This blog space is usually reserved for entrepreneurial posts, experiences and knowledge. But today is going to be different. It will be a reflexion on Geddo (grandpa in arab).

Geddo is 92 years young. He's lived 2 World Wars and participated with Egypt in the second one, under the English.  He has intense diabetes, is quite overweight, smoked a good part of his life, had a couple of heart-attacks, through-the-roof cholesterol and a weak liver to boot. Theta (grandma in arab) passed on over 20 years ago, so he moved to Canada from Egypt so that my parents could take care of him. So for over 20 years, he was dependent on others.

In short, he's had every valid reason to NOT be alive today. His body and his heart were broken - and that alone would have done in the best of . But his spirit, ahhh his spirit...

Many clichés could describe his spirit:
- Live and let live
- Don't worry, be happy
- Irie (Jamaican)
- Hakuna Matata (Lion King)
- Ké sera, sera
- Finding the silver lining
- Eh, whatareyagonnadoaboutit
- (insert own phrase here)

He was the epitome of selective worrying. He understood there were things we could do to change the world around us, but that there was much more we couldn't do - so why eat ourselves up over it ? He understood his limitations, accepted them, and made the best of the cards he was dealt. He always had a smile and I think he wasn't apprehensive of passing on.

I am writing this post now (and I have deliberately changed the verb tense in the last paragraph) because last week, his heart-attack put him in the emergency ward at the local hospital. He was barely able to speak and stay awake, yet he would still smile and ask me about my wife and kids. And today, I got a call from my mom that he entered a semi-comatose state. I am unsure if he will be able to hear us or not, but I do know he is at peace. He was content with what he was and what he had during his life, so my biased grandson mind tells me he must be content now.

Maybe this is a post about entrepreneurship after all. Learning to take the events of startup life (and life in general) in stride is an important take away from this man's example. Kinda brings me back to the famous Serenity Prayer (1942) and it's most popular variant:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Update: On Nov 8th 2008, he left us for a better place. He kept going a full 11 months after the posted heart-attack. I am happy to say that, while concious, he kept his positive outlook on life and will forever be an example of finding the silver lining in some very dark clouds.

R.I.P. Geddo. You deserve it.

 
 

Five years ago, I attended one of my first local EO learning events in Montreal. It was a speaker who demonstrated to us the power of managing a company by simple key metrics put in a simple format.

I forget who the speaker was and I was only able to jot down a couple of the formulas he used at that time. I was, however, sensitized enough to start building my own simple financial dashboard. This is my tool of choice when when I audit the financial part of a corporate strategy.

Presentation format :
- Magic number : Formula to get the number
o Suggested acceptable range of the magic number (subjective according to your situation, but most are based on industry best practices)

1. Liquidity ratios : ability to pay bills and availability of liquidity for new activity
- Current ratio : Current Assets / Current Liabilities
o 2 : 1

- Acid Test Ratio : (Cash + Accounts Receivable) / Current Liabilities
o 1 : 1

-
Debt/Equity Ratio : Total Liabilities / Owners (Stock) Equity
o Lower than 2:1

-
Times Interest Earned : Net income before Interest & Taxes / Interest Expense
o 5:1


2. Efficiency ratios : ability to deliver optimized internal process efficiencies  -Net Income ratio : Net Income / Sales
o More than 10 cents on the dollar

-
Gross margin ratio : Gross Margin / Sales
o Gross margin = Sales – Cost of sales

-
Asset Turnover Rate : Sales / Total Assets

-
Accounts Receivable Turnover : Sales / Average Accounts Receivable
o Lower than 60 days

-
Number of Days Sales in Receivables : Average Accounts Receivable / (Annual Sales / 360)
o Any number above 30 indicates past due accounts

-
Inventory Turnover : Cost of Sales / Average Inventory
o 25 c for each 1$ held in inventory


3. Equity Ratios : ability to deliver optimized shareholder and stakeholder value
-         
Return on assets : Net Income / Total Assets
o More than 10%

- Return on equity : Net Income / Stockholders Equity

- Earnings per share : Earnings after taxes / Number of Shares Outstanding

- Price/Earnings Ratio : Price / Earnings per share

- P/E Reciprocal : Earnings per share / Price

- Total Market Cap : Number of Outstanding Shares x Market Price per Share

 
 

Chief Information Officers don't have it easy. They often feel squeezed by impossible budgets, ridiculous business demands and techno-ignorant colleagues. I know, I've been there. In the last 10 years through my different companies, I've acted as a virtual CIO for countless small and medium sized companies.

Looking back, I can say that my biggest challenge never was any of the aforementioned. It was usually about communicating a solid definition of what a CIO can and can't do, managing expectations from the onset and delivering. Sounds easy, and it is when you have this tool. It's a poster that now adorns my office wall.

In 2006, CIO Magazine came up with the "IT Value Matrix," after 18 months of collaborative effort, as a tool to let IT stop being defensive about what it costs the firm and go on the offense by articulating the value it provides.

