Monday, October 29, 2007

Nice fall evening on the shore

We were checking out some listings to show tomorrow on this first cool day of fall.

The sky was very clear and intensely bright as we drove from Cape Carteret towards Swansboro.

As we pulled into the parking lot behind Clyde Phillips' Seafood, the sun was just getting read to set over Swansboro.

There were a couple of other photographers already in the lot. I thought about telling them there was a rental fee on my trained sea birds, but I let it go as I headed over to my favorite spot on the western most White Oak River bridge.

I never tire of taking pictures from the bridge.

I snapped a few shots of the sun on the water and headed back to the car. I took this shot just as I got back to the car.

There is something about the time just after sunset that clears up a lot of the mistakes and problems of the day. It is one of my favorite times. You can beat the colors that you see then.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sour Grapes

Our society has changed dramatically this century.

The new church is that of the corporation.

While many will deny their worship of the corporation, you can understand it best in their reaction to those who have been excommunicated from the corporate church.

There are still people at Apple who will not talk to me because the company got rid of me. Even more surprising, Apple people continue to be afraid to either send or receive an email from me. From that you might guess that I committed corporate murder.

Most of these corporate worshipers have little understanding of their new religion. With little questioning, they assume the decisions coming from the CEO, the nominal head of the church, are law that supercedes any law of the land. Their salvation is their job, and they will do almost anything to retain that salvation. They will not question the law.

Before I go farther with this metaphor, I need to make clear how I have worked in a corporate world so the differences between religious fanatics, and those who come to the church to fulfill their own needs can be made clear.

First off I believe in the power of teams, and the right of each individual to have a chance to prove themselves in an environment designed to further the goals of the corporation with maximum efficiency. I believe that each member of the team will in their own self interest drive the performance of others in the team if the compensation plans are constructed properly.

I do not believe in mixing friends and business. While some people whom I have hired have become friends, I have never hired anyone because they are a friend.

Individuals in my ideal corporate world need to be empowered to do everything needed to achieve the goals of their corporation while living within the framework of the corporate environment and not violating the outside world's ethical standards.

Those are lofty goals and only work when a manager can become a leader and is willing to take the flack for his team so that they can get their jobs done.

It has been my experience that corporations know what they want done, they just don't know how to go about it, and often they are willing to trust their fate to people who talk a good story, but really don't know what they are doing.

As a salesperson, and a sales manager my job at Apple was to sell computers. Most of my career it was to sell computers to the enterprise for a company that openly claimed to not be interested in the enterprise.

I was very successful in my nearly twenty years at Apple. I captured both manager of the year and account executive of the year in my career. I finished second in the world once. My wall full of sales awards includes numerous national and regional awards. The record shows that I and my teams over achieved quota for all but a few years in the twenty years I was there. Every single performance review that I have is a glowing one. There are no negative ones.

In my last role at Apple, I was director of federal sales. I worked my way into that job through almost unbelievable odds. I was given a defunct part of Apple's business the US federal government, one rep for each coast, one system engineer, and my area associate. It was expected that we would fail. The federal revenue for Apple had been dropping precipitously for seven consecutive years.

The thing is that we didn't fail, in our first year we grew our business over 60% at time when Apple continued to loose market share, and other enterprise teams were falling flat on their face. We got a few more resources the next year, and again grew the business over 60%. We were the darling of Apple, invited to present to other teams on how we created success in the middle of failure with so few resources.

Just as we were hitting our stride, a whole new team of managers were brought into Apple to fix the field sales team. My manager who before the coup had sixty people reporting to him ended up with me and my small team as his only reports.

All of the managers brought in came from Adobe and all were under forty years of age. None of them had experience selling hardware, and few even knew one end of a Mac from another.

The Vice President who took the helm even shared with us that he had been brought in to fire the Apple field sales team and fix the sales process.

After a year of trying hard to be helpful to the new people, my manager left after he got put in a job with no reports. He was one of the most successful enterprise sales people in the history of Apple.

