December 22nd, 2010

Some Benefits of Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

I recently committed to a charity event that could see me in a boxing ring on March 26th, 2011 taking part in the Fight for the Cure.  This is an event to raise money and awareness in the real fight … against cancer.  Part of the “entertainment” will be three “white collar” boxing matches that will see some senior Ottawa executives trying out their new found boxing skills.

I have been “in the program” for a few weeks now, and a typical week sees me in the boxing club once a week for one-on-one coaching with one of the main sponsors of the event Matt Whittaker from Final Round Boxing.  Also once a week I attend a “conditioning camp’ with Pat Woodcock from Elite Performance Academy.  In between I try to keep my own routines going, on the spinning bike or elliptical trainer.  It hasn’t taken long to see differences …I  am learning new skills and feeling more comfortable in a ring sparring with an opponent plus this old body is getting a little harder already.

So, as I was lying in my epsom salts bath last night after a particularly gruelling session with Matt (I didn’t say it was easy), and was reflecting on the experience to date I was thinking about how this experience applies to the rest of my life. 

Here are some random thoughts:

1.  There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you learn new skills and start to be able to demonstrate them.   Obviously I am not even at the novice stage yet, but it feels good to be able to move a round the ring throw some punches and defend against punches.  That translates to any new skill … a new language, a new way of “selling”, a better understanding of technology, or any life skill.  Learning new stuff keeps us interested and alive!

2.  We are all capable of doing more than we think … and I have been particularly impressed with the value of a coach.  Not something i have really “valued” in the past, but having someone encourage, push and help you really makes a big difference.   Good managers can give their people that same kind of boost … if they are willing to take the input!

3.  There is an old saying that people fall into three camps … those that make things happen., those that watch things happen and those that wonder what just happened!  It is far more fun to be the one making things happen… it can be a little scary, but its amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.  Which of course brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the movie Braveheart, “Everyone dies, not everyone TRULY lives!”

4.  I lead a busy life, but have been able to fit this extra commitment into my routine … if something is given enough priority then you will find a way to do it.

5.  There are a ton of interesting people in the world and you meet them by getting out there … sometimes getting outside your comfort zone is a great way to meet new people.

6.  People are impressed when they learn you are doing something that they consider to be tough … and that is good for your self esteem, it makes you feel good about yourself!

So … its almost 2011, make yourself a “resolution” to do something new in the new year and see what it does for you!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

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December 21st, 2010

The New Hump day … the Winter Solstice?

Traditionally the term hump day is applied to Wednesday as the middle of the week … hence once over the hump its all downhill to the weekend.   I’m not a big fan of the concept because it kinda feels like you are wishing your life away if the only thing to look forward to is the weekend.

So … the REAL hump day is today The Winter Solstice, because after today the days get longer again!

The solstice occurs two times a year, winter and summer, when the Sun is at its greatest distance from the equator.  The winter solstice occurs between December 20 and 23rd, in 2010 it is on Dec 21st, when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.  

The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days.  The winter solstice marks the first day of winter and marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year.  The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky.  Between the equator and the Arctic Circle, the sun rises and sets farthest south on the horizon for the year and the period of daylight it at its shortest.  

The events surrounding the winter solstice vary across cultures.  However, most cultures hold gatherings, festivals, holidays, rituals or other celebrations around that time.  

The word solstice comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

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December 20th, 2010

Some Thoughts on eCards for the Holiday Season

Eagle used to buy hundreds of Holiday cards, pay for postage and send them out to all kinds of people, and we would also buy some clients a holiday gift.  It was an expensive exercise, but we wanted those people to know we valued them.  A few years back we revamped our approach to the holiday season, and we took all of that money (and some) and donated it instead to charity.  today we send everyone an electronic card (which costs us nothing) and tell them that we are donating the money to charity instead … the response has been overwhelmingly favorable.  Who needs another card on the shelf at the office anyway?

Because we do things this way I do tend to pay attention to what other companies are doing … and, as usual, I have an opinion or two.

1.  Just because Eagle chose to adopt our current model, that does not mean it is right for everyone … no issue with that.

2.  When I get an ecard from someone I know then I am just happy to hear from them … whether an ecard or just a “Hey, how’s it going” email.

