A Different Type of Experiment

14 March 2015

It is now 1 month since I set out to lose some weight. My experiment? To outsource all aspect of my dietary including compliance.

I have a pretty hectic lifestyle (which I love), I have a business which is growing rapidly, I attend lots of dinners and drinks events with customers and staff. I usually entertain at my house 4 to 5 times a week, 3 or 4 breakfast meetings per week etc. I also one of those people who works 80 hour a week – but I love what I do.

I am 48 and overweight for most of my life apart from a couple of periods when through complete dedication to diet and exercise (at the expense of work effort), I have got down from my usual 130 – 140 kg to 110 kg.  I am fit and can spar with a boxing training for 30 minutes at a session.  I have never smoked but i have never been a sports person or a lover of the gym either. As soon as I started back in a new business – the lifestyle undid all the hard work.

I was looking for a solution to how to diet while maintaining a busy lifestyle. I needed professional help in an unusual way.

I am an Australian based in the Philippines at present and we have about 500 staff at Cloudstaff. The local Government here requires us to have company nurses for staff health and safety – so I thought why not use that team and they could help with me with this compliance experiment.

The experiment is to outsource my diet.

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How does it Work?

I have 2 qualified nurses who are employed by my company, I stagger their shifts, one starts at 6am and the other at 3pm 5 days a week.

The 2 nurses have 100% control my diet under the supervision of a dietician in conjunction with my GP. They plan the meals for the day and help prepare them.

They accompany me everywhere, –  if I go shopping they come with me, if I have a meeting, they follow me there.

They serve my meals and supply water and beverages and ensure compliance.

I’ll be sitting at my desk and a snack will automatically appear.

 

Meals

I am using up by 4 or 5 am, I start with a warm water – old chinese thing

  • 6:00 am Glass of warm protein Milk
  • 7:00 am half of my breakfast
  • 8:00 am other half of breakfast meal
  • 9:30 am quarter or third of the mid morning snack
  • 10:00 am More snack
  • 10:30 am Remainder of snack
  • 12:00 pm half of the lunch
  • 2:00 pm the other half of lunch
  • 3:00 pm Part of Afternoon snack
  • 4:00 pm Part of Afternoon snack
  • 5:00 pm Part of Afternoon snack
  • 7:00 pm Dinner
  • 9:00pm Glass of warm protein Milk

Sometimes I’ll even divide the snack even smaller. If the snack is a pancake, then I’ll get it cut into 4 pieces and served 15 to 30 minutes apart – so its just a mouthful.

Water. Every snack and every meal is served with water – I seem to prefer room temp water or slightly warm rather than ice cold – not sure why this is

 

So what have I found One month into this experiment.

  1. I’m never hungry – The smaller more – more frequent meals work! I wake up in the morning and I am just not hungry and I never let myself feel hungry – Because I have divided the snack into 2 to 4 mini snacks, I will usually skip a couple of them  then latter if I feel a little peckish, I use it.

  2. Portion Control – I never realised that 60g of protein was so small! Portion scales are apparently my friend. So now I really dread to think about how many calories are really in a standard restaurant meals I used to eat.

  3. I  started the diet off on 2000 calories a day and I was worried that it should have been much lower like 1200 – but it works and I don’t feel like sh*t. I started this 4 weeks ago I was 152kg, this morning 147.1 and so long as the trend is slowly heading downwards, I feel it more likley to be a sustainable lifestyle change.  I have crash dieted before and had my weight see saw.

  4. No Energy Slump – One month in and I still have heaps of energy and there is no mid afternoon slump.

  5. I have the weekends off,  I’ll choose what I want, this morning was eggs benedict with bacon but only half a serve and I did not feel hungry. I find myself just controlling what I eat.

  6. I am over sugar. At first there were headaches, grumpy – but this has all passed. At the office we celebrate staff Birthdays and their Cake Day (the anniversary when they started with us). Last month I gave out about 145 cakes. and these are great homemade cakes. No desire to have a piece.
    In fact if I now think of a Rum and Coke – I just think sickly sweet – Not interested

  7. It is easy to say “No”! On my day off the diet last week I was at a restaurant, had a few glasses of wine and when people started to order dessert, I said “No”. This was not about guilt.. its just that there is no craving for it.

