Friday, December 14, 2007

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." (Dale Carnegie)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ben Tiggelaars "MBA in 1 day": Covey's concept of 'greatness' explained by YouTube Video Paul Potts

I attended a conference called "MBA in 1 day". Keynote speaker and inventor of the concept is Ben Tiggelaar, a man from The Netherlands. He claimed to have summorized at least 8 meters of management books, especially the books from contemporary management 'guru's'. The most important elements were brought together then in a conference lasting only 1 day. I will come back about the event in a later post.

At a certain moment Tiggelaar touched the thoughts and findings of management guru Stephen Covey. Based on his book 'The 8th Habit. From effectiveness to Greatness', Tiggelaar tried to explain what 'greatness' is all about.

Covey himself talked about becoming 'great' in the following way:

"To achieve greater heights each person must be challenged to find their voice - their unique personal significance and purposeful meaning - and help others to find theirs. Voice lies at the nexus of talent, passion, need and conscience. When anyone engages in work that taps into their talent and fuels their passion - that rises out of a great need in the world that they feel drawn by conscience to meet - therein lies their voice in life. The 8th Habit is all about how to find your voice and help others to find theirs."

"Once you've found your own voice, the choice to expand your influence, to increase your contribution, is the choice to inspire others to find their voice. Inspire (from the Latin inspirare) means to breathe life into another. As we recognize, respect and create ways for others to give voice to all four parts of their nature--physically, mentally, emotionally/socially, spiritually--latent human genius, creativity, passion, talent and motivation are unleashed. It will be those organizations that reach a critical mass of people and teams expressing their full voice that will achieve next-level breakthrough in productivity, innovation and leadership in the market place and society."

And then Tiggelaar illustrated the above with a video he found on YouTube. It is a videofragment taken from the UK television show 'Britain's Got Talent' where a mobile phone salesman, Paul Potts, baffles the jury and the audience with a stunning performance (look at the faces of the jury!). This man, this Paul Potts, found his voice, literally, on the stage of this show, inspired his audience, inspired the UK, and is now inspiring, via YouTube, the world. I hadn't heard about the video yet, I must have missed the news, already more than 17.000.000 people looked at the fragment on YouTube. If you haven't seen the video yet, enjoy ! (it calls for a new management book, "The business of the Voice" :-).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

To Manage a Message. The 2010 Soccer World Cup. South Africa is NOT safe.

I haven't written about it yet because it felt too personal. But because of football (soccer) last weekend I decided a more personal post wouldn't hurt the Impactroom blog. The thought chain started somewhere last week when Belgium lost from Poland with a smashing o to 2. Poland qualified for the first time in its history for the European Championship. Bear in mind that the coach of Poland is actually a Dutch guy, Mr. Leo Beenhakker. Believe it or not but Mr. Beenhakker is my...neighbor (living across the Dutch border in Belgium, profiting from a friendly tax-on-wealth law in Belgium). But this is not about him. I was looking after some more info about the European Championship when I accidentally read and realized that the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be organized in South Africa. And that brought me to my brother... and this where the story starts...
My brother Jan and family (wife and 2 children, 7 and 6) moved to South Africa 9 months ago. It is a non typical case of emigration in which the husband follows his wife, supporting her carrier in a multinational environment (DuPont). My brother ran a communication lab, Ad! in Belgium, before they left. Because of the fact Addictlabs' prime asset consists of an international database of creative minds and because his clients operate primarily transnational, he managed to keep the business alive, steering the company out of Johannesburg.
A small team of dedicated employees still operate from their exiting warehouse-design like office in Brussels. My brother is a visionary; he is an expert on 'creativity', making him more famous in Australia than in Belgium. Lately he tours the world giving speeches about industry and creativity. My brother is also a man who consistently believes in art, commercial creativity and in the intrinsic good of human mankind. I've read some newsletters about his whereabouts in SA, written by other expats, who ask themselves out loud who this Belgium man is that dares to leave the compounds and visit streets and city parts in Johannesburg where a normal expat wouldn't dare to be seen. In this so called 'dangerous' places my brother looks for and links with the local creative scenes. After 9 months in SA the stories about my brother sounded warm, colorful, exiting and caring. If he had been a priest I could have sworn he was converting SA into a better place single handedly and more importantly without him noticing it himself. Vanity trickles down from this man as oil of a salad. Until 2 weeks ago. In the sanctity of their compound, in their own house, my brother and his family, as well as his mother in law who just happened to be visiting, became victim of a hold up at gun point. 3 young black men broke into their house around midnight, after having tricked the alarm system of the compound and having passed a barbed wire defense barrier. Via the master bedroom they forced their way into the house, brutally waking up parents and children, waving guns, shouting, ordering to cooperate. All grown ups were tied down; hands tied behind their backs with shoe laces while threatened to be shot and killed if they didn't obey. They were ordered to point out all the cash in house as well as to reveal where the vault was hidden (they have no vault, and had very little cash in house). The men, an important detail, didn't carry masks, so my brother, himself an artist by education, knew he would be able to draw their faces as if pictures were taken from them. Robbers not wearing masks are the worst. Or they are professionals knowing upfront nobody will live to reveal their identity after the facts, or they are the worst kind of amateurs, most of the time operating on drugs to overcome their own fears, not realizing their own stupidity, suppressing whatever form of empathy they might know when not on drugs. After one hour of antagonizing fear the men found car keys and remote controls to open the gates of the compound from the inside out. They took all the money they could find, all the electronically equipment they could carry (6.0000 digital pictures on my brothers laptop) they took the Mercedes of my brothers wife and forced them to explain exactly how the remote and security devices worked. They left my brother and his family behind, tied down, in another bedroom that could be locked from the outside. They left the house and the compound with the Mercedes which enabled them to pass the gates of the compound without questions asked. I can assure you that time stood still when my brother called in at a family party we had in Belgium the day after the event. I can imagine that what happened to them comes close to the worst nightmare of expats in countries with a higher security risk. I don't think my brother revealed all details to us, as to protect our parents. Between the lines however I understood there had also been some rough physical contacts, although and thank-god-for-that the women in house were not violated. After the men had left my brother managed to bring his hands in front of him, and cut his ropes with a razor blade. After having freed his family he alarmed the compound. Heavy armed private security officers responded immediately. A wave of sympathy has engulfed his family since then. Security experts told them they have been very lucky.
Ironically my brother's wife is in South Africa with a DuPont team to teach their client, the biggest SA energy company, about the famous security ethics of DuPont. DuPont is known throughout the world for its achievements on the field of safety management, ethics and secure controlled processing environments. DuPont built a commercial model around these achievements and started to export their 'safety' knowledge to other companies and continents.

On a more elevated political level, the impact of this incident is enormous for a country as South Africa. You might laugh with this conclusion, but the circle wherein my brother lives and works is the circle of the pioneering minds and bodies. (Where do creative hotspots invariable pop up? Exactly, the downtown area's of city towns) (What triggers exponential value in property development? Exactly, downtown area's that become populated by free spirits building small companies, re-designing their turf, I would even say 'lofting' their venues, attracting little resto's and bistro's, until real estate prices become unaffordable for this kind of inspirational city developers). In the case of the hold up at my brothers house, and because of his network, thousands of these inspirational people have received 1 message, although not communicated with the purpose to hurt SA, that is not the way these creative minds work, but still, subconsciously the message sent was: South Africa is NOT safe. One sentence struck me when reading an article on the forum, it stated -and this concludes my thought chain- that the South Africa of today is NOT ready to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Friday, November 23, 2007

CEO Wisdom

"First, no one will follow you if you don't treat them with diginity and respect. No one will follow you if they do not trust you; therefore, you must be honest at all times. You must communicate the bad, as well as the good." (Errol B. Davis, Jr, CEO Alliant Energy)

"To have big success, you must have big dreams, and you must be willing to take a chance." (Summer M. Redstone, CEO Viacom)

"There was no single turning point for me in becoming a leader, but a gradual recognition that I could have an influence on the direction of an organization or a project if I stepped forward and took responsibility." (Sharon A. Smith, CEO Girl Scouts of Southeastern Pennsylvania)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CEO Wisdom

"Hard work, of course, is critical. But you have to balance that with time for your family and friends. One-dimensional people are rarely successful over the long haul." (G. Richard Thoman, President Xerox Corporation)

"Education will prepare you for anything in life, honesty is one of the primary and necessary ingredients, and a sincere love of what you're doing is the fuel that makes it all run." (Summerfield K. Johnston, Jr, CEO Coca Cola Enterprises)

"People follow people who care about what they are doing. You've got to show people you have passion. You've got to be prepared to open up and say, 'I believe this'." (Mark Harris, Country General manager, IBM South Africa)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tom.Peters.Is.Angry. He also just turned 65 last week.

