Friday, July 17, 2015

Being a Leader Means Being Authentic - My Thoughts From WBENC 2015

”Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.”Lance Secretan

At the end of June I had the pleasure of attending and exhibiting at the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business Fair in Austin TX. All three companies of Bishop-Wisecarver Group are certified women owned with Bishop-Wisecarver Corp being certified since July of 2011. Since then I've looked forward to this annual meeting. It is an inspirational, motivational week that fuels my entrepreneurial spirit. This year I saw a pattern that ran through the speeches of several of our keynote speakers. In this day and age of TED Talks and the latest book of the week on leadership, it was interesting that the theme I heard was that success comes when one is true to their authentic self.
“Be yourself. The world worships the original.” Ingrid Bergman 
Keynote Carla Harris called out authenticity as the “A” in LEADER. She stated “only I can be me” and why try so hard to be something else when being you creates “natural differentiation?" When you are your authentic self it is easier to  leverage your intelligence and relationships, be efficient, act with decisiveness, engage your team, and take risks. She summed it all up with a quote I loved – “You can’t be what you can’t see."

As a season ticket holder to the Long Beach Grand Prix, I was really excited to hear keynote Danica Patrick speak. While professing to not be a public speaker, she was actually very good and engaging because she was so comfortable in being her true racing car driver self. She gave us a chronological timeline of her growth as a professional driver. The turning point in her career came when she “embraced who she was and (embraced) being a girl." In a male dominated sport that was risky for Danica to embrace who she was, but it allowed her to focus all her energy on her goals.  She stressed it is not about being perfect but that you get going, and get started on your goals. Amen! One of my favorite sayings is “focus on progress not perfection."

The conference ended with the wonderfully motivational keynote of Jonathan Sprinkles. He stressed the need to be authentic as a leader because people won’t really “hear” you till they “know” you. People are motivated by leaders they trust. Being authentic creates a deep level of trust in those around you.  He said it best in a great quote “You are born an original, don’t live life as a copy."  He stressed that when you stop chasing a paycheck and pursue your true purpose, success will come.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” Bruce Lee
I walked away from the conference with a greater sense of confidence in being myself as a leader. Will I still watch TED Talks and read leadership books? Yes, but I also realize I have to apply the learning and the tools within the framework of who I am. When I can make those new skillsets part of who I am, then I grow as an authentic leader. Knowing who I am allows me the ability to build a team that best supports the real me. A team that can leverage my strengths and help fill in for my weaknesses – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Don Draper and the Value of Free Days


From the very first episode I was hooked on Mad Men. I loved the clothes, the sense of style, and the great story lines. Being a Kellogg School of Management alumnus, I definitely have a soft spot for anything regarding marketing. So this show, which revolved around the drama of a marketing agency, was perfect for me in so many ways.

I have been traveling a lot lately and thankfully due to the invention of the DVR, I never have to miss my favorite shows. I was filled with great anticipation and sadness when I sat down during Memorial Day weekend to watch this beloved series wrap up and come to an end. I had planned to watch the last 4 episodes back to back and host my very own Mad Men marathon. 

I was not surprised to discover that once again, Don Draper was dropping out. It wasn’t his first time during this series, so I was anxious to see where it would lead this time. The thing about when Don goes MIA he really goes MIA.

Today with technology it is much harder to really truly disconnect from work. It really struck me watching these last few episodes of Mad Men how different our lives are now with the amount of instant access we have twenty four hours a day through all the technology that surrounds us on a daily basis.

As a long time student of the Strategic Coach™ program,  I have learned since our very first session the importance of “Free Days™”. The goal of a Free Day is that for a period of twenty four hours you truly and completely disconnect from your work life. Now saying this, understanding this, and putting it into practice are very different things. I have to admit I love my smartphone. I do probably 75% of my job now on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I love that thing and I would be lost without it, but the belief is that Free Days are in fact a necessary precondition for periods of high achievement. When you take quality time away from your business, you come back with a new perspective. You find that you’re incredibly creative, and full of fresh ideas and innovations. You quickly find solutions to long-standing problems, realize more efficient ways to run your business, and innovate new client solutions. When you’re tired, you stop creating, taking risks, communicating, and delegating. Taking regular Free Days helps to keep you constantly refreshed, creative, and energized. Smart thinkers are well-rested—they have the brain power to think differently. Free Days make sure the “best you” shows up every day. Most of the time when Don went MIA he spent the first few days sleeping. He would become well rested and then an experience or a conversation would  lead to insights that created "ah ha" moments.

I have found that there is another strategic byproduct of taking free days, it helps to grow your team. When I am not around for them to ask for help, it forces them to rely on their best judgement and skill sets.  They are forced to have to figure things out and make decisions without me. I normally find that the group has come up with a better and more creative solution than if I had been involved.

