11 Year Old Managing Engineers In India

Saturday 17 November 2007 @ 10:15 am
2TieaTie.com

The beginning of this past summer I committed to myself to begin teaching my three oldest sons fundamental business principles. I decided the best way to do this would to actually build a businesses together. Each Saturday and Sunday afternoon my three sons and I would go down in my office and have a “board meeting”.

The first few meetings began as a brainstorm where we would discuss potential businesses. Nothing was off the table. We had some real interesting ideas pop up (particularly from my 11 year old Nathan). After several weeks we narrowed down the business options and informally discussed the pro’s and con’s using the Porter Model. What did we settle on? A website focusing on How To Tie a Tie. Why you ask? Well in our research we discovered that the 4th most searched “How To” phrase on the internet is How to tie a tie. There are over 2,000 searched a day on this term. Once decided we were off and running to the races. It has been a rather slow moving project, but one that has simply been life changing for my boys.

How To Tie A Tie Diagram

I am thrilled today to announce that last week we formally launched our website www.2tieatie.com. So why was this so important to me? The primary reason I wanted to do this with my sons was to give them a feel early in their life of what it took to create a business. I also wanted them to live the process not just talk about it. I also wanted them to take some ownership in saving and preparing for college in a manner different than just getting a job. Not that I don’t want them to also have a job and work hard, I do. But I want them in the mindset of creating assets rather than working a job. There has been one huge side benefit from this project that I had not pre-mediated. It has been the process of exposing my sons to the global economy. As we were discussing the project last night it was pointed out that:

    The project plan and specification had been put together by us in Utah.

    The initial site design was done in Ahmedabad India. With over 10 back and forth iterations of the design.

    The witting of the step by step instructions done initially by a writer in Eastern Europe (and failed).

    We then engaged a professional witter in the USA that I had previously worked with

    The picture diagrams were done by a talented diagrammer in in Pakistan

    The Assembly of the Pictures and Steps were then returned to India for build out and engineering

    The Quality assurance and debug of the site done by my sons back in Utah

    The online store is being done using Amazon.com which is located in New York

    The Video diagrams is being outsourced to my oldest sons 17 year old friends Scott and Wyatt

    The ties that we will eventually sell on the website will come from Thailand and Korea

    We engaged several link building efforts with two different firms, one in Southern India and the other in Romania

    We also did a press announcement which was distributed out of Washington State

Wow, that is quite the world tour for a eleven year old. The reality is, we live in a global economy and the only way our children will thrive is to learn to dance in this world. I am so proud of how my sons have interacted and embraced this experience. All said, I think the experience interacting and coordinating the efforts all around the world proved to be of more value than the business experience.

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Wobbly Keys and Breaking Your Business

Sunday 16 September 2007 @ 9:30 pm

This past week I have been helping my daughter prepare for a trip back to her home in Nepal. As part of this trip we plan on sending back a laptop to her younger brothers for use in their school.

I love a deal and could not resist the 1/2 price special on a HP laptop I found in a store near my office. The only problem is the laptop had one missing key. The ; key.

No problem, being a “perfectly good engineer that went bad” I figure I can fix that key and score a new laptop at cut rate prices. I called HP and found the part number and prepared to order the key. Luck would have it that I happen to own a brand new very similar HP laptop that I purchased for myself. My great engineering mind at work determined that if I popped the key off on my laptop I would then be able to place my key on the new laptop in time to send it with my daughter. Plop…. off went the key. I carefully examined it and placed it back on. It went on OK, but it had a horrific side to side wobble and was not firm and taunt like the other keys. I decided to try again. I watched closely and I said to myself as I put my nose right down to the keys and plop off went the 2nd key. Regretfully despite two hours of painstaking reassembly effort I now had two wobbly keys. My logic kicked in and I thought, “well it is under warranty and I will call and confess to HP the evils of engineering and they will send me a RA tag for my new laptop”. I then had one last brilliant idea. “Hey the wobble is just not that bad and the ; key is just not used that much. I will buy that cut rate laptop and send it around the world.” Pop off went the key and I raced to the store to purchase my new gift for my Nepalese friends. When I arrived at the store there was no laptop with a missing key. As I inquired about the laptop, the sales clerk stated “the strangest thing, it sat here for two months, and this morning a guy walked in and purchased it. ……..

Lesson learned, when it is fully functioning and you are guessing at what you are doing, don’t pop new parts off your laptop or your business. Both have a tendency to be very temperamental.

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Dog’s Can’t Read

Sunday 16 September 2007 @ 7:57 pm

This past week there has been quite the stir in our neighborhood. Through the block we have some neighbors that have a beautiful yard. This yard is meticulously groomed and each fall planters full of Canna lily flowers make a magnificent showing. This yard truly is amazing and there is with out question significant effort that takes place to keep this yard a show piece. this being said, my gardening neighbors really lost sign of reality.