Management Guru Tom Peters came to Antwerp, invited by the Flanders District of Creativity. More than 1.000 managers, most of them men, came to be impressed and entertained by the 65 year old Tom Peters on a Monday evening.

The slides of the presentation are to be found on his website and show the graphical equivalent of a speaker shouting outloud (because he is angry).

Tom Peters had 2 new million dollar messages for his audience:
1. The Future is in hands of Women. Hire them now!
2. The Future is in hands of people over 50. Make them your clients now!

On a less dramatic level Tom Peters gave away his 10 P's on leadership:
- Purpose
- Passion
- Potential
- Presence
- Personal
- Persistence
- Priorities
- People
- Potent
- Positive

Tom Peters' quote on business schools:
Q: What is a business school ?
TP: Putting of reality for another 2 years

Friday, November 09, 2007

Vlerick Business School - The Wall Street Journal Europe - HR Executive Round Table

My first event in the new function at The Wall Street Journal Europe. I inherited the WSJE educational platform which includes the exciting possibility to build strong relationships with top universities and business schools all over Europe. The Wall Street Journal is currently delivered to some 170 universities and business schools across Europe. As part of our Future Leadership Program I hosted a Human Resources Round Table for international MBA and master students at the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, campus Leuven. It was for the first time I experienced the strength of our brand when contacting several companies with the question to participate at the HR Round Table. Finally HR executives from 6 major companies agreed to join the event.

For me it was a step back in the past because I used to study in Leuven and right on the spot where the Vlerick school was recently constructed, was in fact a famous student theater. I remember vividly how I witnessed the introduction of modern dance in Belgium, in that student theater, some 20 years ago.
Today it is a famous building again, but this time because of the Vlerick brand. What I learned from the students was that they questioned the big companies on their work-life/family balance. The 6 speakers agreed that their personal balance was not exemplary for a healthy work-life/family balance. But all companies assured that they had programs in place taking into account the desire of contemporary employees to strive for a healthy mix of work and family time. The extreme difference in amount of holidays between the European and American companies at the table caused a sigh from the international audience.

Another thing I learned from the HR execs was that it was not the Vlerick brand on the student's CV that was going to favour someones candidature (extreme silence in the audience and here and there disbelief), on the contrary, most important factor was and is the student's personality.

From right to left:
Gert Van Mol, standing, for The Wall Street Journal Europe, introducing the speakers
Pierre Devillers, Electrabel-Suez, HR manager Belgium-Luxembourg
Flor Boeckx, Dupont, HR Manager Belgium - The Netherlands
Romain Verdurmen, 3M, HR, Legal Affairs & Facilities Manager
Avinash Chandarana, MCI, Director of Talent and Development
Robin Koopmans, Borealis, HR Area Manager
Philippe De Bock, Telenet NV, HR Talent Management and Recruitment

(Picture: ©Mary Roll, Vlerick)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Milan, Monocle & le Meridien

Milan. Normally I have no problem sleeping in a 3 star hotel. Unless, they shut down the internet at 11PM, while you arrive at 10.30PM. The concierge suggested me to go to an internet cafe around the corner, at the square in front of the central train station. The internet shop has been closed for months as proven by the graffiti covering too many walls, doors and windows (It reminds me of the Broken Windows theory of the criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling). I know now (after having joined a 5 star hotel congress in Rome earlier this week) that the only place were one can find an internet connection at night must be a 5 star hotel. I end up hiding in the deserted lobby of Le Meridien Gallia, strategically seated in a dark corner, half way behind a green leaf lobby plant. At 3 am a night guard asks me to leave the hotel. I had just been able to send my report to my boss and colleagues in Brussels. Mission accomplished. I walk back to my 3 Star hotel to catch a few hours of sleep.

Newsstand on Square before Milan Train Station. The team of Monocle really did a good job in branding their relatively new magazine (see posters around the newsstand, portraying a women reading a newspaper on the cover -not the WSJE unfortunately!!-). I guess Monocle works with country managers to help them grow the business in clearly defined markets (Milan being a fashion centre seems the right place to have a local country manager). As a matter of comparison, The Wall Street Journal Europe abandoned their network of country managers a few years ago in a cost cutting round by then CEO Rien Van Lent.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Self Managing your Game.

An exciting discovery. While walking in the Ardens, visiting the "cailloux de Mousny" ("stones of Mousny"), we stumbled upon a white plastic cylinder. Although the cap of the cylinder indicated at first sight it was a marijuana stash, it turned out to be something completely different. It was a treasure! A real treasure!
In the cylinder we found a diary, an explanatory letter in 4 languages, and a bag of toys.
(pictures line 1 from left to right: "Stones of Mousny, a small local attraction", "content of the treasure", "hidden cylinder between the rocks")
We learned that the treasure was part of a worldwide GPS/Internet-game. Worldwide more than 450.000 "caches" or treasures are hidden. All of them registered at Typically people will look for a treasure on their holidays and check on the site if a cash is hidden on their way (structured by country by postcode). If interested in a "cash" in a certain area, the site will provide the GPS coordinates of the treasure. Armed with a travellers GPS, site-members set out to find the hidden gem where the GPS will lead them. When the treasure is found the dairy is completed and one takes out a toy, to replace it with another toy. Some toys however are more than just toys. Some site-members have bought geocaching branded coins and "traveller bugs".

These coins and bugs are registered on the site and have been given an extra goal in life. We were lucky to find such a collectors coin in our treasure in the Ardens. Imagine the excitement of the children when they realised they could choose the heavy qualitative coin to take out of the treasure. There was a label attached to the beautiful coin. The label stated a reference number and a wish from the founder of the coin. Not living in Europe the founder wrote on the label he had difficulties collecting all Euro coins. Via his geocaching travel bug he hoped that people finding his bug/coin would help him with his collection. He brought his coin in the game in 2005! The coin travelled already more than 3.000 miles.

I didn't know such a marvelous application of Internet and GPS existed. During the weekend we actually met a team looking for the treasure. Normally treasures are well hidden, people not taking part in the game are not supposed to find such a treasure by accident.
(second line pictures from left to right: "teams looking for the treasures leave a pre-designed label in the diary when the treasures are found", "explanatory letter", "last entree in the diary before we found the treasure by accident, indicating a site-member left a much sought after geocoin - or traveller bug in the toybag of the treasure", "the geocoin in the treasure bag".)

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Glorifying Homage to Life

During our 3th quarter meeting my new boss at The Wall Street Journal Europe invited us to look at a video he found at the top of a "most e-mailed" and "most viewed" article list. What had struck him was the fact that the subject of the video was not of the "breaking news" kind, on the contrary the subject of the video seemed to be an excerpt of a seminar dated back several weeks ago. Not your usual top of "most e-mailed" articles. Apparently the videopost seemed to be picked up by more and more people the last couple of days who started sending around the video to their friends, who then forward it to their friends etc etc... The video shows Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch giving a "Last Lecture". Usually a "Last Lecture" is a gimmick at some top universities to give professors the opportunity to present their thoughts and ideas as if they were their final ones. In the case of Randy Paush this is a somewhat morbid reality. The healthy looking 46 year old professor, father of 3, was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told he only had a few more months to live. That is also the onset of his "Last Lecture", a ct scan of the 10 tumors on his lever. Pausch's speech turned out to be more than an academic exercise, it became a glorifying homage to life filled with a variety of lessons world renowned management guru's would be jealous of.

