on Nov.20, 2010, under other
Today’s blog is motivated by a comment left by the Voice of Reason:
“you have written about setting goals, not rushing and sticking with your focus.
How about writing about how to keep yourself motivated and the importance of positive thought.
You are probably the most focused person I know and you are the most positive person that I know.
Is there a correlation?”
I gain focus & motivation by other people’s negativity.
When I was in university an old friend told me that I would never learn to speak fluent Japanese …. “it’s too difficult for you…”
This person’s negativity gave me focus — 6 years later, I passed the highest level on the Japanese proficiency exam, and there was a time when I was living in Japan that I spoke Japanese as well as my native tongue, English.
When I first applied to my previous company — someone told me “you will never get hired….they only take a select few…”
This person’s negativity gave me focus — and I made sure I got the job, a job which ultimately changed my life.
Maybe if this person had not been so negative….maybe if he had not told me “you will never get the job…”
I probably wouldn’t have wanted the job as much as I did, so maybe I would not have chased to ensure I got it.
When my previous company brought me to Europe to launch a division for the company in Monaco…. several people told me that I would fail….
“your aggressive American style will not work in Europe”
(in fact, I heard this in each country I worked – your style will not work in Japan; your style will not work in China; your style will not work in western Europe; etc… and each time I proved to develop the best sales offices in the region the office was located)….
This negativity gave me focus.
When we first launched naseba …
I had lunch with someone I had just met in Monaco, someone who is retired in Monaco, and extremely negative about everything, a big moaner and complainer.
Over that lunch he told me “it is going to be next to impossible to succeed with naseba … you are trying to launch a company at the wrong time…in France, which is very costly social taxes and business taxes … I think you are wasting your time…”
(I have not spoken to this person since that lunch, but 4 years later — right after we went public, he tried to call my office in Monaco and offer his services as a “board member,” needless to say we did not return his phone calls)
Over the years, I have learned (to be honest, it didnt happen over night) to not let negativity consume me, nor prevent me from achieving.
I try to never speak negatively about anyone or anything.
My grandfather is 93 years old and I have never heard him say a negative word about anyone or anything – not once.
Now adays …. It seems moaning and complaining has become a virus… a world wide epidemic.
Seriously – count how many times you or someone around you says something negative over the course of the day…
example: “I am tired…I have a headache….my boss is an idiot….this food sucks….the car in front of me is a clown….etc.”
Then go through your day and try and focus on not saying anything negative – try and not say one negative word about anyone or anything.
Nothing positive is gained by telling people you are tired; or that your meal is no good; or screaming at the car in front of you for driving like an idiot….
Negativity only brings you down and distracts from your focus.
tomorrow I will post another part to “ode to the old school…” exploring the importance of “core values”
…the importance of the team having the same core values.
on Nov.15, 2010, under FND
5 years ago, (with the support of our wives) Jason and I decided to take our FND ritual to a new level, and we started the FND trip.
The FND trip is where we dedicate one week to enjoying food, wine and as Jason says “seeing cool shit“ — experiencing.
The FND Trip begins on a Friday and ends 8 days later on a Saturday … thus, we get to enjoy two Friday night dinners.
Over the past 5 years, on our various trips we have traveled by car and train all around France, Switzerland and Italy to enjoy great food, drink great wine, see “cool shit,” but most importantly, to experience.
The FND trip began in 2006…
Jason and I took a week to drive from Monaco through Tuscany (a region of Italy famous for food and wine)…
We took the rural back roads and we stopped whenever we wanted.
Once we stopped at a tiny vineyard in Tuscany.
The owner appreciated our visit so much that he brought us cheese, italian ham, and several glasses of their wine.
We sat in cheap plastic chairs in their backyard facing their vineyard … drinking their wine.
The experience was like something out of a movie.
Over that week, we traveled through Sienna, Pisa, Milan, Florence and many small Italian villages and vineyards along the way, we experienced.
In 2007, we met up in Paris …
In Paris, we went to cafés, smoked cigars, ate lunch or dinner at some of the best restaurants in Paris, and of course saw “cool shit” ….
