Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Since I was a kid, Thanksgiving has always meant the congregation of family. More than any other holiday, the values and traditions of Thanksgiving have had a tremendous impact on my life.

I remember how the entire family would always gather around my grandparents' table. My grandparents owned a dairy farm with plenty of work to be done. But, when Thanksgiving came around, the chores were briefly forgotten and grandma began the loving task of preparing the holiday table. Of course, grandpa chipped in and helped as much as gram would allow. The most important thing, was that my grandparents took ownership of Thanksgiving.

My grandparents lived a long fulfilling life, and when they could no longer prepare the Thanksgiving table, my wife and I took ownership of that loving task. We always enjoy doing it; after all, traditions need a leader to survive.

Part of our family tradition is to remember the "giving" part of Thanksgiving -- or any generous act -- is a gesture from the heart, with no thoughts of "how will our guests give back what we've put forth, or will I be remembered for my generosity to the local Foodbank?" Actually, everyone in our family has a role to play in the Thanksgiving celebration; each person brings their traditional dish to the holiday table.

The people of Shamrock are also my family. Here, too, everyone has a role. And here, too, I take the initiative, but I choose to ask everyone to share in the preparation of making Shamrock among the best places to work. And I'm blessed to have this wonderful, extended family in my life. They are a significant part of my success.

Like my personal family, my Shamrock family shares the traditions we've established through the years. For example, we have a saying here: "If you're not proud of it, don't ship it." We often ship boxes based on an equal number of items per box. A wise woman in shipping discovered one box among many was short several printed pieces, and one box was over the same number. I told her it was okay to ship, since we weren't shortchanging the customer. "No," she said. "I can't ship it, because shipping is my responsibility, and we promise to ship the same exact number per box. I can't say I would be proud to ship this job, since the numbers per box are wrong.

I guess I "raised" her with the right set of values and traditions. And I was proud of her... and a bit proud of myself, too.

Traditions and values need a leader to make sure they thrive from one generation to the next. This is true for personal and business families.  I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the gift of sharing in leadership before  the next generation takes the reins during this season of Giving Thanks!     

Thursday, November 17, 2011


If you're inadvertently revealing too much of yourself because your zipper's open, you may be in for some severe embarrassment. Now, I'm not asking you to check the zippers on your clothing (although, it's not a bad idea!).  In this case, the zipper I'm talking about is the mouth. When I was a kid, my parents told me to "zip it", when they wanted me to be quiet.  Even as an adult, I found early on that keeping my mouth zipped and paying attention was a good way to learn more than I knew.

When I started working, I repeatedly heard the phrase, "Loose lips sink ships", which was, obviously, taken from the Navy and used by business people to help us remember to be careful about revealing proprietary information when we spoke with others -- because we'd never know who was listening on the elevator, in a restaurant, or wherever.

Today, in the Facebook era, where we often "friend" anyone who asks, we have to be even more vigilant about what we say online. Our indiscretion on Facebook, or other social media sites can destroy --  in one sentence -- to a vast audience -- what we've worked hard to build over months or years.

Here's a brief excerpt from an article about corporate espionage that caught my eye (you can read the whole thing here: (Forbes_the spy who liked me). It tells the cautionary tale of an open zipper better than I can:

                "When a financial director at a privately held New York company received a friend request from an attractive blonde on Facebook, the recent divorcĂ© eagerly accepted it. As they chatted over the course of a few days, his new friend mentioned the possibility of visiting him for New Year’s Eve and asked a few innocuous questions about his business, such as how much revenue his company had. He told her he couldn’t disclose that information, but a few days later, having grown more comfortable with her, he admitted that the figure was $6.5 million.
                "The curious stranger wasn’t a ­single-looking-to-mingle. “She” was a (male) security consultant for a company called Cyberoam in Bangalore, India, that is finding out how easy it is to exploit social media for ­corporate espionage. The loose-lipped director’s New York firm was one of 20 companies that Cyberoam targeted over a six-month period, stalking ­employees on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to find leaks of sensitive ­information. The Cyberoam spies were able to predict a bankruptcy filing for a ­Singapore company, based on employees’ tweets about the company’s ­belt-tightening measures and its vice president of ­operations announcing on LinkedIn that he was job-searching."