The full video is to be seen at:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Metropolitan University London

It is one of my tasks to build a strong educational platform for The Wall Street Journal Europe. After all, universities are often the first place where future readers come into contact with our newspaper. It is an adventure to dive into the European Academic world to find out where our newspaper is already present and in what way, or to have new universities join the WSJE educational platform. I reserved a few days to explore the London Academic scene and met amongst others Jonathan Taylor, the man who tried to have our newspaper delivered to the Metropolitan University for his marketing students years ago. I won't tell in detail what the man had to endure before our newspapers were made available to his students a long time ago (his story was definitely not a showcase of a service oriented newspapercompany).

What I did learn was that it is often the action of 1 man, a 'believer' in a specific product, who starts a chain of events which ultimately lead to the establishment of a unique position of that product in his daily environment. When that environment turns out to be a reception area of a university where 1000 students pass by each day, then we should humbly recognize and salute the passion of such a believer. It was only after my visit to him I realised Jonathan Taylor was the co-author of one of the best selling Marketing Communications handbooks in the UK.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Success factor: Le Pain Quotidien

My recent visit to London reminded me of a turbulent episode in my past. When looking for The American Intercontinental University London for a Wall Street Journal assignment, I entered an upcoming and trendy neighborhood around Marylebone High Street. Suddenly I recognized a Belgian restaurant at the corner of the street. It was a "Pain Quotidien".

Then came the memory flash. I think it was in 1994 when one of the biggest Belgian banks, the KB, published a magazine in which they pictured 2 golden egg companies. One was Le Pain Quotidien from entrepreneur Alain Coumont, the other was a youth magazine The past has its way of re-entering reality in a confrontational manner. Back then I hadn't heard yet about this "Le Pain Quotidien". Today it is a successful commercial Belgian story. With more then 80 shops around the world the idea of Alain Coumont took off as a rocket. What I didn't know then, and probably the bank didn't know either, was that Le Pain Quotidien was virtually bankrupt in 1994. Coumont had to sell his company to Van den Kerkhove bakeries. Luckily Coumont managed to keep the license for the US out of the deal. He focused on the US and built up some capital again in a newly formed company called PQ Licensing. In 2004 PQ Licensing bought the biggest part of Le Pain Quotidien back (except for the license in Belgium which was transferred to a new holding company of the Van den Kerkhoves called "Vandan".) Whatever construction behind the company these days "Le Pain Quotidien" became a successful brand driven by an efficient franchising organisation.

In contrast to Le Pain Quotidien my youth magazine wasn't on the brink of bankruptcy in 1994, on the contrary it was growing like hell. In 2000 I sold the magazine to a well known company listed on the stock exchange. Unfortunately in an effort to maximize the organic growth we knew for years, they re-vamped the magazine completely (it became a look alike of Rolling Stone Magazine) after which sales decreased dramatically. After one year they stopped the publication. They never understood magazines, or newspapers for that matter, have a unique, and therefore delicate, soul. Thinking back, it might not have been the wisest decission to sell the magazine back then.

(Picture: Alain Coumont, man behind Le Pain Quotidien)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Wall Street Journal Europe, Future Leadership Program, Birkbeck College, London

A part of my new job at The Wall Street Journal Europe means being responsible for The Future Leadership Program. I am slowly beginning to understand what a powerful tool was being given to me.

A major part of The Future Leadership Program consists of the daily delivery of roughly 9.000 newspapers to 120 top universities all over Europe (divided over 19 countries). I embarked on an exiting exploration of how our newspapers are displayed at these Universities, how the newspaper is perceived by the students, which professors are referring to the paper, which universities would be interested in a closer relationship with The WSJE...

I started my adventure in London and walked three days from one university to another. I must admit it were the best three days of my professional life this year. It was for the first time in 5 years working for Dowjones that I met so many people on the field who really liked our product, who really enjoyed it, used it, read it, even studied it.
The attached pictures show the new entrance of Birkbeck College in the heart of London where WSJE is to be found at a prominent position in the library. A poster welcomes the visitors with a quote merging the essence of my new job (education) with the essence of my former function (distribution operations). It couldn't be more symbolically.

(The poster says: "A center of evening education at the highest level is as essential to a world city as a good transport system. Professor Eric Hobsbawm)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lesson # 5: Profits Can Go Hand in Hand with the Public Good (Anita Roddick)

“Over the past decades…while many businesses have pursued what I call ‘business as usual’, I have been part of a different, smaller business movement, one that tried to put idealism back on the agenda,” says Roddick. “If I can’t do something for the public good, what the hell am I doing?”

In the early days of her company, Roddick’s social and ecological conscience was motivated more by economic cost-saving factors over anything else; recycling was encouraged because she could only afford a certain number of bottles while store walls were painted green not for environmental awareness, but rather to hide the damp stains. However, as The Body Shop franchise grew into a cosmetics powerhouse, Roddick began to realize that she could use her power to have a positive impact on the world around her.

“I hate the beauty business,” says Roddick. “It is a monster industry selling unattainable dreams. It lies. It cheats. It exploits women.” In order to find self-fulfillment in her work, Roddick was thus forced to expand her vision. “I want to work for a company
that contributes to and is part of the community,” she says. “I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in.”

It is to this end that The Body Shop began supporting campaigns that convey positive social messages and promote change. From sponsoring Greenpeace’s lobbying efforts against dumping waste in the North Sea to supporting Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, Roddick has worked hard to ensure that her company is about more than simply profits. “It’s about service, serving the weak and the frail, bringing the concepts of social justice into business,” says Roddick. “But actually putting them into practice is the key. They can’t be just rhetoric any more.”

Not only has she focused on recycling and refused to test her products on animals, but Roddick has also encouraged all of her franchisors and employees to promote a cause of their choice – on company time and money. Many see her moves as both anti-business and revolutionary, but Roddick says such practices have been around for years in many societies.

“All through history, there have always been movements where business was not just about the accumulation of proceeds but also for the public good,” says Roddick. “I am still looking for the modern equivalent of those Quakers who ran successful businesses, made money because they offered honest products and treated their people decently. This business creed, sadly, seems long forgotten.”
To those who question her business sense, Roddick retorts that taking care of the community in which your company draws its profit is not just about feeling good about yourself. Indeed, it makes good business sense too. “I think that more companies are now realizing its corporate reputation is at stake and what they fear mostly is consumer revolt,” she says. “If prices are not that good at the moment that’s because the bloody business is not very well run. It has nothing to do with the social agenda. We save a huge amount of money by not advertising and by not going around in Lear jets, or having obscene compensation packages like many others do.”

Indeed, with revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Roddick’s dedication “to the pursuit of social and environmental change” seems to have served her company well. (Evan Carmichael)

Picture: Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, with the Dame Commander Medal at Buckingham Palace in London, November 13, 2003. Photo: Reuters

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lesson # 4: Infuse Your Company with a Survival Mentality (Anita Roddick)

I started The Body Shop in 1976 simply to create a livelihood for myself and my two daughters, while my husband, Gordon, was trekking across the Americas,” recalls Roddick. “I had no training or experience and my only business acumen was Gordon’s advice to take sales of £300 a week. Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that's exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking.”

