Business Life Management

The AntiFragile

One of the inspirations behind our VideoCast series #PSQ (Pivot Strategies Quarantine) is based on a book I’ve been reading called “Antifragile. Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb often refers to a “Black Swan” a word that is fondly referred to by “Never Split The Difference” author Chris Voss as a rare moment that also spells opportunity. A Black Swan is a rare occurrence with extreme consequences.

“There is opportunity in any crisis”. So a supposed cliched Chinese proverb goes. What I do find in the characters of entrepreneurs; Many of which are on the path to success is the character of being “Antifragile”.

Maripaz of Mama Paz’s Premium Baked Spaghetti has been through several businesses since I’ve known her. But it actually took a crisis like this for her business to take off! Many businesses need to be edited and distilled before the winning formula is reached. This one was made right by KISS. “Keeping it Simple”.

While I’ve known and have done business with Mike of Kickstart Coffee, one of the most memorable times I met him was in front of Cafe Breton just a few days after I got a redundancy as the Vice President and Head of Revenues of a Tech Company. I’ll talk about this in a later blog entitled “The Anatomy of Getting Fired”. Notwithstanding, one of the greatest things I admire about Mike was his courage to take a leap of faith; even when the chips are down. In his case, a Blue Chip! Who would’ve known that a company like Lehman Brothers would collapse in 2008?

The Antifragile is a different animal altogether. In the book, Taleb describes 3 types of people.

  1. The Fragile: People who will break during a crisis and disorder
  2. The Robust: People who could survive a crisis
  3. The Antifragile: People who come back swinging back even harder!

He refers to the Hydra of Greek Myth who when having its head cut off will grow back two more in return and fight even more ferociously!

Some people and their businesses will be demolished by this pandemic. Some will weather through. But very few will come back even better or use this Black Swan event as an opportunity. They will come out of this crisis not restored, but transformed into something better and stronger.

What about you?

Are you Fragile? Are you robust? Or are you Antifragile?

Share your thoughts with us.


Following the Money and How COVID 19 Reconstructs Logistics and Consumer Behavior

We all know the drill

A smoke screen goes off! Emergency Response Team members calmly escort their fellow employees out to the open area where a team from the Bureau of Fire protection gives a briefing on evacuation protocol and the use of fire suppression equipment. Similar drills are practiced when it comes to earthquakes and similar calamities. Living in a country like the Philippines, everyone ought to be ready when disaster strikes. Within a lifetime we’ve had major earthquakes, devastating typhoons that have wiped away lives within hours off the face of the planet. Within the 1st quarter of 2020, we’ve been hit by a volcano eruption and while  people have just literally started to rise from the ashes, along comes COVID-19 that had Luzon under lock-down up to now. The faces of the population remains covered by N95 masks since January. Will things ever go back to normal? Perhaps Not. But what we’ve learned will shape how we adapt to “The New Normal”. There will be winners, but even more losers.

The Connected Society

Beyond our mortal lives we have our Faith, Family and Friends. We take inventory of our basic necessities. Water, Food, Energy and Communications. What the past calamities have taught us is that there are varying degrees to its effects. In January, we spent days without energy and with such, the ability to store food was compromised thereby affecting our cycles of procurement. Having spent a few years in the logistics sector teaches you a lot of things on how to manage crises. We live in a connected world and these connections far exceed ICT. During a time of crisis, the hierarchy of needs tend to shift its focus towards the lower tiers of the pyramid. So when we are talking about “networks” we need to see this on a more physical plane. The term “Humanitarian Logistics” is fairly new. It probably wouldn’t have gained traction in relevance if it weren’t for society’s  response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) in 2013, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the Banda Aceh 2004 Tsunami. Ironically, “logistics” has never been a sexy word, but logistics science and know-how is life and death.


Logistics is Life and Death

A “network interruption” within the context of transport and logistics would mean people cannot report to work. Supply chains will be interrupted. Food and other basic necessities cannot get through. It’s not a matter of inconvenience; This is the very substance of many Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and it comes down to the survival of our society. A network interruption of large scales where transportation, airstrips, waterways and highways are impeded can kill a nation. As we’ve been started to be aware, the control of waterways such as the South China Sea where an estimated $3.2 Trillion in trade is valued, is a legitimate International Security Issue. The issue of logistics strategy needs to be seen both from the largest scales to the micro. Just as it takes logistics for a woman to give birth in hospital, it also takes logistics to take a dead body into the ground from the deathbed. Logistics is cradle to grave.


Granularity and the Last Mile

The painful lesson from Haiyan is that tons of relief goods rotted away in warehouses near Tacloban. From a logistics perspective we can see that it wasn’t a supply and storage issue but a problem with distribution at the “last-mile”. You obviously cannot park a C130 aircraft in front of someone’s house, but you can use a motorcycle or a small van. We need to break down logistics to smaller granules in terms of weight breaks and use a multi-modal strategy.

As an adaptive response to the Enhanced Community Quarantine, communities have organized direct purchases from producers and suppliers, delivering directly to homes or organizing scheduled pick-ups from village common-areas. The “hub and spoke” network has been operationalized only with staging points (receiving and dispatching) being democratized by communities all over the country. The logistics framework applies, and it works! Even to the last mile and to a granularity of not more than a 5 km. radius. We’ve seen unprecedented reconstruction of supply networks direct to consumers from as far as Benguet to Batangas (a distance in excess of 433 kms.) within 2-3 working days sometimes using refrigerated vans.

