Archive for the 'Ryan’s Journal' Category
Thursday, July 13th, 2017
This past week has been a whirlwind for me. My wife and I had our third beautiful baby girl and as a result I am sleeping less than the required 11-12 hours that I prefer.
My wife has handled this whole event with grace and I have been humbled by the respect I have for her.
Those of you may already know, but if you don’t, I have three girls now. It’s a true joy and I feel privileged and honored to have them in my life.
Being a parent can be tough today. There is a lot of pressure to be on top of the right trends, expand your baby’s horizons and ensure you’re not feeding them the wrong foods.
Of course all of this is captured on social media for the chance for the world to judge in realtime. What a time to be alive!
I say all of that a bit tongue I cheek as there are some things I have learned as well.
Mark Zuckerberg posted a stat today that towns that have a disproportionate amount of men to women have higher crime rates.
I say that to highlight something that comes from being the father of three girls, love. It is unfiltered and abundant.
If I am having a bad day I can walk in my door and be surrounded by girls that just want to hug me and spend time. Now this is more of a personal lesson but I believe it can be expanded to the business world.
If you look at the latest company scandals you tend to see some common threads. Hyper masculinity, extreme competition and a zero sum attitude towards life.
These tend to be hallmarks of a male dominated organization that lacks balance.
This post is more about observations than solutions.
My observation in my personal life is that the unfiltered love helps me to try and be my best self. It also builds up self esteem which leads to more creativity, problem solving and so on.
Perhaps if we incorporate that trait, love, into our daily lives it will have a profound effect on those around us.
I may be saying things that have been said before, but all I can share is my experience and try to build upon it.
Image credit: Hamza Butt
Thursday, July 6th, 2017
Folks, I thought it fitting to have something veteran related as America just celebrated Independence Day. While the holiday itself is about the founding of the country, I think we can all agree that the actions of the men and women who fought helped secure the independence.
My goal here is to not make this a political blog, but sometimes folks who I respect speak out and I like to highlight them.
I had the privilege to read “Tribe” recently and found the book to share a perspective on PTSD and culture that I had not heard before.
I may have shared in the past, but when I was a younger man I served in The United States Marine Corps. In that capacity I lost several Marines while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq and it’s still something I keep with me.
With that said, I am fortunate not to suffer any serious effects, physical or mental, but I found the book to be a breath of fresh air.
I say all of this to say that Junger is well respected in the community and a voice of reason.
Below my post Junger is quoted as stating the current divisive political environment is causing moral injury on the troops. Moral injury could be very true. In the current conflicts young men and women are thrust into confusing situations that have no clear objective.
For us, we had to contend with the so called enemy, but also the locals; all while trying to explain that we were there to provide peace (while holding them to the gun).
It was confusing and as an introspective guy I had a hard time rationalizing what I was doing. My response was to just not consider the socio-political ramifications and focus on the day at hand.
What Junger says though is true in my opinion. As politics have become more divisive, it is tough for the folks in harm’s way to truly believe in the cause. The homeland is secure and we fight most wars now for no clear reason.
One takeaway from Junger’s book about PTSD I found can be applied by anyone.
He says we should embrace veterans, but not in such a way that you isolate them. Most veterans do not want adulation and praise, they just want mutual respect and the ability to remember, but not dwell.
I have included the full text of his interview below.
An award-winning journalist says people who claim Trump isn’t their president hurt US troops
Sebastian Junger has a message for lawmakers: the partisan warring of politicians in Washington DC is hurting the American military more than they realize.
“Unity is all soldiers have when they face the enemy, and you must do everything in your power to make sure that it is not taken away from them,” the noted war journalist and author, who has written and directed extensively on war, told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on post-traumatic stress disorder on June 7.
Junger used the opportunity to rail against the toxic influence of partisan politics among the armed forces.
“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was not their president, they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he told lawmakers. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause. And that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity.”
The issue isn’t just about the unusual nature of the Trump presidency, or Democrats’ resistance to it. “When Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama [ …] was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” he said.
Junger, whose career as a war reporter began covering the Kosovo genocide in the 1990s, most recently penned a book called “Tribe” in which he wrote about the fractionalized America that troops face when they return home.
“For the sake of our military personnel, if not for the sake of our democracy, such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party,” Junger said.