I realized in watching the last few episode how great Don was at taking free days throughout the whole series. Obviously it would have been better if he had actually taken them on a more regular basis, but at least he had the self-awareness to know when he really just had to disconnect and get away. What I really envied was that he did it with no regrets, no guilt, and no worries for the agency. 

I can honestly say, I took a page out of Don Drapers book as I enjoyed my recent summer vacation in Maui. My goal was to truly disconnect and fully enjoy my free days. Although, I didn't fully disconnect, I got recharged and enjoyed several good books. (Oh how I enjoy reading!) I knew that time away was important to allow my team to develop and I returned with ideas that will grow my company and myself. It may be less exciting than teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony, but it’s enough for me.

How do you plan to spend your free days this summer?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

California’s Secret Sauce—What’s the Recipe?

In addition to being chairman of the California Manufacturing and Technology Association Executive Committee, I have the honor of serving on the National Association of Manufacturers board of directors. During the spring board meetings of both organizations, there was a general sense of optimism for the state of manufacturing in our country and California. Nationally, the manufacturing base has grown by 7.5 percent. Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in February for the 26th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 69th consecutive month, according to the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business.

Twelve of the 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in February in the following order: paper products; printing and related support activities; furniture and related products; primary metals; nonmetallic mineral products; food, beverage and tobacco products; miscellaneous manufacturing; fabricated metal products; machinery; transportation equipment; electrical equipment; appliances and components; and chemical products. The three industries reporting contraction in February are: textile mills; apparel, leather and allied products; and computer and electronic products.

All the data is good, but why am I optimistic about being a manufacturer, especially one located in California? I travel a lot, so people in foreign countries tend to ask where I’m from. If I tell them the United States, I tend to get a nod—maybe a smile. Usually they ask further, “Where in the US?” When I respond “California,” their face lights up and they’re excited to speak with me. In some ways, the response I get makes me feel a bit like someone famous. There is a worldwide awe about my state.

I say “my state” because I am a rarity: a California native. My father’s grandmother traveled in a wagon to California from Missouri in 1853, got here in 1854 and settled in Healdsburg. I love my state. I am passionate about all that is good about my state. It is truly the land of golden opportunities. But why? What elements make up our state’s “secret sauce?”

1. Resources
California is large and holds vast natural resources. A jaw-dropping coast line, forests, water, sun, wind, fertile ground, agriculture, minerals, oil and on and on.

2. Environment
We have great weather. Need I say more? A temperate climate spurs productivity and prosperity.

3. Education
We are blessed to be a state with so many world-renowned public and private colleges and universities. We also have a great supportive network of community colleges. There is an incredible depth of knowledge we are cultivating and inspiring within our state.

4. Innovation
Our state has been leading the country and the world with innovative ideas since the beginning. Silicon Valley and all it has generated is just the latest manifestation of that trend.

5. Technology
We are a state of early adopters. A fertile ground for fostering the acceptance and exploitation of technological advances. This is especially true in the manufacturing sector. I can’t wait to see how the internet of things and big data will change the face of manufacturing. I know California will be leading the way.

6. Glamour
Hollywood. We are home to creating dreams, be it on the big screen or TV. We have Disneyland, the original home of making dreams come true for children and adults.

7. Money
California as a state has the eighth largest GDP in the world. We are effectively a country unto ourselves. Money attracts money and we have a lot of it here. We are also home to some of the biggest VC and angel funds out there.

8. Diversity
Our state is a melting pot of people. The rich diversity of people who come to California to make their dreams come true continues to fuel our state toward prosperity.

9. Spirit
It is a state of pioneers. As with my family, many who have come to this state took great risk to do so. They came on the belief of a better life, of the belief this state was a place they could make they dreams come true.

So maybe that is what I am seeing in the faces of those I meet. Is that we are a place where dreams can and do come true. What do you think? Did I identify all the ingredients? What did I miss? I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We’re a Lean, Green Manufacturing Machine!

Several years ago I wrote about being Lean and Green. I asked the question – “Is it hard to be 'green' or is it really just more the discipline of looking at how to run your business in a more efficient way?” One that improves your bottom line as well as reduces your impact on the environment; not regulated by government, but regulated by common sense to use the least amount of resources (lower costs) to produce your product.

So with the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day I felt it was timely to go back and think about this topic once again. Now let me just say I am not talking about “green” to the level like my state of California is mandating with AB32 or the Green Chemistry Initiatives.
Bishop-Wisecarver Green Infographic

I am talking about common sense, how do I run my company to the best of its ability and make my product for a profit and impact the environment as little as possible? I understand that there are some companies that won’t make changes unless mandated, but let me just live in a world, for a few minutes, where people are responsible for their actions and feel a responsibility to run their companies for the good of the bottom line, as well as the environment.

