Trans-Pacific Trade Delays – Are You Prepared?

September 16th, 2018

Thanks to Dave Porter for recently sharing: Vessel operations and capacity in the last 10 days have been severely impacted by two typhoons in Asia (Central & North China).  Major ports such as Shanghai have been shut down for 2-3 days which has caused a ripple effect such as roll overs and cargo backlog.


In essence, it is creating havoc – vessels are leaving before the entire operation is concluded (leaving many containers behind); port calls are being omitted and/or cancelled; and, heavy congestion and berthing delays are occurring.  If that wasn’t enough, rates are going up again 15-20% as of September 1st!  How resilient is your supply chain?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Recently, we decided to start a new series of interviews, articles and conversations about “The Resilient Supply Chain”.  This just highlights the critical importance of the topic! Our first video interview will debut in September, so stay tuned.

There is a LOT of conversation about trade wars, tariffs and politics yet what has created havoc this past week is an act of mother nature.  Our clients are telling us they are already experiencing transportation delays and rate increases, and demand is NOT slowing down.  These additional issues are bound to add stress to an already challenged system.  Leaving it to luck and hope that nothing will impact your global supply chain clearly is not the best laid plan…

This reminds me of a situation that occurred when I was VP of Operations at PaperPak.  The city where our largest facility was located went ‘under water’ due to a hurricane.  Even though our facility was built on higher land (thanks to P&G), no one could get in or out and everything came to a stand still.  Materials couldn’t arrive.  Shipments couldn’t leave.  Employees couldn’t get to work.  If we didn’t have backup suppliers and resiliency plans, we would have been down FAR longer even when the facility did start up because our suppliers were impacted.

Have you thought through “what if” scenarios?  Are you willing to invest in them?


Miniature Office Golf & a Pathway to Know, Like & Trust

September 14th, 2018

I attended a ProVisors social of miniature office golf last week.  We had great fun (thanks to James Valmonte and Kit Mac Nee for arranging such a great social).  As you’ll see, there was much creativity in setting up golf holes in an office setting.  I liked the hazards – especially the water holes! Although I can hang in there with scramble golf, I didn’t fare as well with mini office golf.  But who can complain about winning a  booby prize?

Regardless of golf skills, it was enjoyable.  It is also a great way to get to know colleagues better.  People do business, partner on projects and contribute to success of those they know, like and trust.  It happened while we were playing golf – a business referral transpired. When have you thought about getting to know, like and trust your colleagues, customers and /or suppliers?

One tip to implement this week:
You don’t have to be as creative as designing an indoor miniature golf event, but why not think about how to get to know, like and trust your colleagues, customers and suppliers better?  It is a progression. Clearly, you cannot like someone if you don’t know them.  And, you are unlikely to trust them if you don’t like them. Start at the beginning and think about ways you can really get to know your colleagues.  

Ask questions and listen.  Pay attention and take notes.  Have you noticed how you feel good when someone is taking notes on what you have to say?  

Next look for ways to create the situation such that you’ll develop a ‘like’ for your colleagues.  Miniature office golf is a silly activity that is entertaining.  Yet, it helps to facilitate the process of getting to know one another and ‘like’ each other.  There are also countless things you can do to improve your likeability. Start by thinking about the other person. Make it “all about them” and you are likely to be the star.  Brainstorm at least 3 ways and try one to start. See how it goes and modify as you go.

What do you plan on doing?  Let us know how it goes.


U.S. Small Business Optimism Climbs to 2nd Highest on Record!

September 12th, 2018

A National Federation of Independent Business survey reported that U.S. small business optimism is close to a record high and is at the highest level in 35 years!  Fueled by tax cuts, deregulation and robust consumer demand, business owners are optimistic about the future.  As a result, unfilled job openings rose to a new record. Not only did 23% expect to create new openings in the next three months but 23% also cited finding qualified workers as the single most important business problem, nearing the highest in 45 years.  Are you appreciating your talent?


What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Definitely, we should all look at our talent with a fresh set of eyes.  Before we think about hiring, the key question to answer is “are you appreciating the talent you already have?”.  Your competition will if you don’t. Perhaps go a step further – are you appreciating them as you want to be appreciated or as they want to be appreciated?  

For example, giving someone who wants opportunities to advance his career a small bonus might not be as nearly appreciated as putting thought into the ‘right’ project to further his career.  A single mother might prefer a bit of flexibility in her schedule vs. either of those perks. And there are a surprising number of people who would secretly prefer you to remove non-productive and poor attitude employees out of their way.  It can be the single best thing you can do to keep good people by weeding out the poor performers.

Next, consider whether you’d want to be hired by your company.  Are you working on progressive initiatives? Does it look like a dungeon or a place you are proud to arrive at each day?  Are collaboration and teamwork encouraged? Or is it a dog eat dog world? What does social media say about your company? And, most importantly, people work for people; not companies.  Are your leaders a good representation of your company? Would you work for them?

Would you work for you?


My Backstory & How We Develop Talents

September 10th, 2018

I’ve heard backstory expert, Mark Levy, speak several times over multiple years.  The light bulb didn’t go off in my mind regarding my backstory until a month ago – thanks to a conversation with Nancy Cramer.  Much appreciated Nancy (a colleague who has helped me with a few key concepts over the years)!