“If that is not realistic, at least this committee — which is charged with overseeing the welfare of our servicemen and women — should issue a bipartisan statement rejecting such rhetorical attacks on our national unity.”
The military, which serves the president as its commander-in-chief, has become increasingly politicized in recent years.
The Center for New American Security reported a trend of more politicization of the military’s ranks by observing speeches given by retired generals at both Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016.
What’s more, a study by the National Defense University found that more military personnel are sharing their political views on social media.
After surveying 500 West Point cadets and active duty officers, the report found that 75% of respondent said that they had seen their contemporaries shared political links on their personal social media accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
In “Tribe,” Junger writes, “Soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon.”
Read the original article on Task & Purpose.
Image credit: Sebastian Junger
Thursday, June 29th, 2017
If you’re reading this I am making the assumption that you’re a knowledge worker. You may be in an office, a coffee shop, or perhaps some hillside retreat. Regardless of where you may be you have work to do and it needs to be done in a timely manner. When I am truly engrossed in something that has all my attention I get a hit of dopamine that channels my energy. Some call this flow.
Your brain is being fully maximized, distractions fade away and creativity takes place. When I am in this state it feels like work takes less effort. I am satisfied with the results and I feel accomplished. Truth be told I wish I could achieve this state more often and for longer periods of time.
As I was thinking about the concept of flow I was thinking how it could be applied to culture. If we are looking at flow in a way that reduces effort and gets faster results than perhaps we can apply that principle to culture as well.
I read a quote from Steve Jobs where he said, no one individual accomplishes something great, a team does. As I thought on that it occurred to me that the culture of Apple must be one where the team comes first, rather than the individual.
In my mind that is culture at work.
Any new hire would quickly see that belief in action, mimic it, and before they knew it they would assimilate without any conscious thought. That’s not a bad thing, since our brains have so many other things to worry about.
I think the same could be said of the military. You read stories of folks who did heroic things and their reasoning was that they didn’t want to let their team down. As a former Marine myself I can assure you that peer pressure is real and the last thing you want to do is let your buddies down. As a result you see some extraordinary actions on the part of service member, first responders and others. In my mind that is flow at work.
As always, though, we need to figure out how to iterate and expand our culture to a point where flow is achieved and it seems effortless.
I have found that surrounding yourself with folks that have passion for life, push themselves past their comfort zone, and care for others is a terrific foundation to achieve success.
Image credit: ReflectedSerendipity
Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
I had an opportunity to witness two distinct cultures in action in my personal life this past week. I am in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Like most mid-market cities there are several startups and rising companies throughout. I have friends at two that have had events transpire as of late that had two completely different outcomes and I wanted to share my observations.
One company that is located here is backed by VC’s and has been growing rapidly. They have a great culture from how I understand it. Very laid back, treat you like a friend and encourage all team members to go beyond their own role to take on more responsibility.
My friends who work there always talk about the company with pride and enjoy working there. The CEO is a thought leader in the community and can cut to the core of what is needed to accomplish the job.
In my current role, I also use this company as a customer. They provide data on prospects from several databases. It is not unique as there are many in this space, but they provide an excellent customer experience and the data is usually accurate.
Last week we were told that we would no longer be able to access the application. I reached out to my friends and it was the worst news you could hear.
The company was not able to secure another round of funding and they had to close their doors.
This happened basically overnight. They were brought in on a Tuesday told the bad news and sent on their way.
My first reaction is that the folks who worked there would be bitter about the company and the way they were let go. That could not be further from the truth.
Are they out of jobs? Yes. Do they need to scramble to pay bills? Yes. However, they also felt like they were a part of something bigger than themselves.
President Theodore Roosevelt famously spoke about the man in the arena, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming….”
These folks were in the arena and were honored to have strived. They spoke positively of the company and its CEO, realized sometimes you lose and looked at the opportunity to learn as a valuable experience.
In my opinion life is about balance. In the same week as the above news broke I had some friends at another company I am familiar with share some news.
This company is no longer a startup; I would call them a rising company. No VC backing, the CEO started with his own money and they have been profitable through customer acquisition for some time. (I realize if you are in Silicon Valley you may find the concept foreign, but it does still happen.) This company started out with a great culture. Awesome offices, snacks and coffee, smart folks to work with. From the outside looking in it is very desirable.
