Today Chris is:

…in the East End of London

Disrupted, by Dan Lyons

This week I’ve been mainly…

Reading the book Disrupted by Dan Lyons.

Being of a fifty-something myself and having had my own year in startup hell. (Well I didn’t even make the year until I was fired, nicely.) This book was wonderful read, made all the more poignant and realistic by the fact I have seen some of this behaviour first hand.The book is a story of a fifty-something Dan ending up in HubSpot and essentially being driven mad by the idiots working there who mostly have no experience whatsoever and there’s certainly no evidence of any management going on. Its a great read about incompetence, madness and the whole get-rich-quick schemes being set up by investors. The drive behind all this is to squeeze out the cash in a business that doesn’t make profit by doing an IPO. All you have to do is drive hype and growth and not necessarily create what I ( or many others) would call a functional business. These Unicorns being all the rage, Salesforce and Twitter being others with massive valuations but no real longevity in terms of profit making.

What was most interesting was the twenty-somethings with no experience, churning out crap and actually believing their own bullshit. I see this first hand here in Cambodia. Here you are an ‘expert’, back home you’re a nobody. Partially one of the reasons that people actually get in this position, is that businesses themselves are so inexperienced at recruiting, they will take anyone who knows a few buzzwords and of course they are desperate and overloaded themselves. Better a bum in a seat who can do something, rather than no one at all.

I’ve seen people having never run businesses teaching the locals how to set up a business. I’ve the most appalling behaviour towards others in (even more) junior roles that frankly begs the question about their mental stability, and anything of a professional and mentally stimulating and challenging nature simply doesn’t happen here.

In linking this to Hubspot where the conversation about the Candy wall being totally lost on the young recipient when compared to actually paying a decent wage, the separation from reality is as much absent here as it is there.

However in true fun style, I now search the sender details of every Hubspot e-mail I receive. The book is right, 2 years out of college, 3 years out of college, 5 years out of college. Not a single person I looked at while searching the rank and file of the staff list on LinkedIn has more than five years in a job, any job.

Now you could argue, I’m just jealous. All that cash generated by a company, hundreds of millions. The shareholders and investors making a pretty penny. At some point though, this structure of marketing over substance is going to get found out, with the I told you so’s coming thick and fast.

A great read on Amazon.
The post  Disrupted by Dan Lyons, first appeared on the blog of Chris Wray.

Today Chris is:

…in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Going back to pick up the paintings I left behind on the last trip.

Swimming with turtles on Gili Air

As part of our recent travels we spent lots of time underwater. Either learning to dive, (we took our open water diving certification) or snorkeling off the many beaches. Whilst we did see more, and much bigger, turtles than the one in the short movie, when diving, this little one was quite at home on the reef opposite where we stayed. All we had to do was wade out into deeper water and there it would be. The first time we didn’t have the cheap Chinese Go-Pro with us, but the second time we were please to have caught this on film.

I’m really becoming far more comfortable in the water, I seem to have spent lots of time there in recent weeks. This has been a challenge of mine for the last three years. From having an anxious moment in the water one summer and then deciding to do something about it.

  • I took swimming lessons, and now swim around 30 laps of the pool every week.
  • We capsized our canoe in open seas, one of my nightmare scenarios, no life jackets. I survived of course and learnt that it wasn’t so bad after all.
  • Learned that having your air supply turned off underwater also isn’t so bad. A part of the PADI diving course.

All in all my love of the water has increased significantly. Its all part of the reprogramming my brain to re-learn that water isn’t the scary thing I’d been brought up to believe. I have my mother to thank for this, she is petrified of water, and many other things in the world.

The post  swimming with turtles on Gili Air, first appeared on the blog of Chris Wray.

 

Bali, Indonesia

Today Chris is:

…on Bali, Indonesia.

Gili Gede Island, Indonesia

Today Chris is:

…on Gili Gede Island, off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia.

Gili Meno Island

Today Chris is:

…on Gili Meno Island, Indonesia.

Rabbit Island off the coast of Kep in Cambodia

Today Chris is:

…on Rabbit Island, off the coast of Kep in Cambodia

Today Chris is:

…with Buddha staring out over Pakse in Laos.

Today Chris is:

…on the Bolaven Plateau in Laos with waterfalls and coffee plantations.

Today Chris is:

…watching the sunrise in Wat Phu, Laos.

Today Chris is:

…on one of the 4000 islands in Laos.

How to increase productivity with Noisli

How to increase productivity with Noisli.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more sensitive to noise. Obvious things like the chainsawing outside the apartment on Saturday you can understand, but I’ve also noticed that relatively quiet conversations in Impact Hub where I work are also distracting me.

When I work I like the environment to be ‘right’. This way I find getting into flow, much easier and as a consequence my productivity increases significantly. More and more often however, I’m finding that wearing headphones and drowning out the external noise seems to be the only way. Right now I’m in the co-working space and drowning out everything with Spotify’s Discover Weekly.

This morning I made one of those discoveries that just makes you jump for the ‘Buy’ button.

