Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Business

Treating clients and team members with same set of behaviors? Isn’t an invitation to fuck it up?

I like many posts published by, and his latest on Sept. 23 is rich in controversial suggestions. William wrote (with slight editing):

“I’ve read many times about the importance of motivating your team. About how vital it is to make them feel appreciated. About how crucial it is to educate them. To build their skills. To empower them. To inspire them. And I think most importantly, to be compassionate towards your team.

I haven’t read anywhere that you need to treat your customers this way (with the exception of educating the customers.) Now I realize that treating your customers with all the above (set of behaviors) is as important as treating your team that way.

Now, when I work on a project, the customer and us are all working together. There are no 2 teams. We are one team encompassing all the people involved in the process.  I refuse to have just customers. It all started on that day…

The day when we received an email from one of our customers. The email contained feedback regarding a design proposal we sent them. The revised proposal shocked me!

The email had a long list of changes. The changes aren’t specifically the problem. The problem is this: the list of changes was full of tiny meaningless changes that did not affect the outcome of the design, nor the effectiveness of the message. These were changes that would waste valuable time from the very tight and time sensitive deadline of the project.

It was as if the customer was telling us implicitly that they hated our proposal (without telling us that they hate it). Instead, they listed every element in the design and asked us to change every one. I was furious.

As much as I tried to cool down, and tone down my email reply, I couldn’t. My email hurt the customer, and made them furious as well. And no, I didn’t shout or curse in the email. I didn’t use capital letters, nor bold words. I used very strategic words that hit very sensitive nerves in people. Bad idea. (It will be nice to have a sample of this kind of replies…)

I am sorry for doing that. I would take it back. I can’t. And I think that without this incident, I would not have learned this valuable lesson. So there must be something good out (of fucking up occasionally).

I now understand that the problem was because the customer and us, we were behaving as two sides. The customer was not involved in the process. There wasn’t any communication.

When we received the brief from the customer, we threw away their brief and created our own. We did this without involving the (client team members) in the process of creating a new brief.  This action was an insult by itself.

Sure the new brief might have served the customer’s desired outcome better; but that doesn’t matter: the customer doesn’t know that. We didn’t make sure that they were aware of the added benefits and effective outcome of the new brief.

Now I understand how vital it is to involve the customer in every step. To make them part of the team. To involve them in the initiatives we take. To motivate them. To inspire them. To empower them. To educate them; naturally. And most importantly, to be compassionate with them. To help them grow and develop their skills; the way you would want from any team member.

And I promise, you and your customer will have a richer experience together. Hopefully, without fucking up first.” End of quote

I listened to the speech of Hala Fadel at TEDxBeirut that was held this Saturday Sept.24.  Hala is a “successful” entrepreneur for the last 5 years and she said: “If you want to become a successful entrepreneur you should learn the three conditions:

First, you have got to work like a slave at the beginning: Ego is never needed in anything.

Second, command like a King: members of the team need a leader. (Why leading should be the domain of dictators or absolute monarch?)

Third, create like a God:  We have no place to hide in this “flat land” and competition is savage and relentless. (Hala mentioned that her 7 year-old girl replied “Is God an entrepreneur?”

I am wondering: Could anyone who managed to become successful not generate inflated ego, no matter how hard he tries to squelch it?  How William is going to change his approach with an entrepreneur with the above set of beliefs on “How to become successful”?   Would such an entrepreneur (a client, a customer) suffer to feel that he is being educated, his skills built, and being “empowered and inspired”?  Would a process that demonstrates “humility”, ever going to convince such an entrepreneur that you are at level to deliver?

(To be continued)

Reid published ten rules for successful business ventures, borne from his experiences starting companies and partnering with great entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.  I slightly edited the rules before commenting on the rules, this insane urge for going bigger and bigger once we start a company, and the lack of defining exactly the product for the reflecting on the relevance of a rule. You may read the link to the original

Rule #1: Look for disruptive change.
If you’re about to start on a new venture, ask yourself: “What is becoming possible or necessary that wasn’t possible before? Is a new product (or service) able to take over an existing market or create a new market?” When I co-founded LinkedIn, the tech industry was in a deep depression. I looked at all the opportunities created by the Internet and had the idea that, eventually, everyone would need a professional profile online. The disruption was that people were able to directly reach the best candidates rather than hoping for responses from a listing in the paper or an ad on a Web site.

