He's Probably Dead
Written by Lonnie Ayers
Author of the Book: How to Dominate any Market – Turbocharging Your Digital Marketing and Sales Results
Lonnie Ayers, PMP, BSC, BCS, SAFe,
President, SAP BW Consulting, Inc.
Or so my mother says my father proclaimed as I lay there under tons of blocks and mud during a dark and stormy night. As I slept through the whole thing, I can only retell the story of my first of what would be many 'unfortunate events' in my life based on what my mother has told me. As the story goes, we were embarked on an adventure in self-reliance (probably because that is all we could afford) of building our own house. The first step was the construction of a basement and we were living in it while also building the house above it as money came in and lumber and other supplies were acquired.
Sometime around Valentines Day of 1965, a rain storm began and never seemed to end. The water began to build up pressure behind the wall of the basement - the wall where I, a five year old, slept. As the torrential rains and thunder roared outside, there were suddenly sounds that my mom claims sounded like 22 bullets being fired.
Those were actually the sounds of cracks appearing in the wall, which soon gave way and collapsed on top of me. The wall was made of cement blocks and mortar and there was a mountain of mud behind it. All of that landed on top me. All that was visible of me was an arm and my dad, in his ever calm way, apparently informed my mom that I was 'probably' dead.
Thankfully, she wanted to make sure and had him pull me out. I was muddied but asleep. Some might say, I was just calm under trying circumstances or in training to become a Spartan Warrior. A theme that has been repeated many times throughout my life.
Clearly, I was not dead.
Boys Will Be Boys
We lived out in the countryside, more importantly, we lived next to the Brown County State Park and Hoosier National Forest which served as our playground.
Some people have a backyard, whiles others have a zoo - we had a park.
Many people may think there is not much to do to entertain yourself in the country - au contraire! There are trees to be clumb, holes to be dug, squirrels to be hunted and corn rows to be explored.
There are also flood waters to be conquered. As Huckleberry Finn had his little adventures, so we had ours. One of the most memorable was the year we decided to make a raft of inner tubes and plywood and float in the spring flood waters. You see, where we lived, it floods, much like the Nile River valley once flooded, and these aren't little floods. These are strip the creek banks bare, destroy bridges class floods.
Probably was not our wisest decision to go rafting in one of these floods - you can't steer a sheet of plywood. But we did. And we survived.
This served as practice for the great canoe adventure wherein we took 3 canoes, 6 guys and 3 days and set off from Nashville, Indiana on a 3 day adventure with the goal of making it to Story, Indiana. A trip somewhere in the neighborhood of 42 miles in total. It makes for a great story now, but let's just say we hadn't really thought it through all that well. We encountered about 150 log jams, which either had to be clumb over or you had to carry your stuff up the slippery creek bank then go around them and put back in. Water proof is a good thought, but it turns out, wishful thinking. Once we broke the first paddle, had no dry clothes or food and were so sunburned, our eyelids swelled shut, we knew this was probably not going to be fun. To make sure we got the message, it rained every other hour and park rangers were kind of enough to inform us 'you can't camp here'.
We did eventually make it to Story, and were able to get a pick up. You can keep your log jams.
Colder than a Well Diggers Ass
That's an expression that most people probably don't fully appreciate. Let me explain where it comes from. I grew up working with my dad as a water well driller. We drilled in the summer, out in the open (you don't drill indoors) and we drilled in the winter, after school and on weekends, if there was work to be had. Brown County, Indiana can have some pretty mild winters and some very, very bad winters.
One of those winters, 1978, was as bad as they come. And we were running 2 rigs, which meant things were good. But when it gets down to 20 to 40 degrees below zero, both men and equipment start to break down. You got to run what are called Salamanders, basically buckets of fuel oil that heat up a small area outside, possibly even the area where you are at. Just how cold does a well diggers ass get? When you pull a string of tools out of the ground (which is always a nice steady warm temperature below 3 feet under the surface), the water instantly freezes as the tools come out of the ground. YOU DO TOO. By definition, a well driller is always wet, always covered in mud and grease, and in order to feel the drill, has to have his bare hands on the cable that is going up and down.