I’ve been a user of Noisli now and then. I love the sound of rain and thunder, either natural or through Calm, my go-to meditation app. Today on Noisli I just pushed the random ‘Relax’ button and was greeted by a combination of the rattle of a carriage over railway tracks and a really low bass hum from a fan. The hum was perhaps a little high and I did wonder at first if this was in the room. A tweak of the volume levels down and I think I’ve found the perfect environment for productivity. Now I know it said Relax and not Productivity but each to their own. The bass drowns out the low distraction and the railway track clatter provides that comforting sound that allows you to ignore the outside world until the frequency changes, which of course it doesn’t. The never-ending train ride.

So the temptation of having this on my iPhone was too good to miss, and £1.49 is hardly worth thinking about. The great thing is that when you sign up, the saved ‘combo’s’ sync between platforms.

So that’s how I’ve covered a good chunk of client work and came up with the idea for this post and it’s only just lunchtime. Productivity at its best.

For those who are interested, my combination of hum and railway tracks is available to other Noisli users here.

The post  How to increase your productivity with Noisli, first appeared on the blog of Chris Wray.

Today Chris is:

…watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Today Chris is:

…in Siem Reap, Cambodia

” The ignorant are arrogant and cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt ”

- Bertrand Russell

Today Chris is:

…playing with elephants in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. An unforgettable experience. They are just the most gentle and awesome creatures.

Today Chris is:

…in Tbilisi, Georgia for the first time. Talking pizza and IT.

Today Chris is:

…at the Czech cottage. The closest place to being home, complete with barbecue.

Professionalism and Respect

This week I’ve mainly been……

Thinking about professionalism and respect.

There’s very little of it here in Cambodia. It’s not a concept that has worked its way into the culture just yet. There are many reasons for this, education, language, and for the most part of a developing country, just not knowing what good looks like. It would therefore be easy to find yourself adopting some of this negative behavior and accepting that this is just the way it is. There’s an element of this certainly within the expat community.

But this is not an excuse. To me we should maintain professionalism and respect in everything we do. Just because someone else does something perhaps not normally acceptable, it is not a signal for us to copy that behavior. This week, I found myself becoming a little blase about some of the work I’d completed, and shocked myself when looking at the consequences.

Professionalism is a state of mind, as well as the actions to support it.

This is yet another one of those deep principles I’ve learnt since living here.

 

Today Chris is:

…on the island of Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia.

Today Chris is:

…on his bike, cycling around Phnom Penh.

Kampot, Cambodia

Today Chris is:

…in Kampot, Cambodia

bokor mountain, Cambodia

Today Chris is:

…on the top of Bokor Mountain, Cambodia

Koh Mak Island, Thailand

Today Chris is:

…on Koh Mak Island, off the coast of Thailand. One of our favourite getaways.

Phnom Penh Art

Today Chris is:

…on the Phnom Penh Art Trail.

Digital Rain Home Page

Building Digital Rain

I’ve had this Digital Rain idea in my head for a couple of months. A social business allowing technology and online entrepreneurs to build their businesses. I feel there’s so much missed opportunity out there for the sake of a website and a few hundred/thousand dollars. I came up with this idea that we (I) could help support them with access to technology and business support and mentoring, such that they could help themselves. Not just this idea of a co-working hub, there’s enough of them, but somewhere they could get really experienced support and a structured business programme. Help from people who’ve done it before.

That’s the social side, the commercial and business side supports clients in small and medium-sized businesses with getting to grips with technology, process, training and the inevitable overlap with people. Both as users and as customers. As it would happen, the client pipeline took a sudden influx of proposal requests this week.

I love the logo and design of the new website.Not bad for just over a weeks work. Not a great deal to do with me I should say. All the talent of my better half and her awesome design skills.

We’re looking for interns and partners to help support the sudden influx of clients needing our online and technology services. So take a look at the bottom of the home page for details.

Building Digital Rain Jobs

There’s no real recruitment agencies here in Cambodia. The market operates on a small payment to get the job online and then basically potential candidates e-mail the address at the bottom of the ad. If the client or the candidate gets lucky, the client might get a half-reasonable resume, and the candidate might possibly get a response. They all seem to operate the same way. No surprise then, that finding good technical talent in Cambodia is incredibly hard.

I thought I’s have a go at what has become the norm in the UK and US where an agent goes in the middle, knows the market, and knows the candidate. They do all the leg work and as a consequence, if everything is done well, you get a happy client and a happy candidate that go on to have a lasting career together.

So, Digital Rain jobs has been launched as an idea, and I’m looking for a partner or someone to help on the recruitment and working with businesses side. I’ll concentrate on the technology and help out where possible. If this is you, please get in touch.

Why Roles and Responsibilities are so important

Sometimes when I work in consulting I worry that I’m starting to sound like a cracked record. Stuck saying the same thing over and over again. I’m working with a client who we’ve identified has having communication, responsibility and accountability problems on their projects. Issues spread all over the organisation from Sales to Customer Support. The root cause being that roles and responsibilities haven’t been defined such that everyone knows what they are doing and who they communicate to when things stop going to plan.