After a few days, we rented a car and drove from Paris down through Burgundy to Lyon to the south of France … we stopped whenever we wanted.
On that trip, we enjoyed dinner at 4 of the 5 top rated *** Michelin restaurants in France…
an unforgettable week — experience.
In 2008, we met again in Paris…
That first Friday night, we didn’t like the “tiny” table we were given at the ** Michelin restaurant so we left the restaurant before we even sat down …
It was around 8pm and Jason challenged me to pull off the unthinkable: to get us a table at “Le Cinq” without reservations on Friday night …
“Le Cinq” is a *** michelin, arguably the best restaurant in Paris, certainly the most famous…
30 minutes later….
Although “Le Cinq” was fully booked, I talked my way into getting us a table.
That year, we began our FND trip with an incredible meal, but more importantly, a great story (getting the best table at the best restaurant in Paris on a Friday night without reservations)
Neither of us will ever forget that dinner experience.
The next day, we rented a car and drove from Paris to Cognac, stayed at a friend of Jason’s in Cognac for a night … and then spent a couple of days driving through Bordeaux and then back down to the south of france – the entire trip was on the rural back roads …. like the two years before, we stopped frequently in small French villages, vineyards … ate great food, drank amazing wine, saw “cool shit” and experienced.
In 2009, we met in Zurich…
We enjoyed an FND at Zurich’s top rated *** michelin restaurant then we took a few days to drive from Zurich down to the south of france … once back in Monaco, we used my home in La Turbie as our base camp and spent 3 days doing day trips, driving to several small medieval villages in France and Italy and experienced.
Two weeks ago, we met up in Rome …
We enjoyed a great FND at what many consider the best restaurant in Rome. After the dinner, we spent a few hours walking around Rome at night.
We spent two full days in Rome eating great food, drinking Italian wine and seeing “cool shit.”
We especially enjoyed visiting the sistine chapel.
After two days, we took the train to Venice and spent a couple of days in Venice eating, drinking and seeing more cool shit …
then we took the train to Bologna.
The only reason we went to Bologna was to have dinner at a restaurant we had read about – although the dinner was good, the lunch we had earlier in the day at a small, mom and pop style of restaurant was exceptional.
The next morning, we rented a car and drove from Bologna towards Monaco.
As we were driving through the back roads in the middle of gorgeous Italy, we decided to drive to Portofino, (a small St Tropez like village along the Italian Riviera) we went there for the day and stayed for dinner …
Portofino is maybe the most beautiful place I have ever experienced.
These trips are not about spending money … and for the most part are not as expensive as they sound.
Like the FND, we have several rituals which give us consistency:
- We journal each trip – both in written words, and also in pictures
- I bring two boxes of cigars for the week - Epicure #2 for Jason and Cohiba siglio V for me
- We use the Michelin guide as our source of inspiration and our only guide for the week
- We have no schedule and stop when either one of us wants to stop to eat, drink, take photos, or see cool shit
- When we drive, we must travel on the back rural roads and avoid as much as possible the highway
- Jason is in charge of making the trip music CD which we listen to when we are driving – the trip CD always begins with “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
- When we take the train, we must travel standard class where its most animated, very crowded and uncomfortable, thus the journey provides a more interesting experience. (1st class is far better, but less crowded, thus not as interesting )
- We buy 1-2 cases of various wine from the region we visit for the wine cellar which we are expanding in my home in La Turbie
- The next FND trip destination is decided at the final FND of the trip – next year we will go to Sicily.
- The forehead shot* is always taken in front of the most iconic scene/site of the trip (see below for more details)
- The last FND of each trip, we write down 3 goals for the next 12 months – and keep them in the journal to be reviewed the next FND trip.
The FND trip became our way of experiencing everything we have talked about since that first FND in Tokyo back in 1998….
“one day, I’m gonna…”
has turned into
Instead of just day dreaming about what your “gonna” do one day…
Make your dreams become an experience.
Friday night dinner (FND) blog: http://www.scottragsdale.com/?p=3716
*the forehead photo started back in 1999 when Jason and I were on a safari in Africa – before digital camera’s.
I took a photo of Jason in front of a gorgeous view.