Although my backstory is a bit longer than I’d like for this newsletter, I’m posting it anyway.  It’s a good example of how skills are derived and helps to explain where my talent for maximizing multiple variables came from.  

(None of these pictures are of me.  However, I will share a video of my junior high ice skating video after my friend and colleague, Susan Brunasso transfers it to a digital file for me.

My parents grew up during the depression.  Because my mom had to work various jobs from an early age and had an busy daily schedule (taking multiple buses an hour into the city, going to school, going to work, taking buses back home, performing other jobs, studying into the middle of the night and starting all over again), she wanted us to have all the opportunities she didn’t.  Thus, I grew up with an amazing childhood that included a wide variety of activities.

My mom signed me up for everything.  And, I grew up believing that I could be good at whatever I put effort into – whether it was competitive ice skating, tennis, ballet, chess, pottery class, bowling, painting and more.  My dad was also involved.  I think he is the only parent who made games of catching stop lights at 5am while driving me to skating, swim team or somewhere else.

Some activities I enjoyed more than others.  And, I gave everything a ‘go’.  For example, I finished out a few swim team seasons before deciding I really didn’t enjoy jumping into cold water at 6 or 7am and swimming countless laps.  With that said, I was glad I passed the most advanced swim test – where you swim with your clothes on for survival training – because I knew I could.

On the other hand, I loved softball.  I waited for my dad to get home to play catch every day (and even enticed my best friend into playing catch on countless occasions and am sure she preferred to do something else).  I eventually switched to other activities where I could succeed longer-term and carry them forward throughout life.  But, the bottom line is I knew I could try new things and eventually find a path to some sort of success – similar to business, there are always additional options and avenues for finding success.

I succeeded and failed many times over and learned to “keep going”, certainly a secret ingredient to business success as well!  Although I succeeded in winning several ice skating competitions, I also fell in front of a row of judges – more than once. It was a great learning experience, and I enjoyed it. On the other end of the spectrum, I also played count Dracula in a Christmas ice show which stretched my creative powers (or lack thereof) to be sure.  No matter the challenge, my parents assumed I could do it – and so did I.

I ended up giving up skating as I went into high school as it is quite costly and requires an immense commitment which was no longer reasonable as I entered the new phase of life.  This happens in business as well, where one of your most successful products or services runs its course and you need to know when to jump S curves.

In my case, I took on tennis so that I could play with the high school team and focus on an evergreen activity (of course, that was more my mom and aunts’ thinking at the time because what 13 year old cares about when they turn 50?).  My mom thought ahead and knew that for me to make the team, I’d have to speed up my improvement . So, she signed me up for indoor tennis classes in the winter in Chicago – a great way to leap forward. In Raleigh, she also signed me up for indoor tennis, and it worked!  I made the tennis team, played in the singles lineup and won “most improved” one year. I see this as quite similar in business – those who find ways to improve while the competition is resting succeed. Similar to chess, you have to think 3 moves ahead! Also, my relatives’ long-term thinking paid off, as I have been hanging out at the Claremont Club to take lessons and play with a group whenever I am in town. After all, you know what they say about all work and no play!

Fast-forward many years – it turns out that my best talent is in maximizing multiple variables in businesses and seeing down-the-line impacts others don’t.  I have no doubt that this directly correlates to my unique activity-filled childhood.  Clearly, my parents are to thank for my success today!

One tip to implement this week:
As I said, it took me years, thinking off and on, about my backstory before the light bulb went on.  So you shouldn’t expect to figure out yours in a day (although I’m sure someone will, if nothing else to show me up:-)).   Perhaps this is a good time start to think about your talents. What are they? How do you utilize them? Or how could you utilize them? Also, take some time to think about your employees, peers and leaders.  What are their talents? There is no doubt that success occurs by building on strengths. Perhaps you should think harder about yours….

What is your backstory?

Amazon’s Deal with Party City & More Competitors

September 8th, 2018

While I presented on the Amazon Effect to a specialty group of ProVisors (trusted advisors) members focused on manufacturing and distribution recently, Amazon was firming up a deal with Party City to offer an assortment of items. This is just the latest in a stream of retailers collaborating with the competition.  Party City follows Kohl’s (see the sign in the picture below), Sears, Nike, Chico’s and more. This is especially interesting because at our recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable event, almost every CEO mentioned a time when he/she collaborated with the competition.  Perhaps we should be keeping our mind open to the possibilities?






What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Since Amazon is willing to search for win-win deals with the competition, who knows what will come next?  Are you impacted by Amazon? Every client we work with has said they are impacted in one way or another – yet 1% actually work or compete directly with Amazon.  They have certainly become a disruptor! Perhaps that’s why such an ‘old’ topic is still requested by several groups in speaking circles.

Who is the Amazon of your industry?  Or, can your company take on that role?  It can be easier to create the rules than to follow behind.  Yet, if no one follows, that can be an equally significant issue, as well.  

It may be worth asking questions of your employees – are they paying attention to what’s going on in the industry and with your supply chain partners?  Do they have ideas that might revolutionize your customer experience? How do you know if you haven’t asked? Or encouraged innovation?

In 100% of our clients, we’ve found employees with ideas that management knew nothing about.  9 times out of 10, the ideas have some merit. You never know… may very well lead to being the  disruptor.