Friday, September 21, 2007

Aplologizing to China's Reputation?

Google. Yahoo. Cisco. Now Mattel:

The world's largest toy maker, Mattel Inc, apologized on Friday for damaging China's reputation after recent massive recalls of its Chinese-made toys, admitting it targeted some goods that were actually up to scratch.

Mattel is apologizing to the country of China? For being aggressive in a recall for toys that might be dangerous to children. The story goes on:

But it's important for everyone to understand that the vast majority of those products that we recalled were the result of a design flaw in Mattel's design, not through a manufacturing flaw in Chinese manufacturers.

Uh, huh. The China subcontractors were cutting every penny they could by using lead paint, and this was "a design flaw" by Mattel.

Of course the threat to Mattel wasn't that China would not let them manufacture there. There are other low-cost manufacturing places in the world. It was the domestic China market. Oh, that huge, huge domestic China market that gets executives and marketing people in a tizzy. The Chinese threatened that they just might take it away from them, so Mattel bent over to the will of their Communist masters by doing this kabuki dance.

And another company goes down in ethical flames for the promise of a large market.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seminar From The Author of "Getting to Yes"

I had the distinct pleasure this week to attend a two-day negotiation seminar from one of the co-authors of Getting to Yes, Bruce Patton.

Bruce was one of the co-founders of the Harvard Negotiation Project, which provided the basis of his best selling business book. Today he is a director at Vantage Partners, which provides negotiation training and consulting.

The class largely follows the techniques and overviews of the book, but obviously hammers it into your head better with stories, vignettes and exercises. Bruce is a great lecturer who tells engrossing stories about negotiations covering both his personal experiences in diplomacy (South Africa, Middle East) and business, as well as some historical details on negotiations most people aren't familiar with (we discussed everything from WWII to present day Iraq, and no matter your views they were engrossing conversations).

I am not going to cover the class since a lot of it is covered in the book, but I will say the lecture is much better since it is better able to hit points home, plus he can answer questions and give critiques on your own past experiences or present problems, making the lesson more concrete.

I previously had a chance to do something similar from the author of Start with No, and my conclusion: Patton was (much more) superior for coming up with negotiation strategy. Camp was better on negotiation tactics.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Customers Become Arrogant

I am used to dealing with tough customers, especially in Asia. But they aren't arrogant. Sure, they might rip you off behind your back, but at least they don't act like they are God's gift to mankind while they're doing it.

So I was amused this week when I had a run-in with a U.S. company that is named after a fruit.


Company: Yeah, I want to talk to someone at your company about your technology and I have a very tight deadline.

Window Manager: Sure, I would love to meet to you. I can be in your office tomorrow morning.

Company: We will only talk under Non-Disclosure Agreement.

WM: Great. Send me your NDA.

(I review their NDA. Basically it says that any confidential information I give them they can use free and clear without paying me a dime, which sort of invalidates the whole purpose of an NDA. So I call them the next day).

WM: Um, your NDA has a few issues. There are three sentences I want to change.

Company: No.

WM: Well, how about we have a discussion without an NDA?

Company: You sign our NDA as-is or we don't have a meeting.

WM: How about we make this NDA one-way so that your information to me is confidential, but I really can't tell you anything confidential just yet. We get to that after we talk and see if there is a mutual business opportunity?

Company: Why would I want to meet with you without getting your confidential information? You sign that NDA as-is.

WM: You know, I think it's going to take some time to work out this NDA issue, and you're mentioned you're in a hurry for this project, so why don't we take some time to sort this out, skip this project, and coordinate on the next project?

Company: DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU'RE TALKING TO!! I'M AT (name of a fruit)!

Window Manager: Hey, I'm sorry, but I have a paying customer on the other line. I'll call you back.

(I hang up the phone)


I didn't call him back, figuring he would go away or that he would make my changes, which were perfectly reasonable. After all, my company isn't in the business of giving its trade secrets away.
I didn't count on him using the nuclear option. My phone rings the next day:

My CEO
: Window Manager, what the hell is going on with the (name of fruit) NDA?
WM: How did you hear about that?
CEO: One of our board members gave me a call. He's friends with some (fruit) execs and someone there called him up complaining about the fact we won't sign their NDA. He then called me wondering what the hell was up.
(I walk the CEO through the history)
CEO: Oh. So I guess we should just wait to hear back from them on our proposed changes?
WM: That's would I would recommend.
CEO: Great. Keep up the good work.
This could have easily gone the other way, with the CEO simply telling me to get the damn NDA done and hanging up the phone, forcing me to swallow their NDA as-is. Which wouldn't have been in the the best interests of my company, and something I would have worked around by limiting contacts and information flow from my company. So the guy at (name of fruit) might have gotten the document signed as-is by elevating it, but he really wouldn't have advanced his cause.
If you look at the exchange, the customer is looking at this as a power play rather than a mutual problem to work out. I offered him several reasonable alternatives to changing the NDA. But because of who they are, he is simply used to getting all his demands and is now working to insure that is what happens.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Question of the Day

At what point in your life were you the most "you"?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Seeing The World With New (LASIK) Eyes

I first looked into LASIK nearly three years ago. I went to a mass-market cattle-car operation and was turned off. After that experience I decided I could live just fine with extended wear contacts.