  8. No exercise. I am not exercising yet.. I will.. just trying not to change too many things at once.

  9. It’s Automatic. I do not have to think about this diet.

  10. If I don’t like the food – change it.. Corn soup with protein powder was NOT a winner.. Don’t eat anything that does not taste good. If you are going to take the calorie hit.. Enjoy it.

So lets see how the next month goes.

Moving on from the Freelancer Model

IMG_0607

Many Australian companies have engaged freelancers to perform back office administration on a permanent basis. As their business grows and expands, at some point there may be a  need to have a more structured offshore model and bring all the distributed work-at-home freelancers under one roof. The reasons include:

A need for better security

Having freelancers work from home is a definite security risk. You’re never sure who will be in the room watching the computer as your freelancer works. Personal computers will always be a shared resource at home. Someone else in the family will be using it, installing unlicensed software, playing games, disabling firewalls and virus checkers.

Home PCs tend to have lower specs and may become sluggish when running a virus checker. Even if you insist that the PC runs a virus checker, someone is going to turn it off.

Furthermore, even if you use Terminal Server or Remote Desktop technology, a keylogger malware or virus is going to record every single keystroke, every URL and every password typed. Viruses may even grab screenshots of the Terminal Server window and upload them to servers accessible by hackers.

Adding Voice Function

You might want your freelancer to perform inbound or outbound calls – this is hard to do professionally if your freelancers are working from home. You get dogs and roosters in the background which hardly sounds professional to your customers. “I’m sorry I cannot hear you” is not very good customer service. Furthermore, home internet connections are unreliable and tend to have poor quality.

Infrasture (Internet and Electrical)

In the Philippines they call power blackouts – brownouts! There is nothing brown about them, when the power goes out, everything turns black. You can of course buy your freelancer a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply).  The problem is that most of the Internet infrasture is not on UPS. When there is a brown out in an area – the Internet stops working – even if you have a UPS – the reset of the Internet does not.

Agility

It is hard to be agile with a distributed freelancer workforce. However, having everyone in one location will easily help you get new process rolled out or get immediate feedback from staff on how a current process is working. Cross training staff to backup other employees is a lot easier when people are sitting next to each other.

Culture

It is not easy to build a real team culture with a distributed freelancer workforce. There should exist activities that would stir camaraderie and rapport within your outsourced team. This, in turn, can make them work together with ease. Stirring up team culture in the workplace is normally achieved by occasional BBQ parties, beers on Friday, little treats like shakes or a free massage.

When you decide to move from a distributed freelancer network to a central team model there are a number of things to consider.

The Big one is Tax!

Many freelancers do not pay tax. They should but they don’t.

Let’s say, you are paying your freelancer $6 per hour and you want to move to a central team model with proper work agreements etc. With this, your employees need to start paying taxes and other associated government charges like health, housing and pension.

Furthermore, you have to make allowances for bonuses, paid holidays and sick leave. Considering this, you have to adjust the salary of your freelancers.

Your first option is to ensure they receive $6 per hour after tax and benefits costs. Sounds simple enough. The problem with this though, is that you will be pricing yourself out of the market. The going rates for that position might be $7 per hour and you are now paying $9.This will become the benchmark that all current employees will want and new hires will demand.

The other option is to tell the employee that they will not be taking home the same amount as before because of taxes. This usually ends in anger and tears. There is also the risk of the employee going rogue and disrupting your business.

Location

After salary and tax, location is the next big issue. It’s a big change going from walking to the PC to spending two and half hours on a bus or train just to get to work. While there are transport allowances, the adjustment will not be easy for the employee.

Relocation is an option that many employees are willing to consider if you are willing to pay for it.

Success

The only way for this to work is by a one-on-one basis with each staff member.

It needs to be planned and coordinated properly. You also need to have a backup plan.

All communication needs to be done in a language they understand to ensure that there is no miscommunication.

Moving from a freelancer model to a central workforce is not as easy as it first may seem but it is necessary if the business is growing and needs to maintain agility.

Plan Now

If you are presently using the freelancer model, you had better consider these factors and plan.