(I guess that disruptive change was empowering the entrepreneur for direct access to the best qualified professionals in specific fields.)

Rule #2: Aim big.
Regardless of whether a start-up is targeting a big idea or a small one, it will still require the same amount of blood, sweat and tears—so aim big! What is “big?” It is a new product or service that creates or dominates a significant market.

(The term “niche in a market” used to be the common expression in marketing studies, but again, it is better to venture into a stable and developed market.  For example, every specialty business are grouped on a certain street or locality for obvious reasons of clients attraction)

Rule #3: Build a network to magnify your company.
People tend to think that behind every great start-up is a single entrepreneur with a whiz-bang idea. The reality is great companies are built by a number of people with talent who are surrounded by amplifying networks. The most successful entrepreneurs bring in advisors, investors, collaborators and early customer relationships.

(The idea is to steer away from templates that dictate rigid principles for starting up companies.  The trend is to empower many early collaborators in the ideas generation, planning, and decision making.  Open discussion of the early problems are necessary for the designated decision makers in the start-ups.  For example, the enterprise “kharabeesh”, based in Amman, permitted the office kitchen employee to becoming their best animator, and the driver to lend his voice to Qadhafi…)

Rule #4: Plan for good luck and bad luck.
You should always assume you will have both good luck and bad luck with your new company. Good luck is not as simple as “it worked out.” Rather, this is when you discover a great opportunity and can quickly shift to go after it. Bad luck is what happens when your first idea doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean failure; it means you need to pursue plan B.

(No matter what some professionals insist on getting on with the business, and investing time on trial and error tactics, it is essential that meticulous research and comprehension of the business be the first building block.  Otherwise, how would you be able to selecting the best candidates for the job?)

Rule #5: Maintain flexible persistence.
Very often entrepreneurs are given conflicting advice: “Be persistent! Stay committed to your vision!” or “Pivot on key data! Know when to change!” The challenge is to follow them both, but know which advice is most appropriate for which situation. You must know how to maintain flexible persistence.

(I guess flexible persistence presumes a thorough knowledge of the business venture and the need to have confidence in the professionals in the field. How are you supposed to “Pivot on key data” if you are unable to making heads from tails looking at data?)

Rule #6: Launch early enough so that you are embarrassed by your first product release.
With my first start-up,, it took us nine months to launch the first product. That was a disastrous mistake. We wanted to have all the detailed functionality right away, including social controls to people could decide to connect or not with the people in their networks. We wanted everyone to “Ooh” and “Aaah” about how terrific the product was. We wasted a bunch of time and it put us months behind on more important problems that needed to be solved, such as how to get our product in the hands of millions of people. From that I learned, if you are not embarrassed by your first release, you’ve launched too late!

(If you are not slightly embarrassed by your first release, how would you convince the customers that you consider “redesigning a product” is more important than patching faults and errors?”

Rule #7: Aspire, but don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.
Target excellence, but be very careful about blind trust or belief in your theories. It is important to launch as early as you can in order to learn how your customers use your product or service. It is equally important to identify metrics that tell you if your aspirations and vision are on target. You should also get feedback from your network in order to iterate or pivot on the target, the product and/or the service. In other words, maintain your aspiration but always look for good perspective on how you are doing. It is very easy for creative innovators to get caught up in their own story rather than learning where they should be headed.

(It means, factor in data collection process and timely analysis on clients behavior and feedback as an intrinsic part of the business.  How could you “pivot on the target” if you don’t believe that “data can talk”? How can you gain different perspectives if you refuse to communicate with the data from different venues?  How do you think financial multinationals are making such huge profit if not from mastering the process of gathering data and instant analysis and synthesis of the market responses, needs, and wants?  Fact is, financial multinationals do not speculate: they know for fact what is the outcome of every decision!)