This year my eyes stopped tolerating extended wear and I was back to daily wear. With my constant travel and exercise, juggling glasses and contacts became a major hassle. The final straw was last week in San Francisco when I went out partying and passed out had milk and cookies and fell asleep in my contacts. After peeling them off in the morning it took me 15 minutes to find my glasses, which I had to wear all day since my eyes couldn't tolerate new contacts for another day or so. That was it, I was ready for a lifestyle change.

This time I went to my private opthomologist, who offers the service but at a higher price than the mass-market guys (obviously). He spent a good 20 minutes going over the pluses, minuses and risks. I pulled the trigger and scheduled the operation for Friday. Since I was nervous, I asked him if they could give me a mild sedative before the procedure, which he said they usually do anyway.

I showed up on Friday and a nice nurse gave me a Valium AND a Xanax. Together. At the same time. This was supposed to be "mild". I then got a smock over my hair and a few series of eyedrops and was lead into the operating room.


I had all-laser, "custom cornea" LASIK, which has two steps: cutting a "porthole" flap in the cornea with a laser, and then the actual sculpting of the eye, which uses a different laser. After sculpting the flap is put back in place and takes a few weeks to heal completely.

I will tell you now that the porthole procedure sucks. Even with massive pharmaceuticals in my system it was unpleasant. The procedure puts a suction cup on your eye to hold it place while the laser cuts the porthole. You don't feel anything, but the suction cuts off blood circulation to your eye so your vision "grays out". So you are basically lying there watching yourself go blind in one eye for about 20 seconds. For me it was very unnerving and I hate to think what would have happened if I wasn't on drugs. The good news is that it was over pretty quickly and they rotated me to the other laser for the actual "shaping".

This was not a big deal. I could see throughout the procedure (if a bit blurred) and could actually see the blinking light become more in focus as the laser worked. The part some people might find unsettling is that there is a burning smell in the room as this laser works. I was thinking this was simply ozone being created by the high temperature of the laser, although I guess it could have the smell of my eye cooking as it was lasered away. This step took about 10 seconds per eye.

After each eye was done the flap was put back, and I was done. I got up to get examined, the doctor looked at my eyes, called the procedure a success, and sent me on my way. I was supposed to sleep for 3-4 hours to give my eyes time to rest, which wasn't a problem with the Xanax/Valium combo still going through my system.

I was warned the first 24 hours that I might have "Vaseline over the eyes" vision, and that is what I had. It is caused my corneal swelling from the procedure and takes some time to go down. The next day it was gone for long distance, and lasted another half day for near distance, and had disappeared in time for my post-op check-up 24 hours later.


ResultsNothing less than astounding. The 24 hour checkup had 20/20 in one eye and 20/25 in the other (previously I was over 20/100 in one eye and couldn't see the side of a barn with the other).

What is really jaw dropping is my distant vision. I can clearly see individual leaves in trees that are over 100 yards away. I can tell the models of cars passing through an intersection five blocks away. I wasn't corrected this well in my contacts. It's like walking around with binoculars compared to where I was before, meaning that I am really looking forward to my next outing to the beach.

The close-in vision is obviously good, and I can read the fine print on items that are over an arm's length away, the same as before with contacts, but obviously a lot better with just the naked eyes.

The only negative affect so far is that I have a "starburst" effect from point lights. This was very noticeable the first day, less severe the second, and a lot less today. This is caused by from the flap being cut and is supposed to go down over time as the cornea continues to heal, which seems to be the case so far.

Over the next few weeks I also have a series of drops I need to use religiously to help the healing process and have to sleep in goggles for two weeks to avoid poking myself in the eye while I sleep.

I'll post a one-month update, but so far I have to say that, for me, this was very much worth it and I am extremely happy with the results.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My New (to me) Ride

I bought a new Lexus i350 just over a year ago. Pretty soon after buying it I was having second thoughts. It's too small. It has WAY too much road feel. For a "luxury" brand, it is actually bare of bells and whistles. The final straw came when Mrs. Director's 84 year-old grandmother got in and declared in her accented English, "Dis seems to me a woman car." And sure enough, I started noticing that all the other i350s on the road were being driven by chicks women.


So taking a page from my brother, I started looking at used luxury cars. And rather than going through the dealerships I wanted to look at small, niche companies that specialized in taking off-lease cars, fixing them up, and getting them back to market.


Long story short I found Vantage Motors in my area and ended up with a very nice, low mileage, fully loaded BMW 530i at about the same price I managed to sell my Lexus for:






This thing is fully loaded and gives me what I think I need at this point in my life: a "bubble" to insulate me from the world when I drive. Plus it looks way cool.