Measure What Matters – John Doerr

Readers are Leaders. When you read, some books leave a lasting impact on you and will help  change life (or) company habits. Measure What Matters, John Doerr is one such book.

Measure What Matters - John Doerr

Measure What Matters – John Doerr

We have had quarterly goals at DCKAP and been doing it for a few years. The same has had a big impact to our organization’s productivity. One thing we didn’t do was set Goals for the CEO (though a few employees asked about it). I thought my goals need not be shared and could be kept personal for me to track. After reading John’s book, one of the first things I did was publish my goal on the company forum.  Everyone in the company knows what our priorities are and will focus on the right things.

After reading this book, another thing we did as a company was refine our Goals with OKR’s. John talks about OKR’s extensively in his book (Objective, and Key Results).  We also published everyone’s goals so anyone in the organization could see what their peers (or) anyone including the CEO is working on. (Great Idea) – Thanks John.

Merit trumps seniority, Training, Hailing small achievements and Culture were other learnings from the book.

Measure What Matters also helped learn about other companies (MyFitnessPal, Intuit, Gates Foundation and a host of others) and had sections written by the respective CEO’s or leaders. It was inspirational to learn from them. Andy Grove, Bill Campbell (The Coach) have mentions throughout the book. It was nice of John to provide credits to all these visionaries.

Thanks John for writing this book. Your book and learnings will have a big impact on companies across the world.

Thanks to Aliso Viejo, CA Library for lending me this book to read.

The Virgin Way , Richard Branson

Thanks to Aliso Viejo, CA Library, got to read The Virgin Way, by  Richard Branson. When you run a business or manage a team , reading books like The Virgin Way is inspiring and also teaches you business lessons.

The Virgin Way - Richard Branson

Taking notes & listening:  Even if you are a CEO, listen more and take notes during any meeting – this is a great lesson learnt reading this book. Often times during meetings we tend to interrupt (thinking we look smarter) – however it makes the person on the other end of the meeting look bad. I have interrupted teammates  multiple times.  Instead take notes and when the other person completes his conversation, address the questions or maybe they would have answered your questions already. Go to the employees work place and discuss, you will learn more (rather than having them come to your place). I remember reading this in another book. Listening & Taking notes makes you look smart and is also very effective.

Family & Public Speaking: Ask Family for feedback. Throw ideas at them and ask , what do you think? Richard received great feedback on businesses he shouldn’t be getting into or the use the Virgin brand (because he checked in with his wife) . Public Speeches take practice. The more you speak, the more you get better at it and avoid using fillers.

Thank you, Please: We often underestimate the use of Thank you, Please and more.  E.g, Thank you so much for your hard work on this report. People take pride in their work. Surprise employees. It is good to walk up to the employee’s desk for a praise – Say Thank you, Awesome Work.  (of-course this has to be genuine – otherwise derides value)

Mission Statements and Luck: According to Richard , Vision and Mission Statements does not mean much. These statements are interchangeable for competitors as well. If you do need to have it, keep it simple and short.  Being at the right place at the right time. You have to be at the place first to know if the place is right or time is right. Fortune favours those who work hard. You have to try to see if it will work or not. Never be afraid to talk to strangers. Your “Sergey” could be up there. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity – Roman philosopher.

People Skills & Finance: Being Courteous is very good for business leaders.  A vital skill to be a great business leader is picking great people to work for you. Diversity in Staffing and all age groups helps.  Employees are your assets. Just because 2 to 3% are bad (which will always be the case) don’t deny service to the rest 98%. Home grown intrapreneurs are great for a company. Profit is a byproduct of customer service. People are like plants. Take care of them, water them and let them flourish.  Do the right thing, build the right way, don’t set unrealistic financial targets. Send one good/appreciation email everyday. Fun is infectious. Creative Marketing helps, Instead of spending loads of money on marketing, try to get as much free press as possible with creative marketing ideas. (Bigger Bang for a smaller buck). Be visible. If you cant get ways to generate a lot of attention through free ink they will eat you alive(biggies). Run like a public company – be disciplined. Starbucks is a great example of a need to raise money.  Adding stores doubles revenue. Go Public if you really have to.

Keep looking for Problems: If you find a problem , don’t sit on it or keep complaining about it. Just go and solve it. This will lead to opportunities later.  Keep looking for problems. If you can’t find something, go create it. You may not have answers to everything. Learn it.

