Going Beyond the Box

Think outside the boxBoxes are great for containing things. Whether moving or just trying to clear the clutter, a box comes in very handy.  You might even choose a box with some character, scratched out handwritten labels, shipping stickers and ancient yellow packing tape.  Yes, the box is a great thing.

But a box can also describe the perspective we live in.  Along the lines of “stuck in a rut,” living inside the box is a familiar place.   The box is the universe we live in, not only the physical space of home, work, the grocery store and the coffee shop, but also the mental world, the thoughts, the emotions, and the perspectives on the world.  By this definition, the box can start to take on a different feeling.

The life you live is the sum of the decisions and actions you make.  These decisions have many different types of influences, be it from your friends or networking group or from the thoughts which pass through your mind.  While many of us are quite content with the box we’ve built for ourselves, others may not be.

Change is how your box changes shape, color, and even location.  “Think outside the box” is a phrase we often use to set loftier goals for ourselves.  In fact, personal growth happens most when we step outside the box we’ve come to love.  A life of learning, new places, and new people is a great way to keep your box changing forever.

Here are some ideas to go beyond your box:

  • Take an online course – many are free and cover a wide variety of topics.
  • Join a book club – Sure, Oprah comes to mind, but reading is a great way to expand your box, as is engaging in discussion.
  • Invite a peer out to lunch – Not only do you get to experience a new atmosphere, but you share the experience with someone and bond with them.
  • Learning a new language or instrument – Learning to speak German or how to play Pachelbel’s Canon on the piano, the process of learning something new stimulates brain activity and makes you feel good.
  • Meditate – breathe, let your thoughts go, and relax.  Reflect on the thoughts which come up naturally and be prepared to write them down afterward so you can take action.
  • Take a vacation – it does not have to be an exotic place like Thailand, but a change of scenery is enough to get you thinking differently and open your horizons
  • Take a different route home from work – this is one tip I love and practice daily. You never drive home the same route day after day.  This opened me up to new routes and I found some places to visit at the same time.

While the box is a really cool thing, it is okay to think about life outside the box.

A Decade of Learning

For a bit more than the last decade, my career has focused on data and data visualization within sales, marketing and finance.   From understanding data architecture and database design to deploying insightful and effective reports to teams across the organization, I have come to appreciate the profound role data plays in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

Understanding how to use data and integrating it into one’s daily routine is a challenge for many.  As I reflect back on my career and the challenges for sales reps and analysts ahead, I chose to shift gears and focus on sharing my experiences with a greater audience.

Saalun - Sales Analytics University for Reps and AnalystsWith the purpose of sharing my skills, I created Saalun.  Saalun is short for Sales Analytics University.  The subscription based service is geared toward sales reps and analysts.  While sales leadership can also benefit, the product is to help reps get the training they need without relying upon corporate leadership to provide it.

While we are just launching an early preview, we will open the doors in Q4’17 with content, newsletters, webinars and podcasts.  Head over to our site and signup for notifications, early previews, and the latest news on this exciting project.

5 Things an Analytics Leader Must Do To Make Analysts Happy

bizanalystAnalysts are the lifeblood of a successful, data-driven company.  The analysts within your organization are usually the first to figure out if the company is on track or off track of the goals.  Their happiness can lead to early warnings and quick action to avoid pitfalls.  Their happiness can also help drive innovation and much needed change.

It is essential to keep your analysts happy.  Whether they are part of a corporate insights team, or are a line of business analyst with sales or marketing, there a few things a leader can do to help make them happy.

Trust & Enable, Don’t Dictate – The best leaders lead through influence and enablement, not micro management and total control.   Trust is one of the most important virtues of a team and is a true symbol of teamwork.  When a leader can let things go and let the judgment, experience, and knowledge of their analysts work, phenomenal things happen.

Celebrate Wins, big and small – Analysts have complex and very important roles in every organization. Analysts work hard, very often in sprints at quarter end and quarter begin. For this reason, take the time to help your analysts celebrate.  From cupcakes and beverages in a conference room, to an off-site cart race, let your analysts cut-loose and have fun.

