The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hello from San Diego!

I started the new job last week. It's quite a change for me from basically working out of my basement. It's a lot brighter. It's a lot noisier. It's also very strange driving around in rush hour traffic.

This week, I'm representing the company at the Hybrid Vehicle Technologies Symposium in San Diego, CA. Mostly I am here to learn. Being away from everything, I can take the opportunity to think.

As I’ve written pretty extensively about studying strategy and daoism, and applying it to our daily lives, it only makes sense that I take a look at the lay of the land ( Sun Tzu's Art of War, Chapter 10) at my new employer and come up with a strategy to succeed with them. I could also just leave it all to dumb luck, but I’ll save that for Plan B.

You can’t guarantee outcomes, but you have to do the work. The better prepared you are, the luckier you’ll be.

I’m learning at few things at the new gig already. I wasn’t their first choice for this position. One guy I’m working with and is a peer was hired a few months ago. In the meantime they had hired another guy who was laid off from their largest competitor (I’m sitting in his cube and using his computer) who didn’t work out. He was simply not aggressive enough. At his old job he was trained to be an order taker rather than a salesman. There is a lesson.

Another guy who had worked here for years had also been let go. I’ve known him for years. To hear the story he had done some really dumb things politically. He inserted himself into the politics of a large customer (strike one), picked the losing side (strike two), and the company fell into disfavor as a result (strike three). That is another lesson. A part of my new job is to repair that relationship.

As a small company, there really isn’t a track for advancement per se. They will grow incrementally. The advancement and security comes with securing a specific niche and flourishing within that.

It appears that each of the people who have been here and thrived have found a distinct niche in which they displayed superior performance. What has happened then as each of them has come to be the guy in a specific area; that area has been ceded to them. That’s the normal curve here it seems.

I have a few hints on what areas are going to need attention in the near term and could become just one of those niches in the long term.

Because of my “conversational Japanese” and previous experience working for Japanese companies, I’m going to get pulled into the Japanese related business.

They have a Japanese distributor with whom they communicate almost daily, is fairly high maintenance, but who also delivers the sales. This distributor simply needs the regular attention and right now it’s falling on my boss who would like to invest that time elsewhere.

The Japanese contacts speak English well enough I am told, but it’s just not always easy. Being able to clarify even some simple things in Japanese would be a huge boost and everything would be expected to go more smoothly.

I am certainly not going to put myself forward on going to Japan regularly, the wear and tear of traveling is not something I relish (but will accept), but I will spend the money on Rosetta Stone (which I wanted to get anyway and can write off) to boost my Japanese language skills quickly so my performance comes off well.

I want to not only work on the spoken language, but start working again on kanji and reading skills. Having real immediate needs helps one to learn, in my experience.

He also mentioned (as though he were thinking aloud) that the guy who manages the rest of the international accounts will be retiring in a couple of years and that he’d like me to get involved with that as well.

I am not going to go out of my way to volunteer for extensive travel, but if it comes my way I’ll make the most of it. I don’t want to be the guy heading to Asia, Mexico and Europe several times a year, but that might be a little niche I can latch onto to secure my position.

From The 36 Strategies, #12: Take a Sheep in Hand While You Go Along. That is, take advantage of any circumstance that comes your way, no matter what size.

Of course, my immediate concerns are learning the products, the customers, and competition; as well as working on both internal and external relationships. What we end up doing finds us as much as we find it.

A new page is about to turn. My oldest put an offer in on a condo and it was accepted. Now the mortgage company has to determine if the condo association is solvent before they'll give her the money. It looks like it's a go so far. So she's about ready to move out into her own place.

One of her closest friends just became engaged. I remember at about her age, it seems like we were always going to weddings, then there was a period when everyone was starting to have kids, then we were going to communion parties or whatever. This stuff comes in waves and a new wave, the one she's going to ride, is about to begin.

Some good reading - The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. (Shang Lee at the Journey Within blog pointed this one out. Please pay a visit). It's a book for the artist and professional in all of us, no matter what it is that we pursue. It's about the self created obstacles we encounter and what we must do to overcome them.

Remember the TV show, Northern Exposure? There was an episode where Chris-in-the-Morning was having an artistic block, and Ruth Ann told him that an artist much struggle; must fight for his art, to see what he's made of.

Another good book is Pirate Latitudes by the late Michael Crichton. It's one of the books he had finished but hadn't yet published before his death. Fun historical fiction. Crichton's strong points are the history and technology. Plot, character development and dialog aren't his strengths.

Also The Predictioner's Game by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita, on Game Theory. The key points are asking the right questions to frame the problem correctly , understanding human nature, and putting yourself in the other guy's shoes.


Classical Tai Chi of Buffalo said...

I think I said it before but anyway, it is nice to see that you landed on your feet after such a freefall.

Jim R.

Rick said...

Thanks. It's not just a life; it's an adventure!

jeff said...

Welcome to SD.
We actually have weather lately.

Rick said...

If it's above freezing and not snowing, it's all good.