When Roddick first decided to start up a business, it wasn’t because she wanted to create social and environmental change nor was it because she particularly liked the cosmetics industry – in fact, she hated it. The Body Shop sprang out of Roddick’s need to earn an income to support her and her children. And since that very first day, Roddick has worked hard to ensure her company maintains that survival instinct. “I wake up every morning thinking…this is my last day,” says Roddick. “And I jam everything into it. There’s no time for mediocrity. This is no damned dress rehearsal.” She no longer needs to worry about generating an income for her family, but it is only by fighting to the death each and every day that she believes The Body Shop will continue to thrive.

“We were most creative when our back was against the wall,” says Roddick.
Indeed, it was her survival instinct that led to many of the innovations that would later become company trademarks. For instance, favouring recycling came from Roddick’s inability to afford more than 700 empty bottles. In addition, even though she had very few products initially, Roddick decided to have five sizes of everything. Upon entering the small 370 square foot shop, this would give the illusion that the store carried over 120 products.

“I think that sort of good housekeeping of frugality, which would certainly be considered eccentric nowadays, was part of the idiosyncratic nature that set us apart,” says Roddick. “Nobody was stupid enough to offer five sizes of one product; it simply didn’t make sense. We turned it around into a survivor’s option: customers pick up the size they want and come back every week for a refill. Recycling had nothing to do with being environmentally conscious at that point.”

Indeed, despite the fact that Roddick’s name has today become synonymous with social and environmental activism, this was not her initial intention. “I made no claim to prescience, to any intuition about the rise of the green movement,” says Roddick. “At the forefront of my mind at the time there was really only one thought – survival.”

The Body Shop arose out of Roddick’s need to create a living and it is that do-or-die mentality that continues to inspire the company’s success. However, Roddick is quick to stress that economic growth was never her goal. “My goal was livelihood. We don’t use that word often enough,” she says. “If I could give one piece of advice to anyone it’s don’t obsess with this notion that you have to turn everything you do into a business, because that ends up being a small version of a large company. But if you can create an honourable livelihood, where you take your skills and use them and you earn a living from it, it gives you a sense of freedom and allows you to balance your life the way you want. (Evan Carmichael)”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lesson # 3: Draw From Your Own Personal Experiences (Anita Roddick)

“It wasn’t only economic necessity that inspired the birth of The Body Shop,” says Roddick. “My early travels had given me a wealth of experience.”

Roddick never went to business school and she never turned to so-called industry experts to see if her idea was worthwhile. Instead, she took the body of knowledge she had gained from her own years of experience and applied it to what she was sure would be a success. Roddick drew on her personal experiences that she had gone through during her years of traveling to create a line of products, the very uniqueness of which was what led to their success.

“I’ve always said that travel is the best university; getting from one place to another means more than physical movement,” says Roddick. “It also entails change, challenge, new ideas and inspirations….I had this idea of making little products like shampoo and so forth using ingredients I had found when I traveled.”

She could have spent years in a laboratory concocting never been made before cosmetic products, hoping she would come up with something marketable. Instead, Roddick went with what she knew. “You change your values when you change your behaviour,” she says. “When you’ve lived six months with a group that is rubbing their bodies with cocoa butter, and those bodies are magnificent, or you wash your hair with mud, and it works, you go on to break all sorts of conventions, from personal ethics to body care. Then, if you’re me, you develop this stunning love for anthropology.”

Roddick had spent much time in the farming and fishing communities of people who had as of yet still been relatively untouched by industrialization, exposing herself to body care and rituals of women from all over the world. “Because I have the interest of living with indigenous groups of people and pre-industrial groups, I learned so much,” she says. “For example, when your shampoo is gone, you end up mashing up stuff to put in your hair. You put on mayonnaise, eggs, anything to clean and scrub. It is real experiences that change your values.”

In addition to her traveling, Roddick drew on her early childhood experiences to inspire her business. In watching her mother work relentlessly and with creativity in cost-saving measures, Roddick drew many important lessons that would later have an impact on The Body Shop. “The frugality that my mother exercised during the war years made me question retail conventions,” she says. “Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? We behaved as she did in the Second World War, we reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could. The foundation of The Body Shop's environmental activism was born out of ideas like these.”

Roddick drew on events in her own life to create a unique line of products and a company with a unique business philosophy. Convention might have said it couldn’t be done, but experience told Roddick it could.

Lesson # 2: Make Creativity the Centre of Your Company (Anita Roddick)

“It is a critical job of any entrepreneur to maximize creativity, and to build the kind of atmosphere around you that encourages people to have ideas,” says Roddick. “That means open structures, so that accepted thinking can be challenged.”

Entrepreneurs are visionaries, according to Roddick, and those who are in a uniquely situated position to change the world. They are people who want to imagine a different world and share that vision with others. As such, it is essential to foster the free flow of ideas, both within oneself and within one’s entire company.

Roddick is a fan of philosopher Karl Popper’s theory of an ‘open society’, which she claims is “the only kind of society that can solve its own problems.” At the forefront of this society are the entrepreneurs, those who have the imagination and determination to change the way things are done.

“Successful entrepreneurs may hate hierarchies and structures and try to destroy them. They may garner the disapproval of MBAs for their creativity and wildness. But they have antennae in their heads,” says Roddick. “When they walk down the street anywhere in the world, they have their antennae out, evaluating how what they see can relate back to what they are doing. It might be packaging, a word, a poem, even something in a completely different business.”
According to Roddick, entrepreneurs are by nature creative creatures. However, the path to success is rarely one that can be walked alone. It is this freedom of thought and expression that must also be encouraged throughout your company and amongst the team that is working with you towards your vision. “You always have to remember that what is most important in a company – or anything else – is unquantifiable in figures,” says Roddick. If you must measure your success, she says, do it “according to fun and creativity.”

Whether it is in small ways or large, entrepreneurs can change the world by seeing something new that others don’t. Entrepreneurs are a different breed of people and should thus act accordingly, suggests Roddick. “Whatever you do, be different – that was the advice my mother gave me, and I can’t think of better advice for an entrepreneur,” she says. “If you’re different, you will stand out.” Roddick’s business plan wasn’t revolutionary – she simply began using bottles more than once and she imagined a business with a heart. However, that was different enough to set her company apart from the rest.

Unfortunately, creativity is not enough to get ahead in the business world. Indeed, creativity is not taken well in many circles and thus the path to success can be paved with more obstacles than one bargains for. Thus, above all else, she says, entrepreneurs need to believe in themselves. “It is true that there is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others don’t,” says Roddick. “But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.” (Evan Carmichael)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lesson # 1: Entrepreneurship Cannot Be Taught (Anita Roddick)

“I often get asked to talk about entrepreneurship – even by hallowed institutions like Harvard and Stanford – but I’m not all convinced it is a subject you can teach,” says Roddick. “How do you teach obsession, because more often than not it’s obsessions that drives an entrepreneur’s vision? Why would you march to a different drumbeat if you are instinctively part of the crowd?”

Before Roddick began to put in place her vision for The Body Shop, she admittedly knew little about business and had never read a book on economic theory in her life. While many saw this as the key factor that would lead to her downfall, Roddick saw this as her greatest advantage.

“If I had learned more about business ahead of time, I would have been shaped into believing that it was only about finances and quality management,” says Roddick. “There is a sort of terrorism that comes with the operations and the science of making money, but by not knowing any of that, I had an amazing freedom.”

Roddick claims that she went to the business school of life. Indeed, watching her mother work tirelessly to maintain her café, Roddick was given insight into what it takes to become a business success. When other cafes were open at 9am and closed at 5pm, Roddick’s mother opened her café for the local fisherman at dawn and didn’t close it until the last customer had wandered away. It is this passion and determination that Roddick believes cannot be taught within the walls of business schools.

“In the business school model, entrepreneurs are most at home with a balance sheet, a cashflow forecast and a business plan,” says Roddick. “They dream of profit forecasts and the day they can take the company public. You certainly must be able to wield these weapons. But these are just part of the toolbox of re-imagining the world. They are not the basic defining characteristic of entrepreneurship.”

