marketing was about the movie Castaway, that was basically a 2 hour FedEx commercial. Can you believe it cost FedEx nothing to be in the movie! Actually they charged fees to have filming done on site.
How the story goes is that Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, and Tom Hanks were at a charity function together and chatting about Tom's new movie. The character of the movie was time obsessed in his job, and then gets stranded in the island, but they had not decided what the character's job was going to be. Fred chimed in and said there is nobody more time obsessed on the planet than a FedEx employee. The rest is history.
Here is a funny spoof commercial on the Castaway movie.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Memphis Day 2 - FedEx

Tonight, we were taken on a private tour of FedEx at the Memphis World Hub.

Check out what we saw in this 2 min video:

We arrived at 10pm in order to see all the action, because that's when all the packages from North America start arriving to be sorted.
The FedEx facility is like a small city, with up to 35,000 employees working in Memphis (1 in 5 homes in Memphis has a FedEx employee).
I'm sure I can only scratch the surface of what we saw on our night tour, but here goes a few highlights.
  • As we entered the facility, it is part of the Memphis Airport, so thousands of employees were being screened (they kept their shoes on) just like we do when we go thru an airport. What was amazing is the main shifts started about 10pm and workers are not allowed thru security more than an hour before their shift. Imagine starting and finishing every shift at your company that way?
  • How FedEx works is all packages picked up that day in North America are shipped to a hub like Memphis where the planes are unloaded, the packages resorted to their new destinations and loaded back on the new plane bound for delivery. All this is accomplished overnight in 4-5 hours while sorting over 800,000-2.5 million packages.
  • We were taken to a air control tower to watch planes landing. Off in the night sky, you could see a dozen or more lights in the sky as planes approached at a rate of one landing every 90 seconds!
  • We toured inside their small package sorting facilities where over 42 miles of conveyor belts directed packages at incredible speed.
  • Errors on 800,000 packages sorted are said to be on average 12 ERRORS per day!
Here is a 7 minute video showing the building and the complete HOW TO of FedEx.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Memphis Day 1: Sun Records

This week I'm in Memphis with my EO Forum Group to tour FED EX. It's a yearly adventure to visit new cities and tour the world's best companies.

Last year was Cisco Systems. See my  VIP Tour of Cisco Systems on October 13th, 2010.

Memphis Day 1 - was a private reception at Sun Records, the label where Elvis, Conway and Johnny Cash all got their start. It was beyond words to be in what many call the "Birth Place" of Rock and Roll.

For me it was extra special, I think, because it was an audio engineering degree that I was taking in college before I left to start my first company.
What amazed me most was that the studio actually sat empty for over 20 years before it was brought back to life as a museum and working studio. Imagine how this jewel of history could have easily been turned into a Subway sandwich shop, but some how was never rented out as retail space during those dark years.
Just over 20 years ago, U2 came to Sun Studio to record "Angel of Harlem", "When Love Comes To Town" and "Love Rescue Me" for their Rattle and Hum album. Bono says they came to Sun Studio to experience "the chill" you get from the room's history. To add some additional chill to the experience, the band enlisted "Cowboy" Jack Clement to co-produce the tracks. Clement had produced tracks by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the early days at Sun Studio. The session allowed U2 to add their own magic to our history as Angel of Harlem became one of the biggest selling singles recorded here at Sun Studio.
At the studio they even had some of the original microphones used by such greats as Elvis and Jerry Lee.
The Sun Sound began when Sam Phillips launched his record company in February of 1952. He named it Sun Records as a sign of his perpetual optimism: a new day and a new beginning. Sam rented a small space at 706 Union Avenue for his own all-purpose studio. The label was launched amid a growing number of independent labels. In a short while Sun gained the reputation throughout Memphis as a label that treated local artists with respect and honesty. Sam provided a non-critical, spontaneous environment that invited creativity and vision.
Sam Phillips
As a businessman, Phillips was patient and willing to listen to almost anyone who came in off the street to record. Memphis was a happy home to a diverse musical scene: gospel, blues, hillbilly, country, boogie, and western swing. Taking advantage of this range of talent, there were no style limitations at the label. In one form or another Sun recorded them all.
Then in 1954 Sam found Elvis Presley, an artist who could perform with the excitement, unpredictability and energy of a blues artist but could reach across regional, musical and racial barriers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011





This year at Costless Express the ladies got involved.