Such a simple thing to know who’s doing what and when, letting people know when they have problems and when they are finished. It’s not that simple though as the organisation grows, takes on more customers and the person you used to talk to for this sort of thing has grown into a department on another floor of the building. Growing pains as they call them, and typical of a startup turning into a medium-sized business.

Picking Up Asana again

Used Asana a few years ago before they implemented its new interface. I’m potentially picking this up again for a small client team of 10 people.I really love its’ clean interface, the speed of operation and the fact that its’ so intuitive. So much so that I started using it myself again. Albeit there’s a bit of an overlap in functionality with Insightly – see below. I still like the video though, OK, so I admit I’m just a little bit obsessed with productivity, but I do so wish my day ran like in the video.

Building Businesses and a Sales Pipeline with Insightly

Insightly

I’m at that envious point where I have many clients wanting the services I deliver.  I’m having to manage my own sales pipeline process and make sure I don’t lose any information, fail to follow up and consistently be on top of all the small details that go together in making a potential client feel like they can be completely comfortable with you looking after them.

Rather than put everything in another spreadsheet, a to-do list or Evernote ( even though I love Evernote) I thought I’d give Insightly a try. It’s another great tool with the same zero cost barrier to give it a good try before parting with a long term financial investment. Such a great model.

Anyway, its very early days, and I like it. I have three clients asking for proposals this week. I wonder if it was psychological or if Insightly really did help ? Why not give the trial a go for yourself.

The Inno-Tech Festival, Phnom Penh

2016-03-19 11.27.44

… and last but not least visiting the Inno-Tech Festival and meeting more of the local technology suppliers, hackers and entrepreneurs who are growing the technology sector in Cambodia. In general the display booths concentrating on infrastructure and websites. The complimentary Apps developers being ever present in growing numbers.

2016-03-19 10.58.51

There were a few surprises with Khmer ‘games’ I use that phrase loosely as Poker is probably not an area I should be promoting given the somewhat unpleasant and unregulated gambling industry here. I guess where there’s demand, supply in whatever form it takes won’t be far behind.

2016-03-19 11.14.19

The other surprise being pseudo payment systems and digital wallets. Again this is the ever present need for online payment, a real hurdle for online business here. I didn’t get chance to really dig into the details of the systems involved and if these are still only the half-way solutions. Sadly not all the stands were staffed with those who understood at the technical level. More for me to investigate later.

Then there was the drone. I’ve been interested in one of these for a long time, as a photographer I just love the views that stills and video could never achieve in the past. The inventor in this case trying to solve the need of the Cambodian market at a budget they can afford. I was wondering if that £1000 entry point barrier had been broken. Their ‘large’ model sells for $250 and runs for roughly twenty minutes. A battery costing $60. The camera is an extra, but given my still unused cheap Chinese Go-Pro copy lying as yet unused I think I could finally have a partner for it. They launch next week, and have a stall at the market not far from where I live. Definitely worth a second look.

Diamond island, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Today Chris is:

…on Diamond Island, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

An open letter to my CEO. Entitlement, struggle, the right thing or the wrong thing to do ?

A fascinating article I picked up when it was mentioned in the Fizzle.co podcast. The comments are as fascinating as the article. What is the real cause of a minimum wage job, is it just supply and demand ? Should we take more ownership for life, particularly when we’re young. Realising that actually it’s pretty hard starting out ? Are we blanketing millennials as having expectations that are just unrealistic ?

The worrying state of education

I met a really smart, well-qualified American this week, who kindly explained why he’s $200,000 in debt because he chose a good education.  One day, and he’s not sure when, when maybe he’s not earning the SE Asia salary, significantly below that of US levels, he  hopes to pay it all back.
I thought UK students had a hard time with their average £30-60,000 student loans, but this is just a ridiculous amount of debt to be in when you’re only just starting out on a career. Another fellow mentor I bumped into recently is off to Harvard, where the course fees alone are $100,000. Personally I don’t think its worth the three letters after his name.
So what’s the alternative ? Being an entrepreneur ? Those afraid of the above mentioned debt, who decide ( or are pressured ) into going into a solopreneur business as an alternative. Preyed on by the internet snake-oil sellers offering passive income by selling the expertise they can’t possibly have, because they’re just not old enough to have all that experience. They suddenly realise they are contractors not entrepreneurs and when the one client they have disappears, money runs out and they’re back to square one.
Its a sad state of affairs, and I sympathise.

Fat People

I’ve spent more time on Netflix than  I do normally. My partner has been away, I needed something to do. Watching Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, a film on health, while drinking beer and eating junk because I’m tired.  I’m not setting a good example.
The interesting story is that losing all that weight, being a role model, then piling a chunk of it back on again while being caught by the media just made the eventual crash all the harder. You can’t lose weight, and guess what, the underlying depression, on your own. We need support by our wider community. Men particularly it would seem. Can we stop telling ourselves we need to ‘Man Up’ we are men, we just need a bit of help and support, It’s these dreadful stereotypes that have become my pet hate since reading the Samaritans report.