Rather, Roddick suggests that entrepreneurs are fearless leaders who cling to their own vision of the world with a passion most others do not understand. “Potential entrepreneurs are outsiders,” she says. “They are people who imagine things as they might be, not as they are, and have the drive to change the world around them. Those are skills that business schools do not teach.”

While Roddick acknowledges that the likes of Harvard are sure to teach applicable business skills, she believes that they “will not teach you the most crucial thing of all: how to be an entrepreneur. They might also sap what entrepreneurial flair you have as they force you into the template called an MBA pass.”

Spreadsheets and financial flair are important, but the key ingredients according to Roddick – passion and imagination – are things that can never be taught. Indeed, they were the very factors behind Roddick’s success. She reached the top of the business world not in spite of her lack of business education, but because of it.(Evan Carmichael)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Changing the World one Shampoo at a Time. Anita Roddick dies age 64.

More than 10 years ago I published a monthly movie magazine for young grown ups (18 - 35 y). Although we were relatively small we always tried to find a way to talk to the real 'stars'. When we changed the magazine into a 'broader' magazine, covering all aspects of the daily life of the young grown ups we had to look for 'stars' outside the movie firmament. One of the first names we went after was Anita Roddick, the woman behind the Body Shop. A young writer, Philip Dumalin, chased her management for months before achieving in what was considered impossible, that we, the boys and girls of Teek Magazine, would be able to have a long private interview with Mrs. Roddick. I will never forget the eyes of Philip Dumalin when he came back from England after the interview. Only sheer happiness was to be found in his eyes. He was proud of his achievement in having been successful in reaching her personally, he was proud of the exalting visit, he was proud of the article he wrote and the picture he took. He also said she made a big, very big impression on him. Now Anita Roddick is dead. She died on Monday September 10, 2007, age 64. Her family said in a statement she suffered "a major brain hemorrhage" at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex. She was already weakened by Hepatitis C, a blood-borne, viral disease she contracted from a blood transfusion in 1971 after giving birth to her youngest daughter. She had been taken to hospital on Sunday evening after she collapsed complaining of a headache. Her husband, Gordon, and daughters Sam and Justine were all with her when she passed away at 6.30pm. I will be publishing a few management lessons from 'Dame' Anita Roddick the coming days.

Changing the World One Shampoo at a Time: How The Body Shop Became a Success

“If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just,” says Roddick – a phrase that could very well be her company motto. She has taken her $6,500 loan and turned it into a successful multi-million dollar corporation that continues to not only make popular cosmetic products but also push the boundaries of corporate social responsibility. She may no longer be the driving force behind the company, but her influence on the business world is undisputed. How did she do it?

Social Change: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito,” Roddick used to say. Perhaps she had too little knowledge about the business world to know that it couldn't’ be done, but Roddick set out not only to meet the needs of her stakeholders, but also “to courageously ensure that our business is ecologically sustainable, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future.” In doing so, Roddick not only turned a profit but garnered a large and dedicated following of consumers who were onside with her vision.

Vision: Roddick used her creativity and imagination to come up with both a unique product line and corporate philosophy by which to operate. She also understood the importance of cultivating this spirit throughout her company, inspiring the free thought of others around her. It was in looking at the world through a positive and creative lens that Roddick was able to see the solutions ahead.

Experience: “If you can shape your business life or your working life, you can just look at it as another extension – you just fulfill all your values as a human being in the work place,” says Roddick. “If you are an activist, you bring the activism of your life into your business, or if you love creative art, you can bring that in.”
Roddick used what she knew best to inspire and inform her business – her own experiences. Whether it was working in her mother’s café as a child, or bathing along side indigenous tribes in Brazil, Roddick brought in her own past to chart her future.

Survival: “For myself, I needed to earn money, to look after the kids while my husband was traveling for two years across South America,” says Roddick. Born out of a need to stay alive, The Body Shop has been infused with a survivor mentality since day one. It continues his trend today, making the most of every opportunity it can and remaining unsatisfied with the status quo.

Passion: “It’s not really work for me because I have no idea what work is anymore,” says Roddick. “It is so much a part of my life.” Since she was a little girl, the entrepreneurial instinct was cultivated within Roddick. The passion and determination with which she approached her business not only made up for her lack of business knowledge, but actually helped her in achieving her dreams. “I hadn’t a clue,” she recalls of her early days in business and that is what propelled her to the top.

It was while Roddick was running her first store that she learned the true nature of business: “It’s about creating a product or service so good that people will pay for it. Now 30 years on The Body Shop is a multi local business with over 2.045 stores serving over 77 million customers in 51 different markets in 25 different languages and across 12 time zones. And I haven’t a clue how we got here!”(Evan Carmichael)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

33 Unwritten Laws of Business

1. Learn to say "I don't know." If used when appropriate, it will be used often.
2. It is easier to get into something, than to get out of it.
3. If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
4. Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there; few can see what isn't there.
6. Work for a boss to whom you can tell it like it is. Remember, you can't pick your family, but you can pick your boss.
7. Constantly review developments to make sure that the actual benefits are what they are supposed to be. Avoid Newton's Law.
8. However menial and trivial your early assignments may appears, give them your best efforts.
9. Persistence or tenacity is the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement, or indifference. Don't be known as a good starter but a poor finisher!
10. In doing your project, don't wait for others; go after them and make sure it gets done.
11. Confirm the instructions you give others, and their commitments in writing. Don't assume it will get done.
12. Don't be timid: speak up, express yourself and promote your ideas.
13. Practice shows that those who speak the most knowingly and confidently often end up with the assignment to get the job done.
14. Strive for brevity and clarity in oral and written reports.
15. Be extremely careful in the accuracy of your statements.
16. Don't overlook the fact that you are working for a boss. Keep him or her informed. Whatever the boss wants, within the bounds of integrity, takes top priority.
17. Promises, schedules and estimates are important instruments in a well-run business. You must make promises -- don't lean on the often-used phrase: "I can't estimate it because it depends on many uncertain factors.
18. Never direct a complaint to the top; a serious offense is to "cc" a person's boss on a copy of a complaint before the person has a chance to response to the complaint.
19. When interacting with people outside the company, remember that you are always representing the company. Be especially careful of your commitments.
20. Cultivate the habit of boiling matters down to the simplest terms: the proverbial "elevator speech" is the best way.
21. Don't get excited in engineering emergencies: keep your feet on the ground.
22. Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions.
23. When making decisions, the "pros" are much easier to deal with than the "cons". Your boss wants to see both.
24. Don't ever lose your sense of humor.
25. Have fun at what you do. It will be reflected in your work. No one likes a grump except another grump!
26. Treat the name of the company as if it were your own.
27. Beg for the bad news.
28. You remember 1/2 of what you read, 1/2 of what people tell you, but 100% of what you feel.
29. You can't polish a sneaker.
30. When facing issues or problems that are becoming drawn-out, "short them to ground."
31. When faced with decisions, try to look at them as if you were one level up in the organization. Your perspective will change quickly.
32. A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter -- or to others -- is not a nice person (This never fails.).
33. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, an amateur built an ark that survived a flood while a large group of professionals built the Titanic!

These 33 business rules are the backbone of The Unwritten Laws of Business, a book from 1944 written by W.J.King and James Skakoon. The book was actually based on three articles written by W. J. (William Julian) King which were first published in the "Mechanical Engineering Magazine". The American Society of Mechanical Engineers later decided then to release the articles in book format.
King was a General Electric engineer who retired as a UCLA engineering professor in 1969. He died in 1983.

Sixty years later Raytheon CEO William Swanson published his Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management (see Impactroom post). Swanson's Rules are almost entirely based on King's earlier writings.