This is how it works:
"The matrix identifies approximately 130 components, grouped under three key practice areas' stakeholder alignment, communication and the CIO role. It's organized for drilling down from general to specific. For example, to achieve stakeholder alignment, CIOs need both knowledge and action. To learn what type of knowledge, you drill down one level and find four types: stakeholder analysis, political and cultural issues, technology trends and business dynamics."

In tandem with the Matrix, the CIO executive council developed "Seven Keys to IT Leadership"

1. The primary goal of IT is to align with major enterprise objectives. Every initiative must be clearly tied in a provable way to business value.

2. Because all major business initiatives are dependent upon technology, the CIO must have a voice at the table at which key business decisions are made.

3. The CIO is responsible for understanding a business’s complexities, influencing peers and presenting technology strategy in terms the business can understand.

4. Technology leaders are agents of change. Transition is our stable state.

5. Communication and relationship building are as important to IT leadership as technology skills are.

6. Successful technology leadership must strike a balance between competing forces: short-term versus long-term, technology versus business focus, leading versus enabling.

7. The CIO is responsible for cultivating technology leadership at all levels.

If you're a CIO, you need this.  If you have a CIO in your team, do your company a favor and go over this with the CIO. If you use technology in your company, this tool will help manage expectations.

The file is available in this post too. Start enjoying your CIO life.

it_value_matrix.pdf
File Size: 1999 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

 
 

I often coach entrepreneurs when they start their businesses and, in doing so, get to the core of 'why' they want to go out on their own. I love it when dreams of boatloads of money surface.

And then I ask THE question : 'How much is enough ?' I continue : 'If I give you 1 million dollars right now, would you be happy ?' 'How about 5 million ? 10 million ? (etc)' The conversation quickly turns to how much is needed to live well, what living well means and what the real priorities in life are.

Somewhere during the entrepreneur's soul-searching, I take out a fantastic study that was done many times and taken up by a University of Wisconsin group. There are similar stats on the web, this one comes from the good people at www.100people.org.

Miniature Earth have also made a video with older stats but still very poignant.

It's enough to make the entrepreneur reflect on his true priorities and just how much is really enough.

Important note : I'm certainly not coaching entrepreneurs to NOT make money. I am simply getting them to reflect about their situation on a global scale and realize just how blessed they already are. I also try to bring the entrepreneur to develop other reasons than money to start a business.

IF THE WORLD WERE 100 PEOPLE:
Gender
50 would be female
50 would be male

Age
20 would be 0-14
67 would be 15-64
14 would be 65 and older

Geography
5 would be from North America
9 would be from Latin America & the Caribbean
12 would be from Europe
61 would be from Asia
13 would be from Africa

Religion
31 would be Christian
21 would be Muslim
14 would be Hindu
6 would be Buddhist
12 would believe in other religions
16 would not be religious or identify themselves
as being aligned with a particular faith

First Language
17 would speak Chinese
8 would speak Hindustani
8 would speak English
7 would speak Spanish
4 would speak Arabic
4 would speak Russian
3 would speak Bengali
2 would speak Malay-Indonesian
2 would speak French
45 would speak other languages

Overall Literacy
82 would be able to read and write
18 would not

Literacy by Gender
87 males would be able to read and write
13 males would not be able to read and write
77 females would be able to read and write
23 females would not be able to read and write

Education
76 males would have a primary school education
72 females would have a primary school education

66 males would have a secondary school education
63 females would have a secondary school education

1 would have a college education

Urban/Rural
47 would be urban dwellers
53 would be rural dwellers

Drinking Water
83 would have access to safe drinking water
17 would use unimproved water

Food
17 would be undernourished

Infectious Disease
<1% would have HIV/AIDS
<1%would have tuberculosis

Poverty
53 would live on less than 2USD per day
50 would live in poverty

Electricity
69 would have electricity
31 would not

Technology
34 would be cell phone subscribers
17 would own a computer
1 would be be active internet users

 
 

As an entrepreneur, there are often too many ideas and concepts floating around in my mind at one time. I needed to find tools to help me organize what I was thinking and doing - and maybe even help me link the two.

I use 2 ways to represent the mess that is sometimes my mind. The first is Mind mapping and the second is Concept Mapping. I will expose Mind Mapping here and get to Concept Mapping in part 2.

Mind Mapping: the principle
From Wikipedia :
"A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing. It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.

The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge may aid recall of existing memories."

Mind Mapping : where the problem comes from
From Peter Russell:
The issues with traditional linear note-taking
- Energy and time wasted writing down superfluous words.
- Other information may be missed while noting down one idea.
- Take longer to read and review.
- Associations and connections between key words and ideas not readily apparent.
- Attention wanders easily.
- Lack of color and other visual qualities handicap memory.
- Traditional notes aid forgetting not memory.

