Thursday, June 19, 2014

Update on the Plan

I am making good progress on the plan laid out in Charting a Course.  

We paid off our mortgage on April 1.  We are officially debt free and it is a great feeling to know that we have the freedom to choose.  My standard joke at work is "It's the relationship with the mortgage company that keeps you coming back."  Well, that relationship is over for good.

The next financial goal is to accumulate enough of a nest egg to be able to meet our basic needs for six months without working (and without dipping into our retirement funds).

Meanwhile, I'm getting great experience as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.  I have led three Structured Improvement Activity (SIA) events and have another scheduled for next week.  I described the first event back in February in Another Update on the Plan.  It was a virtual event using a teleconference and Microsoft Lync Meeting.  At the end of the three day event, one of the participants had this say: "Thanks for a great event, that would have taken months in any other format."

The second event was a three-day "Voice of the Customer" SIA for the company's data center customers, with the sole intent of understanding the needs, wants, and priorities for improvements to the data centers.  Since my current job is in our company's data centers, I found it challenging to stay neutral as a good facilitator should.  Luckily, I had a master black belt working with me who could take over the facilitator role when I felt the need to step into the role of subject matter expert.  

The third event was a two day session with the company's technical operations workforce strategy team.  It was fun to watch this highly interactive team brainstorm and put together a strategy that will greatly improve the training for the company's technical employees.  

I have heard that I'm starting to get a reputation as a good black belt and people are starting to seek me out to lead their events.  I am over half way to becoming certified by the company as a LSS Black Belt.  I have a good chance of having the certification by August or September.  I'm also thinking I should take the Black Belt certification exam offered by an external standards board, so that I can point both to the experience gained while obtaining my company's certification and to the industry-wide credential.

Finally, I have business cards for Dream Walker Solutions and I'm starting to develop leads.  I'll write more on that as those leads pan out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grace under fire

I just read a great article on making good decisions, particularly when under pressure.  Here is the conclusion:

The five-step process for making better decisions:

  1. Maintain a feeling of control over your situation.
  2. Emotional preparation. Consider how things could be worse.
  3. Monitor your breathing.
  4. Controlled empathy.
  5. Ask "What advice would I give my best friend in this situation?"
Read more here: 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Entrepreneur's Manifesto

The entrepreneur is a relatively unique type of person.  Not many people will bet their fortunes on an idea or a dream.  Many who try, fail.  But many who fail keep trying until they find something that flies.  This is a person we should honor.  If it weren't for entrepreneurs, America would not have been discovered by the Europeans, the English colonies would never have formed, and the US of A would not have been founded.  John Steele Gordon points out in the latest issue of Imprimus that the Virginia Company, not the British government, started Jamestown in 1607.  The Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies were started by private companies as well. Even in theocratic New England, they survived and grew because of their entrepreneurial spirit.  By the time the 13 colonies declared their independence from the British Crown, 146 years after the first colony was founded, they were the richest place on earth per capita.  No wonder the King didn't want to give them up!

Entrepreneurs do more than sell things.  They change things, usually for the better.  They develop medicines, improve daily life, feed the hungry, free the slave, and provide hope for their family and their community.  Elon Musk and his team are figuring out how to change the cars we drive from all gas to all electric.  The Google team figured out how to put the world's information at our fingertips.  Florence Nightengale established the modern profession of nursing, saving lives for generations.  Proctor & Gamble figured out how to deliver the household supplies we need at a price we can afford.  The food supply chain, from farmers to grocers, deliver to our neighborhoods an incredible variety of flavorful, fresh, safe, and healthy (and not so healthy) food at a low cost.

Honor those who risk their lives and fortunes to make this planet a better place.  Robert Heinlein astutely pointed out that 

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Be an entrepreneur.  Change the world.

Startup Mechanics - Trademarks, Part 3

A quick update -- to register a trademark with the USPTO, you must demonstrate that you are engaged in inter-state commerce - i.e. produce a copy of an invoice or bill of sale from a transaction with someone in another state.  The US Constitution gives the federal government juristiction over only inter-state commerce, so if all of your business is within one state, you cannot register a trademark with the federal government.  Good to know that the Constitution is still honored!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Startup Mechanics - Trademarks, Part 2

A few things I learned from the USPTO:
  1. You register a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO,  
  2. It can take a year or more to get a trademark.
  3. You can start using TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) immediately to indicate that you consider your mark to be exclusive.  You can only use the "circle R" symbol if your trademark is registered.
  4. You have to specify your service and/or goods to which the trademark applies.  Once registered, you can narrow your goods or services (jewelry down to earrings), but you can't widen it (jewelry up to jewelry stores).  If you want to widen your goods or services, you have to re-apply and start the process over.
  5. You can also claim a trademark through "common law" rights.  That is, you don't have to register your trademark in order to claim exclusive rights to it.  I'm sure it is much easier to defend your trademark if it is registered, though.
  6. If you are not yet using the trademark in commerce, it costs you extra to file an "Intend to Use" application.
  7. You can save $100 if you file online and your goods/services can be categorized in their standard classes.
  8. You'll want to search carefully to make sure that there aren't trademarked items in your general area of commerce that sound the same as your intended trademark.  The example they gave was T.Markey and Tee Marquis sound almost the same, so they would not both get a trademark.  Whoever could prove they were first would get the trademark.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Startup Mechanics -- Trademarks

Tonight I searched the US Patent and Trademark Office's database ( for the name and tag line I've been using.  First the bad news:  there is a business consulting firm with a trademark on "From Mind to Market".  There is no trademark on "Walk out your dreams," so that is my new tag line.

The good news: no one has a trademark on "Dream Walker Solutions".  I need to start moving on getting the name trademarked so that it is safely mine to use.  Government paperwork, here I come.  Another chance to use the skills I learned in college: how to deal with the bureaucracy and win.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Update on the Plan

Three months have passed since my last post.  Here are a few updates:
  • I have started preparing for my first Lean Six Sigma event.  I will lead a team that will merge together two business units' processes for managing requests for computers and software.  The two business units were joined together as part of a major reorganization within the company.  We will define how they will fund such requests for computers and software, and then how the review and approvals will be managed.  The result is expected to cut a week off of the average time it takes to deliver a new computer to someone.
  • I updated the Dream Walker Solutions web site, replacing the leadership development section of the Innovation Blueprint with Lean Six Sigma. This ties my current strategy for moving into consulting to the more long term roadmap for offering "Mind to Market" consulting. The Innovation Blueprint now contains these three components:
    • Define: Business Model Generation - A great idea and a vision are just the beginning.  To bring that idea from mind to market, you need to define a business model.  We provide a framework and facilitate the creation of a business model that will work.
    • Discover: Lean Startup - The biggest waste of time is building a product or service that no one wants.  Lean Startup is an approach for investigating and experimenting with real products and real customers to determine the combination of product and business model that succeeds.
    • Deliver: Lean Six Sigma - The way you run your business matters.  Once you have a successful product and business model, Lean Six Sigma is a set of tools for removing waste, streamlining your processes, and determining how to deliver the best results.
  • The target date for being mortgage and debt free: May 1, 2014.