Sunday, September 27, 2015

Another unexpected pleasure - a skydive with Jeff

Jeff comes over from KI every six or so weeks. I'm often doing work jumps and it never occurs to me to simply get in the sky with him.

Today we made it happen and it was fun. And it may just be the inaugural SA record for POPS - the Parachutists over Phorty Society. Come and get us - guys!

Copperhead Road: Transferrable Skills and Survival

The song once struck me as the ultimate cool. As a rollicking Bluegrass ballad, "Copperhead Road" came to me at that angry young man stage where danger and illegality were cool.

And the latest tough guy stories were from guys who'd just come back from the jungles of Vietnam.
His story of third generation "white trash" brought up on stories of grandparent moonshine runners resonated with me, even though I have no similar history.

With great respect to my dozens of (North and South) Vietnamese friends, Steve Earle nails it when he speaks of setting booby traps along his newly acquired drug plantation:

"I learned a coupla things from Charlie dontcha know, you'd better stay away from Copperhead Road"

I know that stuff still happens but for me I'll just listen to cool songs and skydive on the weekends.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A bright spot on a bright landscape

Work, work, work. It seems to be the norm for me at the moment. And plenty of what I do is hard to classify as work; two skydives on Wednesday, a wine trip with ten students on Thursday.

It's all good, except for the times it's not.

But today surprised me. I was teaching 9-4.30 which is normally quite a grind. However there was the combination of some great students, a great co-teacher, interesting teaching content and a beautiful spring day to walk home in. A perfect storm.

One of the nicest Satudays of teaching in five years. And I've had some magnificent Saturdays. Here's to you, Cate Jerram and the Business Research Methods students. And my caring sister who sent a message of concern - lovingly misreading the subtext of an earlier blog post. You made this day special.

May we share many more.

Do the right things. And trust.

As i walked past my flowers this morning a dozen metaphors came to mind.

I bought those flowers closed - I put them in water and now a week later theyre open
The Dutch Irises behind them are ones that were given to me for free by my florist because the last bunch I bought didn't open
Beauty is available everywhere if you stop to notice it
There are no gaurantees about any specific result you may get for your efforts, but the big picture will work out

These are just my top of mind points. The takeout for me is to keep doing the right things, trust, keep talking to people and be prepared to notice the little wins.

Step in Step out

It is a dance that is bizarre it is bizarre it is a dance that's wearing thin
When you step in and I step out
We don't find the time for talking seems we find the time to shout

All I can say is that it won't be this way forever. Life takes all sorts of turns; many phases look completely different to each other. Where there's life there's hope and the only way to crystallise a failure is to give up.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Four years productively unemployed

It's coming up to four years since I became unemployed. I'd been in a job of some sort since school and had thought that being on staff with a PhD offered some security.

But after four years of contract (2+2) I failed to win a third. And I was out in the cold, looking for billable hours.

Luckily that erstwhile employer needed me - a lot - but they also needed me to show I had other clients, so that I truly was an independent contractor.

So here I am, drawing money from at least three companies and no shortage of things to do.

I don't know what the future holds, but this four years of being "unemployed" has been very productive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Adelaide water: Pretty darn good

I've got to thinking about water recently. The essence of life.

Growing up in Adelaide in the 1970s it was fair sport to complain about the water. "Adelaide tap water" was an epithet my dad used regularly. But times move on. The days of running a bath that has a brown tinge and an earthy smell. Gone. And our water is safe to drink. At 0.4 cents per litre.

There's a far higher chance of getting poisoned out of a rainwater tank.

Sure, by comparison, Melbourne water or spring water are sweet, sweet life. But ours costs a maximum of $3.84 per kilolitre.

The sweet sweet life you see below costs about $640 per kilolitre.

Adelaide water is pretty damn good.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Energy drink: why you so cheap?

One of the fringe benefits of one of my workspots is cheap energy drink.

So why is the Mother green selling at $2 compared to the $3.50 for Red Bull and V at another site?

My argument - brand equity. Red Bull - highest BE, highest price. V is an established brand - next highest. Mother Green - trying to get there. $2.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In awe of the people that work for me


Fate has it that now I have some people working for me. Fate will also have it that one day I might be working for them. My Lion and the Mouse post speaks to that. But for today I can get to be the boss.

And I am in awe of my two teams. Zubair, Kechen and Megan are covering an area they know way better than me and with brilliant efficiency and teamwork. They come to me with solutions and I get to say "yes". I get to look like I run a tight show.

In another domain, Ged, Dezri, Long, Kechen and Josh are covering an area that I know well but dealing with day-to-day stuff that I simply can't get to. They do, and I cover a few exceptions. I get to look like I run a tight show.

I might not get to manage people again for a while and that's cool. Managing myself is quite a task and some say I'm not so good at even that.

But semester 2 is looking like a time where I can say "gee, I had good people then".

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Strangest Dream: Back at Cryovac

I rarely blog about my dreams. That sounds self indulgent and boring.

This seems relevant. Last night I dreamt that I was back working at a company called Cryovac, selling hi tech plastic packaging and machines into the food industry, that started about this time of year, in 1993.