Ten days later, when we got the film developed we discovered the best photo of the trip was one I accidentally took of Jason’s forehead, but the photo was ironically, a great shot.
Today I spoke on the phone with a journalist in Dubai about how the idea to do 7 ironman in 7 day challenge came about – it was over a “friday night dinner” in Portofino, Italy with Jason Gorud…
He and I were enjoying a great dinner right on the port, literally a few feet from the sea … discussing our 40th year challenges (we both turned 40 in 2011) and I jokingly mentioned the idea of doing an ironman on each of the seven emirates in seven days….
Instantly, he raised his wine glass and bet me a box of Monte Cristo ”A” cigars that I couldn’t do it … his way of making sure I go after this challenge…
anyways – after my conversation with the journalist, I thought about this blog entry … so decided to repost it.
Even if you have read this entry before — “don’t just sit back waiting for your life to happen…”
this title says it all
In Tokyo, on a Friday back in October of 1998…
I was the sales director of the Tokyo office.
We had a big week.
The newly, transferred General Manager of the office, an American, Jason Gorud invited me to dinner to celebrate the big week.
He took me to “il Pinolo” which was considered (at the time) the best restaurant in Tokyo.
The restaurant was very small, if I remember correctly, it had only 10 tables.
We sat at the third table in the gorgeous dining room; the best table in the restaurant.
I didn’t know Jason well; he had been in the office for less than one week, but we had several things in common – mainly, we are both from the Midwest in America and we had both lived in Japan for several years.
Up until that dinner, I had never ordered a bottle of wine because I didn’t drink alcohol.
However, after Jason persuaded me with talk about Ernest Hemingway (one of my favorite authors) as well as his favorite novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, “Zorba the Greek,” I agreed to “experience” wine.
Jason ordered a white New Zealand wine, “Cloudy Bay.”
We spent 4-5 hours discussing our aspirations, dreams and goals.
I remember discussions on leading adventurous, Hemingway-esque lives.
I remember Jason talking about…dreaming of living a life like Zorba.
It was a great, memorable dinner.
The following Monday…
Before work began, I went up to Jason’s office and suggested that if the sales for the office broke the previous weeks figure – we should go back to Il Pinolo again. Jason excitedly, agreed.
Like magic, I had another big week and the office beat the previous week’s sales…
what drove me that week was to ensure we went back to Il Pinolo for dinner.
By chance, we sat at the same table and we both instinctively, sat in the same seats as before – Jason to my right.
We stuck to the same ritual as the Friday before – one glass of champagne to start and then one bottle of Cloudy Bay.
Again, we spent the evening dreaming and discussing setting simple goals…
Like the previous Friday night, we were the last table to leave the restaurant.
Over the next 10 months, we turned this end of work week dinner into a prize:
we would work our asses off during the week to be able to go out to dinner on Friday night, eat great food, drink great wine and celebrate life.
But if we slacked off, missed the numbers or generally failed to deliver on the goals we set for ourselves, we would have no FND.
In 10 months, we only missed one FND, and it was very early on so we learned from our mistakes.
Very quickly, Jason started to call the dinner “FND” for “Friday Night Dinner.”
“Ritual” is important to both of us.
Over time we developed certain rituals, which became a sort of rule set:
- we must always wear suits
- the FND must occur at the best, or one of the best rated restaurants in the city the FND takes place.
- Jason always sits to my right
- no guests are allowed, not even wives, friends or family
- one Friday I pay, the next Friday Jason pays (even if the next FND doesnt happen for months)
- one glass of champagne to start
- we limit ourselves to one bottle of wine during the dinner (we dont want to become drunk)
- we document every “Friday Night Dinner” in the same Hermes leather journal
To this day, we still adhere to these ‘rules’ as a way of differentiating an FND from just another nice dinner.
One FND we got into an argument about which restaurant had the better view– “New York Grill” in Tokyo (not our usual FND location, but one of the more iconic restaurants in Tokyo) or “Felix” in Hong Kong….
Both have stunning views, but I bet the airplane tickets that “Felix” in Hong Kong had the better view.
