Monday, July 31, 2006

Business Class and Work Productivity

I was given a courtesy upgrade to business class on my current trip (thanks Continental!), which will greatly increase my work productivity since I can work during the flight. In addition, I am having the stuwardess keep a steady stream of margaritas delivered to seat 3F. Doctor's orders, you know.

So with margarita(s) in hand, I pulled out the laptop and started working. I wrote this blog entry for later posting. Next I will do some emailes. Then I'll work on srome sales strategeries, cutromer presrentationeses, and engragement issrues. I'll get a wholep lots of wurk dun on the flite thanks to by brusiness class seet.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Internal Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper, n. - used in sales vernacular to refer to a person who has influence over a decision making process; specifically a person who manages or constrains the flow of knowledge, information, or access to a person.

A group in my company wants to do something, but it is for an area which they have no decision making authority. That authority rests in my group.

So I have been watching this outside group go to various people in my organization, trying to convince VPs, executive VPs, and senior VPs to do this favor for them. And each one of these VPs keep sending the request over to the same person: me. Why? Because I happen to be an expert in the field in question, plus the decision effects what I do. I am the logical person to send the request to.

So I sort of sit on the decision, waiting for someone from the other group to come try to convince ME about what they are trying to do. And I wait. And wait. And I watch them go to yet another VP and do their pitch. Which eventually gets sent down to me.

This other group knows that I should be in the decision making process, but because they think my title isn't high enough, or because they know I see some ethical problems with what they are trying to do, they keep trying to go over me or ignore me altogether. But I still hold significant sway over what happens. Maybe not veto power, but I could certainly make the thing much easier to get done, or nearly impossible to do. And what I would require would only be enough to make my ethical concern go away. But that might be part of the problem since, quite frankly, someone in the other group is set up to personally benefit to what they are proposing. Which is probably why they are being instructed to push so hard for it.

So I just sit on the request, hinting at my superiors about the ethical issue, which makes them want to delegate the issue to me even more.

Friday, July 14, 2006

When a Title is a Liability

Sometimes layoffs start at the top: Intel to lay off 1,000 Managers

The ironic thing is that some percentage of these managers have people working for them who make more than they do, but they are the ones being cut because they are a "manager". This is one reason why I negotiate hard on compensation and not so much on title. I can't buy food with a title, after all, and sometimes a title makes you a bigger target.

A lower title also means that people who put a lot of stock in titles - you know the type - end up underestimating you, which is usually a good thing in a political battle.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"W" Review

No, not the pres. The hotel. After my last hotel fiasco in Japan where my suite didn't provide a personal geisha, I pounded on my travel department. They wised up and decided to try to mollify me by putting me in the W on my stay in San Francisco this week.

When the cab dropped me off I thought he had made a mistake and dropped me off at a disco. It was pretty dark, but there were some flashing lights that brought my eye towards a fully stocked bar surrounded by people swaying to the techno music blaring over the speakers. I looked up and saw people leaning over rails for the two stories that opened up above the bar area. The strobe lights lit up couples laughing and drinking on the upper stories. Towards the back I saw people lounging on couches, drinks in hand, chatting and listening to the music. I looked back over my shoulder hoping to escape, but the cab was gone. I looked around me again and this time caught a sign: CHECK IN THIS WAY. The "disco" was their lobby (yes, the cab could have taken be to a door that went straight to the relatively normal looking check-in area, but I guess the cabby thought I needed to party first).

The check-in went smoothly and I went up to my room. Now, I have spent literally over a thousand nights in hotel rooms since I have been working. A conservative estimate would be:

17 Years Worked * 12 months/year * 5 days average travel/month = 1020 Hotel Nights

This means I have stayed in hundreds of hotels, and I have found that business hotels are all pretty much the same: industrial bed, institutional desk, musty drapes, okay TV system.

The best way to describe my room at the W would be: I was staying in the spare bedroom of a rich, single guy's condo. I walked in and found the high-end, vertical CD stereo system already playing some new-age, up-tempo music, not too off from what was playing in the downstairs disco. There were plantation shutters opening up to the Bay Bridge in the background (sorry about the cellphone cam):

There was an Etch-a-Sketch, yes, one of those toys, on the desk. The room looked like an inviting place to hang out in, but after a few moments of doodling, I decided I wanted to catch dinner and ventured back down to the disco.

They had snacks and such at the bar, but I wanted a meal and ended up at their restaurant "XYZ" (how clever) next door. Now, this is a small food place. So I just kept ordering more and more small food until I made one big meal. Small food costs big money, so my meal ended up costing a lot, but, hey, I was on an expense account. The martinis were excellent, and should be at $10 a pop.

After my two, maybe three?, martinis I went back to my room and fell straight asleep in the big comfy bed. I woke up too late the next morning to hit the spa and gym, which people rave about, so I can't review it here. Maybe I'll hit it the next time I go.

To sum it all up, I would describe the "W" as THE place to take someone for that first time you are going sleep with them. If you're alone on business, I'll say that it was a very refreshing change from the normal, dreary business hotel.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mixing Friendship and Business

In China, the relationship comes first! - One of my Chinese "Customers"

This was said to me with a straight face by a guy I don't trust. I am betting by the end of the year I will find that he is using some of my company's IP that he doesn't have legal access to.

The purpose of my meeting was to basically warn this guy of the consequence of not dealing straight. He was feeling I was being a "typical American" and coming in discussing business, and that I should "not worry about that legal stuff. We should get to know one another better!" He said this over our third glass of Chinese wine (ugh!).

But the fact of the matter is that no matter how much Chinese wine and meals we have, I don't like the guy. But if he deals straight, I'll do business with him.

There are friends I wouldn't do business with. There are people I do business with that I don't particularly like. Maybe it IS an American thing, but I see friendship and business as two separate worlds. It is great when they overlap, but I don't try to make them match. Each world has different criteria.

That's not to say that spending time with customers and entertaining isn't important. Respect and trust are important to any business relationship, and it is easier to build that rapport away from the office. But that shouldn't be confused with "friendship". And no matter how much I like a guy, I am not going to let him screw my company, and by extension, me.

So maybe I do come in, guns blazing, wanting to discuss business first. But I am traveling the world trying to make my company money, not being Willy Loman trying to be "well liked".

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Some Thoughts on the Fourth

  • I was joking with a British friend of mine to hoist a warm one on July 4 for getting rid of the Colonies. Then it occurred to me that it is likely that most of the world's Independence Days are celebrated at the expense of the British. Someone has probably done a count (and I am too lazy to search), but my guess they are the top.

  • If you don't get a hangover during the next four days, you aren't celebrating correctly.

Note that I will not be blogging for the next few days due to hangovers.