Men of action in the fray
It was where I came to learn that doing was more important than anything else. My boss Rod Davis and coworker, Chris Skinner, were men of action. Early in my seven year stint I went - wringing my hands - to Chris. "We told [customer x] that he'd be getting his order today, but production just told me it's two weeks off. X will hit the roof". And Chris gave me the best advice I have ever had in business:

"Standing here talking to me is not gonna help you. Get on the phone and fix it"

And so much of my time there taught me that when there was a problem the best thing to do is to get in and eat some shit sandwiches; establish a course of action with the customer and keep them informed. And the further up the line you work, the more likely you are to make sure that the problem is not a disaster. If I had spoken to my production people a week before then I could've told my customer a week earlier; he could've held off ordering expensive perishable raw materials and the shit sandwich would be smaller.

It sounds so obvious to me now. But last night my subconscious had a message for me.

A paralysed academic
I dreamt I was back there with Chris and Rod. We were all friends, but after a week or so it became apparent that I really wasn't getting much done. I would come in an instead of having spoken to customers and gotten orders, or explored new opportunities I would have a half a page of writing on a piece of paper. My subconscious has shined a spotlight on an inner fear.

My last fifteen years in the University system has given me a huge amount. I quickly fell into a research and customer insights stream, and have learnt some amazing techniques from very clever people. I stand in front of a lecture theatre of 200 with no qualms and provide an online supplement to my teaching that is efficient and second to none. I'm proud to have had an association with about 10,000 students in that time, across Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and of course, Australia. Three times a year I get to work for 12 weeks with the best middle and senior managers of Adelaide, and we all learn from each other.

A man of action or a fish out of water?
But my "get in and fix the problem" approach has me like a fish out of water. Sure, I am accused of not getting stuff done but that tends to happen when your "to do" list is long. I manage to deliver, and there is clearly no shortage of people who are happy with what I can get done. To me - as a contractor - it's all money. But I'm a fish out of water because the University approach seems to be about thinking or feeling, rather than doing. Everybody wants to be a strategist, nobody an doer. Wringing ones hands or looking for who to blame is the norm. Dozens of times I've been caught out when I've given the heads up to a boss or a coworker, they've ignored it and somehow I've been seen as the problem.

I'm not sure, but I think I hear the call of the non-university sector. We'll see. I might find an enclave where people get stuff done - within the university sector - but I think I'll be more likely to find the right culture outside.

Still, it's not all bad. My current - self employed - situation has it that the money is just rolling in. But it may be time to consider a change. My subconscious was saying "stay there too long and you'll become one of them".

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Not happy where you are? Start trying to move.

I have spent over 30 years in the workforce now. Much of that time has been totally rewarding - working with people who know more than me, learning a lot, and being treated with respect.

And in some cases, even the best of things gets old. Either I change, the place changes, I lose respect for the players, or they lose patience with me. Many things.

But when I meet people who tell me they're unhappy in their work my answer is always the same. Start applying in other places. For me the result has always been positive - although it does involve dealing with the unknown.

When you start applying for jobs elsewhere it can go a few ways:
  • You might win a new job and move.
  • You might realise nobody wants you with your current skill set.
  • You might see that what you have is really pretty good.
  • Your current employer might find out, and sack you.

I've had all of the above. Each more than once. And it has always worked out for the best.
So if you're not happy, don't waste another day. Start applying. Today.

Groundbreaking news: Shoppers aren't 100% loyal!

Wow. In other news, the sky is blue.

In a month, 75% of supermarket shoppers buy from a chain that is not their major one.

I promise you, that's not news. 100% loyalty rates for all consumer products are way lower than you think.

And if we consider a period that is longer than a month - say, a year - I'd expect that about 95% of people would have strayed.

Nobody owns a customer. Even the biggest brands only borrow them, mostly.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Father's Day

As I move towards this Father's Day it's more poignant than ever. A whole bunch of family relationships in every corner of the country and many degrees of the emotional spectrum. And the question still haunts me:

"Cullen, are you an asshole?"

It depends on who you ask but I can point you to the various people who will answer yes or no. Few who tske the middle ground if really pressed for it.

And perhaps that is what this should be about. Perhaps it should be

"Is my dad an asshole? day"

I had so much more to say but apparently my battery will run out soon. According to Android. Serendipities.

But to many of those who consider me an asshole - I love you more than you know.

We just ran out of time.

When is a customer not a customer?

No - I've never bought a Beaumont tile. So no - I shouldn't be parking here. Soz.

But the line becomes a little more blurry when you think about it a little more. I needed to park in the Norwood Garden Centre so I could expeditiously pick my boy up from school and bought a $30 Crepe Myrtle for the privilege. When i told them they were all "you didn't need to do that, you've been here before".

So where do we sit here?. I can't inflate my tyres at your servo because I didn't buy petrol just then?

The whole "customers only" thing is a big question. Sure it's open to abuse, but one of the branches of marketing that I've studied says "everyone's a customer" - nobody has a zero probability of buying.

But the best was the Royal Hotel in Adelaide who had a bouncer walking their carpark on a Friday morning. He spoke to me and we agreed that buying a beer a week ago didn't let me get a day's parking.

Perhaps that's what marketing is about. Talking to the customer - even the infrequent one - and relationships.