Around midnight, we went straight to the airport (about a 3 hour train ride from Tokyo) and flew early that morning to Hong Kong, booked rooms in The Peninsula (where Felix is located) and enjoyed a Saturday night dinner to judge who was right.
After a great meal and a bottle of Cloudy Bay, we both agreed, the view from “Felix” was not better than the view from “The New York Grill,” thus I lost the bet.
At the time, we were both 27 years old and the internet didn’t dominate our lives like it does today.
You couldn’t just “google” something.
Reflecting back, it didn’t seem crazy or extravagant — debating with your friend on which restaurant has a better view of two amazing cities – one in Tokyo or one in Hong Kong, and then going straight from one restaurant in Tokyo to the airport to catch the first flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong to see who is right ….
….that’s what the FND turned into – pushing ourselves into experiencing life, doing crazy challenges, and most importantly NOT talking about what we were going to do, but challenging each other to make it happen.
Just a few quick examples…
Over an FND, we decided to go to Africa and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Several months later, we summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in a white out snow storm. A few days after the summit, we went on a 5 day safari in the world’s largest, most incredible wild life reserve.
Over a FND, Jason told me he was getting married and asked me to be his best man…
Over a FND, Jason challenged me to swim across the English channel … three months later, I did.
Within a year or so of the original FND, we both moved our separate ways to different countries, and while (individually) we ended up moving on with our lives, the FND ritual still remained important to us.
At least once a year, since 1998, We have organized our schedules to enjoy an FND – recently, several times a year.
Up until now, Jason and I have had an FND in many different countries at some of the most famous restaurants in the world, including, but not limited to restaurants in:
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Nairobi, Amsterdam, Zurich, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Lyon, St Tropez, Monaco, London, Beverly Hills just to name a few….
The FND is not about the dinner, or silly rituals or idle chit chat.
The FND is about consistency, focus and ultimately — achievement.
The FND is our incentive…
An incentive for us to work hard to try and make our lives happen — our incentive to ensure we don’t just sit back and allow life to happen around us.
(we have since taken the FND ritual to a whole new level with the FND trip – trips organized once a year around food, wine and seeing cool shit…
for those interested: http://www.scottragsdale.com/?p=3827)
on Sep.17, 2010, under walk softly and carry a big stick
I have a poster on the wall in my office of a man standing on the summit of Mt. Everest and the quote, “the man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”
Most readers of this blog know the story of naseba …
End of 2002, Sophie and I started the company with less than 60,000 euro .. in 2007, we sold 40% of the company when we took naseba public with a value of $33 million and became publicly listed on a small exchange of the paris stock market.
The next step in our climb was exciting …
we developed, expanded, and in a word – we learned.
The honeymoon period ended quite quickly, when we had to kick off two useless board members who had their own hidden agenda …
I got robbed by my ex-employee and ”brother“ in China …
a Geneva based shareholder who owned a 10% stake – suddenly, died and the bank liquidated/dumped his shares …
then the global financial crisis knocked us down.
However, each time we fell, we got back up and kept climbing.
naseba will touch 12 million dollars in revenue with a positive EBITDA and is on target to be net profitable in 2010…
But due to a lack of liquidity in the small exchange naseba was listed, the market did not reflect how well the company is doing.
Our share price kept getting hammered and hammered…
consequently, the market cap of the company crumbled.
Instead of focusing on how ”unfair” was the situation, we seized the opportunity.
Effective September 15th, Sophie and I plus a few historic investors bought out the existing share holders and delisted naseba from the stock exchange.
We have taken the company private once again.
Many times over the past two years, I dreamed of buying back naseba.
Thankfully, it all worked out.
From my experience, being a private company allows us much more freedom to expand and develop quicker and more strategically, without the same (burden) expense associated to being listed.
Within the coming weeks, naseba will be opening our 2nd office in India with an office opening in Mumbai.
We are also expanding exponentially, our offices in Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Monaco.
Ironically, on August 31st the day all the paperwork was completed for the delisting…
I was interviewed by a newspaper about my upcoming English channel swim.
The interviewer asked me, “have you ever failed at climbing to the summit of one of your mountains?”
I smiled and reflected over the past 3 years ….
