December 27, 2009

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis

Recently, one of my oldest friends (and my first business partner, back when we were both still at school) lent me the book How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis (of Dennis publishing fame). It's a very readable book, and full of useful and (from my limited experience) accurate advice and ideas. I'd recommend it to anyone running their own business, or thinking of running their own business.

Here are the sections that jumped out as particularly interesting whilst I was reading it, although maybe the choices say more about where I am with my company than anything else. Along with a few other things, it's been a much needed kick-up-the-arse for me, and has helped me to work out and put in place a few things that mean I'm entering 2010 feeling quite excited and optimistic about work.

Page 32, talking about all the people you'll encounter who have the "it'll never work" attitude:
How many millions upon millions of man-hours are wasted annually, I wonder, in all this doom-mongering? Personally, I've had a bellyful of it.

Page 60:
The three great quotes concerning 'luck' for me are these:
"Luck is preparation multiplied by opportunity" - Seneca, Roman philosopher

"The harder I practised, the luckier I got." - Gary Player, golf champion

"Luck is a dividend of sweat." - Ray Kroc, McDonald's founder

Page 128:
Without self-belief nothing can be accomplished. With it, nothing is impossible. It is as brutal and as black and white as that. If you take no other memory from this book, then take that single thought. It was worth a damn sight more than the price you paid for it.

Page 208:
If you own a company and that company's purpose is to make you wealthy, you will be content, delighted even, for any amount of glory to go to anyone who works there, providing you get the money. It is in your best interests to delegate whenever it makes sense in such circumstances.

Page 210, on the corrosive influence of the wrong sort of employees:
The whole point about getting rich is not to have to deal with this nonsense. Office politics can be fun, as can all forms of politics, but to many people they are upsetting. They reduce productivity and dent morale. They can take up astonishing amounts of time. They increase the number of 'sick days' in a department - which is often a good indication that a toad is in charge and needs to be winkled out of its hole.

True delegation is an entirely different matter and can often be a joy to be involved in. On both sides. As an owner, or an owner in training, you must always be alert for the telltale signs that here is a candidate for promotion and delegation. They are smart. Perhaps smarter than you are. They work hard and they appear to love the work they do. They ask intelligent questions and don't waste time gossiping and mucking about. They listen and correct their errors, and don't repeat them. They want your job.

Page 238:
Back up your managers. With delegation comes responsibility. Back up your managers, in public, whenever and wherever you have to. If they do not perform, speak seriously in private to them. If they still do not perform, fire them. But do not undercut them or engage in meetings that appear to undercut them. Reprimand other managers who bad-mouth their peers. Nearly everyone's ego and self-confidence is more fragile than the outside world believes.

Search out and promote talent. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes and is often inarticulate and shy. Talent isn't necessarily the woman in the Calvin Klein suit who talks the talk and bamboozles meetings with stunning graphics on her PowerPoint presentation. Talent is often to be found dressed in T-shirts down in the lower reaches of your organisation. Set a bounty on talent among managers. When you find it, test it. Groom it. Work it until it's ready to drop. Load it with more work and responsibilities. Praise it. Reward it. It will make you loads-a-money.

Page 239:
Sell early. Real money rarely comes from horsing around running an asset-laden business if you are an entrepreneur. You are not a manager, remember? You are trying to get rich. Whenever the chance comes to sell an asset at the top of its value, do so. Things do not keep increasing in value for ever. Get out while the going is good and move on to the next venture. More money is usually lost holding onto an asset than is made waiting for the zenith of its value. I should know - it's my own biggest defect.

Enjoy the business of making money. The loot is only a marker. Time cannot be recaptured. There is no amount of pie in the world worth being miserable for, day after day. If you find you dislike what you are doing, then sell up and change your life. Self-imposed misery is a kind of madness. The cure is to get out.

Page 253:
Your employees, your colleagues, your suppliers and your customers are all human capital. Choosing among them is an art form. Yet creating the right environment in which money can be made is essential. I repeat, you can't do it on your own.

It takes effort, experience, focus and skill. If you get it right, you will become rich with an ease that will astonish you and everyone who knows you. If you get it wrong, you will be running around like a headless chicken for a year or so and then you will be bankrupt.

And you will deserve to be.

Page 274:
Screwing up isn't criminal or deliberate or malevolent. But covering up is, if you get caught. And you will get caught - ask the shade of Richard Nixon.

Page 300:
You can forgive yourself for not doing something if you honestly got it wrong. But it is harder to forgive yourself when lack of impetus allows it to slip through your fingers.

Need will drive you, but you must not prevaricate. You must act at the slightest hint of a chance to make money. You must go, go, go!


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December 25, 2009

links for 2009-12-25

  • Really interesting and thought-provoking discussion about the possible ethical and moral problems that services like Mechanical Turk might create. Not all doom-and-gloom, and with good examples of problems beyond the obvious "it's really poorly paid, so is like a sweatshop" concern.

    We (the tech community in particular, along with wider society) need to have more of these sorts of discussions, and at least with this it's happening fairly early on in the adoption of the new technologies.

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December 22, 2009

Joyous Machines at Tate Liverpool

A few weeks ago, Michael Dales recommended the Joyous Machines exhibition at Tate Liverpool to me. I've had a busy few weeks, but having got some work completed and invoiced yesterday, I rewarded myself with a trip down to see what it was like.

Michael's right, it was the sort of thing that's right up my street. It was great to see that someone (Jean Tinguely) was experimenting with making art from motors and bits of metal and wood in the 1960s, and there are some really nice intricate workings to the pieces. Lots of bent steel wire, cogs and pulleys - I was as interested in the mechanisms as the art part of it. Naturally, I came away with a head full of ideas about how you could reinterpret the themes for a modern day and incorporate some form of external data source as a driver for the mechanism.

I did also think that some Arduinos could've been usefully employed to improve the display of some of the artworks. As they're getting a bit old and fragile, some only worked for one minute in every fifteen, but there was no way to know when the time period would be up; they weren't on a regular schedule, there were nice chunky red-domed buttons mounted on the floor to start the machines, so something triggered off that to run a simple countdown display would've let you know if it was worth waiting around to see it in action.

It's a shame that none of the sonorous pieces were set up to work - from looking at the mechanism (and from watching the video of the Homage to New York piece) there seemed some interesting mechanisms for making sounds, and I'd have loved to have seen and heard them in action.

It was also disappointing that the meta-machines weren't operating yesterday. The machine-drawn artworks they produced reminded me of the vibrobots and brushbots from Howduino events, although produced with more elaborate mechanicals.

But, minor gripes aside, a lovely exhibition for anyone into tinkering, brushbot art and the like. You've got a couple more weeks to catch it - it finishes on 10th January.


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December 21, 2009


It's been a rather tumultuous year. I feel like I'm running out of useful things to say in these posts, but it also feels important to still write them. Like last year's, there hasn't been a lot of new music for me to recommend, but then just this morning, whilst listening to Steve Lamacq's latest show, I heard the Lancashire Hotpots' Christmas single for the first time.

Perfect. A mixture of St. Helens, childhood folk memories, and lyrics that seem to sum things up pretty darn well.

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December 16, 2009

links for 2009-12-16

  • As well as being a detailed look at how a Porsche car was built back in the 60s, I love the insight you get into the production techniques - the specialised tools and jigs produced to make things easier (I have some similar but lower-tech versions for Bubblini) and the attention to measuring and documenting the car as it's built - the exact CC of each cylinder being marked on it for example.
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