When you hire someone, make sure they pay taxes. If you are hiring from the Philippines, make sure your freelancers secure their own business permits issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)

Make it clear that you will be paying them for their salary inclusive of the taxes and other bonuses or allowances.

This way, it will be easier and a lot simpler when it’s time to move to a centralized team model.

The Start of a Game Changer.. Wearable Tech

samsung-galaxy-gearFirst impressions on Samsung Gear…WOW… This is going to be huge, at least wearable technology, that is!

Version 1.0 is pretty awkward and probably not realistically usable, it is the Apple Newton Message Pad 100 of wearable technology – but I can see where this is going – and it’s going to be big!

It’s convenient!

The wristwatch we wear today was invented so people didn’t have to reach into their trouser pocket and fumble around for their pocket watch. This is the same thing – just for your phone. When you have an incoming call – you simply look at your watch! Today when you get a call you fumble around checking which pocket your phone is in, pull it it out, turn it over, look at the screen, see who is calling and think “No I don’t want to talk to that person just yet”.

Text messages are just the same, you are working, your phone beeps and rattles, you search your desk for your phone, unlock it only to discover the SMS is some telco offer.

Alert Overload

This is why I really think this technology will take off! I have been suffering ALERT overload – I just didn’t know it. I get a google email 15 minutes before a meeting is booked in my calendar. I have 2 phones – they beep and buzz, I need to dismiss alerts from them, then there are the pop-up windows on my PC. Set everything to quiet, disable all alerts, and let the watch take over. All alerts on your wrist, a gentle buzz, a quick flick of the wrist and all done.
When you rotate your wrist to look at the face, the watch detects this and turns on the screen.

Some other features

  • On the wrist band there is a microphone and speaker phone so you can take a call and simply hold your wrist to your ear to hear and speak. You’re not going to run a board meeting like this, but for a quick call it’s cool.
  • If your Galaxy Note III is plugged into your music system, you can control the Note III music player via the watch.
  • The voice memo is nice: record up to 5 minutes of memo, once finished it is transferred to the phone and then converted from voice to text – which is a nice touch.
  • If you walk away from your phone, you get a buzz when it loses bluetooth – but reconnects automatically
  • There is a 1.9m pixel camera which you can snap some photos from, again, not fantastic quality, but it is convenient.

In this version 1.0 of the watch I could probably find 100 things I did not like about it – but it’s going to be big!

Calendar Perfection

I had two meetings this morning, one which I put on my calendar and one which my Ann had entered. We have a detailed training course which all PAs go through. I forgot that there are almost 20 steps that PAs are trained of doing when setting up a meeting. I never followed them of course; partly because I don’t have the time to make it as detailed as Ann does. So when I looked at my calendar meetings this morning – I realised Ann’s entries are pretty closed to calendar perfection.

(1) The subject should be descriptive.
(2) When working across time zones, having the Time and Timezone in the subject means there is no confusion.
(3) Confirming with the attendees the day before.
(4) Meeting location is filled in, even if it is just on skype – if it is a physical address, the address must be Google maps clickable.
(5) Additional information in the Meeting details (like the Skype usernames).

#2 – Why Apple just does not get Asia!

I have complained about Apple’s one-phone–fits-all” strategy in previous posts. This strategy just doesn’t work in Asia (although there are now rumors of a low cost iPhone on the horizon). Samsung has proven that the demand for a range of phone options – from low cost to high end – is driving consumer choice here. Samsung has a reported 80% of the smartphone market in China, and some of the locals in China have nicknamed the iPhone 5 as the iPhone 4L :-)

Over the past few months, there has been another interesting trend emerging: Dual SIM Support. Now these are not new, but it looks like Dual SIM is about to become the norm here. Mobile phones with Dual SIM support have been around for a number of years, but they were usually evil, no-name brand phones with dodgy keypads, and which never seem to work reliably.

Recently, Asia has started to climb onto the dual SIM bandwagon. You walk into a mobile phone shop here and by default, most of the phones are Dual SIM, and not just the no-names. Samsung, Alcatel, Sony, and LG are now in the Dual SIM game Samsung has even branded their Dual SIM support as DUOS(tm).

It a very noticeable change.

