Thursday, April 30, 2015

And my #1 favorite thing about Japan....

The toilets. Hands down.

Heated seats...and more. I think I need to get one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Parenting Lesson Learned

Paco was going on a field trip that involved a 2 hour bus trip each way.  He asked me if he could take my iPad.

I was initially very reluctant, for two reasons.

  1. I felt like it was unnecessary given that he was going to be with his friends for the entire time and that, well, in my day, we didn't have iPads to "keep us from getting bored."
  2. I was assuming all of the risk for the damages and I wanted him to figure out a way to address my concerns.
After some aggressive lobbying by a key advocate (aka the NFO) on his behalf, we arrived at an agreement and he was able to take it.

Around 4pm, I get an iMessage from Paco

And then he proceeded to give me a play-by-play account of what was going on.

In fact, 2 minutes later, the NFO calls me and says 'I just heard that one of the buses broke down, but I don't know if Paco is on it." [Note: she doesn't actually call him that.]

"He is," I responded. 

"How do you know that?"

And I explained that I was getting real-time updates from my reporter on the scene, almost like a Twitter feed, that was beating the information being sent out by email via the school.

A classic disintermediation due to disruptive technology.

And, of course, I had to tell him how right I was for my forethought.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Who is "Gusto?"

As you may know, I have a propensity for nicknames. A lot of them.  Even now for Paco's friends in the 4th grade.

They are Chuckdog, Vito, Frankie, Tony, Hunter, and Stefan. And believe me...those are a long way from those kids' actual names ;-)

Anyway...the other day, I saw Paco in the youth groups at our synagogue through the window.  He was actively participating.

As I reported back to the NFO at lunchtime, with Paco present, "yes, he was in groups. He was praying with gusto."

To which Paco (aka Jokinen) said: "who's Gusto?"

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Skills, Network, Challenges Career Path

When I was 18 and opted to take German in college, one of the reasons I decided to do so because I looked at the state of the world economy and thought, “well, if Germany is the largest economy in Europe, it probably can’t hurt to learn that language.”

And, after college when the opportunity came up to go to Japan, I thought, “well, Japan is the 2nd largest economy in the world [it was at the time], that could be useful one day.”

What I didn’t realize is that it’s more than the language, it’s the culture and history of the countries that help you really work within those environments.

In my Never Stop Marketing days, I was able to travel to both Germany and Japan to provide services to clients.

And, now, as Sprinklr expands globally, those same skill investments I made over 20 years ago are paying off.

In February, I was in Germany as part of the SAP partnership we have and in April, I visited Japan to help the Sprinklr Japan team get off the ground.

(And, heck, in the middle, I went to Israel-keeping the Hebrew fresh.)

It’s been rewarding and exciting to see how this part of my life/career has played out to date.

Same goes for the combined 3 years I spent living in those 2 countries. Not only did it help me learn the languages and cultures of those particular places, but it served to expand and enrich my ability to function in any foreign environment.

In a globalized world, that’s obviously a good thing.

When people ask me about “career path,” I cast it aside. I don’t think a “career path” exists. How could I have predicted the rise of Facebook, Twitter, etc. 15 years ago?

What I tell them is this:
·      Focus on building your skills. Develop new ones because you never know when they will come in handy.

·      Focus on building your network.  People whom I met 20 years ago (and stayed in touch with for genuine, non-selfish reasons [that is the key] end up being great resources for you in unexpected ways.

·      Take on big challenges: No one likes to feel like they failed or might fail, but forcing yourself to do new things that may fail is a skill in and of itself.  It’s better to force the change on yourself than have the change forced upon you. It’s Darwinian. Need to be able to adapt.

Anyway, I’m writing this on the plane back from Japan and I suppose I’m a bit reflective right now.

And inspired.

Now, it’s time to think about “what are the skills I am going to need 20 years down the road to stay relevant?”

I don’t know for sure, of course, but I do know that it involves looking at the larger trends and following the skills, network, challenge approach.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Still more things I love about Japan...

How you have the name of the counter agent at ANA airlines. So personal.

And the famous Hachiko statue...
See the movie. Even the one with Richard Gere is good.

Reconnecting with Old Friends...

Thanks to the power of social/digital media, we're all blessed with the possibility of reconnecting with friends from another time and era.

While it could be sometimes construed as awkward (not for me, but so I'm told), I find that seeing people in person after 5, 10, or 15 years (which is why I have so much fun at reunions) gives you a chance to reflect on who you were, where you are, and have someone help remind you of things that influenced your path.

In this case, I had a chance to see Petras (with whom I worked at Fact Communications in Tokyo) and whom I hadn't seen in 17 years, Jim Weisser (who I saw 5 years ago, but knew from 17 years ago) and Brent (who was at Int'l University of Japan) with me.

I would encourage you...even if it's only for 20 minutes/coffee, next time you are traveling somewhere, make the effort and reconnect with a friend from a past life.

With Brent Mori...

With Jim "Bud" Weisser...

With Petras Petroskevicius 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More Things I Love About Japan

Koi Ponds

Best Vending Machines On the Planet

Got to love those organized, disciplined lines at train stations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things I Love About Japan

I'll tell you...some things that the Japanese confound the heck out of me. But, at the same time, I don't think there's a country that is more customer-focused in the world. That's just a part of it.  Here are a few things that I just love about the way things are done here...and some that I could do without.

More to come.

They have chargers for your phone in taxis.

 The order of the numbers in the elevators is pretty straightforward.

People line up for the subways (there are lines on the platform) and wait patiently for everyone to exit.

On the other hand, the subways are pretty packed and there's not a lot of personal space.