Sugar Daddy

So while on my binge of diet based entertainment, last nights That Sugar Film an interesting look at ‘Calories are not the same’. My above mentioned binge on Coke of all things being the source of 7-10 spoons of sugar. Great for cleaning out the pipes, and a decidedly persistent dose of stomach upset. However, on the downside, it means that by the time the innards are sorted, you’re nothing short of addicted to the stuff, too tired to function and absolutely not picking up where you left off on exercise when you recover. In only a week, I put back my pizza belly and I was eating almost nothing else that could be described as ‘bad for me’.
Definitely worth watching what sugar can do to you. No surprise that my only only intake today was a green smoothie and fresh vegetable dinner.

Reading about Digital Nomads

But this story rang so true, I couldn’t help but go back and read it again. All 8,000 words of it. There were so many strong threads and commonalities about this post I’m contemplating writing my own version.

Doing the Insanity Workout

Anyone who’s heard the phrase ‘Dig Deeper’ will know about Sean T and the Insanity Workout. This is my second time for doing this all consuming, exceptionally hard, but oh so results oriented workout. It’s so much easier this time round being a stone lighter than last time. The pain sadly is no different, and everything aches just as it did. Yes, the old adage is true, where there’s pain there’s gain. I’m only a week in on what is a sixty day plan, but I really do enjoy it.

Making Progress on Building a new Business Idea

I had an idea a few weeks ago. Its another one of problems that you suddenly think ‘I may have a solution to that’. I see so many people struggling with their online presence, and then there are just those websites that are just dreadful. Whilst completely different ways to get to a similar situation, I discovered a way to describe the outcome. By comparing the performance of their website with an employee. There’s no way you’d allow an employee to turn up to the office and just sit there doing nothing all day. Yet this is what some organisations do when it comes to their website and their online presence. People, as well as websites need bringing up the latest skills and approaches. They need to be invested in and valued. Then, guess what, they add even more value to the business.

So this is the way I’ve started to look at clients and their presence online. Technology and statistics are all very well, but clients need to know what the data is telling them, if its relevant, and what their next actions are to improve things. So having a poor bounce rate and user engagement becomes, a clearer picture of relevance to your customers, your business and a clear set of actions you understand. As things progress I’ll probably write more about this. In the mean time I’ve registered Digital Rain Agency as a domain for what I hope will be a successful service.

Scratching Another Itch

Whilst I confess that its unlikely I’ll ever get a ‘proper’ job again. I still can’t help but apply for roles that interest me. I’ve probably been ranting about this since the recession of 2008/9 when recruitment firms were my arch enemy. Their tactics back then were just horrendous. Sadly little has changed in the industry since, and here in Cambodia its just awful applying for a job. Applications simply disappear into a void never to be seen again. I know that applicants are never the customer, and so they don’t really get the treatment they deserve, but how people are treated is frankly dreadful. That’s on top of the age and sexual discrimination that’s still legal here. So I thought I’d have a bash at creating my own online agency. Something that’s a bit more transparent. Addressing the technology and NGO market for now. This is a tough market to break into as you need to win the customer over, but I so hated the way agencies work I’m sure with any form of customer service results should be better. Another Watch this Space.

 

 

 

life is a beach

Life is a beach

Last year I can’t remember the number of times friends and acquaintances took the mickey over the number of holidays we took. My response is now fairly consistent.

“They aren’t holidays they are a lifestyle.”

Travel was always part of the plan for the future. My ideal situation is to be able to generate an income irrespective of where I am in the world. Location independence as its called. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m in no way about to give up any time soon. Last year we spent a lot of time at the beach, so I thought it worth reminding myself of some of the places we spent time at.

Swimming

I’ve been tagging along to the sports club and whilst I’m far from saying my swimming is anywhere near good, I have noticed an improvement on each trip that I’ve made to the pool. Practice makes perfect as they say, and my area of focus right now is the breathing technique. Breathing out through the nose while under the water and making a decent surface such that I only take in air, rather than air and water. Simple in theory. A little more difficult in practice. I have nothing but admiration for the professional swimmers, actually anyone who swims well as they make it look so easy.

Bullet Journaling

I’ve been pretty fixed in the way I’ve been using my journal and notebook, but after reading an epic blog post by Cerries Mooney ( who’s site I rather like ) I thought I’d give it a try. The video is below on how the system works.

 

The reasons for me adopting this new technique are :

  • I always found it difficult to go back and find things later. The index method means that each page is captured in the index and each page has a number. Simple in hindsight.
  • I tended to lose sight of my monthly goals, so specifically taking time to create the monthly pages meant I can capture the annual goals broken down and track progress on some of the new habits and processes I’ve been trying to adopt.

I’m going to give it a try and see if there’s any improvement. Its all part of 2016’s Trying things out, creating processes and creating assets.

Business Ideas

I’ve been looking at some of the issues businesses have when online, both here in Cambodia and in the rest of the world. I came up with the idea of comparing web sites to people within a business in terms of their performance and contribution to that business. I’ve created the start of an audit to draw up some of the performance criteria and have discussed this with a few contacts. I’ve also submitted a proposal to a client and have another few ‘test’ clients to run this by. This one seems to have legs, in that initial feedback has been good and with a few tweaks there could be a valuable service to clients, with an opportunity to expand this to additional services.