Monday, September 03, 2007

TOP MBA programs and European Business Schools

According to Financial Times:

Top European Business Schools 2006
1. HEC Paris
2. London Business School
3. IMD
4. Instituto de Empresa
5. Iese Business School
7. RSM Erasmus University
8. University of Bradford/TiasNimbas
9. Cranfield School of Management
10. Insead

Top MBA programmes 2007
1. University of Pennsylvania: Wharton
2. Columbia Business School
3. Harvard Business School
4. Stanford University GSB
5. London Business School
6. University of Chicago GSB
7. Insead
8. New York University: Stern
9. Dartmouth College: Tuck
10. Yale School of Management

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Five leadership tips

Five leadership tips from David A. Brandon, CEO Domino's Pizza Inc.:
1. Spend as much time in the market as you do in the office.
2. Don’t ask people to do things that you’re not willing to do yourself.
3. Surround yourself with terrific people.
4. Lead by example.
5. Be able to change and change quickly.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The secret to success in business

The secret to success in business is the simple sum of what you know (also considered your human capital), who you know (your social capital or your network) and who trusts you (your reputation).
Take at a certain point all the money away from successfull leaders, managers, or business visionaries, bankrupt them if necessary, if they excel in the above three categories, they will survive and re-surface time and time again.

Friday, August 31, 2007

10 tips for leaders

An Impactroom reader sent me following 10 tips for leaders. Author of the 10 tips is Alvah Parker, an advisor for lawyers.

1. The leader has a strong vision for the firm and knows how s(he) sees it growing. S(he) shares that vision with administrative staff and all others in the firm.

2. The leader has a simple mission statement that is read each week as the leader plans the week. Making business choices that are in line with the mission is a key to success.

3. The leader writes a business plan including a marketing plan every year and manages to it during the year. Everyone in the firm understands the plan and how his or her work impacts the plan.

4. Team work is encouraged by the leader and the firm’s culture is cooperative rather than adversarial and competitive.

5. The leader has big goals that everyone understands and is committed to – more than just a perfunctory commitment everyone is excited about the possibilities.

6. The leader interacts with all the employees and understands how the work flows through the office. S(he) is on top of bottlenecks that slow the work flow. S(he) helps to resolve the bottlenecks by appointing a team to investigate it or adds the necessary resource.

7. The leader checks frequently to see if s(he) is on track with the business plan. When the firm is not on track, the plan is adjusted to get back on track.

8. The leader gives frequent feedback to employees regarding their progress toward their goals. S(he) keeps the firm updated as to progress on the business plan.

9. The staff is recognized by the leader for the high quality work they do and the staff is acknowledged for the integral part each person has in the success of the firm.

10. The leader is grooming others in the firm to be leaders not just managers.

(Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor for Lawyers and Career Coach as well as publisher of Parker’s Points)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Belgium should stop to exist - or not ?

Last year Belgium was not represented as a country at the Cannes filmfestival. Instead the Flemish Ministery of Culture installed a booth to represent Flanders and the Walloon Ministery of Culture installed another booth to represent Wallonia. In the end most foreign journalists thought that Belgium hadn't been present at the festival. Some "Belgian" artists, forced to be present in one of the two regional booths, received mails afterwards with the question why they hadn't come to the festival and why Belgium wasn't present that year. A little survey of one of the attending artists reveiled that most foreign journalists didn't know the meaning of something called "Flanders" and something called "Wallonia". Most of them had never heard about Flanders and Wallonia before, and they hadn't certainly realised that both names represented 2 regions in Belgium.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why Belgium should stop to exist - or not ?

This is not a political blog. This is a blog about management and leadership issues. A conversation earlier this week however brought politics, management and leadership together as if matching ingredients on 1 plate. The message triggering this mix was delivered to me by a successful Flemish entrepreneur. His message was short and simple: "Every time our Prime-Minister-To-Be (Mr. Leterme, red) opens his mouth, I loose a client in Wallonia". I was quite surprised to hear this. And the entrepreneur went on: " I will be obliged to buy a sick Walloon company, as a front store to keep Walloon clients. They do not have to know I will still produce their products in my plant in Flanders." It is true the Belgian politicians have a hard time installing a new Belgian government. And it is true that a difference in opinion about the future of this country separates Flemish and Walloon parties. And apparently the result of the recent elections proved in a way that a majority of the Flemish people want Flanders to be running the show in Belgium. Even worse a lot of Flemish people seem to want to destroy Belgium as a country and install the "Republic of Flanders" in Europe.

Question: Do regions in other countries have the right to fight their constitutional motherland to become independent ?
Answer: The answer is yes, if these regions are oppressed. If their freedom or language or future is taken away from them by an hostile group of people in power.

Logical question now: Is Flanders an oppressed region in Belgium ?
Realistic answer: I don't think so. On the contrary.

Question: Why is a growing group of people in Belgium trying to destroy the concept of Belgium as a country and install instead an autonomous Republic of Flanders?
Answer: ....

Question: Why is growing group of people in Belgium convinced the Monarchy should be replaced by a Presidency ?
Answer: ....

Question: Are there people that want to destroy Belgian as a Kingdom and replace it by the Kingdom of Flanders ?
Answer: ....

Question: What are the actual reasons for a group of Belgian people to ask the termination of Belgium ?
Answer 1: The only thing I hear is that Wallonia is sick and that Flanders is paying the bill. A radical Flemish party illustrated this situation by filling trucks with (fake) money and drive them from Flanders to Wallonia. The amount of money in the trucks apparently resembled the amount of money Flanders is paying every year to Wallonia (depending on the source this amount varies between 3,5 and 12,5 billion Euro/year. More accurately, specialists claim the yearly transfer of money from Flanders to Wallonia is expected to be around 6,6 billion Euro (according to an Abafim study in 2004)).

Answer 2: To my surprise "the money" seems the only reason why we (Flanders) should separate from Wallonia. I haven't heard anybody complain about the smell of the Walloon people (horrible), their laziness (repulsive), their arrogance (we all had to speak French in the past), their lack of intelligence (well hidden until our Prime-Minister-To-Be unmasked this a few weeks ago by warning us that Walloon people can not learn to speak Flemish because they lack the intelligence), their mafia-led cities (dangerous, it's a cancer that could infect Flanders), and last but not least their inhospitality (they typically burn the houses of Flemish people who once bought a house in the Ardennes, and they invariably abduct the women of the Flemish men daring to go on holiday in Wallonia!!)(appalling, Walloons are true animals).
So yes of course there are all sorts of good reasons to divorce Wallonia.

Question: Isn't it true that a good part of the people shouting for the termination of Belgium today, desperately wanted to annex Flanders to Germany before and during the Second World War ?
Answer: Of course not, what a stupid question is this ?

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Gotta have it" products

To make money, a business must generate products that demand attention -ones so compelling that they push the consumer's "gotta have it" button, rather than the one marked "hmmm, that's nice."
To get such products, foster a corporate culture where right-brained visionaries feel safe suggesting "gotta have it" ideas. Then only after giving your enthusiasts a respectful hearing should you ask the necessary left-brained questions. (Robert A. Lutz, former President and Vice Chairman Chrysler Corporation)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Monocle from magazine entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé

Tyler Brûlé once shook my world by creating one of the best international glossy magazines of the nineties, “Wallpaper”. In February of this year he launched a new magazine, Monocle.
Brûlé describes Monocle as a mix between Vanity Fair and the Economist. Actually it is a slick, extremely well designed glossy magazine about (geo)politics, business, culture, art and design. Together with the magazine a website, as attractive as the magazine, was launched (

Brûlé (1968, Canada) rose to semi-stardom in the nineties after having created “Wallpaper*”, a lifestyle bible for the semi-intellectual. He decided to start the magazine while in hospital, recovering
from a sniper bullet he received covering the Afghanistan war as a journalist (1994). He lost hereby the use of his left hand. Once the magazine sold 150.000 copies per issue worldwide he was able to sell the magazine to TimeWarner in 1997. He went on setting up a design agency (Winkmedia later to be transformed in Winkreative), hosting and producing TV shows, and writing columns for a.o. the Weekend supplement of the Financial Times, the Neue Zurcher Zeiting am Sonntag and lately The International Herald Tribune.
To be able to start Monocle in February of 2007, he raised 5 million Pounds from private investors. For some people Brule is God, for others he is an arrogant, style obsessed, shrewd gay marketeer.
I have never met him, don’t know him, can’t judge him, but in my book, Monocle is just one of the best new magazines in the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Best 366 colleges in the US

The new 2008 edition of The Princeton Review's annual college guide Best 366 Colleges came out today in the US (authored by Robert Franek). 120.000 students attending 366 colleges were asked to rate their schools in a number of categories. The rankings have become required reading among high school students contemplating over which college to attend.

