A little face time

February 26, 2009

Today is the 2nd day of my Northern California trip to visit clients. When our plane touched down at SFO, I saw a United Airlines plane at a nearby gate, and thought of a commercial for the airline I had seen years earlier. It’s a commercial that has had a profound effect on me in a business sense, and I have often shared it with my team.

After my client meetings yesterday, and as I drove from San Francisco to Sacramento, I thought about just how valuable a little face time with people is. In a day and age where we have seemingly unlimited technology tools to increase communication between clients, friends, colleagues, and loved ones, everyone seems to have less time to sit down and have an old fashion face-to-face meeting. But it is those meetings, and the time and effort spent in getting them sent up, that pay big dividends now AND in the future.

Take the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez yesterday… while no deal is done, the big news was the Dodgers and Manny’s representatives met face-to-face and by all accounts, a deal is now near. Yet since last October, there have been no reported in-person meetings and where has it gotten the Dodgers, Manny or more importantly, the fans? There is a different tone, a different seriousness, a different reality, when you are seeing and talking to someone while you look across at each other.

While nothing specific may come out of my client meetings on this trip, it is the time we get to look at one another across a table or desk, and make that personal connection that truly does matter in the end. Such meetings make people “real” and not just a cyber-personality or a voice on a phone. I believe it shows my clients that we care and are serious about working for them. How can anyone offer that sincerity if all communication is by phone or online?

As we all look for ways to make it through this economy and all of its challenges, we must LOOK at our clients, our employees, and our colleagues, in their eyes and make that connection. Those that make the extra effort and don’t rely simply on a quick email or a quick note on FaceBook or LinkedIn, are the ones who will excel now, and even more so when the economic climate warms up. The company in that United Airlines commercial may be make-believe, and the ad, originally shown in 1989 may seem dates, but the message behind it couldn’t be any more true today.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com


Have your cake and Manny too

February 20, 2009

This is typically my favorite time of year. Baseball Spring Training has kicked off and the first pitch of the regular season is only 6 weeks away. But as a Dodger Fan, I am growing increasingly frustrated at the Manny Ramirez situation.

I have never been a fan of Scott Boras, the super agent who represents Manny and many of the other big name stars in the league. But I read an article this morning on USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/dodgers/2009-02-19-dodgers-cover_N.htm) and for once I agree with him… Manny is like cake that needs little frosting and for the Dodgers, the difference between a winning and losing 2009 campaign rests largely on whether or not the dreadlocks are flowing  this season at Chavez Ravine.

I am no GM. But I know baseball and I understand business. Yes, the economic climate has unquestionably changed the face of free agency in MLB this year so I can understand the difficulty in wrapping our minds around a $25mil/year contract for a baseball player. But as a Dodger fan, that’s a small price to pay for a difference maker. I’ve religiously read countless blogs and news articles about Manny and the Dodgers going back to last year and I’m tired – I want something done.

Manny wants 4 years and $100 mil. The Dodgers have offered both 1 year and 2 year contracts. And as of right now, we head in to the first workouts of the spring with the prospect of a pitching-poor Dodgers team with no real threat of an offense. Love the kids Kemp, Martin and Ethier. Love the vets Furcal and Blake. But who is going to drive them in? Who is going to generate the kind of fear in opposing pitchers’ eyes in a tight game in the later innings? No one. Except Manny.

So in a country faced with challenges, and a call from our President to work cooperatively, it’s time the Dodgers worked for their fans. Offer Manny 3 years at around $22mil/year. Offer him a 4th year, player option for $18 mil. If he walks away from that, I can still go to Dodger Stadium with my hat on straight and head held high knowing the team and management did all they could.

With Manny, more seats will be filled, more national attention will be on the boys in blue, and the Dodger Dogs and beer will flow more so than if Juan Pierre is our 3rd outfielder. More souvenirs will be bought (all the kids, young or adult like me want the dreadlocks). All Dodger fans want Manny.

When the Dodgers open up the regular season on April 6 in San Diego, all eyes will be on right field. If Manny is there, Dodger fans will have the cake that Scott Boras so eloquently spoke about – If he’s not, even the glorious taste of a grilled Dodger Dog won’t wash away the bad taste left in the mouth and minds of Dodger fans.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

looking for a job?

February 18, 2009

Interesting article today on Yahoo. Like so many other similar articles, data continues to show that software engineer remains one of the most plentiful jobs in the US, but more importantly, of the 10 plentiful jobs listed, ranks #2 in terms of average annual salary.

read more at:


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No winners in Little League?

February 17, 2009

Many years ago, I coached the Agoura White Sox, a little league team of 10-11 year olds along with a close friend. We were in college, loved baseball fanatically, and we wanted to teach. Having both played ball in high school, we figured we could bring the kids on our team a different perspective than all the other baseball dads coaching their sons.

We worked on complicated drills and plays with this special group of kids, that were built on the assumption they had a good handle on the basics. After the first 4 games, we were wrong. We started 0-4, and the games weren’t even close. The kids and parents alike were questioning us, we were questioning ourselves, and ultimately we realized we needed to get back to basics. We practiced hard and won game 5, then game 6. The kids were having fun, playing as a team, playing hard, and playing to win.