The money was good but the environment was challenging. You learn to stay sharp, because, like almost every work environment with moving parts, one wrong move will kill you or hurt you. I didn't always heed that lesson. In fact, one day, we were trying to set some six inch fine threaded steel casing and it started to tip just at the same time as my dad was lifting up the drill stem (a 20 foot long piece of solid metal that weighs between one and two tons) and I grabbed the casing to hold it. Not sure why I did it as the casing was suspended by a steel cable attached to the derrick. My hands got smashed between the drill stem and the pipe. You only do that once. The lesson learned is - always be thinking because the machine will kill you and it has no feelings. So let things clang together. We can fix machines but not ourselves.
Drilling wells was not exactly exciting. In fact, you have 15 minute breaks all day long while you wait for the machine to finish a cycle and for the cuttings in the well to get too thick. Then you have to pull the string of tools out, bail out the mud, put in some new water and drop in the drill, and do it again. To kill those 15 minutes, my aunt, who knew that I loved to read science fiction, would bring me brown paper grocery bags full of paper books from the recycling center where she worked.
I worked on that rig from when I was about six years old until I left for the Air Force at age 17. That's a lot of books to read. Of all the types of stories I read, the ones involving flying were the most interesting to me. In fact, flying is in my blood, so much so that instead of buying the black Pontiac Trans-AM (because my go fast button was and is depressed - see video:) with a gold eagle on it, like all the other jocks, I got my pilot license, and for my senior trip, took some buddies (mostly the canoe guys) to Chicago, where we landed at the now defunct Miegs Field.
The flying bug was set to define much of what I've done in life, though not in the way I had hoped.
I wasn't a great student.
So, I joined as an enlisted airman, and they promptly sent me to never ending school to learn to fix jets, particularly the F-4 Phantom. Though close to flying, fixing them wasn't easy and wasn't flying. So then I heard about the Flight Engineer career field, and applied and got accepted to C-130 Flight Engineer school. So another year and half of technical training. And I had also started going to university. Ultimately, I got my B.S. in Industrial Technology and Associate in Applied Science in Flight Engineering and did get to fly all over the world, though I was getting airsick on EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT.
Rooms Go Silent When She Walks In
One of the benefits of all this training and travel is you meet a lot of people, one of whom is now my wife. I met her in Zaragoza, Spain. She was working on the base in AAFES and was one of those women who cause rooms to go silent when she walks in. She still does. Not sure how I managed to convince her to go on life's adventure with me, but she did! Of course, one of the first places I took her was Altus AFB, Oklahoma, cause, you know, that's every city slickers dream.
Eventually, I got accepted to Officer Training School (OTS), and had about six months of university left to graduate. When you fill out that OTS application, you have to select the jobs you want and of course, I put down pilot, among several, including maintenance officer. As part of the process, I had to take the Air Force Flight Physical for pilots and though I was young and full of vim and vinegar, the whole getting airsick thing got me a stamp on my medical records that said DNIF. Duties Not to Include Flying. So I wasn't too happy and more importantly, I was wondering what about my current job, which consisted of flying in a C-130, throwing troops out of perfectly good airplanes and generally getting airsick. Flight surgeon said, oh, we think you can do the job as you ARE doing the job.
Surprisingly, I did get accepted to flight school Then, a few months before I was to start my OTS class, we landed on an icy runway at a base in Illinois. The airplane did 2 3600 spins down the runway, went off the side of the runway and into the mud, then tipped. We managed to kill the engines and basically, I got lucky, once again. This, combined with multiple other 'war story' worthy incidents and getting sick, caused me to have to make a tough decision - give up my flying slot.
So I called the Manpower people, asked them what they thought about me giving it up and they said, fine, you're going to be an aircraft maintenance officer.
And so it was.
OTS or Officer Training School, is 12 weeks long and is just basic training X 2. So that means I spent a total of 18 weeks doing basic training between my enlisted basic and my officer basic training time. I am real good at hunting and eliminating dust bunnies. Remember, I already spent 9 months learning to fix Phantoms and another 1.5 years learning to be a C-130 flight engineer. To be an aircraft maintenance officer, it was another 6 months of, you guessed it, learning to fix airplanes and more broadly, learning military logistics. This meant a lot of it was a repeat for me - so I got assigned to mentor several other students. One of them may still think there is such a thing as a nosenage (and you know who your are).
