Tag Archive for Tom Fedro

Activity does not always equal Accomplishment

Never confuse Activty 
By Tom Fedro
 
John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach of all time, said it best, “Never confuse Activity with Accomplishment.” One of the most difficult aspects of managing a start-up company is dealing with the excitement level of the new venture and essentially reining in the tendency to believe that constant activity for activity’s sake is critical at all times. 18 years ago, led by an almost euphoric market and the ability to tack “dot com” at the end of anything, one could watch stock prices soar as investment capital flew in and companies filled giant break rooms with ping pong tables, arcades, snack bars, and more. Everything was exciting and fun, but in many cases the activity wasn’t anything approaching good business. (This isn’t to say that amenities for employees can’t help attract and keep good staff, it just illustrates the frenetic pace of business in emerging markets.) A few years later, the tech “bubble” imploded, and the net result was a great loss of shareholder value, layoffs, and paper millionaires realizing they had non-paper debts.

Technology itself has enabled a single person to create a great deal. In the time it takes me to write and post these words, I will likely have also checked my email, sent correspondence via instant messaging, and arranged travel for a business conference. If the average businessperson accurately listed the tasks undergone in a particular day, the results would be surprising. At first glance, the sheer number of items completed will tend to create a sense of accomplishment. Who wouldn’t be proud of checking off thirty or forty items on a list? Dig a little deeper, though. Take a look at the tasks and determine which of them actually resulted in a benefit to the company? How many of them helped to fill a day but really meant less to the success of the venture than the time spent with them?

Now, multiply that activity by the number of employees working for you. There are certainly hundreds of activities happening every day that likely don’t offer anything in the way of accomplishment. This doesn’t mean your employees are bad or shirking duties. They probably go to bed at night just as tired and just as overworked as you do. It does mean, however, that every employee ought to learn what tasks impact the company. For example, I have known salespersons who spend hours “preparing” to make phone calls and others who stay on the phone constantly but somehow can’t consistently close business. I’ve known programmers who can write beautiful code but spend their time on features that have little benefit. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of management to take the best efforts of the employees and ensure that they are directed properly for maximum effect, to turn the activity into real accomplishment.

How much of what your company does is just activity?

Some Thoughts on Philanthropy

Tom Running.high res

Start-ups aren’t all the romantic fun that Hollywood makes them out to be.  We tend to see the drama and the excitement long after the company in question has succeeded.  We see Google or Apple or Microsoft with dramatic increases in shareholder value and we forget that the founders spent long sleepless nights wondering if they’d make payroll on Friday or if the money for the lease would come in.  We picture those wonderful “aha!” moments when everything falls into place and tend to forget that, for the most part, getting a business off the ground is just hard work, plain and simple hard work.

Once you launch the business and your shingle is on the front door, you’re going to get hit with requests for help from worthwhile and deserving causes.  That’s fine by me.  I think we all ought to do our best to contribute in any way we can.  Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Stay in Business

The first and most honorable thing you can do to help society is to stay in business!  How many employees rely on you to pay their bills and feed their families?  You’re obligated first to keep your business running, to avoid layoffs, and to provide an income for the employees relying on you.  You can directly benefit a great many people by providing training and opportunity to those working for you.

Help Others Stay in Business

What works for you works for other companies as well.  One of the clients who uses a product we developed was able to save three hours of work every single day by implementing our solutions.  The entire IT department at Purdue University saw their workload reduced by using the Adaptive Restore product.  What does that mean?  It means the department was able to save resources and provide better services.  The efficiency of the entire organization benefited.  Create and deliver products that do the same for your customers.

Encourage Participation

When possible, don’t just write checks.  Even if you have a few thousand dollars earmarked for a charity, it may be better to get your employees more involved.  Causes need more than money.  They also need engaged advocates.  Write a check and you’ve definitely helped, sure.  Encourage participation, and you’ve helped create advocates.  One of my favorite causes is Free Wheelchair Mission. In 2015 we set a goal to raise enough money to buy 200 wheel chairs and ran in the Surf City half marathon race in Huntington Beach California to collect donations to meet our objective. In this process we got some of our people very excited about the cause and were able to exceed our plan and provide 217 chairs to disadvantaged folks around the world.  The experience was great and provided more to all involved than could have possibly been expected from simply writing a check.

