May 04, 2008

How to Win a Pitch and Impress Your Client

I have been reading a book called "Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life" by Eugene O'Kelly. The book has been very inspirational to me, not only because of the views on work, family, and life shared by Eugene, but also the way he handed crisis situation at work.

I have never worked in a company with a boss like him before. I think it would be great to learn from someone who values the client management and relationship building experience like he did. People just don't seem to understand that you need to INVEST to build a relationship and there is always RISK involved.

On p.21 "Back when I was the head of the firm's financial services division, its biggest arm, and we were competing to become the auditor for a major investment bank, I knew that if we were really serious about winning the account, I would need to get a face-to-face meeting with the president of the bank's Australian unit. The bank was expected to make its decision very soon. I did everything I could to schedule a meeting with him - made my calendar completely available, called his secretary repeatedly.

Sorry, I was told. His secretary said there wasn't single moment her boss was in the office that was unbooked. For weeks. If I waited until he had an opening, I knew, the business would be lost.

I called his secretary back. Given how often I'd called her, we'd developed a bit of a rapport. So I figured I'd try: Would she be so kind as to tell me her boss's upcoming travel plans? He was a man on the go, in transit much of the day - surely a pocket of that travel time was not taken up with meetings? She told me that in two days, he was flying from Sydney to Melbourne. Nothing was scheduled for the time he was in the air.

"Perfect," I said.

I asked her for his seat assignment. She told me. I called the airline and booked the shortest longest business trip of my life, reserving the first-class seat next to his. That night I packed, showered, and shaved, and the following day I flew the 22 hours from New York to Sydney, landed, boarded my 90-minute flight bound for Melbourne, sat down, and introduced myself to the banked I'd flown halfway around the world to meet, briefly. When I described what I'd done to get there, he was dumbstruck. I asked if I could explain why I believed we were the best firm to audit his bank's books. An hour and a half later, we touched down. I offered him our presentation, shook his hand, and headed to another fate for my 20-plus-hour trek home.

We won the account."

I'd love to meet a manager with such courage and vision to get the job done. If you are the one or if you know someone, let me know.

Rachel Ray and Me?

After returning from my computer shopping in Central, I decided to clean up the food I bought in my fridge by inviting my mother and my sister to come over for dinner. Since my dad and my other sister are still on vacation, only two of my family members left remained at my parents' apartment. I ended up taking the chance to cook for my sister and my mother for the 1st time since I returned to Hong Kong.

I used to cook a lot when I was in US and I still remember that days that a bunch of my friends got together to have a potluck dinner. I usually made the same dish, soy-sauced marinated chicken wings over and over again because it took little time to get it done. I just needed to buy some chicken wings from Safeway, wash them up, and put them in a pot with a bottle of Chinese soy-sauce. Let them sit in the pot for an hour and you will get some very delicious Chicken wings.

Together, I fried two slices of fish fillet that I got from Apita for dinner. I also opened a can of marinated pork with pickled vegetables and broiled some Chinese vegetables as dinner. Altogether, it took less than 1/2 hour to get it done. I guess I could possibly be the next Rachel Ray by giving up recipes to cook a dinner with 30 minutes.

Lately, I have been watching a TV show called "Take Home Chef with Curtis Stone" on Discovery Health and Living. He is another TV Chef personality like Jamie Oliver, who has starred in numerous TV cooking shows and written a number of cook books.

"Take Home Chef with Curtis Stone" was about Curtis Stone, a tall good looking Australia Chef, going around in supermarkets across the States and randomly picked up one lady who was doing shopping at that time. He would ask for the lady's permission to finish up the shopping and cook dinner for her and her company at the same night. It's pretty funny to see how some dude felt so shocked when he returned home to see his wife with a young hunk in the house. If I were the husband, I would be so furious.

I think if the show changes a bit and randomly pick up a guy instead of a lady doing grocery shopping, that will become an instantaneous blockbuster on Bravo network. It's like a reincarnation of the show "Queer Eyes for Straight Guys". I am sure that could only happen in America. People would do ANYTHING to get a good TV rating.

May 03, 2008

I want a MacBook Air!

I have to admit that I have been pretty obsessed with MacBook Air lately. I almost bought it at a local electronics store today. Many people questioned why I would waste money on something that's not that powerful, especially the current MacBook has a pretty decent line up on models with biggest hard disk, internal super drive, and faster CPU.