I do not know the specific dog(s) that promoted the infamous “Signs” to be posted, but this past week 3 professionally created signs appeared in the front of their yard. The signs read:

Yard Is Not A Toilet

“KEEP DOG(S) OFF GRASS”

“THIS YARD IS NOT A TOILET FOR YOUR DOG(S)”

“KEEP DOG(S) OFF GRASS”

The following day in the neighbors yard directly across the street a poster board sign with lettering in magic marker placed in the gourd with a shovel appeared. Keep in mind that this neighbor does not own a dog. The sign reads:

“DOG’S CAN’T READ”

Dog's Can't Read

There are so many management metaphors associated with this little story I don’t even know where begin so in spirit of allowing you to simply have a really good belly laugh like I did, we will simply leave it with this. Next time you feel inclined to do something really absurd in your business, remember

“DOG’S CANT READ!

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Scout Camp

Tuesday 26 June 2007 @ 12:21 pm

Last week I spent the entire week with a rag tag group of 12 and 13 year old boy scouts. Just as we were preparing to depart for camp on Monday morning a story broke about a 11 year old boy who had been drug out of his tent in the middle of the night by a bear and mauled to death. Needless to say, we had some very nervous mothers, not to mention boys.

It was interesting to watch the confidence of the boys increase as the week progressed. One of the merit badges they were working on was Wilderness Survival. When we got to the bear section the boys were all ears. That night as they built their outdoor shelter, it was evident that this was a major stretch for them. We left them in their shelter that night tightly huddled together underneath the stars with the local raccoons keeping watch. The next morning the boys were no longer timid 12 and 13 year old boys, but instead confident young men.

As I reflected on this experience I realize that just like boys and bears, we as business owners must not let our fears and brains get in the way of our success. It can be a stretch for us to “sleep under the stars” but the wins are worth it and the confidence gained can not occur in any other manner.

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Ropes Course – Walking the Vine

Thursday 7 June 2007 @ 9:31 pm
Ropes Course - Walking A Thin Line

Today I was able to spend the day with a group of teenagers doing service projects and also participating in what are called Rope Courses. Ropes Courses are designed to test your mental focus and personal fortitude as well as generate team building experiences. One of the obstacles in particularly got both my nerves and brain going. This was called the Vine Walk.

The course involved a thin metal cable stretched between two poles about 20 years apart. The cable was bout 30 feet about the ground and placed up above the cable about 6 feet were several dangling ropes separated along the cable about 10 feet apart. These ropes could be held on to as you walked the quivering metal cable. Now these dangling ropes did not provide much stability, but just enough when pulled taunt that you would not spiral off of the cable.

Of course as you climb up the poles and attempt the traverse, you are on belay and fully harnessed for safety, but it really does cause your nerves to jitter as you attempt to carefully step across this “vine”.

What I discovered as I was doing this, was if I focused on the far end point of the cable, looking across, but not directly down, and deliberately blocking out the height factor, I was able to slither across that cable. When I would turn sideways with my feet and attempt to monitor the cable and its flex directly beneath me the cable would shake almost as vigorously as my nerves were.

As on this rope, so is it when creating a business. You can’ think much about how high you are, you have to trust the harnesses and belay, and focus on the end point placing foot over foot as you go. If you look down and spend too much energy on your exact position on the “cable” you tend to get wobbly and are more likely to fail.

Being an entrepreneur, my nerves were conditioned to the adrenaline rush of the vine walk on the ropes course and it did not paralyze me, as a matter of fact I found it invigorating.

I noted that a few of the young women that were gymnasts crossed the vine with grace. I didn’t! My crossing was plain ugly, but end of the day it does not matter, we both crossed it just the same. Both count and so it is in entrepreneurship. Most do not have the courage to even try. Getting across is the key, not how graceful the walk is.

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The Thick Grey Line

Thursday 17 May 2007 @ 9:46 pm

I remember as I was younger in my career, everything was black and white. My opinions were strong and quickly formed. My views sharp and my perspective decisive. As I have grown older and been exposed to more cultures and experienced the dilemmas and challenges of the world, the once thin line separating black and white has expanded to a much larger thick grey line.

Yesterday I spent some time with a young man for whom I have tremendous respect. This is a young man who is in the early stages of his career, has been bitten really hard by the entrepreneurial bug, and is creating a successful web design company. In so many ways he reminds be of myself 20 years ago. He is intensely passionate, has very strong opinion, and is insanely talented. I have every confidence he will succeed.

The lengthy discussion that I had with him yesterday, related to a moral stand that he was taking relating to what type of web sites he was comfortable designing and his willingness to decline business that did not meet his moral standards. I can not help but respect anyone who is willing to take a stand and draw personal boundaries. In this apathetic world many people have become desensitized and are not willing to step forward and stand up for what they believe to be right.

As we discussed, it became very evident that we have many of the same long term goals and value systems, however on a few points we have dramatically different views.