Android Dual Sim Support is Mature
Under the cover, the chip manufactures have had the dual sim hardware technology worked out for a while – but the phone’s interface has been lacking in both usability and reliability. With the latest Android updates there is good support for dual sims. Send a Message – select which sim, in the settings choose which SIM is used for which function, etc.

Why Dual Sim?
In developed countries, most income levels are high enough that many people don’t really care too much how much they are paying for telcom services. The pain and hassle of having two different phone numbers on different carriers outweighs the cost savings. Asia is different.

Some Examples
In the Philippines, the 2 major carriers are SMART and GLOBE
With GLOBE it costs 1 peso (2 cents) to send a TXT message to someone on another network, or 0.5 peso (1 cent) if you send to someone within the GLOBE network. While cents to us sounds crazy inexpensive, here the minimum wage is about $200/mth., making each penny quite significant.

With SMART, for 25 Peso (50 cents) you can get unlimited call & texts to other SMART users and 20 texts to GLOBE for a 24 hour period.

These numbers show uswhy people here have two phones, or at least 2 SIM cards.

I don’t think you’ll see Apple joining the Dual SIM bandwagon anytime soon. There just isn’t the demand for it in their primary markets, and Apple’s telco deals wouldn’t be conducive to multiple carriers on one handset. So yet again, another small paper cut for Apple.

Now where is my Apple iWatch?

The PrePaid Phone Economy in Asia

In the emerging economies of Asia, the prepaid phone system is pretty sophisticated. It has to be; people here don’t have credit cards, many don’t have bank accounts or ATM Cards, and the logistics of trying to manage post-paid accounts would be interesting, to say the least. So the local telcos have become very creative when it comes to the features and tools available for their customers to maintain their pre-paid phone credit.

When you think of prepaid phone cards, you are probably used to cards with scratch off sections which reveal a code which is keyed into your phone to redeem the credit (or top-up with credit cards online). These prepaid cards are available here, but I have met people here who have had a prepaid mobile for five years and never used a pre-paid card. So how do they get credit? They go to a local store, hand over 5, 10, or 20 pesos (10, 20 or 50 cents) and the store owner instantly transfers credit from their phone to the customer’s phone.

Pass-a-Load

The system is called Pass-a-Load and anyone can do it – not just store owners. If you have credit on your phone, you can transfer credit to anyone else on the same network, without paying any commission. Simply send a TEXT message with the phone number and amount of credit to transfer, and it’s done. There is an affiliate program for store owners to receive a very small commission.

Request-a-Load

If you are out of credit, and don’t have money to buy credit use Request-a-Load. This is an interesting feature where you can enter a mobile number and for a cost of 1 peso (2 cents) the person will be sent a message saying, “Requesting load (phone credit) from you!” If you reply YES to the message, 5 pesos (10 cents) of credit is transferred from your phone to theirs.

Even more recent is the ability to borrow phone credit right from your phone company!

All-Net SOS

In the Philippines, one of the mobile carriers (Smart) will let you BORROW credit from them – they give you two options, both which allow you to go into the red with your prepaid credits, when you re-load, the loan is paid back. Now we are only talking about 10 cents here but still, if you have no money, and no one is going to send you credit with Request-a-Load, this gets you back on the air.
The first is On-Net, which gives you 3 texts and 1 peso of airtime. When you reload your plan, P4.00 (8 cents)  will be deducted as payment for your previous loan.
The second option is called All-Net. This service gives you four texts to all networks with P1.00 airport. Thus, P5.00 (10 cents) will be deducted.

Of course, there are guidelines for borrowing:
You can’t avail both SOS packages simultaneously. You have to pay for your loan first.
After a loan is made, any subsequent loan must wait at least 48 hours..
If you don’t reload within 30 days, your number will be service-blocked forever!

 Text Mo, Libre Ko?

As I was about to post this, a message arrives on my phone. Text Mo, Libre Ko? This is a new offering from another Philippine telco called Globe.
This is “Reverse Charging” for TEXT messages. When you send me a text message, it will cost you nothing, and you don’t need to have any credit on your phone. The receiver of the message pays! They will have 1 Peso deducted from their account for every message they receive from a selected phone number. When the “Reverse Charge” text message is sent, the receiver can choose to REJECT all messages, ACCEPT them and pay for them or ACCEPT only 1 message.