And anyone who knows the country, knows that the names of products are somewhat unique...but entertaining nonetheless.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How a Car Mechanic Can Earn Trust

We've all been there (well, maybe most of us have). Your car is broken down in an unfamiliar locale and you have to confront the fact that you are at a mega-disadvantage when it comes to your relative level of knowledge vis a vis the mechanics.

It is my hope/belief that the arrival of technologies such as social, mobile, and user-generated content sites will change that.

Part of that is making sure that people know you are holding them accountable.  Here's how I did it with Elite Automotive in Potomac, MD. Their willingness to go on video showed me their trustworthiness and then, of course, I validated it with my trusted mechanic (unless they are in cahoots with each other :)

Seriously, these guys were great and I highly recommend them...even when your car isn't broken.

Enjoy the videos

And afterwards

Thursday, April 16, 2015

LOVE Starbucks...How my son got to mop the floor, literally

How can you not love the amazing commitment to customer satisfaction by Nick at the Cabin John Starbucks?

My car's radiator blew out so we ended up being stuck for about 3 hours. I got a coffee, got him a hot chocolate and we sat down for the long wait. I gave him a copy of the paper, but he quickly got restless, saying "I need to DO something."

Right about that time, Nick comes over and says, "I hope you guys don't mind, but I am going to mop now."

So I said, "hey, my son needs something to do, he'll do the mopping for you."

And Nick said, "ok!"

So, he let me do some mopping.

Boy happy. Father relieved.

And SBUX delivers yet another great customer experience!

Don't worry, Starbucks, Nick eventually took over and did the job perfectly!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

For the college sports fans out there...

I happened to catch part of SportsCenter last night when I saw that Providence beat Boston U in the NCAA "Frozen Four" to win the national title.

Now, normally, I wouldn't care, but seeing as I had also seen SportsCenter a few nights ago (now you get my viewing habits) when they had a guest appearance by Jack Eichel who was the player of the year.

So, it led me to thinking...

  • Boston U had the player of the year in hockey and they lost in the championship game
  • Wisconsin had the player of the year in college basketball and they lost in the championship game
  • Oregon had the Heisman winner (same thing) and they lost in the championship game
So, I was curious if this tri-fecta had every occurred before and, if so, when?

ESPN...what say you?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

How Kids Humble You

While painful at that moment, one of the things I love about having kids is how they can so quickly and gently humble you and give you a sense of perspective.

Paco, to his credit, took on a huge challenge by attempting to read a long, extremely dense biography of Winston Churchill. It was certainly above his vocabulary level (to be fair, many of the words were above the NFO's and my vocabulary level!).  He was supposed to read it over Passover break, but with every page requiring a visit to a dictionary (or Google), it became obvious that we weren't going to finish the 300+ pages.

I really enjoyed reading the book with him, as did the NFO. It was a mini-adventure and we actually learned a lot about Churchill. However, at some point, we had to admit that we weren't going to finish before the deadline, so we had to step back.

Paco apologized to me.

He felt bad that he had "wasted time" by reading a book with the NFO and me and "taking you away from your work."

I felt bad.  The fact that my son thought that ANY time I spent with him in the pursuit of knowledge, education, experience, and just being together was a waste and that work was more important than he, indicated to me that I was/am sending the wrong message.

I tried to explain to him that my entire reason for being is to be his dad (well, and his sisters). Certainly in the biological sense and that, while I love my work and I do work a lot, it is with his ultimate needs in mind.

Sure, we lose focus on this and money doesn't replace time.  But, it's not even time, it's about focus and communicating that we care.

In general, I think (hope) I do a pretty good job of communicating this to my kids, but every now and then, I really appreciate the strong reminder.

He's a great kid (all of my kids are) and I am blessed that they are able to tell me when I have messed up.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Luna Bar's brilliant corporate sponsorship

Every man knows that the only rule of pregnancy is: "when your wife has a craving, you do what you can to address it."

About 12 years ago, when my wife (aka the "NFO") was pregnant with our first child, she had only one craving...Luna Bars.

One night, around 8.30pm, she tells me "I really want a Luna bar."

"Where do you get them?"

"Well, you can usually go to store A, but they close at 8, so you need to go to store B..which is about 5 miles away."

Ugh, I thought, "you can make it," I said.  "You can get it tomorrow."

I didn't go.

Yeah, I know. Not a good way to score many points.

So, they next day, I decided to try and make it for her.

Keep in mind that this is pre-social media, but the following day, I decided to call the company.

I make my way to a Marketing person and say, "so, you guys market yourself as a nutrition bar for women, right?"

"Yes, we do," he answered.

"Well, you'll be glad to know that my wife's sole craving during her pregnancy is for Luna bars."

He chuckled.

"So, hey, I was wondering...would you guys like to be the official corporate sponsor of my wife's pregnancy?"

"Uh, we don't really have a program for that," the guy answered.

"Tell you what," I said. "How about you send a few Luna bars, a t-shirt or something, and I'll make you the official corporate sponsor."

"Sure, we can do that."

A few days later, I get a box with some Luna Bars, a few coupons, and whatever else. Great, I know.

But, here's the rub.

My wife is fiercely BRAND LOYAL to Luna Bars now. By my estimation, we have spent nearly $3000 on Luna bars (if not more) in the time since the they became corporate sponsors of my wife's pregnancy.

And my wife is a mega-brand evangelist...telling everyone how much she loves the product and creating additonal sales for them that way.

Bottom line: I think that the ROI on this particular sponsorship was very high for them ;-)

Now, I have to go back to them for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah!