Sunday, November 27, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

My biggest fear at work ...

That's why I ALWAYS take my cellphone whith me, just in case of...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

One of my coworker is smoking

Generalization isn’t good, but I noticed something among my coworkers. It's like the “cigarette break” wasn’t considered as a regular "break", but as a working time break required by a natural purpose. Like going to the restroom...

At work, we need to ensure an answering service during lunchtime, successively. And very often, my dear colleague wants to take a cigarette break. Which is pretty hilarious is that he comes to me and ask if I can assure receiving calls, telling me :
"Can I take a 15 minutes break for smoking a cigarette ?"
And his face looks like he is telling me : "Can I take 15 minutes to do my insulin shot?"
At the end of the day, when I leave work, he’s still there, working. Completely overwhelmed. Oh maybe I didn’t specify : he takes at least five smoke breaks during the day. Uh this represent 1 hour and 15 minutes break each day... So we could leave work at the same moment if he didn’t.

Smoking is a waste of time. Don’t smoke saves time. So don’t smoke. For those who do not know the reference (humoristic french video) :

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Starting a business ? 10 tips to think about!

A few years ago, I started my own company with some friends. Let's be pragmatic: it was a failure. 1 year, 3 clients (don’t laugh). This failure was not due to a lack of motivation (let me think... Maybe after all... the implication was not the same for all of us), but more a lack of experience and maturity.

Nevertheless, with hindsight, I realized the different mistakes we committed. I would like to share with you here those mistakes and some other ideas. This is not a road map, a checklist, or a "how to create a company" kit, but just some thoughts for those who are considering embarking on their own...

Most of the points mentioned below will certainly appear obvious. But it’s not because it seems obvious that everyone applies it to everyday life. To illustrate my mind, I will mention Robert Shiller financial market’s courses at Yale University. During one of them, he mentioned the fact that the Mayas weren’t using the whell, but their children's had wheeled toys...

In this article, I deliberately set aside the business model fundamental issue. Others will tell you about it much better than me. I strongly recommend you the reading of this presentation about business model.

Tip # 1

Before founding you’re own company, maybe you should start by working for a company

This advice is primarily for young entrepreneurs who starts their own business right after being graduated, without significant work experience. This might work. But according to me, it helps a lot to have been managed to be a manager. It helps a lot to see how a company is structured, organized and operates every day to structure, organize and run our own business. There are a lot of things we do not learn in business school or in books. It may be valuable to capitalize on a few years of work experience, and then start with some best practices in mind, well-tried methodologies and a network.

Tip # 2

Do not start a business with your friends

It might work. But if you value your friends, this is not necessarily a good idea. With friends, we aren’t able to said certain things, or act a certain way. Hierarchy is a necessity. If you’re facing difficulties, you need someone to decide and to have the final word. Among friends, it's hard to accept this hierarchy. We prefer saying that one of us is appointed managing director  "because we need one for legal reasons, but he has the same powers as the others."

ACT 1, SCENE 1 - Business meeting among friends

CO-FOUNDER #1 : Okay guys let’s get started. Now we need to agree on our pricing policy, and how it includes the cost of transport.
CO-FOUNDER #2 : Yep.
CO-FOUNDER #3 : I suggest everyone gives his opinion, and I write the pros & cons on the board. What do you think about that ?
CO-FOUNDER #1 : I’m fine with that.
CO-FOUNDER #2 : ** Game Over - Try Again **
CO-FOUNDER #3 : Come on!! You can’t concentrate at least two minutes instead of playing Angry Birds?
CO-FOUNDER #2 : blah blah blah
CO-FOUNDER #1 : Frankly, it would be nice that you focuses on our matter just a few minutes ... Shut down your mobile.
CO-FOUNDER #2 : (with sarcasm) Apologies mr president, it will not happen again
CO-FOUNDER #3 : pfffff ...

(Yes, the example is deliberately exaggerated ...)

The idea is : it's not easy for anyone :
  • managing a friend isn't easy
  • be managed by a friend isn’t easy

Again, as I said above, it might work. I intentionally caricatured the situation to highlight that, based on people, their maturity, motivation, experience, the notion of hierarchy should be more or less considerated.

Finally, among "friends founders", it’s important to look in the same direction and to ensure that everybody sees this project the same way. The involvement of each also depends on the ambition and hopes they place in a project...

Tip # 3

Your starting point : the customer

It seems obvious to say that, but it’s not always the case. Products / services and processes must be designed in adequacy to customer expectations. Do not ask "how can I do it based on  what I’m able to do ?" but "how do I need to do in order to met customer expectations, and then am I able to do it ?"

Tip # 4

Your finishing line : the customer

The best way to know if you failed is to remain attentive to your customers and prospects, establishing an ongoing exchange such as satisfaction surveys or interviews in order to identify :
  • why a customer is satisfied or not
  • why a prospect become a customer or don’t

It’s interesting to take a new look to its products / services and processes in the light of these results. Which tools? Quantitative and qualitative analysis, for example.

Tip # 5

You can’t know everything, but you can ask people who know

Once again it seems obvious. This is something difficult when you start a business with a tight budget, but some expenses may be required. I refer in particular to all accounting, legal and regulatory matters. Getting help on these subjects leads to less stress and less anxiety.

Tip # 6

Be methodical and structured

In everyday life, in our work, we all know at least one messy colleague who does not see the emails we just send him, who loses his stuffs ... Who never listen to his answering machine ... Playing on his smart-phone during meetings ... AAAAHH! ... Sorry ... And sometimes (seldom) a manic colleague. Separatly, everything is doing well. But when they start working together, it’s make or break.