This company has been on the decline with sales in recent years. It could be the industry it serves or that the products haven’t adapted to the needs of the marketplace.
Speculation from my friends has ranged as they truly believe in the company and its founder. He is a thought leader as well, spends a lot of time with Richard Branson and other luminaries, and is extraordinarily intelligent.
However, sales have been down and it has caused strain on the company.
They recently released the new comp plan for the sales team.
We could discuss how releasing a comp plan in month five and making it retroactive to January is a problem, but that’s not the point of this post.
The team was excited to hear what the new plan would be as some of the teams hit and surpassed their goals last year and figured they would be honored for that.
This could not be further from the truth. The new comp plan essentially cut their income by as much as 30%.
Now the average income for these folks was between $100,000-$150,000 annually. 30% is a huge cut and most may not be able to absorb that. Six figure deals that would bring in commissions of five figures dropped in some cases to the hundreds in commission earned on that deal. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. What’s the incentive to work!
The reaction from my friends there was as expected. They felt betrayed.
This company strives in being inclusive, expecting hard work from the team and tries to create a fun atmosphere.
These folks are invested, they love the company and the friends.
However, when you sign on and are told that you will make X amount and the company flips that on you halfway through the year it causes issues.
I cannot imagine how you would expect a great effort out of team members who feel betrayed and are now worried about paying bills.
Two different companies, two different outcomes.
How would you do it differently?
Flickr image credit: Anthony Albright
Thursday, June 15th, 2017
I had the opportunity to spend some time in Raleigh, NC this week in the Research Triangle. If you haven’t had an opportunity to spend some time here, I highly recommend it. Not only is the area full of beauty, it’s a melting pot of diversity that exemplifies the best of America. The hub of elite universities and top ranked tech companies make this a desirable place to raise a family, but also pursue a career with meaning.
I was here to spend some time with BMC software and was able to sit in and watch first hand on how they train their inside sales teams. I was thinking about how I wanted to approach this topic and this forum allowed for me to point out some real world examples of how a cultural revolution can be started.
A little background on BMC. They are one of the largest private software companies in the world and create products for enterprise IT systems to do everything from track assets, create help desk tickets, manage capacity and sit on top of complex environments to manage jobs.
In a real world example Starbucks is a customer and if BMC’s software failed at any time then Starbucks would be unable to accept any form of plastic.
I say all of this to say they are in big spaces doing the behind the scenes work that is required for us to live this modern life. They were acquired by Bain Capital a few years ago and have been in a massive growth trajectory lately.
One major change that Bain made was the expansion of inside sales teams, BDR’s and inside sales reps.
When you think of sales you think of someone wining and dining with customers and comping their dinners; these guys don’t live that life. They manage the sales cycles through phone, email and LinkedIn.
It is a special skill that is required and it can be taught. These teams add great value to the organization by sourcing leads, closing business and creating value for the customers and field representatives.
An entry level role is as a BDR, Business Development Representative. My experience at other companies has been that these are young college grads that are hungry.
You have some of that at BMC, but they also have folks that have years of experience in other industries who are starting out in software.
You also have some that just enjoy that role and have done it for years. BMC takes these folks from all different backgrounds and shapes them to its vision and culture.
How do they do this?
One way they do it is by constant feedback and coaching opportunities. Now, this can be done the wrong way, but they seem to balance it well here where people seek out opportunities to learn and improve.
They also spend time highlighting team members who are doing something unique that works for them. They take folks that are young in their career and allow them to teach others. This does wonders for morale and also inspires others.
The last thing that I saw that helps is that they like to have fun as a team. They have happy hours, Vegas trips, president’s clubs. Constant incentives to allow people to reach their full potential.
I was impressed with the way they won as a team and built on mutual successes. They were not afraid to share best practices and they helped each other out as much as possible.
Now, maybe we can’t all go to Vegas but some of the things they are doing are very scaleable, not rocket science, and can be repeated at any org.
And then start the revolution.
Image credit: BMC
Thursday, June 8th, 2017
Partnership is an aspect of culture that I think could be explored further.
We all have partners we deal with in life that range from personal to professional. And isn’t it nice to have a partner throughout your day? Someone to help shoulder the burden?
But there is a fine line between a partnership and a parasite and it’s important to remember the distinction.