Hiring & Firing: Hiring should be the CEO’s #1 priority . Be involved in hiring decisions (and as a CEO you have to make time for it). Hire for your weaknesses. Letting someone go is hard. If you are in a need to let someone go , often times it is the fault of the company.  Hiring the right people is a skill and you will get better with time. Hire people from other industries and promote from within. Don’t move someone into a role just because it is their turn. Don’t hire for paper, spot talent. Hiring leaders from competitors may also work. Here are some great questions to ask in an interview ,

“Tell me a joke” , “Tell me something you learnt recently”,   “What did you not include in your CV”

A Famous Richard Branson quote – (in this book as well) “Train them well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to”

Mentor: It is great to have a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask (even if they are big).

Leadership: Leaders put themselves in front. If there is a problem don’t shy away. Be there. E.g If you are a CEO of an Airline Company and if the flight lands in an accident (God Forbid) – be at the accident site. Don’t send your subordinates (or) shy away.  Just show up and don’t stay home. If there is a problem and you had indicated to your team earlier – “I told you so” should never cross your lips. Collaborate and create partnerships. Don’t work in silos. Challenges should be shared. Central Atrium (where employees can collaborate). Law of Large Numbers. It takes a lot of little things to make a big thing. It is ok to start small (this may be the only way).  Listen to feedback at all levels and great design is everyone’s job.

Running a company is managing people’s aspirations. Let their imaginations take flight, so people (working) feel great about themselves and also have a sense of accomplishment. Thank you Richard for sharing what you have learnt in “The Virgin Way” . I am thankful that you took the time to write as a lot of us can learn. Thank you for inspiring us.

The Only Investment Guide you’ll ever need – Andrew Tobias

The Only Investment Guide you ‘ll ever need by Andrew Tobias  is easily one of the best books I have ever read. Most of the investment/finance books are complex and hard to understand. I started reading one earlier and could not complete it (stayed away from finance books for a while). However this Investment guide is very simple and easy to understand. Reading this was like watching a fast paced movie and could not take my hands off it.

Andrew Tobias

Andrew Tobias

I have heard about a lot of things Andrew mentions in his book in the past. However never took it seriously. The simple way Andrew has presented it made me understand things better and forced me to take a look at my life-style and investments.

Roth IRA: The $5500 limit we need to take advantage of. I never knew what it was (though have vaguely heard about it in the past).

401K : Investing in 401K and its significance – Deferring Tax.

One big mistake a lot of folks do (including myself) – especially people coming from foreign countries to study and work in the US (and when they are not married) is not investing in tools like Roth IRA, 401K, IRA and more. The reason being, the Net Pay is reduced because of all these deductions. This is a grave mistake and wish I was smarter. This is not a deduction and an investment (especially when your company is contributing to your 401k plan). If you are a foreign student or working in the US on H1B , there are a lot of ways you could save on tax. Make use of the tips in this book.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your money and investments. You might use a CPA(Certified Public Accountant) to file your taxes. However it is upto you to ask the right questions and do the research. Work on paying less tax.

One of the best advices from this book: Advise your 12 year old to setup a Roth IRA account.  (Power of Compound Interest) – Invest from age 12 to 22 (the money your child earns) , and investing this in an IRA account compounding at 10% / year would be valued at $1.5M when your child is 70. Wow!

The notes outlined below is also a good way for me to recollect my learnings (and put into practice 🙂 This is not an exhaustive list – (would need to read the book again and update).