I replied, “I have fallen many times in my life, but each time I fell, I tried to learn as much as I could from why I fell .. and then I got back up and kept climbing.”
I am excited, relieved, and humbled to once again be a private company.
on Nov.19, 2009, under other
Over the years, people have asked me “who is the best sales person” I have ever seen… however, what is much more interesting to discuss is who is the best “sales team” I have ever seen …
In my opinion, what makes a good sales person “great” is in large part due to the team or the sales director the person is working with… which leads me into today’s focus …. “the best team that I have ever seen:”
Nice, France 2000 – 2001: Team Espana …. Richard McBride; Marek Ellis; James Lloyd and Fabien Faure …
9 years ago…. I opened an office for my previous company in Nice, France in a “serviced office” as we were waiting for the Monaco office application to process.
In Nice, at least at the time, there was only one “serviced office” location … and it was terrible. One room with 12 desks and 12 phones … one window and nothing else. Filthy.
Within two training schools, we filled the office up and immediately started selling …and within 2 months this tiny office of 12 became the number 2 revenue generating office in the company … it was a perfect machine.
I thought about focusing this entry on those first 12 sales people … probably the best memories I have as a manager was leading the original 12 in that small office in Nice… but I do not want to distract from discussing the best team I have ever seen.
Looking back now … just 9 years ago… although there was the internet … it did not dominate our lives like the net does today. Recruits today seem so different…so much softer … everything, the “greener grass…” or the “next mountain” is always just a click away… constantly teasing us to betray our focus.
It was August in 2000 and these 4 brand new recruits were selling an event to be hosted the following April in Spain “E-Espana” …. and keep in mind, these 4 guys were living in the heart of the South of France in the month of August …
The 4, all brand new to sales, dominated the company in sales because of their focus.
(each one of them sold at least 79,000 euros in August, Fabien sold 159,900 that month…(now a days) we assume its impossible to sell in Spain in August … but these guys made it happen in 2000)
The serviced office itself was terrible … not motivating; not exciting, just old and dirty… however, these guys did not need a “cushy” office, every single day … Richard would lead the team to the office at 6am to lead research and prepare for the day. Richard is the one that developed, led and fostered this teams brilliant ethic and success.
Fabien reminded me that because of Richard coming in at 6am to research, he started to come and ultimately most of that small office started to come in very early …. just because of the influence of one person.
Fabien also mentioned how it turned into a game to see who would be the first person in the office, so often times someone was in the office by 5:30am just to be the first one.
I am not exaggerating these 4 men who were living in the South of France during the best time of year — they would arrive to the office by 6 am every day.
Fabien, at the time was just a young “super” French kid from Lyon … Richard was in his early 20s, British … Marek, mid 20′s … Australian … and James Lloyd was in his mid 30′s … very British…. but it did not matter how old they were or where they came from … they were the perfect team who wanted to be the best.
They worked in a unselfish support team … when one was losing focus, the others would act like coaches helping get the person (most of the time, if I remember correctly, it was Fabien) back onto track.
E-Espana sold out very quickly … and back then, “selling out” meant the event doing close to 1,000,000 euros.
Of course this team of 4 went onto other events that sold out very quickly — they were always the best team in Europe for the company… but I will always remember them as “Team Espana…”
When I transfered everyone to Barcelona … Fabien did not go, but the rest of the team kept on going …. and the team was still successful, but never as great as they were as a team of 4 during those 13 months they were together.
Since I launched this blog … I have received emails from Richard, Marek and James … and of course Fabien, all four are still making it happen … Richard and Marek live in Australia and the two of them have a successful company together … James is the Sales Director of a media giant in the UK … brilliant people …. and I am very proud to have worked with them and its very rewarding to see how successful they have become.
… why did the team work so well together….why did they want success as a team so much?? I am sure it was not for the love of money … reflecting back on those guys they never spent any money on anything …
in my opinion, it was for the “victory” as a team together … and they won.
For certain Richard and the team and their 6 am ritual … had a massive positive influence on the office….and I want to point out that Fabien Faure is great today and I suggest it all began back then … with Richard and team espana, the best team I have ever seen.
The world we live in today is different to the one in 2000, however, the power of positive influence still remains the same.