Being a Sage

When I browsed the Cerries Mooney website, I also took the Primary Arcetype Test. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I’m fed back as The Sage. I couldn’t help but thing of ‘ O Wise One ‘ but in fairness most of my time is spent passing on information to others and teaching in one form or another. Its yet another validation of where my mission lies for the next three years.

 

 

“Money isn’t the point. A business should be about lifestyle, impact and meaning”

Corbett Bar

Buying new Mac’s

My poor Macbook Pro took a serious turn for the worst this week. The ailing screen went from partially broken, to completely unusable. I bought a new screen back in October last year, so thought a quick fix was all it needed and a replacement. Sadly though, the screen I’d bought was the wrong one. The main connector being a different size. It is of course my own fault. I should have checked this when I bought it. Not months later.

Macbook Pro repair

Now as fate ( or destiny ) would have it. An iMac appeared on the local buy and sell group, and before I knew it, there it was on the dining table. I have to say, we’re really pleased with it. A 21in iMac with a 1TB drive, with bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Much better for my back and my posture than the laptop.

It didn’t stop here though, as I still need a laptop for travel and working away from home. Similarly on the buy and sell group was a Macbook Air and so by the evening we’d grown our Apple family by another two. I can always sell one laptop later when the screen is fixed on my Pro. As a consequence I’ve been devoured by software installs, config and sync this week as I get them how we like them. The iMac has already been put to good use, it’s so much better for watching movies.

Productivity

Annual Review

I’ve revived my routine of getting up early to get stuff done. This was something I started in Hawaii while on a break. I found it hugely productive, as well as good for the soul. In recent months I’ve let it slide, as I just don’t have the responsibilities I used to. On Monday I thought I’d have another go and had completed my annual review draft before my partner had even got out of bed. This morning I also got up early, not quite the 5am though and completed the final review of last year and my goals for this year. I love Susannah Conway’s review process and I’ve been using it for the last three years. I find there’s something a bit spiritual about the whole process. Not something that’s easy to put into words, just that I feel so much more inner peace putting away the last year ( this one particularly ) and motivation to achieve in the coming year.

I’ve been reading about the bullet journal technique today and yesterday, I’ll cover this next week.

Ive also been staying up late on a few nights. It’s something I’m not good at, so I feel it’s a bit of an anomaly. It does however have positive side effects sometimes as its when I’m most creative and come up with the best ideas.

Working with an Accountability Buddy

Based on last weeks mention of procrastination I’ve been trialing using an accountability buddy. In this case my friend Andrew. We’re both in a similar situation and the theory being that making ourselves accountable to the other would help with motivation and achievement. Its had mixed results so far, but we’re continuing into our second week next week. We’re both being a little scuppered by things outside our control, but I guess the trick is to find ways around these. I guess its going to take some time before we can see patterns and solutions to some of the bigger stuff.

Networking with Web Developers

.. and learning that there’s no one who teaches Project Management for developers here in Cambodia. This point alone has conjured up all sorts of ideas for the local development community. From training to building organisations here in Cambodia to rival Hughes, Infosys and others in India.

Being Ill

You can never quite tell when a stomach bug will strike here, or where it came from. Just part and parcel of living in a developing country. Suffice to say, I’ve not been operating at my best these last few days.

Tea

Tea

While we were on holiday in Malaysia I rekindled a liking for tea. I’m not sure if it was the fact there wasn’t much else to drink or that I’d just resurrected a past pleasure. It always seemed to arrive in a glass mug, red and no milk. But always with sugar. Perhaps the visit to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands had something to do with it. So now with my own box of Boh Tea, a cuppa is a regular accompaniment to, well, just about everything.

 

 

The weekly review

 

Procrastinating

One of my arch enemies and I hate myself for it most of the time. I’d just love to get rid of this habit. I even know how to solve the problem, I just can;t seem to actually follow instructions. I even created another blog around it.

Watching

The Corporation – recommended by a friend and available on Netflix and I believe its also available on Amazon for those with Prime Accounts. A story of how Big Business is consuming world resources without a care. Something we see evidence of over and over again.

Reading

Nothing, a New Scientist book. A second-hand version picked by my partner. She perhaps had my minimalist intentions in mind when she chose it.

Surprised by

A sudden rush to my minimalist blog from Reddit readers. An entry entitled ‘Stuff makes you anxious and depressed‘.

Solving

Or at least trying to solve WooCommerce delivery of virtual products. Orders are stuck either in the ‘on hold’ status, or not ‘completing’ automatically.

Discovering that 1and1 don’t allow you to create an SPF record, meaning that all my e-mail is going into recipients junk folders. Another reason to migrate to Bluehost.

Teaching

The last of my ‘Building a Successful Technology Startup‘ lessons completed this week.

Photographing

The image is taken from the top of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. I’ve not had my USB Adaptor with me to download recent photographs, so only got around to looking at them this week.