Rule #8: Having a great product is important, but having great product distribution is more important.
I meet a lot of entrepreneurs who think the best product is the most important thing and that the best product should always win. What a lot of people fail to realize is that without great distribution, the product dies. How will you get your product in the hands of millions or hundreds of millions of people?

(That is the principle of vertical integration: Associate with a successful distribution company from the start.)

Rule #9: Pay close attention to culture and hires from the very beginning.
Your first hires set your culture, so make them good ones. These first people hire the next people and so on. The old wisdom was that you needed people with a decade more of experience in your start-up. The things a smart person learned a decade ago won’t help you now – you’re doing things that have never been done before, and the world and the competitive landscape are changing at hyper speeds. What you really need are people who can learn fast.

(Most important rule of all: every generation has a new brand of intelligence that is quicker and more adaptable to the new technologies.  You might be doing a huge mistake if you insist on not hiring from an older generations:  Knowing and adapting to the newer paces in technology is never enough for building a cohesive and sustainable business.  Any exclusion of older generation is a sure sign or amoral ethical conduct of the start-up:  Social movements of solidarity are fine-tuning their selection of companies of choices, not based on just good product, but on sustainable moral and ethical conducts)

Rule #10: Rules of entrepreneurship are guidelines, not laws of nature.
Do not pay too much attention to rules set by other people. Entrepreneurs are inventors. They are successful when they make something work for the very first time. Sometimes in order to make something work, you will drive over the guardrail of one of these rules. Entrepreneurs sometimes just make new rules.

(Do not be dominated by “template” success stories.  Reinventing the wheel is a great mechanism for discovering new ways of doing business:  Pioneers have necessarily missed to investigate many factors, and the new age has a different way to look at wants, needs, and problem solving.)

My first question to these rules is: Are we considering the new “ethical paradigm” of sustainable environment and life-style?  The key words in this generation are “green”, sustainable, rejuvenation, recycling, quality life-style, reforestation, climatic changes, water quality deterioration, toxic waste disposal and sites.  For example, why market a less than “clean” performing product and end-up dumping millions of outdated toxic leftover products?

My second question is: Are we researching how raw materials are being exploited and how the citizens of poor countries are being abused and robbed dry in order for your “great idea of a product” be manufactured and marketed successfully?

Vanity Press (VP):  Vanity is expensive; (May 6, 2010)

            Vanity Press serves special clients. You type a manuscript and you have the urge to publish it.  You are turned down by many editors and then you decide to finance the printing and dissemination.  Your vanity is a t stake after investing enormous time and energy on writing hundreds of pages.  This is when you get hold of one of the Vanity Presses.  The VP showers you with praises and lauds your talent of a most promising writer and a “would be” famous author.  You sign a formal standard contract.  It is supposed to be a contract but it is not:  Your only option is to accept the standard contract or decline it.  The VP will take in charge publishing and then disseminating articles and summaries of your books in dailies.

            The contract does not stipulate the number of copies to print but there is a minimum; 100 copies will be sent to you to distribute to friends and acquaintances and 200 copies the VP will send to dailies and magazines, which most likely ends in waste baskets if indeed mailed.  The contract also stipulate that unsold copies will be destroyed (no need to stipulate a time frame for destruction since no copies will be left for that cruel job).  Now, the initial 300 copies are all gone and you are requested for your own benefit to print some more as the printing presses are still hot.  Your enlarged vanity may fall in that trap: the harder you fall the more expensive your vanity.  Then, one day, the VP warns you that it has accumulated a stock of 10,000 copies you have ordered and the VP is about to destroy the entire stock.  You resist this murderous potential action by buying say 3,000 more copies.  At your request the VP starts printing your 3,000 copies.  May be you get the idea of actually contemplating the 10,000 stock of copies and running a quality sample check?  Tough luck if you are ever seeing anything.

            There are many kinds of VP schemes.  For example, you pay to have your glorious name published with the famous and glamorous names in a catalogue or specialized dictionary; the real famous names receive two sentences at best but your name can take two pages if you pay for that length.

            The richer you are, the greater your vanity and the happier the Vanity Presses.  So far, is publishing my articles for free but making tons of money from my labor. There is always someone making profit of your varieties of vanity.

