Archive for December, 2015

Fail Forward

December 19, 2015

FailForwardIn Silicon Valley, where we wear failure like a badge of courage, we must consider that not all failures are *good* failures. Having witnessed first-hand and indirectly ranging from small to spectacular, my rule of thumb when experiencing failure is whether the failure moves you forward.

  1. Moving forward means that you’ve learned something new about yourself, and what you do well, and not so well.
  2. Moving forward means that you are less likely to do a similar thing again, for very specific reasons.
  3. Moving forward means that you build new relationships in your life that adds more meaning and perspective to what you do at work and at home.
  4. It also means that some important existing relationships are different and/or better.
  5. Moving forward means that you see the overall experience as a net positive one, despite the short-term pain and upset.
  6. Moving forward means that you are stronger and better and more grounded overall.
  7. Moving forward means people who know you and used to know you may see you now in a different light.
  8. Moving forward means that you can forgive yourself, and others involved and know better what to expect from yourself and those same others in future projects.
  9. Moving forward means that you have a broader, deeper view of the world, and the people and technologies and things in it.
  10. Moving forward means that you are better and braver and more prepared for the next adventure.

As we go into a new year, look for opportunities to succeed, reach for stars, and if you have to fail, fail forward.


Productivity Gifts

December 18, 2015


People remark all the time about how I can get so much done, so in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share my favorite productivity tools – no I have no stock in any of the products or services recommended and no, nobody is paying me to promote their product or service. I hope that you find them useful, and wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season!

  1. E-mail helps us all live and breathe – connecting and communicating with others. This year, I moved from an e-mail tool I used for decades on to Gmail. Yes, Gmail! I set up a corporate account using my domain name, and I find it better because: 1) the spam arrest is built in, intelligent, and terrific, 2) the nested conversations helps me organize and track, 3) the way the contacts link with the messages helps me see whom I sent what to, 4) the filters help me organize and track and plan, 5) the support is wonderful (yes, someone answers the phone and is knowledgeable and it comes with the subscription), 6) I can have multiple domain names to my account, and it appears just like another folder, … I could go on and on, but Google got this right! Check it out.
  2.  MixMax is a new app I tried this year, which has made my e-mails so much easier to manage! With MixMax, I can 1) better create and manage my drafts and templates, 2) better time-send my communications, 3) schedule meetings and appointments within an e-mail, 4) run polls and surveys, 5) better manage groups of people. I could go on and on. It’s great.
  3. It’s so much easier to collaborate on updating documents and spreadsheets through Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides! Whether you’re collaborating on creating a job proposal, sharing financial information, or just communicating the details about an upcoming event, there’s no easier way to document, coordinate, communicate with select people, while keeping records of versions and files.
  4. Google Voice has also served me well, as it directs all calls to several numbers – say your Skype, cell and office numbers for example – into a single phone number/point of contact. The translation of voice-to-text sent by e-mail or text is surprisingly good, and it also makes it easy to manage voice messages.
  5. Have you tried Google Photos? It is awesome if you take lots of photos, or in my case videos. It allows for unlimited unloads (if you don’t need those high-res copies) and is easily shareable as individual files or an album.
  6. My last Google plug – the new Google Wallet is also great, as it lets you easily pay people through their e-mail address. And if it’s done for non-business reasons, there are no fees. (IMHO, is also great, but doesn’t do the auto-deposit into account, although it does fine with the withdrawals.)
  7. Speaking of finances, you must try SquareUp for selling products or services and invoicing customers. It’s simple to set up and use and integrate, has reasonable fees, plus it does auto-deposits for you.
  8. LinkedIn is a tool I use every day – to expand and connect with the networks that matter to me. If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, you’re missing out. (Thanks LinkedIn for letting me publish this article to my network, and beyond!)
  9. I love how allows you to collect and gather articles of interest to you, based on a theme you define. I’ve blogged on the topic of Age of Personalization and on Leadership for the past three years, capturing my own writings plus those of others on the same topic.  It helps you both define your brand and connect with people who share your interest.
  10. I started using Airtable this year, and I don’t know how I lived without it. It’s an online relationship database which lets you track, share and organize who you’re reaching out to for what purpose, and coordinate with others to reach those goals. It works well with LinkedIn.

