Friday, June 27, 2014

Riding With Purpose...

"True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain, but also being moved to help relieve it..."
                                        ~  Daniel Goleman
Violet Segedi was born in Romania in 1910, the second of 11 children.
It was during the first Great War, when her parents decided that Europe was too dangerous to raise a family, so they boarded a boat headed for America, where they had family awaiting for them in Detroit.
There she went to school and helped her working mother to raise her younger siblings.
At the age of 18 she met a Canadian man from a Czech family named Fred.  Fred had come to Detroit, via Canada, to seek work as a radio technician.  Soon he landed a job at the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and quickly rose in the management ranks.
Fred and Violet together had four children.  In the summer of 1942, they left Detroit for San Francisco when Fred was transferred to the West Coast where RCA believed that he could better serve the war effort.  
Like many women of that time, Violet worked as a homemaker and as a volunteer in her community, the local school and church. 
As time took Violet into her 40’s, she began to notice sharp pain in her joints, especially her hands and fingers.  Tasks that were once easy for her strong hands, such as perhaps opening a can of tuna, now became a laboring chore.
She was still a young woman by today’s standards, yet she struggled to work with her hands and fingers in any type of work that took any considerable strength or manual dexterity.
By the time Violet had reached the age of 50, her hands and fingers had grown deformed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  She was unable to grasp items due to her weak grip.  Holding a pen or pencil was painful yet she continued to complete her crossword puzzle each day.
Violet died in 2009 just a few months shy of her 100th birthday. 
For over 50 years, she lived with excruciating pain and suffering due to her arthritis. Unfortunately for Violet, many of the treatment drugs available today to help with RA were simply not available.
Today there are over 50 million, doctor diagnosed, American adults who suffer from at least one form of arthritis.  In addition to the adults, there are Ellaover 300,000 children, under the age of 18, who suffer from juvenile arthritis.  Arthritis affects more people than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. 
Arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability costing the U.S. economy more than $128 billion dollars each year.
Each year, arthritis accounts for 40 million outpatient visits, 1 million hospitalizations, and over 7 thousand deaths.
While you might believe that Arthritis is an "old person’s" disease, over 2/3 of all arthritis sufferers are under the age of 65.
Arthritis can strike Davidseemingly healthy individuals at any time... this includes myself as I first contracted gout about 10 years ago and suffer incredible pain for a few weeks each year as it flairs up from time to time (as recently as 4 weeks ago).
In 2009, I was invited to participate in a bicycle ride down the coast of California, 535 miles over the span of 8 days to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation.
I found that people participating in this ride generally fall into one of two categories:
  • Bicyclists who want to spend 8 days riding along one of the most scenic routes in all the world... but couldn’t care less what the cause is...
  • Supporters of the Arthritis Foundation who want to raise money and awareness for the prevention and cure of arthritis... but could care less what the event is...
I must honestly admit that in 2009, I was of the former group... not the latter.
Due to a crash while training for the ride in 2009, I was unable to ride that year, but vowed to ride the following year.
In 2010, I rode together with 300 other riders in the 10th annual California Coast Classic... many of whom were severe sufferers of arthritis but somehow found the strength and courage to ride the entire 535 miles.
Since 2009, I have met some incredible people who try their best to live normal lives despite the pain they must sometimes endure.  I have had the opportunity to talk with kids, their parents, and other adults who have tried their best to go on each day despite their affliction.
The Arthritis foundation uses the money raised in this event for three main purposes:
  • Funding research grants to find better treatments and one day a cure for arthritis
  • Educating patients on how to better control their arthritis through community outreach programs
  • Advocating on behalf of people, arthritis sufferers at all levels of government
This year I have decided to once again ride for the Arthritis Foundation. 
My goal this year is to raise $5,000 for the Arthritis Foundation from direct donations which, through matching, will actually be $15,000.
For the most part, I have no problem donating time and/or money to a cause I find worthy... be it breast cancer 3-day walk, after-school programs for kids, scouting, schools, and/or programs to help the elderly (and of course the Arthritis Foundation).
What I do have a problem with is asking others to help join me by donating to my good causes... giving is personal... and begging for money is not usually my style.
So I’m trying a slightly different approach... a win-win-win opportunity...
As you can imagine, due to all of my travel, I have accumulated thousands of frequent flyer points.  So much in fact, that I can’t possible use them all...
Therefore... on August 15th I will hold an opportunity drawing with a very limited amount of entries (100 to be exact).
The Grand Prize is 50,000 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points.  
Depending on how you book your travel... these points could be as many as 8-10 one-way trips on SWA...
In addition, to the grand prize above... there will be 19 additional prizes including gift cards to restaurants, movies, iTunes, and department stores.
Lastly... I will add 10 of my favorite business books for a total of 30 prizes.
Therefore there is at least a 30% chance of winning some prize! (if all the entries are sold... your odds are higher still if there are less than 100 entries) 
To donate please click or copy and paste in the following link into your browser:
For each $50.00 donation you make, you will receive 1 entry to the drawing. 
The Arthritis Foundation is a fully recognized 503c charity so your donation is fully tax deductible and you will receive a letter from the Arthritis Foundation for tax purposes.
In addition to your donation... for every dollar raised, I will personally match your donation dollar for dollar.
In addition to your donation... for every dollar raised, OptiFuse will match your donation dollar for dollar.
Therefore... doing the math... for every $50 donated by you... $150 will be donated to the Arthritis Foundation...
As I mentioned above, Gabriellewhat motivated me to do the first ride in 2010 was my love of cycling...
...however today I ride for those who can’t ride due to their arthritis affliction...
I am riding for them...
I am riding for my grandmother Violet who suffered so many years with arthritic pain...
I’m riding so that one day no one ever again will feel the pain of arthritis...
That someone might just be you or me...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse (and the Arthritis Foundation), where we give thanks that we have the opportunity to give back...