At Bishop-Wisecarver, we realize the best way to appreciate our planet is by doing something to help every day and we have implemented “lean manufacturing” practices throughout the company that reduce waste of all kinds.  Whether it’s time, material or talent, lean manufacturing aims to maximize efficiency in numerous ways such as smartly allocating resources, maximizing space, recycling old material and applying employees to job’s best suited to their skills.

This sounds admirable, but what does it mean in reality for our customers and planet?  For one customer, it meant better utilizing their current space and not having to purchase, or build, an additional site. Our engineers provided product solutions that saved them space and kept them fully productive in their current location.

For another customer, it meant implementing our DualVee® wheels and racked track into their machinery.  It saved at least 10 hours per week that had been spent shutting down production to wipe down rails and belts. And you know those employees who had to wipe down the rails are happy to be doing something else with their time! Bishop-Wisecarver also provided special parts machining for a customer so they didn’t have to purchase equipment or space to manufacture it themselves. It also allowed the customer to order only as needed, thus reducing extra inventory storage costs or concerns.

Lean manufacturing is a solid, cost effective business philosophy, but we want it to be more than that – we use it to innovate and design smarter solutions for our customers.  And, in doing so, we are helping conserve, and best utilize, our planet’s resources. We think that’s the best way to truly celebrate Earth Day – everyday. What do you think?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pi Day 2015 – Combining Math & Food for a Celebration of the Century

Pamela Kan, President
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography
Full disclosure, math is not my best subject, in fact it ruined my chances at becoming a pharmacist, but when 3.14.15 comes around only once in a century, we need to celebrate!  While I may not be stellar at math I love STEM and making sure our kids are getting a great STEM based experience in school. So we combined two of our favorite subjects – math and food – and built the first ever Bishop-Wisecarver Pie Making Machine in honor of Pi Day 2015.  You won’t find it added to our sales catalog just yet, but you can check out what products we used to build it in a list I’ve included below.

Who says manufacturing, math and technology can’t be fun?  We made pies, had a pie eating contest and then threw, smashed and “gently placed” pies in the faces of our colleagues.  No matter what method was used, the pie made its mark. You can’t fake this kind of fun and you can check out the results in this short video.

We had fun with this historic event and made a big deal of this at our California headquarters – specially designed bright blue Pi shirts worn by all, towels filled with whip cream from wiping faces and lots of laugher echoing on the plant floor. I think I had red icing in my eyebrows for a day! Sounds like a kindergarten class, but that’s what I love about our company – we know how to work hard and play hard together.   

Our Pi Day 2015 event highlights two of the many reasons I love leading the Bishop-Wisecarver team. First, we enjoy what we do and the people we get to work with on a daily basis.  We spend a lot of hours, days, months and years with some colleagues and these relationships help us get better personally and professionally, as individuals and as a company.  When I look at our silly video, I see the smiling faces, but I also see the “stories” of each of the people represented. I know when they started working at Bishop-Wisecarver, the projects they’ve helped make successful and the extra hours they’ve put in to helping a customer realize success.  We don’t think it’s old-fashioned to say we are like a family here – that connection makes a positive difference in everything we do.  And, it’s why we can smear a pie in someone’s face and then go enjoy a beer or a round of golf together.
The Bishop-Wisecarver Family
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography

Brian Burke, Product Manager
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography
Secondly, this event is just one of the many ways we try to show students that subjects like math and science, and industries like manufacturing, don’t equate to a boring career.  Learning how to build a pie making machine wasn’t part of my high school curriculum, but when I tell students about our machine, or they see the video, it will open up possibilities and ideas they hadn’t considered.  Helping students understand the opportunities in our manufacturing world is one of our top priorities at Bishop-Wisecarver. We talk in classrooms, welcome tours of students, mentor in a variety of programs and sponsor local science and engineering events as well as several FIRST Robotics teams locally. We are very proud to also sponsor FIRST robotics at the national level.  We do all of this as a way of serving and educating the students of today who will be the employees and inventors of tomorrow. And tomorrow is coming faster and faster all the time! So we made pies, made a mess and celebrated our love of food and math.  Pi Day 2015 was truly a celebration for the century!

Pamela Kan, President
Scott McClintock, VP of Marketing & Technology
Photo: Melsha Nicole Photography
The automated pie making machine is based upon a LoPro® Linear Actuator. The primary linear axis is a lead-screw driven LoPro with a rotary axis made of HEPCO Motion PRT2 360-degree ring. Both axes are driven by servo motors via LabVIEW development software. The machine also has independent mechanisms for applying whip cream and frosting.