Snapshot of the rankings categories and the #1 college on each:
Best Classroom Experience
Reed College (Portland, Ore.)
Toughest to Get Into
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.)
Most Beautiful Campus
Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, Va.)
Best Career/Job Placement
University of Texas at Austin
Most Liberal Students
Warren Wilson College (Asheville, N.C.)
Most Conservative Students
Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, Calif.)
Most Politically Active Students
The George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)
Biggest Frat & Sorority Scene
DePauw University (Greencastle, Ind.)
Top Party School
West Virginia University (Morgantown)
Best Campus Food
Virginia Tech (Blacksburg)
Best Financial Aid
Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
Most Diverse Student Body
Temple University (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Happiest Students
Whitman College (Walla Walla, Wash.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Do you want to sponsor your University and become member of a Wall Street Journal think tank on management and education ?

Just assembling some ideas. Suppose: You are a successful manager, you work for a good company, preferably a well known multinational, or you are a successful business owner, and you think you reached your current position (or at least a significant part of it) thx to your university education or MBA. Would you then be interested to sponsor a bundle of Wall Street Journal copies to be delivered daily under your name to your former university ? Send me your thoughts!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Wall Street Journal Europe: a new function

After a few months of thinking, waiting, discussing, holiday schedules and rethinking I decided to accept the job offer I received from the Circulation Marketing Department of The Wall Street Journal Europe. After having led the Distribution Operations team for 5 years it will be an opportunity and a challenge to switch to the marketing side of the company. I will be directly responsible for 2 programs, good for one third of our audited circulation. First program is the Future Leadership Program of The Wall Street Journal (all newspapers going to all the European top universities). Second program is the European Travel Program (all sponsored copies going to the 4 and 5 star hotels in the major European cities). I have been asked to rewrite both programs and put them back in the market.
It is one of the tricks of life to realize that this blog kind of paved the way to this new job. When I started this private and personal blog about management issues more then a year and a half ago, while professionally completely imbedded in the operations side of the company, nobody could have foreseen that I would become responsible for The Future Leadership Program, an area where I will be working daily around topics as management knowledge, training programs, institutes, universities, MBA's etc. (I am even pretty sure that the new line of bosses I will work for haven't any knowledge about the existence of this blog.) So it must have been the power of mind, or the radiation of thoughts and wishes that fertilized the company ground I walked on so one day somebody high up the marketing ladder decided to come down to the operations field with the question to join them. I don't think I ever heard about such a move in our company before. Normally operations people and marketing people don't blend. They support each other, but that doesn't mean they have compatible building blocks. I hope I will grow into being the exception which proves the rule.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

While on holiday: Business and Borders Gift from the Provence

Following on the last post: We are looking for comments from readers who consider themselves to be international business travellers. Send us a list with:
- what you consider to be the essence of an International Business Traveller
- list of 10 points: grievances of the International Business Traveller
- list of 10 points: things that make you happy as an International Business Traveller

Most interesting list receives the Provence Gift basket as pictured in this post (I bought most of the ingredients on the market in St Christol d'Albion). Send lists to gertvanmol at (remove this text) hotmail dot com or use the comment buttons (don't forget to include your name, company and address)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

While on holiday: The Essence of the International Business Traveller

Just a question. I am listing with some friends what the essence might be of the International Business Traveller. Besides the essential characteristics of such a person we are discussing a 10 point list of the things an International Business Traveller might appeal or distress about his/her travels. A fine assortment of Provence goodies will be send to the traveller with the most interesting list. Send your list to gertvanmol at (remove this text) or use the comment buttons.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

While on holiday: Dow Jones sold

I receive numerous messages on Blackberry. Apparently the company I work for, Dow Jones, mother company of The Wall Street Journal newspaper, has finally been sold to News Corp, owned by Mr. Murdoch. The current owners, the Bancroft family, have agreed to sell 37 % of the voting shares, which apparently opens the door for a merger. I spoke to several journalists before leaving on holiday. They all were very, I must say VERY, worried about a potential merger with the Murdoch company. Most of them opposed the potential deal vehemently. On the other hand the people from the business side I spoke to rather welcomed such a deal because it would probably lead to more investments in areas that were heavily hit by the cut backs from the past years. Personally I think it's an interesting management case portraying the advantages and disadvantages of family owned businesses who come to survive several generations. From what I have read it seems that in this case a younger generation chose to cash in on the legacy of their forefathers. It is like selling the diamond ring on the hand of your grandmother while she is still alive. Of course I am in no position at all to judge other people's dealings and decisions. It still will be a thrill to work for a prestigious brand and I am very curious to see how the merger will affect the business.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On holiday in the Provence, France

I am holiday until August 12 in the Provence, Southern part of France, near the Mount Ventoux, a mountain famous for attracting numerous cyclists (the white mountain top vaguely visible on the picture). More visible are the purple rectangular 'lavendel' fields on the slopes of the mountain. (picture taken from a 'terrace' in Sault)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Business, Belts and Borders

I am rewriting a program for The Wall Street Journal Europe, can't disclose too much about it now, but it kind of consists of a lot of copies going to ca 320 top hotels throughout Europe every day. I am struggling with some concepts based on the characteristics of high profile frequent travelers or at least I am searching for ways to integrate him/her in a program that would make some sense to high profile advertisers. In my mind there is one element that always comes back when I think about business travellers, ie. "belts". You can't go on a journey without being belted to your transportation vehicle. Smart ideas about business travelers in general are always welcome.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Working for others is a reconnaisance expedition; a means and not an end in itself. It is an apprenticeship and not a goal."
"Team spirit is for losers, financially speaking. It is the glue that binds the losers together. Is is the methodology employers use to shackle useful employees to their desk without having to pay them too much. While lives may depend on it in a few professions, like soldering or fire-fighting, in commerce it acts as a subtle handicap and a brake to ambitious individuals. Which, in a way, is what it's designed to do."
(Felix Dennis)

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Myth of the ONE BIG GREAT idea

I know some young entrepreneurs who are building their own companies. What struck me lately is their consistent search for this one BIG Idea, this unique GREAT Idea that would catapult them and their companies straight away into eternal richdom and fame. That is at least what I always hear them talk about. Meanwhile their companies are steadily growing, in normal business environments, in normal circumstances, in normal markets, most of the time just servicing people in IT, media and retail. Isn't this the way that most of the GOOD companies are born ? Just by actually doing a good job, producing and moving down-to-earth products ? Isn't it true that some really BIG companies were actually build on failed ideas instead of mind blowing UNIQUE GREAT ideas ? I could be wrong but didn't Sony start with a rice cooker that didn't cook rice ? Aren't some famous companies the result of just two friends deciding to work together, where the friendship became the carrier to success instead of the products they designed or invented ? I can imagine that the collaboration of Mister Dow and Mister Jones was more important for the creation of DowJones than the little newspaper they brought to the market ? Or Hewlett and Packard, didn't their first products fail heavily in the market ? Of course some companies grew into our collective mind after conceiving and developing a brilliant explosive idea. I think You Tube, or Google or Janssen Pharmaceuticals for that matter after having invented some world renowned medicines. But aren't these the exceptions ? I happen to live at the border near The Netherlands. Due to some government rules in the Netherlands on taxing personal wealth, flocks of Dutch millionaires crossed the border to settle down in the woods around the village where I live (disrupting our commonlifestyle, driving prices of houses, gardening, interior architecture to ridiculous heights). Most of them became millionaire in fairly 'simple' industries, such as supermarkets and retail stores, car exhausts, tires, metal scrap, or even just by being a good football coach. Not one of them is known to be the conceiver of this ONE UNIQUE BIG idea. Also, most of them are of age, retired after a full life of hard, hard work. So why loose time chasing this one everlasting, market disruptive, brilliant idea ? In my mind it's a bit like surfing. It is no use to wait for the biggest wave of the century to have the best ride of your life. At a certain point you have to paddle away from the coast and start riding what is coming at you to have some practice, some fun, and some laughs with the company around you.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