According to me, you may promote and instill methodologies with those who run the new business with you. This can’t hurt. Establishing a framework is sometimes comforting, and is not necessarily the enemy of flexibility. It’s not a big deal to put in place, and simply starts by formalizing business meetings through agendas and minutes for example. It's not a lot, but that gives structure and formalizes things.

To be structured is also to write on paper business processes by modeling them or writing procedures. And once again, be structured does not mean being deadlocked, and this does not necessarily forbid some “unstructured” methods, such as brainstorming or using collaborative platforms without procedures for using them (forums, mircoblogging ...).

Tip # 7

Be consistent

Spoiler alert !! It's the big thing they teach you in business school. Again, it’s common sense. Be consistent mean that you ensure that all actions are undertaken in a logical way and respect the overall principles of your business, are in line with your strategy, business model, values, resources, constraints, production capacity...

Tip # 8

Keep in mind a few topics that do not necessarily appear immediately essential, but can quickly become ones

I am referring to issues of risk management, crisis management, security, information confidentiality, management control ... If your business grows, they becomes a real issue: what are the principles applied? What are the procedures in place? How best practices are communicated to employees? And so on. I suggest you to think about management control from the beginning for your financial projections.

Tip # 9

Give yourself the means

Ah! This is something that says everything and nothing at once! What I mean by that is that it’s important to find ways ...

  • to control its activity
  • to manage its resources (human, financial, informational, etc.).
  • to be listening to its environment and the strategy deployment
  • ...
In short, buy a book about Excel, it may help.

Tip # 10

Take a new look at yourself and accept failure

In my little experience as an entrepreneur, we launched a product. It represented 33% of our sales (if you follow correctly, this mean that we sold just one). We did’nt think of the end user when we designed it, so our product was :
  • Monstrously difficult to subscribe
  • Monstrously difficult to use
  • Absolutely not competitive
BUT we knew how to implement it. Oh, there was at least this for us! So, we decided to brainstorm a little, and redesign our offer. The result was something more simple, but still too far to the client expectations. We lost several months of work. We haven’t been able to say "Okay, given where we are, given the competition, let’s move on."

Bonus Tip (don’t thank me, i’m like that, generous, i know)

Take a beak

Run your own business is very exciting, very rewarding. But very stressful. As an employee, there is still a big advantage : when you leave the office, you are able to "disconnect", to move on.
When we start our own business from home... we stay at home. We sometimes find it difficult to move on. We bump up to 3 am. We check our mail box a hundred times in the evening. We feel guilty when we watch TV two minutes. It's hard to live for ourselves but also for those who share our lives ... So remember to take a break.


*      *

These are some ideas I think useful to explore as you’re working on starting you’re own business. We must not forget that we are never able to do everything right from the beginning. Mistakes are inevitable, and when accepted, analyzed and shared, they become useful and interesting.

Taking a new look at ourselves and at our project is very difficult when we are on a “rush”. Having hindsight is never easy when we work a lot and when we’re alone. That’s why it’s important to search for an outside opinion. To challenge what is established. We can’t do everything, we can’t think of everything. We do what we are able to do. BUT there is no excuse for not taking the time to take a new look on what you’re doing !

Perhaps these different ideas will help you. Anyway, if you’re planning to start your own business, I wish you success.

Please give me your feedback!


You will probably find some spelling or grammar mistakes around this blog. That’s because English isn’t my mother tongue. I started the same blog in French here (which is my mother tongue!), but I wanted to do the same exercise in English because I want feedback from different cultures, different horizons. So, thank you in advance for your indulgence! (And by the way, if you notice recurrent mistakes, don’t hesitate to tell me about it!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My first day at work

To be honest, I took my first (very first!) job a few months ago, in a large French company that I will not mention. However, this is the first day of this blog, as a result, it justifies the title of this first article!
You will probably find some spelling or grammar mistakes around this blog. That’s because English isn’t my mother tongue. I started the same blog in French here (which is my mother tongue!), but I wanted to do the same exercise in English because I want feedback from different cultures, different horizons. So, thank you in advance for your indulgence! (And by the way, if you notice recurrent mistakes, don’t hesitate to tell me about it!)
Maybe this blog will give you the feeling that perhaps I’m already disenchanted of my professional life. In fact, not at all. I'm rather passionate about what I do, and especially by some very boring stuffs, like business process modeling, writing procedures which are read only by me (yes it’s useless and sad), programming during my free time... But like everyone else, especially like a lot of young graduates who discover the joy of starting to work their first year without holidays, I can’t take it any more!! Then I ruminate, I talk about that with my sweet and tender fiancée (which have just encouraged me to create this blog ... Let me think... it’s hiding something!), and I’m still ruminating.
But since several weeks, I begin to ruminate in a slightly more constructive way by scribbling on scraps of paper some ideas on how my day at work could be better. But let’s clarify things : I’m not going to give you tips on how to bypass Internet filters established by your sweet and tender bosses in order to play online poker, but to share my thoughts about management, organizational issues, from a young worker point of view, who likes to read boring books (or not!) on such subjects.

But before we begin, let me introduce myself a little bit. My name is irrelevant, my age too. I work in a French multinational company, a mastodon, where it’s sometimes difficult to find its place and see the impact of our actions. I graduated from a French business school. I go to work in RER (French name of the suburb train network, but I am doing well, the torture lasts only 15 minutes). I do not live alone. Our fridge is too small, so we are forced to go shopping each day after work (Oh, joy). I started oil painting not long ago, I let you imagine the smell of our apartment now...

On these brief personal items, I look forward seeing you later. My wish is to share with you, dear readers, on the little things of everyday life at work that make us think there is no more than x days before the weekend.