“So, you want systems to fit people?” February 21, 2005

 “So far, it sounds that Human Factors in engineering is a vast field of knowledge and it could have many applications.”  You are absolutely right, the profession is multidisciplinary.

Let us consider the problems that an excellent human factors designer has to cope with when he has to incorporate the human dimensions into his design and the body of knowledge he has to learn and incorporate in his practice:

First, there are no design drawings for people as traditional engineers are familiar with because the structure of human organisms is approximately delineated and the mechanisms are imperfectly understood.

Second, people vastly differ in anthropometric dimensions, cognitive abilities, sensory capabilities, motor abilities, personalities, and attitudes; thus the challenge of variability is different from physics where phenomena behave in countable fashions and can be accounted for in design.

Third, people change with time; they change in dimensions, abilities and skills as well as from moment to moment attributable to boredom, fatigue, lapse of attention, interactions among people and with the environment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems are changing accordingly; thus interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently.

Fifth, contrary to the perception of people regarding the other traditional engineering fields, when we deal with human capabilities, limitations and behavior everyone feels is an expert on the basis of common sense acquired from living and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors. For examples, we think that we have convictions concerning the effects of sleep, dreams, age, and fatigue; we believe that we are rather good judges of people’s motives, we have explanations for people’s good memories and abilities, and we have strong positions on the relative influence of nature and nurture in shaping people’s behavior.  Consequently, the expertise of human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

To be a competent ergonomics expert you need to take courses in many departments like Psychology, Physiology, Neurology, Marketing, Economy, Business, Management, and of course engineering.

You need to learn applied statistics, system’s modeling (mathematical and prototyping), the design of experiments, writing and validating questionnaires, collecting data on human performance, analyzing and interpreting data on the interactions of human with systems.

You need updating you knowledge continuously with all kinds of systems’ deficiencies that often hurt people in their daily lives, and learn the newer laws that govern the safety and health of the employees in their workplace. 

All the above courses and disciplines that you are urged to take or to be conversant with have the well being of targeted end users in mind.  To be an expert well qualified designer you need to assimilate the physical and cognitive abilities of end users and what they are capable of doing best; you need to discover their limitations as well so that you may reduce errors and foreseeable misuses of any product or interface that you have the responsibility to design. 

You need to fit the product or interface to the users and avoid lengthy training or useless stretching of the human body in order to permit the users to efficiently manipulate your design.  An excellent designer has to know the advantages and limitations of the five senses and how to facilitate the interaction with systems under minimal stress, errors committed, and health complications generated from prolonged usage and repetitive movements of parts of the body.

I am glad, my newly found friend, that you are attentively listening to my lucubration.

I would like it better if you ask me questions that prove to me that you are enthusiastic.

Could you enumerate a few incidents in your life that validate the importance of this field of study?

“Well, suppose that I enroll in that all encompassing specialty, are there any esoteric and malignant courses that are impressed upon me?”

Unfortunately, as any university major and engineering included, many of the courses are discovered to be utterly useless once you find a job.

However, you have to bear the cross for 4 years in order to be awarded a miserly diploma. This diploma, strong with a string of grade of “A’s” will open the horizon for a new life, a life of a different set of worries and unhappiness.

I can tell you for sure that it is not how interesting are the courses but the discipline that you acquired in the process. 

You need to start enjoying reading, every day for at least 5 hours, taking good care for the details in collecting data or measuring anything, learning to write everyday, meticulously and stubbornly, not missing a single course or session, giving your full concentration during class, taking notes and then reading your notes afterwards, coordinating the activities of your study groups, being a leader and a catalyst for all your class associates.

You need to waking up full of zest and partying hard after a good week of work and study, staying away, like the plague, from those exorbitantly expensive restaurants and dancing bars because they are the haven of all those boring, mindless and useless people who are dependent completely on their parents.

Well, you will hear, frequently, that securing a University diploma is a testing ground for your endurance to accepting all kinds of nonsense.  It is.

Most importantly, it is testing the endurance of your folks who are paying dearly for that nonsense.




June 2023

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