I guess not many people realize that I buy things not simply because of functionality (except for my IBM T60 computer) but design as well. MacBook Air is so elegantly designed that I can't image not showing up for a client's presentation with one of them in my hand. Instead of using the boring Windows PowerPoint (one of the most overrated programs that wastes most of people's time in both business and academic worlds). Keynote is a much better program for presenting and illustrating ideas. At least my ex-colleague Luke told me again and again.

Today my friend was trying to convince me to save money and get a MacBook instead. However, I decided not to get it at the last moment. I only want to get something that I really are in love with and am passion about. Otherwise, I will end up not using it that much.

I think I will probably end up getting the Sony Vaio VGN-CR35G/T because it has 200GB of hard disk, a super drive, and all the card reader slots. Also, if you can view it clearly from your screen, you will see that it actually has a crocodile-skin like texture and design for its cover. It's pretty slick!

May 02, 2008

My 1st Offically Journal Article

After years of research work at a Ph.D candidate at Stanford University, I was thrilled tonight to see the first ever article that I collaborated with my colleagues at the Stanford Medical School and the VA Center for Health Care Evaluation got published.

The article, titled "The impact of chronic hepatitis C and co-morbid illnesses on health-related quality of life", will appear on the upcoming version of the Quality of Life Research Journal.

You can, however, get a sneak preview of the online version here.

Think Twice Before Scheduling a Meeting

I just came across the above picture in Seth Godin's blog. The picture captures everything essential about the meeting.

It's a plague in many firms that they schedule so many unnecessary meetings and phone conferences without any agenda in hand. I think it's a complete waste of everyone time. To make any meeting effective, all participants should receive an agenda beforehand so that each can prepare prior to the meeting.

Where are the old good values of meeting I used to see a decade ago?

Now meetings are turning into ways for people not to do any actual work, for people to bullshit without having anything to back up.

Cut the crap. Be real and let's get to work.

Quote from Ashton Kutcher's Interview with Details

I just finished reading an interview that Ashton Kutcher did with Details Magazine (May 2008). Here is a quote from the interview that I found pretty interesting, especially to hear it from the mouth of a famous Hollywood actor.

"It wasn't until I was 25 that I plugged into the idea that we all come here to earn it," Ashton says, "become if we don't earn it, we don't really appreciate any of it. You know what I mean? Gravity is pushing us down. When a kid stands up for the first time we all fucking cheer, and the kids feels good about standing, and for the rest of his life he is going to be standing up. The reason he feels good about it is because he fought against gravity and he stood up."

It does sound pretty philosophical. It's something that I have not thought about all my life.

Chasing Daylight - How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My life

The Olympic Torch finally arrived in Hong Kong today. One of my best friends messaged me last night and asked me whether I wanted to witness the Torch Relay with her and her friends in Kowloon in the morning. Originally, I thought about joining them to witness one of the historical moments in the history. However, given the amount of work and stress that I have been enduring at my new job, I decided to call a rain check and spent the time catching up on work at home.

It doesn't quite make sense to take time off from work to do more work at home. However, if I stayed in the office, I would have ended up spending all the time replying to emails, attending meetings and conference calls. I decided to free myself up from all the managerial tasks to focus on getting some hands-on work done.

Despite having worked from home, I managed to take some time off to do a little bit of my own leisure reading. It's been almost 3 months since I got the luxury to spend time reading a book that I bought. What happened in the past few months was that I ended up buying more and more books, hoping that I would get a chance to read them. In reality, there are enough work-related materials for me to read each day. I barely can keep my eyes open when I hit the bed at night.

I am reading through this great book called Chasing Daylight It's sort of memoir about the former KPMG CEO Eugene O'Kelly, who wrote the book in three-and-a-half months between his terminal diagnosis with brain cancer and his death in September 2005. The book provides a vivid account of his reflections on life, death, and sucess. It's a very compelling reminder of the importance of living a balanced and meaningful life, which is the focus of my former employer and the current senior management of my company.

There is a quite quote from Socrates at the beginning of the book that I want to share with everyone:

"For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they know quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?" - Socrates

I will write more as I finish reading the book.