I was assigned to a C-130 Aircraft Depot Maintenance Center known as the San Antonio Air Logistic Center, or SA-ALC (military lives on acronyms). Here, I worked with a large, unionized, federal civilian labor force on not just C-130s, but B-52s, C-5s, OV-10s, an unbelievable array of components as well as jet engines. I needed to produce 40 C-130 aircraft a year as my production goal. I have to say it was where I learned the most about aircraft maintenance. It was also were I understood how tough it was to manage complex projects.
18 Months for a 9 Month Project
It was during my time here, a period during which I wore many hats, including Total Quality Management or TQM, known as QP4 there. As usual, it was also a time of going to many schools, such as Statistical Process Control or SPC, Dr. Demings courses (think Red Bead experiment), and various other TQM and leadership related courses. As it was a time of much less (but still plenty of) travel, I did my MBA in Management with a Quantitative Emphasis. Though the Air Force paid for 75% of this as one of the benefits of being an officer, they did have one 'ASK', and that was that the class projects be for work related issues.
One of my main projects was figuring out why it was taking 18 months to get a B-52 through a 9 month depot overhaul process. In fact, at that time, throughout the depot overhaul arena of the military, virtually all such processes were taking longer and longer, and no one really knew why. Project management software was still 'in its infancy' but the basic math behind it was long ago established. In fact, we had IT systems, many thousands of them, that were supposed to be able to tell us what to do when, by whom and to make sure the parts required were available as and when needed.
In reality, they did no such thing. What you would observe was that each day a flat bed truck would come by each airplane and drop off about 36 bound bundles of fine print reports, and the production schedulers wouldn't even have time to cut the strings on most of them during the day, let alone see if they contained anything useful
Right about this time, the Theory of Constraints (TOC) was introduced to me and the world by Eli Goldratt and his book 'The Goal'. And I started looking for constraints in our system. You didn't have to look far. Paint barn with limited throughput capacity. Check. Processes that produced junk 62% of the time. Check! Untrained people, Check.
So then, being that we did have some budget (it is the military afterall), we brought in some project managment software called CAT II or Control and Analysis Tool, II. It was 'under development', but did offer us the possibility to integrate the data, manually and automatically, from all those systems producing all those reports. It was also programmable (I learned how to do this myself later), and the result was something we call Dynamically Reprogrammable PERT/CPM.
The first B-52 that went through depot being managed using the new system came out 2 weeks ahead of schedule - the original 9 month schedule.
It was during this time that the first of 3 major catastrophes would strike the place where I worked. The first involved a B-52 catching fire and burning up on the flight line while I was the Night Time DCM (Deputy Commander of Maintenance), which simply meant, the officer in charge of the base at night. This fire killed one worker, injured 21 others and destroyed a B-52 and revealed just how poorly trained our workforce was.
Shortly after that, a C-5 caught fire and burned the top off of it. The foam the fire department used to put out the fire did significant additional damage to the electronics. This incident also revealed many issues with how we were handling TCTO (Time Compliance Technical Orders) or Engineering Change orders.
To keep life interesting, nature decided to send 3 tornadoes our way. They worked their way through the Supply Depot, leaving a trail of destruction that looked like some giant took three fingers and drug them across the ground. So now we were in full-on disaster recovery mode. It took years to get back to normal.
Right around the time my 4 year tour at this place was coming to an end Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait. I and my family were sent to Torrejon, Spain, (she was very happy), and it was from there I was to play my part in the first Gulf War.
Assigned to an F-16 Component Repair Squardon, I found myself in front of my new DCM who knew about what we had done at the Depot. His words were clear. We are going to war, we've got units in Qatar and Turkey, and operations must continue here. We've got severe production problems in the engine shop and now our supply lines stretch 5000 miles. I need a plan in a week on how you're going to make this happen.
A week later, using a predecessor of MS Project, we had the plan. It involved a lot more of everything, of course; more people, more equipement, more engines, more money.
Then the Air Force said, you're retiring early. This happened while the war was going on and while we were shutting down the base and relocating the families back to the United States. That will stress you out a bit. To do this, we had a project plan that ran to many thousands of pages.
Assuming Leadership Roles
As it happens, the project I worked on back at the Depot Overhaul Facility for B-52s was now being implemented DOD wide, and I got a programmer analyst job with a company called Robbins-Gioia, Inc. at Pensacola, NAS, Fl working on helicopters such as the SH-60, CH-47 and Ch-57. One of the side effects of the system was it now provided a previously unheard of capability to compare cost between facilties and this facility was among the most expensive to operate in the system. The BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) contacted us as part of their data collection efforts, and so I knew that the place were I was working was among the most expensive places in the system in terms of direct labor hour cost.