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Great Place to Work...

"A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity"

~ The Dalai Lama 

I was sorting through the mail the other day when I noticed an envelope with a return address from a newspaper that generally concerns itself with local business matter.

I suspected it was a plea to become a new subscriber or perhaps an invitation to some kind of gala event honoring some local business leaders.

Upon reading the letter enclosed, I was shocked to read that OptiFuse had been nominated as one of the best places to work in San Diego.  

This was amazing, not because OptiFuse isn’t a great place to work... but rather because we generally don’t really rub elbows with the "movers and shakers" in our local business scene... so I was surprised that the Business Journal knew who we were or how to even contact us.

As I thought about the lofty distinction being bestowed upon us over the course of the next several days... I tried hard to think to understand how and why we were chosen for this award.

What exactly did we do which differentiated us from the hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of other small local companies?

As I thought about more and more, the one thing that kept coming back into my head was the fact that we have always tried to operate OptiFuse with complete transparency as perhaps opposed to other companies I know or have worked with in the past.

Several of my entrepreneur friends tend to believe in the "fake it until you make it" philosophy...

They often overstate sales, profits, margins, how many days a week they work, and/or how their customer service is better than anyone else.

Their entire company structure is built on lies and exaggerations.  They do it at first because they believe that the ends justify the means... and it seems to work for a while... so they just simply continue working this way...

The problem with this philosophy is that once a company starts down the path of lies, deception, and lack of transparency, it is almost impossiblely hard to change course unless some crisis or complete management change occurs. It simply becomes ingrained into the DNA of a company.

Small companies that start with this type of culture usually end up becoming medium and then large companies keeping the same mind-set along the way.

Management regularly tells employees, customers, and vendors exactly what they want to hear regardless of whether it’s the truth or not.  Their attitude is that they would rather beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

These types of companies like to cloak themselves in secrecy... rarely giving out information that could tarnish the false image that they are trying to create for themselves and their companies.  They never make mistakes... rather its the other person who misinterpreted the information.

Their employees are constantly kept in the dark as to how the company is actually performing.  These same employees rarely know what the overall strategy of the company is, how they actually make a profit, or how much profit is actually being generated.

Departmental fiefdom are created often with managers looking out after their own self-interests.  Their primary goal is to look good in front of the boss rather than sharing credit with his team.  All internal and external communication must be routed through them so they are always in control of the information flow.

Motivation in these environments comes not from the carrot... but rather the stick.  Blame for problems is dispersed equally among the employees while credit for accomplishments is reserved for the C-suite management team.

These workplaces are toxic... with high turn-over and bad morale.  Management doesn’t seem to care as they believe that employees are easily replaced and interchangeable. 

Fortunately, many of these type workplaces are becoming the way of the three-martini lunch and three-piece suit...

The most successful workplaces today are founded with one word in mind:  Transparency

Companies who embrace transparency regularly engage their customers, vendors and employees... entrusting that better communication and information tends to lead to better results.

Although there are many definitions of transparency, there are some cornerstone principles that are always present.