Give Credit – Nothing makes an analyst more upset than another analyst or person taking credit for their work.  Just like recognition helps drive the morale of a sales rep, giving credit to your analyst when and where it counts is a simple act with profound effect.

Freestyle Project Time – Work hard, play hard.  Let your analysts take a few hours each week to work on something they want to related to work.  Whether they want to work on a new data model, an insights project, or attend an online, self service class, give them the time to do something they feel is important to their role.  A few hours each week to work on a project of their choosing enhances creativity and innovation.

Establish a Vision, But Seek Input – As all leaders are responsible for establishing a vision and trajectory for the team, this vision must be based on input from the team.  Allow the team to develop their own mission statement, their own framework, and be the guide to steer them toward corporate goals.   A vision developed by team input is unstoppable.

As an analytical leader, you have a responsibility to keep your analysts happy.  Happy analysts are key to driving data driven change in any organization.   Allow them to flourish, be creative, innovate and share their passion with the organization.

But wait, a sixth BONUS tip

Conference Budget – Allow your analysts to attend one or two conferences of their choosing every year.  Conferences are not only learning opportunities, but also incredible networking opportunities.  An analyst meeting another analyst is like a match made in heaven.  Let your analysts out of the office and share knowledge as much as possible.

Welcome 2017! My Three Focus Words

2016 is history.  Not the best year, not the worst year.  It was a year of change, strong opinions and shock.  From mass shootings to celebrity deaths to the election of Trump, it was a year we will all be talking about and trying to understand for decades to come.

It was also the year that I established myself in the Pacific Northwest.  It was the year I became a two car owner, a year in which I established my style and a year in which I learned about myself.  While I do not have a lot to brag about in terms of accomplishments, I can say I rode the tide, survived the year, and learned what is important to me.

As I look back on 2016 and dream about 2017 will bring me, I am filled with a bit of anxiety, hope, and inspiration.  Like a blank page in an artist’s sketchbook, the new year is a blank slate waiting to be filled with memories, transactions, people, ideas, and dreams.  It is more inspiring than anything.

Back in 2006, Chris Brogan began publishing 3 words to represent and guide him throughout the year.  This tradition is ten years old in 2016.  The idea, as described by Mr. Brogan:

Pick any three words that will guide you in the choices you intend to make for 2016. They should be words that let you challenge yourself as to motives and decisions. They should be words that help you guide your actions.-Chris Brogan

So, without further ado, here are my three words:  Connect, Learn, Build

Connect – connect is about connecting with the community around me, the people, the places, the events, and the technology.  Throughout 2017, I will be looking for opportunities to connect with everything around me.

Learn – While we are required to spend roughly 18 years in school before we are ready to participate in the world, the truth is life is one big school and you should never stop learning.  I am eleven years into a career in Analytics and I realize how fast technology changes.  I need to stay current on the tools.  I also want to set the foundation for grad school, so I have some studying to do for the GRE.

Build – This word has a few meanings to me.  First, I want to spend more time doing things with my hands, away from computer and not reliant upon technology.  From a hydroponics system to arts and crafts, I want to build. Second, build represents establishing a foundation for the latter half of my life.  I see myself undergoing a lot of personal change and 2017 is the year the foundation is built for that change.

What are you three words?  What’s your focus on 2017?

How a To Do List Alone Is Not Productive

Stress is at its highest when one is unprepared.  Managing tasks, putting out fires, and meeting deadlines is difficult without a proper task management solution.

Whether you use the latest smartphone app or just pen and paper, you probably have some form of reigning in all those tasks, big and small, you must get done. Each of these tasks is multi-dimensional in that each has a priority, an effort level, deadline, and could even be related to another task or appointment.   Managing these dimensions is the key to being proactive and productive.

The problem with the to do list, is just that, it is strictly a list.   Making a list of your to do items is critical, but it does not give you the ability to set priorities in a complete manner.  In fact, the longer the to do list, the more overwhelming and difficult to mange it will be.