 

 

 

Outsourcing for Start-ups

I see so many start-ups that simply waste money, unintentionally (I’ve invested in them). They get $100k, or maybe a couple of million, and before they know it, the money is gone! I once told a new investor in my business that I valued every cent he invested “as if it was my own”. He promptly told me “Bugger Off! this was the money that I was going to use to send my kids to college – don’t you dare treat it like your own!”

So when you’re at the CitiBank ATM getting a credit card cash advance to pay the staff salary, you’ll be debating if you really needed to spend all that money on the EMC SAN or that $1000/day “consultant” during your early start-up phase. There are times and places for big shiny EMC SANs and $3000/day consultants. Most people get this timing wrong.

The same can be said about start-ups and outsourcing. It can be a good way to extend your time to life and reduce time to market OR you could just be wasting precious time and money. The trick with outsourcing for start-ups is knowing WHAT to outsource and what to keep in house.

#1 – Own and Create Your IP/Architecture.

You cannot, should not, and must not outsource this function of your start-up! You are the owner/creator of your IP and Architecture – not a company in Hyderabad, Manila, or Ho Chi Minh City. This doesn’t mean you personally need to be an uber-tech-god/goddess yourself. However, someone in your company who has a significant piece of skin in the game should be! That person needs to be living, thinking, breathing this stuff 24/7. This is the sort of person who goes to sleep dreaming about what they are going to be working on tomorrow: “Sorry honey, not tonight – I’m thinking about distributed content delivery frameworks for mobile networks in emerging markets.” You don’t get that level of commitment when you outsource to IBM, Accenture or Avanade. (Use these guys when Sequoia Capital opens their cheque book).

#2 – Product Management (see #1)

You cannot outsource product management (especially not to a constant!). I think this is more important than #1. A good product manager is like your technology architect. Instead of understanding how TECHNICALLY it all works, your product manager understands how it works from the BUSINESS LOGIC side of things. In many cases in early-stage start-ups, you are the product manager. See #6 below about how you can outsource some low-level Product Manager functions.

#3 – Design is King

Design is important these days. Design is something that can be outsourced, but again, probably not to Hyderabad, Manila, or Ho Chi Minh. Find a local designer in Australia, UK or the US for the core design layout & style guides – Get them in, work together on this. Once the design is nailed down, the rest will follow. Change it on the fly – you should be always able to tweak and change things, even at a moment’s notice. If your developers whine that it’s too hard, takes too long to make a change, etc., screw them! Change your developers today! If it can’t be changed quickly and easily, they built it wrong (sorry guys)!. If the new design/layout doesn’t work, change it back.

#4 – QA (Gratuitous Plug Alert: QA is CloudStaff’s forte)

I do not have a good track record with software QA (Quality Assurance) teams. In my previous business, WebCentral.com, I had about 6 developers. I never had a QA team, because I always figured they/I could test the work. Plus, I used to wait for the customers to find the problems and then fix them quickly. Back then, we only needed to support a couple browser versions and screen resolution was limited and customers were more forgiving and we didn’t have twitter.

Consider what you’re supporting today: multiple browsers, different operating systems, mobile versions, varying screen resolutions. Customers have a tendency to complain loudly to a large audience even if your product is free and business logic is getting a lot more complicated.

I have since learned the virtues of good quality assurance. I am now a believer. Good QA means you deliver a better product and your developers focus on coding. The key to good QA is getting good test plans – and lots of them. Then it’s throwing people at the test plans. These people run each test on each device and on each browser, etc, and they do it again each time you make a change QA can be a “set-and-forget” function once you have good test plans written.

If your development team say, “We use automated test systems – we can do it ourselves,” that’s perfect! Tell them that you will reduce their hourly salary to $8/hour for every hour they spend playing or even thinking about this stuff. This is something that you can, you should, you must outsource.

Not one single second of your developers’ time should be spent on this.

In fact, the development team really should not manage the QA process; a QA manager or a Product Manager should do that. When developers manage QA, testing tends to skew toward what they know is working. Development should not drive QA, nor should it set the QA agenda.