  1. Pay off your credit cards (simplest way to earn 18-20% on your money)
  2. Use credit cards that pay you (the one’s that give you cash back or frequent flyer miles)
  3. Buy a used car “The new car smell is the most expensive fragrance in the world) {Applies in the US} and folks in India may not prefer the same.
  4. Home Equity Loans are like huge credit cards (however they carry little interest rates compared to your regular credit cards)
  5. You want to borrow as little as possible, as cheaply as possible for as short a time as possible
  6. Diamonds are….Ridiculous
  7. No matter what to buy, pay attention as your order is rung up. It is good to double check your bills.
  8. Sparingly use more than 20% of your credit card limits
  9. By estimating your income low and expenses high you set yourself to succeed
  10. Write down the expenses incurred before you go to bed every night
  11. 20% of your paycheck to be deposited in an investment account you would never ever touch – Put the remaining 80% in a single checking account
  12. Spend less than what you make
  13. Money does make money and the rich get richer (unless they are not disciplined enough)
  14. Trust no one to manage your money (The experts in money management have their own interests in mind first)
  15. Do not respond to great sales people or flashy brochures. You research and make your decision on where to put your money (you control it)
  16. One great speculation is worth a lifetime of prudent investing
  17. How well are you diversified? What portion of your assets do you want to invest in stocks? What percentage do you want to keep safe and liquid?
  18. You shouldn’t be buying treasury bonds (with maturity date of over 10 years)
  19. Don’t expose your safe money to risk (in want of interest) , not prudent
  20. With two kids earning $2100 a year (you would save twice as much) – Andrew talks about the tax rates for dependent kids under 24
  21. Educational Savings Accounts (Coverdell Education Savings Account)
  22. 529 Plans (Savingforcollege.com)
  23. Term Life Insurance
  24. Invest in stocks only after all the basic investments and savings are taken care of (wealth could erode by over 50%)
  25. Two ways to make money in the stock market – Dividends and Capital Gains
  26. Index Funds
  27. Price / Earnings Ratio -(Finding a stock @ 12 times earnings that will grow as fast as the company with 35 times earnings)
  28. Spread your investments (Do not invest all at once)
  29. Diverting a portion of your paycheck to the market is a good idea
  30. When the interest rates falls, bond prices rise and vice versa. (This is the key to everything)

One of the best things I learnt from the book “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned” – (we have heard this multiple times), However Andrew has outlined this well.  Being Frugal, not purchasing on a loan, stocking things (cleaning powder/etc) at home (to prevent inflation/saving) – Though I do not like to stock at home (I see it go waste or unused / + takes storage space).

Ask for a discount :This is common, however often times we forget to ask or feel shy – Upon reading this book, one of the first things i did was call my Car Insurance company Geico and got my insurance rate lowered. (probably saved $100 or so over a year). These are simple things Andrew talks about.

If you have not lived or worked in the US, the investment tools mentioned in this book may not be relevant /easy to understand. However the book will be a great read.  Andrew could write a book for the International Audience.

My only regret while or after reading this book was – “I wish i had read it sooner (when i was 20 years old)”. I am glad I read it now and Thanks Andrew Tobias for writing this classic and Thanks to Bill Gates for sharing his knowledge and recommending this as a read.

Hit Refresh – MIcrosoft CEO Satya Nadella Says Empathy Key To Innovation

I prefer to read books on Kindle. However this time, a colleague of mine, Selvan D, who runs our content team @ DCKAP gifted me a hard copy of Hit Refresh. I grabbed it, and it is a different kind of book coming from the  CEO who is a few years into his job! I am sure writing this book also gave many insights on how to take Microsoft forward for Satya. Here are some of his observations/notes I found interesting/useful.

Many folks from India come to pursue their Master’s in the US right out of college when they are 21/22 years old. In 4 years they get married, Satya was no exception where he marries his wife, Anu.

Working in a company for 20 years means something, and it has been a meteoric rise for Satya.

A lot has been written/talked about being empathetic, and his children taught him empathy. The story about his first child is heart-rending and also makes one realize how gifted most of us are. He learns to cope up with it – juggling work, home and kids must have challenging and as he rightly mentions, Thanks to his wife, Anu.

hit-refresh-satya-nadella-microsoft

Though growing up in an illustrious family (his father was a Civil Servant in the Government of India which is considered prestigious), he still considers himself middle-class, and this generates much respect for his dad and mom!

His phone call to his Mom just before her death was touching.

The internal workings of Microsoft shared by Satya were helpful. He talks about the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), and this was a great learning. He was also open to working under Dr. Qi Li when Steve Balmer and Satya brought Dr. Qi Li on board.

A great team player, Satya also shares his views on Privacy / Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing and more. For any company, it helps to learn from Microsoft on their views / how they operate. Satya also mentions about key hires which are transformational for any company.

What was more fascinating was his openness to working with competitors and pretty much every major CEO of a Technology Company has a mention in his book.

Thanks for writing this book Satya.

His book and success @ Microsoft make us think about the smartness or I would say the super smartness of Steve Balmer, Bill Gates and the Microsoft Board for choosing Satya Nadella to run the company.

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