Penang, Georgetown, Malaysia

Today Chris is:

…in Penang, Georgetown Malaysia. Taking photographs of other people’s art.

This week has been the second week of my Technology StartUp course. I confess I’m really enjoying teaching this subject.

This week we were covering Product Creation, and how to build an MVP, a minimum viable product. We even used a couple of early Apple products as examples of what can be created and sold with a minimum of features that customers will still love. There’s lots of interactive sessions within the course content, so students can get actively involved in the subject matter.

There’s homework too, but if this is completed students will have the foundation business plans to go ahead and make their business flourish.

So far we’ve covered the overview of starting a technology business, what it means to want to create a technology product, the really hard questions about why you’re starting this journey and how to find the answers. This week was Product Creation.

Future classes will cover Marketing, probably one of the subjects most anticipated, then we do operations and finally the Financial overview, joining everything back up to the business case and where we started.

The course details are here: Impact Hub – Successful Technology StartUp

You can also find all of the course slides and links to other resources on the course page.

 

One of the questions I’m asked most is; “what does a mentoring or coaching session consist of ?”

This is shortly followed by “What exactly happens ?” then sometimes “What is your role, and what do you expect of me ?”

I’ve put together a short description below to give some understanding of what happens and some of the principles I use in mentoring. The ‘you’ and ‘your business’ can be interchangeable dependent on why you have taken up a coaching or mentoring programme. Similarly mentoring and coaching are interchangeable in the description, though they are different in practice.

The main principles of coaching and mentoring

My role as coach is to help you think for yourself. It is NOT to do your thinking for you.

The subjects you bring to the coaching sessions are best explored, addressed and questioned by you. They will not be addressed by my limited knowledge of you, your organisation or other people.

I will offer my own insights, perspectives and frameworks, but only after you have had sufficient time to come up with your own ideas. Your ideas will often be far better than mine. I will only offer my insights if you specifically ask me to. There are no short cuts I’m afraid.

A really successful session is where your answers will be far better than any I could come up with.

My role in these sessions is to use my expertise and behaviour to keep you thinking for yourself through a particular type of constructed questioning, and a particular way of giving you attention to your responses.

Life’s obstacles and hurdles are similar to those of a business. They come from obstacles in your thinking. Things that are untrue, limiting and assumptions. We will examine these areas in detail to overcome and better understand them. In doing so, there are often long silent pauses, or occasionally emotional outcomes. These are all normal reactions and a sign we are making progress.

I will guide my behaviour and responses to look at the positive viewpoint. I will assume you are intelligent, are able to make choices about what you do and how you feel, and are eager to form solutions for both you and others.

What do I need to bring to a coaching / mentoring session ?

The key, is what would you like to achieve in these sessions ? Either for you or your business. What changes would you consider a good outcome of the sessions.

If we are discussing your business or your performance at work, are there areas where perhaps your personal views are not aligned with that of the business or your management/peers ?

Sometimes sessions can have a significantly emotional content. You should consider how you feel as well as noticing some of the more logical signs.

What would be helpful background information for me ? – What can you tell me about you and/or your business, the performance, the people, your interactions with others and particular situations that stand out, even if they don’t necessarily seem connected.

I hope that this description is a helpful insight into coaching. Whilst perhaps a little daunting at first, so many of the people who have sat with me during these sessions have reported improved performance, a feeling of improved well-being and a new-found confidence in dealing with others.

Its OK to say no.

“No thanks, that’s not what I want to do.”

“No, that’s not on my priority list.”

“No, I don’t have time for that, and I have other people and projects that deserve my time instead.”

“No, I don’t have to do that, even if you think I should.”

“No, you left that way to late to try and give to me last minute.”

“No, its just not for me, try someone else.”

It’s not as hard as you think it is. It’s perfectly OK to say no too. The vast majority of people who may ask you for your time, effort or attention will understand when you say no. There are only 24 hours in a day and we all have a finite capacity to get things done.

We also have a finite capacity to get the things that we want to get done too. It may be important to the person requesting, but it’s not necessarily important to us.

Then there are people who make assumptions about our time. Who look initially a little stunned when you say no. Your family, boss, colleagues. They assume you’ll say yes. You just have to say “no” more than once to make yourself understood. On a rare occasion I’ve said to this sort of person, “which bit of no, do you not understand?” Its a phrase that comes with potential conflict, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Then there’s my favourite, someone who leaves tasks until the very last minute, and then hands them to you with a deadline that’s so close, you’d need to drop everything to attend to it if you were to have any chance of meeting the deadline. They can have had this issue a week, before handing it to you with a deadline in the next 24 hours. It’s like being handed a poisoned chalice. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  On hearing no, the run off to their boss, who immediately appears at your desk, asking you if you understand the priorities of the business and customers. This is of course relevant, but not relevant. The priorities you are fully behind, covering for people who fail to plan and communicate properly is the thing you have issues with. Saying no in this case is hard, but very necessary.

Saying no is not always easy, but sometimes it’s incredibly important to do so.