I was part of the team that had to tell the Admiral running the place about the cost issue, which was not a comfortable experience. Ultimately, it was slated for closure, and being this was pre-internet, I remember that as a member of the The Retired Officers Association, or TROA, I would receive jobs via fax. One of those was for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), in Saudi Arabia. They called and asked me if I wanted to learn something called Oracle.
Sure, if you're paying for the school, I am in.
What you Learn Under Extreme Pressure
So off I went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Within one month, the company I worked for, BDM, called us together (it was August, 1993) for an all-hands meeting to tell us not to unpack our bags just yet, as the contract was not signed yet. This was to be the theme of 8 years in Saudi Arabia. The price of oil became something we paid attention to, even though gasoline was nearly free for us.
Ultimately, we continued to work, and though I was working at their equivalent of the Pentagon on a green screen COBOL system that provided maintenance and supply support, they sent me to something called Oracle Designer 2000 Master School. This was actually a very long series of expensive courses delivered by Oracle.
The reason for them wanting me and the team to learn this tool (no one in the Middle East knew it) was that during the first Gulf War, the COBOL system had not functioned as expected and the Air Force had recommended that they develop a new, custom built, maintenance and supply system using this CASE (Computer Aided System Engineering) tool.
We spent almost 3 years, following the Oracle Custom Development (Oracle CDM) methodology, traveling around Saudi Arabia, conducting many, many user requirements sessions, then modeling them in the tool. These models consisted of Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs), Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs), and Functional Hierarchy Diagrams (FHDs), which, at the press of button, would generate code, including PL/SQL, that provided the modeled requirements. From model to delivered functioning system really boiled down to pressing a button. This modeling approach has since been updated but the basics of it remain useful in many circumstances.
As part of this effort, and following the CDM methodology, I was assigned the task of evaluating SAP as a possible COTS or Commercial-Off-The-Solution. So, I visited SAP Arabia in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and they provided me with a ton of documentation, which we used to compare against our requirements. SAP had already started to introduce the concept of Industry Solutions but the DFPS and MRO solution was not there yet for us to evaluate. Instead, we found what we needed in solutions for the Oil Industry, the Pharmaceutical Industry and oddly enough, the Hospital Solution.
I also found out what a SAP Consultant makes.
Given that the RSAF had not yet funded the further development of this project (and they would delay it for many years), when an offer came to become a SAP Consultant, it was a very, very tough decision to make the move. The pressure was intense to stay there, not least from my family, who lived very well in Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, I was offered the job of Professional Services Manager by SAP Arabia with the proviso that I also get SAP MM (Materials Management) and SAP FICO (Finance and Controlling) certified. I did get SAP MM certified but then they changed their minds and asked me to do SAP BW (and got certified though it was a very early version of BW, 1.2) or SAP Business Warehouse instead so I could support Saudi Aramco.
I Like This SAP Stuff
Joining SAP was basically like joining a never ending university course. But without the required human resources. Because we were located in the Middle East, and SAP Arabia was not SAP AG, we didn't have a lot of inhouse resources nor was SAP AG able or willing to send a lot. Given that my job consisted of driving sales as well as managing projects and setting business strategy, it meant I had to be able to 'pick stuff up' on the fly.
During the space of 2 years, I was either leading a Pre-Sales demonstration team or delivering demonstrations at least once a week, to prospects all over the Middle East. They were a tough audience, and delighted in asking questions not on the RFP (Request for Proposal). At first, this was frustrating, because you would spend a lot of time prepping a demo, only to get thrown off balance by an out-of-left field question.
At least the tea was good.
As my background was heavily logistics oriented particularly Supply Chain and related systems, SAP APO (Advanced Planner and Optimizer) became my baby. Though it was little known at the time (2001), I found myself demonstrating it, it being literally every APO module, against i2 Technologies' Factory Planner, during a competitive bake-off. We won, and i2 noticed.
The call wasn't long in coming.
Supply Chain Management
I had not made it a secret that I was interested in returning to Spain or to the United States. Next thing I know, a recruiter called with a job offer from i2 Technologies, to be based in, 'wait for it', Barcelona!