It caused me to reflect on those simple days and in some ways longingly wish for the ON or OFF perspective that I did when I was just out of college. That being said, I have found that much of the richness of life comes from understanding and learning the perspectives in the thicker grey line. It may be messier, but it is also more rewarding to take the effort to look at the “beast” from a different angle.

We all have different upbringings, perspectives and value systems. In life, there is no simple black and white with a thin line. It is by making the attempt to understand each others perspectives, what motivates each other, and why we view things differently that unlocks the power of great advances. The lamest and most ineffective teams I have managed have been those that were homogeneous where everyone saw things the exact same way and everyone got along. The most powerful teams I have been involved with were compiled of members with extremely diverse backgrounds and differing perspectives YET all focusing on a common goal.

Looking for solutions in The Thick Grey Line requires more focus and effort, but when you find the solutions they not only last longer, but also mean more.

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Going To The Mount

Friday 11 May 2007 @ 4:45 am

This past week I had the opportunity to spend a night with my wife at a condo. This condo is high in the Tusher mountains well over 10,000 ft and there is no television, no internet access, and most notable no cell phone coverage.

I must admit, upon arriving, I felt a bit lost! Without any of these “life necessities” there was no way to manufacture a crisis’s or stir up a distraction. I felt totally disconnected and out of touch.

As the night settled, I found myself talking with my wife, really talking. I found my nerves settling, and my spirit calmed. The following morning as I woke, several key issues that I had been wrestling with had a new and sharp level of clarity. It was not until the next day that I actually realized how tense and tight I had been and what it felt like to be calm and relaxed. As I descended the mountain, I dreaded hitting the on button on the cell phone and “returning to reality”.

We live in such a fast paced interrupt driven world that often times we assume that the never ending cell phone calls and text messages are reality. The truth is, they are not. Although these are nice conveniences, they are often distractions and cripple us from focusing on the really important things in our lives.

After this experience, I realized how important it is that we take time away and consciously shut off the cell phones, turn off the TV, and deliberately communicate with our loved ones. I contend that doing this will not only make us happier, but also more effective and efficient.

Where did Christ go just before he began his ministry? (Matthew 4:2 JST) Where did he go with Peter, James and John upon transfiguration? (Mark 9:2) Where did he go to gain strength just before the Garden of Gethsemane and eventually his crucifixion? (Luke 22:39)

Isn’t it interesting that before each major event in Christ’s life he gained strength by retreating to the wilderness or to a mountain?

I challenge each of us (particularly myself), to daily find time to “Go To The Mount” where we can break through all of the noise and clutter that we seem to engulf ourselves in. Let us each find our own wilderness, in times of trial where we can gather strength. As we do so, we will be calmer, and find more purpose in our lives.

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Out Of The Way

Friday 11 May 2007 @ 4:34 am

Last weekend my amazing daughter Nawang Sera became the first person ever in her family to graduate from college. Nawang is a Sherpa from Nepal who grew up in the small village of Khumjung which is a high village in the Himalayas just above 13,000 feet. Nawang came to live with us at the age of 15 with English being her 4th language. The past six years I have watched with great joy and tenderness as I have observed Nawang face life’s challenges head on. She always is positive, builds others, and has a determination that amazes me. Everywhere she goes she is a bit of sunshine.

Last Saturday as we sat in the commencement exercises at Snow College. The event had all the usual trappings of a real yawner. From my experience most commencement speakers blather on about notably boring nothing. I slipped into a mentally neutral position waiting for the long ceremony to conclude. I was not prepared to actually be awoken from my thoughtless slumber. The commencement speaker was an individual named Pamela Atkinson. Pamela was a feisty British woman who declared herself as a “Community Advocate”. As I listened to her introduction I sat up and took notice. She was referred to as the “Mother Theresa of Utah”. She had basically spent the majority of her life attempting to help the underprivileged focusing on the homeless. As she addressed the audience she told of her upbringing in England where she was raised in a poor family where her father left their family when she was young. She stated that she had been abused as child and had determined the only way out was education. She challenged not only the graduates, but also the audience to make a Difference in life. She went on to cite multiple examples of how small unseeingly important acts made all the difference.

As Ms. Atkinson proclaimed her personal mantra those of you saying it can not be done, get out of the way of those of us who are doing it I could not help but reflect on Nawang and her amazing story.

Nawang’s education goal is to become a Registered Nurse and gain acceptance into one of the local nursing schools that is rather difficult to gain admission. Although I have always been a believer in Nawang, at times I am often too quick to point out that the path she is perusing is difficult.

I found myself reflecting, how often am I the one “standing in the way of those who are doing it”? I resolved that from this point forward that I would not only encourage, but also believe in and fully subscribe to the dreams of not only Nawang, but also my sons, and other loved ones.

I have always loved the statement that imagination rules the world. Let’s not only get out of the way of the individuals doing great things, but let’s go stand by them and help them dream the dream and live the reality.

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Rich Christiansen