 

Given yesterdays success, Andrew and I decided in our wisdom that perhaps we should give it another go today. The running plan does say that we should be doing the distance run of the week on a Sunday.
So we set off, it’s far colder than yesterday for the first half mile my feet feel like blocks of ice. The shock to my system of the UK weather feels like moving from the desert to Antarctica. My hips are particularly stiff, but there’s a general stiffness to my body and the cold doesn’t help. Andrew is no different and doesn’t help our initial motivation by saying that it’s going to be a lot harder than yesterday. Thanks !

Running Style

     Our difference in running styles seemed more marked today. Andrew’s more of a puff and blow, where I try to be relaxed with my breathing. Possibly because of my subconscious need to avoid that exhaust fumes that aggravate my asthma. He also marks the distance covered and how far to go. Like a human run keeper app. I’m not keen on this, I tend to set a pace and then retreat into my head and just keep going until the race is almost done. The continuous running rather than marking any sort of pace.

Progress on the run

     It was indeed difficult, even warming up was slow. The benefit of running with a partner definitely showing its worth. We both confessed we’d have walked some of the way if it hadn’t have been for the other as a motivator. For me the biggest issue was being really hungry by the time we got to the half-way turnaround. Waking up hungry and then only having a bacon butties in 6 hours is not sufficient to run on. ( Note to self )
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 51minutes +4 Minutes on yesterday
I arrived back in the UK at 7am and felt relatively refreshed,  given I didn’t feel as though I’d got much sleep on the flights. I’m staying with Andrew this week, my running partner. We’d planned to get out running as frequently as possible, so this morning was as good a time as any to set forth.
My thought was, that we should catch up with the training plan and run the 5 miles that we should be doing at the end of this week. Starting the training plan and being three weeks behind already isn’t the best way to start.
So off we went, down the Uxbridge Road. A run to the bridge, turn around at the half-way point, and then run back. It probably isn’t the best course to run, as the roads are busy, so are the shops situated in parallel and there’s probably eight or so roads to cross.
In fairness we did pretty well, no issues on the way there. A short stretch at the half-way point and a run back. To say neither of us had covered this distance in a while we did OK. I decided to sprint the last 20 yards or so, just to give a bit of energy to the finish.
As we caught our breath, Andrew commented that I looked a bit on the purple side, I said he looked a bit on the pale side. We both agreed we should probably look a shade somewhere in the middle.
The good news is that it wasn’t terribly bad to catch up. I’d run three and a half miles the previous week in a failed attempt to run every day. Andrew’s pretty fit, but he’s more of a strength participant than a cardio one.
Whatever the situation we’re on track to complete the training plan, assuming the motivation continues.
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 47 minutes

Lessons I’ve learnt this week

There is one aspect of office life that I hate the most, and that’s being subjected to the politics of others.

My work experience in the past has meant that I’ve managed to avoid it for the majority of my career. I’ve only seen it at its worst in the last few years.  Thankfully I have managed to avoid the majority of personal involvement. That was, until this week.
It can be difficult to avoid when those who manage you, are themselves sucked into the inescapable political vortex. They can become influenced by the small truths, less than whole story and the subject of the agenda of others.

So what lessons can we learn from this?

  • Do not become distracted from your goals. This noise is a means of throwing you off course. The agenda of others is made easier if you fail.
  • Have an honest conversation about how this makes you feel, should it come up.
  • Review this small thing in the context of the bigger aims of the organisation and your personal principles. Will anyone care about this in a month, a year, five years from now ?
  • Never, ever, play their games. Politics is for politicians, if they have to live their lives by manipulating others, then you have to ask where their core expertise lies.

Should this take over and you are subject to their stories and lies, stand close to your principles. Rarely was an honest and calm person not seen by those who matter most.

Questions project managers should ask.

The next in the series is:

How will we know when we’re finished ?

Asked at many a project review meeting in the context of tasks and deliverables. Its about knowing what you’re actually delivering and should be asked from the very moment you start the project, if not before.
Many times I’ve sat round a table of very capable people and asked this question to be able to hear a pin drop.

The answer I’m generally looking for is what’s commonly linked to ‘acceptance criteria’ and specifically within the field I work, known as test results. Though the principle can be applied to pretty much any area. I’m looking for some concrete acceptance criteria that are matched to the original task or project requirements.

If we’re making a blue square, we’d be finished when we have something that is blue, and that is a square.

The solution sounds obvious, and somewhat belittling to those with half an ounce of common sense. However, technology and process can gain an inordinate amount of complexity, and when you add in multiple stakeholders and a bit of office politics, the details can sometimes become lost. Communication by e-mail and failing to update the original specifications fall short of best practice configuration management as Prince II describes.

How will you know when you’re finished ?

My current client is occasionally happy for me to work from home when there are personal issues to attend to.
This particular issue involved the dentist and some less than ordinary work. Implants.

Nothing special about this, is there ? Well maybe, my client is UK based and my home this week has been Prague.

Armed with WiFi, mobile, and a Skype number they can call a regular UK number and be connect to my laptop here in Prague. I’m really pleased with the call quality, better than most regular phones and certainly better than call from a UK mobile. Topped up with Skype credit and you can call UK numbers from your laptop too.