This time the task was to open up the Iberian Peninsula to the i2 Solution. And, of course, 2 weeks after I reported to our new shiny offices in the Regus Center in the World Trade Center, Barcelona, my boss called to tell me I had to get billable.
All was not well with i2.
Not only did I quickly find myself running multiple SCM projects, such as the Airbus A380 Sup@irworld project, while also learning as much of the software as I could, I also found myself heavily involved with sales, as usual. The sales training provided by i2 was outstanding whether it was for selling services or software.
Quickly, the noise coming out of corporate began to sound ominous. On our end, however, we won every deal against SAP. Often times, SAP wouldn't even bother to show up to deliver their demo.
The layoffs happened in waves, and I was caught in wave 6. I was running a major project at the time, and as it turns out, would actually get paid a tidy sum of severance money and would quickly be back in the i2 world, this time, as my own boss.
Learning to Sell - Again
Through a lot of twist and turns, I found myself in an office in Eastern Europe being pitched on the idea of opening up an office of a Dutch based i2 Technologies partner, TruEconomy. Not having much else on my plate, I accepted the offer, but it was contingent upon them winning a deal here in Spain for a retailer called Carrefour. To keep myself busy and billable, I took on my first freelance SAP BW job for a company called Ajinomoto animal nutrition, and proceeded to travel all around the world implementing SAP BW.
When the Carrefour project finally did close, it was because it was yet another 'blown up' project and they needed some adult supervision. It was an i2 Transportation Management project, essentially dead in the water. Software capabilities oversold. Check! Top Consultants Unavailable. Check! Client behaving completely unreasonably. Check!
So, after much teeth gnashing, and no discernable progress, I decided to have a data modeling session with the team and that's when we discovered that the i2 TM data model was basically upside down or a mirror image of the SAP Order Management system. Once that was clear, then the code warriors could actually get the interfaces to work.
However, the actual task of the i2 TM project was to handle the daily orders between over 500 stores, which contained about 37,000 unique SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), and 15 Distribution Centers.
In 30 minutes.
Additionally, all the stacking rules for all the products had to be modeled within the system (that's where you needed the solution architect) which would be visualized in 3D inside the IT Center and be fed to the warehouse workers for Pick, Pack and Shipment activity.
In 30 minutes.
So the first pass through, it only took about 48 hours to do this. Cue the Indian Rocket Scientist and much technical gibberish about multi-threaded, multi make it go much much faster talk. We did eventually get it to run, almost within the time window and it may well be running today.
Key Lesson learned - Avoid Science Fair Projects
When you're running a large or small business, unless your business is developing software, you should probably avoid too much experimentation unless you just got a lot of cash laying around. I call projects like the one above a science fair project. Lots of risk and as a project manager, just a pain to manage. As a SCRUM master, I have to take a completely different approach to a development project as opposed to an implementation project and this was not meant to be a development project. I will say that many of the leadership lessons learned as an officer have served me well as both a project manager and a quota carrying sales guy. The most important of which is to remain calm, assess the situation and take a moment to formulate a response.
As i2 slowly wound down, unfortunately, our business did not wind up and so I struck out again as a FREELANCE SAP Consultant.
SAP Project Manager On the Road Again
By this point in my career, I had managed numerous large scale projects, for SAP and i2 Technologies, and had years of non IT projects under my belt from my time in the military. Though I wanted to continue with hands-on SAP implementation roles, the calls inevitably came in for Senior Project Management or SAP Implementation Manager roles, increasingly on behalf of customers rather than Systems Integrators (SIs) or SAP itself. You go where the money is. But I wanted to combine my existing SAP Project Management skillset with strategy management, as I could see that once companies had SAP implemented, they had a pressing need to develop and implement a strategy that would allow them to take advantage of the software while dealing with the competitive threats in the market.
SAP Strategic Enterprise Management or SAP SEM
I decided to invest in myself and got certified as a SAP SEM (Strategic Enterprise Management) Consultant and did further training with SEM BCS (Business Consolidation) and EC-CS (Enterprise Controlling), finally circling back to the finance part of my skillset. One of my first projects was as a SEM BCS consultant for the government of Catalunya, which was conducted in Catalan. Fortunately, math is math and it all worked.
After many and varied projects, I was hired by SAP Spain as a Senior Program Manager for MRO and then by SAP MENA (Dubai) as a Senior Program Manager for the Saudia Airlines implementation. Shortly after my arrival in SAP MENA in Dubai, they said, we want you to be something called an Industry Principle. So, I found myself back in a sales role while wearing a delivery hat with a sales quota of about $4.5 million a year of net new license sales.