In the space of the two years after my manager's departure, I got to report to four different managers, none of which had ever worked for Apple or even used a Mac.

One of those managers was apparently given the job of driving me out of the company. My team of very successful veteran sales and engineering people who had grown to twenty by this time were treated like new sales reps just in off the street.

They were assigned quotas which even sixty percent growth couldn't achieve. I was not allowed to speak in forecast meetings and was even told at the national sales conference that my team was going to publicly spanked and taken behind the woodshed for a whipping.

In a year when Apple couldn't ship G5 desktops in Q4 we were awarded the Plunger award for not shipping G5s in Q4.

The gory details aren't worth repeating except that I stood up and complained about the unfair treatment of my people who during that year did not receive correct commissions for over nine months.

The manager that took us to the woodshed left in January of that year. I got another manager in March. In June during an operations review, he complained that our growth of over 60% was falling short of our over 70% quota growth. I was asked to prepare a recovery plan.

The morning I was told to present the recovery plan, I was called and told the presentation would be in a hotel instead of our office. When I showed up at the hotel for the presentation, there was an HR person present, and I was placed on leave so an investigation could be conducted into my conduct.

Of course anytime something like this happens, you know you are already toast. Even as someone over fifty being fired while doing a great job, there was little I could do, so I headed off to a new non-corporate world.

Doing it the way Apple did it, cost me most of my retirement options which had been given to me but had not vested, but that is the high tech gamble and at this point water under the bridge.

The real sadness comes from the dismantling of a very successful team. One by one my managers were forced out. All the sales people but one are now gone from federal sales. They have all been replaced by ex-Oracle sales people.

How they are doing, I don't know and really don't care. I haven't seen any huge federal successes for Apple but perhaps they're keeping them secret.

This story isn't an unusual one in corporate America. It demonstrates who you know is more important than how well you do your job. You could write plenty on those who tacitly help get rid of people who are successful only so they can look successful. It is not worth the time.

Corporations are full of those types of people who unfortunately will do whatever is asked to keep their job or make more a little more money. They have to live with themselves so that is probably punishment enough.

The corporate church thrives on cronyism, money, and the willingness to say whatever upper management wants to hear and ignore any other values that might have been learned in life.

While truth is valued outside the corporation, saying the right thing and having the ear of the top dog is the most important thing in a corporation.

I certainly do not regret leaving Apple. I was lucky to have survived with my values intact. My career at Apple confirmed to me that I am the type of person that I knew I was.

One manager once told me that I was too much of a Boy Scout, and he could never count on me to lie when I needed to. I'm actually proud of that.

Having survived Apple, I feel much greater reverence for the "Honor, truth, duty" motto from my military high school and the "Veritas" that adorns my college diploma.

I escaped the corporate church with soul, and I continue to sleep well after a hard day's work.

So if that is sour grapes, then they actually taste pretty sweet to me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why we congregate

This weekend the town of Swansboro, NC had their Mullet Festival.

It is one of those events where people from the area and some from the outside the area get together. In Swansboro's case, the festival is held on the waterfront along the shores of the White Oak River.

We come together for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we enjoy the stimulation of other people. In a world where we are increasing isolated, there is some comfort in being in a friendly crowd of people having fun.

We enjoy seeing other people, browsing craft booths, eating fair food, and listening to music. People have been doing this for thousands of years in one form or another.

During the Mullet Festival we got to listen to Jackie Gore, the father of beach music. While it made working our real estate booth a little challenging, it still was a treat.

Getting together in a group like we did at the Mullet Festival reinforces the thought that we are not alone, and that there are other people out there interested in what interests us.

Sometimes being in that group can show us behavior that is acceptable in our communities. New ideas get to spread. New products are shown, and people get to renew their ties to the community. Seeing people they may not see on a regular basis lets us a backup safety net.

A festival is a healthy event for a society. Going to a festival on a Saturday afternoon is far better than sitting at home watching a football game.

Our time at the festival gives us time to size up our neighbors, our friends, and even our enemies in an environment where behavior is relaxed. It is far easier because people are making an effort to be friendly.