3.  When I get a holiday ecard from someone I don’t know very well, an acquaintance, a business associate etc., I look for that statement that says they used their card budget for some charitable purpose.  If its not there I must admit I think “cheap”.  An email costs nothing, at least a hand written card takes some effort and requires a stamp!

So … if you are saving some money, and time and effort by using email instead of cards .. why not make a donation to charity.  The people who receive that message will appreciate it … and the charities will appreciate it even more!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

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December 17th, 2010

The Power of "You"

I have incorporated this theme in several blog entries over time … the idea that we are ultimately responsible for our own destiny.  We can blame circumstance, “the other person”, our parents, the government if we like … but really, we hold the key to our own destiny.  We decide if we are going to be successful or not, happy or not, fulfilled or not.

One of the more recent blog entries I wrote was called Help Yourself … a short blog entry on this subject of taking charge of your life.

Another recent blog entry asked What Motivates You … in that entry I refer to Nick Vujicic who was born without arms and legs and is a motivational speaker!  No arms, no legs, no problem is his motto!   You think you have obstacles in your life, think about Nick’s life!

Today I am including an article written by Michael Dalton Johnson who I have referenced before.   I think Michael’s article is a positive look at what is possible, and presents the same argument from a slightly different, and perhaps more inspiring, perspective.  Michael is the Editor & Publisher of “Top Dog Sales Secrets”, the best-selling sales book featuring; advice from 50 renowned sales experts. He is the Founder and Publisher of SalesDog.com, an education resource for sales professionals. Johnson is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of business leadership. For a free subscription to his weekly sales tips newsletter, visit his website at http://www.salesdog.com/

Reflections on Your Greatness

by Michael Dalton Johnson

You are great.  You are far greater than you imagine. You are a unique entity given the power to create your own life. When you look outside yourself for self-definition you are giving your power away. However, when you understand and accept that you alone possess the power to define yourself and your life, there are dramatic changes. You will find new clarity, focus and confidence. You’ll also find that using this incredible gift is both exhilarating and challenging.

You are in charge.  Think of your life as a movie. You are the writer, director, producer and star. You choose your co-stars and extras. Whether the movie is a smash or a flop is in your hands.

Your thoughts determine your outcomes.  This is one of the great mysteries. There are a lot of theories about this phenomenon but no one really knows how it works. However, it does work and reveals the astonishing power of your thoughts.  If you think you are average, you are. If you think you can’t win, you won’t. Conversely, if you see yourself succeeding, you will. If you expect great things to come to your life, they’re on their way.

You bring others with you. Your courage and confidence to examine your life and make changes will have a profound effect on those around you. When you lift yourself up, others are lifted up too.

Your life. Your responsibility. The first and most important rule is to take responsibility for everything that happens in your life. Following this rule puts you in command.  Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”  While I’m certain he was talking about fighting wars and leading nations, his statement applies to your life as well.

You have the power. Life will inevitably send you your share of setbacks, problems, disappointments and losses. These things are beyond your control. How you react to them is not. Listen to the voice within you and realize you have a choice. You have the greatness to persevere, to forgive, to smile, to lift yourself and others up and to move on.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

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December 16th, 2010

CANADIAN JOB MARKET – Mini update Nov/Dec 2010

General Observations:

In November Canada had a net gain of 15,000 jobs and the unemployment rate improved quite significantly to 7.6% from 7.9% in October.  The Canadian staffing index in October was up again at 94, as it continues its long road back from the recession low of 65 in May 2009 (meaning the staffing industry shrank 35%).  

The Canadian dollar continues to be strong, approaching parity at 99.3c US at time of writing. The markets continue to react to the events playing out on the world stage, but despite political situations like WikiLeaks, countries like Ireland accepting bailouts and escalating strife in Korea the markets have fared quite well.  The TSX has managed to show a decent gain with a current reading of 13.172, up about 500 points for last month’s reading of 12,657. 

For Eagle, November was a continuation of the hectic pace we have seen since September.  November marks Eagle’s first quarter and it was a very busy quarter … indicating that the Canadian economy is still doing well in its recovery! 

More Specifically:

The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) continues to be a very hot market for Eagle.  November was no different with the banks, telecommunications companies, retail clients and the system integrators all busy.  There were even signs of life from the Ontario Government, which has demand but struggles with its finances. Having been busy for some time now we are definitely seeing some signs of skills shortages, many instances of candidates getting multiple job offers and as always it is the clients who can “pull the trigger” quickly who are getting the best people.  The demand seems to be strong for both contract and permanent resources, as companies prepare for what should be a continued period of growth (according to an RBC report just today).  