New printplant in Belgium for The Wall Street Journal Europe

After many years being printed by the Rossel Group, The Wall Street Journal Europe chose to partner up with Concentra, a modern Belgian Media Group based in Limburg. One of the first actions of the mailroom employees of Concentra was to invent a system to efficiently pack the heavy bundles destined to go to all major European airports. They mirrored the system used in bakeries to pack bread in a paper bag. Brilliant.(picture 1: ‘bread’-taking system)(picture 2: Concentra printplant)(picture 3: Concentra mailroom )

Friday, July 06, 2007

New printplant in Engeland for The Wall Street Journal Europe

The UK will be hosting the Olympic Games in 2012. A consequence of this is that the government has imposed a Compulsory Purchase Order on all industrial activity around Bow Industrial Parc (near Stratford), where our UK printplant, Newsfax, is based. This means Newsfax has to vacate their premises. They started up a brandnew site in the neighborhood of Rainham. I was fortunate to witness the first printrun of The Wall Street Journal Europe at the new printplant.(picture 1: Rainham village)(picture 2: Newsfax printplant)(picture 3: Olympic Gates )

New Design for Impactroom Blog

The Blogger platform on which the Impactroom blog has been build, launched a beta version of its technology a while ago. The old Impactroom lay-out has been crippled since. The characters in the side-bar were changing size, the width of the body took me months to decide to change for the better. By changing to a new template I lost a lot of side bar info which will have to be added again in the weeks, months to come.The nice thing about the blogosphere is the help you can get from the blogger community. I received a lot of help of like minded bloggers, but one guy, I only know him by the name of Vin, gave me outstanding feedback and html/css tips, for free. The way he serviced me, an unknown client, is remarkable. Actually he gave me better service than any computer company I worked with in the past where I had to pay by the hour. In return I will gladly post the logo of a blog he created to help find your way in the blogosphere.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Anthony Robbins: Unleash the Power Within: DAY 4

Last day of the seminar. This day is all about living a healthy life. Anthony Robbins transforms himself into a doctor-teacher who lectures his class on different aspects of the human body, chemically, psychologically, anatomically.Around noon I suddenly realise that the background on the huge screens in the room doesn't match the background behind the stage. I ask the people around me if Anthony Robbins is actually on stage. The hugging, singing, massaging have brought me to sit at the last row (easier to escape) so there is quite a distance between the stage and us. Everybody assures me Anthony is on stage. Indeed I see some people on stage, but not one of them resembles Robbins. I ask one of the volunteers passing by if Robbins is present today. Yes, she says, "in spirit".How does he do that ? They guy is nowhere near the Excel center in London, but he still manages to have the people think he is with them in London.I then realise that we are actually looking at a very professional videotape, the whole morning already. The content of the tape needlessly matches the events in the conference room, and vice-verse. If it wasn't for the not-matching background I wouldn't have realised we were all looking at a tape.The tape switches between images of Robbins on stage somewhere sometime in the past and a guy called "Joseph" who replaces Robbins as physical front man. Joseph is a well groomed trainee, he applies the same techniques to have the audience stand up, shout, yell, cry, hug, massage or simply breath the correct way.

(picture 1: Robbins on screen)(picture 2: substitute Joseph)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Anthony Robbins: Unleash the Power Within, London, DAY 2


A somewhat better day than yesterday. Robbins tells stories and elaborates on several life changing principals. The mass psychosis is still bugging me, but even I get carried away by the showmanship of Robbins. He is a master entertainer and knows perfectly how to build momentum in the room exploiting music, theater techniques and 12.000 hungry soles.

How to build momentum in your life?
Step 1: Put yourself in a PEAK state.
Step 2: What PASSIONATES you ? Choose to work in a field of your passion.
Step 3: Decide, Commit and Resolve! (Unleash your power!)
Step 4: Take immediate, intelligent, consistent and massive ACTION. (Do something immediately, urgency is power)
Step 5: Be S.M.A.R.T. (Choose Strategy, Measure your work, Assess whether it is giving you the emotional reward you wanted, Reinforce what works, Take new action.)

Question from an American Army General:
Why do marines loose their standards as soon as they leave the army ?
People’s lifes are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.
Meaning: Choose your peer group, choose to work in or live around people with a higher standard than yourself. Only then you will grow. Your family should not be your peer group. Love your family, but choose your peer group.

Robbins on wealth:
If you want to become rich and wealthy (in all sorts of ways, not only financial), you need to become a teamplayer.

Biggest ‘secret’ of today’s session:
Proximity is Power.
Robbins explains using his own carriere as an example. His sessions, books and tapes tend to be bought and followed more by people from the entertainment world than people from the ‘haute finance’. Therefore it was easy to start a new venture in for example the movie or television world. Bringing one of his companies to the stock market however didn’t work out in the beginning because he had no contacts (no proximity) in that world. Only after investing time and money in introducing himself in the world of investment bankers it became easy to play the ‘financial’ game. Who you know is still the name of the game.

Emotional moments, a lot of them based on theatrical gimicks and
(film)music (Chariots of Fire, A Space Odyssee, Simply The Best ...)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Anthonny Robbins Unleash the Power Within Conference, Excel Center London, DAY 1

Took night boot from Ostend (Belgium) to Ramsgate (UK) and drove with my own car to London for Anthony Robbins conference. Took cabin on board, never done before, turned out to be wise decision, slept the full 4 hours on sea. Had to be awake to drive at LEFT side in UK.

Registration process: 1,5 hour waiting. Didn't like little flaws in organization.

Entering conference hall: again 1,5 hour waiting in another hall before doors are opened. Feel like cow amidst cattle. Conference starts too late. Lesson 1 for Anthony Robbins: how to learn to start on time. Off course: the man succeeded in selling 12.000 tickets. That's 12.000 people who have to be 'processed' and 'controlled'. But still, lessons could be learned from any average small town rock concert organizer.

First day of the conference. Mixed feelings. Atmosphere resembles 'networkmarketing' meetings a la NSA, Herbalife, NLP... or contemporary televised US church meetings. Loud music, especially music about winning and winners, 'powerful' images on screens (launch of rockets, -saw the space shuttle lift of at least 20 times-, numerous slam dunks of basketball athletes, ...), chanting on request, "say HA" on request, dance on request, clap in hands on request, "hug neighbour" on request...and 12.000 people who obey. An improvised intervention with a women in the audience turned bad after abrupt question with negative sexual connotation (interupting the woman outloud: "When was the last time you got laid?")(Saw several muslim women leave the conference room). Mass psychology. Absolutely not my cup of tea. I thought at a certain moment amidst 11.999 people in trance "if He would order us now to rob a bank, we would do it". He didn't ask us to rob a bank, he just said we had to walk on fire. And of course... we did.

Majority of 12.000 participants prepares to walk bare footed on burning coals.
Although the conference is not my thing, I must admit that the Man (God, the Messiah of superficial psychology) performed exceptionally well. From 13.30 till 23.00 he was on stage shouting, teaching, dancing, ...without break whatsoever. A performance only fit for top athletes.

A private picture of you and God backstage costs 1.500 Pounds.