The transparent person and/or company always follow these fundamental principles:
  • Always tell the truth - honesty is not always easy especially when a small fib can deflect a customer’s anger or delay a problem... but transparency begins and ends with honesty.  Plus... if you always tell the truth... you’ll never have to remember what you said and who you said it to. 
  • Be open to new ideas - there isn’t only one way to do something and in fact... there may be a better way to get from one place to another.  Encourage the free exchange of ideas. 
  • Give credit where credit is due - you don’t always have the best ideas or solutions.  One of the best ways to motivate others is to give them lots of credit for the team’s successes... especially if they were instrumental in ensuring the success in the first place.  
  • Take a bullet - not only is it important to give credit, but it is equally important to admit your mistakes and shortcomings.  To err is human... transparency is about being human. 
  • Have a guiding set of principles - every person and every organization needs to stand for something.  These are principles that are cast in stone and they will weather the fiercest of storms.  These are the very ideas of who you are and what you stand for. 
  • Back it up with action - The thing about transparency is that everyone knows what’s going on... therefore it’s overly important that you not only "talk the talk"... but also "walk the walk"... people aren’t listening to what you say as much as they are watching what you do. 
  • Allow mistakes - if we don’t allow for mistakes in ourselves and others... we aren’t trying to push the boundaries but rather we are living in the safety of conformity.  Don’t punish mistakes... reward risk taking. 
  • Foster communication at all levels - open the books... give and receive open and honest feedback... freely describe objectives and strategies... admit when there are problems...
I have always tried to live a transparent life and operate OptiFuse in a transparent way... and this has served me well... I sleep very well at night knowing that I have a great team of customers, vendors and employees behind me...

For several days after receiving the nomination letter, I was riding on cloud nine.  

The following week, I happened to have lunch with my friend Roger, a senior partner at a public accounting firm the following Monday.

"Hey Roger... you’re not going to believe it but OptiFuse was just recognized as one of the best places to work in San Diego", I bragged.

"Wow... that’s great Jim", Roger congratulated me, "I just sure hope that your award wasn’t from the local Business Journal".

Uh oh... there was a sinking feeling in my heart and a lump in my throat...  

"Well in fact it was... why?"
"Sorry to break this to you... they send that letter out to at least a thousand companies... including our company.  The awards event is a huge profit center for the newspaper.  They are just hoping that you’ll buy a bunch of tickets and give them to all your friends and invited guests.  The more companies they nominate, the more tickets they sell... and the bigger the profit for the newspaper... sorry to be the bearer of bad news... "

I thanked Roger for the inside scoop... my ego slightly deflated...

The following day I went to the office and told my staff the bad news...

At the end of the announcement a voice in the back of the room spoke up...

"We don’t need an award to know that we are one of the best companies to work for"...

We all applauded... nodded our heads... and went back to work...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe in transparency... and using it to forge great long-term relationships with people and companies...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Don't Be a Tool...

"There was a time when nails were considered high-tech... technology is just a tool... and people need to use tools to help improve their lives... "  

~Tom Clancy 

Way back in the days of the caveman (or is it caveperson?), tools were rudimentary... at best...

Pretty much the tools of the day were basically found in three categories:
  1. Sharp projectiles that caused puncture wounds to animals (spears, arrows)
  1. Sharp implements that caused lacerations (knives, scrappers)
  1. Heavy things used to pound or grind (clubs, smooth rocks)
That was about it... life wasn’t too complicated for cavemen... eat... procreate... don’t get eaten...

The idea of using tools is really a higher order function generally permissible due to the notion of opposing thumbs, Monkeymeaning that the thumb can touch all of the other fingers (unlike our feet). 

This feat is somewhat confined to primates which helps to differentiate that species from others.

Now leap forward a few million years (or 6000 years if you are a creationist)...

The tools of modern life number in the 10’s of millions. 

Just take a walk through the tool aisle at your local home depot... there are at least 50 different screwdrivers and 30 different hammers... each one slightly different than another...

Stop by your local auto mechanic and you will see a tool box filled with a variety of devices and implements uses for very specific purposes.  The mechanic doesn’t try to use a hammer and vise-grips in lieu of a screw driver.  Each tool in his tool kit has its own use.

The right tool for the right job is by no means just for auto mechanics. 

In fact, every given profession has its own particular set of tools... be it chef, electrician, accountant, or professional golfer. 

A professional golfer has no use for a lemon zester... in the same way a pastry chef has no use for a 3-iron.

The tools we use are very specific to the problem that we are trying to solve.

Additionally, just because we possess the tool, doesn’t necessarily mean that we know how to use it.  I happen Monkeyto own both a lemon zester and a 3-iron and I can’t use either one with any real proficiency.

Having the proper tools does indeed help someone who knows how to adeptly use them but offers no great help to the novice. 