It is good for everyone that we have a healthy dose of festivals here in Coastal NC. There pictures of many area festivals, pig pickings, and celebrations at my coastal photo archive.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Near perfect weather on the Carolina Coast

Much of this post was written in 2007.  We have been through many spectacular fall since I took the picture in the post.  I even had a remarkably similar wonderful evening on the beach almost seven later.  It inspired me to update what I had written a little.

If you have never been to North Carolina's coast, and you can sneak away right now, you will never regret that decision.

In fact if things are a little rough, and you need to have your cares vanish for a weekend, going to the beach in October might be just the ticket to a different outlook on life.

Since it was impossible to resist, we went for a walk on the beach this evening. The water temperature on the Emerald Isle beaches is still 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The air temperatures over the next few days are predicted to be in the mid-seventies. It doesn't get much better than that.

There are no crowds, the weather is perfect, the seafood plentiful, and the prices for lodging are cheaper. It is the best time of the year on the beach. We have the same pleasant temperatures in the spring, but the water is cold then.

It was so nice on the beach, I had visions of a pitching a tent, but I know the Emerald Isle Police would frown on that.  However, I suspect that I could snag a campsite over on the Bear Island part of nearby Hammocks Beach.

While it seems this be abnormally nice weather, my experience since I wrote the first part of this seven years ago indicates that great fall weather is almost a birth right here on the North Carolina coast. Certainly there is no reason not to enjoy it. This is a great time and place to renew your soul. The beauty and serenity that you can find on an October beach evening here along the Crystal Coast will make a difference in how you see the world.

Here's my quick Emerald Isle Travel Guide to help you plan your vacation. 

Update- If you need more advice try our book,  A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  It was updated in the summer of 2014 and I am happy to report that seven years after I wrote this post, the fall weather is still great here on the Southern Outer Banks.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The wrong way to stand out

It is okay for a an early turning fall leaf to stand out.

There is nothing wrong with standing up for something that is right. It is even fine to be standing alone.

Our country has made mistakes before, but we have always stood for what is right. That has been the American way.

Using fear to manipulate the country, our leaders have shamefully abandoned the high ground.

The New York Times had this to say in an editorial.
President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies.
This morning the Washington Post said this.
PRESIDENT BUSH said Friday, as he has many times before, that "this government does not torture people." But presidential declarations can't change the facts. The record shows that Mr. Bush and a compliant Justice Department have repeatedly authorized the CIA to use interrogation methods that the rest of the world -- and every U.S. administration before this one -- have regarded as torture: techniques such as simulated drowning, induced hypothermia, sleep deprivation and prolonged standing.
It is hard to understand how a people so well off can completely lose their courage and condone torture only to have a false sense of security.

I am at a loss to explain this whole idea that the ends justify the means. Most of us long ago figured out that doing a bad thing to make a good thing happen just doesn't work.

It corrupts you. There is no satisfaction in being safe if we have become evil to achieve our safety.

I can only hope that we will reject all the politicians who have made America the home of torture. Using torture only confirms what our enemies are saying about us. We prove them right when we descend to torture.

To do otherwise is to dishonor the history of our country and the many who died to protect the ideas on which America was built.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The power of singularity

There was a time when I thought the solution to never having my reading glasses was to have lots of pairs of reading glasses.

I quickly figured out that more pairs of glasses did not necessarily mean that I would always have my glasses

In fact it turns out that I am much more likely to find my glasses if I only have one pair.

By having just that pair, I remember where they are hiding.

I suspect there are lots of things in life which can benefit from singular focus.

Fishing is certainly one. Writing is another. Talking is an important one.

Running a company is probably a big one.

Maybe lack of focus is a peculiarly modern aliment.

The typical CEO tends to have a multitude of things on their plate.

Just maybe we can improve the management of companies by letting CEOs do fewer things.

Of course you have to convince them that their expertise can be put to better use and to trust the wisdom of their subordinates.

Not all CEOs are willing to share power. See Welcome to Steve's World.