In Western Canada, Calgary is the hottest market once again with increased demand for both contract and permanent employees.  The other Western markets have all seen an increase in demand too, if not at that same torrid pace.  There is more optimism, leading to hiring staff and starting projects.  The biggest challenge from here on will be finding talent and the best people are in big demand.  With Alberta’s GDP up more than 3% in 2010 and expected to do better in 2011 there is an expectation we are in for a busy time! 

Things are picking up a little Eagle’s Eastern Canada region.  Montreal continues to be an active market, particularly in the financial services sector.  The Federal Government in Ottawa has however started to pick up a little.  Investment in infrastructure renewal has become a hot topic as a result of the Auditor General’s report plus a need to compensate for the growing exodus of retiring “boomers”.  The demand is a little mixed across government departments as some struggle with the impending “hard stop” on stimulus spending money, and what that might do to budgets.

The following are some facts/indicators we are watching as of time of writing:

> The price of oil rose to $88.20 meaning oil companies in the West are investing in projects again.
> The TSX had a good month currently sitting at 13,172, up 500 points from the last month reading of 12,657.
> The Canadian dollar continues to be strong and is currently at 99.3 cents US.
> Prime remains at 3% after three recent increases, and is not expected to rise again soon!
> Canada added 15,000 jobs and the unemployment rate improved a significant .3% to 7.6%. 
> November was another great month for Eagle, ending a bumper quarter.  The drivers of growth were primarily in Toronto and Alberta, however other markets also chipped in.
> The Canadian Federal government market is picking up as they look at renewal of aging systems, and ways to address the “boomer’ brain drain to retirement.

 Summary:

An unemployment number of 7.6% would typically mean that the professions are starting to struggle to find people.  Certainly this appears to be the case across the staffing industry.  In a world where Canada has lost blue collar jobs to lower cost offshore solutions this may be the new unemployment norm as we build our knowledge based economy and rely heavily on the resource based economy of Western Canada.

For some time we have talked about a slow recovery, however this last quarter we have seen an increased pace in that recovery … and Eagle enjoyed a very strong quarter.  The staffing index continues to recover and we expect November to continue that trend, getting closer to that pre-recession benchmark of 100.

It appears that almost all markets are picking up the pace in terms of needing talent.  Toronto led the way and Alberta has been catching up for some time, but now we are seeing demand across the board and in most industries.  Even the Federal Government has been a little busier, but tempered with some uncertainty about budgets once the “stimulus” dollars are cut off.

The global economy is a little scary, but every month Canada seems to fare well and we get a little stronger.  The financial markets are good, the dollar is strong, unemployment is the lowest in almost two years, the oil patch is doing well and there is increased demand for people across the board.

My very strong advice to any companies considering hiring would be (a) start the process now; (b) develop very clean processes to find, screen, choose, hire and onboard these new resources; and (c) know that you will have a lot of competition, so don’t procrastinate!

That is my monthly look at the job market across Canada and some of its influences.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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December 15th, 2010

The Glass is MORE than Half Full!!!!

By nature I am an optimist, but even the most optimistic of people might be persuaded that the end of the world is nigh with all of the negative news that we are bombarded with.  We are in more debt than ever … this from the same people that wanted us to spend to keep the economy going!  We are worried about inflation … but the inflation figures are not bad!  We worry about deflation … duh!!!  There are countries having trouble recovering from the recession .. but there are countries doing very well, Germany and Canada would be just two of them!

The truth is that there are more ways for people to get themselves into your face today than there have ever been … and everybody is an expert!  Bad news gets attention … nice stuff is just kinda nice!  So we hear negative, negative, negative … BUT our economy needs us to have confidence!

Here is what I know …

My company, Eagle, has experienced steady but slow recovery from the recession through most of 2010.  The last three months have been extremely busy … and we are in the “jobs” business, surely that is a good indicator!

The Canadian Staffing Industry has seen slow and steady recovery over the course of 2010 too.  We have an index that measures that growth … its benchmark of 100 was set pre-recession in July 2008 and the depths of the recession saw the industry shrink by 35% to a reading of 65 in May 2009.  The latest reading was in October, at 94 … and I expect November to be up again based on Eagle’s experiences.  That is a recovery, slow or not … we are getting better and better!