Another thing I remember my mom and dad telling me was how important it was to choose friends wisely.  Today, with "cyberfreaks" stalking social media, it's even more important than ever to do so. Not only for the safety of our business dealings, but also for our children and our family.  Here's to good friends.              

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I've never paid much attention to the belief that it's a bad idea to develop  friendships with co-workers and customers because a personal relationship might damage the professional relationship. Actually, I think a personal relationship only strengthens the professional bond between two people.

I also believe that the best way to reinforce relationships is face-to-face contact. When that's  not possible, just get on the phone and say what has to be said, or, even better, just call to say hello.

Because I like face-to-face or "just pick up the phone" relationships, I've got to admit that I haven't been the best social media advocate, despite the growing trend.  But, I'm beginning to get the big social media picture, especially after reading results from a recent Forrester Research Survey.

 The survey, conducted online July 2011, included 60,000 participants. The results finally rattled my cage and I now have a greater appreciation for the force of social networks.

According to the survey, of all the social networks, Facebook is the only one that knows no generational limits (it includes users from preteen to 65+).  Facebook  is also the largest of the social networks. In fact, of U.S. adults who use social networking sites, 96% of them are on Facebook! Does that surprise you as much as it surprised me?

The second most-used social network is LinkedIn, used by 28% of the U.S. adult online population. LinkedIn, naturally, is used mostly by business professionals for networking and employment. But, this was most surprising to me: despite all the hoopla surrounding it, Twitter comes in at a weak third among U.S adults online.

What does all this mean to business people like us? First, there's a good chance that many of our customers are on Facebook. Second, those of us who think like entrepreneurs should be connecting with customers who are on Facebook and LinkedIn. We should use social networks as another way to stay in touch with our customers, so that we may gain a greater understanding of what issues motivate them, what their personal relationships mean to them, and how we can be of help.  (NOTE: This doesn't mean that, as business people, we should all go off and friend anyone who asks us. We should make "friends" cautiously. Next week I'll tell you a short story about the dark side to the corporate use of social media.)


Does using Facebook and LinkedIn mean we ignore the more intimate forms of communication, like invites to lunch or dinner, face-to-face meetings, or a simple phone call to co-workers and customers? Absolutely -- no! But social media, a great tool in the business of marketing our products, should be used  to reinforce our professional relationships, too.    

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Hey, I'm not spying on what you do at work. That's your personal, professional and private decision.
What I'd like to do is share with you an article I recently read about game theory at work.

This particular Wall Street Journal article, "Latest Game Theory: Mixing Work and Play" (WSJ), says that businesses from IBM to consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., are working to make everyday business tasks more appealing by introducing elements of videogames into the workplace.

For years, Shamrock has used the Fish philosophy of making work fun while providing the best customer experience, along with various events, to bring new and old members of the Shamrock team together. While this is not quite 21st century exploration into video games, I do agree with the tone of the WSJ article, which says outright that work should include fun and team building. After all, we spend one-third of our day at work.

The writer of the WSJ article also says that IBM and Deloitte include reward and competitive tactics commonly found in the gaming world to make tasks such as management training and brainstorming seem less like work. Employees also receive points or badges for completing jobs or meeting time limits for assignments. The article goes on to explain that some companies include competitive tactics so workplace gamers can view one another's scores, to encourage friendly competition and motivate performance.

The article even includes results of a study by Colorado Denver Business School which found that..." employees trained on video games learned more factual information, attained a higher skill level and retained information longer than workers who learned in less interactive environments."

I'm not knowledgeable enough in online gaming to say whether this is a good idea or not, but I understand that gaming is the new reality. And I believe that work should be fun.  Nevertheless, I also have to admit I'm of an old-school "show me" attitude. However, if at-work gaming can add to fun and productivity at work, then I think it's something worth investigating.

So, I will consider workplace gaming with an open mind, and I'd really be interested to discuss ideas with anyone who will share their advice about this trend with me. 

A big part of the work we do for our customers relies on new technology.  Workplace game theory may provide us with an opportunity to walk the tech talk right where we work.  It's certainly worth investigating.