The entire golf equipment industry is built upon selling the notion to the weekend golfer that the only thing that stands in their way of a sub-80 round of golf is the right clubs and ball.  

I’ve seen some of the worst golfers playing with some of the best and most expensive equipment... when in fact, what they should have done with their money is buy some lessons from a training professional and practice a lot.

Even the best tools in the hands of an amateur do not help to create better work.

Most people who use a PC computer know how to use MS Word.  It is a powerful tool... in fact, it is one of the most complex and robust word processing programs in the market today.

But no matter how powerful your word processing program is... it still will not help you to write a great novel. 

In the same way a hand-crafted guitar will not help you to play better music or a better set of cooking utensils will make you a great cook.

The problem today is that most of us have so many tools at our disposal that we have not actually learned to master any of them.  We somehow are under the belief that the tools themselves will fix our problems, not the knowledge, skill, or creativity in knowing how to actually use those tools.  

And when we do learn to use a particular tool in an efficient manner, we tend to use it as a way to solve every problem.

We figure out how to use a hammer... and soon we try to use the hammer to fix everything...

While, there are indeed many uses for a hammer... for a great majority of our problems... a hammer alone will simply just not work.  If we want to be able to solve more complex problems, we will need to learn new skills using additional tools.

We would become more useful if we also learned to become skilled at using a saw, drill, screw driver and wrench.

The same basic principle applies to our professional career and personal relationships.

We become so accustomed to using just a few tools that after a while we become complacent and we don’t grow as a person...

For example, when our child is a 5-year old, we can set the rules of the house by declaring, "... because I said so". 

Now try that same communication method with that same child once they’ve reached their teenage years.

Unfortunately that "... because I said so" edict doesn’t seem to work as well on a 15-year old as it once did when they were 5.

We continually go to our toolbox and pull out the hammer and then try to figure out why our hammer doesn’t work anymore... it’s not the hammer... it’s just the wrong tool.  We haven’t taken the time to learn about other tools that we can use to help us with various problems.

The same types of things happen to us in the workplace.

Many of us are set to wonder why we continually get passed up for a promotion or worse... we are terminated.

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t find success in our careers is because we haven’t taken the time and/or made the effort to learn how to do new things by acquiring additional skills and applying those skills to take on more responsibilities.

Earning more money at your place of work (or staying employed) is a function of becoming more productive at your job... or better yet... learning new skills that you can add to your job responsibilities that will in turn make the company more money.  

When a company is making more money, they tend to be willing to pay better wages in order to retain those valuable people who help make them profitable.

Very few employers, these days, are willing to pay an employee more money for just keeping a seat warm and doing the same thing they’ve always done...

The use of tools to be more productive is a paradox.

Today our choices in finding and using the right tools are truly unlimited.  

However it’s important that we take the time to actually master the tools that we have chosen and continually expand our skill set so we can become better at actually solving problems using the tools available to us in our personal toolbox...

Becoming the person who has the means and the methods to solve more complex problems in a more efficient manner will cause us to become indispensable...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to be your indispensable tool, helping you to solve more of your circuit protection problems...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thinking Globally...Acting Locally...

[Today is the first Friday of the month... so time for another guest blogger to join us...

Sam Yankelevitch is a long-time reader of the OptiFuse blog who has taken on the challenge to write this week’s segment.

Although born and raised abroad, Sam is an American who again brings an interesting viewpoint to the readers as someone who has spent a considerable amount of his life living outside of the United States.

Sam is a published author by his own right and has an interesting take on American culture... and what it takes to succeed]

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People say it’s a small world... but I wouldn’t want to paint it...
~  Steven Wright

In 1977, I finished high school in Tel Aviv. That year I moved to the US and in 1981 I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington as an Industrial Engineer.
I returned to my native country of Colombia to work for the business my grandfather had established there after World War II. 

I grew into my role as a manager and leader, spending a good portion of my time improving our processes, mentoring my associates, developing new international markets and sourcing new technologies and equipment from every corner of the world.

In the mid 1980’s I found myself traveling, on a regular basis, to Europe, Canada, and throughout the United States negotiating and buying machinery, tooling and raw materials to import into Colombia. 

Then in the 1990’s, Asia became one of our focal points and sourcing from that continent was kicked off.

In 1988, because of the socio-political situation in Colombia, I was forced to leave and moved to Florida with my family.  This self-imposed exile lasted for about 6 years after which time, we then returned to Colombia, only to have to exit again in the year 2000.

We once again found ourselves on U.S. soil and have been here for the past 14 years. 

My children have had the opportunity to grow up in what I believe is a healthy and safe environment.  Each morning they are picked up by a yellow bus to go to and from school.  They regularly participate in athletics such as competitive swimming as well as being involved with many social neighborhood activities.