In recent years, as I have gone to my nephew’s games and to those of my friends kids, I have been astonished at a trend in which there were no winners and losers. As long as the kids play hard and learn. Granted, these kids are a few years younger than our Pony team, but at least back then, every game counted. Not just in the standings for the local newspaper, but to each and every one of our kids. We taught them to lose with dignity and win with grace. We taught them to work hard with one another as a team, and individually. We taught them honesty and integrity meant something in a game, and in real life. They knew what it felt like to win, and they knew what they had to work on improving when they lost.

So what do the little league kids of today learn? Even in their early years, if they don’t learn about winning and losing, how can they take serious the games of life they will play when they are older? Aren’t they being taught that losing is no big deal? And if that is the lesson, then what happens when they get in to that real world, and have to support themselves and maybe a family? Will losing not matter than either?

In school we learn the skills and information needed to be successful in life and profession. But it is in our friendships, our families, our extracurricular activities, like little league baseball, that we learn so many of the values and lessons that will carry on throughout our lives. And now, in a position where I am responsible for hiring and firing people, I am seeing the results of the generation that thinks losing is no big deal. The picture I’m seeing is no Picasso.

Losing is a big deal. No matter the business, you have to strive to be number one as a company, a team. Individual effort is important, but if you’re say, a Project Manager on a software development project that is integral to your company’s success, is winning or losing important? You may work hard, but perhaps few or no one on your team does, and the project is riddled with problems, not to mention being late and over budget. Does winning or losing matter then? In today’s economy, company’s are struggling to stay afloat – does it matter to them if they win or lose? Go to the local unemployment office and ask anyone in line if it is important to win or lose.

Winning and losing alike are a part of life. It’s never too young to teach kids what it is all about. Let them taste the sweetness of victory, but also the bitterness of defeat. Should there not be winners in local spelling bees in school? Or writing contests? Science competitions?

I am not a parent, so perhaps it is not fair for me to judge, but our nation of parents has become so hung up on not upsetting their children or disappointing them, that we have begun playing games that don’t count and don’t mean anything. Doesn’t the very definition of game mean you have a winner and loser?

Our White Sox worked hard the rest of that season. Kids of 10 and 11 stepped outside of comfort zones, tried new things, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. But together, we all decided winning was important and something to work hard for.

We finished the last 10 games of the season undefeated… sweet victory! We lost our first playoff game… bitter defeat. But all of our kids on that team we’re better off for the experience.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

for Valentine’s Day: Business Dating

February 13, 2009

Dating isn’t just for lovers. It’s for business too. In my job and in the Professional Services industry, dating is essentially what we do on a daily basis. It’s Business Dating. We seek out prospective clients, we get to know them, and hopefully we engage with them to provide our expertise. OK, not exactly like dating, but you get the picture.

Our world used to be full of large Networking events. It seemed every company put one on in their local territory, and larger companies threw lavish 3-day long events that often meant an airplane trip and hotel stay. But much like the rage of Internet Dating in certain years, Business Dating is now all the rage. It has come on so quickly, in relative terms, that any company who is not already engaged in Business Dating over the Internet needs to ask themselves, why not?

What is Business Dating? It is the incorporation of the tools and communication power that Social and Business Networking sites provide to everyone, whether it’s to make new friends, meet new prospective clients, find someone to hire, or in turn, find someone to hire you. In today’s challenging economic climate, there is a huge increase in companies exploring Social Networking strategies to increase revenue, or at least opportunities for revenue. I personally have successfully used LinkedIn and FaceBook to both secure warm introductions from colleagues to prospective clients, and also to reach out to new pools of top technical talent eager for the next opportunity.

To invest in Business Dating means to invest a lot of time, just as with traditional networking, sometimes more. It’s not as easy as logging on to a dating website, picking a couple of attractive people and sending off a brief, clever note to introduce yourself. But it’s not that far away either. Like searching through countless profiles of possible mates, for Business Dating you have to spend a great deal of time mining existing contacts, and researching out names of people you want to be introduced to, and then the people in your network who can make that connection. The work is worth it, and unlike the seedy bar where you spend $10 on a watered-down drink and pick up the guy or girl you can’t bring home to your folks, most of the tools on these networking sites are free.

However, just like the seedy bar, or the conversation with the girl you met through Match.com that leads to a first date, you still have to ask a friend or colleague for that introduction, and that, for some, is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

With so many people out of work, and so many companies desperately seeking a sale, it seems everyone has been thrust in to some quasi sales role to seek out these introductions. On some sites, people are focused only on the number of contacts they can connect boast on their profile. Such a strategy may work for some, but to me, it completely undermines the real value of these sites. Instead, I connect with people and colleagues I know and work with. I regularly turn down contact requests from people I don’t know trying to tap in to my connections. Accepting those invitations would be a disservice to those people I am connected with and would likely usher in a new wave of people cold-calling on my connections. Who wants that?

Ultimately, I believe that Business and Social Networking will be one of the vehicles that help turn our economy around. Their adoption as a part of everyday business is expanding exponentially. I’d love to hear how you are using these avenues of cyber-networking to improve your own business situation or email me to learn more about how you can use tools like LinkedIn and FaceBook to your advantage.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

the time has come

February 12, 2009

I’ve been threatening for a long time to write a blog. But what to write about? For those of you who know me, you know very well I’m never at a loss for words. For those of you don’t know me, this blog will give you a little insight to my professional career and life in the IT Services industry, with occasional random comments mixed in. From life’s little moments to sports to random thoughts of senselessness, you’ll get a little bit of this and that here. After all, it’s from The Mind of Russell Wolf…. Stay tuned and enjoy…….

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com