The solution is pretty simple.  Of course you need a list of task items, but you need integrate both the priority and scheduling.  The easiest was to do this is to schedule them on your calendar just like you would schedule a meeting or doctor’s appointment.

Scheduling your tasks takes care of a few things in one shot:

  1. It automatically sets the priority relative to not only other tasks, but your appointments.
  2. It gives you a clear start time and end time to tackle the task.
  3. It allows you focus on the immediate tasks for the day without getting overwhelmed by seeing tasks for a week or month.
  4. It sets the amount of time you need and have available to complete the task.

Using your calendar, be it a Daily Planner or Outlook, to manage your tasks is a very efficient way to be productive.  By managing a list of tasks and taking the extra step of putting them on your calendar means you are serious about being proactive and productive.  Try it today!

Jumping Into Die-cast Model Collecting

As you get older, collecting things is a great way of expressing yourself.  With collections fitting into the life category of hobbies, just about anything can be considered a collection as long as you have more than a few of the same type of object.

As a car guy, I am an avid automotive follower, having collected just about every issue of Car and Driver magazine from 1992 to 1998. That is a lot of car magazines.  I even started writing my own automotive news and review journal when I started college called MotoCrazy.  Although I never actually published it publicly, it was a great for me to explore my automotive interest.

Fast forward to 2014 and my love for automobiles has not changed.  I still follow automotive news, review new models with skepticism and joy, and even yearn to take a new model for a spin.  While my current day job does not allow me to collect real cars, the world DieCast Models does.

It started with a search on eBay for a 2008 Mazda3 model by AutoArt.  I wanted to have a model of the very car I drive today.  However, I didn’t bid high enough and lost the first auction only to discover paying well over $100 for such a model would have been justified since I have not seen one come for auction since!  Urgh!

As I dove deeper into the world of diecast models, I found a fascinating world of scales, brands, and qualities that were as diverse as the planet we lived on.  My first purchase was a 1967 Pontiac GTO by Danbury Mint in gorgeous Purple Plum paint.  The 1/24 model was intricately detailed and set me back well over $100, but it is worth every penny.

After getting my first purchase behind me, I grabbed a 1995 Ford Explorer by Maisto and quickly learned what sort of quality I expected in a model.  While it was dirt cheap, the quality of this Explorer left me wanting more, almost feeling as though I had been cheated.  The door gaps were large and obvious, the headlights looked fake and the interior was more form than detail.  Clearly, future models were going to have to be a little higher quality.

Diving into DieCast Model Collecting is a lot like real world car shopping.  First, you get what you pay for.  Buy the cheap model and you will get a cheap car.  Buy a high end model and jump for joy, put it on the shelf and relish in its detail.   Second, shop around for the car that best fits your needs.  Numerous manufacturers make a 1966 Pontiac GTO and offer various levels of detail.  Even the higher end manufacturers offer different touches of details. Find the right mix that works for you.  Finally, size does not matter in the respect that 1/18 models are HUGE and 1/64 models are tiny and lack details.   Decide what you are comfortable with and how big of a shelf you have, then buy the scale that fits best.

I am quite happy with my collection so far.  In fact, I have concentrated on buying mid-1960’s GTO’s from a variety of manufacturers, but mainly in 1/18 scale.  My favorite is a 1/18 ERTL-American Muscle 1966 GTO in gold.   I am also collecting each and every model of Saturn I can find. Currently I have a 2002 Vue and SC2.

My 1/43 collection is taking shape, mainly in the form of European cars from the mid-1990’s.  From numerous Saab 900’s and 9-5’s to a Mercedes C180 and Mercedes C36, the 1/43 scale is nicely detailed and offers a nice compact size.  They are also a bit less expensive than the larger 1/18 scale.

DieCast model collecting offers an environment parallel to real world car shopping.   The best part is not having to have a 50 car garage to park them in.  Decide what makes your enthusiasm kick and buy it.  And if you come across an AutoArt 2008 Mazda3 5-door along the way, please let me know.