SAP, being the training institution it is, proceeded to send me to yet more Sales and Pre-Sales training as well as Value Engineering certification training. Got to love working at SAP.
As usual, SAP MENA, being the Middle East, didn't really have many resources and I, in fact, had six industries to cover, including: Defense, Travel & Transportation, Professional Services, EC&O, Postal and Utilities. Each of these, of course, had internal training and certification courses (you might guess, I am ok with going to school, even at my age) for Industry Principles. The actual job was interesting because you could pull in team members, as part of what is called a VAT (Virtual Account Team) to pursue every deal. These were needed as we worked in what is now called an ABM or Account Based Management sales model. Additionally, you could call upon partners, of which I had 59 I would feed opportunities to.
As part of my role, I had to produce an annual business plan that covered everything from the market opportunity broken down by industry (addressable market) to my marketing plan and required marketing budget.
This was very familiar work to me as I had also been handed the business planning responsibility at SAP Arabia back in my early SAP career and had inputs to business planning in most of my other companies.
Do More Inbound She Said
The response of the Director of Marketing to my annual marketing plan was to play a key role in my current endeavor. She always said 'no', even though she worked for me on this particular task (err hmm) and would always say, I need to do more Inbound Marketing, even though neither she nor anyone else in SAP could explain what Inbound Marketing actually was.
As an Industry Principle, I had an annual quota just north of 4.5 million in Net New license sales, which I easily exceeded. We were, in fact, in the fastest growing market in the world from a SAP perspective, but we were a small operation. So, at some point, I decided to give it another go at building my own consultancy and to celebrate, my wife and I took a long planned trip to Tahiti, going business class all the way.
While the job was interesting, I was actually in a commuter marriage situation, with my wife living and working in Madrid, while I was in Dubai, commuting about once a month. And life had continued to throw me curve balls. One of which involved another 'Call' from my wife telling me my daughter was going into surgery, just as I was boarding a jet to head to Cairo, yet again. No other details, just going into surgery. She had been riding on a moped, and of course, it crashed in a pedestrian cross-walk and fell on her leg, shattering the bone in many places. That put her back on our couch for six months, and to this day, she has a titanium rod in her leg that cannot be removed. On the upside, she now knows when the weather is changing long before you or I.
Go Bag Time
On Friday, March 11th, 2011, we were in Moorea, an island in front of the island of Tahiti and had just returned from an excursion to a restaurant and show where I learned how to open a coconut properly. It had been a spectacular night, as you can see the Milky Way there in all its glory, in the pitch black night sky of the South Pacific. Like any other night, I turned on the news to catch up.
The News Was Not Good.
The video of the snarly black water moving across the field in Japan, caused by the Tsunami which was triggered by a massive earthquake, meant only one thing to me - get to high ground. Switching into survival school mode, I started putting together our Go-Bag. Passport, water, airline tickets, one change of clothes and signal mirror (in case we found ourselves afloat). But then, no flashlight. We were in one of those places where you are in an individual bungalow and the main office was in the center of the complex. So I rushed over there to see if they might have a flashlight and of course, to warn them. The take charge mode was fully on at this point in time.
The receptionist, who spoke some English but with heavy French accent, informed me "not to worry", they were in contact with the police and would let us know if there was a problem. Besides, it was not expected to hit the island for 6 hours - but they weren't actually sure. So, for the remainder of the night, we kept the outside light on, focused on the a little piece of the water where the Bungalow night light shone and knew that if that water disappeared, that the wave would be coming. We took shifts watching that spot of light.
Nothing happened. Until it Did.
Around 6 AM, a nice lady with a Golf Cart and a heavy French accent, showed up and informed us it was time to evacuate and please come with her as they had breakfast ready at the hotel manager's house. You got to love 5 star treatment, even if you do think this might be it. We, of course, had already had a conference call with the kids to say our good byes, and let them know where stuff was. When you're ex-military and spent significant time under constant terrorist threat you just know to do this.
So, there we were, up the side of a mountain, waiting. First we noticed that all the large ships and boats had pulled out into the open water between Moorea and Tahiti and were aligned toward the oncoming wave. As the water finally did begin to recede, they all started to wind up their engines, and rode it out. Not much actually happened other than the ocean disappearing, twice, at least that we could see. Turned out, it had slammed into the other side of the island and did substantial damage.