This is very much a step from Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week, my bible on all things work related.

With mobile data roaming on O2 costing only £2 per day, having all of your apps available, along with decent web browsing meant I could even check internal e-mail via the web browser. Coverage of course is a killer in whatever county you visit and a train ride into the Czech countryside meant a very slow data connection.

All in all, successful trip with no issues at all raised by the client. They probably thought working at home meant a UK home.

I really love to read about the lifestyles of others, how they’ve made changes for the better, and particularly if we can adapt these changes to our own lives. I thought I’d list some of my favourite lifestyle books for others to consume.

You can buy Happiness, Tammy Strobel

You can buy Happiness, Tammy Strobel, who took minimalism to what some would call an extreme with her tiny house. I love a lot of things about what she did and I can really understand why they did it. I’m not altogether sure this is where my idea of minimalism is taking me though.

This I know, Susannah Conway

This I know, Susannah Conway – A really rather interesting story of how a sudden death can have have both a negative and positive outcome and how it affects our lives as the healing process takes place. Anyone who’s suffered a sudden death of a loved one, or recovered from depression, will be able to relate to what she writes. I love the fact she’s a fellow Polaroid fan too, and the resultant photographs adorn the pages.

The 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss

The 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris  – I can’t remember how many times I’ve read this book, at least a dozen so far. I read it again while on holiday and to some extent its been a guide to me changing my lifestyle. Its full of real practical advice. I ended up buying a number of kindle and paper versions and have given many copies to friends.

The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau

The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau  – Both my business partner and I read this without either of us knowing so. We found each other quoting ideas from it in a meeting shortly afterward. We both like the principles in the book and use many of them in our own business. I’ve very much become a fan of Chris and read his other book detailed below.

The Art of Non-Conformity – Its another look at the alternative lifestyle and the prequel that led to the $100 startup. Written in a familiar language and capturing all the ideals and actions that inspire me.

Be a Free Range Human – Marianne Cantwell, who shows you that you really don’t have to do the 9-5 and who coined the phrase portfolio career. I’d not seen this concept so well defined and wish this book existed when I was rethinking my own lifestyle decisions.

Entrepreneur Revolution – Daniel Priestly – will probably sit in one of my all time lifestyle favourites along with The 4 Hour Work Week and The $100 Startup. I started reading this at about 7:30am one morning and had finished it by 11:20am, I just couldn’t put it down. There’s a great deal of lessons to learn and I wish I’d read when building my own business. I loved the practical exercises in the 10 Challenges, the building of the ATM model and the inspiration to just produce output and get work ‘out there’. In most cases I read the kindle versions, but given that I’ve read and re-read many of these books, I also ended up buying paperback versions too.

A similar page on lifestyle books appeared on my Minimalist website in March 2013

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

Bruce Lee

I picked up this book at the end of last week and absolutely loved it. Entrepreneur Revolution will probably sit in one of my all time lifestyle favourites along with The 4 Hour Work Week and The $100 Startup. I started reading this at about 7:30am and had finished it by 11:20am. OK, so I’m a fast reader, but I just couldn’t put it down. Why was it such an addictive read ?

  • The style of writing, its a personal view of the author, who just tells it like it is, and assumes you’re involved or at least looking at getting involved in building a business of your own, really getting to the point.
  • The lessons learnt from the Author. Its one of those I wish I’d read when building my own business. Albeit, maybe I could have only learnt by my making  the mistakes myself. Then again, I am a tad stubborn.
  • The 10 Challenges, particularly carrying larges sums of cash around to change your perspective on money and affordability, and making 3 phone calls to new people every day.
  • The ATM product model. It just makes so much sense.
  • Influence comes from output. Actually creating things, even if they may not be perfect and even if theres a risk not doing this confidently. We all suffer with confidence to some extent. Stop talking about things, planning things, procrastinating on things, and just get on with it.

The book is now littered with post-its for me to come back to:

  • The Lizard and Monkey brain, and how they need to be occupied. Settling for being the Monkey perhaps isn’t something ‘normal’ people see about themselves.
  • The 10 challenges mentioned above.
  • Pitch, Publish, Products, Profile and Partnerships. We did this in our own business much later than we should have done. But so many business owners still don’t understand how important this is.
  • Its true, you really can make a living doing what you love to do.
  • The activity of  ‘Discovering your theme’. I can at least turn my rants into something positive in this exercise.
  • Regularly creating written content, whatever that may be.

Whilst those who have been in business for a while may say they know much of this already, and I’m guilty of some of that, its the way the story is told that’s so compelling, and reason enough to go back and look again at these areas to avoid being complacent about your business. Possibly the best thing is that the last chapter is titled ‘Living the Dream’, where it all comes together, including a bit of love for good measure. “Can you imagine living in the entrepreneur sweet spot?

  1. You do what you are passionate about.
  2. You deliver amazing value
  3. You get paid well for it.

….. and everyone loves you for it. Definitely living the dream as far as I’m concerned.

Entrepreneur Revolution is available on Amazon.