Orders are usually consolidated using Viber or a Shared Spreadsheet. Could this be the new normal? Maybe? But the possibilities are out there and the models have been proven. It begs all of us to reconsider buying locally and “eliminating the middle man”. Logistics make it possible. And while fuel prices are at an all-time low and shipping fees remain unchanged, the industry could enjoy an arbitrage where their unprofitable runs or backhauls all of a sudden make money during this period. Logistics can still win in certain segments.


Where the traffic is, there the money is

As we venture outside our homes physical traffic has dramatically decreased. The malls have zero foot traffic therefore: “where is the money”? The grocery lines have gotten longer due to decreased frequency of trips and social distancing, but the cart checkout transaction sizes could be increasing as well. Online traffic could be a clue pointing to the money. eCommerce checkout carts give a clear indication of pent-up demand and transaction sizes (delivered or undelivered). What are people looking to buy? Online grocery sites have reported upsurges of up to 84% since brick and mortar stores have started to close. The traffic however is directed towards “essential items” to fill in the gaps left by physical stores. According to the New York Times Netflix traffic has seen a 16% increase in traffic, Zoom has had a drastic surge of conference sessions and CSGO has breached more than 1 million players overtaking DOTA for the first time. Clearly business is good for some. A quick snapshot of the internet’s gainers and losers are in this link. Where the traffic is, there the money is too.


Moving forward to the New Normal

Retail, Entertainment and Travel has been greatly affected by this pandemic and a crisis of fear prevails around the globe. But we all have to eat. We all have a need to be entertained and remain on contact, but how we do these things will change. One of the greatest challenge many marketeers have is “inducing a trial” but once we are past that hurdle, we build new reinforcing habits for consumption. Try shopping online! It’s good for business.

Many of us have learned to cook and bake. I’ve only started to buy all-purpose flour since I started preparing pizza from scratch. I’ve been taking classes from YouTube.  This has implications on our next shopping carts. From the gym to buying exercise equipment. I’ve even learned how to cut my own hair again!

What’s next? Follow the traffic. Follow the money! Take things to the last-mile! There might not be any traffic on the road but there probably is more of it online.





Business Health and Fitness Life Management

“When Sleeping on the Job is a Good Thing”

7.19.12 It’s 5:45 in Manila on a Thursday August 24, 2012. I am writing this blog with a view of the sun coming down from my window. The sky has turned orange; the music has now turned down-tempo as I end this day with a sigh… If you’re still in the office with a pile of things to do and trying to decide whether you should go for a last sprint on the task or leaving it for tomorrow, then chances are must have a “Time-Management” problem!

The tyranny of the busy world and all its bosses has taught you just that, but perhaps they were wrong? The world tends to over glorify busyness, but busyness is severely overrated! Output is the ultimate measure of productivity while busyness doesn’t even come close as a measure. If anything, busyness could be symptom of an ineffective existence. The fact is that it is simply impossible to manage time as time just happens by itself and you simply have no control as to how fast it goes. It waits for no one!

Time Management experts try to milk the whole issue by giving you what really are task management techniques. If you’re lucky enough, you would’ve picked-up some skills based on real task-management principles adapted from project management and work-planning practices. The hard side of time-management seems to be a lot better at giving you some adapting measures rather than the fluff that many work-life balance advocates would give you. How could you balance something that you don’t even have any control over? When you’re at this point, you don’t need proverbial anecdotes, what you need is a strategy! Can you change the demands of your boss? Can you really reduce the amount of work that has you going till the weekend? Do you have control over your deadlines and how they are set?

The only thing you could do is to get some work done as effectively and as fast as you can. The question is not whether you have the time but rather whether you actually have the energy! I read an interesting article the other week from a website called Addicted 2 Success, where they say that “Our Commodity for Success is No Longer Time, It’s Energy”.

The new paradigm makes perfect sense.

Time management Energy management
Avoid stress Seek stress and train for recovery
Life is a marathon Life is a series of sprints
The power of positive thinking The power of full Engagement

(by using the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sources of energy combined)

Downtime is a waste of time Downtime is productive time
Time is finite Energy is renewable
Time is outside of us Energy is inside of us


The good news is that while time is forever fixed, energy is elastic and renewable. The more energy you have, the more effective you are in getting the job done in less time. The new proverb for this new paradigm is that: “You’re only as strong and as effective as how well you recover”. Sports and Medical science has proven that it is during the time of rest that you actually get stronger. Your body adapts to the added load. That’s why physical training is mostly based on the principle of “progressive overload”. You shouldn’t avoid stress but you could train yourself to handle it. The important part is setting some time to recover. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: “Sleeping on the Job”. In this case, stealing a short nap could be seen as purposeful. Just as anything that runs on batteries need to charge, so do we.

Energy management also keeps us mindful about of our peaks of effectiveness that go hand in hand with energy levels. If you’re out of energy you simply can’t go on with a task without a struggle. It gets so bad it’s as if you’ve run into a brick wall. Having the energy and applying it in short effective sprints on your tasks gets more things done in a shorter amount of time than forcing yourself on a singular task dragged on for hours. Organize your tasks in time-segments and make some room for “active recovery” in between. Active recovery could be as simple as getting some coffee or walking around after a task but also using the time to set yourself up for the next activity. These are 3 to 5 minute breaks. A fifteen-minute nap unlocks more than a couple of hours of energy for overtime. Treat your tasks as appointments that deserve your absolute attention. Place task assignments as if they were appointments and your calendar. Set time bound parameters and check your progress. You can’t manage time, but you can manage energy and tasks! Focus on the latter two, and you’ll find yourself being more effective and productive.

Treat your life goals like they were projects with defined beginnings and terminations and transitions. If you’d like to learn more follow me in Twitter: @JohnSBaybay for free tips and advice.