Gasp, I’ve come to the end, and haven’t mentioned my favorite PDF-editing tool, PDFEscape, my favorite people-in-the-news app Newsle, which highlights people in your LinkedIn profile who made news headlines, CamScanner which allows you to capture and edit photos on your phone. And how can I live without Google Calendar to keep me in line and manage my time and Google Drive to organize and track my files? (Woops, I mentioned Google again, and twice!)

There’s more, much more – but I’ve got to get back to work.

Happy Holidays!


Power to the Team

December 14, 2015

FountainBlue’s December 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Power to the Team.


We were fortunate to have panelists representing different backgrounds, upbringings and perspectives around leadership, innovation, teamwork, diversity and team-building. Collectively, our panelists shared the following pearls of wisdom for team leaders: 

  • Insist that people treat each other with respect, trust each other to deliver, assume and deliver on responsibilities and assume accountability for their individual tasks and the project overall. 
    • Have zero tolerance for any individual(s) who would undermine the success of other people within the team, or the team overall.
    • Manage the brilliant mavericks and keep them engaged as this is critical to the success of any team. 
  • Bring out the best in all members of the team, knowing what everyone’s role is, knowing everyone’s value-add, and stretching everyone to contribute in specific ways, for the good of the project and the team. 
  • Communicate clearly and transparently in writing, to all stakeholders, what the expectations are and how the project is going.
    • The measure is any team leader is how well people feel heard, how good they feel about the project and about themselves. It’s almost as important as the bottom-line results delivered.
    • Building bridges between people and teams and empowering them with information and resources through constant, transparent, and clear communications is critical to the success of any project.
  • Select a team which is willing to be both process-oriented and agile. Having a plan of where you’re going and making changes on the fly helps teams succeed when the challenges are difficult, when the timing is tight, and when the stakes are high.
  • Be other-centric, focusing on the needs of the customer, the market, the team. Then develop a plan which takes into the account the motivations, expectations and expertise of all involved, managing toward win-for-all results.
  • Build on past successes by recruiting individual team members from prior successful projects, even if they are not quite in their sweet spot of individual team members, even if it’s not with the same company or industry.
  • Ensure that yourself and everyone on the team adds value in specific and necessary ways, wherever anyone sits in the org chart, working as a team to deliver measurable results in collaboration, moving beyond silos and a me-first mentality.
  • Expect to deliver with the team you have, rather than make excuses for any short-comings there might be. Of course you’re going to want to empower the team you have to deliver results, and to recruit more A players to your team, but rare is the leader who will deliver results even when B and C players are the majority, and rarer still is the leader who can convert these B and C players to also become A players. 
  • Know enough to be able to oversee and manage a project, but let your team be the experts in specific areas.

The team is only as strong as the individual players, but when led well, the gestalt of the team far outweighs the value of individual members, and it is these teams which are building and growing people, products, companies and industries.


Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Samsung, and our panelists for FountainBlue’s December 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Power to the Team:

  • Facilitator Deb Kaufmann, Deb Kaufmann & Associates, Inc
  • Panelist Charlotte Falla, VP of Legal and General Counsel, Samsung Research America 
  • Panelist Andrea Kolstad, Sr Director Digital Platforms, Polycom
  • Panelist Leila Pourhashemi, Head of Product Operations, eBay Marketplaces
  • Panelist Renee Six, Sr Mgr, End User Computing, Dell Inc
  • Panelist Reema Vijay, Head Business Operations & Strategic Planning, Vertical Solutions BU, Software Platform Group, Cisco
  • Panelist Ruby Yip, Senior Account Manager, EMC

M&A Strategy and Execution Best Practices

December 12, 2015

Business People Standing On A Symbol Of RecyclingFountainBlue’s Dec 11 Pre-Launch event for the VIP roundtable series was on the M&A Strategy and Execution Best Practices! We are grateful for the leaders and companies represented around the table, for sharing their wisdom and experience so graciously and generously. Please also join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Altera, who made our pre-launch event possible, and who had the original idea for the series. Below is a list of best practices around strategy and execution when managing an M&A event.