I work in a partnership daily. My company, Flycast Partners, is a partner of several large scale software vendors. We work hand in hand daily to increase sales, provide services and support. We are essentially an extension of the vendor and work hard on maintaining those partnerships.
This past week my company had the honor of being named partner of the year for North America by BMC software. It was a surprise and unexpected. We are only about 70 strong right now and there are partners that are much larger than we are.
We asked why we were chosen. Was it revenue? Was it the number of accounts we grew? Was it some other tangible thing?
The simple answer was none of that. We didn’t bring in the most revenue or the most new accounts. What we brought was a trusted partnership.
BMC Software is the 7th largest software company in the world and their CEO personally said it was because they knew we acted in the best interest of the customer and BMC.
What drove us to this place?
For one, integrity. The president of my company, Nathan George, believes that you should be honest in all dealings, meet your commitments and do what you say you will do.
He hires based on those criteria. To me these are fairly simple concepts, but not always followed. It would be easy to take the low road sometimes, but not sustainable.
We have competition out there, but we don’t dwell on them. We work on building relationships and providing value.
This is an instance where the partnership benefits both parties.
Next week I will highlight where a partnership can turn parasitic.
Flickr image credit: K-State Research
Thursday, June 1st, 2017
This week has been an interesting confluence of events across the world stage.
Uber continues to be in the news, this time they decided to fire the head engineer, Anthony Levandowski, who is at the heart of the lawsuit with Google.
The US is on the verge of leaving the Paris Accord, something that could quite possibly have a generational effect.
Suicide bombs continue to tear apart lives across the globe.
What is at the root of these three things?
I believe it is fear.
They say the coward dies a thousand tiny deaths, but a brave person dies one glorious death.
I can tell you right now these are cowardly acts.
To begin, Uber is in the fight for its life. They are losing money every day with their current model. They are betting big on automation and have come up against Google over perceived theft of proprietary documents.
If they lose this they could be done. When you step back and look at the ride sharing model, it’s needed but it’s not unique. The barriers to entry are low and there is no differentiation of product from one company to the next.
They need to lead the space in automation because it’s the future and is inevitable. Fear has led them to both hire and fire the engineer at the center of it all. Perhaps they believe this will help their case, time will tell.
The US leaving the Paris Accord is monumental. I am not a scientist, but I can say this: I inherently know that pumping carbon emissions into the air is bad. Add to that the science that supports it and you begin to see the need to somehow influence climate change for the better.
Why would a president risk the lives of future generations so that a few energy companies can prosper?
Fear. Fear has gripped the voters in the first place who chose not to better their lives through education, which would enable them to better their lives.
Fear is in the president’s heart as well to think that climate change is not real.
Finally it brings us to terror.
These plots are designed to disrupt and bring fear to the masses. It is sometimes effective and can have lasting implications.
How do we combat fear?
One way is by seizing the courage to move one step forward at a time. Embrace the fear and look st how destructive it can be and then make a move against it.
That could be helping someone that isn’t like yourself. Learning about a new culture. Perhaps even sitting down to talk with someone on a different political aisle then yourself to learn why they believe the way they do.
It starts with believing people have value regardless of position and then embracing them.
Perhaps that’s too simplistic, but I know in my own life it has worked and is scalable.
Image credit: Pati Morris
Thursday, May 25th, 2017
I was having a conversation this week about Silicon Valley companies. Some of them are doing amazing things.
When I was job hunting I would look at several and imagine myself there changing the world.
There were several though that also had great funding, great people, but I could not understand for the life of me what they did. They had a great list of customers, but I could not understand the value they brought.
There are two possible solutions to that conundrum.
One, I am just not savvy enough to understand (a very real possibility).
Two, they were full of hype and energy, but not substance. I can imagine that both statements are true when you look at the vast array of companies in the valley.
With that said, have we lost the forest for the trees? Have some companies been so hyped that people continue to pour money into them hoping for a huge payday that may never come to fruition?
Uber is in the news for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad. I recently read an article that Uber and Google are working on flying cars. While the concept of flying cars seems cool… I guess, I am more concerned with the participating companies.
Google provides value, products and that elusive quality, profit. They are well established, have multiple streams of income and could fail at this endeavor and live another day. It’s exciting to see them using their money for grand ideas, but it won’t decimate them either.
Uber provides value and services, but zero profit.
In fact, if Uber was run like a traditional company or household, they would have never even gone to market.