Look for Philanthropic Routines

There are a number of ways to help that will easily fit with what you do already.  What happens to your recyclables?  There are organizations that will pick them up on a regular basis.  The same goes for your empty ink cartridges.  What do you do with your obsolete technology?  Remember, to a tech company, obsolete means something entirely different than it does to a non-profit that really only needs to handle word processing and communications.  Actions that seem insignificant to you can be remarkably important to others.

Have a Heart

Remember that causes are important to those who champion them.  Do your best to help when you can.  When you can’t, make sure you treat the folks asking for help with respect.  Trying to be a part of something bigger than any individual ought to be respected.  If you send people on their way empty-handed, don’t send on their way empty-hearted.

The Future of Technology

By Tom Fedro

This month’s National Geographic spotlights explorers and the history of exploration. There is an interesting infographic that charts major scientific discoveries over time. One of the earliest navigational devices, the astrolabe, was used for navigation for over 400 years before the magnetic compass was invented. 400 years is a long time, compare that to the relatively short 34 years between the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong in which the entire mission had access to less computing power than what is now currently available in a common smartphone.  Technology is moving at an incredible speed.

When I grew up as a kid there were no cell phones, computers, or the Internet. Today, my kids cannot imagine life without them. Today, the Internet brings instant gratification. If you want to research what an astrolabe is, you need only to enter the term into an Internet search box and within seconds, you have your answer.

Today, you need only to walk into an electronics store to see the rapid advance of technology. In addition to smart phones, we have smart tvs with internet access, smart homes you can manage from any where in world, whats next?  I stumbled across an article on Bit Rebels discussing new technology that will allow viewers to touch virtual objects. The applications range from helping the blind see virtual objects through touch, enabling viewers to feel art objects, or shoppers to feel textures before purchasing online.

Its truly amazing to watch how quickly technology advances compared to centuries past and the creative thinking involved in new discoveries. Remember, throughout human history, up until 120 years ago, the most exciting mode of transportation was the horse! What will the next 20 years bring? Exciting stuff and I am grateful to be working in the technology industry and being able to interact with folks like you over a medium like this.

Weighing the Costs of Backup and Recovery

Weighing the costs of backup and recoveryWith technology critical to all organizations no matter their size, both profit and non-profit leaders are betting their company’s life on having the right systems in place at the right time. Some leaders look at technology as a mere accounting expense. Although one does not need to be a CPA to manage an organization’s finances, a basic understanding of the concepts is required to make sound financial decisions for the business. When it comes to technology the same applies in order to make informed decisions on the IT budget. For example, a basic understanding of data storage is important when projecting costs related to backup and recovery in case of a disaster.

As would be expected, storage requirements and protection of the data can range widely in price depending on the vertical market of the company (see Gartner IT spending forecast for 2013 below*). For instance, data storage needs differ greatly between a bank and a non-profit. In the former, high-availability storage is needed for fast access to critical data so speed and performance with absolutely no down time is imperative (requiring a higher investment); in the latter, stored data may be less critical and thus can be backed up on less expensive media with longer intervals between full backups.

Knowing the risk of data loss and weighing that against the investment in appropriate computer hardware and software is also critical. One just needs to look at the damage inflicted upon the telecommunications industry following Hurricane Sandy in 2012**. A lack of investment in infrastructure was to blame for widespread outages. The damage hammered the credibilty and was a financial blow to telecom providers; even spuring an FCC inquiry***.  Despite this, and other natural as well as man-made disasters, many businesses are still not implementing disaster recovery plans to ensure business continuity.

One way to get on track is to do disaster recovery and business continuity prepartion audit.  Many of my company’s partners can provide this service and I am happy to refer you – please email me here at tom@tomfedro.com if I can be of assistance.

Sources:

* IT Spending To See Modest Growth In 2013, Informationweek, January 04, 2013.

**Looking beyond Hurricane Sandy, CounterPunch.org, November 15, 2012.

*** FCC holds Hurricane Sandy hearings into telecom failures, fixes, NJ.com, February 05, 2013.