Strategy Best Practices:

  • Find a synergistic and/or complimentary offering, one that provides an expansion opportunity into new markets that are growing, and fills a gap in your technology direction and abilities.
  • Focus on the purpose of the acquisition – is it for the IT, for the talent, for the market share, while planning and executing on the M&A event.
  • Factor in whether there will be a leadership and cultural synergy between the two entities. Sometimes companies get so excited about the tech and market acquisition up-sides that they dismiss the cultural and leadership mis-matches which could make an integration difficult at best.
  • Look not just on whether the technology is the right match, but whether the team being acquired will also have the talent to market and sell that technology and product. Don’t just assume that the acquiring company will take over that piece.
  • Consider collaboration and defensive objectives in M&As, buying the leaders in a competitive landscape market​.
  • With that said, even if it makes sense to buy the market leader in a market which is being consolidated, make sure that the major customers would back the acquisition or they might make it difficult and even impossible to complete the M&A process.
  • Look beyond the factors that drive your decision for today, and look at what’s best for the company in the 2-3-year timeframe.
  • ​Consider whether the longer term benefit worth the short term integration cost and pain and whether the revenue model be bigger and better now and 2-3 years from now.
  • When there are competitive bids for a company to be acquired, consider not just the dollar value offered, but also how much independence is likely valued by the company to be acquired.
  • Larger companies can consider the option of being bought out by smaller companies in the same space, if they have the revenues to buy them, and if the leadership has the humility, strength and character to ensure the integration. Success for both sides means that the larger brand lives on and the smaller company provides the financial and leadership strength to expand.

Execution Best Practices:

  • Decide on common definitions for terms like ‘revenues’, ‘market’, ‘opportunity’, ‘partner’, ‘results’ etc.,
  • Whether you’re the acquiring or the acquired company, make sure that you have all the information and the right information throughout the due diligence process.
  • Have realistic objectives based on the information you have and agree on how success will be measured.
  • When a decision is made to start the M&A integration process, have enthusiasm and be optimistic, but don’t wear blinders. Pay attention to any red flags you might see and be curious about why they are there and whether there are more.
  • Proactively manage the brand strategy for both the acquiring company and the acquired company. How will the brand be improved and enhanced post-acquisition? What is the consistent communication and message about the M&A? Communicating in words and actions in alignment with the M&A objectives is critical to the success of any integration.
  • Leaders must manage their own emotions and help their people to manage theirs throughout the M&A planning and integration process. Ongoing transparent and open communication and alignment of words and actions will help ensure successful integrations. Keep the communications consistent and positive and insist that people communicate with respect.
  • Insist on making decisions when they MUST be made quickly​, selecting the best of all options, based on objective criteria which focuses on the M&A objectives, rather than deferring discussions, conversations and decisions.
  • Adopt a balance of structure and agility throughout the integration process. Have a plan, but be willing to drift from it as each integration is different.
  • Adopt a ‘Shut-Up and Eat’ principle as it helps people from both companies adopt a disagree-and-commit mentality and unity that helps moves things forward and discourages politicking and second-guessing, even when a unpopular decision has been made or when factions are divided on a decision that has been made.

The collective predictions for M&As include:

  • A continued consolidation of companies, particularly in the semiconductor space. It’s a ‘eat-or-be-eaten’ mindset right now.
  • China will play a role in semiconductor industry as it has billions to spend and is prospecting. Integrations with Chinese government or companies may be difficult because of cultural differences.
  • The digitization trend will continue to disrupt companies and industries, particularly industries which are not traditionally in tech! This poses new opportunities and challenges for acquiring and acquired companies.
  • Larger companies will have more spin-outs to support their innovation efforts in specific areas. Entrepreneurial teams can be more agile with their innovation, and can be more easily integrated back into the company once the technologies have been developed and the company’s brand and channel become more important.
  • Larger companies will have more splitting between business units and technologies as market opportunities and tech evolution favors that the entities divide up again. This is frustrating to many as these entities were purposefully integrated in the first place, so leaders must manage communication and motivate all players involved in order for the split to be successful, retaining technology and talent.

In the end, the secret to successful integrations is to have a future-perfect vision of the combined company, and to ensure that the technology is robust and scalable, the processes support the people and technology, and that the people and culture are in alignment to address an opportunity in a growing market.