Every indicator i can think of is positive in contrast to the recession, which means we are heading the right way … right?

My investment portfolio has returned to its former glory (OK it seems to be back where it was before the recession)!

Unemployment rates in Canada are hovering around 8% … which would imply that the professions are probably facing skill shortages (and that is what we are seeing in the staffing industry). 

Interest rates are still low enough that companies can invest without paying punitive interest charges, yet high enough to attract foreign investment.

The oil patch is busy and growing again.

The banks are held up as a model for the world, are expanding, busy and doing well.

Canada weathered the recession better than most, and continues to perform strong on the world stage. 

The true problem here is that any economy depends to a large extent on an intangible factor, called confidence!  If we let the naysayers undermine that confidence then we will be hurting our recovery.  I don’t think I look at the world through rose coloured glasses, in my world the recovery continues and the signs are positive.

I saw two reports just this morning that were positive (so yes, some people still report good stuff)  …  the Royal Bank issues a report suggesting that they expect the Canadian economic growth to speed up, YIPPEE!  Another report from the US Business Roundtable tells us that CEOs of large US companies are much more optimistic about the economy, expecting increased sales, more investment and more jobs!

We have been through a recession, we know bad things happen and we need to be pragmatic.  BUT, when the signs have been positive for so long surely its time to BELIEVE … I believe that the glass is MORE THAN HALF FULL!!!!!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

Subscribe to News from the Nest for monthly updates about job market trends, industry news, and more.

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December 14th, 2010

Giving Back at this Time of Year

Today I spent a fair bit of time sending holiday wishes (via email) to people I know … which includes people I see regularly and some that I haven’t seen for a while.

It is a cool exercise to go through … it is a reminder about people I have lost touch with, and that leads to some renewed efforts to get together.   I also hear back from people with little updates about what is happening in their lives … which is nice.  Its a reminder that whatever business you are in, it is the people that count … and relationships are important, even those that have lapsed a little.

Its an opportunity to re-connect

Its a chance to share some news.

Its a way to remind people that you do care about them. 

Its also a way to show what you are doing for others this holidays.  The Eagle message talks about our annual tradition of donating the money that we would have spent on cards and presents, to help the needy.  This year we donated $15,000 which means we have donated $75,000 to this cause over the last five years.  I have not heard of a client who felt that was a wrong decision because they wanted a card!  In fact quite the opposite … it has proven to be very popular.  

 Maybe your company could try doing something like that … donate money to charity instead of client presents and cards!!!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

Subscribe to News from the Nest for monthly updates about job market trends, industry news, and more.

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December 13th, 2010

Priorities

Any kind of “time management” or “personal productivity” system needs you to choose priorities.

Priorities are also one of the hardest things to set.  human nature plays a big part:

If someone is standing in front of me then do they have a higher priority than the person who left?
If the phone rings then does the person on the other end have a higher priority than the person in front of me?
If the person asking me to do something is a friend then is their priority more important than the client who I don’t much like?
If I have 20 things on my “To DO” list do I just do them in order … top to bottom or bottom to top?  Where does number 21 fall on the list?
If I have 20 things on my To Do list do I just do the ones I like to do first?

We can all relate to the above scenarios so if you don’t prioritise properly then you just default to whatever feels right at the time.

Unfortunately there is no good news here, because setting priorities is very tough.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  If you are in sales … the actions that lead to the sale are the most important in your list.
2.  Steven Covey uses the 4 quadrant theory … asking whether things are Important or Urgent.
a.  Important and Urgent … top of pile, but try to plan them better.
b.  Important and not Urgent … next on the list and where you should spend the most of your time.
c.  Not Important and Urgent … as you can but do you REALLY need to do it at all.
d.  Not Important and Not urgent … take them off the list, unless you have tons of time on your hands.
3.  Other questions that might help in prioritising tasks …
a.  Is this for a client?
b.  Is this for a boss?
c.  Is this for a family member?
d.  Is this going to help me in my job … or someone else?
e.  Is this going to affect a chain of events?  Are other people depending upon me to get my bit done before they can do theirs?
f.  Is there a hard time deadline?
g.  Is it satisfying?
h.  Can I do it?  Can I do it in the time allotted?