They operate more like a country that can print its own money. They take on debt, lose billions every year, yet keep on trucking.
Venture capital and perhaps greed are what allow this to occur. If they fail at the flying car concept what does it mean for the rest of the business?
I know there are very smart folks who are there and who are invested. I often wonder what their long game is. Do they believe they will become profitable at some point if they hang on long enough?
Another thing to consider is the economy. We have easy money right now with very low rates of interest.
For an investor it makes more sense to go with a high risk investment versus storing it in savings, because they essentially lose money due to inflation.
When the markets tighten does that mean Uber cannot seek out another round of funding?
My point is this.
Have we lost sight of the incremental steps it takes for us to achieve greatness by thinking we can accelerate the whole process with enough capital or am I the Luddite here?
I am a believer that debt can be good when there is a viable business model. I am less impressed though when a company has never turned a profit and had no projections to do so at any point soon, but can be valued so highly. What makes Uber so unique?
I say we need to keep dreaming the big dreams, but also look at the foundation.
Is it built on sand or rock?
Image credit: Artur (RUS) Potosi
Thursday, May 18th, 2017
This month is Go Grey month.
It’s a month designed to bring awareness to brain cancer and the horrible effects it wreaks on both patients and their families.
I thought it important to bring up, because I have a friend who’s daughter is terminal. Yet, while fighting brain cancer she is a light to those around her.
You may ask yourself, how is that related to culture? Under normal circumstances I would agree I don’t see the connection either, but I believe there is one in this case.
My friend has instilled a culture of compassion into her life and that of her little girl.
She posts constant updates on non-profits that support cancer research, updates on other child warriors fighting the good fight, and also shares messages of hope.
This may be deeper than culture, it’s character and it has the power to transform institutions and people.
I watch her and feel both a deep sadness but also respect for what she is going through and accomplishing.
I am a parent myself and I feel blessed daily that my girls are healthy and safe. I am not sure I would have the strength that this friend has shown under the same circumstances.
How can character change an institution?
There are numerous examples of one person transforming a company. Steve Jobs, when he returned to Apple, always comes to mind.
And there are cases where the leadership transformed something for the worse — Yahoo?
Character has the ability to almost be self sustaining. It burns bright and true regardless of circumstances.
How do we harness that in a culture? The first step would be, do you have a good character. In the age where there is no right or wrong it can be tough to determine, but, as a rule, I believe if you are taking the time to honor your fellow man and putting them first, you’re on the right path.
So this month I ask that you take time to examine your character, look to serve others, and learn.
Just like my friend who gives her all, we have a choice every day to make it a great day or not.
Image credit: Leigh Blackall
Thursday, May 11th, 2017
Public image for both companies and people has always been important and even more so with the availability of information at our disposal. But even with these tools we are still dealing with asymmetrical information when making decisions and establishing culture.
I spoke to a friend over dinner the other night who travels overseas for work quite a bit. As a result he is not up to speed on current US events and was unaware of the string of crisis that have impacted Uber.
He was shocked to learn that they were involved in lawsuits, scandals and more. It was actually a bit like hearing it for the first time myself as I had a chance to see his emotions as he learned the news.
His opinion of Uber was shaped on asymmetrical information.
I had mentioned in a previous post that some local companies that tout their high employee reviews are not as shiny from the inside. Again, asymmetrical information.
The director of the FBI has been fired, we as the public are dealing with asymmetrical information for the reasons behind it.
I state all of this to say that we must constantly strive to learn, ingest and understand as much as we can when making decisions about the companies we deal with and people we hire.
I recently took part in a process where a new employee was terminated. It was unfortunate but they were not a good fit for the role, exaggerated a bit during the interview process and then didn’t make up for it after being hired.
This person is someone that I wouldn’t mind being friends with, but they were not suited for the role they were in. The hire was a result of asymmetrical information.
I have looked back on my own life at times when I made foolish mistakes due to my lack of information. Rash decisions that cost me time and money. How do we learn from them?
Here are a few ways I have dealt with this moving forward.
- Have trusted friends or mentors to bounce ideas off of.
- Take a day or two when making big decisions.
- Try to remove emotion from the decisions to ensure you’re not swayed.
These all may be basic (I am not as lofty as I would like), but they can make an impact for the positive.
Image credit: Steve Corey
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