I used to see this in TV shows while I was living abroad.

As the VP of a German based automotive supplier in the Carolinas, I was exposed to excellent cross-cultural learning and gained a higher level of insight on how to deal with issues arising from the exchanges between Americans, Germans, Mexicans and Asians. I now speak a few languages and am comfortable in dealing effectively with several cultures.

I have a deep appreciation for this country and feel that I am very fortunate to be here. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving... even though I am a vegetarian.

A recent contributor to Jim’s blog, Mr. Siyamak Khorrami, follows my same belief... that while the U.S. does have its flaws... it stands alone at the top in so many ways.

In the past 35 years, which is relatively a very short time, there have been many important shifts in the American cultural landscape and there is one in particular that I wanted to share from my own perspective.  My intention is to only bring more awareness to the important things I see affecting our great country and to which I believe can be easily resolved.

Because of the tremendous globalization of business, there has been an exponential rise in the interdependence of people, cultures and countries to provide the products and services we all need or want.

This "interdependence" requires close collaboration between people with different backgrounds and upbringing as well as different education, beliefs and values.
There is also the matter of communication and language which I believe is the key to effective interactions between people.

Over the past several years I have seen jobs taken away from American professionals because they lacked cross-cultural and language skills to effectively communicate with others.  Ex-pats from around the globe are able to snatch some of those jobs merely because the balance of skills has shifted.

The daily news often repeats how Americans trail other countries in Math or Engineering knowledge and skills.  

The curricula in schools and the basic proficiency tests are designed for classical mathematical computations, literary skills and written composition.  Problem solving, communication and team collaboration do not appear to be a top priority for schools and cross-cultural or effective language training are still provided with a very low emphasis.

America was once protected by two large oceans and because of its size, resources and incredibly intelligent, motivated and innovative population.  For many years it was able to survive and thrive on its own merits.

But in our own incessant search to grow our markets and source cheaper materials and goods, we also chose to be highly interdependent on the rest of the world.  This means we are no longer as independent as we once were.

In my most recent role as VP, I experienced how a Mexican national took over as our NAFTA purchasing director and a German national took over as a business unit manager.  Both these professionals were excellent people. But so were the Americans they displaced.

The main gap in skills was not intelligence, experience or technical knowhow.  It was more related to the ability of the Mexican and German to speak a language and interact in a cross-cultural environment in a very effective manner.

So my contribution today is to bring to light, not only for our children, but for any professional that is currently employed and to determine what level of interdependence is associated with the business they are in?

How is the organization they work with related to the global scene? What products or services do not have any influence from other countries?

I am thoroughly convinced that if it is your desire to advance your career or in some cases, just remain employed, it is imperative that you gain additional skills that include multi-language and cross-cultural training.  Whereas you might think that this is America and in America we only speak English, like it or not, America is now an integral part of the world’s economy. 

Today, more than ever, there are extraordinary competitive pressures to successfully gain and maintain employment.  If you want your resume to stand above the others, it is imperative that you have a competitive advantage over your peers. 

Recruiters are constantly on the look-out for those candidates who possess multi-language and cross-cultural capabilities.  Waiting for someone to change the curricula might only ensure your resume will be passed on. 

Having access to the internet today prevents us from any excuse as to why we should not know and understand how other people around the world think and behave and even learn other languages... and it’s all free.

While it is true that English is considered the business language of the world, for many reasons theory doesn’t always mirror reality.

As active and still well respected members of the global community, we Americans should be wide awake now to the reality of needing to interact with every culture of the world in a respectful and effective way. 

We do have a choice...

We can be proactive and acquire the skills needed to participate and thrive in today’s global work place or we can do nothing with the hope that we will long retire before we become underemployed or worse unemployed.

Like it or not... we are a part of the global community... and there is no going back...

We need to embrace the role of America’s leadership in the world and find ways to lead by example... embracing other cultures and finding ways to better communicate and work together...
Sam Yankelevitch   
Author Biography
Sam Yankelevitch has successfully championed lean thinking for most of his 30 years in manufacturing and operations management. 

Thanks to a diverse education and a career spanning Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and the USA, Sam is fluent in several languages, and excels at driving cross-cultural understanding in corporate settings.

He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and an Executive Masters in Finance. 

Sam is the author of a recently published book called:  Lean Potion #9 - Communication: the next lean frontier, which exposes new wastes due to globalization and adopts lean, continuous improvement methodologies into workable solutions for our complex communication processes.

Sam has lived in Greenville, SC with his wife and family for the past 13 years.