As the business owner, you should expect to see a summary of the QA tests. It’s simple to read, there are nice big coloured pie charts that should show which tests Pass, which are Blocked and which ones Fail, etc. It gives you visibility of the project’s progress.

#5 – Developer Productivity

Should I outsource development? It depends of the type of development. If you’re developing some really key, special technology, like a new video codec, a real-time chat protocol, or special security application, then no, you shouldn’t outsource the key or core of that project. Determine which parts of the project could be moved to a remote team.

However, when you do outsource development, never rely on a single developer. With all remote development teams we try to achieve a productivity multiplier effect. Have one senior developer and buddy them up with two or three smart junior developers. It gives you more bang-for-your-buck. It also means knowledge is shared and in a few years, those juniors will be senior developers.

 #6 – Outsource the little stuff

Now for the fun part. Get yourself a PA. In fact, get your team a PA. However, this is NOT the kind of PA that is going to be checking with QANTAS about the vintage champagne they are serving in first class on the A380 from London to Sydney (I think it’s Louis Roederer).

This is someone who can do the little things. Get them to save you 2 to 5 minutes here and there. Start with simple and then extend:

Ann – Skype Peter. Give him the password/domain, then change it in 1 hour and update Password Safe.

Ann – Find out what pizza the developers want, order it. Use my credit card.

Ann – Sign me up for a free account on this site and put the password/username in Password Safe.

Ann – Post this XXXX to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

Ann – Research this person.

Ann – Go to this website, get all the names of the VCs in Singapore, phone them and ask reception for the name of the partner who deals in Green.

Ann – What is the cheapest flight from London to KUL?

Ann – What are the last activity on my credit cards?

Ann – Summarise our top 20 competitors’ Tweets/LinkedIn posts.

None of the above is rocket science. In fact, I can probably do every task faster than Ann, but I value my time at $700/hour. She is $8/hour. The same thing applies to my in-house developers – what is their hourly rate? Sure, they can go and spend 10 minutes screwing around on Pizzahut.com and order their own dinner – but it will take them 10 minutes. It takes 30 seconds of their time for Ann to ask them what topping they want. (I don’t trust developers with my credit card anyway; the last time I did, I got a $1,000 bill from Amazon when someone ordered a High I/O Quadruple Extra Large EC2 instance server and forgot to shut it down.)

More importantly, hiring a PA sends a message to your team. You’re telling them, “you are valuable, and your time is valuable, so here is someone who is available to help you with the ‘little stuff.’ Now get back to work!”

And it’s not as over-the-top as you would think, but you might even consider two PAs and have them cover 8AM to midnight – with a few ours overlap. When you’re working at home at 10PM, it’s great being able to throw a simple task to your PA. But it also prevents you from having a “single point of failure.” If a PA is sick or leaves, you have a backup. There is always research/data harvesting work they can be doing in the background for you.

Finally, about that champagne…

[11:46:45] Ann: Hi Lloyd, I called QANTAS, they are not sure of the vintage of the Champagne, but they told me they know that they are serving Comtes de Champagne Taittinger on that flight.  Thank you, Ann.

PowerUp ISP

When visiting a new CloudStaff customer recently in Brisbane he said he had something for me. I thought it might a VOIP handset or manuals for his CloudStaff(ers) in the Philippines (or Chocolate). How cool is this…He found them on the weekend and thought I might like them.

These are 1.4 Mb disks of the PowerUp Installer… I am not sure if this is the Microsoft Internet explorer build OR the one Joe wrote which used used his own installer to download the applications from a PowerUp FTP server.

These are early because we eventually has the PowerUp logo printed onto the disk to save using the sticker.

These are circa mid 90’s, I am guessing 15 years old. I wonder what ever happened to the Floppy disk copying machine that we had?

As a bit of an interesting note… As an ISP we paid $100,000 to install an 100Mb link to Telstra Wholesale and THEN we paid about 30 cents per Mb of data. It eventually came done to 10 cents per Mb.  To give you an idea how that compare… Today’s Telstra BizEssentials 500GB Max Plan which costs $150/mth – 15 years ago would have been $90,000/mth

This was a immense barrier to Australian Web developers, business owners who wanted to build rich content for the Internet. Just too expensive, Youtube, Facebook, Google could never have started in Australia.