Mind Mapping : the advantages (Peter Russell)
- Mind maps work the way the brain works -- which is not in nice neat lines. Memory is naturally associative, not linear. Any idea probably has thousands of links in your mind. Mind maps allow associations and links to be recorded and reinforced.
- The mind remembers key words and images, not sentences -- try recalling just one sentence from memory!   Mind maps use just key words and key images, allowing a lot more information to be put on a page.
- Because mind maps are more visual and depict associations between key words, they are much easier to recall than linear notes. (For example, although you may not have studied it in depth, see how much of the Home Mind Map of this site you can recall in your mind's eye.)
- Starting from the center of the page rather than top-left corner allows you to work out in all directions.
- The organization of a mind map reflects the way your own brain organizes ideas.
- Mind maps are easy to review. Regular review reinforces memory. Best is to try reviewing in your imagination first, then go back and check on those areas that were hazy.
- We remember what stands out (where were you when John Lennon was shot?). Visual quality of mind maps allows you to make key points to stand out easily.

From MapYourMind, we get a list of applications, that resume well how I use it myself
- Learning: Reduce those ‘tons of work’. Feel good about study, revision and exams. Have confidence in your learning abilities.   
- Overviewing: See the whole picture, the global view, at once. Understand the links and connections.
- Concentrating: Focus on the task for better results. Using all of your cortical skills attracts your attention.
- Memorizing: Easy recall. ‘See’ the information in your mind’s eye.
- Organizing: Be on top of all of the details for parties, holidays, projects or any other subject.
- Presenting: Speeches are clear, relaxed and alive. You can be at your best.    
- Communicating: In all forms with clarity and conciseness.
- Planning: Orchestrate all details and aspects – from beginning to end – on one piece of paper.
- Meetings: From planning to agenda, to chairing, to taking the minutes … the jobs are completed with speed and efficiency.
- Training: From preparation to presentation they make the job easier and much faster.
- Thinking: Having a method to analyse thoughts – almost a ‘way-station’ for them.
- Negotiating: All the issues, your position and manoeuvrability in one sheet.   
- Brain Blooming: The new brain-storming in which more thoughts are generated and appropriately assessed.


Mind Mapping : how it's done
Tony Buzan, father of Mind Mapping gives us 10 foundations to a great mind map.
- Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
- Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your Mind Map..
- Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
- Each word/image must be alone and sitting on its own line.
- The lines must be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
- Make the lines the same length as the word/image.
- Use colors – your own code – throughout the Mind Map.
- Develop your own personal style of Mind Mapping.
- Use emphasis and show associations in your Mind Map.
- Keep the Mind Map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.

Mind Mapping : the tools
Bootstrapper has a fantastic list of tools that are available to help organize your mind. I use 2 free tools quite frequently (a little too much according to my employees). Did I mention they were free ? I have used many other paying tools, but these free tools do 80 % of what you will ever need.
1. Freemind. An open source java based mind mapper.
2. Cayra.net. A fantastic free tool that I've started using recently and is replacing my freemind maps.

Enjoy mind mapping. It will change your life.

 
 

A small article in the local paper helped me understand the necessary qualities for a great business coach. It's taken from Martine Deschamps from Syneraction Management

Qualities to look for in a great business coach (or qualities necessary to be a great business coach) :

- The coach understands what it means to lead and manage a business
- The coach listens, is curious and asks alot of questions
- The coach is human, dynamic and available
- The coach has a great capacity to analyze and make calls
- The coach is diplomatic to temper the discussions
- The coach has an open mind and can collaborate on the human and business level
- The coach is humble, (s)he does not for him but to help
- The coach has leadership and can influence
- The coach aims for the autonomy of the future leaders (s)he coaches
- The coach leverages his/her contacts to add value for his/her clients.
- The coach researches and knows a significant amount of relevant about the industry of his/her clients

 
 

Rarely a day goes by that I am either asking for some form of help or getting asked for help. It's in my business with clients, suppliers or employees. It's in my family with my wife and kids. It's in my church with the teens I mentor. It's in the startups I coach with those fantastic wide-eyed new entrepreneurs. It's in my social involvement.

In all honesty, I have more often been asked for help than the other way around. I could justify it by saying 'it's because I have more experience than most', but in reality, it's because I was taught that I should be able to fix things on my own.

Asking for help was seen as a form of weakness. Ever thought that ?

So I've started reflecting on the value of helping others and, especially, asking for help in return. When I look back on the great help I've received in any sphere of my life, I start to notice some interesting patterns, which I now apply.

First: I seek to understand...
- the other person's moral base, values and 'non-negotiables';
- the other person's life priorities;
- the other person's particular and contextual situation and how it may differ from my experience.

Then: I seek to demonstrate...
- what my moral base, values and 'non-negotiables' are;
- what my life priorities are;
- what my particular and contextual situation was;
- what I learnt from the experience and what I would do differently.

I can't stress this order enough. If I don't understand you first, how can I help you ? My ultimate goal is to help them determine their own path to maximum happiness according to their values and priorities (not mine).

Finally, if I give them advice, I try to underline the fact that I won't be offended if they heed it or not. Just seeing them reflect on these very personal questions is validation enough for me.

It never ceases to amaze me how this simple process has had long-reaching effects in my life. Little do they know that in this exchange where someone is seeking advice from me... it was I who was the most helped.