Those who are MOST efficient will find ways to get their most important work done … and the way they do that is to always work on the most important stuff first.  it is different for every role that you will have throughout your career … but when you master that role you will have figured out what is most important.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

Subscribe to News from the Nest for monthly updates about job market trends, industry news, and more.

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December 10th, 2010

Entrepreneurship … Risk and Reward

When I write a blog entry I don’t like to write about situations that “just happened” or about events that get me agitated!   Not because I don’t think they are good topics but more because when I write I try to do in a balanced way, having considered the situation carefully.  Many times people have assumed that what I wrote was referencing them or their actions directly, and almost invariably they are wrong.  Very occasionally they are partly right, because their “incident” might have sparked an idea which I developed based on  numerous situations.

Today I was having a little “writers block” so I went looking for some inspiration … and as so often happens it was Seth Godin who got me thinking.  He wrote a blog entry called Living With Doubt … which struck me as an excellent description of the entrepreneurial mind as any I have read.  As usual he accomplished more in a couple of sentences than I could in a page!

I have been spending time with my boxing coach recently.  A 26 year old entrepreneur who likes to downplay his accomplishments but its refreshing to talk about business with him.  He talks about one of his early “Ah ha!” moments … while he was providing some evening boxing coaching “one on one” to a doctor,  “I suddenly thought, why am I working at the credit union for $10 an hour, when I get $70 an hour for doing this … and I love this!

What he doesn’t see is that as an entrepreneur it was an easy decision … but for many people that decision would be too risky!

Seth’s point is that without accepting risk you miss out on opportunity … learning to embrace risk open doors!

So … to be clear, this blog was inspired by recent events.  Seth Godin’s clear insight on his blog and Matt Whittaker’s thoughts on entrepreneurship.  Credit where credit is due!

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?
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December 8th, 2010

Life is Busy … Take Charge of it!

businessman with 6 arms all doing something representing busy-nessThe economy is recovering and in the staffing world we are VERY busy … clients are ramping up on projects, preparing to implement their next growth plans, executing on plans that were held up by the recession and they are also replacing retiring boomers!   This is all good for our industry, allowing us to bring real value to our clients because every company needs great people in order to be successful … and we find those people!

It is nice to see the business thriving after a tough economic period.  The energy needed to keep up with the increased workload is a positive energy, unlike the “willpower” needed to keep pushing through the tough times.   However … it IS busy!  For me that means I need to be very organised, I need to practice what I preach in terms of time management (personal productivity) and I need to understand what my goals are today because they help me to prioritise the tasks at hand.

Back in January I wrote a blog entry called 2010 – What Will You Make of It?  The idea was to set goals for 2010, and they would help to determine (a) how to prioritise time and (b) become a measure of how I had done for the year.  If you did that exercise then by now you would have some sense of what worked and what didn’t … are you on track for where you want to go and if not, then how can you adjust to get back on track.

It is a reality that things change over time so goals can change too.  I had a fitness goal to get my weight down and to exercise 4 or 5 times a week.  Things changed … in August I returned to soccer after a three year “retirement” and enjoyed it so much that my new goal is to get fit enough to play again next year.   That involves seeing a doctor regularly, about my knee and a ton of massage therapy, but I am on track although it always takes longer than you want.   A little while back I volunteered to take part in a charity boxing event next March, which entails five months of training in order to get ready for it.  I have been, and intend to,.  stick to the plan … but there are repercussions (a) negatively, on my time and other priorities and (b) a positive impact on my soccer fitness program.  Its all good … I just adjust my priorities to accommodate.

So its OK to modify the plan as you go … but it is very important to have a plan.

We are in the final few weeks of 2010 so its a great time for people to (a) look back at this year to understand if goals were met, and even whether goals were set; the other thing to do is to look forward to 2011 and start to plan now.  What do you want to achieve in 2011?  What will your priorities be?  Where will you spend your time?  This is a subject i have written about a number of times and one particular blog entry might be a useful guide, because it also references several other relevant entries.   The blog entry is called Personal Productivity but reference information with time management tips, ideas for goal setting etc.

One of the things I try to do is to “Move My Agenda” every day towards my goals … whether they are personal goals or professional goals.

Anyone who has followed my blog will know this is a one of those subjects that I am passionate about … and I credit any success I have had in my career as much to my ability to “get stuff done” in an organised way, as to any other single factor.

Try it … it works!

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?
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