Breakfast was nice!
Time to Strike Out on My Own Again
Back int the world, post Tsunami, we launched SAP BW Consulting, Inc. from my attic in Madrid, Spain. Almost immediately, I was hired back to the MIddle East for first a SAP BW Solution Architecture Role and then more importantly, a SAP Business Transformation Consulting role. All went well, until it came time to get paid. Bank Account Passwords would not work, could not be reset and the bank wanted to see me in their office to make the update! But we did eventually get paid and everybody was happy, including the client!
As it happens, SAP had recommended we look at using Hubspot as our marketing platform, and so we did. Not being a marketer or web developer, I needed something simple, as my primary occupation was supposed to be selling SAP resources. We already had plenty of work coming in as independent SAP consultants, and could have just done that type of work if we had wanted to. However, you're limited in how much you can earn by how many hours you can sell of yourself and how much of your time you can keep sold.
Our goal was to become a SAP Partner. As we began to create our content to support our Inbound Marketing efforts, the traffic and leads started to flood in, though sales were a little lower than we had hoped. It wasn't long before Hubspot was asking us to be a reference customer, which we now are. It was also right around the beginning of this effort that I took a tumble down our stairs and dislocated a couple of vertebrae and thus, had plenty of time to write blogs.
As my interest remained with strategy management, I decided to put it to good use and get my Kaplan-Norton Balanced Scorecard Certification. Once again, life was to intervene, and 80% of the way through the course, I got 'THE CALL' from my son's girlfriend, who informed me that he had been hurt in an accident.
He, in fact, had almost been killed while heading to the Houston airport. You see, he followed me into the SAP world and works as a SAP BW consultant. This particular trip was fated to end badly, in that he was sandwiched between an SUV and another car while he was in a Toyota Corolla. His injuries were numerous and serious.
So, I drove nonstop from Orlando, Fl, where I was attending the Balanced Scorecard course, to Houston, TX, where I found him in a hotel, in bad shape. We spent the better part of a week there, with him attempting to walk a little bit each day, until he finally felt well enough to travel. He could not fly as he had a punctured lung, many other damaged organs and broken bones and flying is a bad idea when one of your lungs has a hole in it.
The trip back took 3 days as we could only go about 20 minutes before we had to stop due to his pain. As it happened, he was in the process of buying a house and I had to stick around to help make sure that happened so he had a place to recover. Ultimately, I moved to Miami for what would be a very long temporary stay and continued on with my business building.
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Do You Want to Be a Hubspot Inbound Marketing Partner
During the same time period, our Inbound Marketing software provider reached out to us and asked us if we would be interested in being a partner. Though we were not actually initially targeting the Inbound Marketing market, we had already received request from other SAP partners and others asking what and how we were generating our leads. So, we became a Hubspot Partner and are currently a tiered partner primarily focused on helping other SAP Partners as well as a number of other types of business with their marketing and sales development efforts.
A number of our clients have already grown large enough to either get acquired or take in outside investor money or go public. At the same time, our SAP business continues to be alive and kicking with a small but steady flow of opportunities.
Of course, being the Spartan Warrior that I am, I've managed to break my elbow while just walking along the sidewalk here in Spain in the past few years and, since I am a long distance bicyclist, managed to have a head-on collision with another bicyclist at high speed, and managed to rip a muscle that connects my spine to my leg.
Expanding the Empire
As we've experienced success with our Hubspot efforts, a number of partnering opportunities have arisen. These days, we don't just do Hubspot and SAP, we also have partnerships with SnapEngage, Pandadoc, ilean, SAP Anywhere and Shopify, to name a few. As well, we have partnered with a number of SAP partners to deliver SAP support around the world.
Being IT guys, we've developed a number of Industry Specific online calculators that help users in a number of unique ways, such as our consulting rate calculator, which can be used to improve your salary negotiation strategy or our SAP BW Project Estimator, which, with just a couple of pieces of data, can estimate an entire SAP BW implementation in real time. Going forward, we will continue to develop and improve our own as well as our customers content offerings, with an increasing focus on Sales Enablement.
No About Me would be complete without a clear call to action and mine is very clear - let me show you how to make more money by getting more leads and more sales using Inbound Marketing: